Thursday, March 21, 2013

Rip Up Those Checklists - Life In This Moment Only

I have always wanted to see, read, and know everything.  This feeling has only intensified as I write the draft of this entry while cruising on a ship in the middle of the Persian Gulf. 

As always, a good control freak has lists upon lists, and I spent most of this particular morning clearing mine, crossing them off, and making new ones.  Once I realized where I am and what I get to see and experience – my lists seem small and quite distance (get milk, pick up mail, etc.)
I know a secret though.  As I begin to plan the last few days of this mind blowing vacation with mosque visits, city tours, and desert dune adventures, I again realize that as much as I want to cram in every possible wonder, every grain of every single experience – populating every second from sunrise to sunset –something will be missed.  I drafted this entry while in the pool (literally), watching the fascinating parade of mostly European humanity go by.  To observe this – I missed a presentation on how the ship works, the afternoon bingo jackpot, and a myriad of other activities.  The older I become, the more I realize that there is only the moment one is in, and that my best option is to enjoy that one – and not worry about the one that I am not in.  I can no more see all the sights of Muscat, Oman in two hours than I can live in ancient Abu Dhabi.  So –absolutely relish the richness of the cultural feast before me, rather than fuss about that which I might (emphasis on might) be missing.  If I were not in my exact spot right here and now – I would be missing the sensible British lady reading 50 Shades of Grey, and the robust German women embracing their bodies with bikinis, which in the U.S. might be the subject of potential ridicule, but here are completely accepted and embraced.  No one appears to care that people are not a size 2 with perfect bodies – how very refreshing.  If I had been worried about elsewhere this morning (i.e. perfume shopping in the gift shop) and not on my deck reading, I would have missed seeing a gigantic pod of my beloved dolphins frolicking and the interesting three time flyby of the foreign aircraft – so close I could see the co-pilot and the tail number.  All this happening somewhere near the Straits of Hormuz – talk about being present in a moment…
My lessons to be sure – allowing myself to fully invest and concentrate on what is in front of me, what is present in this second – because, nothing is ever really missing.  I have and continue to amass such abundant experiences and memories, it sometimes makes me cry with gratitude and delight (often at rather inconvenient moments).  My life is overflowing with moments of the extraordinary, and the day to day – and I never really miss a thing.  It took a long time to recognize that truth – and now that I have, it makes life far less agitating (what am I missing) and far more interesting (oh look – this is now, how cool is that?). 

On the way back to the ship yesterday, I briefly met a lovely Omani couple who asked me to take their picture with the world's third largest private yacht in the background.  We giggled that I pushed the wrong button on his cell phone.  New acquaintances half a world and a diverse culture away – all three of us enjoying a priceless moment of laughter and smiles.  Only by ripping up my checklist of what I needed to see before returning to the ship did that moment present itself and that is one of my favorite moments from that day.  I’m glad I missed out on whatever it was…
What I know is that life is short, and I now do more of what I like and follow my instincts.  If it feels right – it is right.  If it doesn’t – don’t do it.  Over the course of this trip, I danced with the other interesting passengers at an Arabian themed 70’s music  party late into the night, ate tomatoes and cucumbers for breakfast and goulash and spaetzle for lunch, and if I’d had a bikini – I’d have worn it (no size 2 at the moment).  I started the holiday with a lot of checklists and ended up throwing the majority out the window (figuratively).  Instead – it became an open invitation to wonder and to experience a whole bunch of different things that were not listed anywhere.  This time – I did everything from go to a high tea at a seven star hotel (don’t like tea or finger sandwiches – but what the heck), held two falcons, and went off-roading through sand dunes. 

Happiness, peace, and some badge of completion (who exactly issues those anyway?) do not lie necessarily in the “I have to see and do all this stuff in order to check it off” category.  I’d rather experience things fully, and that means being present for that moment.  I’d rather do one thing memorably than five things quickly to get them off the list.  From moment to moment, you never know what you may see, discover, learn or experience.  I won’t be giving up all my checklists, but I will give up some of them for the greater good of experiencing moments of grace and splendor.  Life shows me startling serendipity, and I am beyond grateful. 

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