Sunday, February 25, 2007

Living in the Moment


I have a bad habit of living in the future. What I mean is that I say things like, "I'd like my next dog to be a greyhound" (when our golden retriever is only two years old) or "Maybe we could retire to a condo in ___________" (I turned 38 this year, and though my husband is 10 years older than I, you can safely assume "retirement" is not something that's going to happen soon).

I've been trying to determine where or when this trait or habit came into my life. My father, a Republican who wasn't crazy about "do-gooders" and a huge fan of Ronald Reagan and Ross Perot, was always planning for retirement. Even in second grade, I too was creating my savings account $2 at a time and how I hated to touch that money. There was a security in how the numbers kept rising, for later, for later, I thought. I was probably the only girl at my high school with an IRA, which my father began for me when I was 16.

Now, I don't want to discount saving or planning for the future, but there's a point where it can be too much. Two months ago, I had a pretty big health scare--losing one's vision has a way of making one literally, figuratively, and metaphorically see the world differently. It helps order priorities--for me, it was easy as I've only had two since I moved to this small town 10 years ago--1) family 2) writing. I say yes to things that fall into those categories.

But the health scare has also made me make some changes I may not have made. I feel the need to risk more now. Not bungy jumping risk or let's-see-if-I-can-cross-this-highway-with-my-eyes-closed risk, but just in life, daily or otherwise. Maybe risk a little more in my writing. Maybe in how I meet the world, what I say, what I do. Perhaps, it's just more of living in the present. Because I'm less focused on X years from now, I'm able to live a little more freely.

I'm a Capricorn, so know there will always be a back-up plan. But I realized in December something I already knew--how quickly life can change--and it's never the things you expect. You worry because someone is driving over the Cascades and there's a snowstorm, but the call you receive is from Miami and your uncle has died from a fall off his front steps.

I find much of my life has been lived in fear of the unexpected. Trying to "out-think" the fates, to come up with the worse case scenario so I can't be surprised, but even with my fantastic ability to dream up pain or tragedy, I didn't expect to be hit with vision loss, and the night my stepfather suffered a stroke and I had been having a wonderful time with poets and our manuscripts were spread across the table, I didn't expect that phone call or that ten days before starting my MFA program I'd be living at Harborview, eating hospital food, and buying bobblehead toys at the gift shop because my daughter was so young and how do I even start to explain death to someone who has just found life.

I'm still working at this, this living in the moment, this seize-the-day mentality, because it goes against my plan-for-future, you-will-live-forever attitude I've carried all my life. As the days pass from December, I find myself having to remind myself of my promise to risk a little more, to live a little more--not from my office or bedroom, not from the comfy couch and through a book, but out in the world--living--not observing, which is something I’ve always been good at.

And when I'm not out in the world, with family and friends, I'm alone and remembering to appreciate what's around me and what I do have. I am working on not procratinating. I'm working on not putting off writing projects, or submitting, or any of the letters I've wanted to write. And those ideas I have that can make me fear rejection? I try. And again.

I guess tonight I'm feeling thankful for right now, not ten minutes from now or ten minutes ago, but for the grey and white cat atop my sofa, from the hint of moonlight, the prayer flags that arrived by mail, and a few hours to write poetry, to work on that story I've set aside. I’m feeling thankful for my family in their various places in the world, and to friends just going to sleep in their own homes, and the nightowls like me who are just beginning to write.

Right now, as the clock ticks on to the next moment and I look around at how quickly this movie is passing by and yet, how slow it takes for a year to pass sometimes— I give thanks for being here and able to see the words that I am typing and try, try, try not to take the world so seriously or to carry with me as I walk into my house or out the door to meet a friend. I'll try not to let what I can't control make my shoulders sag and what I can control? Give me a blank sheet of paper and audacity to tell the truth. I'll risk it.

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