A lesson in presence

Imagine the scenario: you’re really excited at the prospect of spending a family holiday on a beautiful island off the western coast of Scotland. Famed for its pristine white sand beaches and turquoise waters, its deer and its eagles, as well as its mountain wildernesses and deeply moving history, it’s a place you cannot wait to explore and have been looking forward to visiting for months. Not only that but you have a story idea set on the island for which you wish to conduct some research – it could be your first novel and you’re nervously excited about that too.

The plan is to travel via the Lake District to visit family and include a hike in the fells of that spectacular landscape as well. All in all this is going to be your ideal trip.

And then, the evening before you’re due to depart, the phone rings and an unfamiliar voice tells you not to worry, but your son seems to have injured his leg during American Football training. The ambulance is on its way and you can either come along to the pitch or meet him in A&E at the hospital.

Of course I went to the pitch straight away to find him lying on the ground surrounded by paramedics and concerned team coaches. He was wearing an oxygen mask and I slowly realised he was inhaling nitrous oxide to stem the pain in his leg. Having loaded him into the ambulance the paramedics then administered intravenous paracetomol. Meanwhile my brave boy did little more than wince and groan a little.

Much later that evening, after our son had endured much more Entonox, some morphine, two x-rays and confirmation that he has incurred a spiral fracture in his right lower leg, snapping both the tibia and fibula, we had to confront the reality that our long-awaited holiday was not going to happen. With a solid cast all the way up to the thigh on his almost four foot long leg, this boy was going nowhere, especially not on a 7 hour long car journey.

All this was quite a lot to take in. Emotions were high and we were all exhausted. As well as concern for our son, the dawning realisation that we wouldn’t be travelling to our island paradise after all tipped me over the edge. I had to leave the consultation room to weep, deeply disappointed about the trip and then terribly guilty that I could feel like that when our son was laid up on a hospital bed.

The following morning after very little sleep I had a strange experience. Strange yet deeply comforting. The voice that I often hear in my journal whispered to me to remember the moment. And as I lay in bed in my half-waking state I suddenly felt extremely safe and comfortable in the present moment. I was able to push aside all my conflicted feelings and disappointment about our disrupted holiday plans and just allow myself to be completely present, as if the moment was the safest haven there is.

I’m not sure whether this inner experience would have been possible without the reflective practice I’ve done. I can imagine in younger years shedding bitter tears for days over thwarted plans. On this occasion, with the most important thing being our son’s healing, I’ve retreated to and trusted the present moment, and it’s been a place of safety for which I’m enormously grateful.



Filed under Mood Management

6 responses to “A lesson in presence

  1. Elinor Brooks

    Thank you for sharing that, Juliet. I know how much the holiday meant to you. I am also starting to find ‘being present’ is an extremely helpful and powerful way of living through things. My reflective practice this year has put me in touch with the calm voice – I recall the moments of reflection and hear it. Thank you for teaching me to do that. And I do hope your son is healing!

  2. Hi Elinor
    Thanks so much for your kind words. We’re taking one day at a time in the healing process. Having read The Power of Now by Eckart Tolle I’ve understood intellectually for a while the power of being present. However I’ve never had such a beautiful experience of it before, and I can only imagine that practising presence in my journal has been good training for when things have not worked out in external life.

  3. Annalie Goodburn

    Hi Juliet. I came across your blog by searching for golf ideas and found your piece on being a past captain. I am at that moment in my life. Just 3 months to go and I will remember your advice when I support the new lc. But not only do we have that in common, we had to cancel our trip of a life time to Europe (we are in South Africa) when our son was diagnosed with Leukemia. At least we could spend the first few weeks with him in hospital as we were on leave. We had to learn to live in the present and not knowing what was coming. Unfortunately our son passed away after a lot of complications. Life changed and that is how I landed in golf and eventually being a lc. Will have to find another project for myself. I see you mention a book “the Power of NOw”, I will look it up. Thank you for taking time to publish stories of your own life for others to read and relate to.

    • Hello Annalie
      Thankyou so much for getting in touch. I am humbled to read of your tragic experience of losing your son. How very sad – and it certainly puts missed holidays into perspective.

      The Power of Now is an interesting book. Though it’s been a while since I read it, many of the ‘lessons’ it contains have stayed with me. You might also be interested in the writing of Oriah Mountain Dreamer – google her – she’s a gentle soul who writes wonderfully about taking an appreciative pace in life.

      I find golf to be dependent as much on mental attitude as it is on physical skill. And it serves us best to be present, in the moment, in the playing of it as well. I wish you all the best in your captaincy!

      • Annalie Goodburn

        Hi Juliet. Thank you, I will google Oriah… My you have lots and lots of wonderful and inspiring writing hours.

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