Recently I've been pondering the idea of "living in the moment." The phrase sounds virtuous in its simplicity, but I'm not finding it all that simple.
Parts of it I get. When I look at each of my children and am occasionally overwhelmed with how fast it's all going by, I try very hard to really look at them. I want to be present and appreciate who they are at that specific time. When I'm at a concert I try to clear my mind as best I can of the flutter of mental distractions that vie for my attention so I can truly hear the music as it's happening. When I practice I know I need to focus in order to be productive. When I snuggle up against my husband at night, I know not to take such basic comforts for granted.
I've even learned to accept living in the moment when it involves pain. Occasionally I suffer debilitating headaches, and I've found the best thing to do is not to resist. When I took birthing classes before having Aden I remember the instructor refusing to use the word pain to talk about labor, preferring to tell her pregnant and nervous pupils that it was merely "an interesting sensation." That, frankly, is disingenuous at best, but there is something to it. If you don't have a choice about being in pain, fighting it adds to its intensity. Better to relax and find it "an interesting sensation" if possible.
So I see the value of "living in the moment." The problem I'm having is that the phrase seems to imply that there is only one thing in that moment. What if the moment is multi-faceted? What if living in the moment is about reflecting on the past or planning for the future? What about all the choices you might have to make about what living in the moment actually means?
I was having a difficult conversation with my daughter the other night, and at one point I tried to impress upon her that her behavior was negatively impacting my life, and she responded that she didn't believe that because I seemed to be doing just fine. I was taken aback by this, but then I decided I think I understand what she's saying.
It's one thing to deal with a crisis, it's another to do it over a long span of time. I remember this clearly from Ian's deployments. I remember it from when my dad was in hospice. I know what it's like when an illness goes on and on. Those things become embedded in every moment. But you can't focus on them every moment and still function. There are still errands to run and work to do and also movies to watch and meals to enjoy. There can be layers of laughter in with the chronic fear or grief or pain. There can be sadness mixed with the joy, profundity interwoven with boredom, and things of which you are proud happening simultaneously with other things of which you are ashamed.
So when my daughter says I seem fine despite a current problem, it's true depending on which part of a particular moment I've chosen to live in. I can be happy to observe progress in the work going on in our kitchen, for instance, while at the same time experiencing an undercurrent of distress about something different. I can be visibly glad that one child is content and doing well while feeling desperate that a different one is struggling. I can't choose to only live in the part of the moment that is troubling all the time, but I can see how to my daughter that choice to acknowledge other things looks like disrespect to the problem at hand. Maybe it is. I'm not sure.
Is stopping to grieve for my father at random intervals "living in the moment" because that's where my emotions are, or is that willfully ignoring the present if what's in front of me is fine? Is living in the moment the best idea if someone you love is annoying you to tears in that moment, but you are better served by thinking ahead to when they may be gone and how little the current frustrations actually matter? Am I really wrong to zone out as a distraction from the tedium of certain chores rather than live in a moment that is just more dirty dishes?
Not exactly groundbreaking philosophical musings, but my mind goes many places when I can't sleep, and lately sleep has been hard to come by. This keeps me more entertained than mental grocery lists, although I make those, too.
Today I plan to choose the most immediate things in front of me to focus on. Unless I am forced to confront underlying issues, today will be about finishing Halloween costumes, getting everyone to practice violin, and cooking a nice meal for when my husband returns from his weekend at Army drill. Everything else can wait...for now.