Saturday, October 19, 2013

Present and aware

A former co-worker and friend (albeit much younger), mother of a two year-old daughter and three month-old twin girls, has a chalkboard in her kitchen. I noticed it when I visited right after the twins were born.

She is a gifted writer and makes time for new posts to her blog, Fellow Passengers, in which she documents her journey as a young woman and mom. That she can find time to continue to write after the birth of her twins is something I completely understand. Writers need to write. They can no more not write than they can no longer breathe.

Aside from her beautiful writing, however, is the gift she has of inspiring others, me for one. Her posts stay with me for days as I find myself mentally dissecting her message, absorbing her words like a sponge.
In a recent post, she talked about being transformed by the verse from 1 Thessalonians she wrote on her chalkboard. She chose this verse as a sort of challenge to herself, and wrote that it seemed like the formula for living present and aware.

But more than being just present, which seems to be a popular catchword these days, the real challenge is translating being present into everyday real life. Putting into practice what being present and aware really means. She writes:
"If I’m present in my happiness, I want to filter that happiness into some sort of creative act later. If I’m sad, I want to remember that other people get sad too so I don’t feel so alone. If I’m angry, I want to figure out how to curb it without damaging anyone or anything around me."
Powerful words, these.   
But if you put into practice being present and aware, you bring your lessons into the community, into the lives of others, using your experience for the good.
Easy to be joyful when things go well. A bit harder when your health is threatened, your budget doesn't cover all the bills, when your plans go awry. Easy to pray continually when you're not overwhelmed and exhausted. Easy to give thanks in all circumstances except when you've received a cancer diagnosis, or when you lose a loved one; when things don't quite go your way.

The most profound lesson in my friend's blog was that you learn not to do it alone. You ask for help when you need it. She is learning to do this and is discovering she is richer for it.
That is the real lesson for me, too. Independent and stubborn and determined to do it myself, I am not good at this. I love giving to others. In fact, I was visiting my friend that late summer day, the day I saw her chalkboard, as another neighbor and I were bringing dinner to her family right after the birth of their twins.

That's easy. Easy, and joyful, and I get a good feeling.
But accepting help? That's another matter entirely. And asking for help? Really? Gee, I can't quite remember actually doing that lately.
Living present and aware is an exchange process. Both giving and receiving are necessary elements of human life. It makes the journey for us fellow travelers so much easier.

More joyful. More able to give thanks in all circumstances.
Dedicated to Rachel and her blog, Fellow Passengers: