“Kairos. Real time. God’s time. That time which breaks through chronos with a shock of joy. In kairos we are completely unselfconscious, and yet paradoxically far more real than we can ever be when we are constantly checking our watches for chronological time.” -Madeleine L’Engle Walking on Water
I’ve reheated my coffee and sit down to write about being present, about carving out space to notice my right now-life. Sudden sharp cries pierce through the quiet afternoon nap time normally brings and I run upstairs, scoop the wailing toddler out of his crib. He’s got three teeth coming in and is constantly unsettled. We nestle into the rocker and he falls back asleep. I release the things I had on my to-do list for this hour and let myself be immersed in the moment. His feathery head against my cheek, his heart beating against mine, the rhythm of his pacifier sucking. Here in this little boy’s bedroom, the curtains muting the outside world for a moment, I am present.
An hour later the older kids are home from school. The quiet is demolished with the chaos of finding ballet slippers and spelling lists and afternoon snacks, and I feel my presence slipping. I glance at my phone and check the time, and count how long I have until the kids’ dad is home and my job switches from nanny to piano teacher and if I’ll have time to eat between. I scroll through Target’s bathing suit selection and look for one for our upcoming beach vacation. I check Instagram and see my Dad and siblings’ posts from Japan and Disneyland’s pictures of Christmas decorations going up. I strand hair together in a braid and run a pink-clad girl outside to meet her carpool ride to dance class. I’m anywhere but present.
But the car pulls away, the oldest is in the front yard playing in the last of this morning’s snow, and the littlest one and I are left standing in our socked feet on the cold earth and I catch a glimpse of the quickly sinking sun through the branches of the tree next to me. Its leaves are the last to stay and in these late autumn days they have become a rare shade of red. I grab my phone to capture this glory. The world feels solemn and quiet, the fleeting light feels sacred, the ground holy. I am present once more.
It could be that this elusive quest toward presence is not found all at once nor attained permanently. It could be that it comes in bits and bursts, scattered unpredictably through our days.
It’s my wedding day. The memories are a blur of white tule and beaming faces and unmatched merriment. I know I won’t remember it all, I know it will become a jumble of happy images in my past. My dad comes into the dressing room and we head toward the sanctuary. It’s all going so fast, so I inhale as much as I can in the tight corset and I notice the mason jar lanterns set on the windowsill. The candle flickers and dances against the stained glass. I keep this moment with me, the moment before I walked down the aisle to marry my husband. It will stay with me forever.
I have a venti cup filled with peppermint white chocolate mocha in hand as I scoot my way through the congested crowd. My husband is across the Disneyland park collecting fast passes for Splash Mountain (and, unbeknownst to me, a pair of Disney earrings to give to me for Christmas), and I head to our meeting spot when I run into the end of the Christmas Fantasy parade. Nutcrackers and Toy Story characters dance in the streets lined with mesmerized faces and there’s nothing for me to do but stop and move at the crawling pace of the final float. It’s dusk and the sparkling lights strung throughout the park are fluttering on. After three days of running through the parks from attraction to attraction this sudden slow feels like a relief. I inhale, take in the magic, hum along with the parade music, sip my festive drink, capture the moment on my iPhone and store it in my heart forever.
So often I find myself feeling an urgency to hurry up and enjoy the moment. Inevitably I get caught up in the tasks I’ve lined up to accomplish and then I berate myself for failing to be present.
But maybe it’s ok to savor the moments that we can and let that be enough.
It only takes a moment of presence to give thanks. It only takes one minute of widening our eyes and looking around and taking it all in to feel like this is the sweetest moment in the world.
Not every moment can fit in my heart but I’ll find a few quiet moments of honest presence to hold on tightly to when I go from this place. The little moments I stoop down to pick up, the ones I open my hands and eyes and heart to receive, I tuck these in my pocket, like a delicate sea shell, a memento of where I’ve been and all this lavish grace I’ve been given. And years from now, when I’m somewhere else, I’ll take them up and line them up on a shelf and look at them, and give thanks all over again.
If you’re looking for a way to center yourself in the present moment this week, I’ve compiled a list of things that will arise in your right-now life that you can stop and give thanks for. Click here to have them sent right to your inbox.