This Present Moment
Crystal Marie, Deeper is a free bi-weekly, sometimes more, newsletter. If you’d like to support this space and have access to posts from my new book as I write it, please consider becoming a paid subscriber.
You can also share excerpts of today’s post on social media, forward it to someone who might benefit, like it or text it to a friend to show your love. Thank you for reading.
“Enter To When” Detail shot of work in progress
Things I have done since declaring a five day social media break four days ago:
Worked on a ton of art—got in the studio and really relaxed into it without thinking about what it was for, or the next deadline on my schedule, well except for editing of the current workshop lessons for said schedule, but in all fairness that was done with a decent amount of cold wax on my hands, which is now all over my keyboard.
And maybe a little bit on my screen.
Wrote two whole blog posts. Okay wait, is this one even published? Is anyone else reading this? Okay, so yeah, I wrote two blog posts. And I have a fairly decent outline for my next book excerpt under my belt.
I made a killer pot of jambalaya. Also, I looked up how to spell jambalaya.
I secretly checked in on Facebook at least one million times. And posted to Instagram thrice—because apparently I am an addict.
Got a months worth of laundry folded AND put away. And unrelatedly, okay maybe somewhat relatedly, discovered there is a whole chair in my bedroom. WHO KNEW??
I also hacked down the tall weed growing outside my front door and trimmed the gnarly bush of thorns that ruthlessly tries to destroy my coat every winter. Which took way less time then it probably sounds, because I haven’t an ounce of my mother’s green thumb to cause me concern about what it looks like. And I have an uncanny ability to forget about things I can’t see. Which technically I can’t. As long as I don’t open my front door.
I even cleaned a patchy spot of dirt forming on the shower floor. No, I did NOT clean the WHOLE shower floor. Let’s not get all crazy here.
All kidding aside, it hits me that what I am actually doing in this self-prescribed time out from feeling obligated to be present online is noticing. Paying attention to things I haven’t paid attention to in a very long time. Like taking care of my own needs, and listening to my own body’s rhythms, and really seeing my own house that I used to clean on a fairly regular basis.
And just how very dog-assed tired I am.
And also how it makes me squirm to write “dog-assed tired” because inevitably when I let myself swear in my posts, I lose a handful of followers. I hate that I’ve been so concerned about it that I wind up monitoring what I say and how I say it to such a degree that sometimes I don’t even recognize my own voice when I read my writing anymore.
Now to be fair, sometimes I don’t recognize my own voice. Period. I’ve spent a lifetime of masking and taking care not to upset anyone, always careful to be pleasing and agreeable, apologizing for taking up space.
In the traditional flight, fight, or freeze model of trauma survival, most manuals leave out the fourth cPTSD behavior pattern, which is to fawn. Fawning conjures up images of adorable woodland creatures that you want to cuddle and protect, and that is the end game of a child who learns to fawn. To endear themselves enough to be awarded a measure of love and protection- mostly from the person who has the power to harm the fawn ironically, but it always has to be earned. These things have a way of getting into our systems, even when we don’t need them for survival anymore.
It is a matter of survival to learn the behavior patterns of the person you’ve been conditioned to fawn to in order to predict what is expected at any given moment. You learn to laugh when you’re the butt of cruel jokes, to take sides against someone who isn’t your enemy, and to forgo any mention of having your own voice or needs. This kind of forecasting means life isn’t lived in the pleasure of staying in the present moment. Life is lived in anticipation of the shoe that is about to drop.
As a sensitive anxiety prone child, it was the alcoholic parent and dysfunctional family system that made life feel so unpredictable. In the marriage, it was always looking out for the unknown trip wire to his outbursts. Now, it is the unknown that comes with living with chronic illness and the ongoing financial insecurity of figuring out how to keep generating an income in spite of my increasing physical and cognitive limitations. And I do realize financial security is no guarantee of safety. Nor a direct path to staying in present mind. But it does take a whole lot of important things off the list of needs to be concerned about.
Regardless of circumstances, staying in the present moment is always a challenge with ADHD brain. Thinking my thinky thoughts, ADHD brain likes to spin out into predicting numerous doomsday events on a personal and grand level. Combine that with the sensory overwhelm prominent with ASD Anxiety brain and suddenly I’m driving along minding my own business when BOOM I’m watching a reel playing scenes from my own funeral after a semi swerves a little too close to the center line. PLUS I am an artist, creative thinking is in my DNA. There is so much raw material up there for ADHD brain and Anxiety brain to play volleyball with.
I know I’m not alone in this. It is exactly why the mindfulness movement is so hot right now. In present day society, there is a quest for ways to trick the brain into relaxing from the pressures to keep up with it all. For some it is a daily practice of meditation or yoga. For me it is this untethered ability to work in my studio, without the driving pressure of it being something I’m preparing for a workshop, or something I could turn into a workshop, or contemplating a hundred new ideas for next years schedule of workshops. My best courses have come from these times of exploration and play as an aside, as a natural segue from something I’ve created that excited me so much that I couldn’t wait to share it.
There’s a verse in the Bible, and I can’t even tell you where (and let me pause here to say this isn’t a request for you to find the chapter and verse and expand on my understanding of theology, because you will make me sad that you have missed the point. And probably annoy me that you have used the comments section as an opportunity to evangelize if I’m being honest), but having understood that there is a new life coming, some of the people ask what they should be doing in the meantime. Cause they’re ready for it. They are dog-assed tired, and they’ve seen the chaos and the corruption in the world, and getting a free pass out of there sounds really appealing. But Jesus comes along and tells them to keep on keeping on. Keep doing what you have in front of you to do, keep helping each other. Keep loving on strangers. Keep engaging in this life. Keep noticing things. Keep being present in this moment and stop forecasting when it will all end.
How now shall we live? In this one present moment.
In this one present moment, when I’m able to stay in it, I can trust in my okayness. I can look at the way the sunlight streams across the same rug, that’s been laying on the same floor, in the same house, for going on three years now. No small thing for this woman.
In this one present moment, I breath the fresh scent of the lilac bush grown as tall as the eaves off my back deck and release all the fears of earning enough to stay here another day, let alone another month, or another year. These things are important, yes, but bringing my mind back to this one present moment, moment by moment, noticing these things as touchstones to the past, evidence of my right-now-I’m-alive-and-okay grounds me. It is stabilizing, life giving.
It’s sobering to think of all the present moments I’ve let slip by when I’m operating in survival mode. Even more sobering when I look back and realize I’ve been in survival mode most of these past three years.
I keep an ongoing rotation of pictures of my grandkids on the Lock Screen of my phone. The oldest is going on five now and holds the current position of the face I see whenever I reach for it. It’s a candid closeup of her thinking her thinky thoughts, on an evening outing for ice cream, after her preschool graduation. The look on her face at once revealing her turn towards maturity and a wide eyed curiosity as she watches other kids climb a small tree.
She wants to try climbing that tree too. She’s feeling adventurous. She relaxed into the moment in spite of her bend towards caution, asking me as she puts her foot on the branch lowest to the ground, “Grammy, what if I fall?” In that moment I choose not to console her with platitudes about what it means to be brave or strong in order to give her a false sense of security, nor do I give in to the temptation to caution her from harm. I simply tell her the truth as she considers this new endeavor.
“You might”, I say matter of factly, “but I’m here, and the ground is soft. It’ll be okay.” It was all the encouragement she needed as she moved a few more inches up that tree.
Writing this, I am sitting in bed with a book in my lap during this self-declared fast from social media. My special talent is reading a page and then rewarding myself with five hours of scrolling. My addiction to this phone is a beast that robs me of so many present moments, that began during the escalating tension these past few years of living in survival mode. Always checking to see if I’ve made a sale, sold a class, brought more new subscribers than I’ve lost. Always calculating what I need to cover the next bill, next months rent, pay for my monthly meds. It’s easy to get lost in that future forecasting when the needs are so very real.
Bringing my focus back to this present moment, I notice how comfortable I am, with a thick piece of foam topping the already soft mattress to ease the strain on my bones. My pink comforter, scored on deep clearance at West Elm to celebrate my new life of independence when I moved here three years ago, is now stained randomly with black ink from the many mornings of forgetting to cap my pen after I’ve journaled.
Something about seeing these inky stains brings me peace today. It is solid evidence of my most favorite moments. Coffee in hand, words spilling on the page, recording my life. I’ve made it three years in this one place. My granddaughters words become my own question as I look back on it all, but what if I fall?
And for right now in this present moment, I look around at the room that has sheltered me during this time, and I tell myself the truth.
“You might. But I’m here, and the ground is soft. It’ll be okay.”