Tag: Breathing

5Dec

Chains Shall He Break

No hymn has ever gotten to me the way O Holy Night does. In fact, I tend to get itchy around hymns in general, but something about this one strums a resonant chord straight into my solar plexus and out the other side. If I were a good evangelical, I’d call it powerful. (And if I were a sufficiently ironic hipster, I’d call it trippy.) Admittedly, gaping-chest-wound is not the feel one usually looks for in Christmas songs, but there are some years when it’s a deep comfort, when getting busted open by lyrics about social justice and hope helps to make sense of all the other things busting our world apart.

This is one of those years.

You know what I’m talking about, I expect. Michael Brown’s and Tamir Rice’s and Eric Garner’s faces have been on the news here in Italy too, and I glance at the TV over my treadmill and feel another crack splintering across the surface of my heart. This ache has no borders.

I’ve been reading some of the stories and avoiding some, and each has its price. When I wade into the details of tragedy, I feel as though they’ll suffocate me. When I choose not to read though, to give myself a break from all the heartache, I’m distancing myself from a reality that dear friends of mine don’t have the option of escaping. My inability to breathe is only figurative. Not a real possibility. Not the script of realest loss.

I’m doing my best to listen to those who have the most to teach me right now, and what they’re saying is that racism and systematic oppression are not confined to the past. That Christianity is still very much a platform for prejudice. That people whose skin color makes them look threatening actually have far more reason to feel threatened by mine. That whatever pain I might feel over the injustice I see in the world, it can’t compare with the pain of those actually experiencing it. That my voice right now matters more than I realized.

O Holy Night is cycling through my headphones again, and the words press up against the raw of this week:

“Truly he taught us to love one another
His law is love and his gospel is peace
Chains shall he break for the slave is our brother
And in his name all oppression shall cease”

My mind can’t fathom what it would be like for all oppression to cease, but my soul has an inkling, and it feels like no coincidence that the first candle of Advent stands for hope—that “thing with feathers” which fills the dark with music and helps us believe against all reason and experience that one day we will recognize each other as kin.

None of us, I imagine, was hoping to spend these holiday weeks busted open and aching. This is about as far from tinsel as a soul can get. That doesn’t mean we’ve derailed from the season though. I especially appreciate Christena Cleveland’s recent thoughts on Advent:

“It was into this ‘worst world’ that the Light-in-which-We-See-Light was born, liberating the people from the terror of darkness. So it is in the midst of our worst world that we, too, can most clearly see the Light, for light shines more brightly against a backdrop of true darkness.”

Or, as Sarah Bessey puts it, “Advent is for the ones who know longing.”

This December, the weariness of our world is real to me as it never has been before. Not to say that violence or oppression are new arrivals, but I’m listening more closely this year. I’m willing my eyes to follow the threads of inequality woven deep, deep into the fabric of society and throughout my own thinking as well. I’m absorbing the stories of people (including friends) who have been harassed for being #alivewhileblack. I’m doing my best to engage with the discomfort instead of ignoring or rationalizing it away. I’m grieving, not with the same weight of experience but nonetheless with those who are grieving right now.

And it’s this year more than any other that Emmanuel, God-with-us, feels like a lifeline to this whole spinning, busted-open planet. Peace on earth, goodwill toward men. Good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. A thrill of hope that one day, the first light of morning will spill over a humanity-sized heap of broken chains.

The weary world rejoices.


(If you can get past the organ music and the videography, this performance might just punch a hole through your solar plexus too.)

image source

28Nov

The Waiting Room

Patience is a virtue, I know, but it’s not my virtue.

I would tell you that the problem is my current schedule, that if time weren’t such a commodity I’d happily lean back in my raft and let the hours carry me downstream, but I can remember this sense of urgency dogging me even on childhood afternoons when I had nothing to do but roost in my favorite tree reading Nancy Drew. I’ve always been a wind-up doll, whirling into my own momentum when I’m in motion, tense with expectation when I’m at rest.

I know better than to take it personally when the traffic turns to sludge or the customer in front of me brandishes fifty-seven coupons or the office is now closed, please come back tomorrow. But folks… the struggle is real. I need no reminders to rage, rage against the dying of the light. What I do need is practice at peeling my one eye away from the clock and my other eye from the lady in front of me who is describing her lunch in microscopic detail to the cashier even though I just need to pay for the one pair of socks. I need practice at taking the pace of the real world in stride.

And I am here today to attest that there is no better opportunity to practice this than when your calendar becomes polka-dotted with doctor’s appointments. I’ve been to eleven in the last three weeks. Eleven, which are about ten and a half more doctor’s appointments than we have in an average month. Some of them have been routine visits for the girls, but the rest have been for me, and I can’t tell you how far outside my comfort zone this catapults me, how poorly I deal with medical limbo.

Something is wrong with my body—maybe my heart, maybe my thyroid, maybe something else entirely. We don’t know yet, and this is the kind of wait that feels like it might just wind me a click past my stretchability.

There are the hours spent in waiting rooms… Yellow chairs, blue chairs, clinical beige, institutional gray. Signs on every door saying “Don’t Knock.” A solitary signal bar on my phone that comes and goes as if riding the tide of my thoughts.

And then there are the hours spent in my mind, a waiting room that never closes… Deep maroon worry, fluorescent blinks of irritation, blank putty-colored stretches of unknowing. All possible outcomes waiting behind those closed doors on which I’m not allowed to knock. An off-tempo pendulum swinging between anxiety and chagrin.

Because what it it’s nothing? What if I continue to ace these medical tests until the only explanation left is that I’m a psychosomatic phony? I honestly couldn’t tell you if the outcome I dread most is a diagnosis or the lack of one. Either way, I wait.

It feels like trying to sprint underwater, urgency trapped in slow motion. I often find myself thinking that I just want resolution so I can get on with my life, and that’s a normal response, right? I’m sure I’ve heard that sentiment expressed by at least a dozen characters on House and something like two hundred on Grey’s Anatomy (which is impressive considering I’ve only seen a handful of episodes). I realize though that when I think this way, it shows I’ve let the parameters of my world shrink to the size of a waiting room. I’ve let one small arena of unknowing press pause on my entire life.

Well then. You’ve heard the Thomas à Kempis quote, “The acknowledgement of our weakness is the first step in repairing our loss”? In this, at least, I can feel like I’m making progress. The last few weeks have failed to turn me into a breezy and beatific version of myself, but I have felt the headlong staccato of my mind relaxing a bit as I’ve reminded myself (and re-reminded myself… and re-re-reminded myself) that life goes on.

Which it does, of course, in all its beautiful, maddening, un-streamlined glory. My days continue to fill like overstuffed gift baskets. The traffic is in there, but so are story times with the girls and coffee dates with the husband and three-hour dinner conversations with friends. The doctor’s appointments are in there, but so are leftover apple pies and Sufjan’s Songs for Christmas. There’s reassurance, actually, in knowing that life is absolutely unruffled by my impatience with it. I’m glad to remain a minor character if it means that in my pauses just as in my fast-forwards, life will go on going on.

It’s a cliché, I know, but it’s my cliché.

10Sep

Book Stories: The Meme

No doubt you’ve seen it making the rounds through Facebook:

“List 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t think too hard or try to give ‘right’ answers, just write down 10 that have affected you/moved you/caused you to neglect your family, job, and basic hygiene for 36 hours straight/invaded your dreams/ prompted you to abandon dignity in favor of cosplay* or fan fiction/necessitated the author’s taking out a restraining order against you.”

*Not a sex act, sorry. “Cosplay” is short for costume play, which is short for dressing up like something else, which is admittedly delightful and fun but almost certainly not dignified.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve bounced up and down in your computer chair willing someone to tag you so you too can compile your list. Such is the power of the meme that one is not psychologically able to start thinking about her 10 books until she has been granted permission to do so by social media. (Please tell me I’m not the only one with a compulsive respect for pointless or nonexistent boundaries.) To the relief of my list-loving heart, I have now been tagged (thanks, Rachael!), and rather than listing my ten books as a Facebook status, I wanted to introduce them here, Book Stories style.


(Eggplant nails at Erika’s request)

1. Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery

When I first read the Anne of Green Gables series as a girl, I only really liked the first book about Anne’s childhood and then the three final books about her children’s escapades. The middle books about Anne’s career hopes, love interests, and coming-of-age heartaches bored me… until one day, they didn’t. I was in between college semesters and boyfriends of my own when I picked Anne of Avonlea off my dusty bookshelf and cried right through the final page. L.M. Montgomery is magic, folks. (But you already knew that.) 

2. Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

I was still a newlywed, pre-babies and only about two inches into my recovery from fundamentalism when a friend recommended Blue Like Jazz. I read it aloud to Dan, a chapter each night before bed, and it was like discovering my right to breathe. It very well may have been the first time that I’d heard God spoken about conversationally, without religious jargon, as if he actually had a place in everyday life. This book is spiritual stress relief.

3. On Writing by Stephen King

I can’t remember exactly when I snagged this off the shelf at Barnes & Noble, but I do know that it’s scarcely left my writing desk since. I only pick it up to read when I’m working on fiction because a page or two is all it takes for story inspiration to rush at me like a telepathic kid out of a haunted hotel. I should point out that my preferred genre is not that of the good Mr. King, but damned if he doesn’t make my mind itch to create something new.

4. The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss

I know, I know, everything about this book screams GIMMICKY! It was a crash course in entrepreneurship for Dan and I though. We got it a couple of years ago during our transition into self-employment, and while it did not catapult us into the ranks of “the new rich” or reduce our workweek to four hours, it did give us the gift of perspective. We now use terms like “batching” and “80/20” in everyday life (most often when trying to get out of housework, but still), and whenever I’m feeling discouraged about our rolling job situation, I let the FHWW remind me that we’re normal… ish. Not alone, at any rate.

5. Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

I’m not sure what it says about me that the book I read most frequently for the pure joy if it was a high school reading assignment. To be fair to myself, though, it’s not like I go around toting Oedipus Rex on beach vacations or cracking open The Complete Works of Shakespeare on flights. Have you ever watched the darling film Il Postino where Pablo Neruda teaches an uneducated Italian postman about metaphor? This book is what taught me.

6. Hope Beyond Hell by Gerry Beauchemin

Over the year and a half following our move to Italy and Sophie’s birth, depression effectively broke down all my internal religious etiquette. I called up a friend from the States who I knew wouldn’t disown me when she heard that I could no longer believe in a God who made eternal torture the default destiny for humankind. She knew exactly what I was talking about and suggested that I read Hope Beyond Hell. I don’t think I’m putting it too dramatically when I say that this book saved my faith.

7. Field Guide to Now by Christina Rosalie

Christina’s blog is largely responsible for getting me writing again back in 2007. Her way of noticing the undercurrents of art in daily life and making poetry of their prose stirs up answering instincts in me. Hers is a creativity founded on intention and delight, and this book is one of my favorite things to read in the pre-dawn hours with a notepad and pen in hand. It makes me want to live and create and then live some more.

8. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

1130. That’s how many pages of small text my unabridged copy contains. And I loved every one of them. Often after work, the summer I was 18, I’d drive to an uptown Starbucks where I’d order a venti coconut frappuccino and sit in the sunshine to read… and read… and read. Dantès’s revenge is so complicated and satisfying to read that I didn’t know whether to celebrate or to cry when I reached the end. I’ll be reading this one again… next time I have an entire summer of afternoons at my disposal (ha!).

9. The Shack by Wm. Paul Young

I almost don’t even want to talk about this book because it’s meant so much to me. Hope Beyond Hell is what saved my faith, but The Shack is what saved my heart. I first read it on a Sunday morning while Dan and the girls were at church. It was a day when all the weight of my fundamentalist upbringing was suffocating me, and I felt so wounded by Christianity that all I could do was lie on the sofa and reach for this book that a friend had lent me. And I met a God of love in it.

10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7) by J.K. Rowling

Roughly estimating, I’d say… oh, 99.81273% of the 10 Books lists that I’ve seen circulating on Facebook have included the Harry Potter series. It’s amazing, isn’t it, how deeply the story of The Boy Who Lived gets to us? The final book of the series came out right as we were moving to Italy, and I saved it to read in the hospital before and after Sophie’s birth. That was a frightening and larger-than-life time for me—having a baby three months after moving to another country whose language I did not yet speak—and Harry Potter & Gang’s story helped give me both an escape and the courage to stay.

All right, then. I tag YOU to share 10 books that have stayed with you in some way (even just here in the comments if you don’t want to go all Facebook-official on it). No right or wrong answers, remember, and if you have forsaken hygiene or dignity for the sake of those books, then know you’re in good company.

4Aug

The Gospel of Corset Removal

Starting this month, I’m going to be regular contributor to A Deeper Story, a writing collective that has been dear to my heart from Day 1. I had the unexpected and just plain awesome opportunity to sit down and chat with ADS founder Nish Weiseth this summer (over panini and gelato in Tuscany, no less!), and our conversation turned toward Don Miller’s book Blue Like Jazz. Perhaps you’ve read it too, especially if you were one of the many hungering for “Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality” in the early 2000s. It was a liberating book for me—engaging where most Christian books were preachy, thought-provoking where others tended to push agenda-laced answers—and Nish pointed out that the reason Blue Like Jazz was so compelling was that it framed theological discussion inside of story. No Bible-thumping. No argument-baiting. No dry platitudes or impersonal formulas. Just one person’s unique and intriguing experience with faith.

That’s what A Deeper Story is as well: a place where Christian spirituality is explored through the writers’ own experiences. It’s beautiful and relatable and surprising and mind-stretching, and I highly recommend poking around the site for a bit after you read my piece. You’ll see why it’s a community I’m delighted to call my own.

Now on to the story…

[Ed: Now that Deeper Story has closed its doors, the post is here in its entirety:] 

~~~

“Between two lungs it was released
The breath that carried me
The sigh that blew me forward”
– Florence Welch

At eleven years old, I had no notion of a drill sergeant except for what I’d seen in a passing clip of Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., but I was pretty sure my ballet teacher fit the bill. As my class labored over our barre exercises, she paced the ranks, snapping commands like rubber bands into the smalls of our backs.

“Chest out! Head up! Stomach flat! Tuck that seat in! Breathe up and down, not in and out! No one wants to see your diaphragm move! Turn that leg out! ROUND ELBOWS, for the love! Stand tall, everyone! Taller!”

I adored my teacher despite her Sergeant Carter routine, and I practiced my posture daily at home. A real ballerina was a whipcord, long and lithe and compressed within an inch of her life. A real ballerina could corset herself through willpower alone. I cinched my ribcage tight in the mirror and watched each breath push my non-existent bosom upwards.

Perfect. As close to perfect as I was going to get, at any rate.

There it was in the mirror for God and so great a cloud of witnesses to see: the successful suppression of self. There was the proof that for all my excesses and deficiencies, all my shameful impulses and sins of omission, I could at least hold my respiratory system in check. I could breathe without breathing, and if I could do that, surely I could learn to pray without ceasing and do all things without grumbling and go a whole blessed hour without incurring the wrath of a Father who was perfect as I was not.

Forget Sergeant Carter; God was the greatest caricature of a short fuse that I knew.

///

Four years ago, my husband coaxed me out to the running trail below our house with promises of cardiac health and cute workout clothes. Our younger daughter had just started preschool, so my fallback excuse of “Sorry, got these two kids” (à la Jack Handey) wasn’t going to fly anymore. Besides, my fondness for that excuse was doing me no favors in the waistline department. Full of good intentions and the merry optimism of the ignorant, I laced up my running shoes and hit the track with my husband.

Two minutes later, I was hobbling at the speed of an asphyxiated snail, purple-faced and gasping for breath. It was one of the sexier moments in our marriage for sure. Dan jogged in placed beside me while I wheezed out my list of reasons why exercise is detrimental to one’s health and marital happiness, punctuating every sentence with an “OW.” I suggested he go ahead and put me on hospice care because I clearly wasn’t going to make it.

He suggested I try breathing.

When we made it home later that morning (no small miracle), I consulted Dr. Google about why running made me feel like my sides were being surgically removed with sporks, and I discovered that Dan had been on to something. Breathing was the secret, the Internet explained. Specifically, belly breathing. By keeping the air high and tight in my chest, I was putting stress on my diaphragm and depriving my muscles of oxygen. Instead, I needed to be relaxing my torso, filling my lungs to capacity, and then letting all the air out in an easy whoosh. If I did this, the Internet promised, my body would stop the gutted gastropod routine.

So I tried it. The next day at the running trail, I flopped my arms around to loosen myself up and then took a deep bellyful of breath. Immediately, air rushed into my lungs, whistling down dusty tubes and rousting cobwebs from long-forgotten bronchioles. I could feel it inside me, a blustering brightness that expanded until I thought I might float away. My stomach hadn’t ballooned so freely since the last time a baby had been in residence. (“Suck it,” I thought in the direction of passing runners with their hardwood abs and lack of pregnancy symptoms. “I’m learning to breathe here!”)

Exhaling was next, a conscious release of the breath I’d just taken in. I hadn’t realized that this would be the harder step, but instinct clenched itself around every precious molecule of air and had to be pried away one finger at a time. Ridiculous as it sounds, I had to whisper to myself that another breath would be waiting for me after I let this one go. I hadn’t used up all the air in our great green park. I could trust that no matter how far I ran or how extravagantly I spent each lungful, there would be enough left. There would always and forever be enough.

///

I don’t know what I’d expected from that first exercise in belly breathing, but it certainly wasn’t a total spiritual overhaul. You can’t learn “the unforced rhythms of grace” in one area of life, see, without it affecting all the others, and once I learned to breathe deep, I couldn’t stop.

I began to inhale truth about the destructive religion of my childhood and to exhale story. I let myself drink brimful from the kindness in Jesus’s voice and sigh from satisfaction instead of angst. Before my eyes, the God who had always been breathing down my neck faded away, a pernicious mirage, until I could finally see the God who breathes life into clay lungs, the one whose breath had been carrying me all along. “So spacious is he,” writes Paul, and I stopped right there on the page, unwilling to read on until those words had inked themselves onto my soul.

So spacious is he.

I hadn’t known.

Everything comes down to breathing for me now. Whether I’m running or praying or wrestling with doctrine or opening a blank page, the secret is in relaxing whatever I’ve got clenched—all my righteous restraints and illusions of control—and trusting that I can fill and release and be filled again. I think of it as a kind of life Lamaze, this focused refusal to hoard tension. Just like the hilarious “hoo-hoo-hee-hee” panting techniques I had to practice in childbirth class, it goes against my instincts. I feel unstable without my old fear and shame and exclusion-based doctrines to clutch, and the risk of taking each moment by faith unsettles me further.

Being able to relax in the company of God, however, is a gift worth every existential discomfort. So spacious is he that my lungs can’t fill beyond his capacity to provide. So spacious is he that I can travel from one set of perspectives to their opposites without losing his trail. So spacious is he that my days of corseting myself and standing ramrod straight at the barre are over; now it’s our time to run.

“Gone are the days of begging
The days of theft
No more gasping for a breath
The air has filled me head to toe
And I can see the ground far below”

image credit

13Jun

Hiking Underwater on Fashion Week

On Monday morning, I was sipping cappuccino outside a café in downtown Milan when a woman of indeterminate age sat down at the table in front of me. I say indeterminate age because while her unsteady movements and long yellow-white hair hinted at an elderly woman, her fishnet stockings and stilettos put out a different vibe. Her face was no help either. It was a mask of surgical enhancements, a puffy and almost animatronic façade that shifted in little jerks as the woman berated the waitress. I could tell you about all the diva behavior I witnessed from one table over, but that isn’t the point. The point is that later in the day, I ran an image search for woman in Milan with too much plastic surgery and called Dan over triumphantly when I found a photo of my café companion:

Donatella[Image found here.]

I’m not sure if it’s a point in our favor or an inexcusable lapse in pop culture savvy that neither Dan nor I recognized the woman in the photo as Donatella Versace until we’d read the post. I just about choked when I saw her name. “You don’t think… Could it really have been…? I’m not 100% sure…” It hadn’t occurred to me to snap a photo of the woman at the café, so all I can tell you with certainty, dear readers, is that I may or may not have spent Monday morning watching Donatella Versace spill various beverages on our waitress and then snap at her for it.

This whole week in Milan has had a surreal quality for me. I had planned to go about life as normally as possible while we’re here, unapologetically retreating however many hours of the day necessary not to lose myself. Time hasn’t been the problem though. My physiology has. It’s as if my body has been keeping tabs on all missed hours of sleep from the past few months and decided to collect on them at once. I have slept so much this week that dignity prevents me from being more specific, yet my brain continues slumping over with fatigue. Trying to work my way back to myself right now is like hiking underwater while pulling a disobedient walrus on a leash. I feel psychedelic, and not in a groovy way.

All this rest has to be making a difference though, and I have every hope that soon I’ll be able to recover lost attributes like energy and consciousness. I’m letting myself accept this week as an unintended reboot. I’m not all the way to relishing it yet, but there is such a unique brand of relief in surrendering to a nap, in sprawling out under the ceiling fan and letting all my expectations for the next hour (or four) evaporate off my skin. I hardly ever slow down unless my body up and forces me to, so even though this week has felt surreal and disconnected and maddeningly slow, I can see how it too is a form of grace.

25Apr

Worry vs. The Great Outdoors

It’s been an up-down kind of week, the way school breaks usually are for me. I love getting more quality time with my girls, but I tend to flail like a shipwreck victim when I find myself in a patch of undesignated hours; their fluidity makes them frustratingly difficult for me to shape. My brain doesn’t help matters either. In typical overanalyzer fashion, I’ve worried while sitting down to write that I’m not making enough of the social opportunities this week, then worried while hanging out with family and friends that I’m not holding on to myself. I’ve even worried in my sleep that I’m not using the wee hours of the day to best advantage. Occupying my own head can be exhausting, and sometimes the only way to get out of it is to inhale the wide-open air.

Monte Tezio - Skyline

Dan, the girls, and I piled into the car yesterday with no plan beyond the picnic lunch we’d packed and a vague swath of map where we hoped to eat it. Fifteen minutes later, we turned down an unmarked dirt road on a whim, and five minutes after that, we were piling out of the car at a trailhead as if we’d always planned it that way. (Dan calls this style of travel “going crazy,” and it consistently defies my expectations by turning out well. Fantastically, even.)

Monte Tezio - Hiking

For the next few hours, we hiked… and by “hiked,” I mean that we picked bouquets of riotous color, chased orange-winged butterflies in circles, performed scientific experiments, lingered over aperitifs, speculated on what was living in nearby hidey-holes, blew clouds of dandelion wishes, picnicked, combed the treetops with binoculars, peeked under rocks, picked more flowers, and occasionally walked forward a few meters. This is our girls’ version of hiking, and it’s one of my favorite things in the world. When I’m out in nature with them, I can’t help noticing it—all its colors and textures and idiosyncrasies, all the little nuances of life. And in the quiet of noticing, I remember how to breathe again.

Monte Tezio - Wildflower bouquet

Today, I’m back to my struggle against time and that will o’ the wisp called balance. As much as I wish that moments of tranquility would act as a freeze frame for my soul suspending me permanently in the center of who I want to be, my mind is always waiting to snap worry back into focus. Did I sleep in too long this morning? Is the day wasted? Are the girls getting enough attention from me? Should I be doing housework right now? When should I work out? Is it even worth trying to stay in shape? Why can’t I write faster? Quick, the day is slipping away! For better or for worse, I am yoked to a mind that requires me to fight for my tranquility.

Monte Tezio - Pink flowers

The difference today is that the fight feels fair. Yesterday’s breeze still blows through my perspective loosening clods of resignation and despair. My breath is not confined within the parameters of worry; I have enough space between my ribs now to stretch into confidence and peace. I’m delegating these few slippery hours in the pursuit of joy rather than the placation of guilt, and I find it telling that the one piece of housework I opted to do today was laundry.

After all, if I didn’t wash our hiking pants, we wouldn’t be ready to go crazy again tomorrow.

Monte Tezio - Victorious Sophie

19Feb

Anti-Survival Instincts

Yesterday, I poured myself into a writing project that drained every last bit of me out through my fingertips and left me as useful as an empty waterbed. I emerged from my computer around 5 p.m. to be on active mama duty, and let me tell you—the following three and a half hours until the girls were safely tucked into bed rivaled snowboard cross for difficulty. Every “Mo-om! out of their little mouths felt like someone ramming my board just before a jump. The fact that they expected to eat dinner sent me skidding. Our bedtime routine stretched from here to Russia. It. was. hard.

This is how things go when I’m tired; everything ramps up in intensity, and a wipeout is inevitable if I don’t let myself slow down. That’s the key, isn’t it? Slowing down? It sounds so simple here in the straight lines of a paragraph, but in the glorious mess of real life, slowing down runs exactly opposite to my instincts. Here’s what goes through my head when I feel fatigue start to drag at my reflexes: Oh no, I’m running on fumes. Better SPEED UP so I can get to the end sooner!

Yeah. Have I ever told you about my other anti-survival instincts? Like how my palms start to gush sweat if I even consider the human act of dangling from a precipice? Or how my fight-or-flight reflex could more accurately be called the curl-up-in-a-ball-and-forget-everything-but-the-lyrics-to-Bohemian-Rhapsody impulse? My instincts do me few favors when it comes to winning at life.

So yesterday evening, I sped up to reach the finish line faster, and it wasn’t pretty. Sure, I got the kitchen cleaned and the laundry put away and the allergy treatments administered and the children homeworked/fed/cleaned/pajamaed/storied, but I did it with a kind of urgent clumsiness that left the girls reeling and myself too tired even to sleep. (Irony at its most insomniac.) What I’m trying to say is that no one was particularly happy with the result.

Here at the starting gate of another exhausted day (see above re: ironic lack of sleep), I’m writing this down to cement some facts into my modus operandi:

  1. Daily life is not a competition… unless you’re on reality TV, which I am not nor ever shall be so help me God.
  2. Slow is good for the soul, especially when said soul is feeling drained.
  3. Putting down the frantic dishrag and curling up with my daughter is a two-way grace.
  4. I should probably consider hiring Bear Grylls to be my personal life coach, help balance out these unfortunate instincts a bit.

Wiping out in style
(Oh yeah, I could totally rock the snowboard cross.)

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