The author Saul Bellow famously penned that there are two types of people: "Being” and “Becoming."
No slight to Mr. Bellow, but I’ve decided that instead most folks are closer to what I would term "Here" and "There."
Let me acknowledge that no single person is just one way or the other. My bet is that everyone has shades of Here and There.
What I’ve observed is that There people take great joy in travel and planning future endeavors, whatever they may be. They typically have either just returned or are soon departing for a trip, often involving long distances, exquisite meals and great sightseeing. Collectively, among friends and acquaintances, I think I know someone who has traveled every single place on this planet — except perhaps the South Pole.
There people plan for the future. They think about what comes next, what job is waiting, what opportunity is there for the taking. They make plans for their next adventure, retirement or vacation. They are typically very successful, energetic and smart.
For years, I was a There person. When my children were young, I would hold them in my lap and wonder what they would be like in five, 10, 20 years, and even start to worry about issues they would face — from dating to sex to their first job — often before they toilet trained.
I changed jobs every three to five years because I was always looking for new opportunities and challenges. I would walk through my home with ideas about what to renovate, what paint color would make the living room pop, what new garden bed to add to the yard. I planned faraway vacations, longingly counting the months or weeks until it was time to leave. I was happy as a There person, and it served me well for most of my life.
But lately, and much to my surprise, I’ve become a Here person. Here people don’t need to go very far from home and, in fact, prefer not to go very far at all. They take trips, but they always compare anywhere they travel to their hometown. They are also successful, energetic and smart, but they may appear to the casual observer a bit laid back.
What changed in my life to take me from There to Here? First, I moved to the Northern Shenandoah Valley from Dallas, Texas. My small town is beautiful, with history, four seasons, mountains for hiking, rolling hills for biking, and rivers and lakes for kayaking. I no longer have to travel great distances to see natural beauty — I just walk out my front door.
And I began meditating. That change alone has helped to shift my focus immensely. Meditation for me has been a long, slow process, and it took me years to really get comfortable with it. It doesn’t necessarily offer immediate benefits or measurable results. Instead, it’s a daily commitment just as eating right and exercise are daily choices that ultimately pay dividends.
I wasn’t sure how to meditate when I started, so I read “Start Where You Are” by Pema Chödrön, an American who became a Buddhist nun. Her writing throughout multiple books and articles is simple, clear and perfect for someone new to the practice.
She didn’t teach so much the “How” of meditation as the “Why.” Knowing that there was a point made all the difference to me. The actual method of meditating — focusing on the breath — was open to interpretation in my novice mind. And in fact, my early method of clearing thoughts using a visual cue of a car wash to “scrub” those pesky thoughts away is probably a bit unconventional, at best.
But the fruits of meditation are solid, at least in my experience. I’ve learned to be more present in this moment, right now. I’ve learned that there is no better time than now, and that waiting to lose those extra few pounds or to take that vacation or write that next story cannot compare to the beauty of this moment, right here.
I’ve learned that I can take my mind to the most peaceful place on earth, where there is true quiet and calm, and I can do it almost anywhere, anytime. I’ve learned that being here is the best place possible, just as it is, no matter where here is located.
I still plan and think ahead and live by my calendar — after all, I still have remnants of Thereness in my psyche and likely always will.
But I’m also happier living in the moment these days. Happy to just hang out in my sweet little town. Happy to check on my vegetable garden each day to see what may need harvesting. Happy to read, take walks and watch the seasons slowly change. Happy to be here.