Practicing Presence

I have mentioned before how horrifically bad my memory is. It drives my family crazy that I can forget entire conversations and events within a very short time of going through them. I might retain some knowledge or information about these things, however the reality is that very few sensory memories are either retained or accessible to me. Perhaps they are all very much present in my brain and psyche, however at some point in the far distant past, I managed to turn memory into a one-way proposition. All memories and experiences go in, but they don’t come out, except as regurgitated narrative.

I honestly believe this is part of my self-identified attachment disorder. I have a few visual memories from my childhood, but mostly it is a series of facts I know and a narrative I rehearsed so I wouldn’t completely forget. As things have progressed in my healing and recovery journey over the past few years, I am discovering there are major gaps and flaws in the narrative, so, really there are only points on a timeline map with a lot of vacant and empty space in between. The shapes of the constellations I thought existed are not the same as I believed them to be.

Recently, as I’ve been working through things and reading a lot of blogs from participating in The Ultimate Blog Challenge, the reminder to live in the present has been cropping up in many forms. God, the Universe, and Everyone else seem to have the same message for me: Learn how to be in the NOW.

It seems like a simple task. I mean, we really cannot be anywhen other than when we are, right?

Disconnected, dissociated, distracted. These are ways I am present but not accounted for.

It is difficult for me to engage in conversations, even when I am earnestly trying to be focused and pay attention. My mind wanders, sounds distract, discomfort rises up and pain peaks causing me to lose concentration. Keith sends me a text and for a variety of reasons and excuses, including the codependency, I have to respond fairly quickly, disrupting the flow of thought and conversation.

I seldom watch “live” television. I can’t track and stay present and in tune with what’s going on with the characters and multiple storylines. On Demand is my frenemy.

Recently, Keith and I worked through one of our intimacy issues when I realized that part of the disconnect between us is that I don’t connect with the sense memories. I’m very good at using descriptive phrase and such, but when I read it, it is just words. The words don’t evoke anything other than the letters organized in a recognizable pattern. I understand the meanings and what they represent, but the written word alone, no longer evokes connections inside of my self. LaLa, like Keith, expresses herself through music and often wants to have me listen to and watch videos of songs that have significance to her. I seldom can stay focused and actually concentrate on listening to the lyrics of the song. My brain is pinballing from one thought to another that may be triggered by what I’m seeing on the screen or how the music itself is resonating inside my head. If she wants me to really understand, I need to be able to read the lyrics along with listening to the music. Even then it can be a very frustrating thing.

A little over a week ago, after a counseling session, I actually found myself practicing being present. It was a crisp, clear, cold, and bright sunshiny day. As I walked the mile home from parking the Zipcar after my appointment and had an hour and a half before I needed to meet Luna at her bus from her pre-school program, I found myself pulling out the camera on my phone and taking pictures of the neighborhood. At one point, I stopped and just listened to the cheeping and chirping of what seemed like hundreds of tiny little brown birds hiding in the bare branches of dense bushes. I snapped frantically, blindly into the shadowy branches hoping to capture some of them so I could see them later. Then I looked up and watched one little yellow creature take a grooming break. During those moments, it suddenly occurred to me that this is part of being present.

Engaging my senses, especially my vision and hearing. Using my physical senses of touch and movement by walking and holding the phone/camera at different angles. Twisting and turning my head to pay attention to the textures of sound and sight and for a brief thirty minute meandering walk to stop and witness the sun.

In the middle of the city there is a Certified Backyard Habitat for local wildlife. The Eco-Hipsters have taken over

In the middle of the city there is a Certified Backyard Habitat for local wildlife. The Eco-Hipsters have taken over.

Say what you will about church, some of the older churches have amazing architecture.

Say what you will about church, some of the older churches have amazing architecture.

I think that shadow is one of the chorus of chirps and tweets that enveloped me in melodious sound that day.

I think that shadow is one of the chorus of chirps and tweets that enveloped me in melodious sound that day.

The contrast of the sun and branches and the play of light and shadow somehow seems more profound in black and white tones.

The contrast of the sun and branches and the play of light and shadow somehow seems more profound in black and white tones.

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6 comments

  1. I like your methods; those are some pretty good pictures. I’ve got a friend who’s memory has gone to hell in handbasket, so I understand what you speak of. It’s hard for me because I have the memory of an elephant. It mostly remembers trivia, but I really do rarely forget stuff; I just pretend to sometimes because I’m lazy and procrastinate a lot.

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  2. Hiya – what you describe is very much how I am – Chris (my partner) says that I see “shiney things” and get distracted and it takes me all day to do a simple task like load the washing machine – these are all symptoms of ADD (and even ADHD) and I’m just wondering if you have been diagnosed with this – or done any research into it for yourself. It is very frustrating but I take Omega 3, 6 and 9 which has been proven to help (research in the US suggested this was beneficial for both Bipolar and ADHD). I’m present when I am creating – and also love to take photographs, paint etc. http://www.facebook.com/tracyshavecreates – and I have a great course I’m working on at the moment that you might be intersted in which will really help you to have moments where your brain gives you a break.. x Great post!

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  3. There was a time when I was totally disconnected from everything. I meditate now to stay in the present and like you my camera is my trusty friend. It helps to focus. Nice post. Dropping by from UBC.

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  4. Disconnected, dissociated and distracted, love the link between those words, people suffer from them all the time when in conversation with others, you are one of the few to have actually identified it, great blog

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    1. Mike,
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I agree that many people experience and exemplify these characteristics in conversation, often unaware or perhaps uncaring that it is happening.

      For me and numerous others physical and mental health issues make these things particularly problematic and may inhibit a lot of of social interaction as a result. It’s something I am working on.

      Be well,
      Kina

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