'Real moment' means writing your life story in present tense


October 23, 1994|By Susan Hipsley | Susan Hipsley,Special to The Sun

Barbara DeAngelis has built a career on helping men and women build relationships. She was CNN's relationship expert for several years and was host of other TV and radio talk shows. She has written three best-sellers on interpersonal development.

She has ventured into new terrain that's adjacent to her old stomping grounds with "Real Moments" (Delacorte), which has just been released and is already on the New York Times best-seller list. It explores quality-of-life issues such as how Americans find meaning and value in the midst of time-crunched, techno-blasted lives. Ms. DeAngelis talks by phone from her Los Angeles home about life in the real world.

Q: What's a real moment?

A: It's being completely and consciously aware of time. It's not thinking about what just happened or what's about to happen, but being very focused on the moment. What that does is open you up to be able to really experience whatever is in the moment, whether it's joy or inspiration or love.

Q: Are real moments always joyful?

A: No, not at all. A real moment is when you're paying attention. What's happening might be joyful, what's happening might be a revelation, might be painful. But by paying attention, you can experience the meaning in the moment, and feel alive.

Q: What's an example of a real moment that doesn't involve a pleasant sensation?

A: Say your daughter comes home crying because the boy she likes doesn't like her. You're holding her in your arms, letting yourself deeply feel her pain. In that moment it opens up and you're remembering how you used to feel that way, that you love her, that you can't protect her, you're feeling the incredible change from you to her and what women go through. And there's this sense of tremendous connection between the two of you.

Q: Isn't all of this a bit simplistic, obvious?

A: If it were obvious, we wouldn't have a society where half the people are on Prozac. And the divorce rate wouldn't be where it is. When a large portion of people are asked, they say they're not sure they're very happy. They know they should be, they have the right things. But they're not enjoying them the way they should. If the book had flopped, I'd say "Gee, I guess I'm the only one who feels this way." But the fact it became a best seller so quickly indicates that everyone really related to the need for a reminder of how we need balance back in our lives.

Q: How does the way we use our time affect these feelings?

A: Most of us think of time as something to fill or to kill or to get rid of. One of the symptoms I talk about in the book of not having enough real moments and knowing that you have what I call "real moment deprivation" is when you have 10 minutes with nothing to do, you panic. You feel guilty because you're not doing something useful.

Q: In order to experience a real moment, do you have to stop everything?

A: No, the whole point of "Real Moments" is to explain that you should just do what you're doing differently. For instance, you go out to get the morning paper or the mail. Most people do that, but they're not really there. They're thinking about what they just did or what they have to do when they get back in the house. A real moment would be walking outside and looking at the colors changing, the flowers in the garden, the clouds moving by. Seeing the place you live in and appreciating it. You don't have to go to an expensive health spa or on a long vacation to feel fully alive.

Q: You named several ways to be aware of life in your book. Which three are most important?

A: First, pay attention. Not only to being, but pay attention to when you're not where you are. Notice it and then look, listen to what's going on around you.

Another is to practice the art of surrender, of not being in control. When you're trying to control something, you're putting your agenda on it and so many other miraculous things could happen.

And another is to be willing to make connections with other people. Some of our most important moments, meaningful moments are with other human beings. Most of us only give ourselves permission to have those moments with our, quote, family members. But some of my most meaningful moments have been when I've connected to so-called strangers.

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