Being Present

In the aftermath of the holiday’s that often bring together friends and family, we vow in the form of resolutions on a variety of things from getting to the gym to setting up retirement plans. Somewhere in the middle we resolve to spend more time with family or take better care of ourselves. Bringing together our loved ones during this time of year often rekindles a desire to make strides to ensure that we visit our parents more than once a year, make more time for family or organize more gatherings with friends. It’s also a time where we find the clock ticking faster and faster as we attempt to add a series of holiday events and struggle to find time for shopping amid our already busy schedules.

For most people the holidays are cherished deeply, yet most could use a holiday from the holidays and many are thankful for the reprieve once it’s over. It is easy to return to our daily lives, working to live, living to work. The matrix of life offers a sometimes desired, but often despised routine when we’re in the thick of making ends meet and taking on more responsibilities than we can reasonably handle. We tend to return to our routines rather quickly, setting the internal controls on automatic with a welcome pattern of life. I have had more than my share of days where I arrive home from work and barely remembering my drive home or the countless details of my work day.

Being present is much more than arriving at a scheduled appointment or taking your brother to lunch on his birthday. In today’s world of techno-dependency it is rare to find individual space without technology, a place lacking of phones or computers. In middle to upper class families, all members of the household over the age of 6 are likely to have their own cell phone and/or computer. Restaurants filled with patrons typically show more than half engulfed in their cell phones rather than being present for those sharing their table. The innovation of technology, specifically cell phones, social media, and 24/7 news outlets was a process that opened its doors step by step, innovation by innovation, driving a wedge between us and those we love and creating a disconnect in relationships..

It is not surprising to me that lower income families tend to be closer knit and more supportive of each other. There’s less attachment to technology and more time spent being together building bonds, forging relationships and guiding young minds. Children are malleable and are easily molded by our actions, both positive and negative. Adults however, often get stuck in routine and become complacent, defying anything that might disrupt their “normal”.  Life is a tough and complex balance, but it too has the flexibility of a child’s mind. If you can envision it, it can be done.

We gradually incorporated technology into our daily lives, so it makes sense that in order to make positive changes, they would be in baby steps. Three simple changes can make a difference in your relationships and in your well-being.

Make time for loved ones.

Despite what you might have heard, work CAN wait! List your priorities and make sure that work is not number one. More often today our work is brought home with us and our children suffer for it. But, even if we don’t have children, we suffer and our friendships and relationships suffer. Dedicate time, however long you can, to the most important people in your life and engage in conversation. The dinner table is a great place to start, but it has evolved into something altogether abysmal with one hand on the fork, one hand on our cell phone and barely any eye contact or words exchanged. Put the phones away! Reconnect and refrain from scattering into the recess of your rooms after dinner, even if just for a little while.

Take friends and family out to lunch when it’s not their birthday. Get together for no particular reason, whether it’s a restaurant, at home or out on an excursion. Visiting at home and in restaurants are a quick and easy opportunity to do some catch up on life. Again, don’t let cell phones distract you and make an effort to engage in conversation!

Valentine’s Day is around the corner, but why do we only show our appreciation for those we love on this day when we have 365 days in the year? Show your appreciation when they least expect it and offer random date nights. Not just with your significant other, but with the kids or even parents or friends. It’s a welcome break from the hum drum of everyday life.

Keep your dates! With the complexities of life we often tend to set aside friendships when we are limited in time and ultimately we pay for it in the end when we truly need someone to talk to. In the whole scheme of things, a few hours here and there to maintain a lifelong friendship is not a huge sacrifice. The reality is if you don’t make time for your friends or repeatedly cancel dates at the last minute, they will leave you at the wayside. What this shows them is that you believe your time to be more valuable than theirs and that’s not a good way to maintain a friendship.

As we get older, time seems to race by more rapidly. There are more occasions where  I am going about my routine and realize it’s been a month since I’ve spoken to a dear friend or several weeks since I’ve called my parents whom I’ve always communicated with at least once a week. Time seems to get away from us with the more we put on our plates and the more we isolate ourselves with our work. In this case, utilize this advent of technology. Use it to our benefit and utilize those nifty calendars to schedule reminders to stop, pull our heads out of our work, and reach out to those we love.

Give yourself space.

Give yourself some alone time. Set aside ten minutes after you get home from work to unwind, something I do often to let go of the stress I carry home from work so that I don’t expose my family to it. If it was a particularly hard day, I would take an extended drive, away from the traffic that would just cause more stress. Often, it would be a lake nearby where I could throw my frustrations into the wind. I live in Florida so lakes are a dime a dozen and, having handled garnishments, there were many occasions where I had to let go of the derogatory comments I endured throughout the day. A stop at the ball field to watch the kids playing baseball or soccer might work for others. Anything to get your mind off the work day.

Take a vacation somewhere new. Love your family, spend time with your family, but also go places without them. It doesn’t have to be alone. Some people aren’t comfortable with alone. But, so often, our vacations are surrounding holidays and visiting family and our vacation time is sucked into family time. Regardless of whether you have two weeks of vacation per year, three weeks, or none at all, at least once in your life you have to branch out and go someplace new.

My family had a habit of sitting around the kitchen table all hours of the day and night, just gossiping and talking about life. We traveled 12 hours to sit around the house and chat. We could have done that through Facetime or Skype. At one point my husband and I decided to change that. We explored our options and each year since we’ve taken the family on outings to different places throughout the region. It’s always nice to catch up with family, but you can continue your conversations on a hike through the Black Hills while learning about the battles that took place there or visiting a local museum. Utilize technology to your advantage. Local events are easily accessible with a quick internet search.

Explore!

No matter where we live, there are amazing things in the most unlikely places. Take a different route home at least once a week or take a short road trip to the surrounding area without any particular destination. You never know what you’re going to find! Maybe a new restaurant or a park. I have found some amazing places just by traveling at the flip of a coin. Planning is awesome and sometimes necessary when traveling … on long trips. But on short trips within a four or five hour drive, it’s absolutely not necessary.

My daughter and I went on a road trip up the East coast and Canada the summer after her graduation and the only thing planned was our leave and return date. Everything else was open. There were nights spent sleeping in the car in the middle of nowhere. On one occasion, it was in Canada between Toronto and Algonquin Provincial Park, but that was the adventure of it! We didn’t have cell service either and relied completely on road maps! What a concept and, truly, what an adventure that made for us!

I know for some people, camping is simply not an option, but try it at least once before you knock it! Or, in the least, spend some time at a State or National Park. They often have cabin rentals if camping isn’t your thing. Being away from all the routine of what we call life is a form of release like nothing else, allowing us to break free of the confines of our social expectations. Often there is no reception there either so it is also a way of breaking free of the technology that holds us back from enjoying the world that surrounds us.

Open your eyes! There’s a whole world out there that you have not experienced … yet!

Look up! There’s a beautiful sky that offers the most amazing experiences. Take time to sit and watch the sun set and the moon rise.

Spread you wings! Wander more and give yourself a lifetime of memories and don’t ever say “I’m too old for that!”

Word Prompt Challenge via Daily Prompt: Automatic

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