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The Importance of Being Present

I have a confession to make - technology has recently become a problem in my life. I've always been a great reader, choosing a book over TV or a movie every time. But lately, I find myself binging on Gilmore Girls or Parks and Rec on Netflix every night after Lorelai goes to bed, and not picking up a book for days. It doesn't make me feel good. In fact, it makes me feel all swirly and edgy inside, even though the goal of laying on the couch and binge watching TV is to "relax". It has the opposite effect.

Bigger than that, however, is the addiction to my phone, social media in particular. I find myself sitting on the couch staring at a screen ALL. THE. TIME. Now, I can rationalize it to myself that I use FB for business (and I do), but the fact of the matter is, I'm just mindlessly floating through my days, never looking up and really taking in the world around me.

I have theories about why this happens, (like, sometimes being present is hard and painful and makes us take stock of where we are in our lives and we may not like it), but the outcome is the same. I miss things.

And this brings me to the heart of the matter. My daughter. I looked up the other day and she was no longer a baby. She'll be 2 in 10 days (what? how is this possible?) and she's changing so fast. She has an incredible personality, she's funny and kind and sassy and mischievous, and so dang smart. And I've spent too much of her life ignoring her while I'm staring at a screen. I realized that she sees this. And I'm afraid she is going to start thinking that I don't want to be with her, or that I find her boring, or that she's not enough for me, and she will start internalizing that. I'm afraid if I ignore her enough, she will simply stop coming to me and asking me to play with her, or read to her, or snuggle. She's still nursing, but she won't be forever, and if I spend all of the time I'm holding her in my arms staring at my phone instead of her, someday I will wish I had more memories of her breastfeeding snuggles. Someday, I will wish I had been more present.

I want my daughter to know that she can come to me any time, and I will stop what I'm doing and pay attention to her. I want her to know she is important. I want her to learn to find joy in REAL LIFE, not the life we see on social media. And her learning and knowing those things starts with me.

So I've been trying to be more conscious of being present when I'm with her. I'm working more these days, so I'm getting less time with her anyway, and I don't want to take her for granted. I made a promise to myself that when I am with her, I will not be on my phone. I even made a promise to start playing outside every day. (Of course, the weather got cold as soon as I said that, but I'm keeping my promise!)

We bundle up, and go to the park. or walk around the block, or just play in the back yard. And you know what? I haven't regretted this decision once. I'm getting to know my daughter in a way that I haven't before. She just lights up as we run around the back yard together, finding sticks and kicking balls and jumping off the tree stump in the corner. She's helping me appreciate nature and the changing leaves, and the bees and butterflies on the neighbor's flowers. Every little shout of "Look Mommy!" keeps me present with her in that moment, in awe of this little person that I grew and am so privileged to be able to raise. Every day that I'm present with my daughter, it gets easier. Because I don't miss social media. I don't miss zoning out and ignoring real life, because my real life is so beautiful. And I don't want to miss a single moment. So let me encourage you today to put down your phone, turn off your TV, and be present with the people in your life. Maybe go outside and enjoy nature and each other.

I'm extending this desire to connect and be present to the time I have with my husband as well. We tend to work opposite schedules and don't see each other much (great for childcare, not so great for a marriage), and I hate that we so often spend what little time we have together sitting next to each other and staring at a screen. I miss him. And a relationship requires quality time together to thrive. And one thing I want more than anything else is for my family to be thriving.

I'm still working on turning off the TV at night when I'm home alone, and picking up a book instead. But it will happen. I'm a much more balanced person when I read regularly, and I'm craving that balance in my life these days.

And so.... here I am, confessing to you that I have trouble remaining present in my life. And I'm wondering - do you? Who do you need to focus on more? Maybe your kids, or your husband, or even yourself? What do you need to do less of - TV, social media, video games? And what will you do with all the time you get back - play outside, finish an art project, read a book, have a heart-to-heart conversation?

I'm asking you to keep me accountable. And I'm offering to keep you accountable as well. If you would like help staying present in your life, ask for it. I'm happy to encourage you and support you in your efforts to lead a healthier life.

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