The Gift of Presence

Can you recall a time where you got so lost in the moment that time was simultaneously standing still and flying by at Daytona 500 speed, where you forgot everything else aside from what was happening and what you were doing in that exact instant?

My best friend Allison came over one Friday, both of us finding ourselves with an evening free of kids. I rented two new-release movies for us that we had been looking forward to watching together (yes, this memory is from pre-Netflix days), and opened a bottle of wine. We quickly settled into our familiar back-and-forth conversation, catching up with what each of us were up to, telling truths that you only share with your closest confidant and laughing until we cried, and our cheeks hurt from smiling. Neither of us doing anything at all except talking and listening, with the ease of being with someone who truly sees and hears you. Several hours later, as we drank our last sip of wine and laughed at our last story, we realized the rental movies were still sitting there, in their cases, untouched. We had been so present with each other that we completely forgot to switch gears and put one of the movies into the VCR. Of course, this hurled us into even more laughter, the contagious type that stops and starts as each of us tried to regain composure when we realized I would be returning the movies the next day unwatched. We agreed to never expect movie-watching as part of our evenings again.

With the evolution of technology, we have had countless luxuries added to our fingertips but at a price of losing so much more. Prices such as the focus on ‘doing’ as opposed to ‘being’ which has become our culture, to the detriment of our relationship with ourselves and others. Prices like the comparison that happens when we see what our friends are up to, the bombardment of messages and images from social media and advertising, and the anxiety that dwells in many of us encouraged by the fear of missing out. These days, that same evening with two friends becomes interrupted with our devices – notifications from emails, texts and multiple social media platforms – that take us away from the present moment and from ourselves. But of course, it doesn’t have to be that way. It does require a great deal of intention to create the lost-in-the-moment feeling in today’s western world of digital connection, but I promise you it is so worth it. 

Your presence is the most precious gift you can give to another human being”. Marshall B. Rosenberg

I have been focussing this past year on being more present. My past ways of jumping through to-do lists and reigning as Queen of Multitasking has given way to slowing down my day’s pace, setting daily and situational intentions, and getting really clear on what is truly valuable to me. Let me say though, that I find it difficult and am acutely aware of my shortcomings. But being present allows me to be the human being I desire to be rather than the human doing. It also allows for those I spend time with to feel seen and heard, which is important enough for me to put my devices away and pay attention. I still find it VERY challenging to play Barbies with my daughter for hours and hours during these summer days (so many hours) and not check my phone for some type of distraction. I mean, this is a mind-numbing exercise which, on a sidenote, gives me insight into why parents have their children close together. However, I did not, and I am my daughter’s favourite Barbie playmate. I cringe though at the thought of my daughter’s point of view being me checking my phone during our time playing together. That is not the experience or the memory I want to create for her, or frankly, for me. I have found the most success with completely removing my devices from our play space and creating a time limit for otherwise endless activities like playing Barbie. Mothers with daughters I know you can relate!

At a recent visit with my best friend, I was intentional with my presence. I’ve come to learn that this intention is felt by others, and that I get to choose when I want to be reachable by anyone other than the person in front of me. We spent hours visiting, once again slipping into our comfortable and easy conversations, laughing and reminiscing, we did not set out to watch any movies, though we did have the Summer Olympics on in the background, and I had my phone tucked away into my purse in another part of the house. I love the feeling of that gift to myself – to be right there in the moment with whomever I’m with, cultivating relationships and creating memories.

Tracey Purvis



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