I don’t often take the time to watch videos on YouTube, but when my friend Kim posted a link today to a commencement address delivered by Maria Shriver entitled The Power of the Pause, it seemed like something that might be worth 20 minutes of my time. It was. Maria, addressing the graduating class at the USC Annenberg School of Communication, spoke to the graduates not about how they could fast forward themselves into a promising and exciting career in journalism but rather about the need to press the pause button occasionally and focus on the present. Far too often in life the questions we receive are about what we will be doing next rather than where we are now and how we are doing in the moment. We miss the present while talking about and planning for the future.
Today was the last full day of school this year for my boys. This day is bittersweet for me each year. On the one hand, I’m mourning the lost of my freedom, my opportunities to have quiet time to myself or chances to meet with friends without noisy boys in tow. On the other hand, though, the last day of school means the last day of waking up early, the last day of making lunches, and the last day of being homework coach…all things I do not miss for the three months they are not part of my life. So, what do I do with all the extra time I garner with the end of school and my school year responsibilities? For years now it’s been my modus operandi to busily plan out a whole slew of events for the boys and I for their vacation. Heaven forbid we waste one moment of glorious summer.
Listening to Maria’s speech today, though, as I was compiling yet another list of activities and was focused again on future events, I pressed the pause button and stopped to reflect. I spend an awful lot of time in my house each summer planning out excursions for the boys and myself when I could simply go with the flow and live in the moment. Instead of concocting outings days or weeks in advance, I could just wake up, grab some gear, tell the boys to get in the car, and see where we end up. It might be a refreshing change if instead of rushing off to one thing or another we just decided on a moment by moment basis how to make the best use of our summer. My parents used to do this with my sisters and I when we were kids. They would throw us in the car and when we’d ask where we were going they would tell us, “Wherever the spirit leads us.” Sometimes we would end up nowhere but back in our driveway. Sometimes we’d end up having ice cream in a park. We never knew the ending until it was over. There’s something so freeing in that.
I know it’s unrealistic to think that I would ever be able to get out of my head entirely. I’m a thinker, and certain things must be planned because this is modern life and modern life includes schedules and appointments. But, I like this idea of pressing the pause button occasionally to make sure you’re not messing up the present by worrying too much about what comes next. Maybe it would do the boys and I some good to be human beings this summer rather than human doings? I don’t know. I guess we’ll see. I’m going to leave a lot of blank days on our calendar so the boys and I can see where the spirit leads us. Summer starts tomorrow and, for once, our destination is unknown.