In attempting to navigate this transitional time, I turned GAP into an acronym to help me stay attuned to my aspiration and my guiding principles:
G – Gratitude; being grateful reminds me of the good that’s present in my life and invites me to pay attention to the blessing that are threaded in my days. When I intentionally appreciate what I have, I can have more room for grace in recognizing what is gone. Just this morning, for example, I walked into Maya’s room to put some clothes away. It was so still (and unusually clean) that I began to tear up. I didn’t try to talk myself out of sadness, or use positive thinking mind tricks to distract myself. Rather, I stayed present to my tears and gratefully appreciated that my tears spoke to the depth of love I have for my girl and to our close relationship.
A – Awareness; in my years of commitment to my own personal development and my work as a psychologist and coach, I’ve come to appreciate that our self-awareness unfolds like an onion with infinite layers. We are perennially changing and clarifying. The power of awareness is options; the more I understand why I react to certain situations or people, the more choices I have about how to react; I’m not forever locked in my default ways of responding. Tara and I, for example, were in a control battle during the college application/SAT period. I got upset whenever I perceived that she was discounting the process or not giving it enough time and effort. After one such upsetting incident, I paused and applied self-awareness practices to explore my reaction. I then realized that my decreasing sense of control over her was manifesting as me asserting my priorities, timeline, and values in order to compel her to do it my way and retain (perceived) control over her choices. I wanted assurance she would get into a good school, in order to have more life options, in order to be able to take care of herself and onward down the worm hole. When I became aware of this, I relaxed, pulled back, and put the onus back on her, where it belonged in the first place. We both felt better (and she got all of the apps she wanted to do done in plenty of time and is 2/2 in her college acceptances thus far).
P – Presence; given the volume and speed of life in the Middle, I have to be intentional about keeping mindful attention to the present moment, and to life as it is. Mindful presence means holding my attention on purpose to whatever is on my plate-of-life at this very moment, without judgement and with genuine curiosity. What’s on my plate in this moment is excitement for my daughters, already missing them, deep sense of uncertainty, the sound of the rain, the softness of the blanket on my skin, the smell of a wet puppy, the candle that I lit to cover up the smell of said wet puppy, etc.
Presence is a powerful application of both/and – I’m both sad AND excited, I’m both frustrated AND appreciative, etc. Cultivating presence enables us to take in the nuances of life, and to enjoy the variety of experience, whether we asked for it, or not.
Wishing you all Gratitude, Awareness and Presence on your journey.