Freedom Friday: Live In The Moment

Live in the moment. I lost count of how many times in the course of my therapy I have been told that. It always seemed like a foreign concept to me when sick. My therapists would drill its importance in me and worked hard to get me to practice staying in the present. We had sessions of complete silence with me supposed to be just focusing on my breath. By the dead air you would have thought I was doing it, but the only thing quiet in that time was the room. It is no surprise it was a huge struggle to do living with anorexia. It never allowed me to be in the moment. Through restricting and obsessing, it was always yanking me away from the present. As my therapist was telling me to take note of the silence in the moment and breathe, my mind was talking nonstop with thoughts of my next meal and how I looked and if my thighs were touching more than they were yesterday. What will I eat and when? What is this food I just consumed going to do to my body tomorrow? How can I lose more weight? How can I avoid eating dinner with my family tomorrow? My mind was everywhere but right now. 

The anorexia found the whole practice of being in the moment silly and convinced me of it too. They tried imagery with me. I would be on a boat and they would tell me to feel the mist on my face and the rocking from the waves. All I could picture was me hitting an iceberg and sinking. They tried to clear my head by having me picture tying my worries and thoughts to a balloon and releasing them in the air. Mine popped and fell back down on me. I was told to imagine them on leaves that would blow in the wind. There was no wind that day. With any imagery, my mind created the worst case scenario. One thought would lead to another and another, and before I knew it I was stranded on an island surrounded by popped balloons and piles of leaves and no escape. Closing my eyes was dangerous territory. I tried their techniques just to please them, only giving it a half hearted attempt fully believing none would ever work. To me, they were doing the exercises with me so they would have an hour to relax as well. It was more for their benefit then mine. My sessions were giving them a siesta.

I found my mind wandered even with thoughts not at all related to food or weight. My perfectionism and Type A personality made being in the moment almost impossible. My mind would drift to my past and the mistakes I once made or to instances I wish I could relive. I lived in what ifs and what could be. I clutched the past so tightly to my chest that it left my arms too full to embrace the present. My mind drifted to my future and all the things I needed to do. I started to fear and worry that I will never achieve my goals. I made a ten year plan for myself and wouldn’t allow myself to deviate from it. I tried to map my life out to the very minute which sounds all well and good, but the truth is I was not happy even when things were happening like I planned. There was something always missing, something that always passed me that if caught would have made the moment perfect.

I find I am always thinking so far ahead and committing myself to things that leave me overwhelmed. I make these grand plans and agree to things that I do not know if I am ready for. I make plans for what I want but not taking into account what I need or what I will realistically be able to handle. I obligate myself to things in the future that I know deep down, I cannot do and put intense pressure on myself to follow through with them. I make these definitive, matter of fact statements regarding my future without really thinking it through and stopping to reflect on if they can happen considering where I am in this moment. It brings me great anxiety and a sense of failure when I realize I cannot make them happen. I get too far ahead of myself which defeats me. I found I have been doing this A LOT the past few months which I think was contributing to my intense few weeks of struggle and depression. I completely overwhelmed myself and felt trapped by what I was agreeing to. The more I said I would do in the future, the more I lost focus on what I want now. I lost sight of what I need to do for me in the present. I used the future as a distraction from the truth of the now, from recognizing what changes I need to do in the present. They served as a distraction from me having to sit with the uncomfortableness of what I knew had to be done in my recovery. But the more that I lived in the future, the more pain developed in the now. I had to occupy my mind even more in the future to counteract the struggle and distract me even more which only continued the cycle. it just kept getting worse and left me in darkness. I thought it was benefitting me to make these grand future plans and create my future life in my head, but it is working against me. Living in the future as well as dwelling in the past is hurting. It is not benefitting my health and well-being. It is not moving me forward in my recovery. Ironically, it is moving me further away from the future I am committing myself to.

I am beginning to realize that these professionals may have been on to something. Perhaps this concept of being in the moment holds some actual truth and could be beneficial. Maybe they weren’t just making me do it for their own benefit but because they actually knew it could help me in my recovery. Recently, I decided to test it out.  

No I didn’t sit on my deck picturing me putting my worries on a leaf and watch them blow away or focus on my breathing. I made a life decision that would allow me to stay in the present and free myself from commitment or having to think far ahead. I had to make a change that would allow me to only focus on the present and not have to obligate myself to anything. I had to set myself free. I had to live in the now. Not surprisingly to any therapist, when I did this, a great peace washed through me. I literally felt the darkness lifting off of me. I felt a freedom I was missing. I no longer felt so trapped. My focus shifted back to where it needed to be; this present moment where changes need to be made and steps need to be walked in my recovery. I realized that living in the past and trying to have complete say over the future was taking the power away from God. I was trying to control instead of giving my life to Him. It drew me away, only adding to the lack of peace I was feeling.

Life is about this moment happening right now. It is a sequence of moments, and to live each one is to succeed. I can make plans for myself and strive to achieve them all, but the real accomplishments of my life will come when I am allowing myself to live in the moment, something I have to work diligently in. They will occur when I embrace life for what it is now instead of what it once was or could be. Having spent the better part of my life trying either to relive the past or experience the future before it arrives, I have come to believe that in between these two extremes is peace.

By making decisions in the moment, facing the day minute by minute, I can become free. There are no expectations or standards to meet. There is just this moment where whatever happens happens and what will be will be. I have power over my life again. I appreciate life more. If I am always racing to the next moment, what happens to the one I am in? It goes by unnoticed, not treasured, not recognized. I could have conquered a fear or challenged a thought or witnessed something happy, but I was so focused on what was to be in the future, I lost that opportunity to celebrate that moment and learn from it. To be alive is to totally and openly participate in the simplicity and elegance of the here and now. The present moment is all you will ever have. It is the only thing I can change. I can make it beautiful. The decisions I make now are what will impact tomorrow so I must focus on this moment so I can make the best of my future and make a beautiful life.

Love, light, and bravery, J.L.