I’d like to learn how to live in the moment. In modern urban life, this is an impossible feat to accomplish all the time, but surely I could do it MORE. I spend too much of my time thinking about the supposed-tos and the what-ifs. About what I could, would and should do after, or do instead. Right now as I write I’m editing what I just typed, and trying to remember for future paragraphs the clever turns of phrase that pop in and out of my head like bubbles.
It doesn’t help that I’m super aware of what’s going on around me, and therefore very easily distracted. I do try to find beauty and calm. But then usually, my sensibilities are ambushed by something like a loud, tricked-out car, a ludicrously low sag or (white) leggings on ham thighs, and I want to crawl into a hole and mourn the state of the world.
It's no way to live.
Since motherhood is all about multi-tasking, consistently planning, being hyper-observant and always trying to be one step ahead, it's making my little problem worse. I spend my day rushing two little people - who want nothing more than to live in the moment - around so we can stick to a schedule. If a schedule exists for their good and mine, why does it make us all so crazy? Life has become about getting to the next need. It's getting kids who are playing inside, outside, so they'll have enough time to enjoy being out-of-doors. Then once they're happy being out, it's about rushing them back in, to eat and/or nap. It's how to end a playdate so there’s enough time to get to the grocery store and make dinner. And of course, some of the most zealous not living in the moment occurs during the bedtime ritual - when desperately craved me-time is now within reach.
Part of this always thinking ahead issue stems from my all consuming fear of The Meltdown. Add to that the immediate consequences of haphazard meals, overspending on take-out, and my anxiety that leaving the dishes dirty for too long will push our family down the slippery slope to squalor. My overdramatic imagination goes into a full drama of slacker parenting – pre-packaged meals, too much screen time, no reading, a family schedule like that of an unemployed trust-fund pothead - and I see my children in the year 2040, their greatest achievement having been working a 7-11 cash register. Shudder. So, I keep us all rushing through the day, in order to get things done, get myself some time off and to make sure my children are, if not wunderkinds, then well-rested, well-nourished, physically coordinated and intellectually stimulated little people.
During all this hustle-bustle, I sometimes remember that I'm not really interacting with my kids - I'm not really enjoying them and vice-versa. I wrestle to change Lady A's diaper and get her dressed without talking to her. So involved am I in getting sippy cups filled and Cheerios into snack cups, that I'm not singing songs, or making conversation with my children. It’s as though I’m taking orders like a short order cook, trying to get everything right, so as not to offend my customers. And sometimes I spend the better part of the day yearning for their nap. Am I so involved in what I need to do to keep the house running and to meet everyone's needs that I'm hurtling through a very sweet time with my little ones?
But the craziness does make the pure moments stand out. A hug where Mr. R or Lady A nestles in to the crook of my neck and I can nuzzle his/her hair. Driving around listening to music while everyone chats, sings or coos. A family dinner where everyone is actually eating happily. Watching the kids do “tumblebacon” (somersaults off the twin mattress in A’s room). Sitting on our deck blowing bubbles and eating popsicles. These moments do happen, the moments when all is right with my family and with the world. When I can breathe.
Dancers live for muscle memory – when technical concepts and movement ideas cease to be merely cerebral and become a true extension of ourselves. These moments are ecstatic, like how I imagine it would be to take flight. These moments take work, and are hard won. It appears to be the same with the pure, present episodes of parenting. Maybe half the battle is accepting and valuing the fact that I've attained these blissful and rare moments, at all.
*This post originally appeared as "Living in the Moment" on Mom's New Stage on August 15, 2011, and on Mamapedia on September 17, 2011.