Saturday, February 25, 2017

Breathing.

Life resembles a roller coaster more and more these days - huge ups and downs, screaming past at speeds that whip your hair back and press you into your seat, unable to move. I catch myself checking and double-checking the calendar, unable to believe that another month has slipped by. Deadlines loom, days slide into weeks, and if things are accomplished it feels as if it's only by chance. Each morning when I log on to the computer for work I brace myself mentally for the onslaught that comes with opening social media - more extremes, more attacks, the middle ground trampled and resembling a muddy, rutted no man's land. The weather replicates the roller coaster pattern. In a week we went from 30 degrees to 70 to 30; mounds of snow giving way to green, muddy pathways, which are even now being dusted with a fresh layer of white. The extremes are enough to snatch your breath away. 

Breathing. One of the first lessons I had when I got to music school was all about breathing (and how I wasn't doing it properly). Something so intrinsic to life, and by adulthood most of us have lost the ability to really, effectively breathe. Taking air in through your nose, keeping your shoulders down and relaxed, letting it fill your lungs from the bottom up, like water filling a barrel. Allowing your chest to expand, taking up space, and then releasing it, controlled, smooth - out, in again, out. Time slows down when I practice breathing. Everything seems quieter, less pressing; all the focus is on the air. In...out. Feeling the oxygen working its way to starved cells, the odd feeling of having control of my body back, even for just a moment, before my overactive mind gets in the way again. In...out. 

I don't sing much anymore. It was something I did almost daily for such a long time, and now it's a rare thing if I even do a snatch of a tune for my children. Breathing, really breathing, has gone the way of singing as well. I go weeks, months at a time, barreling along through life, trying to meet all the demands of work/home/family, and I forget to breathe. It catches me by surprise when things slow down and I take a deep breath. It's almost as if just the act of breathing takes away the heavy blanket of dread weighing on my mind, and the small spark of life hidden in the corner, smothered by worry, catches the air and bursts up into flame. 

I decided to take advantage of our youngest's naptime and the unseasonable weather today and took a walk. The air was nippy, but the sun felt warm, and the chance to stretch my legs was a pleasure after long days spent behind a desk. I had the streets mostly to myself, since the weather had cooled enough to drive most walkers back indoors, and I tried to cover as much ground as possible before the storm clouds lingering overhead decided to let loose. I was well down the tree-lined path to the local cemetery when the wind kicked up, gusting through the evergreens and pushing against me with enough force that I had to stop and lean into it to avoid being shoved sideways. It caught me by surprise, and the force of it made me inhale. Fresh, cold, pure air, rippling in and around me, forcing me to breathe, and breathe again. The wind died down and I continued on, but at a much slower pace this time, and I made sure to really, deeply breathe as I went. 

The world's problems will not be solved overnight. Many of us continue to struggle. We feel alone, or ill-used, trampled by opinion or policy or just plain bad luck. All of us, though, are still able to breathe. Please - take that moment, take a breath, and know that there's another flawed human being out there who is breathing with you, feeling the earth slow down just for a moment, and wishing you all the best things. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Quiet.

It's a rare moment of quiet, now - or as quiet as it gets in our piece of the world. The baby is down for a much needed nap, trying to fight off a cold; big sister is off at school, her trumpet case on the floor by her bed, waiting to be taken up for practice as soon as she breezes in.

Quiet is such an important thing for me - the cessation of noise, a break from the constant intrusion of the world. We lost power for an hour or so the other night during a massive September storm, and once the girls were tucked in bed by candlelight and I settled in myself it hit me just how quiet it was. No hum from appliances, no radio, no chatting - unadulterated quiet. I could feel my body unclench, muscles I didn't realize were tense relaxed, and I sighed as I just luxuriated in the absence of sounds.

I vaguely recall seeing an article online the other day that suggested that blocks of quiet time were essential for the brain to reset itself and process all the stimuli it receives throughout the day. I can absolutely attest to the validity of this. The small person is still sharing space in the bedroom while we remodel her new room upstairs, and part of her nighttime routine is having the radio set to the local NPR affiliate, which plays classical and jazz most of the night. I didn't think much of it until I read the article, but it hit me that there is almost no time during the day where I get to really enjoy quiet, even while sleeping. Last night I made it a point to shut off the radio around midnight, and I slept better than I had in some months. I think the baby did, too, if her waking at 6:30 instead of 5 was any indication.

Breathing. Enjoying the quiet. Getting to just be.

Another meme to break the tedium

If I was a month, I'd be October
If I was a day of the week, I'd be Wednesday
If I was a time of day, I'd be 11PM
If I was a sea animal, I'd be an Otter

If I was a direction, I'd be North
If I was a piece of furniture, I'd be a Craftsman dresser
If I was a liquid, I'd be raindrops
If I was a gemstone, I'd be an amethyst

If I was a tree, I'd be a mountain ash
If I was a tool, I'd be a trowel
If I was a flower, I'd be a chrysanthemum
If I was a kind of weather, I'd be cool and crisp
If I was a musical instrument, I'd be a harp
If I was a color, I'd be gold
If I was an emotion, I'd be contentment
If I was a fruit, I'd be an apple

If I was a sound, I'd be leaves rustling
If I was an element, I'd be fire
If I was a mammal, I'd be a horse
If I was a phase of the moon, I'd be waxing
If I was berry, I'd be black raspberry
If I was a bird, I'd be a heron
If I was a book, I'd be a comfortable novel
If I was story, I'd be anne of green gables 


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Soul-searching

I had a very rude awakening several nights ago.  Hubby and I were having a "discussion", trying to iron out expectations and finances and what direction to take in the days ahead. I was struggling with how to get a point across (which just so happened to be the complete opposite of the point I had in mind three days prior), and I wanted so much for him to understand where I was coming from, but it was all I could do to maintain a train of thought. He's said before that my mind runs too fast for him to keep up with on occasion, but this time I felt like I was leaping in and out of a honeycomb of boxes, each one a thought that could connect to any number of other thoughts depending on which way you turned.  I started to get panicky as I realized that I was completely derailing from any rational sequence of ideas to random grasping at any idea that came to mind, secure only in the knowledge that "I'll make it work!".

When it finally hit me that I was acting completely unhinged and apologized because I couldn't seem to order my mind, he suggested that I sounded as thought I were having an anxiety attack and that we could certainly shelve the discussion until I felt better. At just that moment a light appeared at the end of the dark tunnel I've been living in for months on end. Could it possibly be anxiety, and not that I've lost my mind completely?  I've had fear nagging at the edges of my mind that I may have inherited the family tendency towards depression, and with several long, bleak months of winter behind us and not much in the way of spring yet to be seen it certainly felt as though it were a prolonged funk that I might not ever be able to shake.

Monday, November 05, 2012

One day at a time.

Elections are tomorrow. I was worn out on the media hype, attack ads, and pithy Facebook posts back in March, so I sincerely hope that all the people who have an opinion one way or the other go out tomorrow, do their civic duty, and then graciously accept the final decision and look forward as a country, and not hate-filled, polarized individuals intent on striking out at anyone who disagrees with them.

*sigh* Now that I have that off my chest I'll get on with the events of the day.

A few weeks ago we RSVP'd for an open house night at the local university's planetarium. They've done some heavy renovating over the past year, and this was a "teaser" evening to allow the public in before they have the official grand opening in February. We weren't 100% sure what the program would be, but we thought it would make for an interesting diversion, and perhaps Small might enjoy seeing the ceiling full of stars. It turned out to be a surprisingly enjoyable hour- the head of the department gave a brief overview of the night sky and pointed out the constellations currently visible in our hemisphere, and then they had a slide show discussion regarding Curiosity and some of the photos coming back from Mars. Small was suitably impressed with the star-gazing aspect and piped up several times when Dr. Hurd asked the assembled group questions (which had most of the college students laughing).  There were perhaps two dozen people in attendance all told, and the department had a small reception with star cookies and punch for afterwards, which Small thought was the absolute bees' knees... Dr. Hurd even dished her out a cup of punch and thanked us for coming personally. Earlier in the evening I wasn't feeling well and had considered blowing it off, but in hindsight I'm really glad we went. We had an enjoyable family outing for just the price of gas, there was a positive educational aspect, and now we have plans to go back for the grand opening to see what it will be like when everything is fully up and running (which should also be a nice distraction from the typical gloom of February).

In the few university towns where I've lived there appears to be a large demarcation between the university population and that of the townsfolk, as though the university is some sort of strange parasite that the town is forced to live with. Would that attitude change if more people took advantage of events like the one we attended tonight? Or would people continue to gripe because they are forced to deal with college students in their midst and pay taxes to support the institution, whether they want to or not? The Sunday paper regularly has "free to the public" events hosted by the various area colleges, ranging from concerts to lectures to gallery openings, and half a dozen other things besides. If the offer is there, why not take advantage of it?


Reorganizing the mind.

I haven't been good at juggling lately... Not in the literal sense, but the metaphorical "too many irons in the fire" kind. I've forgotten appointments, misplaced papers, pile things on my to do list and then can't figure out where the list went, it just goes on.  I don't even know that I have an excuse for being so scatterbrained, either- not pregnant, not ill, working at two fairly low key jobs.  What on earth am I doing wrong? I'm usually a very type-A personality too, so the lack of organization makes me even more bonkers than the run of the mill irritation from being unable to find things. I hate not having everything under control.

I've been researching voluntary simplicity and organization on and off for ages now, and I'm trying to incorporate things bit by bit to our daily life, but with a non-functioning brain it really derails the process. I need to find a way to reorganize my mind and get it in some semblance of order before taking on any major family projects. Where do I even start???

Saturday, November 03, 2012

When the old ways still work...

Pat jokes occasionally that he's a Luddite, since he's not a huge technology fan and has a hard time keeping up with the ever-changing trends in electronics, etc.  Not a true Luddite, obviously, since he loves his internet access and spends a good deal of time in front of the screen, but overall more simplistic and unplugged than the average American in our age bracket. 

I mention this only because yesterday I had a realization. The weather is rapidly turning towards winter, and being the perennially cold and thin-skinned individual I am I found myself curled up in the recliner with a thick blanket and slippers on, shivering and wondering where I'd hidden the small electric heater that usually resides next to my dresser. (Last winter I spent several hours huddled over this miniature power hog with a blanket over my head, attempting to create a one-woman sauna hot enough to peel off my outermost layers of skin. It was only after getting the electric bill for the month that I reluctantly put the heater aside, but I couldn't bring myself to get rid of it all together- we were far too close for that.) The blanket wasn't really doing the trick, and I couldn't recall which closet the heater had been relegated to, so I decided to see if the hot water bottle I'd purchased on a whim last summer might work. I was fairly certain it was hidden somewhere under the bathroom sink, so I put the kettle on to warm up while I fished around between shampoo bottles and rolls of paper towels before emerging triumphant and heading back to the kitchen. 

Wonder of wonders!!!! These things hold heat forever, and you don't have to plug them in! I could wander around the house hugging my happy red bag of warm, and I wasn't limited by the length of a cord! And did I mention it's warm????  

It may not be the latest technological marvel (maintains-a-temp-of-101-degrees-24-hours-a-day-only-19.95-order-now!), and I'm no Luddite, but by golly it does the job well and simply. How could anyone not be satisfied with that?