Saturday, December 31, 2011

Learning to live in the

As I type this, I'm sitting in Starbucks with a mocha light frappuchino and a piece of coffee cake, and all is right with the world.

It has taken me the better part of four decades to learn that. Dozens of times a day, I get to do things that make me happy, and for most of my life I've been utterly incapable of appreciating them. It has always been about accomplishing The Next Big Thing, whatever that may be...a new job, another child, running a marathon, whatever. I always find myself on the way to doing something, rather than enjoying what I'm doing at the time.

Does anyone else have trouble with the whole Living in the Moment thing? I do, but I'm happy to say that if nothing else, the year 2011 has made me (a) recognize what I was missing, and (b) start to learn how to enjoy the present.

Terry always says I don't know how to relax, and honestly, she's right. I'm always moving, always planning, always restless. What's wrong with just sitting? Why can't I do nothing at all and not feel guilty about it? Well, I'll tell you what, that's going to change. The only goal I'm setting for 2012 is that by this time next year, I'm going to be a pro at doing nothing. I'll be the king of inactivity.

That's not to say that productivity is bad. We all lead busy lives, and stuff has to get done. Nothing wrong there. But being in Accomplishment Mode 100% of the time is bad for you in so many ways, as I've learned over the last several months (funny what an E.R. visit for chest pains will do for you). Slowing down is not the same as slacking.

Of course, having the option to relax is a byproduct of living in a crazily affluent society like ours. If you're constantly worrying where your next meal is coming from, sitting under a tree reading poetry isn't as much of a viable choice. So simply living where we do is a reason to be thankful, and I am.

I suppose these are the kinds of things we think about on the cusp of a new year. It's a good time for reassessment, reflection and planning. We set New Year's resolutions, and if you're as tightly wound as I am, they're usually laughably unrealistic and you're forced to give up on them by mid-January. I've finally come to the realization that one modest resolution fulfilled is a thousand times more valuable than 10 crazy resolutions left to die.

How come nobody told me that 20 years ago? Well, actually, my mom did, and still does. I always thought I was one of those people who was good at listening to what their mother tells them, but I suppose not. My mom's constant admonitions to slow down and relax have, for the most part, gone unheeded.

But not this year. Not this time around. For my family's sake, and for my own sake, I guess, it's time to learn how to dial it down a notch or ten. What worries me, though, is that even as I write those words, I'm thinking to myself, "I've spent too long on this post. Gotta finish up and get some other stuff done."

Apparently this isn't going to be easy...


  1. I have a book at work you can look at. It is called 5 good minutes, and has mindfulness exercises that only take 5 minutes. Not shockingly, I am very much like you in this regard.

  2. I can definitely relate. This is me to a 'T'. Thanks for sharing. I've been trying to work on 'relaxing without the guilt'..I thought I was like this because I was a mother. Glad to know it's not (I think as a mom I take on enough self-inflicted guilt). Slowing down and is something I have to work on (some say that a goal is 'easier said than done', I cringe at just saying this one). Your 'chest pains in the ER' gave me a little incentive. I've done a great job for a day or two (but maybe that's because it's a holiday weekend). Tomorrow is back to work.. (ah, somehow that brings me peace). Great post and thanks again for sharing! Hope you are doing well with your goal!