I am a master of Escape. My skills were honed in childhood—razor-sharp. I escaped a boring lesson in the 4th grade by hiding a Nancy Drew book in my spelling book. When I was caught, I had to change my tactics. By the 5th grade, I didn’t need a book. I could make the hours fly by imagining myself as an undercover detective assigned to Mrs. Calabrese’s classroom. Keep my cover as an attentive student, but never lose focus on the mission.
By high school, my escapes involved dragging the huge Peterson’s Guide to American Colleges and Universities to a table in the public library and poring over the lists of colleges, imagining myself studious yet chic as I walked to class through the crisp fall air. When I was actually in college and the going got tough, I repeated this ritual in the huge Barnes and Noble that used to live across from Lincoln Center in Manhattan. I imagined college would be better—I would be happier—somewhere else.
Now, of course, I have a computer in my pocket. And despite getting that B.A. and M.A. and spending three years training to teach Alexander Technique, I still haven’t graduated from the habit of escaping my life by imagining future education.
It has occurred to me over the years that this is not my healthiest habit.
The other day I was reading a book on Mindful Parenting (I need all the help I can get) and I was struck by the suggestion to STAY. This simple word articulated so much of what I’ve been experiencing with my children. Things go so much better when I am radically free of agenda. When I’m fully present.
Of course this can’t be the case all the time. We really do have to get to school and I really do have to cook dinner. But maybe I don’t need to check my email just now. Maybe I don’t need to stew about that situation at work. Maybe I don’t need to fantasize about a future PhD or make a plan to vacuum this afternoon. Maybe I can just…
This is yet another example of Inhibition. Stopping myself from mentally escaping (whether through flights of fancy or more down-to-earth concerns) from what is happening right here right now. And when I stop and really STAY with my kids in this moment (or with myself or my husband or my friend or my student or with this blog), I suddenly realize the effort that I was making to try to be in two places at once. It’s a little like the sense of relief that I get when I realize I was holding my breath and then I let myself breathe. Ahhhh…so much better!
I invite you also to…stay awhile.