I experienced a few moments of simply walking across the floor last week. You may not think that’s up there with, say, receiving an Oscar or eating a really good piece of chocolate cake—which for my money is more rare than an Oscar—but I was pretty excited.
Or more exactly, I wasn’t excited, as in, I was not in some self-inflicted state of heightened energy around one thing or the other. Here’s the play by play: I needed to close the curtains because it was dark. I was walking across the floor to close the curtains when all of a sudden, closing the curtains became unimportant.
This is why contemplation is not a spectator sport, not even with a good announcer. She’s walking across the floor, folks. It’s hard to tell whether she’s fully present in the moment or completely distracted by the task she thinks she needs to accomplish. Hold on to your seats. As soon as those windows are covered, we’ll be going courtside for an in-depth interview that will answer the question once and for all.
I spend almost my entire life focused on the thing that comes next—or several nexts down the road—and while I’ve become an expert anxiety creator, I have yet to succeed at being where I am not. Those few steps, on the other hand, were remarkably tranquil. I had no doubt I’d get to the curtains, and at the same time, it didn’t matter whether I made it or not—the moment was sufficient unto itself.
We’ve all had these times of waking up to discover now: new parents marveling over the perfection of their infant’s fingers, awe at the complexity of a flower or the particular electric orange of a sunset. It’s more difficult to see it in the everyday, so I’ve been reminding myself, “The purpose of driving to work is driving,” not getting there and finishing ten projects. “The purpose of washing this spoon is washing this spoon,” not finishing the dishes so I can go upstairs and write a blog and go to bed.
I forget this practice more often than I remember it, and that sense of presence hasn’t returned. But it might.