If you carry your childhood with you, you never become older. – Tom Stoppard
Let me tell you about my bike. It’s a lime green ‘girly’ bike, complete with a headlight and taillight, an ample-size trunk for snack storage, and a precious multi-colored polka-dot bike bell a friend bought for me in Paris. It is wicked awesome. I often receive compliments on my bike when I hit the trail. “Your bike is so pretty,” says yet another friendly stranger. “I know, isn’t it?!” is my standard response.
Summer has been my least favorite season as an adult, which is a complete shift from my childhood. When I was a kid, I LOVED the summer. I’m sure having months away from school contributed to my summer love affair, but I can pinpoint that the majority of my fondest childhood memories center around music, swimming, and riding my bike. My bike = my wheels. My bike gave me freedom. It was my ticket to exploring my backyard and beyond. I remember riding my bike for hours, right up until the last glimpse of daylight, just before it got completely dark. So, about a year ago, I bought my pretty green bike and began exploring some local trails. I started to remember why I had loved summer so much . . .
Riding my bike brings about for me a stronger feeling than reminiscing. It’s like I am reliving my 10-year-old self again and it brings me such great joy, I can’t put it into words. My favorite local trail runs for about 10 miles with a river on one side and trees reaching up to the sky stretching over the path. I smile just at the thought of riding with the breeze, experiencing nature along the trail, and feeling the exertion from my workout. There are several spots along the trail with benches to stop and simply be. When I ride alone, these stopping points allow me a wonderful time of focus, reflection, and gratitude. Riding with friends is my favorite (there’s that quality time again). Even though it can be challenging to carry on a conversation while we’re biking, the act of simply sharing this beloved activity with friends is precious to me. Doing something I love with people who are dear to me who enjoy it as much as I do is such an immense blessing. It doesn’t get much better than that.
I recently caught an episode of Oprah’s Next Chapter featuring the coaches on The Voice – Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Usher, and Shakira. I love the show The Voice. Instead of most reality tv shows that seek ratings based on drama or negativity, The Voice emphasizes encouragement of budding singers hoping to become stars (and, of course, seeing Adam Levine week after week is a definite highlight for this Maroon 5 fan). In this interview, Oprah told Usher that he has a way of making the person he’s with feel like they are the most special person in the world. What a wonderful compliment! It really resonated with me. I think it’s the perfect description of being present. To be wholly in this place – body, mind, and spirit – as the rest of the world melts away.
It got me thinking. One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone is not present with me in conversation. When they’re distracted, consistently aware of things going on around them, and not focused on our time together….it hurts my feelings. Maybe it bothers me so much because my love language is quality time. Spending time together is the way that others show me that they care about me. To be physically present, but not mentally and emotionally available is worse to me than not showing up at all. It’s a sure way to put me in a grumpy mood. I shut down quickly. Over the past few years, I’ve taken a step back from people in my life who do this to me. If you don’t value time with me, then I don’t want you to be part of my life.
Being present is not something that comes easily to me. I’m a daydreamer. My mind wanders. I would be in a constant state of reflection if I let myself. It is difficult for me to be truly present. My pastor opens worship each Sunday with the phrase, ‘let’s move from getting here to being here.’ Beautiful. Simple. Forget how I got here; be present in this place; don’t think about what’s to come. It’s not about ignoring or being in denial about what’s before and what’s beyond, it’s about living into THIS moment. God gave me this moment and this time and it’s precious. I’ll never get it back. It’s easy to be present on Sundays, but what about the rest of the week? If I let them, the weeks melt away and time seems to accelerate. I decide daily to live each day for the individual moments and not fall into the rut of ‘just another manic Monday.’
To look people in the eye. To engage in relevant, meaningful conversation. To listen with intention. To recognize answered prayers. This is my definition of being present. What a gift!
I’m in the moment
the one where nothing matters
and everything’s alright
I’m seeing things so clearly now
and you’re the reason why
I’m in the moment
and I’m alive
– chorus from the song, In the Moment, by Sister Hazel