Quiet fills my chest. I watch my children splash with their cousins and my husband walks toward shore after a swim with sea turtles. It’s April and I’m in St. Kitts for a wedding with family and friends.
The water crashes on coral as the sun illuminates droplets of color in mid-air, freeze framed for posterity sake before joining the ocean again. It’s been a long time since we felt the hot sun warm our bones. As I look towards the water’s edge, I feel an inherent urge to be in the water. Grabbing goggles, I walk, then run towards the ocean’s mouth and dive in. The acceptance is immediate, and the warmth of the Caribbean envelops me completely. With each stroke, I shed a layer. And then a next, with each one exponentially larger than the last: the week’s frantic office push to get there, waking my kids up at 4am so we can get on the 6am flight, rechecking my packing list to make sure I have enough 3 year old “diversion toys” in-flight, conversations with my accountant for the inevitable office income tax returns….
Suddenly, time widens into an everlasting underwater galaxy and I am reminded why people take vacation. Daily, the LIST can run through our minds like the sound of the ticker that is appointed to count people as they walk through the door. The metronome of seemingly necessary errands clicks along until robotic, we are either so frantic we think we can’t keep up, or so exhausted we’re left painfully numb.
Experience has shown that the heart will tell you it’s time for a reprieve if you acknowledge it and listen. And when you don’t, your body will. Through premature greys, restlessness, an extra inch or 2 around the middle,… our bodies go on strike.
I’d like to say, that since I’ve committed to helping others toward better health, that I’ve always listened. But as the common denominator of being human is my reality, I haven’t. Today I give my honest best, but sometimes, like everyone else, I push because I feel that I need to. Kids need parenting, older parents need assistance, significant others and friends need mindful attention, and work is always a spiral of more…if you let it. Inevitably, when this happens, I get tired, feel off, and if I am aware of it and don’t listen…sick. Working for me, is a self-imposed passionate reinforcement of practicing what I preach. And some days I fail. But I do what I know to keep my body sustained, healthy, and in the interim help those who need it. There’s a healthy threshold in each person; that line between pushing yourself, and pushing yourself even though you have nothing left to give. The key is getting to know your threshold way before becoming “empty” and stopping to fill yourself back up. Learning when and how is a commitment to keeping your body and mind well.
We daydream about escaping after that morning rush of packing lunches and dressing kids, when the Xerox machine gets stuck again after a recent tune-up, during the extra long red light when you’re late, and when the toddler has the late evening tantrum after a day focused on everything other than yourself. WHY? Because we forget to breath, and live life holding our breath believing that we can only exhale when we’re blowing bubbles on vacation. The truth, is that we lose our center: who we really are, amidst the checking of lists and obligations. It is being reminded of our true gifts and purposes in life that brings us fully breathing again.
In the ocean, my body is lighter now. I realize that even in “paradise”, I struggle with unraveling the identities I impose on myself; the mother, the wife, the practitioner, the “wanting to do it all” human being who in the end wants to say, “why did I schedule another thing?”. As I look towards shore and see my children’s faces with loved ones, I pause. I acknowledge that what I’m feeling now should not be “because I’m on vacation”, but carried into myself to share once home with family, friends, and patients. And some kept just for me. Giving myself permission, I take a slow inhale, and dive deeper.
Underwater it is gloriously silent and a few kelp strands float aimlessly through my fingers. I realize that here I AM. Holding my breath in daily life I have muted life’s experience, and yet here I am, holding my breath underwater, eyes wide open, feeling more alive than I have in months.
© 2013 V.H. Gantous