Friday, July 28, 2017

Just Breathe.

My Apple watch harasses me about breathing. I’m serious. Like who needs a piece of technology reminding us to breathe, for crying out loud? But it does. It buzzes on my wrist constantly. Tells me to stand up, too. What? Like I’m not standing enough during the day?

Nag, nag, nag, Apple Watch.

But okay.

So the other day I decided to follow the directions on the thing and truly stopped and focused on my breath. I breathed in and out slowly several times. I concentrated on filling my lungs with air, which I realized I don’t do very often. I’m more of a shallow breather. And I even tried to ignore – for just a moment – all the “I have to’s” and “I need to’s” that constantly invade my thoughts.

And I realized something.

I rarely take the time to let the ever-present chatter in life stop for a moment. I’m constantly checking my cell phone or looking at my tablet. I’m making appointments and I’m busily writing out “To Do” lists and check-marking items off those lists. Even worse, there are many times I feel like I should be doing the things that would allow me to cross tasks off my list but instead I’m contemplating taking a nap.

And even if I don’t take a nap, I often don’t get into that task because it’s a monumental one that is surely going to take longer than, say, writing a quick check to pay my mother’s monthly pharmacy bill.

But then NOT crossing off those items causes me more stress as I have to add even more tasks to the list the next day.

I mean – how am I supposed to breathe in and out slowly  when I have to deal with a small dog who has the bladder the size of a thimble, and who requires a walk about every 20 minutes on average? Frankly, I think she has bamboozled me and really just wants another shot at those infernal squirrels who taunt her through the windows as they scamper about in Maggie’s Territory.

Then one day last week I went to the community pool with a friend to enjoy the sunshine and float around in the lazy river. I haven’t been to a community pool in years and I’ve never relaxed in a float on a lazy river before. Up until recently, I didn’t even know lazy rivers existed.

Believe me, it was pure heaven!

I mean, the sun was blazing and there was a scattering of fluffy, white clouds in the sky. The temperature was hovering somewhere in the upper 80s. So floating in the cool water was just plain bliss.

I leaned my head back and looked up. And I mean I really looked up and noticed the clouds. And, in between applications of 70 sunblock at what seemed like three minute intervals, I watched the clouds roll by. I don’t think I’ve done that since I was a kid lying back in the grass without a care in the world.

I was so much happier than if I’d been home sweating in the hot sun pulling weeds.

Oh, who am I kidding? I would never be home sweating in the hot sun pulling weeds. That’s why we hired a lawn care guy.

But, sadly, the lawn care guy has been AWOL recently and the weeds in our garden had pretty much taken over the flower beds – until Vince finally went out there the other day and pulled weeds.

Which made me feel guilty for floating around in a lazy river the day before.

And which made me breathe shallowly – until my watch told me to take a moment and breathe.  

Yeesh. I guess I DO need a piece of technology telling me what to do!

Nevertheless, the whole experience was a real awakening. As adults, we rarely take the time to just “be.” To float and watch the clouds roll by. We seem to have to fill every waking moment with activity and purpose. And we miss a lot of the wonder of how it felt when we were kids.

If you ask me to remember my childhood – I do. I remember climbing trees, riding bikes and jumping on pogo sticks (something I haven’t seen in decades. They probably have safety harnesses on them now…). I remember whispering secrets to my best friend and checking out stacks of books from the library in anticipation of discovering new characters and new experiences far beyond my little life in Alliance, Ohio. And I remember writing in my diary every night (and hiding it in new and innovative places so my brother John wouldn’t find it).  

But I have to think harder to remember how absolutely carefree I was and would somersault down the entire front lawn – just because I could. Or the first time I was able to turn the perfect cartwheel. Or when my parents trusted me enough in the kitchen to bake that first batch of non-burnt brownies for my family.

And I can even remember how amazing it felt when I was able to tie my own shoes for the first time. I was either four or five – I can’t remember exactly which - but I can remember being out with the neighborhood kids and looking down and seeing that my shoelace was untied. I remember the feeling of desperation because my parents weren’t around to do the tying – and then the feeling of victory once I finally got it tied all by myself.

I immediately forgot about my friends and the activities we were doing. Instead, I ran all the way home just so I could tell my mom that I learned how to tie my own shoe.

I forgot how wonderful it felt to be alive and to be able to do the simplest things. Like watch the clouds roll by and contemplate how little we are in this great big world.

So maybe we should forget for a minute the political strife that constantly plagues us and the Facebook fights that fill our feeds. Maybe we should put down our “To Do” lists and let go of the “I have to’s” and “I need to’s” (for a moment) - and, instead, take a moment to just breathe.

Ahh. Bliss.

So you can stop nagging me, Apple Watch. I get it.

(And thank you.)

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