When I was a child I always dreamed of having my own cozy kitchen and enjoying my perfect life.
I have had a kitchen of my own for many years, but until recently was always waiting for the ‘perfect life‘ to show up. I envied and longed for the ‘charmed lives’ of others, as I moved seamlessly from pondering the mistakes of the past to envisioning the possibilities of the future.
I rarely gave the present moment so much as a passing nod.
I was always rushing to arrive at a destination only to find that I immediately wanted to leave.
Holidays made me nervous. I couldn’t figure out how to get the pleasure and fulfillment that others seemed to enjoy.
I was perpetually opening a gift I had anticipated with excitement, only to find that it was dull, ordinary and wouldn’t do any of the things I had imagined. I would place it on a shelf, or stuff it into a closet while I dreamed of something else I didn’t have.
Two years ago, while on a routine shopping trip for vitamins my cell phone rang. My doctor stammered and tripped over his words as he gave me the results of my recent blood work. I coldly demanded percentages and the worst case scenario, and stood there stunned that he gave me this information over the phone. I allowed myself no emotion until the call ended, and left the health food store with nothing.
For the next few minutes, I sat quietly in my car.
Then reality came and sat beside me and held my hand.
Suddenly, reality and the present moment were literally all I had left.
It was all I had before, but I didn’t fully understand until this moment.
The past, with all it’s denial had betrayed me.
Projecting into the future now frightened me, as I contemplated the meaning of my doctors words, “…last stage…less that 10% chance of survival.”
I had gone from what I thought was first stage leukemia, with an extremely high survival rate, to very likely counting down my last few months on earth, in the course of a single phone call.
I touched my face and found tears. Reality stroked my hand and together we paid attention to the world outside of the windshield as we drove slowly home.
Our relationship has had it’s ups and downs over the past two years. We have even dealt with anger, jealousy, and resentment. Yet, reality has now become my closest friend.
I take my new friend with me now everywhere I go. I stay present with my 91 year old mother at the nursing home, instead of rushing in and out (making a grocery-list in my mind or recounting an event earlier in the day while I stay physically in the room) for my allotted amount of time. I look deep into her eyes, hold her hand and listen patiently as she struggles to communicate the things that are weighing on her mind.
Last week she told me a story about a beautiful yellow dress that her mother bought for her when she was a little girl. This was her last memory of her mother before she died and I stayed gratefully present as she explained that this precious memory was the reason why yellow has always been her favorite color.
I spend my time playing games and talking with my grandchildren in their present moment. I soak in their stories, hugs and smiles and I gladly invite them to bake cookies with me instead of shooing them away while I cook dinner for the family.
The biggest test for me so far came when I was trapped at an airport away from home for eight hours during a snow storm. In the past, I would have undoubtedly used that time to panic and stress about the fact that I was trapped in a strange place away from home. Instead I enjoyed my time there, grateful to be indoors warm and safe watching the snowfall outside the terminal with my fresh cup of coffee and surrounded by life.
Now, each morning, I stand in my warm kitchen enjoying the early light in the backyard. I hear the soft ringing of the wind chimes that hang outside my window. I taste the rich dark coffee on my tongue; it’s heavenly aroma blending with last night’s dinner.
Today I am grateful and savor every moment.
I live in the present…
and for the first time in my life I am finally on the inside looking out.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Assistant Editor: Sanja Cloete-Jones/ Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: Kate Ter Haar. Flickr