Though I like to think of myself as a conscious person, who pays attention to where I am and what I’m doing, I know how easy it is to slip away into thoughts and imaginings. Since I wasn’t going to the pool for exercise this morning, I decided to take a walk. I was walking through the neighborhood, totally caught up in my mind, when all of a sudden a man came out of nowhere and headed in my direction. I snapped to immediately, wondered where he came from, and let out a sigh of relief as he walked by while muttering a simple,”Good morning.” Taking a deep breath, I realized I was lost in my thoughts, and was not paying attention to my surroundings. I came home, sat down with pen in hand and began to write about the danger of not being present to life.
It feels like I walk around with a lasso in hand, to continuously rope my thoughts and restore myself to a state of consciousness. I know how important it is to pay attention to my surroundings, not by being hypervigilant, but just being awake and aware. Being one who automatically floats in and out of thoughts, it’s not always easy for me to be in the now. I’ve gotten in trouble a few times because of this, and this morning I remembered two particular events that turned into peril due to my inattention.
About twelve years ago, my husband and I decided to go white water rafting. We got up early and went to the Ocoee River in Tn., which has class III and IV rapids. The weather was beautiful and we had an awesome day of riding the river. It was getting late and we were close to the end of the trip. We were in class II rapids, which were tame compared to what we’d been in. I was tired and thinking of getting out of the raft, and began to relax and think about how nice the day had been. We hit a little rapid, and before I knew it I’d fallen backwards out of the raft, and was drifting down the river head first.
I could hear people hollering, “Turn yourself around and cross your arms.” I don’t know how I did it, but I turned myself around as the rushing water was sweeping me away. I was floating down the side of the river, where it was more shallow, with large boulders under the water, which were very close to the surface. As I was rapidly being carried down river, I was hitting these boulders with my back. The pain was excruciating and because I was crying out, I started swallowing water. Due to the intense pain, I was drifitng in and out of consciousness, and the last thought I remember having was, “Goddess mother, please help me.” I don’t know how much time passed before I heard a voice saying, “Brenda, reach out your right arm and grab the oar.” I reached out, and miraculously there was an oar there, and I grabbed hold of it.
The other rafters had caught up to me and they pulled me in by the oar. Laying helplessly in the raft, I could feel the pain all along my spine. I tried to sit and found I could not, so I figured I must have broken my tail bone. I hobbled to the car and when I got home I took a pain pill and went to bed. Next day I went to my doctor, and he confirmed that I did have a broken tailbone and bruises all over my back. I was fortunate that I did not drown, or wind up crippled from the blows to my spine. I realized the accident had happened because instead of being present to the river and the rapids, I was lost in my thoughts.
About nine years later, my husband and I went to Ireland. The trip was our dream trip, and as we headed to the airport in Dublin for our flight home, I was caught up in memories of the past week. We got to the airport, went through security, had a bite to eat, exchanged our Euros for dollars, bought a few gifts, and then decided to head for our departure gate. We had an hour to spare, so we thought it would be nice to just sit and relax before the long flight home.
We got to the gate, and when I went in my bag to get my passport and ticket, neither were there. My husband remembered seeing me carrying them in my hand. I could not believe I’d forgotten to put them away after going through security, but I had. I was so caught up in the excitement of our trip, I forgot to pay attention to what I was doing.
Panicking, we retraced our steps looking for my documents, but they were not to be found. We located a security person,and she covered all of the check-in lines to see if anyone had turned in my ticket and passport. Meanwhile, it was getting closer to time for us to leave and my husband and I were anxously and fearfully trying to decide what to do. I kept saying to him, “You need to go home because you have a job.” And he kept responding, “Don’t be ridiculous. Do you think I’m going to leave you in Ireland with no passport and just a little money?” I went over in my mind what it would be like to be stuck in a foreign country, while waiting to get a passport to go home.
Running out of options, we decided to go back to the gate and see if maybe the ticket had been turned in. As we were approaching the gate, I heard someone loudly say, “Brenda Marroy. I have your documents.” The ticket agent was standing in the aisle, looking at my passport picture, which he was holding in his hand. Relieved, I burst into tears. Someone in the airport had found my papers in the linen shop and had brought them to the gate. The agent had called my name over the loudspeaker for almost forty-five minutes, asking me to please return to the gate, but because the Dublin airport is so large and busy, I could not hear the announcement. With my passport and ticket firmly in hand, we were the last passengers to board the plane before they closed the doors.
Both of these events turned out okay, but they could have been disasters. Will I ever find a way to stay out of my head and into my consciousness? I don’t know. What I do know is, at this point in my life, I”m conscious of my unconsciousness. I’m still working on growing myself into a fully present being, and when I catch myself drifting, I take deep breaths and bring myself back to the present. I trust, that as I continue to do this, it will become a habit, and I’ll learn to live more awake than asleep.
My prompts for this week were: more, that, power, floor, inferno, and weekend.