“Be present in all things and thankful for all things.” – Maya Angelou
Rest in Joy
So I left the house around 10 am.
My office, where I serve as an editor for a small Christian publisher, is about 40 minutes away from my house so, just like I anticipated, I pulled into the parking lot at about a quarter ‘till 11.
All was well, right?
Except that I had absolutely no idea how I got there.
I don’t remember nary a stoplight nor a stop sign.
I don’t know if I drove 55mph or 75mph on the expressway.
I’d draw a blank if asked whether I took City Ave or I-476.
I drove the whole way on autopilot.
And this happens way too often.
What does it mean to be present? What does it mean to live completely conscious and aware in every moment we’ve been given? How do we not allow the weights and worries of our circumstances to take us away from the beauty and blessings that are happening right under our noses?
I had a “head” answer to these questions, of course. I’ve always been good at the intellectual response. But I didn’t want the “head” answer. I wanted the “heart” answer. Better yet, I wanted the “soul” answer. And that required me to do two things: Observe and…umm…lose my mind.
Watching my daughter so often gives me clues to the answers to my most profound inner questions. Sometimes I feel like I have my very own mini-Iyanla in my house because Lord knows, she’s done fixed my life on numerous occasions. LOL! So after having one too many autopilot episodes, one too many times where I didn’t know how I arrived somewhere or what happened during the day, I decided to study my baby. Why? Because at nearly three years old, she only knows how to live in the moment.
Here’s a little of the Intel I gathered:
Laugh when something’s funny, Cry when something hurts.
Seems easy enough. But is it? My baby girl has no filter. She doesn’t weigh her responses against what she believes the people around her are thinking and saying. If it’s funny, she’s a giggle bucket. If it’s painful, she cries. Loudly.
Being present means being completely aware of the emotions you are feeling and giving yourself the freedom to feel them without judgment. Not necessarily reacting to them from an emotional place (we certainly don’t want those two-year-old toddler tantrum responses I talked about last week), or setting up camp there, but definitely being mindful of what we feeling and, more importantly, why. Otherwise, we will find ourselves having inauthentic and disconnected responses to life rooted in what we think the people around us want and not what’s real. No bueno!
Act swiftly when an opportunity arises.
My daughter is a ninja. When an opportunity presents itself, she quickly and stealthily takes it. Case in point: we took a quick weekend trip to the shore a couple of weeks ago and decided to spend the morning lounging around our hotel before heading to the beach. MaKayla was allegedly entertaining herself by singing and dancing in the middle of the floor. All was well until Hubby and I turned our heads for a second, maybe two, and in that short window of time, our sweet daughter unlocks the room door, opens the door, and takes off flying down the hallway. Her super-sized Afro-puff looked like a small tumbleweed rolling against the sandy-brown carpet in the hallway. SMH
Of course, the immediate lesson here was: make sure you keep the safety lock on all doors when the toddler is around. Lol! But as I pondered it a bit, I got something else. When the door of opportunity opens, do I run through it in faith? Am I aware enough of my needs and God’s will that I can take off in the direction of my dreams at a moment’s notice? Or, am I living in my head so much that I don’t even know that an opportunity has come my way?
Losing my mind
After gathering these great life nuggets from watching my baby girl, I wondered how I was going to put it all together. I spent so much time thinking about everything until I realized that, in doing so, I was missing the point entirely. Being present definitely includes contemplation but it doesn’t mean obsessive worrying. And I was so doing the latter.
Bottom line? I heard what my daughter’s innocent actions were telling me to do in a very intellectual, functional way but I wasn’t listening deeply enough to what the Holy Spirit was showing me from it all. My mind was back to being noisy and cluttered and therefore, going backwards from my intentions—becoming less and less present.
I needed to lose my mind (my obsessive mental processing) in order to truly “see” my life. In order to live wholeheartedly. In order to be present.
I needed to be still enough to hear God speak to me in any given moment.
And isn’t that the real damage of living a life on autopilot? Missing God.
Maya Angelou said it best in her last tweet before passing away yesterday: “Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.”
I hear you, Mother Maya.
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This post is the latest in Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts’ “Faith & Motherhood” series.
Tracey Michae'l is a writer and educator based out of the Philadelphia area. She is a wife to William and a mother to a beautiful two-year old little girl. You can find her on the web at www.traceymlewis.com.