The Trouble with Being

cropped-ramonagravitar.jpgMy last post of 2016 was about patience. This post is about another word: being.

You’ve seen the memes:

 Be the change. Be the ball. Just be.

The first – be the change – means embracing activism with action.  Be the change can mean marching on Washington on Saturday. Be the change can mean bringing your own cloth bags to the grocery store. Be the change can mean volunteering at a shelter or running in a charity 5K. Be the change can mean speaking up when a person is bullied about their race, religion, sexual orientation, or appearance. Be the change can mean adopting a rescue animal.

I get the concept of “be the change.” You, yourself, do something that exhibits how you want the world to act or be. Easy peasy.

“Be the ball” means action + desire. I don’t use a lot of sports metaphors, but I understand this one. If you want to be a champion swimmer, “be the ball” means practicing every day until you hit your best. Michael Phelps is the ball. For a wannabe writer, “be the ball” means writing without quitting, despite rejection, outside obstacles, and personal insecurities. JK Rowling is the ball.

“Be the ball” means doing the thing you love, embracing your desires, living the life you wish for. I understand this one, too.

Which brings us to “Just be.”

keep-calm-and-just-be-2979

“Just be” means to slow down. Listen. Feel. Observe. I think that’s what it means, anyway. To be honest, I’m not sure.

I practice being the change in my own relatively small ways, and I work hard at being the ball. But to just be—isn’t that, like, doing nothing?

“Just be” is difficult for people like me who long ago bought into the lure of multi-tasking. “Be the change” and “be the ball” are doing phrases. I can do things. Often, I can do three things at once. I can juggle, delegate, and prioritize. I know how to save time because….

 Time is precious! Don’t waste time! Time is of the essence! Time is fleeting!

These phrases are directly oppositional to the concept of taking time off, taking time for yourself, taking time to just be.

In writing, there’s a plot device called a ticking clock. It is used to give a character a deadline. A fictional ticking clock can mean a bomb will go off if it’s not diffused before the seconds wind down, or a loved one will die if not rescued before a hatch opens and they drop into the ocean.

Ticking clocks are useful in fiction because it ramps up the tension, adds stakes, etc. A ticking clock in real life means making deadlines. My job is ruled by deadlines, and it works, but it’s also tiring. One of my resolutions for 2017 is to do one thing at a time.

This is why “just be” sounds attractive–but despite my resolution, just “being” remains elusive.

So, my friends, how about some help? Who has this “just be” thing mastered? Would you share your wisdom on how to ignore the ticking clock and slow down, listen, feel, observe? I would be most grateful.

12 thoughts on “The Trouble with Being

  1. Not a word of wisdom here, since I suffer from the same malady. I live with someone who is excellent at just being. Sometimes I’ll come downstairs from an afternoon of work and he’s just sitting in his chair listening to music. Not doing ANYTHING! I bridle a little, since I’ve been working so hard (at three things, sometimes). But he’s a good example. I will check back here to see what wisdom is offered from other quarters…

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  2. I used to be able to meditate for extended periods of time. But then I got back into writing on a serious level and my characters started filling my meditation time with dialogue and plot twists and story ideas… Writing destroyed my meditation. But I’m starting to get it back.

    Just “being” means being present. This was my final gift from my mom. I spent the last week of her life just sitting at her side. My multitasking side tried taking some editing work with me. I tried to sit and read. But eventually, I decided I needed to just sit with her. She couldn’t speak. Couldn’t eat. We couldn’t chat or reminisce. I just sat. I was present, taking note of every little thing. Her breath. My breath.

    On a more cheery note, you can “be” by going out on your porch in the morning for a few quiet moments. Listen to the birds, the rain. Smell the difference aromas of the different seasons. Notice the changes in light as the sun comes up.

    Just being is simply paying attention. Even if it’s only for five minutes a day.

    And then you can use all that in your writing.

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  3. Annette pretty much nailed it. “Just be” is being in the moment. Not looking back, not looking forward. Stay in that moment. If your mind starts to wander, let it. It’s trying to tell you something. But don’t force it down the path, either. Let it go, don’t think “No, no, that doesn’t make sense. That character would never do that.” And if you feel yourself building the list of things to do next, stop. Breathe. Listen to the birds, the wind, your own heartbeat. We spend so much of our time worrying about the past or the future.

    There’s a Christian centering mantra that repeats the same sentence over, dropping a word at a time. It ends with simply “be.” This moment will never come again. Enjoy it.

    Be.

    (Note: Don’t think I don’t struggle with this attitude – daily. There’s just so much.)

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    • This was one of my issues with meditation–my mind would wander or I would fall asleep. I’m better now, but I still prefer guided meditations because the voice keeps me on track.

      I have a mantra, but it’s a struggle to hear in in the daily chaos.

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      • Which is why I much prefer walking meditation – not my daily power walks, but rather shuffling along in a big circle, looking with fuzzy eyes at the ground, not making eye contact with any other humans, experiencing the now. Very hard to fall asleep while walking slowly!

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  4. I’ve been suffering with anxiety over the past two months and am learning to just be. It’s not easy. I like to be busy. One thing that has helped me is listening to the radio. Just listening. Seems easy enough, but it’s actually quite difficult. I’m still working on it.

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