Although I do enjoy many things about “to go”—my grad school days of roaming about Mid-City in New Orleans with a delicious cocktail in a go-cup, or getting take-out Thai food to eat while cozying up for a movie at home here in Portland—in order to preserve sanity and keep writing and creating, I’ve learned that I must consciously cultivate a “For Here” life.
I’m always tempted to run from one thing to the next, and I know my mind wants to. I fully understand the term Monkey Mind. Daily, furry-tailed creature things swing and grunt and wreak general havoc up in my head.
Remember to make that dentist appointment. What ever happened to that hot guy from eighth grade? Moving that pile of laundry around your living room isn’t the same as washing it. Did you write back to the person about the really important thing you can’t remember but know is important? For shame! And didn’t you learn how to make furniture or do aerial yoga yet?
It gets loud in there.
In order to slow the swinging and grunting and stay present to my life, I find simple activities, reflections, and reminders essential. I intend to share them here with you in this column, with the hope that they offer a glimmer of support, a long drink of oxygen, or a kiss on the cheek for you in the midst of your own monkeying around.
To start things off, here’s a simple one:
To celebrate the wedding of our friends, I spent this past weekend with my beau at Lake Horace in Weare, New Hampshire. When we arrived, lush layers of green trees bordered the lake, where we swam and kayaked, just like you do in the summer.
In a bold move for a self-employed gal, I went without my computer, so rather than checking email, I checked foliage, flora, fauna.
What new posts had the trees put up? What was Horace’s status update or current state of feeling? Did the birds have new tweets for me? Why yes, they did. Even a loon offered a long mournful wail, certainly too many characters to show the whole thing, but just enough to elicit a beautiful ache in my chest.
With each morning, new leaves had changed colors, as though the sunset had shaken and shimmied like a wet dog and splattered the trees with scarlet and gold and rust. I can’t remember ever watching summer change to fall so clearly.
What also happened was this: as I made myself available to be truly present to my surroundings, I seemed to develop superpowers in being truly present to myself. I knew when I was hungry and when I was tired, when I needed a moment alone and when I was ready to converse.
I’m pretty sure being present to oneself should just be, you know, a power. But life often goes so fast I feel like I have to run like Superman or Flo-Jo (she would totally win that race, don’t you think?) to catch up with it. And frankly, most of the time, I hate running. I long for a good saunter.
So here’s your FHP nugget for this week: pick one hour and go somewhere outside. Leave your Smartphone or laptop behind. Take your journal with you. Take your Smartheart. Take your senses. Observe, breathe, absorb.
At the start of the hour, jot down three things you observe around you and three things you observe in you. At the end of the hour, do the same thing. What’s changed? What’s remained constant? Using the prompt, “Before my eyes,” take five minutes and free write or draw something in response.
If you can only do this for fifteen minutes or even five, it still counts. It still helps. It still matters. Like you, and the life you’re living right now, right here.