How to Really Live In The Moment and Appreciate Life
By Leslie Ralph, 07/25/2016
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” ~Albert Einstein
Just when you think you have the whole living in the moment thing down, a four-year-old comes along and shows you how it’s done.
I’ve been working hard on this, actually, keeping a gratitude journal and everything. I was feeling pretty good about my progress yesterday when I decided to take said four-year-old on a walk rather than rushing through the to-do list burning a hole in the back of my mind.
“I’m going to be totally present,” I reminded myself as we headed out. I took deep breath and said a silent thanks for the beautiful day.
Like I said, I was feeling pretty proud of my progress. Then my daughter blew me away. She schooled me in everything I have been working so hard on, and she wasn’t even trying.
Her commentary on the walk went exactly like this:
Ohhhhhh, what an amazing house!
What an amazing garbage can!
Oh wow, what a wonderful tree!
Look at the rocks!
I hear a bird!
I hear a wind chime!
Mom, do you hear that dog? It’s perfect!
I hear a truck!
Do you feel the wind? It is so soft!
Look at the beautiful cactus,
Look! Two trucks.
She was so amazed by things that I never notice or worse, complain about.
Now, I wasn’t completely unaware. I was thankful for another spring day before the summer heat, and I was enjoying this rare one-on-one time with her.
But I had no idea that the neighbors had wind chimes. I have never looked at a garbage can and called it amazing (at least not since I was four). This perfect dog is the same one that I complain about to my husband. The wind was messing up my hair.
There were at least a thousand other concerns competing for my attention while she was content to watch ants on the sidewalk.
Sometimes I wish I could be a little more like her.
She didn’t care if I sent out that attachment with that email. She didn’t care about how many calories we burned on our walk. She didn’t mind that her clothes didn’t match because she picked out exactly what she likes.
I was not going to let this fade from my memory to be overtaken by another thousand concerns.
“Be amazed,” I thought.
I repeated it to myself the way you do a telephone number.
“Be amazed,” I scrawled as fast as I could on the first piece of paper I found when we got home.
I set a reminder in my calendar. I made a post-it. I wrote it down in my journal.
I don’t want to forget this feeling. This absolute clarity.
My mind can be the most hardened criminal against my own happiness. It snatches the joy right out of my hands. It confuses busy with important, urgent with significant, and difficulty with meaning.
My mind gives the future and the past too much space. It wanders over to what the neighbors are doing. It reminds me of what I have yet to accomplish. It wants to speed up time, and it plows right through those moments to be amazed by.
With this clarity also came sadness. My heart broke for the lost opportunities to just be and appreciate.
I guess that’s the bittersweet part of life. You can’t wait until this one tough part is over, but then it’s gone and you can’t go back. There’s a new stage to take its place, and the cycle continues.
Soon, you find yourself telling wide-eyed new parents and self-conscious teenagers (and basically anyone in one of those stages that you wanted to rush through when you were there) that these are the best years.
“Enjoy this while you can. It goes so fast,” you say.
Looking back, the times that I once wished would pass by quickly actually turned out to be the hardest to let go. I could scold myself for this, or I could remember to be amazed now.
One way or another, time marches on. Old becomes new, new becomes old, and you get another chance to be amazed.
Each new stage is also another chance to be nice to yourself about the whole thing. It isn’t humanly possible to love every second of life while it’s happening? Even four-year-olds aren’t amazed all the time.
This little walk with my four-year-old reminded me that even the simple things are amazing, and the things I complain about? They’re life, and they’re doable. Sure, life now is different from life pre-kids (and pre-husband), I’m doing different things than my friends, and maybe my life doesn’t measure up to someone else’s definition of amazing.
I can be amazed anyway.
Starting now, these two words will be a compass guiding me when it feels like I don’t have it all together. They will remind me what direction I want to go even when I feel completely lost.
Be amazed. Take a step back and look at your life with gratitude every now and then.
Be amazed. Squeeze every last ounce of goodness out of what is around you. Savor it. Soak it up. Luxuriate in it.
Be amazed. When you’re burned out, bone weary, and bedraggled, use amazement to fill yourself back up. Seek out those situations, people, and activities that remind you of what it means and how it feels to be amazed.
And those painful parts? You know, the ones that really, really hurt. The ones you barely survive. Maybe there’s a little room for amazement there, too.
Amazement when you make it to the other side.
Amazement for how much the heart can hold.
Amazement for your resilience, your ability to heal, and your capacity to keep loving and hoping.
Be amazed by your spirit. Your tenacity. Be amazed by that part of you that refuses to give up.
You only get one shot at life, and you don’t have a whole lot of control over what happens to you in it. Take advantage of the choices that you do have.
I will choose to be amazed.
About Leslie Ralph
Leslie writes at A Year of Happy where she combines her years of training and practice as a psychologist with the lessons she’s still learning as a working mom. Each month, she tackles a new topic inspired by life as a mom, positive psychology, and meditation. Stop by to download your free two-minute revitalizing meditation.
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