Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Being present in my own life

On December 31, I began a post about my resolution for 2015. But I was conflicted about it, so I waited. And waited.

A phrase took up residence in my brain: I want to inhabit my life more fully.

I may have seen this phrase in one of your posts; less busy-ness and more meaning have been big topics here and on Facebook, especially among women. I tried to put it into different words. I want to be more present in my own life. But the original phrase still speaks to me.

I love my life and all the opportunities it provides me. I'm not looking to change direction. But in the midst of winter doldrums, I felt as though my great life was going on without me. I was letting opportunities go by, spending time on escapes like computer games and sleeping a lot. My office was strewn with stuff that had accumulated for more than a year. My best energy was going into my continuing obligations to the carousel. Peter and the grandkids got a watered-down version of me. I got a watered-down version of me.

As the new year approached, part of me wanted to grab hold of my wandering attention and flagging energies by scheduling every day, assigning myself, say, an hour of housekeeping, 30 minutes of physical exercise, a few hours devoted to carousel responsibilities, and others to something new and fun.

But another part of me resisted. Life can't just be a series of tasks. What, I asked myself, is my most compelling priority? What single concept can provide focus and passion so that the daily activities will fall into place of their own accord? 

Just days into the new year I found that I could not have scheduled my life even if I'd tried. My youngest brother, David, had entered hospice care in mid-December, and January became all about finding the right days and times to visit, and about withdrawing into a cocoon after each visit to process what was happening. And then as I drove home one afternoon I began to experience terrible tooth pain. So now I was juggling pain and medications and dental visits, which were real enough for me but irrelevant and annoying as I strove to be present for my brother. At the end of January, he died. I will write much more about him another day, when I can focus just on him. But this post is about something I learned during the course of his final journey.

My time with David was rich and fulfilling, in large part because he was such a good, gentle, thoughtful person. But also because when I was there with him, I learned to be totally focused on him, totally present for him. As he grew weaker, his reality was right there in his room. Things we used to talk about--politics, the news of the day, stories from various parts of our lives--were no longer relevant. It had taken me a couple of visits to get the hang of it, but we both were in the moment.

Twice David told me about having night terrors, waking up with his heart pounding because he'd been fighting death. He said when he realized it was a dream there was a split second of relief, and then the realization that he really was dying. He had many good conversations with friends and family, but he never told anyone else about the dreams. I took that as a kind of gift, a sign that our visits were meaningful to him as they were to me.

After each visit I found myself exhausted. I think this was partly because I'm an introvert and partly because I was so sad. I would go off by myself to think back over everything we'd said, everything I'd learned, exactly how my brother had changed since the last visit. I had to take it all in, think about it, feel it, process it.

And one day I realized that I was doing just what I needed to do, and just what I had (sort of) resolved to do. I was present, in the moment, with a person I loved and who was my top priority right then. I was paying attention to him, and also to myself, to my responses. For the past couple of months, just when I'd thought I should get busy and get more things done, I have understood my limits and fed my need to be quiet and listen.

So that's my intention, not just for 2015 but for life. I will focus on inhabiting, or being present in, my own life. I want to be more aware, more in the moment, with the people I care about. I want to spend my time doing things that matter to me. I want to make use of the riches all around me, and that includes husband, family, friends, blogging, tap dancing, and so much more. And yes, it also includes napping from time to time.


Related Posts with Thumbnails