I watched a woman give birth this week. On television.
Every time I watch a momma giving birth, even on TV, I cry. Every. Single. Time.
This week, I did not give in to ugly sobbing. My eyes misted up a little bit. OK, a lot. I don’t know why this happens. There is just something so primal and powerful about birthing a new life into the world that always moves me to tears.
Maybe I am remembering my own pregnancies and deliveries (three of them).
When I was pregnant, I, like most women, anxiously awaited the birth of my babies. I waited through the queasy first trimester, the golden second trimester, and the ungainly third trimester.
And then I waited some more.
All of my children were born past their due dates. Two weeks, three weeks, and a whopping three-and-a-half weeks for my oldest, youngest, and middle sons respectively.
Oh, I was tested regularly to make sure the babies were not under stress. None of them were and none of them were unreasonably large; they all tipped the scale in the seven- pound range when they were born.
It simply took me longer to grow a baby than the average pregnant woman.
At the time, it seemed to me as if I would be nine months pregnant for the rest of my life. I could not foresee a future where I would not have a huge belly and waddle to the bathroom five times a night.
Time narrowed its focus to include only the present.
I did, of course, eventually have the babies. I was not nine months pregnant for the rest of my life. The boys were born, grew up, and I got my un-pregnant body and some free time back.
Then I began running.
Half marathons were soon a regular feature on my calendar. One of the half marathons I attended featured a speaker at the pre-race pasta dinner I had never heard of, a young runner who had just broken the American half marathon record, Ryan Hall.
Ryan Hall, of course, went on to become one of our country’s greatest distance runners of all time, but at this pasta dinner, he was a relative unknown. As he stepped up to the podium to give his speech he looked extremely nervous and impossibly young.
My expectations for his ability to give a good motivational speech were pretty low. But I was wrong. His speech was incredible.
One of the best lines was this: “Enjoy the mile you’re running right now.”
I loved that line and thought of it often during longer races.
When you’re at mile 12 of a marathon (26.2 miles), you have already run a long way. If you think about the miles you have already run, it’s easy to get tired. Thinking about the miles you have left to run may lead to discouragement.
Enjoying the mile you’re in makes sense. Until it doesn’t.
When the mile you’re currently running in your life is painful or unpleasant or bitter or frustrating or traumatic or heartbreaking or…well, you get the idea…maybe it’s best not to focus on the mile you’re in right now.
You understand I’m not talking about running any longer, right?
Sometimes it seems like a stressful situation will go on forever, just like I thought my pregnancies would, and it’s difficult to realize “this too shall pass“.
In this case, it may be best to consider the past and the future.
When living in the moment is miserable, it could help to remember how we dealt with distressing moments in the past and to employ similar strategies to alleviate current pain.
It may make sense to reflect on how we got to this miserable point so we can avoid comparable situations from now on.
It may be beneficial to simply remember that previous difficult times did eventually pass.
Asking ourselves “How do I want to remember this time in my life?” can help us to make informed decisions rather than acting impulsively.
When living in the moment is unbearable, it may be beneficial to plan for the future. Looking for a path out of the darkness can be the spark we need to catalyze movement in a positive direction.
The future may be hope.
Being present in our own lives is important, no question about it, and worrying about a future that we may or may not be able to control or suffering endless regret for a past we can’t change is how we forfeit the precious present.
Mindfulness is real and it is beneficial.
Thoughtful reflection about the past and planning with insight for the future, however, allow us to live intentional, productive, joyful lives in the “now“.
If only I would have realized that when I was nine-and-a-half months pregnant.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8
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