I recently explained to my husband the power and meaning of the phrase “be present in the moment.” Rather than having a mind stuffed full to overflowing with all the future plans and past conversations and mistakes and successes, being present in the moment implies that you are fully attuned to the world around you, experiencing the sensations and noticing the details.
Did you ever have a conversation with someone who kept glancing at his watch? Or notice in the middle of telling a story that the person’s eyes had that sort of glazed, unfocused look that probably meant they were daydreaming rather than listening? Even if the person repeats back every single word to me, it always feels like I was short changed in those moments. Like the person was leaving me only a tiny corner of their consciousness, and spending their best energy thinking about their dental appointment or the project at work, or mulling over what to have for dinner instead of living that moment with me. It is one of the chief dangers of living a busy life in a busy society. I’m as guilty of this as anyone else.
The scent of cocoa butter, the sounds of nature and Madonna on the tinny boom box, the feel of lake sand between my toes, the stubble of the grass poking up through the worn and tattered quilt we spread under the tallest tree in the state park, the way the sunlight dappled my skin. I can still taste the potato salad from that Memorial Day picnic with my family in 1985.
Some days I wonder if I will be able to remember my adult life at all, when I am old. It blurs on the edges, a slurry of appointments and nuisances and laundry left too long in the washing machine.
Tomorrow, I will accompany the grandmother who adopted me, Mom, who was always the mother of my heart, to find out the results of her neuopsychological evaluation for dementia. I don’t know the details, but I know the truth. I see it in the way she drifts out of the moment, not from having a short attention span, but because she just vanished for a moment, like a bright fishing bobber being pulled under the current. Tomorrow I will be present in the moment, and there is power in that, though not always joy.