He sat at the table describing his experience with chemotherapy a couple of years ago.  “I have a different perspective now on the phrase, ‘Living in the moment.’” 

I asked, “What do you mean?”

He said, “Depression and despair is so great when at nine o’clock in the morning you can’t stand to think about the relief of going to sleep at nine o’clock in the evening.”

He went on to say, “Most of our lives we live in the space between something that we remember and something that we anticipate. Like when we visited our friend last weekend and when we are going to have dinner with another friend tomorrow.  Most of the time we think about what has happened, reveling in it or regretting it, and then what might happen that will be pleasant or that we dread.”

“But,” he said, “when your world shrinks into the compressed moment of feeling so terrible that you can’t even imagine the next hour, all you can stand to do is “live in the moment.’”

I had never thought about the suffering of some people that way. Pain and nausea can be so claustrophobic. The walls of pain can block our future and blind our memory.

I don’t know what his might mean. But, it does help me see why it is hard to know how to be with people in that kind of situation. And it helps explain why one of the best things we can do in the midst of suffering is simply “be with” another. There is no way that I can know what it is like to suffer that way. So, my words will be inadequate or empty. But, maybe quiet companionship in the squeezed-in box of pain and suffering can be helpful.


There we were—grocery shopping for the contribution we are making to the Thanksgiving gathering. And there we were with all the other shoppers from North East Indianapolis trying to get our baskets through the isles. 

And when we finished shopping we went to check out.  And, you guessed it, we faced lines—not as long as they will be tomorrow, but long enough to make us wonder, “Where are all the cashiers?”  And I did what I always do—look at other lines to see if they are going faster. And as I stand there, I crane my neck to see how fast it is moving, somehow thinking that if I could just see it and get my blood pressure up high enough it would do something to make the line move faster.

But, today I had a memory. And it helped. Today I remembered hearing a speaker once talk about standing in line at Starbucks—a long line.  And everyone was grumbling. And she just shouted out to everyone, “Hey, let’s dance!!” And she started singing and dancing and others joined in. And before she knew it, she was placing her order.

I thought of that today and wondered how much of my time is spent looking ahead hoping life will move faster and all along missing the life that is going on around me in the moment. I realized that leaning into the line and longing to be finished with the moment blinded me to those around me who might be interesting to talk with and share life with.

So, I hope I can keep this perspective in this “lining-up” season where I will be in traffic lines, checkout lines, restaurant lines. I hope I can find a song that I can dance to and open my heart to the life I am living rather than the life that I think I might live if I weren’t in line.