Ode to Ruining the Moment (And Finding Treasure)

Nicholas Fair Nowak
3 min readFeb 24, 2021
Photo by David Brooke Martin on Unsplash

It’s wonderful to capture a moment with a picture but more common to ruin one. Here’s an example. I’m quarantining at home, being a responsible citizen, purging old clothes and electronics while I listen to an audio book on minimalism, re-watching Fargo (the TV series), when I decide I’ll do 20 minutes of meditation. After all, Chris Bailey told me I’d get 9 minutes back for each minute I meditate.

After fighting off the urge to buy a meditation bench — nice try, Chris — I sit on a yoga block and set my timer. About 3 seconds in, Winni, the best golden retriever in the world, gets off the couch and joins me on the floor, resting her head in my lap. Here I am, meditating, wearing my GoodMenders hat, supporting my snoozing perma-puppy (actually 4 years old), and my phone is at my side. I haven’t been on the Gram in a while, and this content is on brand.

My wife is working, so I have to find a way to prop my phone up and set the photo timer. I try the floor. Too low. Won’t get the hat. I try to balance it on top of a yoga mat. Too high. Won’t get the dog. I reach out for an end table. Too far away. Will compromise the scene. I see what a selfie would look like. Too lame. Who meditates while taking a selfie? Winni, fed up with my shifting, gets up and lies on her bed.

No photo, and I’m a couple minutes into what would have been me meditating with my dog resting her head in my lap. Moment ruined. But as Rumi said, “Where there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure.”

What treasure was to be had here? The most obvious was the lesson of living in the moment, but I wanted to keep digging for something a little more novel. I reset my 20-minute timer and got back to meditating, which was a touch easier without Winni.

As I focused on my breath, I thought of old people — naturally — like the kind who tell stories in a tall armchair. I thought, imagine if old people were always taking out their phones and showing random pictures instead of telling stories? I pictured Old Nick (future old me) showing some kid a low-quality video from the lawn of a Dave Matthews Band concert and the kid being like, “Cool.”

I imagined my spine floating and energy pooling in the palms of my hands. I pictured myself writing the opening line of this piece. Have you ever taken a picture and ruined the moment? Yikes. I had nothing to write about, so I sat down to meditate and…I’m supposed to focus on my breathing. Is my spine straight? Maybe I need the meditation bench.

Though I wouldn’t say I nailed the meditation, and I didn’t come up with a viral anything, I would say I got what I came for, even a little extra. Hiccups and self-sabotage included, I stood up a better person with a more focused mind, and Winni got up to lay under me as I began to write.

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Nicholas Fair Nowak

Dad, husband, educator, camp guy, founder of GoodMenders.com — building better culture, masculinity, and leadership. Medium profits support educational equity.