Being present in the moment is one of the most precious gifts of recovery. Before God coaxed me into a healing journey, I spent my life spaced out, fantasizing, or obsessing. Shame-fueled dissociation made me oblivious to the world around me. Early recovery, now nearly three decades ago, involved its own obsession with the healing process (a healthier fixation, for sure) until sobriety and stability brought a new obsession with work. Juggling a demanding career and family life consumed the next long phase. Finally, I learned to be present more consistently, which is a practice that’s been honed through spiritual direction.
It’s easy, though, to slip back into preoccupation with whatever is pressing or painful at the moment, especially when I’m physically or emotionally exhausted. After a tiring few weeks, I felt out of touch with my better self – worn down and grumpy instead of grateful. I asked for the grace to see the gifts hidden in the little things and over the next couple of weeks experienced wonderful noticings.
It’s easiest to be present when I’m in nature, and during my hiking expeditions I watched the deer that fed or glided through the woods, often with fawns in tow. I felt the surprising coolness of the breeze at the top of the ridge and the rough surface of bench #39 where I always stop to reflect and pray. A small armadillo was exploring a fallen limb near the trail, and it lumbered across the dirt no more than a few feet away from me, so close I could see the stenciling across its armoured back.
I’ve long been in love with the moon, and it’s been breathtaking recently: huge and brilliant as it slides into view above the horizon. One night the moon’s reflection in the window glass made it look like round slices of milky cookie dough rolled out from it across the night sky. Several days later I asked for a sign of God’s presence with me and with those I love, and immediately I spotted the lingering white moon in the morning sky. Such gifts!
In no particular order, I was mindful of….
- The fierceness of a storm while standing in an open doorway with the wind whipping and rain pelting in a majestic show
- Sliding smoothly through water in rhythmic strokes, back and forth the length of the pool, over and over for a long time without tiring
- The feel of little boys’ arms encircling me as they cry “GrandMarnie!!” in greeting
- The candlelight flickering in the fireplace, a summer’s substitute for burning wood
- The way the steep hill labors my breath and stretches my hamstrings as I walk in the early morning
- The strong heft of a stone I carry most days as a talisman
- The music that provides the backdrop of most quiet moments
- The hummingbird that has finally appeared at our feeder, which was hung in mid-May
- The sight of a familiar truck parked where I expect it that tells me all is well
- The burning sun in the garden at Bethesda and the welcome respite of the huge umbrella above the pair of rocking chairs
- The taste of a new wine
- The insistence of the dog’s nose against my hand, demanding I pay attention to him.
- The insane surprise, fright, and laughter as I capture and remove a salamander from a Bethesda Workshops’ bathroom during a huge event and deposit it outside in the grass
- The flooding of warm gratitude when I see the immediate response “I’m here!” after texting a friend to share the sadness I was feeling
- The softness of my infant granddaughter’s skin and breath as she slumbers in my arms. I hold her far longer than she requires to go back to sleep, reluctant to let the moment go, thinking repeatedly, “Pay attention! This is as good as it gets!”
Ah, the little things – the sweet, simple gifts of presence.
Marnie C. Ferree