Be Present

presentsThe holidays are here and the whole idea of presents is on our minds. I have a new perspective on the whole concept of “present” this year.

I see a therapist once a week. It’s not that there is that much wrong with me, at least not at the moment; it’s more that there was so much wrong for so long and I’m still in the process of unraveling it all. Life is also moving forward at a rather quick pace. Those weekly meetings are anchor points in my chaos. Think of it like taking the whole bottle of antibiotics, ever after you feel better!

One of the “signals” that I have learned to hear from her in those meetings is the question, “Where are you this week?” or the even slightly more alarming, “Where are you right now?”. Obviously she knows I’m sitting there in her office, but when she asks its clear to her that while my body is there, my mind is somewhere else – likely many “somewhere elses”. The other side of that observation is when she makes the comment, “You’re very present today.”

Living in the here and now, being present in the moment, has been one of the steepest learning curves for me this last year.

Through the process of affirming my gender identity, I’ve had more than a few conversations with old friends. Some of them encouraging and uplifting, some rather passive, and some filled with passionate concern, confusion and even sorrow. One comment that has come from several of those talks actually caught me off guard:

“You had such a great impact on me and so many other people.”

It wasn’t always those exact words, but the same theme came up on several occasions. I don’t highlight that to draw attention to my past; frankly I’m not sure what people were talking about. But the more I thought about it, the more it bothered me. Where were these people that I had impacted after my life had started falling apart? Where were they when the depression sank in, the doubts overtook me, the physical pain was unbearable and lights in my life felt like they were going out one by one?

I’m not asking those questions to make anyone feel guilty. I know the practical answer: we had all moved on with our lives. If it weren’t for social media, it’s not likely I’d know where half of those people are today. I’m not suggesting that if we had kept better contact it would have changed the outcome; I still would have had the same gender identity and it would still need to be allowed into the light. I ask the questions so that I can be intentional in my life as it is now. It is essentially the same question I am confronted with sitting on a couch sipping coffee each week: Where am I? Am I present? More specifically – am I present in the life of someone who need me to be present?

As life rages forward, it is easy to live one step ahead of ourselves, or to spend an unordinary amount of time reflecting a few steps behind us; but when we do that it is at the expense of those who are sitting in front of us. Some of the best friends I have in life right now are the most “present” people I have even known. Time with them is valuable because there is no doubt that when they are with you, they are with you. It’s the very basic gesture of remaining present that allows us to be fully empathetic, compassionate and to respond to people in loving and appropriate ways. It is our unhindered presence in the life of another person that could mean the difference between their pressing on one more day or watching another light in their life extinguished.

My challenge to both you and me is this: who do we need to be present with right now and, sometime when we have a moment to reflect, is there someone we should have been more present with in the past. I speak from very personal experience when I say it likely not to late. (And thanks for being present with me in this moment, at least in a virtual sense!)

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