Back during in-person classes, I made a box to teach students about putting away their phones and holding on to their focus. I slapped a sign on it that said “Be Here Now.”
The sign came home with me when I cleaned out my university office. I put it up in my home office.
Sprout came in after waking up and thought it was funny. She didn’t get why you would need to remember to be where you are.
The night before she had a hard time falling asleep, so I used that example:
“Remember how you were worried about what would happen if you couldn’t fall asleep? If you didn’t sleep at all? That was imagining the future. That wasn’t being where you were. When you lied down in bed, and closed your eyes, and snuggled Fletcher, that was remembering where you were.”
Time is like a palimpsest. It’s easy to feel like you’re focused on the here and now, making your own mark, but the worn off impressions of the past are all around — Your memories of another time, or someone else’s thoughts.
Sometimes I think about this bleed when I’m consuming content. If I’m actively engaged, it still feels like being in the present moment. I’m interpreting what I’m seeing/hearing/reading in the present moment.
If I’m just scrolling and falling down rabbit holes, someone else’s thoughts are in the driver’s seat. I’m in their moment.
It feels like waking from a fugue state, realizing how far I’ve gotten from what I set out to do.
Part of me beats myself up for not using the tools I have to help block that kind of unthinking action. Part of me knows it’s hard to fight the wiring in my brain, and I should be gentle with myself.
And I take into account how many platforms are designed to be addictive. They have more time and people figuring out how to claim my attention than I have to counter their work.
Single-screening helps — The revolutionary idea that if I’m watching something on one screen, I should put away other devices.
There’s a long list of tools and hacks and tactics that can help when trying to use an internet connected device that can show you just about anything at any moment.
There are plenty of lists and articles about them, often designed to send you down a fiddley rabbit hole of lifehacking and perfectionism. People claiming to have a solution using the same tools as the problem they say they want to solve.
So I won’t try to do that.
I’ve got a sign in my office.
It’s low-tech assistance for what feels like a high-tech problem, but it’s just a reboot of the same story. Another layer on the parchment, rewritten over the old.
How do I do the work in front of me at this moment? How do I trust this moment is a good moment? How do I stay here, and appreciate it?