As a writer, I often find straddling two worlds: the fantasy one I am creating while my kids are off at school, and the real one.
Transitioning between the two is sometimes fuzzy, and I end up befuddled at noon when the kids clamber in, starving and full of stories and smelling like the air outside and the paint of the art room, the rubber of their gym shoes.
I sometimes forget to leave the world of my characters with the snap of my laptop case, and I linger in other countries, in the sweltering heat of summer in the Caribbean or the heartbreak of Northern Afghanistan while I'm stirring their macaroni and cheese.
So I'm trying a little something new these days, based on a desire to be more mindful. Recently I wrote about wanting to break up with my iPhone because I felt like it encouraged a disconnect with the most important people in my life. I couldn't do it, but one of my resolutions was to be more present in my home life.
I've employed a new tactic in this quest for mindfulness and it involves the wooden sign from the boys' Christmas train. I accidentally threw out the base to it in a post-holiday purge, but I've repurposed it. I'm having my kids move it around like our four season Elf on the Shelf, so that it will catch my eye in new places and remind me of the person, the mother, I want to be.
I want to look at the people I love, especially those of bellybutton height. I want to stop what I am doing--reading about war-ravaged lands or editing for a friend or finding just the right words to describe the magnetic sensation between new lovers--and look in their eyes when they are telling me about their class trip to the wood shop or showing me a recently-mastered cartwheel.
I have asked everyone in the family to do this when we talk to each other: to stop, to give the speaker the courtesy of our eyes and ears. So far they are enjoying moving the sign each day. It's not perfect yet--last night I was in the middle of writing an email and not following my own rule, so Piper picked the sign up and stood in front of me with it like a pint-size picketer. I'll let you know how it goes.
In the meantime, I'd love to know: what do you do to stay present?
* *** *