The Art Of Now: Living In The Present

Before Peter died I was the planner in the family. I scheduled dinners with couples, I gave parties, and I planned trips. The trips were elaborately arranged down to the minute. We toured museums, visited friends in the East, and were constantly on the go when we traveled. I reveled in planning. I enjoyed mapping out the tiniest details. I relished being the architect of our lives. Peter never minded a second of my planning. He loved following the program except when it involved hiking or too much walking. I always made a point to add a nap time to our schedule to make him content. When I once asked Peter: "when did you lose control in this relationship?" He always laughed and said: "do the words 'I do' strike a familiar note?"

There were times when we let the present slip away, rushing past to get to the next thing, while squandering precious moments. But basically we made it a rule to live each moment to the fullest. I distinctly remember feeling "I want this moment to last forever." I was present and he was present, and even if we planned too much, we made the most of every second. Towards the end of Peter's life he said: "if I die tomorrow, I will have no regrets." He meant every second of this statement. He loved his friends, his family, and especially his grandkids. After picking them up at school he would tell me stories of each blissful moment and relished in the tales. This was our state of mindful coupleness. We trusted in our relationship and therefore were mindful of each others' space and the space we shared. That's how we made it work for 47 years.

When Peter died I no longer wanted to plan. I couldn't look back at my memories. I couldn't look to the future. It all seemed bleak. Grief takes you out of the past and away from the future and slams you into the present. It is only in the present that you can find some small victory so you can wake up the next day. It is only in the present where you can feel the loss and notice that maybe you haven't cried as much today. It is only in the present that you can find joy in a meal, in a movie, in a song, in a child.

I am now living moment to moment in my soul. I have to trust in the process of my journey toward adapting to my new life. I have to let my heart lead me and stay out of my head. I am trying to savor the moments with the grandkids. I had them for a long weekend and enjoyed every second without fretting over what would happen next. I took them to the movies, I took them to mouthwatering sushi dinners, and I took them bowling. I smartly had each child bring a friend so I didn't have to bowl and throw my back out. Have any of you been bowling recently? Who knew one and a half hours of three games for four kids would cost $130? I mindfully accepted the cost, which brought me back to the present and the fun I had watching the kids laughter. Thank goodness for the new bumpers in bowling alleys!

My mindful way of healing is through writing. When I am writing at my computer, I am in such a state of total absorption, known as flow, that I often lose track of time. My writing is my way of staying in the present and pouring my heart out. I am trying to release the pain by living it and moving forward. I have to accept the feelings, cry and let them come out on the paper. It is through writing that I feel a sense of accomplishment, even if it is just stream of consciousness.

I do not want mindfulness to be a goal because goals are about the future. I just want to have an intention to live in the present. I still can't meditate on my own. I can contemplate with my therapist in a safe haven. I can openly and safely share my pain with my support group. I can't do it alone yet because when I do, I strip all my protective gear away and I am wracked with heaving sobs. For now, I will be mindful of my writing and call that a miniature victory.

"If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present." -- Lao Tzu