It's 5:50 AM. I am downstairs with my son Simon, sipping coffee and trying to come to terms with the fact that my day has started. I just left my warm bed and my wife after a night of broken sleep. This is not the start I want to have. But I’m hoping this cup of dark brown ether will hit my bloodstream soon and awaken some kind of acceptance in me.
Simon is having no trouble accepting his day. He’s already dumped out a bin of toys, unearthed his favorite cars, picked out a couple of books. I look his direction from my eyes at half mast. A car in one hand, a fruit leather in another, he’s owning this day. The jury is out on me.
You’ve probably heard advice somewhere about being fully present to your life. It goes like this: In our day and age of ever-present distraction, it’s easy to check out from life. But to live life to the fullest, to really be alive, we need to pay attention to the moment we are in. And try to be fully present to it.
It’s good advice. And it nails our modern day dilemma. We are the screen time generation. We have a billion things that we could focus on at any given moment. And most of it is not our own lives.
Being present is the opposite of this. It’s being in your body and breathing the air around you, connecting what is going on right here, right now. It’s feeling the good and the bad, letting it all be there. This isn’t always amazing. But it’s alive. And the result is you get to live your life, not watch someone else live theirs. Your life is the only one you can live anyway. So best to show up for the rodeo.
Okay, there you go. Be fully present, with one footnote. It’s impossible.
No one can taste all the sides at the cookout, get all the photos at their wedding, or journal all the feelings after that talk with your dad. Experience has so many layers of meaning. And our hearts don’t have an on-off switch to get us there. And sometimes it hurts too much. Lord knows we’ve taken our lumps along the way. Which means we are all trying to put as much heart in play as possible.
On a Sunday afternoon a few weeks before this morning, I stood in the kitchen waiting for a mug of cold morning coffee to warm in the microwave. And through the window, I caught sight of my boys outside playing. They all sat in the section of the yard where the grass is worn down to the dirt. It’s a self-discovered sandbox. They were digging with vigor for dinosaur bones.
They were boyhood in poetry form. My heart overflowed with love for them. I said out loud, “Oh God, don’t let me miss this” And I heard a voice echo back, “Just show up.”
Just show up. That’s easy. What seemed so impossibly far away, the ability to enjoy my life was suddenly right there. I’ve been trying it more these days. And it's so good. Its let me realize that though no one is awake to it all, we all can be more present. There is more life to be had. You can’t have it all, but you can have more. We all can just show up and see what happens.
Back to my morning with Simon. He just grabbed a book and stumbles over to me, trying to kept book in his hands. I take the book and he drops unrestricted right into my lap. “Book!” He says. Which means, read.
“One minute, Simon. Daddy’s almost done.” I’m texting someone. “BOOK!” he says now, protesting my distraction. “Almost done, almost done…” I try to say reassuringly. I am not fully present. I am probably not even half present in this moment.
I set my phone down. “Okay, I’m ready. What book do you want Simon?” He giggles and climbs in my lap, “Dis one.” And I start to read, the brain cells slowly whirring into motion. I’m becoming more present now. And it actually feels good. My body feels more alive, this moment with my son, just us awake in the house, his little warm body all snuggled up in my lap, the smell of his hair just under my nose. It’s worth the price of admission to show up for this.