Depression, one of the therapists says, exists when one dwells in the past - in sadness that has been. Anxiety is of the future - when we are uncertain and afraid and unprepared. So the real power is in the present - in experiencing the given moment, noting its worth and giving it due attention.
My homework is therefore mindfullness. The click of keys on my newly-purchased keyboard that allows me to post from my friendly iPad rather than using my work computer. The scent of chlorine that lingers on my skin from when Mom and I went to the pool.
"Push the water, push the water," I murmured quietly as I alternated between swimming (in an utterly graceful display I call "wounded dolphin") and jogging down the swim lane and doing different (yet still very elegant) movements to work out my arms.
"Look at the shade of blue in the water and the pretty reflections of those colorful flags overhead," I told myself, silently this time. "Is that a hair floating there? Gross."
"OK - what do I smell? I like the chlorine. See how the water feels soft against my skin? The warm jets emerge into the colder pool? The resistance when I turn at the end and try to go to the other direction? That's neat.
"That lady swimming - more a healthy-dolphin style - splashes me when she goes by but the water doesn't hurt my eyes... Hmmm. That's all I got."
Mindfullness is hard for me. I get bored. Seems like I could play pretend or make a to-do list or agonize over some decision that's impossible to make. But working out does recenter me - even if it's a painful reminder to really inhabit my body, there's the stretch of muscles, the warming of flesh - rather than looking at it as a foreign vessel that dutifully carries around my brain.
Today I met a baby - a friend gave birth months ago and I was sick and babies kind of freak me out so I procrasinated on saying hello. When she learned I was out and in PHP, she sent a concerned email and I happily bought a gift and headed to her house to visit today.
I found, with this friend, I was pulled from the moment and my thoughts gripped that like a treasure. I know how to analyze past patterns, attempt to manipulate future meetings. And so I checked my phone for the time and left feeling a bit shaky. The personalities and politics at work offer a fascination for me - the challenge and intrigue. But they shake the calm I'm trying to create - the stability and steadiness that I can remember when I feel myself start to disconnect again.
So I turned on NPR and learned about compassion and empathy. Grabbed a hamburger and really tasted it as I made the trip through the back roads to my house. Breathed and relaxed my muscles. Wondered if my keyboard would come (it did) and if a paint-by-number kit would arrive.
I smiled when I noted that coloring - what many folks use to relax and be mindful - is not for me. It was gently recommended - after art therapy one afternoon that turned out even worse than I feared - that perhaps a more guided approach would suit me. So I'll open my other box and trace my fingers of the canvas. See if I'm up for making some highly-guided art.
In the meantime, I wish us all peace in the present moment.