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Being Present

I am writing this article on vacation. I am staying in a cabin in Colorado for two weeks. When scheduling my vacation, one question that came up was whether we wanted to hook up some type of television service. If for no other reason, the Kansas City Royals are hot at the moment and would be fun to watch. I chose to stay disconnected. Let me explain, and let me try to do so without sounding like an old curmudgeon.

Recently I was walking along the draw in my neighborhood. Across the draw, I saw a young woman pushing her child in a stroller. I could see her on and off again for about 15 or 20 minutes. It was a beautiful day. The entire time I could see this young woman, she was talking on her phone. I just thought what a great opportunity she is missing – the time with you and your child will fly by.

It seems to me that somehow we have lost the ability or desire to be with people. Instead we have to “be” with our cellphones, computer, iPad or whatever, while in social situations. We seem to be afraid to sit around with company without the television on (allowing it to create our topics for conversation, or even replace conversation). More importantly, and more fundamentally, we seem to be afraid of being alone with ourselves; afraid to think our own thoughts; to resolve our own problems; to explore our own feelings.

One of the nicest compliments that I receive from a client or a friend, is when they say “you really listen to me”.

When I was a child, my favorite part of visiting with relatives was sitting in the corner, listening to them talk and laugh with my parents. It was a beautiful sound. It is a sound I can still hear in my head. It was a mixture of oral history and family re-acquaintance.

I am sure many of you recall that age of conversation. You may even recall a time of just being with yourself, without the need for electronic devices.

I am blessed to have about two hours of voice recordings with my grandmother, her telling me her history, and me asking questions. What a treasure it is. How wonderful it was that I had an opportunity to just visit one on one with my grandmother for an extended period of time. Hey, I know “everybody” has a smartphone, iPad and so forth, but wouldn’t it be nice if we would just set the devices down, and have conversations with each other? I hope you will take the opportunity to have that conversation moment with your parents, spouse, children, grandchildren, or even with your important friends. Just “be present” with them in the moment.

Having said all of that, I am sitting on the deck of my cabin at 7:30 a.m. Already, I have talked on my cellphone with my wife who is traveling to the cabin, jumped on Google Maps to help her find her way, and am fighting the temptation to check my emails. Guilty.

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