You know what I’m good at? Actually, let me cut the modest crap. You know what I’m a genius at? Getting out of things. I’m not kidding either. Late fees, library fines, parking tickets. Here’s a true story: I’ve had 43 parking tickets dismissed, including four tows to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. I’ve been getting out of things my whole life, really. Appointments, exercise, meditation, you name it. I think it stems from post-traumatic stress, from being addicted to the feeling of sailing away from something I dread. It makes sense. For most of my life, I never liked being where I was, so I became an escape artist to get out of what felt intolerable. But the trouble is— if you get out of everything, you never really find yourself in a world you’ve gotten into. You just swirl in some ethereal circumference, zoning in and out of the past and dreaming up marvelous futures that somehow never arrive.
This all changed though when I had a child. A precious baby boy who was handed to me and placed upon my breast like a little sandbag, forcing me for the first time in my life into the present moment. I think I held him the entire first year of his life. Really, I think I was afraid to put him down. That I’d start running again. And I never ever wanted to run away from my baby. To get out of being a mother.
One of the first things I noticed being present is that most of my moments were filled with this unpleasant sensation like something very wrong was happening but I couldn’t remember what. And I’d have this intense urge to get rid of that feeling. To reach for something chocolate. Something bready. The phone. Amazon.com. Facebook. All the things that pried me out of my moment but left me homeless in a manner of speaking, with only places to feel better or worse inside of, yet none to feel cozy in. But with a sleeping baby in my arms, I couldn’t leave so easily, and slowly, I started to surrender. I’d still feel uncomfortable and reach and pry for a way out, but after the 200th time checking my email, and the 200th time checking that my son was breathing normally, and the wondering if I’d ever make any of my dreams come true or if it was too late, I’d look at my baby’s sweet face and remember: There’s nowhere to go. And I’d climb into the moment with my child and stay there, and enter a richness that was too fulfilling to leave. And in that moment, my heart felt so full, like it did when I was real little, before I’d been hurt by life. When I used to feel excited to wake up in the morning, not because there was something particular going on, but because I enjoyed the feeling of being alive. And it felt so good to have that feeling back and to share it with my precious child. And I’d pray for the moment to never pass, which of course it always did. But I’d meet up with it again when I surrendered on some other occasion to the seemingly cruel truth that there was no place to go.
I’m still not present all the time. I’m hardly present at all, really. The land of right here/right now is still a tropical island that I only vacation to occasionally when I forget that I don’t need time off or any plane ticket to get there. But I pray to visit more often. Because if I can give my presence to my little boy, then maybe he will feel cozy here and never try to get out of it like I did.