you are already there

April 12, 2012

When I was a little girl and would stay over with my Grandma and Grandpa, I always had trouble falling asleep. My Grandma Helen would rub my back and ask me what I was thinking about. I’d tell her and then she would say that I needed to clear my mind, to think about nothing. So I would try. I would repeat over and over in my head, don’t think don’t think don’t think…but then I was really busy thinking about not thinking and I’d stay awake longer.

For the short seven-ish years I’ve been a mother, the whole being present thing has been one of my greatest struggles, the way I would wonder if I’m doing it well enough. Lately I’ve been thinking that it works in much the same way as trying to think about nothing. The more time I spend scrutinizing myself on whether or not I’m spending enough time truly engaged with my children and truly appreciating the present moment, the less I’m actually doing it.

When I write about the beautiful moments that I see in the everyday things, it’s not because that’s all I’m doing or all I’m seeing. I used to feel like kind of a blog fraud for that. I mean, I haven’t been lying or pretending at anything, I do actually get all weepy and heart swell-y over Asher’s blue shirt that matches his eyes perfectly and the tuft of hair on the tippy top of Elsie’s head and the way Miles tips his head nearly to his shoulder when he’s concentrating really hard. My heart and soul are constantly noticing those things, always at attention, even when I’m not. Even when my head is spinning with a to-do list and I’m two hours ahead or two hours (or two days or fifteen years or…) behind the actual moment I’m living. Those things are beautiful to me even while I’m grumbling and huffing around, tired of the mess around the highchair and the dog hair and the whining and how everything is set on repeat and I’m supposed to try to keep up while it all spins out of control.

On Tuesdays, I do Just Write in this little web space of mine so I can take a moment to remember that my heart is good and in the right place, because most of the time I’m just like every other mother, thrown in the deep end of the pool with very little ability to swim. I used to be hard on myself for my lack of serenity and presence, but now I’m working more on accepting that this is hard and if I play a round of the Toy Story matching game and I don’t really like it, that’s okay. I mean, I am drowning after all. So I’m working on taking the pressure off myself, the expectation to always be in the moment and devouring every detail of my children at the stage and age that they are, desperate to remember and appreciate. Because even when it seems untrue, when I write out the details of a moment in my day, I see that I really was there, whatever my state of mind. In the midst of all the chaos and my distractions, sometimes overwhelmed with anxiety and sometimes overly impatient, I am here. Not as in “stay at home mom” here, but whatever hours I’m with my children or doing something on behalf of my children, which is most of the time. That’s true for the working-outside-the-home mother too, of course.

I am really here simply because I am Mama. Mommy. Mom. Mother. I was in the moment even if I wasn’t. (How very philosophical. Bear with me…)

If you happen to be a mother, that’s true for you as well. Other than in cases of the abusive or otherwise damaging person, most mothers are present simply because of our love.  We are experiencing it all, the good and the bad and the in-between, the ordinary. We are hard pressed to even define what being present really means because it’s different for all of us. Most of the time, at the end of the day, whether we feel we’ve failed or not is more about how we view ourselves than what actually happened in those 24 hours. So maybe we’re asking the wrong thing of ourselves and rather than expecting perfection in how we take in our days, we should be asking ourselves to extend more grace where it does its best life-changing work–in our own hearts and minds. To take the pressure off and just keep going.

We end up in the deep end of the pool with so little skill and we can be alone there, pumping our tired arms and legs for hours. We can be in the trenches of the daily grind with pee outside the toilet and endless laundry and always crumbs. We can be out there all alone and miraculously, we’re still seeing the blue of eyes and the softness of hair and the tilt of a head.  We can be in this pool for hours on end and we can still feel the heat of the sun on our skin and take in the green of the nearest trees and be in awe of it. We can spin circles looking for the next obstacle that feels a lot like waiting for shark fins to appear too close by and while we’re doing that we can catch sight of our child in one split second moment and appreciate some fine detail that no one else could possibly see, because we’re there. We’re really there, bobbing up and down but alive and kicking and fighting. That is presence.

The thing is, our kids are not putting this pressure on us to stay in the moment. They are doing their thing all around the pool and they don’t seem to notice that we’re running out of steam and dipping under. They just want us to stay there, nearby and cheering them on as they (hopefully) learn that the world doesn’t revolve around them. Because, I mean, Mom has four phone calls to make before noon and she has to get the sister to the doctor and then she’s got to figure out what’s for dinner.

Most of us, we feel it all…the love and the pain and the joy and the guilt and the bone-weary exhaustion. We cope and we fail and we overcome and we try again. We keep going. All of this is the making of a mother, sloughing off her edges until she’s more of the person she wants to be and all the while, even when it doesn’t seem so, seeing all of it through means that she is present. She may be drowning in the daily grind and she doesn’t have to love that, because the truth is that she loves her small people, her growing up little offsprings of joy. And when they pee outside the toilet and she swears under her breath and grabs the paper towels and cleaner and goes to the floor on her knees, she doesn’t have to stand up and ask herself if she’s truly living in the moment. She is. It doesn’t get more real than that.

My mind is always crowded. It makes me feel unpresent. But I have to remember that when I pick my boys up from school or get Elsie from a nap, I mean every beat of my happy-to-see them heart, and when I ask them questions, I really want to know the answers and when I praise their work, I truly am proud. And even when these kinds of moments only add up to fifteen minutes of our busy days, it is enough because it is what I can do from the deep end and they know that I love them.

I’m writing this to myself but I’m also writing it to you, Mama. Every moment is holy, even if you don’t always have the energy or time to notice. It is this holiness that keeps you, wraps you up in truly living it, despite your trenches and yourself. Let’s stop over-analyzing it so much so we can more freely live it.

After all, we have been here all along.



Shawn April 12, 2012 at 11:08 am

Beautiful and so right on … just like anything, it takes practice and constant reminders. I love those moments when I’m so completely present I fall into a trance. I also love those moments when my mind runs wild with dreams that are just so crazy, they will never see the light of day. ; )
Shawn recently posted..Baby Steps to Letting Go

robin April 12, 2012 at 11:16 am

I sooooo needed this today. Thanks for writing it to {me}, a mama.
robin recently posted..bigger picture moment: a sharp tongue

Erin April 12, 2012 at 11:17 am

Thank you for writing this today. It is the most perfectly timed post ever. Beautiful words of encouragement for all mamas. Truly, uplifting and right to the gut of motherhood at its truest form.
Erin recently posted..Little Locks

Carol April 12, 2012 at 11:35 am

very touching blog. thanks for posting this one. i love it so dearly.
Carol recently posted..flat rate movers

molly April 12, 2012 at 11:49 am

I was just thinking that I would write a whole blog post on time. But then I come here and I see you’ve done it more eloquently than I ever could. And I feel better after reading it.
molly recently posted..Drive-by Blogging

Adventures In Babywearing April 12, 2012 at 12:37 pm

Big big sigh of relief here today. I’m here.

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Herb of Grace April 12, 2012 at 12:38 pm

Once again you’ve brought me to the edge of tears and THIS is why I love your blog and you meme. It’s been a salvation to me and brought me up out of a funk I didn’t even realize I was floundering in months ago. And now I can keep reminding myself of the “is” even if my mind at the time was elsewhere…
Herb of Grace recently posted..Easter Sunday

pgoodness April 12, 2012 at 12:45 pm

This is wonderful. Thank you.

tracy@sellabitmum April 12, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Thank you – this is the hug I needed today oh wise one. xoxo
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tara pohlkotte April 12, 2012 at 1:10 pm

and this is why I think I love you. you spoke not just of me, but all of me here. thank you. truly.
tara pohlkotte recently posted..Endless Summer

christine April 12, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Amazing. Thank you. Definitely what I’ve been needing to hear.
christine recently posted..Today

Sarah-fortheloveofnaps April 12, 2012 at 1:19 pm

oh man did I love this. I linked to it on my blog. And the pee moment. SOOOOO relate. Wise words. Always.

Sarah-fortheloveofnaps recently posted..You are THERE and you are ENOUGH

Brittany April 12, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Your insight is refreshing, Heather. Your words Are encouraging and thought provoking and your definitely have a gift for reaching mommas. Brittany
Brittany recently posted..For my Mini Me

Barb April 12, 2012 at 1:54 pm

Amen. Beautiful post.
Barb recently posted..Easter Road Trip

Stephanie Hanes April 12, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Oh my…your words, Heather, take my breath away. There are so many nuggets of wisdom here, but the biggest of all is that moment you finally got that even in getting on our hands and knees to clean up messes, you were PRESENT. My husband comes home at the end of a long work day and asks me often “so, what did you do today?” and I find myself so often wondering out loud “what DID I do? let’s see – I broke up fights, disciplined toddlers, washed dishes, folded laundry, cleaned up messy faces…but, oh, you can’t see all that. the house still looks like a mess…what DID I do today?” And then he tells me “did you love the kids? did you hug them? did you tell them you love them? did you dry their tears?” and I realize “oh yes…I do that 24/7 every single day of our lives. maybe I DID do something today…” Because all it really boils down to is that my kids are loved – and they know it – and even when I mess up, they still know I love them and I am here and they are safe and they are cared for. THAT is what they will remember and THAT is what matters. Thank you for this…it’s a reminder I so often need too.
Stephanie Hanes recently posted..Bigger Picture Moments: Music to My Ears

Sarah@EmergingMummy April 12, 2012 at 3:12 pm

Oh, Heather….you have no idea how I needed this, especially this week. Thank you. Truly. xo
Sarah@EmergingMummy recently posted..In which He is abounding in Love

MainlineMom aka Sarah April 12, 2012 at 4:03 pm

So so true and amazing and well said today. Just what I needed to hear. My mind is ALWAYS going and it’s not always good. Even when my kids get way too much video game time in between the mommy tickle wars and fixing snacks, I’m still present.
MainlineMom aka Sarah recently posted..Where Are The Women?

Amy @ Never-True Tales April 12, 2012 at 4:34 pm

You had me at the title of this one. I have felt like a fraud as well, letting on that I’m super observant of every little detail in my kids’ lives, when actually, I’ve forgotten to pack the lunches. The whole ‘being present’ thing has been on my mind more than usual (post to come, of course) but I think the main reason I enjoy the blogging exercises like Just Write is because they force me to stop and reflect and sometimes just remember some little nugget or another that were a gift in my day. A gift I probably (likely) overlooked at the time. The deliberate act comes with the writing for me, not the doing.
Amy @ Never-True Tales recently posted..Drive it like you stole it

Lindsay @lilloveandluck April 12, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Perfection. How did I survive motherhood without the blogging world to make me realize that I’m normal?!? Thank you for this.

Marta April 12, 2012 at 4:52 pm

I tried to think of what was my favorite line. What gave me the most goosebumps, made my own head tilt to the side and ponder. I think it was this, “We’re really there, bobbing up and down but alive and kicking and fighting. That is presence.”
Marta recently posted..Easter. Uncensored.

Lisa/MommyMo April 12, 2012 at 7:07 pm

I need to print out multiple copies of this so that when I’m having a bad morning with the 6 yr old and we’re yelling and screaming and crying all and one at the same time, I won’t feel so guilty and like a big ole huge mother failure. They know I love them and I know I love them but why oh why can I not extend the same grace and patience to MYSELF that I extend to all of my mother friends?
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Tricia April 12, 2012 at 7:55 pm

So true and something that every mother needs to hear.

Elaine April 12, 2012 at 8:24 pm

I’m crying over here because I have something on my heart JUST TODAY that happened and this post really spoke to me, Heather. Some days I just wanna throw in the towel and I felt that way today, I did. But you’re right, so right – it’s the little moments and love and the presence in EVERY moment, no matter how good or bad, that matters.

Thank YOU for this…
Elaine recently posted..The Egg Scramble

Lindsey April 12, 2012 at 8:29 pm

This reminds me of my sense that there’s something broken in my oft-frantic effort to let go. I mean, well, isn’t that something I ought not TRY so hard to do? That said, for me at least, I do sometimes need to actively switch off my brain which is so easily distracted, which so often means I literally miss hours and hours of my life. You’re right that over thinking and beating ourselves up serves no productive purpose – I totally agree. But there is some modicum of remembering that what I want to experience is right here in front of me that is, at least for me, critical.

Peg April 12, 2012 at 8:34 pm

Amen, I say, Amen. Thanks again for writing something just when I needed it.

Elizabeth Flora Ross April 12, 2012 at 8:59 pm

Beautiful. I am off to share widely. It’s such an important message!

Shelly Miller April 12, 2012 at 9:29 pm

My mind is always crowded. It makes me feel unpresent. . . . And even when these kinds of moments only add up to fifteen minutes of our busy days, it is enough because it is what I can do from the deep end and they know that I love them. You said it in a way I couldn’t find words. This is just really amazing. Thank you.
Shelly Miller recently posted..Vulgar Grace

Alison@Mama Wants This April 12, 2012 at 9:30 pm

Thank you for this Heather, I really needed to read this, this week, this exact moment. Like right now, I’m here, typing this and my little boy is playing by himself and I feel like I should be physically right there next to him, even though he doesn’t even notice because he knows I’m here with him – I’m keeping an eye, watching him have fun, keeping an ear out, listening to him giggle and keeping my heart with him, because it’s always there with him. I just wish I could have that perspective every day. So thank you, again.
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Addie Zierman April 12, 2012 at 10:18 pm

Beautiful and freeing. Reading this felt like grace.
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Krista April 12, 2012 at 10:53 pm

Wow! I needed this today. So beautiful. Thank you, this will keep me going for a while :-)

Jamie April 13, 2012 at 1:08 am

Thank you!!! You always do this: write the perfect thing so perfectly that I am certain you are writing exactly to me. Do you know you are a blessing? Oh my, you are! Sooooo thankful for the gift God gave you. Thank you for using it!
Jamie recently posted..Wherever You Are

Varda (SquashedMom) April 13, 2012 at 1:30 am

Yessssssssssssssssssss. Perfect. Like you. In all your imperfect humanness, even. Love you. Love this.
Varda (SquashedMom) recently posted..Looking Down the Road

wendy April 13, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Thanks. I really needed to read this today. And I’ll probably need to re-read it again tomorrow, and the day after that…

Wendy April 13, 2012 at 2:34 pm

I love this and find it exactly what I needed to hear. Thanks!
Wendy recently posted..Present

Megan at SortaCrunchy April 14, 2012 at 10:26 am

Just yes and thank you all over that.
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The Mommy Psychologist April 15, 2012 at 1:27 am

Whenever I’m having one of those days where I feel like a complete failure as a mom, I ask myself if my son would be better off without me or if another woman would be a better mother for him. The answer is always no. In my son’s eyes, there still is nobody but me. As long as the answer is no, I figure I can’t be screwing up that badly.
The Mommy Psychologist recently posted..It’s Daddy’s Turn

Sarah April 15, 2012 at 4:06 pm

I love this! I wasn’t able to comment when I read it (I don’t have an Iphone), but I think when I read it, it was just so refreshing for my heart.
Still is:-).
Sarah recently posted..Happiest of Birthdays

Julia April 15, 2012 at 5:35 pm

A gorgeous, gorgeous post and a wonderful reminder. Thank you so very much for this.
Julia recently posted..Inspired

Gianna April 15, 2012 at 9:27 pm

AMEN! Seriously, Do you live inside my head, because I think you do! I’m linking to this post because it’s eXACTLY right!
Gianna recently posted..Clutter, Clutter, I’m Surrounded By Clutter

Cheairs April 15, 2012 at 9:30 pm

Thank you Heather for your beautiful honest writing. Thank you for the sweet, honest, gentle reminder. Your words helped me today.

Sarah April 15, 2012 at 9:30 pm

Thank you. Thank you thank you thank you! My heart needed this tonight :)

Laura April 16, 2012 at 5:03 pm

Do ya know anywhere I can get some of those little floaty thingies for my arms? Oh yeah, that’s what blogs like this are for. Thanks!

Jenna August 16, 2012 at 9:10 pm

Just discovered your blog through pinterest. thank you so much for this encouraging post. It is throwing out a life-ring to this drowning momma. Good reminder to come up for air and just let myself float on my back for awhile. I look forward to following your blog. Blessings.

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