It sounds like such an obvious statement, but in truth, often I feel detached from myself and my own thoughts … and sometimes even my own life.
I find it interesting that one of the biggest tenets of Judaism is that God is everywhere, in the here and now. Though I wouldn’t say I’m particularly religious, I do feel very spiritual. I interpret this to mean that by proxy, we, as humans, ought to be present in the here and now.
And I worry that this lack of presence could be sabatoging me.
I’m an excellent multi-tasker (many anxious people are) but it’s hard for me to sit still or just allow myself to be caught in a moment without thinking five steps ahead (I’d say it began when I was little — I can remember being on fantastic family vacations, wondering where we were headed next — if we were at Disney, when would we be going to SeaWorld? And if we had a lollipop now, could we still have a treat at night?!).
Even today, if I’m sitting in a meeting, my mind is thinking of the to-do list on my desk and the three things I forgot to check off, the email in my DRAFTS folder, the fact that the oatmeal I had that morning that was just “eh,” how I liked my husband’s new shoes we just bought but maybe we should have chosen them in the darker brown … My mind is so rarely in the here and now.
And when my husband and I were long-distance international (for about five years) I literally lived for our visits every couple of months. (friends and family can attest to this — thanks for bearing with me!).
Being apart was so unbelievably hard, then when we had a trip booked (me visiting him or him visiting me) the excitement and anticipation would build, I’d fly high leading up to it, then we’d be soooo happy to see each other …
And then within a couple days of being elated, I’d always fall into the trap of having trouble focusing on the present, the here and now, knowing the agony that was to be upon us in 5, 7, 9 days when one of us would have to return back to our respective countries.
Because it was inevitable. Bliss, followed by agony. Over and over again. Year after year.
I’d be left to deal with the emptiness. If it was him leaving, it was the last meal out together, last visits with family, seeing the suitcases lined up. The pillow left with his head imprint. The clean sock that got mixed into my laundry. The half-drank container of OJ sitting in the fridge with no one to drink it. The little note tucked into his bookbag that I’d scribbled when he wasn’t looking. Remnants of a life together.
And then the long drive to Dulles Airport, the long, tearful goodbye, and the hysterical ride back home (or to work).
And if it was me leaving, it was the dreaded hour-long right to the airport. Passing the palm trees and seeing the ocean in the distance, knowing that in a few hours I’d be flying high above the Pacific; I always felt like I was “leaving him behind” and it killed me.
It was us sitting at the airport restaurant we always went to at Comalapa Airport, to spend another hour together before I would have to leave, poking at our pancakes or eggs with a fork, neither of us having any appetite and dreading the 60 minutes, then 40 minutes til the imminent boarding time. Gazing at each other because we didn’t know when we’d be together again next.
And then the agonizing walk to pass through security where, always in tears, make-up strewn all down my face, I’d run back for just one more hug … and then (once through the door) turn and see him staring at me through the glass, watching me go, a look of sheer pain and profound sadness written all over his otherwise brave face.
No matter what, for five years, it was one of us miserable on a plane listening to foreign chatter and our own depressed thoughts … and the other on the long drive back, alone, with an empty seat next to us … and a lifetime full of new memories to get us through til the next time.
Time and time again.
(I’ve learned through therapy now that anxiety exists on a spectrum, a continuum, not black and white but rather gray. During those years apart, my anxiety was as far to the left as you can imagine.
And I’m realizing my disordered eating exists on a similar scale. My preoccupation with weight and size and fat, etc. is a manifestation of anxiety; these things might never go away but I am learning to co-exist with them, moving toward the middle of my own personal anxiety spectrum).
In truth, my anxiety of what was to come could have ruined us all those years, had I not been with someone who is as rational and logical as my husband, who tried time and time again to get me to see that we’re here NOW together. He encouraged me to focus on the NOW, us cuddling on the couch, watching a movie or chatting at Starbucks like a “normal couple,” not dwelling on tomorrow or two days from now …
He also never failed to remind me that we’d find a way to be together; that it would happen if I just kept faith in him and his desire to leave his country and start a life with me.
The last year of our struggle was the year (coincidentally?!) that I was maintaining at goal and at my most-confident.
In reality, the timing was right for a variety of reasons, especially the fact that he landed a fantastic job here in the U.S. literally when we got back from our Italy trip I talked about yesterday
(And I mean literally: the voice mail from his current employer offering him to fly out for a new round of interviews was waiting for us when we checked our phones at the customs baggage claim at Dulles — and got yelled at for doing so by security!).
The rest literally fell into place within a year: the whole immigration ordeal (what a PITA!), him moving to DC to be with me while his work permit was processed, wedding planning, us buying a house in Michigan, me finding a fabulous job here, me moving here that October, us getting married back in Annapolis that November.
… All of this leading up to the fact that today (TODAY!) is our two-year wedding anniversary, and we’ve come so unbelievably far as a couple and as individuals too.
So I’d like to take this moment to give a shout-out to my husband, in the here and now, the present. He doesn’t read my blog regularly (he knows all about it from me) but I owe so much of my progress to him, and I want to thank him today for being him, and for helping me on this path to be the best “me” I can be.
I know how blessed I am to have him (and his support) in my life. He is the epitome of the word “presence,” and he’s been the greatest gift in my life.
Though Saturday was incredible and fun, I want to be present for all my days, today and beyond. Instead of thinking about next weekend or next week or next year, I want to live in the here and now.
Presence is, after all, the greatest gift. Thank you, L — I love you!
How about you? Do you struggle with living in the moment? What are some tools/tricks you use if you’re like me and you’re not hardwired to live in the present?