One year ago today I had been on my sabbatical for 3 weeks, the kids had just gotten out of school, and we were on our way to Pennsylvania to camp. We ran out of gas 2 miles from the campground, discovered a field of fireflies, and battled 1,000 ants in our camper (insert gag here). I was already feeling relaxed, having made what ended up being one of the best decisions of my life. I was focused on being present in the moment, reconnecting with my family, and figuring out how to redefine myself without work.
When I went back to work in January I promised myself that I wouldn't slide back into old behaviors. I refused to let work become the focus of my life again, I refused to work constant long hours, and I refused to have to choose succeeding at work over my personal happiness. I knew I was off to a good start with the company I chose to work for because they make work/life balance a priority. Over the last several weeks, I have been reflecting on how well I have incorporated what I learned into my "new" life.
While on a walk with my friend (and sister in law) Lyn recently I had the chance to reflect on one particular lesson I feel I have been able to incorporate into my life. Lyn was exclaiming how hard it was to be present in the moment, when all she can think of is all that she has to do, between work and home. We have all been there before...you drive home and don't even remember actually driving because your mind is going through all the things you need to do when you get there. Or your child is telling you something and you are barely listening because you are chopping veggies for dinner while trying to scroll through your emails to make sure you aren't missing anything after hours. Then you realize they are waiting for you to answer a question you never heard. You can see it in their eyes..."Everything else is more important than me." It is such an awful feeling.
I got really good at being present in the moment when time was not an issue. It's so easy to take an hour to play a game and focus on your child when you don't have to whip up a presentation that night, fill out permission slips, empty the dishwasher, and read 100 pages so you can be ready for bookgroup the next night. I knew this would be a challenge again when the demands on my time increased.
There have definitely been moments when I find myself multi-tasking both mentally and physically. You have to when you work. There are only so many hours in the day and typically your to do list is longer than you can ever accomplish in a day. And sadly, things like "put everything down and listen to your children when they talk" and "look in your spouse's eyes when he is talking" just don't make the list. What I discovered is that I will not always be able to be 100% present in the moment when I work. And I'm ok with that because we all have to cut ourselves a little slack.
However, I will share with you what I told Lyn. I am now more conscious when I'm not focusing on the moment. Before I didn't even realize it until it was too late. Now I catch myself in the middle of the moment and I stop chopping those veggies, I stop looking at my email, and I look right in my kid's eyes and have a good conversation. The dinner can wait 10 more minutes and the work can wait til tomorrow (or at least until the kids go to bed). It's hard not to feel overwhelmed by all that we have to do. But we do have a choice to prioritize what is really important to us and what makes us happy. Answering work emails doesn't make me happy. My child's laughter makes me happy. Getting the dinner on the table "on time" might make me happy. But having great dinner conversation with my family makes me happier. I don't want to wake up the next day regretting that I didn't take 1/2 hour to read a book with my kids because I was writing that email that really could have waited until the morning.
There are so many choices we have to make every day. Choose to be present in the moments that make you and those you care about the happiest. The other stuff will fall into place. And some things will fall between the cracks. And the next day you will pick it up and start all over again. And that's okay.