To be honest with you, this is a very difficult time to be present. I live in Toronto, so lately it’s been very cold, dark, damp, grey, snowy and dreary. The roads are covered in salt, which makes walking the puppy a total nightmare. Bruno is in the middle of his teenage months, which means that some days he’s great on his leash, and other days he’s a wild thing and flat-out refuses to listen to me. The temperatures in January were routinely -15C (5F) before windchill for days on end. And, in our nation’s capital, a large group of people are currently violently protesting mandates that are literally designed to help us protect each other, ease the strain on our healthcare workers, and help us get through this pandemic with the fewest possible deaths.
Or maybe it’s actually a great time to be present. Because the truth is that no matter how disturbing I find it that people I respect and admire are moving closer to radical conspiracy theories every day, no matter how awful it is to hear about the awful harassment and racism at these protests, no matter how divided the world feels: this present moment is actually okay. My apartment is very quiet. My puppy is sleeping in the hallway, damp after a big romp in a snowy field. I am in the middle of a good book that my sweet boyfriend gave me to read. There’s a warm desk lamp guiding my way as I find these words. In this moment I am healthy, safe, warm (except my fingertips) and wearing very cozy slippers.
That’s the trick about being present: it usually forces you to admit that you’re more okay than you think. Many of the things you’re afraid of have not happened yet, and may actually never happen. The things you’re reading about in those comment sections are upsetting, but not literally happening to you in this moment. The worst fears you have for yourself and your family are most likely unfounded.
Of course, this is not always true. Sometimes, even in this present moment, you are very much in pain. You are losing feeling in your fingers in subzero temperatures waiting for your dog to poop. You are grieving a deep loss with your whole body. You are holding someone’s hand while they cry. You are holding an entire baby while it cries. You are talking to your grandparent on a computer screen because you haven’t seen them in two months.
It is in these times that I’m trying hardest to be present. Can I relax into the moment? Can I be with what is? Can I remember that this hard moment won’t last forever? Can I breathe, because my breath is always with me?
Not always, no. But I’m trying, because if there’s one thing that the past two years of this pandemic have taught me, it’s that there is so much we cannot control. There are bigger forces at play that will affect our lives & our well-being. But we can control whether we get the sunshine on our faces, whether we stop to enjoy a cup of delicious coffee, whether we light a candle, whether we take a few minutes to read a book, or pet the dog, or cuddle in the mornings. We can’t always plan for the future, but we can pamper this moment.
- a moment in time between past and future
- being, existing, or occurring now
- something that you give or are given
- to be in attendance
- to bring to one’s attention
- to bring something before the public
Synonyms: existing, current, give, contemporary, available, now, today, the time being, show, immediate, here.
I’m not in the mood lately to set a lot of goals for myself, but I have some ideas that I’m planning to try to incorporate to help me live with the intention of more presence:
I used to do these so consistently a few years ago, and they really helped me clear out the stressful thoughts and keep a clear mind. So I’m trying to bring them back! Since the beginning of January, most mornings I’ve been writing two pages longhand of my thoughts, and a short list of things I’m grateful for. I’m doing this alongside my morning coffee (a ritual I now crave & look forward to) and it’s the teeny-tiniest morning routine.
Another habit that I used to find so supportive, and then all of a sudden quit cold-turkey. Sigh. I always forget about meditation until it’s “too late” and I’m anxious, overthinking and spiralling. This year I really hope to re-instate it as a practice before bedtime. So far my track record in 2022 has not been great (I’ve only done it four times) but I’m going to use Elise Joy’s tracker and try to make it a habit.
I am a severe underbuyer, which means it’s difficult for me to spend money on things unless I absolutely need them. This means that my everyday life is full of tiny little things that either don’t work or are super annoying to use. My goal for 2022 (we’ll see if I stick to it!) is to get myself little presents: if it costs less than $25 and will make my life easier, I should just buy it right away without overthinking it.
I have a very bad habit of ‘keeping score’ in my life & relationships – Gretchen Rubin talks more about this concept here and here. In an attempt to give more ‘presents’ in 2022, both tangible and intangible, I want to practice giving more freely & generously, without worrying about fairness or making things perfectly even. It all always comes out in the wash.
These are the days
I want to remember too that this is not my practice life, and this is not my temporary life, this is my actual life. These are the days. These are the days I’ll inevitably look back on with nostalgia and love. Yes, even though it’s winter and a pandemic. Not because I am ignoring all the bad in the world, but because I’m noticing all the good. These are the days that I first had Bruno and was falling more in love with Mike every day. These are the days I lived alone in a sunny apartment with a million windows and made soup and cried a lot and took the world’s hottest showers. THESE are the days. Be here now.
Make more rituals
As I mentioned above, my tiny, precarious, coffee & writing ritual is becoming such a cozy spot in my day. I am also now looking forward to my evening Coke Zero with ice and lime, as a way to end the work day. Maybe I’ll add reading a novel to that time, to make it even more ritualized. And I want to keep finding more moments like these to bring in more intentionality & joy.
I am looking forward to seeing what Present will teach me this year. I have felt so scattered and anxious lately, and I know that more presence will be a balm for my fractured attention and heavy heart. The goodness is all to be found in this moment, this one right here! Not out there. Stay here.
Sending you lots of love and joy and presence for your 2022.
You can read more about my words from the last few years below: