Friday, April 14, 2006


Living life while taking ‘time to smell the flowers’ has far more meaning than I ever realized. It is more than a simple statement with a simple meaning. It is more than a suggestion that occasionally we should pause from the rush and chaos of everyday living and smell the air, feel the breeze, admire natural beauty, or dip our feet in the warm water of a shimmering lake. The whole idea is much more complex than that.

I discovered, only recently, that all of us live life positioned in either the past, the present, or the future. And depending on where we position ourselves, life can be quite different. Up until middle-age, I lived in the future. When I was 12, I couldn’t wait to be 16, when I was 16 I couldn’t wait to be 21. I was always anxious about the future. Always looking toward it. Always impatiently waiting for it. When I got married I was thinking about family, and when I had babes couldn’t wait for them to grow up. Always competing for more excellence in the future. And even when doing everyday tasks, I was always pressed with anxiety whether I was cleaning house, washing a car, sewing, or repairing something. Anxious to finish. Wrapped in thoughts of completion. That ever-present need to go faster, more efficiently, and get the project finished.

Then, of course, as middle age descended on me, I switched to looking to the past. Thinking, so what if my face caves in, I’m still the ‘me’ of my past, but the mirror is not in agreement. And as for everyday tasks, distressed that the things I did so quickly in the past now take me so much longer. So living in the past isn’t very nice either. And although positioned in my past, I still could not position myself in my former glory. So like the anxiety of living in the future, the downside of living in the past is that it is a position of quiet but discomforting resignation that is a rather dark place to be. Like living in a chronic state of jet lag.

But then I discovered that third option. The option of living in the present. In real time. In syncopated time. I discovered it quite by accident.

One day, not too many months back, I was sewing. I suddenly realized any darkness of the past or anxiety about the future had floated away. And that’s when it came to me that I was living in the moment and that living in the moment is so different from living in the past or the future. There was no rush to finish the project. The enjoyment was in the exact minute of each stage of progression.

But this positioning is not an easy placement to achieve. There must be an art to it. A fairly exact art. The art of working with only the micro-task of the moment under consideration. Like breaking up an overly long lesson into workable pieces. Like savoring and chewing on a gummy-bear rather than trying to find flavor and substance in a wisp of cotton candy. And guess what else? When life is lived this way the tasks are done with greater joy, the outcome is more satisfactory, and work does not have the drag it has when one is rushing to start a thing and then rushing even harder to finish it. Rather than taking each day as it comes, it is like taking each hour and minute as it comes. And surprisingly, even at that, completion comes as quick or quicker because work done in the moment is not punctuated by all those breaks for future planning and past re-evaluation of progress and time.

But, best of all, there is no anxiety or discomfort in living in each current minute and second of one’s life. The bread is kneaded more gently, the oak table is polished more lovingly, Hub’s backrubs are given more sincerely. Rare and simple blessings are better appreciated, and amongst it all, the soul is quiet and serene.

If this is what ‘taking time to smell the flowers’ is all about, it is not easy. This positioning, though an ideal place to find peace and tranquility is as difficult to maintain as walking a narrow fence rail without toppling to one side or the other.


Blogger Me said...

Absolutely. And the present is when we meet God. :) Great post!

4:41 AM  
Blogger Roberta said...

me, that's not exactly what I was thinking, but I suppose for some it could be.

Glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for visiting.

9:30 AM  
Blogger Me said...

Sorry. In those times when I am taking joy in the moment of watching my kids, even doing dishes and laundry, I find that those are the times that I meet God and enjoy what He's given me. It's the contentment and enjoyment of that given moment. I love that. It reminded me of something Robert Fulghum wrote once about ironing shirts, and how his nanny used to take a full day to do it....then he noticed it had nothing to do with the shirts, but everything to do with enjoying the moment. I should have been more clear before. Have a great day...

12:09 PM  
Blogger Roberta said...

Hi me. No need to apologize. Life is interesting because we don't all have duplicate takes on every situation. I am glad you came back to comment further. I chuckled with delight about the nanny taking all day to iron a few shirts.

10:11 AM  

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