I didn’t choose a “word of the year” as I have in previous Januaries. But if I had, my word should have been linger.
(Hat tip to my fellow Gen-X readers who, upon hearing that word, conjure Dolores O’Riordon belting it out, may she rest in peace.)
One of the things I work on with my therapist is learning to stay in the moment.
To be present. To ground myself in reality. I don’t have a tattoo, but if I were to get one, it might read “Be Here Now”.
It’s simple, but not easy. My personal tendency is to squirrel. I’m cerebral. I’ve been ignoring my feelings, instincts and intuitions for decades. (And had years of crippling stomach pain and other psychosomatic symptoms to prove it.)
But I’m getting better at this practice.
Yesterday my 17 year old daughter handed me a pencil and asked me to part her hair in the middle. She often wears it in two braids.
It’s such a simple thing. Easy to rush through in the busy morning routine, without paying attention.
But yesterday, I was struck by the simple beauty of this quotidian task.
My daughter will be an adult all too soon, and she won’t be asking me to help her with her hair, or any other aspect of personal care.
When our children are small, we relish in the physical intimacy we enjoy with them. The breastfeeding. The cuddling and rocking. The morning and bedtime snuggles. The time spent in laps. The kissing of boo-boos.
But as they get older, we don’t have as many opportunities to be this close.
As I parted my daughter’s hair yesterday, I felt its thick, still-damp waves in my fingers. I breathed in the smell of her shampoo.
Tears came to my eyes. Someday, it will be the last time I do this for her. Someday, she won’t wear her hair like this. Someday, she won’t even live in my house.
So instead of rushing through it, I lingered. I let the tears come. I grabbed her by the shoulders and held her. I tuned into my body and enjoyed the feeling (of … privilege? gratitude? love? nostalgia?) for a moment longer.
“Mom, are you ok?”
“Yes. I love you so much.”
In her book Off The Clock, Laura Vanderkam says that we need to “woo memories“.
To savor is to feel pleasure, and also to appreciate that you are feeling pleasure. It takes normal gratification and adds a second layer to it, acknowledgement.
(If you’re so inclined, download this research document for more “ways of savoring“. Check out page 9 in particular. It’s a sort of checklist of strategies for making moments last longer.)
Because life is lived in moments. One of the best ways to be happier is to fully enjoy those moments, instead of getting stuck on the past or allowing your mind to squirrel to future worries. In the present moment, we almost never have an actual problem.
For the first time in I don’t know how long, I don’t have any goals or ambitions.
The past couple of years have been about stressful life changes and healing from trauma. My brain is exhausted from all that’s been going on. Too tired to think about improving myself. I’m in survival mode.
And that’s ok.
Meanwhile, I’m focused on enjoying the moments of my life.
How do you cultivate the art of lingering?
Martha Harris says
I absolutely love this Carrie!!! Going to share with my niece, who has six kids. The oldest started College this year and the youngest Pre-K! I too have a problem of being in the moment, and find myself overwhelmed often with anxiety and worry about everything!!! My hubby says that I was named appropriately.? Thanks for the reminders!??
Thanks for reading! Glad you enjoyed
I’m not crying, you’re crying! Okay, we’re both crying and it feels good. I struggle with the same cerebral squirreling. Just learning to be in my body and feel what’s happening has been a really big deal. Thanks for writing this. ??????
LOL ? it’s hard isn’t it!? Especially if you use logic to try to calm your nervous system as I usually do. My therapist reminds me that this approach isn’t effective- it does get easier with practice.
Shelly Browne says
I don’t remember when that last time was but I’m so glad that I spent those years developing strong routes with my children. Now that they are grown, all of those hours in homeschooling and breast-feeding and talking and washing dishes and tears and tantrums have turned into a wonderful ongoing relationship. I can’t imagine my children walking out of my life And feeling like I didn’t care. When I started homeschooling my oldest son in second grade, I really thought I could toss him a book and do what I wanted to do. And we had to come face-to-face across the table and figure it out. What was his learning style? What did he want to learn? How can I help? I’m very proud of him today even though he still struggles with his own trauma and issues, he knows I am here for him. I am blessed to know you Carrie
Thanks you Shelly ?