There are lots of things going on for me right now–some fantastically great and some so emotionally exhausting and provocative, I feel like I’m in the process of falling into the pit of an erupting volcano, while a tornado of hungry wolves whirls overhead. Nothing like that fight or flight response in the middle of the night to ensure you get a good night’s sleep.
The only answer, and I think there’s only one (besides addictive or illegal drugs, that is), happens to be free and pretty darn handy, since you have access to it 24/7. That, of course, is breathing. Actually, it’s not exactly breathing, it’s turning your attention to breathing. That’s a fine point. I always find it irritating when someone says to just breathe. I’m like, “I’ve been breathing for 59 years, and it hasn’t prevented me from being forehead deep in gobs of anxiety.” It’s the attention part that’s important here. You’re always breathing (or your dead), but when you pay attention to that in and out breath, that’s when the magical calming-the-fuck-down, Hey-I-can-cope thing happens.
So, for today, in the department of gratitude, I put forth breathing. All I have to do (and you can do it too. Come on, play along) is listen to yourself breath in, then breath out. You know exactly how to do the breathing part, all you have to fine-tune is the pay attention part. Put on your focus pants, block out the rest of the world and remember you’re a self-contained one-man-band of de-distress-ifying power. I can forget this very easy way to prevent crazy, so thought you might like a gentle reminder too. You’ve got the goods. Yes, you.
The longer the election mayhem continues, the more I have to soothe my jangled nerves with gratitude.
Finding the stuff of the hallelujah chorus is easier than stomaching the daily insanity and cray cray news bites from people who don’t seem to be dealing with a full, or even partially full deck. I have been trying to sit quietly for as long as I can each day, just focusing on the things around me that are purely good (there are a lot of them in our midst).
A few days ago I had one of those preposterously bad and overwhelming days, but my saving grace came in the form of a Skype session with Colleen Quinn, my personal trainer (who has been my personal trainer for nine years, and has helped me with my faulty spine, and who is smarter than anybody you know–so smart, in fact, she moved to California where the winter doesn’t majorly suck) who instead of making me do sit-ups, lead me through a guided meditation, in which the bottom line was that my breath was going in and out, my feet were on the ground, and I was absolutely ok. I was so grateful for her intuition, which helped her to understand this would be the best way to work me out. Sometimes you just have to force your mind to do some planks.
This is the sort of thing that I am endlessly thankful for–when someone gets you, exactly when you need to be gotten. Colleen could have easily missed the fact that I needed to ground myself, more than I needed to strengthen my core. We could have mindlessly done sit up after sit up, but we both would have missed what changed my perspective and my day.
The act of being grateful for this exchange was almost as buoying as the meditation itself. That’s the super sonic power of gratitude. There are many dozens of good things to focus on, and the best part of the whole deal is that all you have to do is look around. It’s almost as easy as breathing (which it turns out, isn’t always that easy).
Sometimes the basics make you feel gratitude. Yesterday I talked to my cousin Peter who only two days ago, had surgery for lung cancer. Yes, that nasty and unwelcome big C is doing its thing on another member of my tribe. “Go fuck yourself,” I say to that disease. “And leave my family alone.” In fact, “LEAVE EVERYBODY ALONE.”
Anyway, Peter, the grandfather of nine, a nurse manager in a hospice, was cute, because he’s always cute, but also because he was on drugs. Drug people are pretty much a good time, because they don’t know what the heck they’re saying. Anyway, he told me he was pretty uncomfortable, and that it was hard for him to breathe, to get a really good breath in. Then he said, “You can say that in your article.” I kind of laughed, thinking this was a drug-induced comment with no basis, but then he continued on, “You know, your article. What’s that thing? What’s the thing you write?” Then it dawned on me what he was talking about. “The gratitude-a-thon?” I said. “Yeah, that. Write that I’m grateful to be breathing.”
And sometimes it’s that simple. That you’re grateful to be breathing. Like my cousin Peter, who I love a million times over. He’s grateful. And so am I.