being there

1. I want to be present. Here, not always over there, or in my phone somewhere, or on my way somewhere else.

This is the quality about Grace that I am appreciating most as I reflect on all that she taught me.

Grace was present with her ideas and her conversations, regardless of the age, history or politic of the person she was speaking to. She stayed with an idea, turning it around in the light. She brought each visitor into the question she was present with. When she could no longer be present she would end the conversation.

I’ve mastered the art of sort of being present. I love the idea of being present, but I’m often out ahead of myself making plans, or lagging behind myself replaying the past. I document the present well, but sometimes I feel about that distance from it, watching my life through a lens, filtering.

So I’m actively trying to get present. And the thing is, I feel so much when I’m present.

Sometimes it feels like too much.

I’m learning that I got good at numbing and leaving and dreaming and remembering because sometimes the present is so emotionally overwhelming – joyous or painful – that I don’t believe I can be in it.

But I am meditating and reflecting and journaling and declaring that I want to be here. Not perpetually there, in some elsewhere. I don’t want to look back and find I spent my life being ‘there’.

2. Being there for people through life’s changes is an art form. I have experienced some of the best presence and love from the most unexpected places this year. And learned that some people have tons of other skills but really don’t know how to be there when it’s hard. They say the wrong thing, or direct attention away from the hard thing in a way that feels cowardly, or disappear until the hard time is ‘over’.

I’m longing to develop the skills of being there for people in a way that feels comforting and appropriate and good when things are falling apart, or simply changing rapidly. It’s both tangible (the voice that says ‘I’m right there with you’ when giving you tragic news, the check in text that requires no action, the friend who shows up with bad movies and ice cream when the tears are gone and only the emptiness remains) and intangible (the person who gives you quiet without saying they are doing so, the prayers and love extended through space and time). I don’t think the changes are going to stop, I want to be able to feel excited about change, to pivot to an opportunity outlook quickly, to trust the changes.

But it’s all aspirational right now. Right now I’m just trying to avoid my most familiar grief homies (chocolate, pizza, whiskey, harmful connections, cigarettes…I’m three weeks smoke free after a year of grief smoking!) and in that, notice that there is a way I’m learning to be there for myself, instead of substituting my own presence with food, drink, drug or distraction.

I fly all the time, I know the ritual with oxygen masks. Put mine on, then help the child sitting next to me (is it always a child next to us, asking us to do the right next thing?)…but in life it can be so easy to attend to the crises of others first. I’m grieving a few people who I believe gave more than they had, putting others first until they literally slipped away from themselves.

With each day I believe more and more in that self sustenance, that greedy inhale that guarantees the next moment will be one in which I can choose to give, simply because I’m still here.

I want to really be there for myself, and then expand into my ability to be there for the people I love. ‘The only lasting truth is change’, so how do I change with my whole complex centered loving self? This question I ask of my self and my species – how do we stay whole and change?

Only, I think, by being present. So…return to point 1, rinse, repeat.