At 5 am, I wake up, walk to the dam near our house, and sit down. I watch little birds flittering over the water. I read a few pages. The neighbors’ donkeys stroll down the hill toward me. I pull out a sheet of paper and write this blog post.
This moment is what I call a “right-now moment.” It’s a time to look around, see what’s happening, press it into my memory, and wish to be in no other time or place. It’s a time to take a moment and really live it.
Adam and I are listening to the audio book, Happiness at Home, the sequel to The Happiness Project. The author, Gretchen Ruben, stresses the same thing lots of research has found: you can be happier just by noticing when you’re happy.
South Africa is a great place to learn how to notice when you’re happy. There’s a right-now moment kind of a culture here. Often I show up for an appointment, only to find it’s cancelled. Then something else confronts me right there in the present that’s even better than my plans. I’ll find myself sipping tea in the front yard of an elderly woman, paging through the drawings of a sixteen-year-old artist, or sitting in a hair salon through some of the seven hours it takes to braid a friend’s hair.
These right-now moments are teaching me to live in the right-now moments with my family, too. “The days are long but the years are short,” Adam likes to say. Too much of life zooms by in a tizzy of getting things checked off lists. Why do we always make lists of things we have to get done? Why not make lists of the things we have done, the right-now moments we have lived and loved?
These are some of the right-now moments that would be on my list:
- Stopping on my way into the library to talk with a Zimbabwean man selling children’s toys made of tin cans and wire, who dreams of being a writer.
- Being a few minutes late to pick up my kids for school so I could finish a conversation with a woman who suddenly asked me if she might have demons inside her making her try to kill her husband in her sleep.
- Letting my daughter delay a family walk so she could scratch the foreheads of the neighbors’ donkeys, the animals’ ears tilting back as they nuzzle her in bliss.
- Stopping to visit a 22-year-old guy whose life is being eaten away by HIV and wunga, a terribly addictive illegal drug made of rat poison and, ironically, medicine for treating HIV.
- Letting friends decide how to organize entire days for me—we go eat cookies at friends’ homes, cook Zulu foods, fetch water jugs in my car trunk, or just shoot the breeze around the kitchen table.
What would be on your right-now moment list?