When Your Mind Wanders Down Rabbit Holes

Living in the moment is a prescription for peace. New Age writers, Buddhists and spiritual leaders around the world subscribe to this philosophy, and for good reason. I do, too. Yet I find this medicine hard to swallow, sort of like those large vitamins that promise me good health…if they don’t get stuck in my windpipe on the way down.

The truth is for me…living in the moment takes discipline and surrender beyond my capabilities sometimes.

Why is it that we resist the very medicine we know will make us better?

Last week my grown son, my only son, was coming home for the Thanksgiving holiday. I hadn’t seen him in eight months — which is uncomfortable for me in every sense of the word. Even though we talk for a few minutes on the phone most Sundays, it is not the same as seeing him in person, watching his body language and listening to his inflections as he speaks, for me to have a knowing of his over-all health and state of mind.

And frankly, I miss the hell out of him.

So it was with great anticipation that I left my house Tuesday morning and headed out for the hour-long drive to the airport to pick up my son.  I was less than three-miles down the road when my eyes began to tear….as I was imagining how wonderful it would be to see my son, to have him home again.

I was in the future.

And then I slipped back into the past thinking how much time had passed. And I began to think of how much I miss him. I wandered down that road a good distance, where I came upon him as a 12-year-old shooting hoops in our front driveway.

I was in the past.

As I passed more mile-markers on the interstate nearing the airport, I began to cry harder. And I began to realize that the tears I was shedding had nothing to do with joy, or the excitement of seeing my son. No, as I tracked another mile, as I got closer to the airport, I began to cry tears thick with a mother’s grief because I knew I’d be taking this same trip in four days to BRING HIM BACK TO THE AIRPORT.

I was back to the future….way in the future, in a place that brought me sorrow, a place that robbed me of joy, of happiness, and most importantly, the present moment. I was perpetrating a crime against myself…and in that moment I knew I was both thief and victim.

It didn’t make sense. Why was my mind hitch-hiking into the future? Why wasn’t it content  to catch a quiet ride with me to the airport?

And then my answer came: it’s because you’re not living in the present, Lisa. Stay here and in the now.

So I rolled my window down a bit and let a rush of cool air bitch slap me back into the present. And then I turned up my car radio really loud and mouthed the words to songs I can’t even remember right now, and enjoyed the view of swamp water and cypress stumps that are familiar Louisiana territory. And I began to feel happy again….in the present moment.

I know the here and now is where it is….literally, metaphorically and spiritually speaking. But my mind likes to wander down rabbit holes on occasion. And I need to coax it back….especially when I’m catipulting into a future that may or may not even belong to me.

So, if you ever find yourself ruminating too much about the past, or worrying too far into the future….remember this prescription: stay here in the present. It’s safer. More peaceful. More productive, too.

Stay here. I need the company.

If you’re interested in more thoughts on integrity, compassion and grace, particularly at midlife, read my book Tao Flashes.  Or visit me at www.facebook.com/taoflashes or on twitter @taoflashes.

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7 thoughts on “When Your Mind Wanders Down Rabbit Holes

  1. Great post. I know you had a wonderful visit with your son. I agree it is hard to stay in the moment. The holiday season is especially filled with ghosts of our past. As i got the holiday decorations down today, I’ve been filled with long ago memories. And I’ve been thinking about that future day when my baby girl will no longer be in town.

  2. Ooh, that rabbit hole is so tempting … I tried to really stay present while my kids were home for Thanksgiving this week and, yes, it was one of the best visits ever. We may need a support group to keep us here, though!

  3. I get it, the missing our kids point and the staying present. That is a practice I try, with mixed results. It’s tough to do but worth the effort! Thanks for sharing this struggle…surrender is a good word for it!

  4. I love the way you expressed this, LIsa. And what a great lesson it is to be present. I hope you enjoyed every minute of togetherness with your son!

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