The Coach is In…
“Practice sharing the fullness of your being, your best self, your enthusiasm, your vitality, your spirit, your trust, your openness, above all, your presence. Share it with yourself, with your family, with the world.” Jon Kabat-Zinn
There he was, sitting in his wheelchair, trying to take in all the commotion going on around him. “He” is my father. “The commotion” was Christmas. Dad is 95. He still hears well and is alert, but don’t ask him to remember your name. For the majority of his life, he was a resident of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. For the past 18 months, he has been a resident of Fishers, Indiana. I’ve gone from seeing him four times a year, to seeing him four times a week.
In that brief moment on Christmas, as our eyes met and we acknowledged each other, I said a little prayer of thanksgiving for his presence in my life. While Dad is physically present wherever he is pushed, he is also, more often than not, acutely aware of his environment and is making the best of it. As he would say, “What other choice do I have?”
My life had a number of moving parts during 2017 – a full-time job, the responsibility of running a Leadership Academy for HealthNet and their emerging leaders, and two grandchildren under the age of two years old. For some, Dad would be another one of those moving parts. But the truth is, having him another day, another week, another month, another year … whatever it is … is such a blessing. It is no longer about repaying my father for all he did for me. (That’s not really possible anyway.) It is simply about being present with – and for – each other.
Often, as I end a day with one of my moving parts and transition to something else, I stop to see Dad at his assisted living facility. What I notice most about his room is the quiet. Oh, the TV may be on when I arrive, but Dad immediately turns it off. He wants to be with me. His room and his presence are gentle, renewing. There is a lot of commotion in my world from time-to-time, and the quiet of Dad’s room and his countenance offer a place for me to go and rest for a moment or two.
Dad’s presence is often about silence; he is a man of few words. That’s okay. I can make up for it if I choose, or I can sit with him in silence. You see, the gift of presence is not as complicated as we think. Our mentality, shaped by the pace of our world, is that we need to be doing something. We need to be talking, moving, cramming our life full of activity and productivity. But some of the most joyful moments I have are the quiet ones when I am present with someone I love, without the need for words. Don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-activity or against conversation … quite the contrary. I simply believe that presence with another person isn’t confined to demonstrative activity; it can include being with another person … simply being … and savoring those moments for the simple pleasures that they are. Think about someone you love deeply or whom you’ve known a long time. Sometimes the most powerful presence is when you reach out and touch their hand or simply look in their eyes.
Presence is our greatest gift to one another … being focused, taking a real interest in the other person. One of the great juxtapositions in my life is playing with my two-year-old granddaughter and then sitting with my father. Although with very different energies, both of these people whom I love appreciate when I’m paying attention to them. I see it in their faces, in their smiles. It brings a smile to my face just thinking about it.
I encourage you is to take stake of how present presence is in your life. Would your life be richer, somehow better, if you could be more fully present in it … if you could be more aware not only of the presence of others, but of yourself?
“Don’t assume that money, shelter and creature comforts are enough to demonstrate your love. Nothing can replace your presence, your hug, your smile, your touch – you!” Denis Waitley
To a better you…