As the daughter of a Buddhist and a healer, I grew up surrounded by messages of “being in the Now”. But then, somehow, I became entangled in the slimy tentacles of modern life, which seemed determined to drag me away from the present moment.
There was always something I should be doing but wasn’t, because I was busy doing something else that was just as “important”. If I was loading the dishwasher I was fretting about the next day’s lunches. If I was working with my students I was thinking about who would take care of Zachary during staff meeting. If I was grocery shopping I was stressing about the mess I had to deal with at home, the husband who didn’t help enough, or the time I couldn’t take for myself.
This treadmill was so much a part of my life that I didn’t even notice I was on it, running at full speed. I spent 27 months of my life – and my son and husband’s lives – this way, growing more tired and irritated each day. Spring Break came, and while I was grateful to spend more time with my son, it was hard to step off the hamster wheel.
Four days into our break, I took Zachary to a children’s store to get some summer clothes. While I shopped, he settled himself at a low table and quietly played with the wooden toys the store provided. After I paid, I walked over to where he was sitting and did my best imitation of a peaceful Montessori mom observing her focused toddler.
This charade lasted about a minute, because the reality was that my brain was on hamster-wheel mode, already thinking about getting back home. To do what, you ask? NOTHING. I had nothing planned except putting my son down to nap. But the tentacles were pulling, and I could feel the treadmill speeding up – time to go, go, GO!
I tried to distract Zach away from his toy, but he declared: “My work.”
“Yes, I see you are playing with that toy, and it’s time to go home,” I said, in my best “I acknowledge your desire, but my needs (obviously neurotic) trump yours (clearly developmental)” tone.
“My work,” he protested again.
“Do you want to walk or would you like me to carry you?” I challenged, consumed with my goal of staying on the treadmill.
“My work!” he cried. So I picked him up and left the store, oblivious to his protests.
I got him into his carseat, telling myself that his whining and grumbling were due to his need for a nap. I closed his car door, opened mine, and sat down. Then, I heard a tiny, defeated voice from the back seat.
With those two words, he hit the emergency stop button on my treadmill and I flew off, slamming into a wall of consciousness. This child, this tiny person who had only been walking the Earth for two years, was fighting for his right to live in the Now and was teaching me a PROFOUND lesson. Was I humble enough to accept it?
My throat tightened and I fought back tears, but they came. Two little words released me from two years of anxiety and self-loathing – of feeling like I wasn’t a good enough mother, wife, teacher, daughter and friend.
I looked back at him and said my own two words: “I’m sorry.”
Then I looked in the mirror and apologized to myself. And that night I apologized to my husband.
The Buddha said: “Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it.”
I used to think my work was being the most capable mom, the most supportive wife, and the most dedicated Montessorian.
Now I understand that my work is to live in the present moment. Because what else is there but Now?