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QUINTESSENCE

Reflection on Breath


THE LIFE OF RILEY: A DEFINITIVE BIOGRAPHY
He was born one sunny Florida morning
and napped through most of his childhood.
He spent his adult life relaxing in beach chairs,
always a tropical drink in his hand.

He never had a job, a family or a sore throat.
He never mowed a lawn.
Passersby would always stop to remind him
whose life it was he was living.
He died in a hammock weighing a cloud.

- Billy Collins

I laugh at this poem by Billy Collins. It is both tongue-in-cheek and deeply serious. Whose life is it anyway? The right question, it seems to me. And how do we choose to spend it? In some mixture of obligation, expectation, survival and dream. Upon reflection, it would appear the balance of that mix could be critical to a life well lived, to a meaningful life.

A woman I have known for years through many ups and downs in both our lives, sent me a text this morning in response to my question, "How are you doing?" Her answer - "Honestly? Tired." She manages a demanding career, is a wonderful single mom to her busy middle school-aged daughter, a good daughter to her mom, good friend to her friends...and well, she's tired. On some days, it's all too much. We've been there. On our knees exhausted when the key hits the latch at the end of the work day, yet with so much ahead before we can lay our heads down on our pillows. It's not that we resent the chores and obligations of our lives, we just can't stretch as far as we need to to feel present enough, accomplish enough, feel we've done anything but spin through another 24 hr revolving door.

Breathe. This is where I come to. Slow it waaaay down. Take a long breath. And then, hold that breath. When you begin to breathe once more, in that instant you will feel tingly, awake and deeply aware. Hold that. Breath is the metronome of life. Breathing reminds us that life is now, and now, and now, and now. And that even when we are utterly exhausted or crushed, that sorry moment is also life. On some level we owe ourselves the effort to shape the moments of no-joy into meaningful, positive passages to better next moments. Life is truly one long rope of unpredictable events strung together as beads; and even the ones we suffer through are part of us, have a worthy luster, tell us who we are.

Your day is, well, your day. The agenda is one to navigate as best you can. But remember to breathe, to let life swing gracefully between beats. Yes, allow the to-dos to be a little less perfect at the edges and more joyful in the middle. And live.

I think I'll swing by my friend's office and drop a chai latte on her desk. She loves that 16 ounces of spice in a cup.
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