Right or wrong, never knowing what might happen,
she was on high alert most of the time.
As I remember, I was about six or seven years old. We lived in a second-floor flat. Mom had to go pickup Dad (he was drunk). It was late night/early morning. Rather than awaken me, she quietly left our inner-city New Haven (CT) rental, locked the door, and made the quick drive to pick him up. It would be a short few minutes.
By time they returned, a fire truck, flashing lights reflecting against the clapboard structure, was parked outside our home. Imagine the feeling of a parent at that moment. Luckily, the fire did not impact our flat and I had slept right through it all. No harm. As I remember Mom telling me (later years) she feared the authorities would take me from her because of neglect/abandonment. That, thankfully, did not happen—but it reminded me of all that Mom had to put up with just to survive from day to day.
Reliving that experience in my mind on a recent trip back to that childhood nieghborhood, I had and “ah-ha moment.”
Mom seldom lived in the present moment (as the term is often used). She had difficulty smelling the roses and savoring the moment. She had to constantly prepare for what might happen with Dad. Right or wrong, never knowing what might happen, she was on high alert most of the time.
What has become clearer to me is that Mom did, in fact, occupy a present moment. But it was a different kind of present moment. One that helped her prepare and survive for the future of when Dad came home drunk, or gambled too much, or lost his temper.
Her present moment was a place of survival. She did not sense opportunities to thrive and grow. Rather, she constantly circled the wagons. A defensive position for a presumptive attack.
That got me thinking about how there may be two types of present moments—one a place for surviving and one a place for thriving.
- The Present Moment for Survival does not allow much room for appreciation and joy of one’s surroundings and life. Worry, fear and anxiety rule. It can become easy to say one should “let it flow” or “breathe deeply” but Mom was preparing the environment to survive what would walk through the door so that we could wake up the next day and move beyond that high-alert status. But the next day began a new survival mode for the next storm. And as that happened repeatedly it set in motion the “present-as-survival-for-the-next-present-as-survival” moment.
- The other present moment that Mom did not experience much (from what I can remember) was the Present Moment for Thriving. We hear about this often. Appreciate the moment and what you have. Feel what is around you. A place where one can explore, embrace, and enjoy a sense of growth and peace. In this present moment we understand there may not be much (anything?) we can do about what may be, but we take solace in what is—what we have.
Perhaps one builds on the other. Maybe one stunts the other. Possibly one is the other.
And each leaves a mark.
Listen as Eckhart Tolle and Oprah Winfrey tell us, “Life is always the now.” What do you think?
Make it a wonderful week and HTRB has needed.
You will find my latest book, Roxie Looks for Purpose Beyond the Biscuit, in
eBook ($2.99) and paperback ($9.99) format. Click here.
My dog Roxie gets top billing on the author page for this work. Without her, there would be no story. Please, check out her blog.
And you can still order:
- Community as a Safe Place to Land (2019, print and e-book). Available on Amazon. More information (including seven free podcast episodes that spotlight the seven core values highlighted in the book) at the above link.
- Stories about Teaching: No Need to be an Island (2017, print and e-book). Available on Amazon. One college’s new faculty onboarding program uses the scenarios in this book. Contact me if you and your team are interested in doing the same. The accompanying videos (see the link above) would serve to stimulate community-building conversations at the beginning of a meeting.
You can find my podcasts (all fifty episodes) here.
You will find more about me at www.stevepiscitelli.com.
©2022. Steve Piscitelli
The Growth and Resilience Network®
Atlantic Beach, Florida