My father used to give us talks at the beginning of each school term that were intended to be inspirational and motivational, and they were in hindsight. He always stressed the importance of doing well at school and the fact that the only inheritance he had for us was the education he was paying for. I wish I had listened more but as they say, youth is wasted on the young. One thing that struck a chord was him saying wherever you are, be there. I’d be lying if I were to say it was such a deep revolutionary moment for me, the phrase lay deep in my conscience for a long time, it would pop up every now and then and I would think, what was he on? of course I am where I am. I am only just now realising the meaning of what he said.
Displayed on the wall of the reception area of my son’s school are statistics on attendance of each school year and the corresponding levels of attainment, the fewer the absences recorded the higher the level of achievement. From registration/roll call at school to clocking on at work, being present dictates levels of attainment and reward. This system of accountability and consequence ensures we turn up but most of us are not really present even when we do. When attendance is not mandatory or there is no obvious system of accountability the importance of presence tends to fall to the wayside, yet often this is the presence that counts most.
To fully benefit from presence, we need to make sure not only our body turns up but our minds and souls too. I can think of thousands of occasions of where I have been physically present but mind and soul were miles away. For years, I have attributed my low to average performance and absentmindedness to disinterest, depression, fatigue, mum-brain and much more, these are all valid reasons but at some point, it stopped being enough for me and I needed to sort it out because it was becoming overwhelming and frankly quite disconcerting.
I have driven to work forgetting to drop my baby off at daycare, I have put one of my children’s reading books into my handbag as I lectured them on how disorganised they are. After my tirade, my poor little one gently replied “Yes, mum. Can I have my book now.” I recognised the look and tone of voice as I have used them often when my own parents have been “advising” me. I had recorded my attendance, “Yes mum/dad” but not my presence, evidenced by eye rolling and repeat offending. In both instances, I was so busy thinking about things that had to be done, things that had happened and what might happen in the future. Not only have I caused chaos and confusion in my own life but I have missed amazing moments in life because I was too busy being somewhere else in my mind and soul.
How much of life is passing you by because you are thinking about something else or doing something at the wrong time? TV is what I use to distract myself from addressing things. Distraction only serves to put things on hold and while they are on hold life goes on and piles on more. I have spent hours watching TV hitting the rewind button frequently because I have totally blanked out or been otherwise distracted. A more useful button is the stop button, even better power off and deal. Not saying there is no place for TV in my life. When I am ready to watch it I want to be fully present so I don’t feel I need to binge to make up.
Life doesn’t have a pause or rewind button, we may get the chance to do the occasional catch-up or do over but we miss the beauty in the moment.