While driving back home from Columbus, Georgia a few weeks ago, I was listening to satellite radio. PBR was airing an address by Lee Woodruff. You might recognize her as an author or as the wife to Bob Woodruff, ABC news journalist.
In January 2006, the Woodruffs seemed to have it all—a happy marriage and four beautiful children. Lee was a public relations executive and Bob had just been named co-anchor of ABC’s World News Tonight. Then, while Bob was embedded with the military in Iraq, an improvised explosive device went off near the tank he was riding in. He and his camera operator were hit, and Bob suffered a traumatic brain injury that nearly killed him. Out of this experience, they co-authored a book, In an Instant. It is the frank and compelling account of how Bob and Lee’s lives came together, were blown apart, and then were miraculously put together again—and how they persevered, with grit but also with humor, through intense trauma and fear.
I listened as Lee addressed a university audience. She talked about the lessons learned through the process of recovery. One of the greatest is learning to appreciate the here and now—to live in the present. Today is a gift.
Living in the present…it is very difficult to do. Some say that the average person spends no more than seven seconds fully awake to the moment. Most of our energy is spent on what’s next, today’s or this week’s schedules and responsibilities—worried if we will ever get it all done! The rest of the time we are awash in what has happened—mistakes made, could-a, would-a, should-a’s!
What is really behind the often insane speed of my life today? Just because we have email and text messaging does that mean I have to write and copy all the people I do? Simply because Google allows us to slice life into ever-tinier compartments, does that mean I must jam more stuff in there? Just because the sports and entertainment schedules now hardly have an off-season, does that mean we have to engage in all of them or insist that our kids do? My I-Phone has more sounds and alerts than my wife can stand—it’s buzzing, dinging, singing, ringing, vibrating 24/7!
What drives this? I’m not entirely sure—but for me it’s probably a high-octane blend of ambition, energy, and competence (with a fair amount of insecurity) that keeps me moving, making the very pistons of my life drive up and down. It goes like this, “I’ve got to get MORE…I’ve got to do BETTER.” “I’ve got to get MORE…I’ve got to do BETTER.” “I have to get MORE…I have to do BETTER.”
Enough already! I must slow this engine down. I have to find more “idle” time—periods of quiet reflection, spiritual contemplation, or simple prayer—call it what you like.
God help me, I need more than seven seconds at a time!