My beef with the advice to “be present”

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messy-baby

I don’t mean to be snarky, but if I have to read one more thing about “being present” and being “in the moment,” I might just hurl my iPad at a tree.

I get it. I understand the intention behind the phrase is to help foster a spirit of appreciation for the time at hand. To help us stay focused on the beauty of everyday life and to remind us to take a step back from technology occasionally to marvel at the gorgeousness of our kids. I value those principles and I absolutely believe that cultivating an attitude of appreciation can help us see beauty in the mundane.

But the next time my kid is screaming at the grocery store and someone says, “enjoy these moments,” I will hurt them.

The next time I’m getting a precious 3 minutes to myself (in the bathroom while one kid is napping and the other is decorating the kitchen with soup) and I come across the very unhelpful advice written to moms like me to “just be present in this moment” I will surely Hulk out.

Because, guys, we don’t have to be reminded to be here. We are here. We cannot teleport, we cannot exit the scene, we don’t drop off radars, we can’t be magically un-here. Right here in the present is where we are. This is not a mystical psychological religious or yogic practice that requires cultivation. It’s just, like, physics. We’re here. We’re present.

“But Meghan, they’re not talking about being physically present, they mean our attitude and our focus needs to really <insert deeper, resonant tone of voice> be present,” you say.

“Proprioception and embodied cognition mean I’m psychologically grounded by my physical presence. I’m aware that I’m here,” I say.

Am I missing the point? Maybe. Am I overanalyzing? Maybe. Am I being present in this moment? YES. You can be sure of it because it is the only metaphysical option. It’s not possible for me to be elsewhere, margarita in hand, quiet, reading a book in blissful solitude. And if that were possible, you know what? I’d still be right here.

And maybe that choice to be right here in the chaos and the noise is exactly what those writers mean with their overused advice to just be present. I’m here. I showed up again. It’s another day.

“Meghan?” The teacher at the front of some classroom in my memory calls.

I see my young hand raised out of the corner of my eye, framed by a tuft of frizzy long hair, “Present!” 

I’m here. I’m present. Aren’t we all?

3 COMMENTS

  1. I love you, Meghan. In response to those “put away your phones and eat dinner together” naysayers, I say meet your kids where they (or you) are–there’s a new kind of being present, and it DOES involve technological devices. I see no problem with connecting with loved ones of any kind–yes, even our kids–through technology. In fact, I probably keep in contact with more family members and old friends now through Facebook than I ever did before the technology was available. And, if my kids prefer a text from me from downstairs to upstairs in the same goddess-blessed house, and they will actually RESPOND to me the first time I text them, then I will surely text them to take care of business. Then, I will close the text with a sweet little heart emoticon and an ILY. The world changes, people. New ways aren’t all bad, they’re just different.

  2. When & if you do get a chance to have a for real time of quietly reading a book with margarita in hand and the kids are elsewhere….you miss them. Yes. You. are. there.

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