The Power of Being Present in an Age of Urgency

From Jeff: This is a guest post from Sundi Jo, who is a writer, speaker, and small business owner in Branson, Missouri. You’ll find her engulfed in the social media world, spending time with family and friends, or on Twitter and Facebook.

I was in a movie once. Now, I’m famous. I even went to the premiere and brought my mom and best friend to watch. I felt pretty important until my mom asked me to rewind the movie in the theater because the scene went by too fast.

Being Present
Photo credit: Dave Stokes (Creative Commons)

I may have forgotten to mention I wasn’t the star. I didn’t even have a speaking part. I sat at the table with a complete stranger and was instructed to laugh when I heard the word “Action!”

After three takes, I got up and went home. I prepared myself for the agent to call and the deals to start rolling in. Six years later, I’m still waiting for the call. My 15 minutes of fame was more like 10 seconds of, “I’m sorry, who are you?”

This doesn’t just apply to being an extra in a movie. This is the way the world works. We’re busy. We don’t have time to pay attention.

What are we busy doing?

In our urgent world, there are distractions everywhere. Between kids, marriages, and the incessant pull of Facebook, there is no shortage of things demanding our attention.

I want my life to be slower in a culture set on being faster. Here are just a few examples:

  • We use the microwave to cook our food more quickly, and stand at the counter to eat so we can move on to the next task.
  • We drive faster cars.
  • We get 4G because 3G just doesn’t do the trick anymore.

We multitask because, after all, we’ll be more productive that way… right?

And we can’t tell the difference between Starbucks and Folgers, because apparently we don’t “slow down to smell the coffee.” Or is it “smell the roses?” I’m too busy to remember.

Life is moving, but are we living?

I have a friend named Sandy whose cell phone is from ancient times. She doesn’t text, and social media is a foreign language to her. I think she’s crazy, really.

I often want to shake my friend and yell, “Welcome to the 21st Century, lady. Get with the program!” But then I look at her and see peace. She just is.

Sandy can sit in silence for hours. After about two minutes, my legs are shaking and I’m twiddling my thumbs, anxious for something to fill the awkward gap. I envy her that.

Don’t get me wrong. Social media isn’t all bad. It’s how I put food on the table. But it can quickly become a distraction when my priorities aren’t in line.

If I’m not careful, I’ll use texting and instant messaging as my default relationship-builders. But that’s not a life; it’s a fabricated existence.

And what I really want is to make it to the four-minute mark while practicing stillness without going mad. So I’d better get back to the heart of it all.

What really matters

I don’t remember the name of that movie I was in. But I do remember standing in a circle and praying with a group of people who had lost their homes from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina that same year.

I’ve lost count of the how many photos I’ve seen on Facebook of kids with chocolate-smeared faces. But I remember the friends and family mourning the drowning of a young man down the road.

It’s those things that tug at our hearts we will remember most. It’s the tears we’ve shed with family. It’s the all night conversations we have with friends we see once every three years.

Here’s what I’m trying to say: I want my priorities back in line.

Day by day, I’m learning to re-prioritize. I’m making efforts to talk on the phone more versus texting. I’m closing the laptop when I’m finished with a project instead of staring into cyberspace. I’m allowing myself to be more vulnerable in my relationships. I’m choosing to live.

I’m not where I need to be, but I’m not where I used to be, either. Thank God. I want the word “busyness” out of my vocabulary. I want to be available. Focused. Present.

Don’t you?

What priorities do you need to realign today? Are you living or just busy? Share in the comments.