For me, at least, the ability to be in-the-moment, present, did not come easily. Just this morning, as I snuggled my 14-month-old grandson before laying him down to nap in his Pack-n-Play next to my desk, I gazed into his beautiful trusting eyes and thought about when it had happened, and how.
It certainly didn’t happen when my children were young. It’s easy for me to think that this was because I was constantly feeling the pressure of caring for young children alone while stressing over money. In retrospect, I can see that even the big pressures of life weren’t responsible for my lack of presence.
It didn’t happen when my children were teenagers and I had achieved a level of financial security that allowed me to focus on things other than paychecks. It didn’t even happen when my kids were heading off on their own and my responsibilities were declining for the first time since I was a teenager.
But I know exactly when it happened, this new ability of mine. It happened in a flash. During a time of genuine sadness and loss, I realized I was completely absorbed in the antics of a chipmunk outside my window. He was gathering seeds, but he kept getting distracted and rolling around in the grass instead. I found myself laughing, and I realized that in that moment I felt pure happiness and lightness of heart, even in the midst of my pain.
It struck me then that each moment is its own reality, a fully contained experience. It gave me such hope to realize that I could feel so happy and optimistic, and that these feelings could live alongside my feelings of sadness; that each of those opposite feelings could be completely real and true.
Since that time, I have become better and better at reading each moment like I read a really good novel – lost in the story and wanting it to last forever. I’m a fast reader, but I purposely slow my reading speed as I reach the end of each book, just to prolong the experience of it.
I do wish I had held on to more of the moments of my life with this passion. But I do it now. Laughing with my granddaughter in the car, drinking coffee with my daughter in the morning when she drops off the kids for the day, Skyping with my son, sitting around the kitchen table with my kids and nieces and nephews and just taking in their wonderful energy, sitting on the patio in the quiet evenings with my wife. I don’t know how many years I have left of life, but I do know this. By reading each moment like a good novel, by purposely slowing my reading speed to savor the moment while it’s here, I can make each moment last a bit longer. I have a feeling the last decades of my life will last twice as long as the first decades as a result.