Sometimes, it is so easy to become consumed by the hustle and bustle. The constant flow of thoughts commingle with the tasks and commitments of the day to create a life of diligence and industry. At any given moment, while performing the task at hand, I can be thinking about ten other things that need to get done. While on hall duty keeping a watchful eye on student traffic during periods, I am also thinking about how I want to execute my lesson on Arthur Miller and Joe McCarthy, the summer reading tests that need to be made-up, making copies, updating grades, starting to advertise Environmental Club, running Carson to buy new jazz shoes, cheerleading practice, Linus’s anxiety, Tom’s earache, and the laundry that need to get done.
I am constantly in a mental labyrinth, desperately trying to find my way to the calm, knowing that it is virtually impossible to get there. As I am in the moment, I am thinking about the next moment, and the one after that, and my mind is never really 100% focused on the task at hand. Sometimes, it is so bad, that I forget the actual moment I have just lived– getting off the highway having no recollection of ever getting on it; leaving a hall duty not remembering which students actually walked by me; working on folding laundry while grading tests and talking to one of the girls, and realizing the next day that I have completely forgotten our conversation.
I guess the question I must ask myself is: Do I really ever live in the moment?
Last night, it was no different. I came home from work to a plethora of activities: dinner-blogging-laundry-baths-typing up a study guide-being inundated with questions about the state of Ohio (4th Grade Social Studies)-questions about music lessons-questions about the Pythagorean theorem-Girls Scouts-and… rest. At ten o’clock, the pressures and the activities of the day finally subsided. Unfortunately, my mind was still fully functioning: thinking about Beowulf, Joseph Campbell, The Crucible,the game on Saturday, the test next Wednesday, my cholesterol. It is hard for my mind to relax and enjoy.
Out-of-the-blue, Tom decided to go to bed not too far after the girls went to sleep. He had been busy all day, and a night of repose was all he wanted. At 10:00 PM, I was not tired, and I was alone. It seemed self-indulgent, but I decided not to fold the laundry or work on the computer. I decided to turn on a television program that I like and enjoy.
Ten minutes into my felicity and relaxation, I heard someone moving around on the main floor. Of course, I assumed it was Tom. How many times has one of us gone to bed to realize that we weren’t as tired as we thought? He moved through the kitchen and down the steps toward the basement. Just as he came off the last step and turned the corner, the person I thought was Tom was actually Lizzie, and she was crying.
“Lizzie, Honey,” I said holding out my arms. “Come here. What’s wrong?”
She moved toward me wiping her weary eyes. She placed her head on my shoulder, and I enveloped her in my arms.
“My back hurts,” she moaned. You have to understand, Lizzie has a milk allergy. She has a slight tolerance for milk products. She adores cheese pizza so we allow it in moderation. Last night, we made homemade pizzas for dinner, and Maggie was in charge of cheese. I wasn’t paying attention as she performed her task, and she just happened to make what would be classified as a triple cheese pizza. Instead of being judicious and insisting that Lizzie only eat one piece, I allowed her to indulge and have two. Hence, I believed that she was having some intestinal cramping, which she has always referred to as back pain.
Standing, she rested in my arms for a few moments while I rubbed her back. “Honey,” I said. “Do you want to lay with me for a little while?”
She did not speak. She crawled on top of me, intertwining her legs with mine, resting her head on my chest. I slowly rubbed her back and stroked her hair, and within a few minutes, her breathing slowed and her body relaxed.
I realized at that second that my baby who is not a baby needed me and that I was able to make her feel so comfortable and so safe that she fell asleep. I leaned my head back on the chair and continued to stroke her hair. For the first time in days, I was actually in the moment, just the moment at hand. I was not thinking about my responsibilities. I was not thinking about tomorrow. I was concentrating on Lizzie’s comfort. It may have been a fleeting moment, but for over twenty minutes, my focus was this juncture in time referred to as the present.