Personal reflections · Psychology and mental illness

Here in this Moment

This is part of my restored archives.

When I started blogging, I wrote about being haunted by the words in a song (I still do that all the time). The song is called “More to Life” by Stacie Orrico. It goes like this:

Here in this moment
I’m halfway out the door
On to the next thing
I’m searching for something that’s missing
…I’m always waiting on something other than this,
Why am I feeling like there’s something to miss?

So six years later, I’m happy to report that I don’t open blog posts with Bible verses anymore as often as before, I use ridiculously cringeworthy Christian clichés a bit less, and most importantly, I’ve finally resolved this conflict for myself. At the time, my answer was to pursue what’s eternal, and to realize that it’s pointless to wait around for things to change.

One huge thing has changed, though. I don’t feel the need to be seen anymore.

I feel like we writers and artists are particularly susceptible to the problem of projection, of imaginary friends, of getting caught up in an imaginary interview or improvising an acceptance speech for some award. When I’m alone, I fill my head with thoughts of things that aren’t this moment. I’m halfway out the door, I’m thinking about what’s next – whether it’s an ambition in the distant future or what’s on my to-do list for the next hour.

A few years ago, I wrote about the cutting room floor. What other people see is edited footage, and what people don’t see is the day-to-day, the boring stuff in between, the hours of film covering the floor under the editor’s desk. I came up with that analogy to motivate myself in doing those things that seemed unimportant. Those tasks didn’t feel real because nobody could see me doing them.

I told myself that everything people don’t see me doing is valuable because I’m preparing for what they do see. I worked quietly so people could see the results, not because I enjoyed the work itself. I distracted myself from the tedium with the end goal in mind.

It sucked. I never felt like I had enough time to get to everything I wanted to do. I needed distraction to deal with the drudgery.

Since January, I’ve been meditating and practicing mindfulness regularly. There are a lot of different types of meditation – there’s the kind where you sit still and gently enter the fourth state of consciousness, clearing your head of distractions (there’s an app for that – I’ve been using Headspace). There’s also Transcendental Meditation, which involves a personal secret mantra, apparently. Mindfulness is about taking the meditation-focus into each moment.

I practice mindfulness when I feel and notice everything. I practice with the boring things – I don’t read or listen to music or get on my phone or laptop anymore to distract myself from eating. I just eat, and notice the flavors and the dishes my food is in. Whenever my mind starts to drift toward what’s next, or about anything but being here in this moment, I gently refocus and taste everything.

After practicing this for a while, it occurred to me that I was alone, and that wasn’t a bad thing. All these things I did alone – eating, exercising, writing, reading, thinking, experiencing, feeling – weren’t just things I did begrudgingly, waiting for whatever I was preparing for.

Besides, if I can’t be present in the present, I won’t be present in the future, either. I’ve missed incredible victories and ecstasies because I’m distracted.

Drawing myself into a moment is what redeems the moment. What’s on the editing floor is mine, nobody will ever see it, and I’m okay with that now. I’ll be the person who sees it, and I’m somebody, and the audience of one – myself – is a worthy audience. I’m not splicing film and throwing all the boring stuff on the floor. I’m observing carefully, and cherishing each event as it passes.

My work is better now that I’m paying attention to all of it.