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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Breathing

For our first few days in Vermont, I found myself inhaling sharply, like a child with asthma, my shoulders at my ears with tension. Then, as if by instinct, I blew out the tension, making the sound our air mattress makes when a child pulls the plug and then flops down on it. This wasn't a planned relaxation exercise, just my body's natural response when it finally got the chance to breathe deeply after days of non-stop stress.

From our tent we could see the Adirondack Mountains folded in misty layers across Lake Champlain. The view itself was healing. We could also see a lot of sky--clear blue during the day, streaked with pink in the evening, star-filled at night. A wide sky puts things in perspective makes one's to-do-list seem smaller, when only a few days before that list had felt like an Anaconda, slowly constricting around me so I could barely breathe or move. Then suddenly the snake was gone, and I could move freely from the tent to the pool to the reading chair under a tree. There was no schedule, no need to rush, no need to do all the cooking since Tom was around to share in that one chore. My mom--my biggest anxiety before leaving town--was fine in our absence, and Tom was offered a new job via cell phone while the rest of us waited at an ice cream stand.

Just when my breathing deepened and I no longer gasped and exhaled so desperately, my daughter asked me, "Mom, why don't you ever relax?" I took another deep breath and tried to explain how pulled I've felt lately between caring for her and her brother, caring for my mother, and keeping up with my own work, not to mention the laundry, the bills, the garden, the dust on the piano keys, etc. I wondered later how it affects her, having a mother who seems to never relax, and wondered what I could do to make our lives less strained. The best answer I can come up with is to keep breathing, to keep looking for the big sky, even as we return to a city where it's hard to see the stars.

When we got home, we had twenty-one phone messages, three of them from Citizens Bank because I accidentally used the wrong check book--the one that goes with the account we only use for the automatic withdrawal of our mortgage payments. The result of that one little mistake was a bounced check, a missed mortgage payment, several fees, and five ominous letters from the bank in the stack of mail that was delivered yesterday afternoon. Also waiting for us was the list of school supplies each child needs, our grocery list, my mother's grocery list, the list of books I have to read before my semester starts September 1, and still the list of errands I didn't get done before we left. The Anaconda is lurking in the garden, which has sprouted an impressive number of weeds in just a week, a reminder that life is never static but always trying to renew itself.

I'm trying to keep in mind the image of the lake in the Adirondacks where we camped for the second half of our vacation with my best friend from college and her family. I remember the smell of dewy fern on an early morning walk and the taste of hot dogs grilled on an open fire. I remember the peaceful drumming of rain on the tent fly and the feel of cool mountain air when you first step out of the tent in the morning. I remember the big sky over Lake Champlain, and I remember to breathe.

4 Comments:

Blogger Christian said...

Nice post, Eileen! Thanks for sharing, and glad you are back. We'll be looking for you at Infusion here in another couple of weeks...

4:18 PM  
Anonymous Phil Jones said...

Yes, welcome back. I've looked hopefully each day at Bloglines to see if you were blogging again. I hope you manage to keep breathing, and at least can remember what a night sky CAN look like.

Phil

8:04 PM  
Anonymous Lela said...

Eileen,
Yesterday I saw a friend who works full time and has 3 year old twins. She said "I've been cooking again." The answer for her? Acme.com, which delivers groceries for $9.95. You can use the same list every time, too, or change it. She says now they always have food in the house. The Coop delivers, too, for $7or $8. I'm thinking about it myself.

Especially since your mom needs groceries, too, maybe now it a time to try it.
Peace

8:39 AM  
Blogger Eileen Flanagan said...

Thanks all of you!

8:24 AM  

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