For the second time, I owe the title of a blogpost to Father Gregory Boyle. Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship is the latest collection of stories from his work with Homeboy Industries, the largest gang rehabilitation programme in the world. It is a beautiful and challenging read. In one particular chapter, Boyle speaks about the necessity of embracing the current moment, rather than always rushing on to the next one.
This is something that I am astonishingly bad at.
I live in the next moment almost all of the time. I am always waiting for a time that isn’t now for something to happen that hasn’t happened yet: for my daughter to sleep through the night, for the day when I’m not tired, for a job I really love that gives me meaning and purpose. I am constantly on the lookout for the thing that will complete me, or at least bring a greater sense of satisfaction than I currently have.
That isn’t to say that I’m not happy – there is so much in my life that I have to rejoice in –but I am restless. Part of this restlessness is, I’m sure, due to life stage. The transition from working full time to full time mumming it has not been an easy one for me, and I find it hard to dwell happily in the present moment when the present moment often consists of mundanity, tantrums and various bodily functions. But, I do not think restlessness is only due to life with two small children. It is a way of thinking, and a way of life, that I seem unable to shake off.
And yet these past few weeks I have been trying. I have been choosing to dwell in the present moment and to celebrate it rather than holding out for a future moment that might never happen. This does not come easily to me, but children are great teachers (or at least Jesus seemed to think so) and I have been letting my two year old school me in the art of being fully here.
On Monday we walked to the library. This should take 15 minutes, 10 if you walk at my usual hurried pace, but I had let Sarah walk and so we were not going to get there any time soon. Sarah, like most two year olds, stops for every, single thing that interests her: tree, leaf, flower, crack in pavement, lamp post. Everything. Each thing is to be seen and held and marvelled at. And most of the time, this does my head in because, most of the time, I have somewhere else I think I need to be, some other moment I am trying to rush off to. But Sarah does not live life like this. She lives life in the present. And to her, most of the time, the present is a thing of glory and of wonder.
During our overly long walk to the library I was about to lose my rag when I spotted a sign in a window that said, “Live the life you love.” And in that moment, God spoke to me gently and reversed the words, “No. Love the life you live.” For many of us, we do not choose the life that we have. We do not choose the family or postcode we are born into. We do not choose our circumstances or opportunities. It is an impossibility – as much as the world might tell us otherwise – to simply start living a life that we love, to have the dream job, and salary, and family. Thus, to have the life we always wanted to live - that we would love to live – is beyond us. And yet, what is not beyond us is to choose to be present in the life that we have, the life that we are already living, and celebrate the joy of it, savouring every pink tinged leaf, and white striped feather.
Boyle puts it this way, “If your anchor is not centred in today, then you’ll blink and miss the delight of this very moment.” This is not to say, of course, that there aren’t some moments which are not delightful, that there aren’t seasons of pain and sorrow, but it is to say that the present is a moment in which to seek joy, rather than assuming that it is only available in the future. The present is also a moment in which we can choose whether or not to acknowledge God. Whether or not to embrace his presence and his goodness. Whether or not to tilt our faces upwards to the sun and say thank you.
On that afternoon wander in the vague direction of the library with the autumn sun golden above the rooftops, I was able – as I so often am not – to do this: to stop and look back towards Sarah, with her hands and pockets crammed full of coloured leaves, and love the life I was living and the gifts I had been given. To love that moment, and to live fully inside it, without waiting for something better to eclipse it.