Living in the moment

My nephew just turned two. He is old enough to have strong opinions about what he wants to do. Although he can’t fully articulate things yet, he says the odd word here and there; pulls out specific toys to play with or books to read; points to things he wants; gives big grins when he’s eating food he likes.

Since I live in a different state and don’t get to see him as often as I would like, I’ve resolved that when I do see him I want to spend quality auntie time. This means playing with him with 100% of my attention – reading books, cutting up Velcro fruit and building things to knock them down again.

Here’s one thing I learned: he could tell if I was distracted. He would frequently look at me after he did something, checking to see how I was reacting. Even if I wasn’t on my phone, I would sometimes get distracted by another conversation, or getting lost in my own thoughts.

While I’m pretty good at not using my phone in conversations or keeping it out of sight most of the time, he taught me that there is still something I could learn around keeping my attention continuously focused on enjoying someone’s company without thinking about what’s for dinner or the housework I would need to do or whether I’ve gotten a new message.

And what a gift to have the full attention of a tiny human who wants nothing to do but to play with me! I got teary eyed a few weeks ago thinking of a far-off future when my nephew would be old enough to not want to play with me as much.

(It also made me feel guilty about my own aunts and uncles. The way I dote on my nephew is also the way they likely doted on me, over 30 years ago. And now I don’t even call them! Here’s to keeping in better touch with my family.)


2019 theme: Savour

Yes, I’m aware that it’s nearly the end of January! The first few weeks of the year have been a blur, what with a longer holiday shutdown period compared to last year, entertaining overseas visitors, knocking off all the life admin tasks I procrastinated on in 2018, and more generally getting back into my routine.

I’ve been reading The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman for a few years now. I was struck by the December 23 meditation last month:

“Most of us are afraid of dying. But sometimes, this fear begs the question: To protect what exactly? For a lot of people the answer is: hours of television, gossiping, gorging, wasting potential…”

It made me realise that I haven’t always made the best use of my time. Yes, I do things I enjoy. I surround myself with the people I love (or at least like). But if I think back to last year, there was still a lot of mindlessly wasting time on the Internet or only going through the motions of life because I was thinking of other things I had to do.

This year, what I would like to really savour life. To live fully engaged in each moment. To have focus. To live with depth over breadth. And I have a few ideas how to do it:

Consume media less, but with more intention and understanding. I spend around an hour each day on public transportation. While this has allowed me to read around 3-4 books a month, I noticed that I wasn’t absorbing much. I could give someone a quick rundown of what I read, and I may have picked up one or two things, but that was it. I want to change that by being pickier about the things I read, reading slowly, and allowing more time for reflection. This also goes for podcasts or Netflix shows.

Take more time to recharge. I took better charge of my health last year and have seen a big difference. More than ever, I know that when I take care of myself (decent amount of sleep, less junk food, etc.) I am in a much better mood and have more energy. If I want to be able to fully enjoy life, I know that I have to be in the best health to do it. I’ve had these goals for a while — e.g. sleep better, meditate more, eat a healthier diet — but now I’m clearer what doing them will enable me to do.

Minimise my (digital) distractions. I have:

  • Resolved to only check my mail in the mornings and evenings, and not continuously throughout the day.
  • Unsubscribed from a whole bunch of mailing lists and podcasts.
  • Stopped using Instagram. It was fun looking at people’s photos, but I’d spend waaaay too much time trying to edit my photos (probably cos my phone would crash half the time) or mindlessly scrolling. Especially when I got stuck into the baby animal memes.
  • Stopped stalking people. Haha! Even though it was relatively harmless (e.g. awww, that celebrity’s baby is so cute!) it was a time waster.

Make the most of what I have. I’m proud of myself last year. I didn’t buy anything frivolous. The only clothes I bought were undies and exercise clothes to replace ones that had gone ratty. If I bought things, they were things I truly needed and still use often. I’m happy I’ve been relatively minimalist since a few years ago (though I don’t think I’ve ever been the shopaholic type) and I would like to keep things that way. There’s also something around being happy with what I have, realising that I’m not lacking anything and that I have all that I need.

Focus on what is important to me. Not multitasking. Giving people and activities my full attention. Not being afraid to say “no” so I can say “yes” to the things that truly matter. Understanding the things that truly matter.

So here’s to savouring life in 2019. So that when December 23 rolls around again, when I read, “to protect what exactly?” I know exactly what to answer.