Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Challenge of Being Present

I've just returned from a lovely eight day vacation to London and Paris with my husband, daughter and her partner. I've been back since Sunday night, and I awoke at 3:00 AM last night, rested and ready to begin catching up on email and work assignments for next week.

One of the things I've been pondering is this concept of "being present" wherever we're at, whatever we're doing, whomever we're with.

As the planner of the vacation, I spent inordinate amounts of time online checking out sights to see and activities to do while in London and then capturing and sharing the information gleaned with the others. Herb has always said that it takes my being so painstaking about planning in order for us to be able to be spontaneous whenever we've traveled. It does strike me as ironic, a real contradiction in terms - to prepare excessively to enable spontaneity. It is true that one can have spontaneity without preparation, but then one's choices become more random and perhaps, though not always, less optimal. So, clearly, the planning process was not an instance where I could claim to being present, because I was future-focused on events and activities yet to pass.

Getting ready for each day either late in the evening or early in the morning was also future focused for me, as I continued to research bus and underground routes for our day's destinations and checked opening hours of museums and tourist sites.

The times I relished most were those occasions when I got to sit for an extended period in one place and people watch or just soak up the sunshine (in England in May!) and the scent of floral gardens. My favorite times were those spent at Hampton Court Palace in the rose garden with its plentiful blooming rose bushes and sculptures with names like "Abundance" depicting a woman nursing one child and another draped around her body and in the sculpted tree park where we dozed pleasantly in the sun and watched the Clydesdale horses pull their wagons of visitors around the perimeter of the park.

Our daughter is now 23, almost 24 with a birthday in August. Part of this family vacation was about spending an extended period of time with her away from familiar turf - our family home in Colorado and her home in Springfield, Massachusetts, where she is attending law school. Like so many parents, our daughter's departure from our home snuck up on us. She went away to college in Columbus, Ohio, six years ago, and Colorado was still home to her. Then she moved into her second apartment in her junior year and adopted two cats, and Columbus felt a lot more like home to her, because her family - the two kitties - lived there. The house in Springfield is home not only to Cece, but also to her partner Jamie, as well as a family of three cats - the original two plus an adopted stray.

Herb and I became empty-nesters unconsciously. It makes me ponder where "being present" was in those six years. In London I tried really consciously to be present to Cece and Jamie as we spent eight whole days together, sharing a hotel room at night and all our meals and daily treks. As we journeyed back to Colorado on Sunday, having left the girls at Washington-Dulles to their northward flight to Hartford, I was acutely aware that we had reached a passage and that we are now parents to fully formed adults with separate lives of their own making. It makes me ponder what it means for me to be fully present to who I am, who I have become, who I still want to be. I have many questions, and I think it will be fun and fulfilling to find the answers to those questions.

1 comment:

C said...

It was the first real grown up vacation we've had... where nobody is helping anyone move or just visiting for holidays or doing the same old college-type interactions. Where we interact like grownups instead of adult to child.

An extension of the connections we made during the WPC trip maybe.