Thursday 6 September 2012

Being present

He heard me sigh as he walked past the bedroom where I sat with our little girl. She'd been crying off and on all evening, unimpressed with my efforts to soothe her, to help her fall asleep. And all I could think about was my growing to-do list, each item becoming more urgent as another day passed.

"What's wrong?"

I wanted to say nothing. I always say nothing.

But this time, I didn't.

"I'm frustrated because I want to be able to put her down and do all the other things I need to do..."

I wish I could express how monumental those words are, simple though they may be.

"I'm frustrated because..."

How different from my usual response. "Nothing," that's all I ever say, all I can ever bring myself to say. The real answer is screaming in my head but my tongue refuses to give it life. Give me a pen or a keyboard and I'll show you my soul, but ask me to say it aloud and the words simply won't come out. I don't remember a time when it was any different. Always me, words in my head, throat closed, tongue still, thoughts unspoken.

But oh, in that moment, when thoughts became spoken words, what freedom. Once it was said, once my frustration over the disparity between my desire and my reality was acknowledged, I was able to move past it. I stepped back into the present and simply accepted it, saw it, enjoyed it for what it was.

And it was beautiful.

I noticed the way I can cradle her entire body in my arm, the way her head fits so perfectly in my hand. I breathed in her milky breath and the lingering newborn smell in her hair. I felt her soft cheek and looked in her dark eyes.

I stopped trying to get her to fall asleep, for what good is it to seek to achieve a goal over which I have no control? I stopped worrying over my to-do list, for what good are distractions and worries and failed attempts at multi-tasking? Such unnecessary frustrations when peace can be found in savouring the present moment. Forget fruitless strivings and overrated to-do lists; I'd rather enjoy these times while they're still here.

I still do it too often, I know. I glance at my email while reading a book to my boys. I rush them through mealtime instead of lingering at the table with them. I try to get work down while nursing the tiny baby. I live too often with attention torn, one eye focused on present distractions or future worries, leaving me half-blind to the fullness of the moment.

Will I never learn?

But they're teaching me, these three children of mine. Unconcerned with anything but the present and all of us so much happier when I join them there, they're teaching me.

And more and more often, I'm remembering.


  1. I had tears in my eyes while I read this. How many times have I said the same: 'nothing'? I've been sent a husband whose answer sometimes is: I can see it's not nothing, but I'll wait until you want to talk about it.
    I often feel the same frustration when putting my 3-year-old to bed: will you please keep quiet now and go to sleep, so I can have some time to do what I want...
    I remember when nursing him 3 years ago, I often sat with him cradled in my one arm, while holding a book in my other hand. Those quiet times together are so different from the daily story-telling and occasional hugs that are part of life with a toddler.
    You've been blessed with the gift of the written word, which very often strings a chord in my heart.
    I pray that we both remain teachable.

    Warm regards from the Netherlands,

  2. I have to tell you how much these words are speaking to me this morning. These past five weeks with our fourth have been a whirlwind of happiness and chaos and I find myself trying to get so much done and keep the house perfect while this girl I think has snuck in an extra growth spurt in between. I have found myself having to remind myself that the housework can wait and no one in this house or anyone I know actually thinks I'm avoiding it by nursing the baby all day (because seriously I have to remind myself that feeding her even if its alll day is MORE important than making sure the floors are mopped). I do not want to miss a day because my mind is focused on such things that can wait. I am so thankful to read your words today.

  3. Needed to hear this. Thank you.

  4. I was just speaking to my husband about this earlier in the day...perfect timing to read this beautiful post, thank you!

  5. Love this post - so relevant.

  6. So true. It's hard to remember that just like we NEED to be heard sometimes, out loud, so do our children. Great reminder. Thanks for posting at the Parenthood this week!

  7. Thank you so much for your honesty,I cant tell you how much it meant,just to know there are others out there who feel the same. I just cant seem to get a grasp on living in the moment, my six week old third child has reflux and a chest infection and isn't a happy baby and sometimes I forget that it is not his fault and that I just need to love him in this and hold onto the smiles he occasionally gives. Thank you for reminding me how important it is to talk about the frustrations, to be honest and to ask for help!

  8. This tore up my heart. In a good, slap in the face way. My son is already 3 months old, and I was left wondering "when did the newborn phase slip away from me?". Tending to a toddler, a husband, a house with one eye on my baby and the other on my list, that's how. I'm putting down the list, wiping my tears, and picking up my little baby and holding him as long as possible. Thank you. God has truly given you a gift of writing and touching souls with your words.