Breathe. This is what I keep telling myself. In spite of my best efforts not to do crazy this Christmas, the crazy is catching up to me. It actually might have overcome me. I might even be buried in it.

Breathe is what I say when I find a form that was supposed to be filled out and returned last week to school. Oops.

Breathe is what I say when a holidazed woman almost runs over me with her cart in Target.

Breathe is what I say when I almost run over someone else with my cart.

Breathe is what I say when the Alien Conquest Lego set I really wanted to buy for James is sold out. I might have said something else too…something a little less Zen. Thankfully there were other Alien Conquest Lego sets. And, I’m pretty sure he isn’t picky when it comes to aliens and conquests.

Breathe is what I say when two of my three children are sprawled out on the floor of Sears, at the head of a very long line of tired, not so happy looking customers (who could maybe use a little breathing themselves), screaming at me and refusing to stand up to exit the store. Breathe and Santa is watching…

Because every single second of my day seems to be accounted for lately, Breathe is what I say when someone asks me to do something I wasn’t planning to do. I wonder how I’ll fit it in.

Breathe is what I say when I look around a table where my dad should be sitting, but isn’t. I try to catch my breath as the reality of his absence soaks in. Again. I thought that the second Christmas season without my dad wouldn’t be so bad. But it is. I really miss him. The holidays seem even emptier this year. Maybe last year it still felt like he might come walking through the door? This year, there is no question that he is gone. I wonder if he would recognize that three year-old daughter of mine, who had just turned two the month before he died. Would he love her sass? Is he laughing his ass off up in heaven? What would he say when I told him that I was singing Christmas carols with my kids and James stopped us to run upstairs to get his guitar to accompany us? What would he think when I told him that Alexander said, “I think Nature should make an award for our neighborhood because it is just so pretty. This whole town is just so pretty!” last night as we drove home (from Sears!?!) My dad loved strong, spunky girls and women. He loved to share his passion for music and guitar-playing with James. He loved Nature and he loved those who also loved and respected it. He would be loving all of this. Breathe…

A few weeks ago, in the midst of an extremely stressful work week, I yelled to my husband, “Don’t forget to breathe!” as he walked out the door. He told me that was good advice. I think it is too. At the yoga center where I practice, the instructors say that breathing is the only function of the body that is both voluntary and involuntary. I am so thankful for that because sometimes I think I go days without breathing. That must be when the involuntary breathing kicks in. For me, these are quick, shallow breaths, pumping themselves in and out just to keep me alive.

The voluntary breaths are different. These are life-giving breaths. There is a difference, you know – between doing something to stay alive and doing something that makes you feel alive. These voluntary breaths nourish me. Try one. Mouth closed, inhale through your nose. Suck in as much air as you can, and then a little bit more. Now let it out. Slowly. Again, but with your eyes closed this time. And again. Do you feel more alive? Maybe a little tingly? If even for just a moment, these voluntary breaths bring us smack, dab into the present moment. These are the breaths I keep telling myself to take. Before my mind runs off into crazy, or mouth runs off into God only knows where. These breaths keep me right here, right now in the perfection of all these seemingly imperfect moments.

Deep breath. Ahh. For you, in the crazy of your days and even in the calm, I offer this great advice: don’t forget to breathe!

Liar, Liar Pants on Fire

I haven’t been much of a blogger lately. I can’t seem stick with one idea long enough to see it through. But since this is my travel journal (on my hat trick – mind, body, spirit journey), I decided to just write something. Anything is better than nothing, right?

The one thing I keep coming back to is truth. We receive a lot of different messages about truth, like the truth hurts, honesty is the best policy, and the truth will set you free – just to name a few. In yoga there is satya, a commitment to speaking the truth. On this quest of mine, toward a deeper connection between my mind, body, and spirit, I think the truth is very important. Plus, “truth” keeps creeping up on me, and that means it needs some attention.

As I’ve thought about truth, I’ve mostly been thinking about if and when and how I share my truth with others. Will it really matter if I speak up in a situation where my truth is pounding on the door of my throat to get out? Is it worth it? Will it make a difference? I’ve been thinking about how being honest, or authentic, might impact the people around me. Recently though, I discovered that the most powerful, and maybe even the most important, thing I can do with truth right now, is to be honest with myself.

At some point, in the last ten years or so, I went to my mom with a dilemma. I think I was complaining about someone. She said something like, “You know Anna, they say, that when you have a complaint about someone, it is usually because they remind you of something you don’t like about yourself.” (By the way, who is they anyway?) All I really wanted was for my mom to agree that whomever I was talking about sucked and that I was awesome. But no, like any good mother, she challenged me to reconsider the situation. I vowed never to complain to her about someone else again.

In the back of my mind, anytime someone irritates me, I can hear my mother’s voice and I wonder, what does it say about me, that I am bothered by this person, or by his or her behavior? And then I wonder whether I really want to know what it says about me? Typically, my answer was no. This reminds me of the court scene in A Few Good Men where Jack Nicholson’s character screams on the stand, “YOU WANT THE TRUTH? YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!” I didn’t think I could handle the truth, or maybe I just didn’t want to deal with the truth.

No matter what my mom says, I decided that some people can be just plain irritating. But when I raised something similar with Ken the Angel Life Coach he said, “you spot it, you got it,” meaning, once again, that if something someone did triggered an emotional reaction in me, it was likely because I saw myself in them, or in their behavior. Then I was in a pickle. It was time to dig deeper. I will save you the heartache of the details of my digging. Again with Ken’s help, this little gem of wisdom is what I found: rather than stomp away angry or hurt, or spend hours of therapy or sleepless nights trying to figure out exactly what it says about me that this behavior bothers me, if I were to show compassion toward the person behaving badly, so to speak, I might just open myself up to having deeper compassion for myself.

More relevant than what it says about me to be bothered by punk-ass behavior (just off the top of my head), is the idea that in having compassion for the punk, I open myself to compassion for myself. I’m sure this can work in a lot of different ways, but on the simplest level, for me, it means that I choose not to let the punk bother me, to maybe think, “Wow, I bet he is having a hard day, poor guy…” or whatever, then move on, letting myself off the hook for anything I (think I) may have done to deserve being bullied by a punk. His choices are not about me.

On a deeper level, this might mean that my own inner punk needs to be let off the hook. I recognize punk-like behavior because I know I can be a bully and I don’t feel great about it. Instead of leaving the punk thinking, “what an ass,” (therefore, I must be an ass), I might just recognize that he is what he is in that moment, as am I. Whew, I’m getting a headache. I think I need to stop before it gets too complicated…

Along the same line, today I read something about how forgiveness opens space once held by hurt in our hearts. Space for what? Love? Fun? Compassion? I think this is really powerful stuff. I know there are a lot of things, hurtful experiences, that I have been holding in my heart for a very long time. I guess I have been protecting them there. And while I’ve been able to move on in my life, I am finding that any little bit of grudge I hold toward someone else, or something else, is a waste of energy. My precious life energy. And I need that energy for my three crazy kids and our big yellow dog. I need it for myself!

So, now I see that the truth, whether it be about me or someone else, really does hurt sometimes. But I don’t have to hang on to the hurt. Feeling that hurt and being honest about it, rather than denying it or questioning it or saving it for later, really, truly sets me free.