It was my best friend’s wedding in a charming town in Georgia and I was the Maid (well, technically Matron) of Honor. The weekend had been gorgeous – full of love and friends, bonfires and brunches, great food and perfect fall weather, all swirling around this couple that we loved. At the reception, the celebration continued and the new couple moved through a sea of loved ones and twinkly lights into the center of the room for their first dance.
A few moments earlier, the bride and I had snuck into a back room for me to bustle her dress for dancing. She was radiantly happy, full of energy and flushed with excitement. As I kneeled down to find the hidden white buttons in the pools of lace around her, I looked up at her and said,
“This is so much fun. You have to narrate everything to yourself. In your head, as you take it all in, describe to yourself the look on your groom’s face during your first dance and the smell of your bouquet and the way the twinkly lights hit the sparkles on our bridesmaids’ dresses and the feeling you have dancing in the center of a packed dance floor and the taste of your cake as he feeds you.”
Narrate your life. That’s the zero-effort trick I share with everyone who wants to be more present.
I know it works because I use it myself all the time. I did it during my own wedding. And while rolling out fresh pasta dough in an old country kitchen in Italy with an Italian grandma who was teaching me to cook. And in the deep end of the pool last summer, realizing that I’d finally learned to feel comfortable in the water (as an adult!) And during my pregnancy. And as I gave birth to my son.
Narrating your life is so easy that it barely takes thinking. All you need to do is notice. You don’t need to make a story in your head about what’s happening, or analyze why or what it all means. You just have to notice and to say what you see, in your head, to yourself.
There’s something about articulating these things that helps the memories become more deeply rooted – more implanted so that they don’t just float away. And this simple act of noticing grounds you in the exact moment you’re in. All of a sudden, you’re present. You don’t have mental space to think about the email you forgot to send, or the conversation you had last week, or even the trip you’re looking forward to next month. Narrating your life places you squarely in the moment that you’re in.
Here’s how to do it. Next time you want to be more present, answer a few of these questions in your head:
- What do I see right now?
- What smells are in the air?
- How does my body feel in this moment?
- What’s the light like around me?
- What / who do I hear?
- What are the people around me doing?
- What am I doing? (Literally, not in the metaphorical sense. Haha.)
Hope this little trick helps you to be more present, moment by moment, every single day.
HOW TO NAVIGATE LIFE TRANSITIONS
Ever heard that old adage, “Change is the only constant?” It’s true – life’s full of transitions. Getting potty trained. Going to school. Graduating. Moving out and heading to college. Graduating. Entering the “real world.” Entering a romantic relationship. Exiting it. Marriage. Becoming a parent. Becoming a grandparent. Starting a company. Quitting a job. Making friends. Losing some. Moving to a new state. Settling in. Moving again.
If we want to avoid being emotional wrecks, we need to learn how to love life’s transitions. We need to learn to love not just arriving to a new place, but being on the way there.
Here are a few tips for navigating life’s transitions happily:
CREATE THE RIGHT STORY ABOUT THE TRANSITION
It’s easy to feel (when in transition) that you’re not where you’re supposed to be. Maybe you thought the season you’ve left behind would last much longer. Maybe you thought the transition itself would be faster. If you feel this way, acknowledge the feeling, but don’t linger there. The quickest way to make yourself unhappy is to convince yourself that what’s happening is all wrong.
Find a new story to tell yourself about the transition you’re in. Maybe the last season ended sooner than expected because God was protecting you from something. Maybe the transition is lasting longer than you expected because there’s something you can only learn right where you are.
CELEBRATE HOW YOU’VE BEEN PREPARED FOR WHAT’S NEXT
The unknown can be scary. And moving into the next season of life might mean taking on a new role, moving forward without something (or someone) you used to depend on or needing to step out of your comfort zone in order to thrive.
The best way to gain confidence about what’s next is to think back to the experiences that have prepared you for where you’re going. If you get alone, and get quiet, I bet all sorts of realizations will pop into your head. Conquering the thing that felt like a meaningless frustration or insurmountable challenge a few months ago was exactly what you needed to be ready for what’s next!
ANTICIPATE HAPPY THINGS IN THE FUTURE
If you’re excited about what’s next, this one won’t be hard. But if you’re not, this point’s for you! The best way to avoid feeling like you’re dragging your feet every day is to allow yourself to dream up happy possibilities.
Think about why this next season might be the most wonderful yet. Get specific.
“HOW WOULD I ACT IF THIS WAS EXACTLY WHAT I’D PLANNED?”
It can feel effortless to stay stuck in the grumpiness of, “This ISN’T how things should be!” … but if enjoying life more is a priority for you, it’s time to ask a new question. Imagine that the transition you’re in, and everything that entails, is exactly what you’d planned for.
What would be your first thought in the morning? What changes would you make to your daily rhythm? What conversations would you need to have with the people around you? Would you make changes to your surroundings? Make plans? Do those things!