During my morning reading I came across this quote in The Nightly Book of Positive Quotations,
“In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present.” Lao Tzu.
It struck me because this is just how I’m living my life, as much as possible, right now. I think both are hard. Until I started my business I loved working, but I never ‘enjoyed’ what I did and now I understand there is a big difference. I have also learned that even if you’re with your children all of the time, it isn’t the same thing as being completely present.
It is important to have both (enjoyment at work and presence at home) but it’s not always easy! The earlier you can learn this, and guide your life to a purpose (‘work’) you enjoy but which can also bring you whatever financial compensation you require to create your best life, the more opportunity to be present you will have with your family.
Now of course one is not reliant upon the other, but if your financial needs are met, and therefore your daily needs including food, clothing and shelter, the more able you are to relax and to be present. If you’re constantly worried about money, bills, how you’re going to pay for things, it makes it much harder to let go and just ‘be’, not impossible, but for most more difficult.
Being present means not thinking about anything in the past or worrying about the 20 other things you ‘should’ be doing, or anything in the future at all. It means simply being with that person, listening to them fully, not just waiting to respond, and not being anxious to get to the next thing on your list. This is probably one of the hardest things for any of us, particularly mothers, to do in our very busy ‘modern’ lives.
Most of us don’t take time to sit on the porch (if we even have one) and sip lemonade and gently rock as the sun goes down waiting for the crickets to start their nightly chorus.
Instead we miss the sunset altogether because we’re rushing from one activity to another, trying to get dinner and homework done and get everyone through a bath or shower, at least once in a while. That doesn’t include anything else that has to get done like shopping, cooking, cleaning, just to name a few!
It’s no wonder that when our children are talking to us our minds are usually somewhere else because we have so much else we need to do and don’t think we have the time to completely focus on the little voices that we love so much. They won’t know the difference if our mind is somewhere else, or so we think.
But they do – you do – and so do we.
Montessori has been a good teacher of this to all of us. The focusing and looking someone directly in the eyes when they’re speaking is something they model from day one. It’s something we’ve all learned but have to continue doing.
For the past few years I have made a very conscious and concerted effort to be present as much of the time as possible with you, and when I am not or “can’t” be to let you know and ‘schedule’ a time when I can be.
For example, if we’re running a little behind in the morning before school and one of you wants to show me a picture you’ve just drawn, or a returned homework assignment you just found in your backpack that you’re particularly proud of, and I don’t have the time to sit with you and really listen and look at what you want me to see, I explain exactly why and ask that you put it aside until after school when we can find the time to sit together and I can really look or listen.
It’s amazing how much of an impact that has had, for all of us. You know that when I am there that I will be 100% percent totally focused on you and what you are saying or showing me.
You also know that it can’t be that way all of the time if we want to get ready for school, go to activities, and other things. Because I let you know when I can and can’t be present (and now you’re doing the same with me!) you really feel listened to and don’t feel like I’m half listening, because I’m not. When either of us catches me not 100% listening (old habits die hard) we laugh and say that we’ll wait for a better time. There are no tears of anger because you’re not being heard, because if you’re not at that moment, you know to call me on it and that you will be heard later. Conversely, if it’s something super important, even if we don’t have ‘time’ we make time. I will ask you if it can wait, and if it can’t we discuss it, 100% presence, right then and there. Sometimes it’s important enough to be a few minutes late for something, sometimes it’s not. There is a lesson in both.
So, this quote struck me because this is how I’m striving to live my life every day. I don’t always succeed, but I’m aware and giving it my best effort, and I am so much happier for it. This is what I want you all to know, two more ‘little’ secrets to happiness – do what you love and enjoy (as ‘work’) and when you are with your family, or anyone else for that matter, really be present with them. The world is better for it, and so are you.
xoxo – Mom
p.s. This has certainly been an area of personal growth for me, I now realize as I write this, another big life lesson from my experience with breast cancer. Before I was ‘there’, at least my left brain was, but it wasn’t until this experience, as with gratitude, that my right brain joined the party!
I truly hope that you all will figure this out long before I did and as I’m modeling it both in my ‘work’ and on a daily basis with you, I know that the habits are being created and the character built. It will be up to each of you, however, to remember it, continue it, and practice it yourselves throughout your lives.
It is my sincere wish that you do because as it took me many, many years, to understand, true happiness lies in this moment, because in the end, that’s all any of us really has . . .