“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.”
I opened the pane-glass door in the front room and took a step out in my sock-feet.
You see, the snow finally descended and I was the excited child obsessed with catching a snow-flake on my tongue. Yes, I’d reverted back to a child-like state. The kind of existence when consequences don’t hit until later on.
So, while my rational mind told me to “get-the-hell-back-inside” my heart pushed me forward into the centre of our laneway. And I stood there for a full 5 minutes, tongue out, arms outstretched. Face open. For all of 5 minutes, I left myself behind and embraced that need to find excitement in the simplest thing. Snow.
One cold kiss after another on my cheek. Little pillows of cold resting and melting into my skin. Sub-zero oxygen filled my lungs and I was exhilarated. And I hadn’t even had a coffee. Imagine that.
How delicate life seemed then and there, me with my frozen toes and the frigid air filling up my lungs. I imagined myself to be a balloon for a split moment.
Maybe I could’ve floated had I stayed out a few minutes more?
I don’t remember choosing to be an adult. It just…happened. Now I wake up and read The Wall Street Journal, I make sure I eat vegetables, speak correctly and get my “to-do” list finished. I check my face for wrinkles, I brush my hair “just-right” so that my grey streaks don’t show.
If I stare at my face long enough, I’m often surprised at how much I don’t actually recognize myself. When did my nose begin to jut out like that? When did my cheek-bones begin to look so jagged? And my chin so angular? I don’t remember. But then why should I? Life was simply taking me through the motions, going from one step to the next. Going to school, moving into an apartment, dating, breaking-up, moving on. One day after another.
It’s no wonder that I’d forgotten the feeling of a snowflake on my cheek. I’d not been a child since I’d become an adult (that’s how growing up works, or so I’m told). Being busy seems to occupy my every moment.
And while I am ever so grateful I am not a child, I still wish for my child-like appreciation, the knack I’d had when I was younger to merely breathe. I missed that; my love for the simple pleasures. Somehow, at some point I’d decided to hold my breath and packed away my “love of life” into the foray of moving forward.
9:35pm on December 29th, Papa (my father) and I are driving back from Montreal. We’d just passed Brockville, Ontario. Freezing rain, snow and fog encompassed our Honda Pilot. A little Toyota Prius passes us and my dad says, “That little car is going a good clip. It’s always the little guys you’ve got to watch out for, my father always used to think they were the most unexpected ones.”
I nod, “Opa had the unsuspecting lines.”
Opa had died 7 years ago, my Oma followed him a few years later. Papa went on to describe his family, his relationships with his sister, my aunt, and his two younger brothers, Adrian and Hank, my uncles.
He paused with Uncle Hank, who’d been the closest to my father in age. I don’t think he noticed, but he’d gulped back a breath before continuing.
“I spent fourteen years in Holland,” Papa always has an interesting way of phrasing how he’d grown up there, “and by the time I was 10 or 11, I don’t quite remember my age, Hank and I were selling papers for a mission. Don’t ask me what mission. Maybe it was something in Malaysia. We collected these papers and piled them under a stair-case until there was a huge pile. Hank lost interest and so I ended up bundling up these papers and handing them in. You know, it always seemed like we were doing things together, but now I think it was me, organizing this and that.”
I stared out the window at the snow whipping by and noticed the ice growing on the glass, like branches reaching out,”Were you best friends?” I asked.
“He was always there. You know? My younger brother. It wasn’t until we’d moved to Canada, and we’d both gone to university that I realized how close, but different we were.”
Shania Twain comes on the radio, and Papa sings a few lines before continuing, “Hank always said I was too serious. But I’d always just thought I was applying myself. And when he wanted to, Hank could be very smart, as soon as he decided to become a pilot, nothing could stop him.”
My uncle, the pilot.
Papa sings a few more lines, and then, “Your mom and I had only been married for three weeks when he passed away. His plane landed in some trees, and he was crushed, choked to death.”
At that moment, my mind drifted back to the snowflakes on my cheek. How fleeting it had been, those 5 small minutes. There was a moment within them when life was the most important thing to appreciate, and experiencing the frigid air was a temporary part of that.
The fact that my uncle had air and subsequently his life taken from him, (call me sentimental) was enough to bring tears to my eyes.
The conversation with Papa held enough life-lessons to fill me up for…well a lifetime. Had we become too serious? Had we lost the chance to breathe? Had we left ourselves behind?
All of these things, wrapped up, tied in a bow, reminded me to “enjoy it”. Take time. Enjoy the air (and I do literally mean air) of simply “being”.
This was one of those “you-don’t-know-what-you-have-until-it’s-gone-moments.” And what perfect timing? As it’s the New Year, so why not reflect?
Why not walk out with sock feet into the snow, throw your head back and taste the wind (or a snowflake)? I can guarantee a few things: you’ll have cold toes, a moment of child-like existence, but mostly, you’ll remember the art of breathing.
In through the nose, out through the mouth. Together now…1, 2, 3
For articles on breathing (should you have difficulty remembering how to do so) please click here.
Thank you and good morning,