How Did I Get Here?
In the early days of MTV, I was an impressionable pre-teen (don't do the math here). One of the most played videos during the fall of 1981 was "Once in a Lifetime" by the Talking Heads. It's a song that at the time I thought was a bit of jibberish (although catchy jibberish). The song went like this:
And you may find yourself Living in a shotgun shack And you may find yourself In another part of the world And you may find yourself Behind the wheel of a large automobile And you may find yourself in a beautiful house With a beautiful wife And you may ask yourself, well How did I get here?
It goes on to say, "Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down"...and there's some more about water at the bottom of the ocean and so on. It's a great song. I would recommend looking it up if you're not familiar with it, although according to Wikipedia, this song is listed as one of the "top 500 songs that shaped rock and roll" by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, so I will assume most of you have heard of it.
Maybe it seems like a no-brainer now that we are older and have a little more experience under our belts, but at 12 I couldn't fathom what the hell the Talking Heads were on about. How did I get here? Well...you just did, I guess. What does that mean...letting the days go by?
Starting off a new year, many people say, "Wow. I can't believe another year has gone by". Did you?
Just imagine you are floating through your life and not paying much attention. You are distracted by the newest series on Netflix or you spend quite some time on Face Book every day looking at political humor, playing Candy Crush or just generally comparing your life to others. Maybe you routinely go through your "To-do" list without much fanfare, always looking ahead to the next thing, wondering why you didn't do something yesterday (or imagining you could have done it better).
Isn't it feasable then, that one day you wake up and it's like, "Holy hell...how did I get here"? You can't tell me this has never happened to you. Imagine getting an announcement of your 10 year class reunion (or 20, or 30). You think to yourself, "Where did all that time go?". You hear that the film "Dirty Dancing" is playing in the theaters for their 30th anniversary, and you think, "I haven't even been on this planet this long, have I?". Time passes for all of us, and sometimes when you hear things like that, it blows us away. Maybe another time it's not such a surprise, but there are definitely times it's a shocker.
However, my point is this: if you're not paying attention, days, months and years can fly by and you can be generally unaware of some of the changes that are actually happening around you. Maybe you just let life happen to you without really participating in the direction that it goes. You suddenly find yourself overwhelmed by all that you may have missed, and then what? Guilt creeps in. Where were you?
So, back to what David Byrne was singing in "Once in a Lifetime". There is a way to counteract that feeling (although we may not be able to escape it entirely. He may have hit on something that is universally human). We CAN be more present in our daily lives, though. That may be at least a partial solution.
Be there for brushing your teeth. Feel the brush on your teeth, your gums, your tongue. Taste the toothpaste. Maybe you don't like the taste of your toothpaste, but since you were never paying attention you didn't know. You could learn something.
Be there for a conversation with your child or your spouse. Don't answer them while you're looking at your phone or your computer. Make a bigger connection. Find more space in your day. Look at the light and the shadows outside. The leaves on the trees. The cloud formations. Be more aware of what you're thinking. What you're feeling. What you're putting in your mouth when you eat.
As I said, you may not be able to entirely avoid the, "How did I get here?" feeling, but by slowing down a little, listening to ourselves and others more, and getting out of our busy buzzing brains now and again is definitely a good start...and the start is the best place to begin.