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My New Mantra: "I Am Present"

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By Chrissie Ferguson

For most of my adult life, least since the year I was blessed to become a mother in 2008, I have felt pulled in too many directions. What mother or father hasn’t felt this way?

So many of us have taken on too much since day one. While our dream might have been to solely focus on raising our babies, no matter how hard we tried, life got in the way.

Somehow when we were blessed with the title of “Mommy” or “Daddy”, a tug-of-war rope was instantly wrapped around our torso. And like a middle school field day challenge, the rope almost immediately began to tug back and forth.

The rope pulled tightly in one direction because our children came first. You’re supposed to focus on being a good Mom or Dad. That’s your job, right?

But no, you also have a job that pays you to show up every day. It not only pays you to perform and do your best, but you want to do your best every day. This job puts food on the table and provides for your family. And if you are lucky enough, you love your job - like me. So yep. You give into the pull from the other direction.

But, now you’re pulled the opposite way - it’s time to volunteer for everything under the sun. We think - well, if I don’t do it, who will? And honestly, do any of us know how to say “no”?

Next, add in the difficulties that life throws at us with a family member’s mental or physical illness, a friend’s illness, or even worse - our own. Now, you’re pulled back the other way.

But then maybe your child struggles in some way and needs some extra daily TLC. Pulllll!

Nope. Come back this way because maybe your marriage garden needs some tending to. Pulllll the other way!

But then you’re pulled in the other direction because maybe, just maybe, you need to take some time - if only for a few minutes a day - to focus on your own physical and mental well-being.

The challenge continues for so many of us - back and forth, push and pull - until finally, the moment comes when we feel like we are going to fall face first in the mud.

Only, unlike a real-life tug-of-war contest, there is no side cheering for the other team as onlookers watch. It’s just yourself...immobile...and you are simply feeling like a failure.

Has this ever happened to you? Is this happening to you right now? Men and women are blessed beyond measure to be parents. Believe me - as a woman who struggled to become pregnant - I count my blessings of being a mother to three beautiful boys every single day.

But the fact is, I have lived a life as a parent working hard, taking on so much, that I often wonder if anyone or anything has ever received my full attention.

When I am teaching, I am there - in the moment - giving my students 100% of myself.

But when I step off campus, there is little time left in a day or on a weekend to accomplish everything on my “to-do” list, and multitasking becomes the norm.

Throw the dirty clothes in the wash. Walk the dog. Help the kids with homework. Tidy up the house. Grade papers. Go to sports events. Attend Boy Scout and Cub Scout events, meetings, and campouts. Bring the boys to practice. Volunteer. Conduct an interview. Write an article. Edit a manuscript. Check in with family and friends.

It’s a lot.

But here’s the thing - I’m not willing to give any of it up. Are you?

I love being a mother and being present in our boys’ lives. I love my students and being a teacher. I love volunteering with various organizations. I love writing. And I love that all of my family members live right around the corner and that I get to see them whenever I want.

So tell me to stop taking on too much - to stop doing too much - IMPOSSIBLE!

But what I can do - and what I have decided to do - is to be more present in every moment throughout the day.

The fact is - I have never felt like I have mastered the challenge of juggling it all. My body might be somewhere, but my mind is somewhere else, thinking about what needs to be done next.

Or maybe I’m multitasking - bringing papers to grade to a football practice or setting up interviews on my phone while I’m at the beach with the kids.

In the summer, I feel present. What a blessing to share my summer with our children.

But during the school year, it’s another story. I have never felt fully present...well, that is...until a few weekends ago.

It was at that moment that time flashed before my eyes. The three boys who were once so little, zooming around the house in diapers, weren’t so little any more. And I realized that I had spent my second weekend in a row grading papers and working on report cards and comments. My boys had to entertain themselves for hours at a time, which unfortunately, included too much screen time. I looked up from my work and stared at my 8th grader who is now almost as tall as I am.

And at that moment, something hit me. I have my oldest baby at home with us for only four more years. What am I doing? Life is passing by so quickly - too quickly - and I’m spending my weekends working.

I told the kids to get on their bathing suits and that we were taking a day trip to Delray Beach. I didn’t bring any papers to grade. I didn’t look at my phone, except to take a couple of pictures. And I physically and mindfully was present. I told myself that everything could wait; I would work once the kids went to bed that evening.

And do you know that I don’t ever think I will forget this day? I was present with the kids - really present. And I witnessed them playing in the waves together, laughing and getting along - a rare sight these days. We laughed, we talked, and we got belly aches eating too much ice cream together. And as we were finishing those last few licks of our dessert, our middle son said, “This was such a great day, mom!”

I agreed. It was a great day!

When was the last time that you had a day like this? When was the last time that you were present in the moment - really present? When was the last time that you set aside your worries or your multitasking for a bit? Have you ever tried to put your phone away when you are on vacation, or are you still replying to emails and texts when you are with family and friends?

Have you ever thought about how focusing on the moment in front of you, and that moment only, could actually alleviate stress — whether it’s focusing solely on work or volunteering or it’s a moment with your children, spouse, friends, family, or even a moment by yourself?

Consider giving it a try. You owe it to yourself. You owe it to your friends. You owe it to your family.

In a busy world, where we ALL take on too much, we need to focus on the present tense - the here and now - because as Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

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