Present in the present
My friend has the greatest memory. “Allison do you remember Jean?” She asked me. I, searching my memory, answered honestly “No, who is she”. Then came the exasperated sigh. “Of course you must remember her, remember we did….” And so it would continue with the hoped for result of me saying “Oh now I remember and yes we did do so and so and went this place together, yada yada yada.” But it never ends that way. It usually ended with “No matter how many memories you drag out you know I don’t have your memory, but I believe you when you say I know her, now what about her.” My friend and I have been friends since I was 8 and she 7 years old so she is a sort of historian for me because my long term memory sucks.
I wonder sometimes why she has such clear memories of our childhood, while mine are so vague. We did life together as children and shared many experiences because our two families were close.
As I wandered through the Museum with my mentees on a field trip to view photographer Kristy Mitchell’s Wonderland exhibit I was overtaken with the beauty of the experience. Indeed it was an exhibit designed to draw you in emotionally. My girls (mentees) wandered the wide rooms and were absorbing the images, interacting with the art and the artist through her work. I looked around to check in on each of them to make sure they were getting the most out of the experience when I spotted one of the girls sitting and focused on her phone.
I quietly came and sat next to her. By the time she registered my presence she knew she had been caught. I asked “Is what you are doing on your phone something that you can do later?” “Yes” she softly replied. “Is there something going on right now here, with these people, that cannot be done later?” “Yes” she again replied. “Don’t lose this moment or this experience. It will never return and in the place of a memory you will have regret.” I told her this and quietly left her to make a decision. I later observed her wandering around the museum along with her peers and sharing thoughts on the photos.
I believe that I missed many moments in my youth, but not due to a phone. I was a voracious reader. I carried a book with me where ever I went, hoping for an uninterrupted moment where I could pull it out and jump from my reality back to whatever world, time, or place that waited between the pages. My friends lived in those pages. I knew all the Little Women, and later the Little Men, I read many different genres and felt bereft when I had exhausted the offerings of a particular author.
Although reading is great and I don’t regret reading, I do regret not being present for much of my childhood experiences. Many of which were great, according to my friend, my historian. I didn’t want my mentee to have a similar regret. Even today I still have to remind myself to be present in each season of my life and not to waste it in experiences that can be had at any time. I am reminded of Ecclesiastes 3:1 “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” I want to experience the purpose for which God has given me this time. Only in doing that do I know I will have no regret. Purpose in your heart today, to be present. This time has been given to you for a reason; do you know what it is?
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Allison Bonilla LCSW