Presence - 2022

Did I manage to stay present? – 2022 in review 

Ooof! Well, that one flew past quickly! There were a couple of months there in the middle that dragged, but for the most part, I blinked a couple of times and 2022 was over. So here I am with a little wrap up of some of the highlights and my final thoughts on my word of the year – Presence. 

In a nutshell: 

  • I was fortunate enough to have a job that allowed me to continue to work from home almost all year and having Mr Collier as an office companion has been wonderful. 
  • I managed to catch COVID when one of the lads brought it home from interstate. 
  • I picked up my guitar again for the first time in years and am gradually waking up long-dead muscles and calluses! Mr Collier has picked up his bass again too, and we hope to be able to jam together soon once we are back up to scratch. Fun! 
  • I found a couple of professionals that were able to help sort out my shoulder issues and am on the road to lifting weights properly again very soon. 
  • Both sons left home and are living solo in their own spaces, so we are now empty-nesters and loving it. The boys visit for Sunday night roast most weeks, so I get my fill of hugs and fun then. 
  • I am still in the throes of reverse-puberty but revelling in the privilege of getting older. Even if it does mean I have more aches and pains for no clear reason sometimes. Ha!
  • My book project was shelved for most of the year but has been getting some attention in the last month or so, and I am pressing on to get it finished. I haven’t mentioned it much here yet, but plan to share some portions and updates through the year in my new newsletter. 

I feel like I am finally coming out of that weird liminal space between the first half of life and the second half of life and starting to feel my way on this new landscape. There’s lots of new ground to explore in the coming years, and I am excited. 

I love this clock by Hallie Bateman – discover the story behind it on her Instagram

Each year I choose a word or phrase to be my guide and focus — 2022’s word was PRESENCE, as in, being in the here and now.

The most surprising discovery this year was when I finally understood that presence is all about paying attention. Paying attention to something in the moment brings things to life, like nothing else. Little things that delighted me through the year (like the ones I captured in this Twitter thread), and things to be grateful for were noticed because I started paying attention. It brought an awareness of my surroundings 

I realised along the way that I was already practising presence in this way when I go out sketching on location. The attention on the small details of a building or on the people around me and wondering what their stories were, the need to focus completely on the object being captured drowns out all else. I was seeing what was happening around me as it happened rather than wandering around with my head in my phone or daydreaming. 

I tried to bring more presence into my daily life in a variety of ways, one of those was removing free-to-air TV and being more selective in what I read and watched, which was particularly difficult with Russia’s war on Ukraine and the rise of extreme right-wing politics around the world, but fretting about the future is no way to live in the present. Sometimes I did some mental gymnastics and told myself that I was being in the present when I was doom scrolling, justifying it by telling myself that I was being present in the world and being a witness to the atrocities and the lives of those suffering. 

I found that walking around my neighbourhood was a good way to practice presence, so long as I looked around and noticed the trees and clouds and my breath as I did so. Doing it in a dense forest was even better. 

I tried meditating again, but eventually gave up, as I usually do. I replaced it with a mindfulness practice that I am calling spiral meditations that I adapted from practices I had seen others do, and that better honoured my creative nature and kept me focussed. I will write more on that later in the year just in case it appeals to you too. 

I applied presence to my relationship attachment style too. This year it has been reinforced that death comes to all of us sometimes well before we want it to, and that I need to hold those I love with an open hand if I am to enjoy the time left with them. Single tasking special moments with my loves is giving the gift of presence as much for them as for myself. 

There were times when I really struggled with it all though. As I have written before, I am a cynical soul. I am slow to trust and quick to judge and tend to fall into existential black holes and panic from time to time. I mean why bother with anything if the world is going to hell in a hand-basket anyway? Right? So, trying to be present all the time sometimes felt contrived and like I was hopping on the toxic positivity bandwagon. It took a while to understand that being present meant accepting the negative parts of life too. I can’t remember who said it, but it is impossible to see the light if there is no darkness around.  

On a completely unsurprising note, I also found that it is entirely possible to over-think “being in the moment” … I didn’t think I could be thinking so much about being in the moment that I wasn’t actually in the present moment at all. I was concentrating too hard, and I couldn’t do it. It’s like trying to get to sleep, and you just cannot drift off because you are thinking too much about trying to sleep and why you aren’t doing it. Clever huh? Matt Haig says it nicely: “The pressure to live so deeply in every moment could also make us feel like we have one more thing to fail at.” In short, I was achieving the exact opposite result to what I was after because I was over thinking it. Sigh. 

At the end of the day, I concluded that there is no way that you can be completely present in every single moment of your life. Unless you are a monk living on a mountain top with someone else meeting all your needs, you are going to have thoughts pop up about what to cook for dinner, or whether you have hung the washing out, or wonder what your kids are up to. I really think our minds are built to wander (and wonder). That’s when my best ideas come! When I let my mind wander off to make connections by itself. There’s no need for me to feel guilty for allowing that sometimes. 

I decided that the ongoing application of this year’s focus would be to lean more towards a mindfulness practice for everyday life, with pockets of focussed attention and awareness. I want to pay attention to what is happening around me and enjoy what can be enjoyed and deal with the crap stuff that pops up promptly, but I don’t want to tie myself up in knots thinking that I need to be like a monk all the time. Balance! 

Did you have a theme or word for 2022? How did you fare? 

You can see previous posts about Presence HERE 

I am launching a monthly newsletter at the end of January; I’d love it if you would consider signing up! It’s completely free with an option to support my work on a voluntary basis if you so desire, but there’s absolutely no pressure.  

Photo by Zachary Keimig on Unsplash 

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