In this moment

The phrase living in the moment seems so happy and free, so why is it so elusive? I won't speak collectively, but for my own life I know that I have spent most of my time either contemplating the past or wondering about the future. To what end? Has it made me better prepared to think through many different what if scenarios? Has it ever helped me to change mistakes I've made in the past? The answer to both is that is hasn't.

I think a healthy dose of reflection to process things we've done in our past is helpful, but only so much as we process them to a place where we can forgive ourselves of any mistakes and move on. Any more lingering in the past I think holds us back from living fully. As a parent I've seen that this is likely universal (small sample size of my own children, so humongous leap to say it is universal I know). I've watched my children make their own mistakes. I've stood by them to help them process what they've done or forgotten to do, and tried my best to help them cope with those feelings. After being a shoulder for them to cry on, talking through everything that happened, and projecting a bit about what might happen next, the best I can come up with is that it will hurt for a while but eventually it will hurt less. I think sometimes we learn our greatest lessons by teaching another. I struggle with perfectionism, but being a parent has helped me to shed that burden better than anything else I've encountered. I've told my kids that they are human, and they will make mistakes because that is part of human nature. I've told them that they are only 9 and only 11, and nobody expects such young children to be right every single time. I remind them of my age and tell them that I'm still making mistakes every single day, but I'm still here learning and growing each day. I've told them that sometimes mistakes are big, and sometimes you can't fix them, but even those unfixable mistakes teach us great lessons. In my case I'd say that the more I try to teach my kids to move on from their past mistakes, the more I'm able to do it for myself.

Projecting about the future is harder for me to tackle. We all want to be prepared for what might come next. At work it absolutely makes sense to do the tasks you need to complete in order to be ready for a big presentation or client meeting, or whatever else it might be. What doesn't work for me is going through what if scenarios to predict how people might respond to that big presentation. It is almost always better to just ask the people you are worrying about what they think. Maybe the key is deciding what you need to focus on now and knowing that the future will remain uncertain until it becomes the present? Or maybe it is always a tricky balance that involves a conscious decision to stop worrying about what might be when I find myself fixating about it.

My last post about expectations touched on this too. This is clearly an area where I have more work to do. I think that my knowledge that this is a trouble area for me is powerful though. I'm more aware of it, and therefore I'm less likely to be drug down in the details of it for long. Like so many other things I've seen, once you see them you can't unsee them. I know that my tendency is to do everything myself rather than to ask for help from anyone. When I'm in the middle of one of those cycles I tend to feel resentful of the bystanders who aren't helping me though. They aren't helping me because I never asked for their help, but yet I want them to just know that I need help without asking for it. I can see how crazy this cycle is, and now whenever I get into one of these cycles and my first urge it to be mad at the bystanders I instead see that I again didn't ask for help. This could lead me to be angry at myself for not asking for help, and it did when I first recognized this pattern. However, now that knowledge has led me to a place where I actually ask for help when I need help. I don't always ask for help, but I do more and more.

I think living in the moment is a great goal. It is likely a goal that most of us won't fully achieve in our lifetimes. There will always be a balance between reflecting on the past and projecting about the future. I guess the alternative is pretty aptly played out in the robin who keeps flying into the windows on the back of our house. He is pretty convinced that the reflections he sees are other birds trying to come into his nesting territory. He doesn't learn from the hundreds of past mistakes because he is living in the moment always, he also doesn't project his past mistakes into the future to stop himself from whacking into another window painfully. Reflection and projection are gifts, and living in the moment is too. I think in order to life in the moment you need to know how to reflect and project effectively. I think that rather than repeatedly flying into windows painfully I'll take this alternative. I'll accept that at times I will reflect too much, and at times I will project too much, but every once in a while I will find myself fully enjoying the present - living in the moment.

The bird is remarkably able to evade photos but he loves this window



My family and I went on a spring break trip to Florida. My goal for the trip was for our family to go to a place with a beach, with warm temperatures, and an ocean. I wanted to lay on the beach or by a pool and read a book, dipping myself into the water when I felt too hot, but otherwise relaxing. In my pre-trip planning conversations with T, he pointed out to me that my vision for what the vacation would be did not match up with reality. I ignored him. It is not as if I am new to this. We have taken many vacations with our kids, and each time my vision of the vacation does not match up with the reality. Apparently T had learned from each of those past vacations, and I chose to remain stubborn in accepting the truth. His advice had been to skip the vacation and just stay home with the kids where we are all comfortable in our routines so at least the anxiety that comes from being in a new place, sleeping in a new bed, etc. didn't come into play. As I said, I ignored him. I told T that it was important for me to give our kids new places to visit and explore, new ways to expand their worlds. He relented, and we planned the vacation or maybe more accurately I trampled over him and I planned the vacation.

Fast forward to the actual vacation, we made it to Florida and ultimately made it to our hotel on the beach. Our room was great - a 2 bedroom suite with a full kitchen and 3 televisions, a short walk to the beach, and a nice pool with ample lounge chairs around it. And then the reality of what it means to vacation with 3 other people, two of which are children, who all have their own agendas sunk in. The Girl deals with uncertainty by wanting to numb which usually means watching TV or some other screen - those 3 televisions in our suite were heaven sent for her. One of our struggles during the vacation became a battle with her about not just sitting inside and watching Cartoon Network or Disney Channel, but rather enjoying the warm weather we had traveled to. The Boy internalizes his angst, and then blows up when he can't contain it anymore. T and I have our own struggles that add to the powder keg and make a vacation with our family kind of uncertain and ready to blow at just about any moment for any small reason.


I think I finally get now that it is my expectations about what I want the vacation to be, and how I want everyone else to act that cause me (and the rest of the family as a result) the most angst. I know that I was somewhat determined to prove T wrong, to show him that our kids are now old enough for a vacation, and that we would all have a great time. If I had been able to let go of what I wanted to happen, and just enjoyed the what is happening perhaps things could have been a little smoother. Or not. I think the reality is that even though there were hungry whiney children (and adults!) who didn't eat exactly at the right meal time, and ate too much junk food, and watched too much tv, and freaked out over trivial things (me most likely) we still had fun. My kids got to go snorkeling for the first time in their lives. We saw a wild tortoise who was very curious about humans and seemed completely unafraid. We saw some beautiful sunsets - and I saw a beautiful sunrise while the rest of the family slept. We got to walk on a beautiful beach, bask in the sun, and swim in the ocean. We learned how to make perfect hotel Belgian waffles in a crowded hotel breakfast bar. We found some pretty shells. We tried to see manatees unsuccessfully, but even that failed venture has become part of our family story.

In the end, both T and I were right. The vacation was a disaster, and our kids are old enough to enjoy a great family vacation. Our summer vacation will likely be in driving distance for us, and I'm sure it will be terrible and fabulous at the same time. I make no promises about letting go of my expectations, but maybe I can snap myself out of them a little bit faster in the future. The best part of taking a lot of pictures while on vacation is that over time you forget all of the whiney parts of a vacation and you look at the pictures and remember the wonder and the fun, and the fabulous. Here is to lowered expectations, and a lifetime of memories. I wouldn't trade the messy, crabby, terrible, and frustrating moments because if I did, we wouldn't have what is real.