I went into my basement to switch our laundry and found msyelf instead digging through my bookshelves for my old copy of Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now. It is not an easy task to dig through my bookshelves. I have them double-stacked. That means, I have them full of books, and then shoved back so that I can fill them again, with rows and rows in front of rows. I was down there so long that my husband called down looking for me, but finally, my hand found the smooth, cool cover and the rows of sticky tabs that were still there from my last reading, many years ago.
Sometimes I can’t find my Now. Literally.
Years ago – I believe it was 2004, the year of infertility and the demise of at least one dream, that I spiraled into a very unhealthy abyss of self-absorption. There is only one word I can think of to describe that time, and it is this: fear. I was afraid of everything. Would I be able to get pregnant? If I do get pregnant, will I lose the baby? Will the infertility drugs give me cancer some day? What if the infertility drugs give me cancer, but I live, but then we cannot adopt because I had cancer?
No, really… I was very emotionally un-well.
Someone recommended this book to me and I picked it up with much hesitation (this was, incidentally, years before Oprah turned Eckhart Tolle into a cultural phenom by featuring a later book on her show in her “book club”). But as I began to read, I felt like Mr. Tolle was speaking to me directly:
The psychological condition of fear is divorced from any concrete and true immediate danger… This kind of psychological fear is always something that MIGHT happen, not of something that is happening now. You are in the here and now, while your mind is in the future… You can always cope with the present moment, but you cannot cope with something that is only a mind projection – you cannot cope with the future. – Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now
His words struck me – and highlighted the supreme loss my fear was causing – I was so busy worrying about what would happen, I was missing my newlywed life with my husband. It was during that year that the first niece on my side of the family was born. She came into the world as my husband and I were optimistically trying to conceive and as her 1st birthday neared, we were reaching the end of the infertility road. Words cannot describe how obsessed I was with my niece. Her every move was a miracle to me. I held her and stared at her tiny eyelashes, her nose, her bow lips, her tiny ears. Her wee fingers were to me the most beautiful, impossible thing in the world.
When you cannot have a baby, you learn all kinds of things about how amazing it is that ANYONE can have a baby. It truly becomes quite miraculous when you see it actually work for someone. And at that time, I have to say, it was working for EVERYONE… but not us.
We went through her first birthday and I sat and cried silently at the party, a weak smile plastered across my face. This beautiful child – the product of my brother and his wife – she was OF them. Their features were written on her face. As I watched them celebrate her birthday I mourned in a private way that very few I know can relate to. The months that followed truly were a valley of great mourning for me as baby shower invites went un-opened from friends and family, women bloomed full with child everywhere I turned, and I tried to smile and shrug through the constant questions from acquaintances who didn’t know better and wondered when we would start having babies.
It was Christmas 2005 – my entire family was gathered at my parent’s house and my niece – around 18 months old – woke up early. I sent my exhausted sister-in-law back to bed and played with my baby niece as the sun came up. The house was quiet. She and I sat in the middle of the living room floor. I changed her diaper, and then she stood up, gave me a hug and she started to dance. I watched her… the abandon, the joy on her face. It came over me that the blood of my ancestors – Irish, German, American Indian, Welsh – was coursing through her veins. The dimples on her cheeks were my dimples. Her smile was my brother’s smile.
And then it happened. I felt myself become present. All that mattered at that moment, all that mattered in the entire world was my niece and I, dancing together in a quiet house, while everyone slept. I choked back tears as I let myself feel joy. True, intense joy.
Later, I would tell my husband it truly felt like the happiest moment of my life (up to that point).
It is still hard for me to find my “now” – I think it is a practice and every now and then, I have to dig the book out again, and be reminded of how important it is to remember that NOW is all we have. Now that I am a busy mom, that euphoric now is harder to obtain. But Mr. Tolle’s point remains, and so does this, a note to myself from years ago, that fell out of the book and onto my laundry room floor last week: