From the Basement

May 17, 2010

Staying Present

I’m currently reading a book by Geneen Roth, Women Food and God, that is challenging me on one crucial thing: staying present.

I do a lot of things to avoid staying present, to avoid dealing with the pain, the anxiety. I eat compulsively; I’m an internet addict. Spending so much time on the computer gives me migraines, but I take the migraines because it saves me the knowledge of my present: that I am an almost-college-graduate living at home, unemployed.

I’m someone who considers myself to be spiritually aware. I pray, I have quiet time with God, I fervently believe in His promises. But then there are days like today – angry days, sad days, I don’t feel like worshipping days. Knowing that worship is a choice makes it all the worse, because I’m actively deciding against worship, something I usually do every day.

There is pain in my present. There are the questions – When will I get a job? How will I pay student loans? How will my continued stay with my mom affect her bills? Then, there is the shame: the shame of having done everything right (or so said one of my bosses) and still having life turned on its head … and then there is the self-doubt, the sense of failure, that I didn’t do everything I could have, that I messed up.

Trust me – when you’re sitting alone at your mom’s house all day, it is so, so much easier to drown those thoughts in food, email, and facebook. And the thing is, I know I’m drowning it out. So then I go job hunt and submit resumes and search some more and … repeat the cycle. I repeat it rather than pray over the pain. I repeat it rather than stop to self-examine.

I cannot remember the last time I stopped eating when I was full. And the last two weeks on campus were practically migraine-free; I wasn’t on my computer nearly as much. The minute I got home, the migraines kicked back up because my time on the computer shot up. (Okay, it was more than a minute later.) I noticed the difference – am I doing anything about it?

Staying present. Dealing with the emotions. Refusing to check out. Refusing to indulge in fantasy conversations or scenarios. Actively praying. Actively writing. Actually living. That is one of the greatest challenges in life. But we have to step up to that challenge. We step up or we numb ourselves. Numb living is life, but it’s a rip-off. It’s a cheap imitation of the real thing. It is so much less than we were made for.

In the gospels, Jesus says that he came so that we may have life and have it abundantly. Abundance is not measured by how much we eat, buy, consume, fuck, risk … abundance is not something we attain. It’s something we experience when we are living in a state of contentment, peace, rest, awareness, acceptance. When we’re living in the present.

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