Choosing This Moment: Practical Steps

DCM_8074I’ve been thinking about the title of this blog lately, about choosing this moment, about being fully present in this life I’m living. I’ve been thinking about slow living, simple living, about how I spend my minutes and my days, about creativity and relationships and writing. I’ve been thinking about these things in my off moments, when my mind isn’t otherwise occupied, in the shower and on the road and when I’m settling Katie down for a nap. I’ve been thinking about them, but here’s the problem: thinking about them is the easy part.

It’s easy to think about them, easy even to blog about them. It’s easy to dream of writing, of quality time, of every moment given my full attention, my best self. It’s easy to want a simple life filled with things that matter, easy to resolve to be present.

Doing those things, though, making them happen, is another matter, another matter entirely. I am given time to write and, terrified of the blank screen, the empty page, I find myself online, wasting time on gossipy articles, reading about things that do not matter. I wake too early after too little sleep and find myself longing for the day when she doesn’t need me quite so much, when I will have an uninterrupted eight hours every single night, when she can eat or walk or dress without my help. I sit with her on the floor, my attention divided as I scroll through my Facebook feed or check email on my phone.

I’m only human, of course. It’s impossible to be fully engaged all the time, and there’s nothing wrong with some downtime now and then, with frittering away minutes on trivial things. But this world offers far too many distractions, far too many opportunities for escape, and lately, I have taken them. I have drifted, allowing myself to be pulled this way and that, forgetting to build structure and purpose into my day and my actions.

I tell you all this because I’ve felt the effects of this aimlessness in my writing, in my faith, in my relationships, and I suspect it may have come through in recent posts. Writing has been hard lately. Prayer has been hard lately. Being present has been hard lately. And if I am to write here, if I am to urge you to choose this moment right along with me, it’s only just that I own up to the times when the choosing is hard, to the times when I fall short of the vision I’ve cast.

In recent weeks, I have not chosen well in many of the moments given to me, and I want to do better. This life I have, the one right now, today, is the one I’ve been given, and I want to live it. I want to be an active participant in it, to be awake and present, not merely an observer, but the wanting isn’t enough. Choosing this moment is all well and good, but what does it look like in real life?

It’s a battle, really, to stay present, to choose this moment. I’ve found that I need concrete ideas, solid steps to help me do so, and so I’ve come up with this list of items to encourage me, to remind me in my day-to-day. I share here both for my accountability and for your inspiration – though these things are specific to me and my life in this season, maybe there’s something here thatapplies to you, too?

1. I will take time – even if it’s only five minutes – for quiet reflection (be it bible study, prayer, journal writing, devotional reading or some other similar activity) before I open my laptop or pick upmy phone in the morning.

2. I will stop checking Facebook on my phone. Nothing is happening there that is that urgent.

3. When I’m on the floor with Katie, I’m with her. No reading blogs, no scrolling FB, no screens at all (except for photos).

4. I will take a book or my journal with me into Katie’s room when I’m settling her down for her naps. I will use those moments – the ones where I’m waiting for her to fall asleep – to learn or to reflect or to write.

5. Seasonal allergies permitting, I will spend good time outside every day, whether on a walk or in the garden or on the deck.

6. During the transition times in my day (Katie waking/going to sleep, meals, changing from one activity to the next), I will take a moment to pause, give thanks, and remind myself to be present.

7. Writing is important to me, and so I need to prioritize it. When I sit down to write, I will not be distracted by other things. I will find ways to get my mind going so I see the blank screen as an opportunity, not an enemy.

8. I will be thoughtful and selective in what I choose to read, both online and in books, seeking items that inspire or challenge me. (This doesn’t eliminate novels or pleasure reading, of course, but I want to be cognizant of the fact that time is precious, and pick my reading material accordingly.)

9. I will give myself grace when these things don’t happen, remind myself that I am only human, and that each moment gives me another opportunity to choose.

What about you? What ways have you found to help you remember to be present, to focus on what matters, to choose this moment, in your day-to-day routine?

This Thing Called Life

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2 Responses to Choosing This Moment: Practical Steps

  1. Sandy says:

    Jenn, there is so much wisdom here. I think one of the biggest challenges a stay-at-home mom has is discipline. Although that’s not new, the online world has increased it greatly. I love your list. It can be beneficial to me as well.

  2. jywatkins says:

    Thanks, Jenn, for the tips. I’ve been struggling in my writing too and being pulled along without much thought (like my whirlpool metaphor suggests). I don’t have kids but I work fulltime, so I find coming home after work every day is both valuable time at home, and also the time when I’m most tired and worn out, so it’s a struggle to use it wisely. My husband and I have begun a regular workout routine, where we do a half hour each night, and most of the time we’ve been able to stick to that. So that’s been one thing that’s been helpful, knowing and expecting that I will fit in that half hour sometime in the evening. And eating in our dining room is good too. We often just resort to eating in the living room and turning on the tv during dinner, but we find that when we eat in the dining room, we talk more and reflect on our days better. We also take our time instead of rushing through the meal and binge watching tv all night.

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