“I embrace this moment” is a wonderful idea, but I’m having trouble with the implementation. I spend much of my time planning for the future and, considering the circumstances of my life right now, that makes sense. My husband just got a new job, my daughter is going to high school next year and I am preparing to “go out on disability.” It will serve us better to plan ahead for these big changes.
I need to understand the difference betweenpreparingandworrying. Here again, it’s all about the serenity prayer: there are things I can change and things I can’t.
Preparingmeans taking action now that will make a probable future go more easily. My husband will have to travel to get trained in his new job. Activities that were scheduled for that week need to be rescheduled. My daughter needs to fill out and submit forms to choose her classes for next year. I need to stop putting money into my retirement fund. Each task of preparation, though gesturing to the future, is done in the present moment.
Worryingis excessively creating detailed pictures about what may go wrong. I am a champion worrier. Chronic, progressive illness can easily invite worry. The strength in and dexterity of my hands has diminished over the last few years.
How far will it go? Will my hands be paralyzed? Will the spasticity that nags my legs start bothering my arms? Will I be able to manage while my husband is traveling? Will my daughter be warped by being around a mom dealing (sometimes none too gracefully) with disability?
My inner narrator starts sounding like the announcer at the end of an old soap opera.
When I find myself worrying, the present moment can save me.
“I got the blues thinking of the future, so I left off and made some marmalade. It’s amazing how it cheers one up to shred oranges and scrub the floor.” –D.H. Lawrence
By immersing himself in physical, creative activity, Lawrence returned to the present moment.
Thoughts of worry arise from the biological instinct to Keep Myself and My Love Ones Safe. It’s a useful instinct. That instinct has made our species the spectacular, 7 billion strong, success we are today. My spinning, obsessive, negative thinking? Not so successful.
I need to let go of my worrying mind and return to the present moment. I can do that by taking a deep breath and noticing– with compassion – what my senses are experiencing right now. I can say to myself, “In this moment, I am safe.”
After a moments’ rest understanding that I am safe, I can ask myself. “Are there actions I can take that will help me feel safer?” If I can take action immediately, that’s great. If it’s an action that has to be taken in the future, I can write it in a list or calendar so that I am reminded about it when the time comes.
Meanwhile, I have a new phrase to recall me to the present moment: Shred oranges and scrub the floor.
I'm an artist who has been living with multiple sclerosis since I was 20. I've discovered that thinking about chronic illness and healing as a creative process helps me move through the hard stuff and get back to the joy. Visit www.dancingwithmonsters.com to find books, newsletters and other services that can help you dance with your monsters.