Present: (adj.) being, existing, or occurring at this time or now; current.
I normally don’t do New Year’s resolutions, and I’ve never specifically set out to choose a “word” for my year, but this year I really want (and need) to keep my focus on something to remind me to stay in the moment…and I can’t think of a better word than present.
To stay present, to keep your focus in the moment, for some people might come easily.
For me, it does not.
If you suffer from anxiety in any way, shape, or form, you’ll understand why it’s so hard for me to stay present. At any given moment, I can think of at least twenty things that are playing in the back of my mind, much like Shel Silverstein’s poem “What If”. At the same time, I replay conversations and events in the past that I can’t change, yet still keep me up at night.
I came across a saying once, attributed to Isak Dinesen, that reads: You can’t change the past, but you can ruin the present by worrying about the future.
That’s spot on accurate in my case. I believe another, and better, way to phrase this is found in Matthew 6 (vs 34): Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
So…how does one go about staying present, especially when one’s mind is always spinning ahead?
Every day, I’m committing to the following:
- Going outside.
- Taking time for myself, and just myself, to do something that brings me joy.
- Writing down a Bible verse or quote that specifically spoke to me that day.
- Writing down something that I am thankful for.
Why those four things?
Going outside helps clear my headspace (especially if it’s 15 degrees outside…that’ll clear anyone’s headspace). It brings my focus outside of the walls of our house that sometimes seem to close in. It gives me a purpose…whether that’s going to get the mail or picking up one of the kids from school or getting an iced coffee and a cake pop.
Taking time for myself doing something that brings me joy…that’s kind of two things in one. Taking time for yourself is important, when you’re constantly being pulled in a hundred directions, or so it sometimes seems. Doing something that brings you joy reminds you of who you are. Again, that small thing that brings you joy could be coffee with a friend, or twenty minutes with the door shut in your bedroom working on a puzzle on your iPad.
Writing things down is a proven tactic to improve your memory. Granted, for some people writing things down might just mean you remember you wrote something down somewhere, sometime; but in theory, writing something down in a designated place helps reinforce what you’ve learned. This gives me a challenge and purpose to study more, read more, and absorb more.
Going along with writing down a Bible verse or quote is also writing down something you’re truly thankful for. The key is to focus on the positive. We can always think of things we need to ask God help with or for, and there are definitely days where one child is in hour three of a hysterical fit and the other has shut down emotionally and the dog has decided to turn the living room into his personal outhouse that make it hard to find something to be thankful for. Finding something, anything to be thankful for, even if it’s as simple as “I’m thankful for iced lattes with classic syrup” is still worth remembering (and maybe worth a laugh down the road).
By doing this daily, eventually I hope my mindset changes that it’s no longer a chore to think of things I’m thankful for or to find things that bring me joy. That instead of approaching events or days with dread and worry, I can turn my thought process around little by little. And the reason for always writing all of these things down? To flip back in one month, six months, etc. on a particularly bad day when you’re having a hard time staying present (or even a good day for retrospection) to see your progress and strength and that I can do hard things.
And the only way I can do those things is to stay present. To focus on the here and now, and not worry about two weeks, two months, or two years from now, so that at the end of the day I can say I didn’t waste my time focusing on my worries and anxieties.
We have may exciting things happening in 2019, but with that excitement there’s still underlying fear and uncertainty. To risk a cliche, we don’t know the future, but we know Who holds the future. If you want to join me, or join us, in being present every day, I’d love to do it together with you. Hopefully, these practices we put into place will help bring peace, calm, and clarity along the way.
Happy New Year!