The Presents of Presence

See what I did there? Huh? Huh?

I don’t remember where I first learned about how presents and presence sound alike. It was probably a Christmas Eve Mass- how the best present we can receive each year is the presence of Christ. And then of course I had plenty of theology lessons about service and how oftentimes the most we can do, the most we’ll be able to do, is to be present to others.

Presence is on my mind lately. I realized how much of a habit I’ve made of scrolling through apps on my phone when I eat by myself, instead of picking up the school newspaper or even the local paper. Sometimes while I’m waiting for friends to get their food, or even when the conversation lulls, I’ll just check my Instagram or email for a minute. There’s really no quicker way to shut yourself off from someone else than to stick your face in a screen, even that of a phone.

So lately I’ve been trying to pick up something to read during solo meals, and to keep my phone put away in a pocket or in my jacket when I eat with others. If it’s put away, unless I really need it, I rarely feel the need to check it. Just having it out of sight helps keep it out of mind, and keeps my mind focused on the other person.

Moments of presence have paid off. I ran The Color Run in South Bend with a few good friends and fellow RAs. (Side note: I just typed Santiago instead of South Bend. Because Santiago is hosting a Color Run on November 10th and my host family is doing it and TENGO CELOS, NO LO PUEDO AGUANTAR PO.) Proof that I can indeed run a 5K if I’m running on less than 4 hours of sleep and I wake up at the moment we’re actually supposed to be leaving. I ran without my iPod, which is usually torturous for me, because the second that I am aware of how hard I’m actually working and breathing, I give up. Music distracts me. But I had friends, we got coated in colored cornstarch, and it really didn’t feel like we ran 3.1 miles. (No, really. We have serious doubts.)

It was early. Really early.

It was early. Really early.

Proof! Also, the whole rest of that arm was orange. And I had my dorm's colors (purple and green) splattered all over my face.

Proof! Also, the whole rest of that arm was orange. And I had my dorm’s colors (purple and green) splattered all over my face.

Another great moment was when my dorm hosted a gamewatch in our basement for our school’s most recent away football game. Since I wasn’t that interested in the game, I baked chocolate chip cookies in the kitchen instead, sans computer except for music playing. I was standing there spooning dough onto the pan, it was halftime, and there was a big group of girls chatting around the TV, wandering through the basement, and playing Twister and ping pong. I felt like it was just any night in my own house with a bunch of kids running around having a fun time. Maybe it was the baking or the laughter or the calm of a Saturday night in, but it felt so good. It felt right, being there, making something to share with others, conversing with whoever was nearby, watching girls be silly and forget about homework for a while. It was like being with a family. And there’s nothing I love more than that.

Alas, I do not have photos of the cookies. Lesson learned: never leave baked goods out unattended in a room full of college girls. I went on rounds of the building, and not even twenty minutes later, my friend texts me asking if I had intended on saving any of the cookies- because all four dozen of them were quickly disappearing. By the time I got back downstairs, there were two little cookies left. And two more people were coming for them. Well, at least that means they were good!

You know what else presence is important for? Taking advantage of everything. Since I’m on fall break now, which means that I’m halfway through my second to last semester of college, it’s started to hit me that there are all kinds of “lasts” coming up. We had our last dorm theme dance a couple weekends. Our last home football game is just about a month away. This is probably the last time I’ll just have a random week off in October for a long time. And so on.

But the key to enjoying it all, and not getting crushed under the weight of the anxiety and the pre-emptive nostalgia, is to be present and not think about the future so much. The awareness of the limits of time provide a nice push, but beyond that, I’m learning that you just have to let it go. Live it up to the fullest- but live it up like it’s any other good day.

In other news, it suddenly got cold and apparently we’re under a freeze warning. I plan on getting used to cold weather runs soon. I also plan on baking a few things this break, including empanadas. Real Chilean empanadas. Since my memories of empanadas include massive trays of pino (the filling) and a huge mound of flour for the masa (dough), recreating this in my own kitchen should be an interesting experience.

Wishing you bright, cold, sunny mornings full of fall colors. Like this one!

Wishing you bright, cold, sunny mornings full of fall colors. Like this one!

With love,

Gaby

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