Every now and then there are spaces in life that feel like they exist purely as tests of will and mental endurance.
For me, these last several months have been one of those times.
Simultaneously, though, as life often happens, wonderful things have co-existed in this same tender, frustrating space.
Just today—when I find myself internally cheerleading that we’re nearly through it! and go, team, go!—I’m driving down a windy country road with unexpected construction, behind a truck depositing gravel, when a piece of loose stone flies up and nicks my windshield. Then I momentarily find myself stopped and waiting to be able to pass through this now one-lane road, talking to one of the workers. At one point, I get out of my car and show him the nick as he’s giving me a phone number to call.
Later, when I’m driving home, I feel the stick, stick, stickiness of my feet as I alternately press the clutch and gas pedals. I mentally slap my forehead with my hand and think, “Doh! Tar on my most expensive and newest shoes.”
I spend the next hour with a toothbrush and various soapy concoctions scrubbing at them in my kitchen sink.
My mental cheerleader vanished and turned into a not-so-cute devil perched upon my weary shoulder.
I’m back to feeling easily agitated and to taking in deep breaths before responding to something challenging that my small daughter does. More and more, I find myself wondering why my life has been such a string of bad-luck-type events when, for one, I don’t believe in bad luck and, for another, I genuinely seek a life of no drama; one of joy.
Yet, sometimes, regardless of our intentions or luck status, we find every wonderful, glorious life occurrence colored—or dimmed—by the shadow of something difficult. While I certainly haven’t come up with the perfect answer to why this is, I have come up with something that helps me work through my life and, better still, to enjoy it.
I do this:
I intentionally slide my shoulderblades down and lift my heart skyward.
I inhale into my expanding chest, feeling the power and healing of breath, and I exhale the tensions out of my neck and jaw. And when I forget that life is something to be taken in stages, one step at a time rather than in dismissive chunks and fundamentally unobservant journeys, I remind myself to inhale, exhale and repeat.
2. I sing.
At the top of my lungs.
In the car with windows rolled down.
In the kitchen with sauces simmering on the stovetop.
I sing softly to my tiny daughter and I sing spontaneously as the water runs down my body in warm showers.
3. I laugh.
When I want to cry. Well, okay, sometimes I cry. However, generally all we need to do is look at life differently.
That tar on my shoes? Really. Something like that could easily have ended up in a bad story.
Um, moving on.
4. I pray.
Last night I found myself praying and then feeling silly because I really didn’t know who the hell I was praying to. Regardless, I did. And I felt better.
5. I eat.
I don’t eat to soothe myself and I don’t cook to pacify the people I love. Instead, I eat as a normal, healthy human animal does, but I pay attention to the crispy crunch of tortilla chips or the chocolate-y, velvety texture of my first cup of morning coffee—and it reminds me that every moment of my ordinary life is something to be taken in, appreciated and felt (even when that coffee burnt my mouth this morning and I was suddenly spitting my first sip back into the cup).
I love fiercely.
I love completely.
I love easily.
I love openly.
I love jealously.
I love compassionately.
I love with my whole being and, likewise, I love myself this way too.
7. I dance.
I dance on my rubber yoga mat.
I dance as I flow from Warrior I to Warrior II. I dance to the steady thumping of my heart and the slow drops of sweat as they roll down my body and onto my purple mat.
And then I dance as I write.
My fingers move and flow across the black-and-white lettered keys.
I let my heart ooze out of my hands and onto white-and-black screen, and I feel this dance leave my body and a new shape forming within my awakened soul; a new song to move to on another day.
And then my daughter and my husband are nearly done preparing dinner.
I breathe in the aromas as I let my fingers glide across my laptop keyboard; as I sit writing at my worn antique dining table.
My fingers slow and slow and slow like a winding down ballerina nestled inside a music box.
I inhale, I exhale, and I realize that the tar was just on shoes and the nick was just on a car, and that my bare feet alone can handle my earthy, strong steps and that I don’t need a vehicle other than my own body to carry me through life.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Emily Bartran