Being Present

I am not a big reader of weekly periodicals. By the time I get around to them, the news is usually about two weeks old and almost irrelevant. I used be a daily reader of The New York Times. We had a daily love affair, the paper and me, and a cup of coffee. Back in the good old working days, I even got the ad agency to pay for it and deliver it to my desk. We gradually grew apart, the news and I, dropping first to a Sunday only subscription (back when I still knew the people in the wedding section of Sunday Styles) and then to the local rag. Greg assured me the N&O is a good regional paper but I still found myself picking up the plastic bag at the bottom of the driveway after running over it 2 or 3 times daily. The news in my life became informative enough, if not overwhelming. “I need this permissions slip signed for the field trip” “Today is pajama and stuffed animal day” “I want to buy lunch today” “Can I have a playdate” “Today is ballet so I need my bag” “Honey I am working late tonight”. I was caught in daily survival mode and while I believe it is important to be an informed citizen, I simply did not have the time. Truth be told I didn’t have the brain power either.

Our house seems to be under a paradigm shift currently. School to summer, summer to camps, camps to Maine, Maine to school. And 2 will be in elementary. Bus riders. Able to bring peanut butter and wear crocs. 6 1/2 hour school days. The focus is shifting from all things Mom toward independence and wanting to do things on their own. Walk the dog around the block, water the flowers, make their own chocolate milk. Independence has always been my goal because, well, it is the ultimate destination. Sometimes it means the milk spills. The outfits are often indicative of a creative eye rather than a matching code. But my people are becoming their own people and that is important. And hard. It is a constant push and pull of knowing when to be present and when to step back. A war between opinion and values, and a dance between their way and my way. There is a lot of breath holding, tongue biting, information editing, and frustration. “No you cannot go to the big pool by yourself” (a boy drowned two summers ago) “Don’t you want to make that school poster look better?” (just because it’s easy for you doesn’t mean you have to do it so quickly) “Please let me help you put the crossed strapped bathing suit on” (it will get so  tangled up you won’t want to wear it).

All this is a round about way of saying I found myself reading Time magazine the other day. I had a few minutes where everyone was doing something without me. I have an unusual approach to tackling any magazine. I flip from the back forward. The front usually has so many ads I can’t find the table of contents anyway. So I had no idea what the topic of this week’s issue was. The particular article catching my eye was about cancer, written by Dr. Oz. Apparently he had a colonoscopy scare and realized while he preaches to millions of patients and viewers about health and being a good patient, he did not follow his own advice. He was six months late to book his follow up visit. He is not alone. I have two friends with adoring families and great lives who have not been to the gynecologist in five years. (IF you are reading this, consider this your daily text about making that appointment!)

Last year was a health year for me. With pregnancy and nursing behind me and 40 looming in front, I was ready to take my body back. A high school friend of mine, Jennifer Griffin, was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer and she turned her tenacious reporting style for Fox News into a blog about her fight with cancer. It is a phenomenal resource – and a heart wrenching journey. A friend lost his mother to brain cancer and another friend had her fourth child -he was diagnosed with neuroblastoma at just 6 months old. I was scared and I wanted a baseline of numbers, presuming I was healthy. It is much easier to take action when you are sure the results are going to be good. And that was Dr. Oz’s point. We are all sure death is something in our distant future. Tim McGraw of course reminds us to “live like you are dying” and I sing the tune loudly each time it’s on the radio, with the windows down and my arm out, no matter how hot or cold it is. But I am not sure I do it everyday. Do I live in the moment? It seems all to frequently I push the moment to some time later. I stick my kids in front of the digital babysitter -and another show- so I can get a break. I keep score on who has done more chores, more parenting, more emotional giving.  I  stay out too late and waste the next day lolling around.  I wait for life to be better when I am more ready to put my best foot forward. I will say sorry later. I will not yell next time. I will write a note when the idea comes to me.

Dr. Oz’s big advice was not particularly medical. Perhaps that is why he is such a successful doctor; he has perspective on a healthy life.  The final paragraph encourages us all to be present. “I need to show up in my own life. And you need to show up in yours. Sometimes that requires courage.” Whatever “cancer” you are avoiding, remember it will eventually catch up with you. The earlier we act, the smaller the steps to recovery. My children are calling. They want to play. Since my moments with them are fleeting, I will answer the request. I will sit cross legged on the floor and play polly pockets. I will find batteries for the really annoying Hannah Montana dance floor. I will walk the dog in the heat. I will do my chores and not give them anymore power over me. I will be present. And I will consider it a gift.

10 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Molly on June 7, 2011 at 10:56 am

    My favorite one so far!!!! Thanks for writing. Xo


  2. Posted by Amy Cockman on June 7, 2011 at 11:15 am

    Beautifully articulated, Melanie…loved it…


  3. Posted by Margaret Pettyjohn on June 7, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    This theme keeps showing up in my life so thank you for another reminder! oxox


  4. Beautiful, once again… and about that colonoscopy…yeah, i hear ya.


  5. Posted by Julie B on June 7, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    Wonderful! I look forward to this every Tuesday. Thank you. Julie


  6. Posted by Kathryn West on June 24, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    Loved reading your post! You have a great gift for writing!


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