I just went to see “The theory of everything” and was struck by Jane Hawking’s ability to be in the moment with her husband. For those of you who don’t know the story, Stephen and Jane met in college shortly before he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. They gave Stephen, one of the greatest minds the world will ever know, two years to live. That was in 1963, Stephen is still alive today. Jane quickly married him knowing she would rather love him “Like every day is their last” for those two years than walk away.
As Jane’s watched as Stephen’s body rob him of more and more ability, she patiently, and sometimes painfully, waits in the moment as it takes him an excruciatingly long time to do the simplest of things we all take for granted. Even though she works quite actively to not show any particular emotion in those times, that is when you as the observer, feel her pain the most while also seeing the humanity of it all. Eventually, Stephen quite begrudgingly, is forced to use a communication board, and as technology progresses, he uses an electronic one with a robotic voice. Towards the end of the movie, there is a very poignant moment where their kids are teenagers; Stephen and Jane are watching them from a distance. He starts slowly typing on his machine and you know it’s going to be poignant, but instead of Jane guessing or jumping in with another subject because silences can be uncomfortable, she waits in vulnerability. She waits in the moment. Stephen Hawking simply says something worth the wait…”Look what we made!”
I recently said to a friend that maybe it’s wrong that our society always encourages us to find a silver lining; maybe we do need force ourselves to be still, to wait, to ponder and to FEEL. Our society has taught us to self-medicate with a myriad of things like wine, food, sex, spending and of course, medications, all with the goal of putting off until tomorrow what you need to feel today. I’m afraid we are getting so used to that mentality that we can’t even comfortably be in the tiniest of moments.
This certainly applies to dating in a myriad of ways, from making sure your eyes don’t wander when you are with a date, to not answering that text message you just received while in the middle of a conversation with the person sitting in front of you, to sustaining eye contact and asking questions while waiting for thoughtful responses. And even, to sit in those silent moments and just enjoy the journey.
One of my hard and fast rules for my private clients is NO LUNCH DATES for first dates. Why? Because it is counter-productive to being in the moment. This is because even with the men I’ve been seeing, when I see them at lunch, I noticed they were different. They were either distracted by what they just left at the office, worried about getting back on time or anticipating whatever they had to do that afternoon. In other words, they weren’t able to be fully present, fully invested and fully engaged.
Being fully present in today’s busy world is a practice of discipline. Our busyness feels overwhelming, our devices interrupt us nonstop, our to-do lists are too long and our attention is so very often, divided. One thing I try to do is give myself permission to NOT think about the things on my mind for a set amount of time.
So try this little trick before going into your next meeting, be it with a client, friend, love-interest or social event: Give yourself permission before you get there, that you can wait to think about other things for the next hour or two. Then be fully invested with the people in front of you and learn to wait in the moment and be fully present.