Couplespeak™ Blog

The Challenge of Staying Present

 

This guy, Tucker, is one of the 4-legged loves of my life. In previous posts I’ve written about how through our daily romps in the woods around my land and walks around the neighborhood he reminds me about what’s most important in life, especially as I veer off into thoughts about my unanswered emails, calls, bills needing attention, etc. (Refer to “Its’ All About the Ball!”)

I share him with our next door neighbors Peggy and Dave who inherited him, not having had an agenda or a wish for such a demanding, messy creature. They love Tucker but Dave isn’t a dog guy. So our arrangement works. I don’t have a dog of my own, so Tucker is it. He lives at Peggy and Dave’s, but his heart lives with me.

 

Here’s the thing: Tucker at 7 years old has terminal cancer. Six months after surgery to remove a huge malignant mass on his thyroid the cancer is back. After a subsequent evaluation, the vet gave him about 7 months to live. My challenge is how to manage the pain of witnessing his imminent suffering and probably losing him not long from now, without wasting precious time we have together today – time for joy and much fun. It’s a mind screw and a heartbreak – right now he has minor symptoms – some weakness in his legs and some coughing, but other than that he still acts like an exuberant toddler, full of sweetness, innocence and life. 

“Staying present” means being in the moment without preoccupation about the past or the future. Some Eastern spiritual practices say that when you’re anxious you’re not here now, but in some possible or anticipated future, and when you’re sad you’re living in the past, grieving some loss or disappointment. So, the challenge is to be here for the present moment, savoring and amplifying it. The present moment is usually just fine if we don’t mess it up with our thoughts. For me with Tucker the present moment is about enjoying his current vitality and playfulness, savoring the shared sights and smells of Autumn without obsessing about it probably being his last one. (And by the way, research has indicated that people who practice savoring and amplifying positive experiences have more happy neural pathways which show up on brain scans)!

 

If you are in a situation like this with a similar challenge, make room for your sadness and honor it when it visits you. But, so your sadness doesn’t drown out all else, when you’ve given your sadness its’ due, change the channel in your brain through the practice of noticing the specialness of this present moment, take a mental snapshot, then save it as a treasure to place in your treasure box of memories for the future. Pay attention to what is right in front of you and appreciate its meaning to you. You will be present for your life which will feel much fuller, and in the future you’ll be thankful for that!

 

 

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade! – Or Apple Crisp……

 

(Well, the lying-down position of this image you may be getting tells it all). Sometimes, despite your best efforts and highest expectations things just don’t turn out the way you’d hoped they would. In this case, I (once again), unwittingly took the shot sideways in the middle of aiming, and couldn’t get it to stand up straight afterward on my computer. It came out right side up for my husband on his laptop. Who knows what you’ll get…                                                                    

(Am I the only one using an iPhone who does this with some frequency, or are there other directionally impaired picture-takers out there)???

The real subject of this post ironically, had to do with the the non-fit between the weather and the activity. Every Autumn I look so forward to cozy rituals with family and friends, like apple picking amidst the crisp air and gorgeous New England foliage. I DON’T look forward to roaming the orchards in humid 74 degrees with almost no foliage display in mid October. (Nor did my husband, wearing his lovely new flannel shirt!)

But here’s the point: Expectation, as per Buddhist teaching, can really set us up for problems. You want a rose, but get a marigold, then feel dejected, as though it wasn’t still a lovely flower! You want the whole New England leaf-peeping experience, then feel cheated when the temperature and foliage is more like an August day. Yet, you still get the apples and a day in the country with your loved one(s).  So, I recommend that you learn to go with the flow, whether it’s a sideways photo or an apple picking event, take it for what it’s worth, have a good laugh, and enjoy being alive! (As my sister Marge says, “It’s certainly better than the alternative.”)………..

 

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Susan Lager

I am a licensed, board certified pyschotherapist and relationship coach in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Through my psychotherapy or coaching services, I can provide you with skills and tools to transform your life.

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