Submitted by Guest Blogger: Ruthanne Esparza
There is a time in life anytime post-college to pre-empty nest years where we’re in the thick of it all. Up to this age, we’re children, adolescents, teens, then young adults; we are learning about the world and life, then creating our identity as an adult, whether by default or design (most of us definitely by default!)
As we enter the thick of it all in life, there are critical decisions to be made: career, marriage/significant other, children (or not), our relationships with our family of origin, friends, colleagues, etc.
Once we’re smack-dab in the thick of it, the conveyor belt that is our path in life speeds up. It gets tough; it gets blurry; it gets overwhelming for sure. But it’s also a time in life for THE most spectacular life events you’ll experience!
For most of us, when and if we get a chance to pause and consider our life during these crazy years, it can feel like an uncomfortable blur. The feeling of contentment and being grounded can be an elusive longing, seemingly just beyond our grasp. And for women especially, this time of our lives is where we give, give, and give some more to all those around us. We fill up our profound desire to be whole with caring for others. We have a deep longing to be the best versions of ourselves, and we’re told we need to take time for self-care, self-love, but there does not seem like any practical way of doing this with any consistency while we have so much to do for others, all the time, constantly, nonstop!
So we put our heads back down and carry on. There are always crucial things that need our attention right this moment, necessary things: our work, managing our home lives, our bodies/health, our finances.
Well, I’m here to tell you there is a way to do it by design rather than default. It is possible to maneuver your way through these years and not look back feeling as though life passed you by in a blur.
I love this quote: “Your outer journey may contain a million steps; your inner journey only has one: the step you are taking right now.”
One great tool to use today is to begin to live in the Now. If you’re fully present in the now, giving your attention to this moment only, you have the luxury of giving your full attention and energy to one thing. What a concept; right? We have so many different areas we’re trying to balance in life. We all know that juggling all the balls in the air gets precarious. What if we only had to juggle one ball at a time? Imagine throwing only one ball up and then catching it, instead of five or six or 99 balls all at once!
An easy way to begin to live in the Now is to practice Presence.
This is where we get out of our head and into the moment as many times as we possibly can throughout the day. This is not easy! We have so many thoughts running around in our heads every day, it does take work to slow them down, bring our minds to the present moment. The goal is to ultimately be conscious of being in the present moment, or having the ability to pull ourselves back into the present moment, for the majority of our waking hours.
A baby step to begin practicing presence is to consciously listen when speaking with another.
Look into their eyes, HEAR them; stop the mind chatter and really listen. You can use this trigger to snap into the moment; it’s easy because of all the conversations we engage in in any given day. This goes for conversations with our colleagues/co-workers, family, friends, and even our children.
As a former court reporter, I’d say this is just like the difference between taking testimony where you’re on autopilot, planning the rest of your day, versus tough technical testimony where you literally don’t have a second to think about anything but the next word spoken from the witness’ mouth.
Think about what normally goes on in any given verbal exchange with another.
As we listen, we have an agenda: We’re simultaneously crafting a response, what we’re going to say back; we listen in a reactive state, again, constructing our reaction/response to what the person is saying.
Try listening with no thought in your head; clear your head, stop analyzing, stop mentally reacting. Concentrate solely on the person’s words, their expression – their eyes, voice, mannerisms. At first it’s difficult, but with practice, it becomes actually a relief. You begin to notice how taking your guard down and not being ready to react feels like a reprieve…Oh, wait, I can just listen here. I can pretend I’m watching a video and there’s no need for me to respond. Wow, how freeing it this?
You’ll be amazed at the sense of freedom this gives you, after the initial discomfort. You’ll also be amazed at getting to the end of the other person talking and then just responding or answering from a pure, natural place. It’s really the art of listening. The beauty of being a reporter is we master the art of listening in our professional lives; so we can simply transfer this skill to our non-reporting interactions to begin being fully conscious and present in the now.
Ultimately, this practice allows us to be so much more effective and confident in our exchanges with others. By practicing presence, you’ll see how your response to others becomes natural, meaningful. You give your brain time to relax, and that’s when a sort of magic happens; you become much more effective conversing with others. You are empowered. You feel confident.
Learning to live in the now, in the present moment, slows the conveyor belt down a bit, and with practice actually gives us access to a sense of control of our lives. The roses no longer rush by in a blur with the thought “Some day I’ll be able to stop and smell them.” You can see, smell, touch, and fill a lovely vase full of them for you to enjoy every moment of every day.
Ruthanne Esparza is a retired court reporter and a certified life coach. Click here to learn more.