On Being Present

My friend and one of my mentors Christine Allison sent me a link to a piece about artist Anne Truitt's book, The Architecture of Bliss, last week, and minutes after reading it, I hopped on the amazon.com and purchased that bad boy.

It was this excerpt that did the trick:

"My mother’s moral force radiated from her like a gentle pulsation. Sensitive people picked it up and found her presence delicately satisfying.  
She was herself only when alone.  
This satisfaction with being solitary was a tremendous source of freedom for me. It implied a delight in self and affirmed my own obsessive sieving of experience. By taking her mind totally off me, she gave me my own autonomy. I knew from experience that she was careful and responsible. I realized that she would have watched me had she not been sure that I was all right. And, if she were sure, I could be sure. Very early in my life, I set out stoutly to look around at everything."
I spend a lot of time trying not to sink into the black hole of motherhood guilt lately. I'm not doing enough/I work too much/I'm not up at school enough/I'm not present enough.

That last one is the kicker for me, as deep down I know that's the only one that really matters. That the girls have their own rich inner lives, that they're comfortable being alone, that they feel confident and strong and capable isn't dependent on me baking that extra batch of cookies for the Halloween carnival or chaperoning the field trip. No, those things form in them because they know I'm there, fully.

This constant busyness we've cultivated has made me and Bryan supremely distracted people. Sadly, I see it happening to Audrey too. (Millie, still has the blissful single-focusedness of youth... I.m jealous.) True Presence (with a capital 'P') is rare. Constant multi-tasking is the name of the game friends. It's the only way to get it all done, we argue. It's a dangerous place to be.

But I think so much of our perpetual "being distracted" is our (sad) attempt at simultaneously trying to give to the girls and give to ourselves. It's when we're depleted that we're at our worst as parents, partners, friends (the list goes on). So in addition to being present with the girlies when we're with the girlies, carving out time for ourselves and showing our kids what it looks like to have our own rich inner lives is a key part of the equation too.

So here's to a week of (trying) to be present and (trying) to snatch time to make ourselves better people. It's not going to be easy, as it's gonna be a crazy week at work and the girlies activities are at an all time high. But something's gotta give. I'm not sure of the plan, except to recognize and attempt to course correct. (I'm guessing it's also going to involve a lot of putting down the iPhone.)

Wish us (me) luck.


Meg said...

I read Daybook as an art student when was about 20. It helped me to build my core; I am now 39 and use Anne's book in classes and women's groups and writing circles and it is always a treat to share, such a resource for all phases of life. I am definitely of the slow life movement. Multitasking is a farce; technology and presence can exist together, all in moderation. May the days be sweet.

Fashion for the Rest of Us said...

Everytime I feel I am falling off tracks, I read a post by Hands Free Mama. Since I discovered her, I have put down the iPhone a lot, and I am generally more self-conscious about being present. That said, I am not perfect... and embracing this truth every day is my constant struggle.

Lakshmi said...

Learn to meditate. It will make a WORLD of a difference, word.