Last week, my husband and I had dinner with friends. Halfway through the meal, the conversation steered towards the significance of being present.
“I find, these days, my kids will come by, and after they leave, I feel I begin to miss them right away,” the husband said, after having shared how he spent so many of the kids’ growing-up years “producing” and striving to be a good provider and accomplished businessman.
“It’s why we recently decided to step away from the corporate rat race and move here to North Carolina. We desired more balance, focus on the family and to build something meaningful in our business. We wanted our doing to be more from a place of being in a way that was comfortable for us.”
I nodded in understanding and then asked him, “Does the word ‘longing’ adequately describe what you are feeling when the kids leave?”
His eyes opened wide and he replied, excitedly, “Yes! That’s exactly what I’m feeling. It’s a sense of longing to still be with them.”
I smiled and glanced at my husband, knowingly.
“It’s a common thing for us to feel the moments we miss, when we are not present to them, after they have happened. It is experienced as a longing for what has passed.”
The couple both looked at me, intently.
I continued, “I’ve experienced this a lot in my own life when I was not present with what I had when I had it. I find the memories or even the new times I might have with people, like my daughter, for instance, whom I love dearly and with whom I feel I have ‘lost’ time, will have me feeling this. It expresses itself as a deep longing, as if I cannot get enough time with them to make up for the time that has been lost.”
Both husband and wife nodded. My husband smiled warmly.
“But, it’s not the time that has been lost. It was and always has been there. It’s our focus or ‘presence’ that wasn’t or isn’t there that leads us to feel this way. When we are not present to what is happening within our lives, our feelings and reactions to what we are experiencing can also become ‘delayed.’ It can, sometimes, be years later when we ‘wake up’ to the realization of what something or someone meant to us, and now we are having the emotional reaction to what we would have had, at the time, if we had been completely awake and present to what we were experiencing.”
“I can relate to what you are saying,” the wife said to me, with a smile. “I love when the kids visit, but I’m also totally okay when they leave. I spent a lot of focused time with them when they were growing up, and so I don’t feel like there is anything that has been ‘lost’ in our experience together.”
The husband gazed at his wife with an acknowledging look. “And I was so busy with my work, with my doing things … conquering and ‘making things happen.’ I allowed my ‘A’ personality to often overlook the importance of the moment and really being with the kids, fully, when they were around. I truly get that now and appreciate understanding where this current feeling of longing is coming from.”
I looked at him with compassion. “The key is the awareness and acknowledgment. It’s not to beat ourselves up or overthink our past behaviors. That will only keep us in a state of longing. What we have been and done is a springboard for our current choices. The feeling of longing triggers our ability to know and deeply comprehend the importance of presence, so we can shift the way in which we choose to interact with others and our experiences right now.”
My friends nodded in unison. “Yes,” they both said and then laughed.
“Furthermore,” I added, “one is not, necessarily, better than the other. With what you are seeing now, you have the opportunity to integrate everything you’ve been doing with the way your being wants to authentically express itself. It’s a chance to, more clearly, define what this ‘being’ part of you truly is.”
I paused, and then continued, “I can tell you what it is not, and that’s your behavior. You are not your behavior, although this is, usually, the way we look at and judge ourselves and others. When we can identify our true beingness and define it, this can drive our new focus orientation. This alignment, in turn, creates our feelings, thoughts, choices, actions and, ultimately, our behaviors.”
“Looking at the behavior is akin to focusing on the symptom and not the core cause,” my husband added.
We all smiled, sitting in thoughtful silence, for a moment.
“The key, as I said before, is in integrating ourselves,” I said, looking around the table. “Both being and doing are important. The thing to keep in mind is we are not here to do certain things to be a certain way. We are here to be a certain way, and from this beingness – our own unique blueprint, as it were – we are here to do certain things in certain ways.”
“So we are here to be to do, not do to be,” the husband said with a grin.
“You catch on fast,” I replied, with a smile.
“And it begins with being present and aware,” he said, simply.
“It does, indeed,” I replied.