The dryer clanks and clangs, a rhythm I thought I knew by heart. Cars hum past the house—loud, then quieter, until they fade into the distance. I’m alert, but it’s a selective kind of alertness. I sit in the stillness, waiting for the next thought to arrive. Except, it doesn’t. Is this what living in the moment feels like? Just waiting? Waiting for what?
In an attempt to understand time—this elusive thing—I’ve started setting an alarm on my phone for every hour. Each chime is a reality check: another hour passed, and what have I accomplished? Maybe this is an existential moment, a confrontation with my own stagnation.
And then today, something changes. I go to my closet and pick out clothes I’ve never worn. It’s as if I’m challenging my own complacency, daring to believe I can be someone different, someone better. I make a pact with myself to be more conscious, more present, starting now.
The farmers’ market is my first stop. I force myself to look vendors in the eyes, something I realize I’ve been avoiding. There’s a new world of sensations out there—vivid colors, intricate shapes, pungent smells, and a cacophony of sounds. Children laugh and scamper about; I’ve never noticed how many of them there are.
Driving through the streets of Modesto, I suddenly feel like a tourist. I see businesses and landmarks as if for the first time. Usually, I doze off while my husband drives, but today, I hang onto his every word. My phone stays in my bag, silent except for calls and texts. Social media can wait; life cannot.
By 1:00 p.m., I already feel accomplished. There’s cooking with my husband to look forward to, and a visit with my dad later. I’m as committed to being present for those activities as I was for everything else today.
When I return home, even the dryer’s clanking seems different, as if it’s now in tune with the new rhythm of my life. I understand now—it was never about waiting for something or someone to give my life meaning. It was about taking the steps, however small, to find that meaning for myself. Today was a good day, my day. And that makes all the difference.
Sylvia M. Castro is a family physician.