If any of my last columns are any indication, I think about things a lot. But lately I’ve been trying really hard to get off that. So I’m learning all I can learn about being in the moment.
It started with yoga, five years ago. I signed up at Open Door because 1. it was a block away 2. they were cheap and 3. I kept hearing about how great yoga was for your mind, body and soul ohm shanti etc. (In that order.)
I didn’t start doing yoga to learn about being in the moment but that’s inevitably what was taught. They spend a lot of time teaching you about the breath and the different ways to breath. You learn about how the breath is the one consistent thing you have, always, until you die. Until then, you can always go back to your breath.
Even though I’ve been practicing yoga for five years, my mind still races throughout my class. Sometimes I wonder if I’m trying hard enough to be present. Often, I wonder if I really want to be.
So lately, I’ve been trying harder. It started with a book on Buddhism. Then I read “The Power of Now” (which I felt was poorly written.) That was followed by many sessions with my therapist, where I would go off on tangents about countless things I’d overanalyze and she’d gently urge me to just “be there.” Be in the moment. It was and is, really, really hard to do.
But sometimes, I experience a moment that’s just too hard to ignore. I’m going to share two I had recently, both which involve the beach.
Moment number one: On May 14th, it was my friend Katie’s late mother’s birthday. Katie wanted to go to the beach to commemorate the day. I told her I wanted to join her because she is a very dear friend to me.
My week hadn’t been running smoothly, in terms of my stability. I was overwhelmed with deadlines, completely flustered from running into someone I was once crazily in love with, and running on little sleep. My apartment was a mess, which is usually the first indication that I’m losing my mind. (A tidy house equals a tidy mind in my world.) An hour before I was suppose to head to the beach, I started cleaning. I became focused on dusting and knew I would only feel better once my apartment was spotless. I just wanted to feel sane again. When Katie called, I asked her if she really wanted me to join her. She said yes. I stopped cleaning and got ready to go to the beach. I reminded myself that the world didn’t revolve around me.
Katie bought a burrito and a can of Coke on the way over. The burrito was her dinner, the Coke was for her mom— her favourite drink.
We sat at the beach and caught up on each other’s weeks. It was sunny and warm and the beach was full of people. I told Katie what I loved about her mom (her warmth, kindness, and enormous heart) and recounted my favourite memory of her (the time she took us to see “Bad Santa,” which was embarrassingly bad. Not mom appropriate at all.)
Katie got up and walked to the water. I walked with her. She opened the Coke and took a sip. Then she said a few words to her mother and poured it out. We both started to cry. I stepped away so Katie could be alone. I watched as the Coke mixed with the ocean and lapped against our feet. There was something about the water that struck me at that moment. It felt like I was looking at it with new eyes.
Moment number two: Last Sunday, one of my closest friends called to ask if I’d be the witness at her wedding—the next day. Her and her fiancé (who I had introduced to one another) were eloping to a warm, tropical place, as they didn’t want the stress of a big wedding. However, my friend had found out, somewhat last minute, that they legally needed to be married in BC before they could do so elsewhere. So a shotgun ceremony was organized at the beach. My friend didn’t want to make it a big deal, so we called it a “signing of legally binding official documents beach party.”
On Monday, we arrived at the concession stand where we told the commissioner, Moona, we’d be waiting. He got very lost so we had a smoke and a glass of wine while he made his way over. Moona was a jovial and cynical man full of hilarious stories. He was wearing socks and sandals, which was appropriate since all but one of us was wearing jeans.
We walked over to a log and Moona did his thing. In the background, a wedding party from the nearby tennis club, was taking photos on the beach. The bride was wearing a dress that looked like a meringue. I marvelled at how beautiful my bride friend looked, in her jean shorts, sweater, and Aviators.
The couple smirked and giggled their way through the official vows. I watched as they looked at each other; a little uncomfortable, but smiling and in love. Nothing was too serious. This was how it was meant to be.
In the background, the fancy wedding party was jumping off a log, holding hands, in unison, as ordered by their photographer. I secretly hoped someone would fall, face first, into the sand.
As my friends were saying their “I dos,” I was briefly distracted by sparrows who were circling swiftly above us. It reminded me of the time I was visiting a tiny town in eastern Sardinia. I was looking out the window of our hotel in the morning and watched as sparrows darted around the sky. It was one of the most peaceful moments of my life.
A dozen sparrows swirled around the sky, above my friends, who were now newly married.
For a moment, I was taken by their beauty. For a moment, I was taken somewhere else.