I've been at my local Queens cafe for a couple of hours now. My butt is falling asleep thanks to the utilitarian dark wood beneath me. It's raining outside and the reflection of headlights and stoplights smear red and white streaks against wet asphalt. I don't think I ever noticed the simple beauty of drops falling into pools of rain at each dipped street corner. Or the choreographed tilt of umbrellas in unison, as wind pushes up against a line of people walking up and down the same sidewalk. A few drops smack into the cafe window right by my face and I follow them down with my eyes as they zig zag between other existing droplets of water stuck where they are. It's just another rainy day, and at the same time, a completely new experience.
- Thinking about what I was going to do on Friday....starting on Monday. Wishing Friday would get here as fast as possible instead of living in the moment on each day leading up to it. On a larger level, thinking things like, "Everything will be better when..." My general orientation was in thinking that the future held happiness. Today, nothing was where or what I wanted it to be.
- Rushing from place to place, especially on a rainy day like this. Barreling through the streets with a scowl and labeling it "miserable" weather, which in turn made me feel miserable. Being so unhappy with the rain that I chose not to see any of the beauty around me. You might be thinking I'm crazy right now, but if this Queens/concrete jungle girl can find beauty in a rainy city day, then so can you. :)
- Being with a friend for dinner and only half-listening to her stories. I was simultaneously busy thinking about what I had to do later that night, tomorrow, making lists in my head, looking around while she spoke, noticing other people, other things, anything but really focusing and being absolutely present for her. Nice huh? Well, I suppose it was subtle enough - we do this to each other so much that I don't think anyone takes offense. It's common to be at dinner with a friend or a loved one and to alternate checking Blackberrys and iPhones like our lives depend on it.
- Checking Facebook for updates on "friends" instead of actually checking up on friends. This may be blasphemous (especially because I plan on posting this on my FB page :)), but I know many of you probably agree and have thought the same - Facebook can be a terrible waste of time. I think it can be used for good, but it can also be used for evil (I suppose you can say that about most things). I found that I was checking it a couple of times a day to keep up with it. Keep up with what though? I still don't know. Pictures of the new baby of a "friend" I have never even met? Status updates of someone who has to post every waking thought? Should I strive to know this other person's every waking thought instead of being more in tune with my own? I think it's very easy to connect to Facebook and think that we are living and connecting and building community...but are we really doing this in real life?
- Headphones everywhere. Especially on the subway. We want to drown out everyone, every sound, everything that is around us. How nice to have our own soundtrack going all the time, right?
- Multitasking has always been my way of life. Reading while eating, eating while watching tv, iPhoning while at dinner, Facebooking while doing everything else, talking on the phone while folding my laundry...meanwhile, never truly being present for anything because you just can't be when you are doing more than one thing at a time. Presence means really being aware of what you are doing and the sensations that go along with it. Just recently I've practiced eating by myself and really paying attention to JUST eating and really tasting my food. I can't tell you how much better everything tastes when you are really focusing on each bite. Gulping and swallowing is not really healthy or enjoyable.
I suppose the list could be endless, but you get the point. Slowing down is one thing. Slowing down to the point that you are only doing ONE thing at a time is another.
I didn't realize how rich life could be when you slowed to the point of really seeing what is right in front of you at all times - whether it be talking with a friend in need of support and attention, taking in with your eyes a beautiful painting at a museum you have been meaning to go to for years now, feeling the smooth worn keys of a laptop that's been with you through many late nights at work...
...or heading back into the outside and feeling a light mist of rain settle in a fine sheet over your eyelids, cheeks, smiling lips.