Prologue: Going forward, at least until they have birthdays, our youngest daughter is going to be referred to here as "Seven" and our oldest one will be "Nine". You with me?
The other night, I was tucking Nine in after Seven had fallen asleep (they share a room by choice, if you can believe that). Nine told me that a couple nights ago, she had a hard time falling asleep, so Seven, in her very serious seven-ness, climbed out of bed clutching her lovey, and sat on the edge of her sister's bed.
She put her free hand on her sister's back and started rubbing gently. As she did this, she quietly said, "Inhale. Outhale.". After a few zen-like repetitions, Nine started giggling, which usually infuriates Seven, but she just kept going.
On a seemingly unrelated note, although I was born and raised in Los Angeles, I'm not a huge fan of going in the ocean. Here's the thing. Look around where you sit right now. Consider that everything you see - buildings, cars, doors - exists in the ocean, except bigger and with eyes and teeth. Probably some pokey things. And potentially several sticky arms. It's just not for me.
In conversation though, the deep end is where the good stuff is. It's all fine to sit and talk politely about your new, custom-designed white leather ottoman, but not for 30 minutes. I'd rather dive into your family, or what you love to cook and feed people, or why your kid's report card was scary instead of frame-ready. You don't have to completely lay it out on the line, but let's at least try to connect. I don't have time to pretend to be interested in something shiny on the surface for a long time. I want to gaze at that for a few moments, appreciate it, and then take a deep breath and dive under again.
Now in life, it's the really heavy things that live at the bottom, because heavy things generally sink. Mentally, several times a day, I inhale, hold my breath, and dive down to contemplate all my heavy things. I check in, I look around, I take note. But I don't have a scuba suit or enough oxygen (or time in my day) to stay down for long, so I rise to the surface, put a smile on, and outhale. Up there are a bunch of other things that are gleaming in the sun. And by "gleaming", I mean mocking me. Like the overdue and begged-for playdate that needs to be scheduled, the dishes that have to be put away, and holy Lord are we seriously out of dog food again? Which leads to what time is it, when does the vet close, can I make it there in time and get dinner on the table before bedtime (Answer: No.), etc.
Then a phone call or email comes in, or a thought crosses over the task at hand like a cloud covering the sun, and it's inhale, dive, and tend to the octopus that is my family, or the beautiful coral that are my friends, the ones I can only glimpse occasionally because they are rooted where they live too, and like I said, I can only dive down occasionally. I stay as long as I can, then it's up and away again.
I realize in this deep sea scenario, that I could be rising and falling among some much bigger waves and tides, and I'm not. My ocean could be littered with scary medical terminology and empty rafts, but it isn't.
I look around, and whether I'm squinting in the glare (creating more wrinkles, obviously), or struggling between my time in the deep sea and my internal need to be above water, I'm grateful. My rafts have my people in them and my coral may be far away, but it's mine, and I get to hug my girls before they go to bed tonight, tucked in right next to one another.
And after they fall asleep, I will sit with them and quietly time my breath with theirs.
Inhale. Outhale. Inhale. Outhale.