Imagine you win tickets to a performance by the local symphony who will be playing scores from your favorite movies of all time. The night arrives and you settle into your seat. As the first strains of a beautiful melody issue forth you have a thought: Did I lock my car? You mentally flash to the work laptop in in the back seat. Your mind begins to race.
For the next two hours you are terribly distracted. Not wanting to leave, you remain seated. But your scarcely enjoy the performance. Most your energy is spent debating whether you locked the car or not. Though everyone else is seemingly entertained, your busily churning monkey mind leaves you spent and miserable.
Like only being half-present for a symphony performance, too many of us are only half present for life.
The world full of beautiful sights, sounds and wonders: Cooing babies, the smell of dew evaporating off freshly mowed grass, precious encounters with the sick and afflicted. But too often we fail to be present for the symphony that life plays. And in our distracted state we step on the toes of others.
For the twenty-one plus years that I drank alcoholically I was rarely “in the moment.” The one exception was the first few moments of ease and comfort that comes with the first drink. Ease and comfort that dissipated as the first drink was drowned out by countless others.
It would be a lie to say that now sober I am always in the moment. Even in sobriety I need to be on guard against my propensity to miss the beauty of life as I mentally chase down countless threads of fear and distraction.
I find myself thinking on this as I came far too close to being mentally AWOL–physically there but not present–when my daughters, their husbands and their children visited a few nights ago.
In Casa de Rick I do the cooking. I am fairly obsessive with prepping everything to be served either piping hot or appropriately chilled at the appointed time. If you ever get an invite, arrive on time or I will lick all the serving spoons or lace the potatoes with Ex-lax. That is how I roll.
The other night I was down to the the last twenty minutes of prep when a thought struck: When reserving my car for a business trip the next day I learned that the rental agency closes minutes before my flight was scheduled to arrive. Would they wait for me?
I had left voicemail for the rental agency earlier that day but they had yet to call back. I HAD to make it to the client site on time to participate in mandatory orientation only offered once every two weeks. No orientation and I’d be asked to pack it up and head home. Delay was not an option.
I was aware of this issue all day but back-burnered the thought until the moment I was prepping sausage gravy, biscuits, scrambled eggs and bacon (I loves me some breakfast for dinner). As panic set in I mentally froze. As if on queue, my wife appeared in the kitchen to inquire about making arrangements to take our teacup Yorkie on future travels–an inquiry that I was not in a state to deal with.
To say that I handled her inquiry with grace and maturity would be like saying meth addicts handle their elementary school car pool driving assignments in a safe manner. I was completely scatter brained and the biscuits were in a four hundred and fifty degree oven.
The faster my mind raced the more I froze. Recovering a full two minutes after the biscuits should have been pulled out of the oven I realized that I had just brushed my wife off in a rather rude fashion. She had retreated to the master bedroom. I surveyed to unintentionally-toasted biscuits, pulled the eggs off the stove, cut the temperature on the bacon-laden portable skillet and opted for a five second 10th Step: “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”
Guest were to arrive in minutes but I found time to correct course by saying a quick prayer to turn the rental car issue over to the care of God (it was easily resolved the next morning). I then made a beeline to the master bedroom to apologize to my wife.
The miracle of a spot-check 10th Step is that I got out of my own way and was able to be present for dinner, dessert, lively banter and gleefully playing grandchildren. Just a few years ago that wouldn’t have been the case. Sure, dinner would have been served at the proper temperature but I would have been too distracted to enjoy the main event.
I didn’t get sober to be the same distracted life-missing mess that I had been for decades. I want to be present. By incorporating the steps into every facet of my life I can be.
Next week I will write on turning off the monkey mind when we self-sabotage our best efforts to be present…