Last weekend I had a day by myself with my son.
It was the first time I had taken Jenson out for a substantial part of the day without his buggy and I spent a bit of last week mulling over the experience of moving at his pace.
These reflections come as I read some books on quieting myself – Silence by Thich Nhat Hanh (a buddist monk) who writes about mindfulness, and Active Hope by Joanne Macy about how to face the anxieties around climate change and biodiversity loss without completely feeling overwhelmed and paralysed or feel that we’re all doomed.
The principle tenants of what I have read in them so far (I haven’t read them both completely yet) is to be aware of what is happening in the moment, of reconnecting with the truth that we are all interconnected instead of being trapped in the story that we are alone.
This involves stopping and appreciating wonder of the beauty of this world to:
- appreciate what beauty there is outside of the story we’ve bought into that the only richness in this world is financial, when there is so much other richness available – love, community, beauty, appreciation, generosity.
- quiet my mind which is constantly pulled to the past and into the future instead of appreciating this present moment and the wonders within it
I shared about a year ago in a previous post that my son is like my little mindfulness guru – he is so in the present that I can’t help but appreciate the beauty of this world when I allow myself to see it through his eyes.
For example, he’s taken to saying ‘what’s that noise’? Listening out for birdsong, a car going by, the hush of the dehumidifier fan.
And he doesn’t need for the latest thing, the coolest product – he just wants to be with me and his father. Content to spend hours playing with cars.
He is aware of what is going on moment-by-moment and so, when I allow myself to concentrate on him, he brings me into the present moment.
So the Saturday that I spent with him without the usual buggy to strap him into and charge about, lost in myself whilst looking after him, I was swept away in mindfulness.
yYet, I achieved ‘nothing’ on that day.
Don’t get me wrong, I got so much from my time going at the pace of my son.
I walked among the trees and touched them along with Jenson who’d say ‘knock, knock, knock – hello?’ to see if they would answer him.
I ran along the street to hide from Jenson – both to hurry him along and also to delight in his squeal as he shouted ‘Boo!’ at me in my poorly conceived hidey-hole.
I sat and smiled in a cafe as Jenson terrorised an older child, shouting ‘tada!’ when he had finished drawing and rubbing out squiggles on the chalk board available in the children’s corner.
I exchanged words with strangers that Jenson interacted with, waved at a little girl in a restaurant that Jenson approached and smiled at.
But what did I do for eight hours of my life? Nothing I could tick off a list or say I’ve achieved.
I was going to say that it was nothing that added to my life…but that’s wrong. I smiled, I slowed down, I appreciated the time without purpose (to a certain extent), I surrendered to the present, I allowed myself to be. I smiled, I sang, I interacted with more people than usual, I felt my chest puff with pride at who Jenson is.
And yet I’m exhausted from a day on the go, a day where nothing much was achieved.
I’m writing this because I’m not sure what to make of the day.
A certain part of me is aware that I need more time to just ‘be’. Journeys to the station that don’t see me plugged into my phone – listening to something – and instead just enjoying the silence. More lunchtimes with a proper break, getting out of my head and into my body to calm my nervous system, less time trying to multitask, more time with my phone off so I can focus without distraction.
More time that isn’t ruled by outcomes, progress, development.
I can see that this is the way that memories will get made with my son too – by going on adventures, having no fixed purpose but to see what unfolds of the day, to unravel back to childhood as the day gets shaped and shifted by a young child.
And I can see that this is what might build a strong mother and son bond – not fancy holidays, the latest stuff or full-on extra-curricular activities – but being there. Available and willing to get swept away in the ordinary moment.
As I’m writing these words, I can see the benefit of having a shift in my life. At present, life feels like 65% of my awake time is focusing on accomplishing (working hard, organising life, writing/coaching/creating with purpose, parenting – reading books, engaging in activities to be ‘a good parent’), 10% is resting (personal time that I fill with reading, writing, doing), 15% is relational and 10% (if that) is ‘without point’ – not needing an outcome or productivity, just go with the flow.
But I can see the benefit of reshaping this. Not necessarily moving things around or changing the make-up of my life, but shifting my expectations and how I approach things.
In writing this and thinking about it, I’m feeling less terrified about the prospect of being more in the moment.
I see what today has brought me – building the foundations of my relationship with Jenson, interacting with people with more presence (I’m smiling thinking about the cashier who saw Jenson’s beam and said ‘he’s got the best smile, he’s incredible’ – my heart is bigger just thinking of this interaction), allowing myself wild moments of retreat back into my childhood as I surrendered to play and imagination.
And I can see that appreciating this mindfulness in the moment doesn’t have to be black or white – drop my job and be nothing but present in the here-and-now.
But I can see how richer my life might be through allowing myself to be more in the moment, if only a little bit more