About 8 or so months ago (gosh, has it really been that long?), a few months after the birth of my daughter, a dear, wise person (ok fine, my therapist-but I consider him a dear, wise person!) encouraged me to “thinly slice” my life. Actually, we were specifically talking about my daughter’s sleeping-or lack thereof- and the broader reality that I had a little person that I was now responsible for…that it was my job to get her to sleep.
Her lack of sleeping, or as I thought of it- my failure as a mother because I couldn’t get her to nap for more than 25 minutes- was the cause of much consternation and intense anxiety for me-though, the reality is, overwhelming anxiety was nothing new. While becoming a mother certainly intensified that anxiety, I have long needed to practice thinly slicing through life. To “thinly slice” means to take life from moment to moment. To do exactly what you need to do in that moment and discipline yourself from letting your brain leap forward to moments in the future. For me, life becomes very overwhelming very quickly when I think of life from my anxiety-filled vision- in milliseconds, my brain imagines life as always being as hard and as awful as it is in this moment-thats where the panic sets in— if I were just thinking of it as a moment…it wouldn’t seem so overwhelming but when it becomes forever…all of a sudden, my vista becomes LO not sleeping now or ever and me ever sleeping again…and I freeze, I become paralyzed.
So, thinly slicing through life? Much needed wisdom. the way my brain conceives of the at the time, I needed to think simply about what I had to do for LO (Little One, as we called her in utero and still now) right then- what do I have to do for her now? All I have to do is change her diaper…Ok…I can do that…I can change her diaper.
Turns out that “thinly slicing” life makes a lot of sense not just for a relief to anxiety, but also learning how to live in the present moment. By practicing considering life in its individual moments and not the vast expanse, being present to the moment becomes doable, even…God forbid! Joyful. Granted, some moments, even if they are thinly sliced, are just not easy or happy moments, but, by thinly slicing your way through them, they stop having the power to color the rest of your life’s picture. They become a season. A fluttering in the fabric, rather than the fabric itself.
And so, my daughter’s inability to sleep for anything longer than 25 minutes became a season. I took each nap, each diaper, each profuse spit up event as it came. And, just like that…the way a piece of cake disappears from your plate one nibble at a time , LO began to sleep- in fact, she’s snoozin right now.
I began to thinly slice.
And live in the moment.
While I’m far from living in the moment for every moment, I’m much further down that road than I was a year ago. Thank God for that.
And for the record, I think of cake every time I think “thinly slice”. And that’s ok by me.