I'm visiting my sister. The house is noisy. There are two cheeky little boys sitting with me at the table, quietly colouring.
A rare sight.
A rare quiet moment.
My restless Nephew has just started playing Chopsticks on the piano and my sweet Niece is making cakes, deliberating whether butter or margarine are better. My Sister is telling her butter makes cakes 'heavy', but she's using it anyway because she 'can't be bothered to go to the Coop, because it's boring'. My restless Nephew whistles and gets told off. My boy joins in but gets away with it. There is a sound of mixing behind me and a crackling noise as my cheeky Nephew takes a brand new pencil out of a packet. Oh dear, a cup has just fallen on the floor. Thank goodness it's not got anything in it. My Sister is painting an amazing lion. I wish I could draw like her. She's also done a lovely quiff in her hair today and has no wrinkles around her eyes. I'd love to be able to say that my eyes were like that. They're not. I can hear my other boys playing gymnastics upstairs. Happy little giggles. I hope the ceiling doesn’t collapse on my head.
I can hear the clock ticking and the rhythmic whirring of the washing machine behind me.
My sweet Niece is worrying that her cake mix is too watery.
My big boy is munching a croissant. He is so beautiful.
Everyone is absorbed in the moment.
Practising the art of ‘being in the moment’ doesn't feel natural, easy, instinctive. Engaging all your senses and just allowing yourself to absorb your surroundings in a very deliberate way. It takes concentration. Effort. Today I write as I experience, and what I write feels underwhelming and unimaginative. Boring.
Surely there should be more? It needs to be more exciting.
Mindfulness is becoming the go-to method of self help. While I was having CBT they talked about it a lot. I would set up a little station of adult colouring books and pens. As an anxious thought shot into my head I would reach for my book and practice the art of mindful colouring. Alas, while I had a pretty picture of a badger on roller skates to show for it, my mindful time just gave me space to plan how exactly I would remove that red stain from my parachute. Just in case.
My phone is off, permanently. Because if it is on, it doesn't work unless it's plugged in. It drives me crazy but I'm actually learning to kind of love it. Because my phone (and social media) is an enabler. Something to ‘do’ when I find myself without a task. Something to look at whilst I’m simultaneously watching TV and thinking about the length of my to-do list.
It enables me to feed my addiction to visual stimulation, to other people’s worlds, to distraction, to anything beyond just being. Here. Now.
I'm often amazed when I look back at my photographs. Amazed by how quickly things seem to have changed when the time between the photograph and now seems so short.
I regularly hear people (and myself) say “where has the time gone?”
I sit and look at photos of my boys in nappies on the beach. I watch videos of them learning to talk and taking their first steps. I read cards they have dictated to Ben that say they love me and I smell of poo. And I struggle even to be in that moment, because when I’m there I feel the pain of all I have missed - the gaps in the memories that were stolen by fear.
Because I had no capacity to absorb anything more.
My head was too full. Too full of fear of death. The lump behind my ear, the pain I kept having in my right side, the sensation I had when eating - like my food was struggling to go down. It was full of fear of noise, of people coming into my space uninvited, of entrapment. It was full of fear of causing harm. And it was full of guilt. Of looking at my precious boys and feeling numb, dreaming of a space and time where I wasn’t in my head anymore. Wanting to exist somewhere else.
I was too full to really see them. To stop. To just be.
That’s where the time went.
And I think my mind kind of became conditioned to this way of living. I think I became so driven by fear of myself that somewhere along the line I lost the capacity to just to exist in the moment. To just be and to find the joy in that.
And maybe anxiety has become such a pandemic because we spend too much time looking outside of ourselves. Worrying that our reality isn't enough, or is too much. We are living in a world that tells us we need to be doing. That just being isn't enough. Because being is scary, or unproductive, or boring, or under-stimulating, or over-stimulating or upsetting, or overwhelming or maybe all of these things. So we look to do instead. And do. And do. And do. Until we are so far past the end of ourselves that we have lost ourself and don’t know how to get back.
So part of my journey has been learning first to come back to myself.
Learning how I experience and receive love through acts of service (I’d take my husband tidying the kitchen and hanging the washing out without being asked over a bunch of flowers any day of the week).
learning that I am an extroverted introvert that loves being with people for a time- until I really don't any more, and need to stop being with them NOW.
Learning that I am someone that scrutinises, over and over, other people's responses, words. That feels deeply and acutely.
Learning that I connect most with God through worship, and that singing awakens something deep inside me and makes me feel alive.
And I’m learning to force myself to wear NOW the nice clothes I buy, rather than waiting for a special occasion.
To play with my children NOW rather than wasting time panicking about how fast time is going and how much I’m potentially missing.
To eat food I buy NOW rather than saving it up in case we run out before the end of the week.
To turn the TV off NOW and have a meaningful conversation with Ben about his day.
To meet my friend for coffee NOW, even if I want to be on my own.
To sit for some time every day and just to breathe.
Because a moment is like a bubble.
It sits inside and unless you see it, really see it... Unless you give permission to every part of your being to embrace it... Unless you stop and you breathe and you touch and you rest... it pops before you have even noticed it.
And you will never get it back.