Since we’re in the midst of the holidays, I’ve been thinking a lot about gifts. One of the best presents I ever received was a pile of rocks. Let me explain. It was a milestone birthday, and a few friends held a dinner party for me. As a gift, they each chose a word they thought best described me and wrote it on a rock. During dinner, they took turns explaining why they had chosen their word. Listening to these tributes was a bit like witnessing my own memorial service. I was flattered, honored, and humbled. How often do we get to hear about the strengths our friends perceive in us?
On one rock was the word “present”. My friend said she chose that word for its two meanings: that I am a gift, and I am there for her. As much as she made me feel loved, her compliment made me reflect on whether I really am present for the people who matter in my life. How many times do I tune out my kids because I’m trying to finish an important email? How often am I thinking about my to-do list while someone is talking to me?
When your child faces challenges, you try to be the best parent you can be. That might mean seeking a new therapy, advocating for more support, or thinking about what else you can do to help. But sometimes we get caught up in the contagion of busy-ness, instead of just being. Since when did we decide that being busy deserves a badge of honor? A mom once told me her brilliant therapist said to her “all these things you’re talking about doing for your son are great… but do you ever just sit down and enjoy him?”. It was a simple but profound question!
There’s a lot to be said for cutting out the clutter and just being present. “Present” means existing now. When you let yourself absorb what’s right in front of you, you actually get to participate in life; the people with you feel validated and you feel more fulfilled. Being in the moment leaves less space for ruminating or worrying.
This holiday season – and year – whenever things start getting frenetic, I will think of my “present” rock and come back to what matters: Pick one thing to do at a time. Take deep breaths. Focus on the people who fill my cup. Say “no” to the things that aren’t a priority. Really listen and observe when I’m in a conversation. Be there when someone needs me. And pay attention to what I need to feel balanced, calm, compassionate and strong.
My gift to you, if you like, is your own “present” rock. You can picture it in your mind – or print out the photo above! The next time you feel busy-ness beckoning, I hope it helps you, too. Think of it as a gift to yourself and everyone around you.