Last month marked another milestone for me- on October 11, 2017, two years to the day had passed since I loaded my car and drove North. While time has passed, with seasons changing, and both jobs and people coming and going, I still feel a sense of disconnect with what life is here. In DC I had my network of industry and community, my favourite and my secret places. Sometimes here I feel like I am just going through the motions, or observing my life pass by from an outside perspective. Time seems to pass by without care for accomplishments or creating memories, which makes me feel like I’m just emotionlessly existing through a series of events.
This year should have been one for the books. From leaving a harmful environment to learning I was pregnant, the memories from this year should fill me with joy and pride for what I’ve accomplished. Yet I sit here, having lost track of the times I’ve told people my pregnancy hasn’t “sunk in yet” or “doesn’t feel real”. Or that I narrowly left my previous situation with my health intact.
Memories can be strengthened by photos, writing journal entries, or practicing mindfulness in each moment that we experience. I have tried to improve my frequency of journaling, I even have a row of semi-completed diaries lined up like soldiers on my desk. With as many apps and social media platforms that exist these days, sharing and storing photos is almost second nature, but there’s something about a tangible album whose pages can be turned and closed, that strengthens memories by creating more every time you open its front cover.
As for mindfulness, it is by far the hardest exercise, and one I’ve personally made a conscious effort in practicing over the last year. At its most basic, mindfulness can be achieved by practicing the following at any moment in time:
- Close your eyes and tune out the noise- by tuning in to your breath. Inhale, exhale, and pause. Repeat.
- Let your mind wander- notice thoughts as they appear and then let them go by bringing your thoughts back to your breath.
- Allow distractions to happen, they can’t all be removed, but strengthen your mind by focusing on you and your ‘now’. Ignore the alert that goes off on your phone. Forgive the driver speeding down the street outside your house.
- Once you have centred yourself, continue with any activity- whether it’s dishes, laundry, reading, or going for a walk- and do only that activity. Focus on the feelings and smells that activity brings, rather than what you have to do next, or allowing anxieties to creep in, shifting your focus and removing you from being mindful of whatever you are doing.
It’s not easy. Especially if you have a hard time ‘turning off’ your mind, or if you feel easily overwhelmed or anxious, as those thoughts can run rampant in our minds. But I find by practicing mindfulness, I can be stronger and better equipped to handle those roaring thoughts, and in the future, when my practice permits, challenge them if they are irrational or negative. For now though, I’m just going to focus on now.