Now whenever I think of anything cheesy or kind of New Age-sounding to write about, I hear Anne Lamott saying, “these are words we are allowed to use in California,” and carry on. So, I’ve been thinking about being in the moment. I realized several months ago that I was ruining moments for myself by too often worrying about things happening other places, trying to control what I couldn’t, waiting for validation from other people, or wishing I was somewhere else.
I was always half where I was and half some other place, often just lost in my own head, which meant that I was never anywhere really.
This is nothing new for me. I remember spending years and years staring longingly out windows while I ignored whatever was going on inside. But that was so vague that it was romantic somehow. I’m sure I thought I was a very deep person for having those feelings. What I experience now is far more specific and there is nothing romantic about it. I look back on moments I should have enjoyed and remember sadness and other unspecified bad feelings instead.
It’s travel that has brought this to my attention more than anything. Are you really going to spend hundreds of dollars and travel across the country to a place you’ve never been, so you can be with people you want to see, and then still be preoccupied with something that was bothering you at home? No, is the answer I want to give. But, yes, I have done that.
I totally accept that your problems follow you and you can’t always control your feelings, but I kind of refuse to throw away moments worrying about what other people are doing or thinking about how I haven’t heard back from that one person. Forget that one person. What about me and the people I’m with? I don’t have all the control in these situations, but I do have a lot of it.
With no grand declaration, and only a mostly unconscious refusal to be miserable, I started working on being in moments instead of out of them. I don’t want another New Year’s Eve in San Francisco where anxiety about work kept me awake at night or a trip to Graceland where I was preoccupied worrying about someone I wasn’t sure I could trust. So I try to deal with things instead of avoiding them. If I’m glancing desperately at my phone, I turn it on silent and put it in my pocket. I spend time with people I like and do things I really want to do.
I wrote most of this post thinking this was easier than it is, but then I was flying home last week and I started thinking about something that made me sad and tears came to my eyes, and not feeling those things was not a real option. So I did cry on the plane and just hoped the guy sitting next to me didn’t notice, and then I got off the plane and felt better. Then I spent the next six days with my friends and family, feeling like I was really there drinking that beer in a tavern by the beach or standing on top of the Space Needle or watching a movie in a charming little theater.
For the last year, I’ve had this secret fear that I would be in Germany staring at something magnificent, and I would be consumed with feelings I should have left at home. Now I am prepared for that possibility, but confident that it won’t define my whole trip. I want to hold onto the feeling that where I am is the place I most want to be, especially when that place is a castle.