Thursday, August 26, 2010

Don't Forget To Breathe

we're all lifers here
no eleventh hour reprieve
so don't forget to breathe
keep your head above water
but don't forget to breathe

just breathe
alexi murdoch

Dinner with Nickle tonight. Plates of tapas, a pitcher of sangria, a change of locale, a bottle of wine, a beautiful evening. The sky laced with purple to hint, ever so gently, that summer is winding down and, slowly but surely, on its way out.

I think I got pretty caught up in the moment a few too many times there.

I have been making conscious efforts to slow down. It's impossible at work- which is OK- but it's a discipline I am attempting to forge in the rest of my life. Slow down, relax. There's no hurry.

And there's no way to remind you to slow down than lovely conversation with a dear friend over rockfish fritters, confit of organic chicken wings, and cinco leches almond cake for dessert. Oh, Centro, how I do love you.

Friends bring your feet back down to the earth. They remind you of how you are rooted, where you are planted, the choices you have made and the choices you will make. In a good way. They stand as landmark measurements from whence you came and where you are headed and any good friend will say things that are helpful, critical in a proactive way, and ultimately healing.

I can feel my mind start to slow down as the first licks of the end of summer make themselves known. I went for a run this morning, early morning; through the Inner Harbor and down past the new expensive condos to Key Highway, and then threaded the back streets of Federal Hill. The Harbor is quiet in the morning, salty and earthy and slightly oily. It's late enough in the summer that there are already leaves drooping ever so slightly on the struggling young trees planted alongside Rash Field. There is one tree in particular that sports gold and red; like some too-early-to-the-party fashionista wearing Ugg boots in August. We mock that tree. Who does she think she is? But, ultimately, if she wears it long enough, it will come back around. She'll be one step ahead of the rest.

There was the slightest edge to the rising sun this morning. Not a chill, but...a memory of what a chill might feel like, and a little hint that perhaps it will be sooner than I think before mornings will bring chill again.

Just as the weather is shifting in ways that seem minute but are marked nonetheless, so too am I unclenching my fists and letting go. I got a little caught up there, I got a little too focused and a little too intent. For a moment there, I thought I had a little too much control. I release that now. I let go of the things I cannot change and accept responsibility for what I can.

Which brings me to #4 on the Happiness Project List.

Have meaningful goals.

My goals shift and change like the seasons, and each one carries the slightest whiff of nostalgia for the one before it and the one to come next. They segue into one another, bleed and merge and collide, but ultimately they are all the same. Be the best person I can be. Find meaning in life. Find peace. Cultivate understanding and knowledge. Encourage a healthy curiosity. Know your limits. Plan for the future. Don't scrap the present in the process. Don't dwell overly on the past. Face forward, young one, and listen carefully.

You know. a good life. Isn't that what it all comes down to? Do the best you can? Forgive the shortfalls and praise the accomplishments?

That's not to say that all goals are meaningful. My goal to, in some way, exacerbate Lee in every way possible is certainly not meaningful (but fun.) My aim to watch all of the recorded episodes of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report on my DVR are ambitious and fun, but not, in the long run, particularly meaningful. (NOT that these shows are not meaningful; just that there lacks a certain brevity in forcing myself to watch EVERY EPISODE of anything.)

But it is to say that the big ones, the ones that stick around and guide all of the smaller goals, are meaningful. I changed up a lot of what was/is meaningful to me in the past year, and it has forever altered the way I look at the world. For the better. Having meaningful goals has provided me with a map, a path, a way of being that I lacked previously.

But, you know, don't forget to breathe. There is so much peace and solace to be found in those moments where you are not attempting to cram something meaningful in. Where you find that you haven't checked your watch in two hours, and you have no idea how many times your sangria has been refilled, and you don't care that you have laundry to do or mail to open or that email to answer. You've spent the last howevermanyminutes/hours/whatever deep in conversation and time has slipped by and you forgot to savor the moment, and that's ok. You're savoring it by being in it, by participating.

It's like running in the morning. I forget, sometimes, that I'm running. I'm looking at the sun coming up over Harbor East and the masts of the boats bobbing gently, and the work boats heading out towards the Key Bridge. I remember that, a few months ago, I was running this path towards a finish line with people cheering and summer was young and I was focused only on that finish line. And now...I'm focused on that weird fish-type thing that just lept up out of the water, and the trucks delivering food to the Rusty Scupper, and the other runners out here early like me, pounding pavement and lost in iPods.

Have meaningful goals. And don't forget to breathe.

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