Practicing Presence

Lately, every where I look, God is reminding me that with Him, all things are possible. This is strange to me- but only because I don’t really know what to make of it.

Considering the state of life I’m in, I may be undergoing a bit of a crisis. But not a crisis as in a dark hole I can’t escape- but one that’s reshaping how I think about life and what it means to live with purpose.

The last couple days, I’ve felt crippled by nostalgia.

Missing my family. Missing my dad. Missing NY…CO…Germany…Turkey…NJ…Uganda…every where I’ve called home for a short or long period of time.

Our psychology, when we are sad or feel unsatisfied with life, tells us to go back to those the place we were “happy.”

But reality tells us there is no going back.

That coffee shop I loved on 110 and Amsterdam- with it’s mahogany interior, amazing cupcakes, multi-ethnic staff, and disco ball – has likely been turned into some trendy record shop in it’s decade of gentrification (or worse- it’s been turned into some dumb-corporate vitamin store.)

Point is: those times and places we once loved- those friends we used to share falafel with on a perfect spring, Midtown Sunday- that time is gone. And there’s no going back. 

But there is forward. What remains are new choices and people and foods and places to paint the next memories we cherish for nostalgia.

It’s been said that we grossly underestimate what we can accomplish in a decade and overestimate what we can do in a year. As I reflect on the last decade of my life, all I can think is that there must be some truth to this sentiment considering the several lives it feels I’ve lived in the past decade.

One of the greatest things I can come away with is how much of my life experience of my 20’s has been proving my assumptions wrong. In the areas of faith, boys, friends, sci-fy, the lasting and fading of good things- all stand corrected. Not for the worst. But for the reshaping by present experiences.

When I consider how many times my assumptions have fallen victim to the framework of my experience, I’m forced to consider how many new realizations are waiting for me on the other side of the next week, month, or decade. And – how awesome that most of my faulty framework on the fundamental conditions of human experience have risen triumphant in the face of tragic, predicted outcome (or as one of my favorite pastors calls it, the miracle of “flowers growing in garbage.”)

Currently, my framework for love, career, and what it means to be human are all floating around in my brain like a Van Gough painting.

So much of what I’m thinking about has such little relation to what I’m actually experiencing emotionally. As I struggle to connect the dots between past and present, I’m longing to escape this current state with some irrational, bad life choice…but something greater is brewing. I know I need to sit with these these emotions and memories and feelings until something gives.

I really feel crazy in this space, but I wanted to try to describe what it is I’m feeling- for if I ever return to this place of what feels like an out-of-body experience, I could recognize what this is like.

Realistically – I can only sum it up as feeling like I’m living in a dream. 

Here’s a summary of what’s happening: In my emotional state, my heart is bouncing back and forth between how grateful I am to experience where I am in life right now – being present to the laughter of friends and kisses of my husband. Then, this warm feeling of things I’ve loved – like Christmas, the magical turning leaves of NYC’s fall season, past boyfriends/crushes, and the warmth of being in my Aunt’s home listening to stories of my great grandparent while the smell of cigarettes lingers in the air.

While driving, I’ll have flash backs to times with my dad – cruising around Jobstown, NJ (no one outside of South Jersey knows where this is…lol), listening to “Georgia Satellites.” Or times with mom, driving with the top down into Waikiki listening to Jay Z and rapping every word like the ghetto drug dealers we’re pretending to be.

There is so much about New York I miss – the steamy A train in the summer-  with performers and street drummers filling each station with entertainment. The freezing air and lovely stillness of the Amtrak in the winter – held in perfect anticipation of stepping onto the business of 34th street after a short 1 1/2 hour train ride. Perfect snowfall in the street lights of Harlem, slushing snow under feet, while spooky cars pass as I make my way to my uptown apartment (so scary and yet, I miss it like crazy…weird.)

As I write these memories- it feels like grieving. The tears that fall now are for a time for which I can never return.

Most of life has felt like a movie for me. It’s times like these that all I wish is to hit the rewind button and really drink in those experiences. Instead of thinking about how fucking cold I am standing in Madison Square staring at a ridiculously large Christmas tree-I would instead bask in the beauty of the moment.

And perhaps this realization- right now – is an answer to prayer: the prayer I’ve prayed to be more connected to the present.

Maybe we can’t truly appreciate the present until we grieve the beauty of the past. 

In a conversation with my pastor one Sunday, I casually mentioned my fear of moving into this exciting (and terrifying) next season of life- going full-time into my business…for the second time. His casual but profound response: “There comes a time in life when success is no longer our teacher. Failure is what will move us forward.”

This may be what I’m actually grieving now. My season where knowing “success” in all I do, is over. The new season I’m entering will be lead by a new teacher: curiosity.

Curiosity leads us into incredible growth. Not because it leads to success but because it’s a sly and precarious element that escorts us into experiments that require testing, and testing requires resilience and patience to try things that are likely to fail. Some things we test may lead to success. We don’t really know. That’s the point. 

After living so many “lives,” I wonder if it’s possible to live a reality most authentic to my truest desires: a reality filled with unbridled grace, freedom to not only create success for myself but for others, a marriage filled with joy, honest faith that inspires people to seek Jesus for themselves, and memories untarnished from regret of not having been more present.

This next season may be filled with tremendous failure, but it may also be a season defined by the success. At the least, success defined by a heightened awareness of the present moment.

All things are possible, with God, after all.

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