I began writing this post 38,062 feet above New Mexico. I had 876 miles left on my steel bird until I reached the promised land of California. I was dreaming of touching down within the sweet, succulent borders of the place on this earth that, more than anywhere else, has consistently taken me into its arms when I’ve needed it the most — the location with an ocean that can wash clean any of my potential woes or circular thought patterns. I was thinking of those long awaited moments that come after a prolonged absence from home when I stand on the sand, looking out at the waves, consumed in peaceful bliss. More generally, however, I was thinking about moments. I was going to write about moments. But I didn’t finish the post. And by the time I landed in the Golden State, I was quickly inundated by moments that jumbled my very thoughts about moments (for it turns out that moments are constantly occurring). There were soon too many thoughts about moments to fit them all into one cohesive theme for a blog post. I discovered just how complex something as simple as a single moment in time can be.
There are these things that happen, you know, and I have been mulling their presence about in my head for a good few months now. There are these things that happen. And they’re called moments. And any one of them can brand itself onto your soul. And stay there. Forever. It can change you. Shape you. Make you smile. Make you cry. Or just make you remember. There are moments in times of crisis and in bursts of euphoria, just as there are moments in periods of lull. I may be young, but I have lived many moments. I often scroll through my cranial library of moments and toy with how one can be captured into words. I’ve lain awake in bed some nights trying to craft their opening lines. My hound and I dozed on the grass and agreed it was an unseasonably warm day for July. Moments. How does one properly describe them? How is a particular moment chosen from a boundless supply and deemed worthy of description? But, really, why do these questions even matter? Why am I spending otherwise perfectly good sleeping hours pondering moments?
I believe it was back in November when I met Sigmund at a bar in D.C. He was a middle-aged man in town from Los Angeles for a memorial service. When Californian energy is placed in close proximity to other Californian energy, epic conversations have been known to occur. A quick chain of mico-moments later, Sigmund and I were engrossed in a discussion of the Universe and the concept of “coincidence.” A delightful character, Sigmund had many quotable phrases. “Any moment,” he remarked, “has the potential to shift your life two degrees to the left for the rest of your life.”
Just like that. One minute instant in time, and the malleable clay of your life changes shape. But it can be such a tiny shift that materializes in such a tiny moment that you don’t even realize the revision has occurred. Stretched out over several years, however, two degrees becomes a great distance. To me, these moments, these instantaneous conceptions of the very material that creates the uniqueness of a life, are something of much beauty. How can you distill a lifetime down to a moment that altered everything, that completely changed your course, that changed you? And if you can pinpoint these moments, can they be captured? Can you hold them in your palm and use their living energy to flourish, to manifest a dreamed reality? What can be learned from the opening line of a moment? Years later, I would remember taking backwards photos with my blue Mickey Mouse camera, high above the world in that semi-truck of wood chips, and I’d think to myself how life wasn’t all that bad.
I have come to believe that some of the purest moments occur during those first few times you interact with a new person. These are the moments of beginnings, when anything is possible. Intentions have yet to be determined or muddled, and so you just float with ease over a layer of new. The moments are honest, the giggles are sincere, and the stories are the intriguing tip of the far larger back-story. The sunglassed gentleman stood there waiting for me, looking like only he knew how to look. This is not to say that the process of wading deeper into the back-story is not of great value as well, it is just to take note of these moments that have the ability to recreate a childlike state of admiration for the life happening around oneself.
Moments can be addictive. Like many addictions, it is often hard to tell you have become addicted until you hopefully manage to come out from underneath it all on the other side. It is one thing to be “lost in the moment,” and it is another thing to “lose yourself in the moment.” It is the difference between looking back on a memory with fond eyes and grinning lips and looking back exclaiming, “My life was a train wreck and I had no idea.”
When I lived in Greece for a brief time, I would have these moments that I’m sure I had had before, but had never truly become aware of until I was in this particular environment. They would come with this feeling that I then (and still now) struggled to describe with words. It was so easy for me to see the visual representations of this feeling in my mind, to motion the feeling from the center of my chest with my hands, but when I would open my mouth, my ability to speak, to describe what I was feeling, was overtaken by the sensation of eyes blinded by an all-encompassing love. Everything blurred into a hazy moment of deep connection to my own being. Journal entries I wrote during this time resorted to simply referring to this feeling as “the feeling.” I became curious in documenting such questions as, when did “the feeling” come, how long did it last, what caused it, and could it be purposefully evoked or did it only appear through mere happenstance? At times during this six-month Grecian period, “the feeling” would last for weeks, but there were also weeks that would go by where I would wonder if it was planning on ever coming back. Sometimes, “the feeling” would consume a delighted hour and this one hour would make all of the time around it seem much clearer, more understood.
When I lived in Greece for a brief time, I learned what it meant to be “lost in the moment.” For when I would become “lost in the moment,” “the feeling” would occur, and “the feeling” was my moment of surrender, of release, where I was the most fully connected to my true self. It took me some time when I returned to the United States to realize this, but I eventually discovered that one does not need a scenic foreign land to capture “the feeling.” Its essence lies in any moment one creates that is an accurate portrayal of their true desires. I woke up in the morning ready to present my thesis in D.C. with the excitement and promise of Christmas Day.
Workplace elevators are where, for many people, “the feeling” goes to die, or at least to hibernate (to sound less harsh). Five days per week for the past six months, I have had the opportunity to study human behavior when confronted with the workplace elevator.
Here’s one example of what I mean: It is a Monday morning around 9am. I arrive at the elevator going up to the office and stand in awkward silence next to another individual going to work. The doors open, we both enter, the doors close, the buttons to the desired floors are pushed. I wait in the space of awkward silence for the impending interaction. My elevator companion turns to me, and jokes, “Well, at least only four more days left of getting up early!” I chuckle and agree, “Just another case of the Mondays.”
Later that Monday, roughly 5:30pm: I stand by the elevator going down to the lobby, doing my post-cubicle neck rolls. The doors open, I enter and stand on the opposite side of a worker from another floor, the doors close. A sigh is released, and then, “Hey, another day, another dollar, at least! Am I right?” I chuckle, mostly at my own inside joke, “That is very true.”
These scenarios then go on for an indefinite number of workdays, altering slightly for the day of the week. Tuesdays: “These Tuesday are a tough one, huh?” or “Just eight hours and it will be over.” Wednesdays: “Hey, we’re half way there!” or “At least it’s hump day!” Thursdays: “Hey, tomorrow is Friday!” or “Thirsty Thursday!” Fridays: “TGIF!” or “Another week down!” Workweeks after a three-day weekend: “Hey, short week, at least!”
In the elevator, we are stuck in the perpetual counting down of the very days we have left on this earth. In the greater picture, outside of the bump and grind of the work world, why should, “Short week!” ever be a thing to be celebrated? If the weekend days are all we are looking forward to, if those are the only moments we are allowing ourselves to celebrate, then that is a lot of lost opportunity for precious life moments.
The elevator is where we lose track of the moments and enter the monotony, where we allow ourselves to no longer be ourselves. We are instead consumed with the opening lines of a work life with which we may be struggling to connect. There are many ways to flip a person off without them seeing. Sure, I will admit that I am exaggerating the “elevator convo” scenario a bit and that I am flat out disregarding the other reasons for why it may exist, but the point is that even if it is just a conversation had in order to fill in the void of silence, it is an odd behavior to have come so naturally — an exasperated exclamation on how to get through yet another day. What Greece was to being “lost in the moment,” the elevator is to “losing yourself in the moment.” It is so wearisome, so repetitive, so dissociated that it presents the chance of waking up one day many years later and asking, “What just happened? Where was I, and what was I doing?”
So, moments can change you, moments can be innocent and pure, moments can be freeing, and moments can be monotonous, but what is a moment if you don’t have someone else with whom to share it? To that argument, I ask, how can you even truly understand how to interpret, feel, comprehend, identify the moment if you cannot first recognize it on your own — free from the outside influences, the judgment, the fitting in, the cliché, the monotony, the, the, the. If you don’t take the time to explore these moments personally and draw your own conclusions and analyses from them, then will you be able to find them, the moments of peace and clarity, when you are, say, losing yourself in the moment in fetal position (literally or figuratively) on the floor? Will you ever be able to pull yourself out of the routine elevator conversation to realize that you have not been your true self for a good, long while? The key to the individual versus the couple moment is being able to truly, fully, unquestionably be yourself within the shared moment.
Probably a beer later, Sigmund once again quotably declared, “An epiphany is a coincidence of awareness.” I looked through tears at the rolling farmland and had to admit to myself that I would never be that still — and that it was ok to be that way.
A single, little moment can be the epiphany that sets your life two degrees to the left towards the rest of what your life has the potential to be. So, why am I spending otherwise perfectly good sleeping hours pondering moments? Because I want to be myself when I’m sharing moments. Because I want to understand the moments that bring you back to being you. I want to be able to capture them and grow from them and swoon in “the feeling” of them. Because I want to understand how to paint with moments — for they are juicy and amorous and erudite and freeing. And they are these things because they are you.