by Sarah Kovatch
One Friday last month, I drove home tense and annoyed from spending a day in limbo at our Honda dealership. I pulled into the garage with our minivan problem still unsolved and knew I only had an hour before picking up Angus and Anna from school, and I stamped the day UNPRODUCTIVE.
Sometimes I panic on Friday afternoons right before pickup.
Friday afternoon is just a fast, downhill slide into 2 days of family time—which is what I wanted out of my adult life but…It’s noisy. It’s busy. The kids body-slam the bathroom door while I’m showering. They wrestle with Peter so wildly the house shakes. I drink more wine and eat more food than necessary. We never know what we’re going to have for lunch or dinner but have tons of activities planned in between. Or, sometimes worse, zero planned in between. Sure, it’s full of love and liveliness but it’s also relentless.
If I’ve learned anything about parenting in the last 8-years, it’s that it is hard to give care and to take care at the same time. It often feels like more trouble than it’s worth to do the take care part.
On the Friday afternoon of the fruitless Honda errand I sat in the dark garage in the driver’s seat of our damaged minivan feeling total-body irritation with errands in general, with the slow progress of my life’s ambitions, and with the simple lack of time to take care.
I surrendered to the fact that my “free” time was up, and my body felt so heavy and slow, I didn’t want to move. I easily could have fallen asleep in the dark garage in the driver’s seat of the minivan with my purse on my lap.
Out of the blue, I decided to not rush inside and instead stay in the front seat in the dark and just take 10-minutes to breathe quietly.
It wasn’t an awakening of any kind. It was just the tiniest moment of self-preservation, basically, a drive-by meditation. Just a short breathing break before leaving the car and carrying on with my family-centered weekend. But for some reason, spontaneously, I decided to try to commit to trying it regularly.
Sometimes spontaneously is the only way I can commit to anything. I want to be the woman who makes declarative goals and checks them off as they are accomplished, but so often with me I trip upon my goal and fall to the ground with it, like—oh, this is how I should be doing life. I’ll try it this way now.
So far, as I write this, I’ve made it 35 days in a row.
I’ve tried meditating over the years but never stuck with it more than a week or two. These days though, I want to be more mindful and present. I want to get a grip on my anxieties which have a very loud voice in my head. I also have an urge to connect to a pure place within me, deeper than the surface of my skin, deeper than my goodness and badness, deeper than my ambition and striving.
Even though I have not since meditated in the car, it always still feels like drive-by-meditating. At some point during the day when I can steal 10-minutes, I silence my phone ringer and set the phone-timer with the Zen alarm sound for 10-minutes, press START and just try.
I close my eyes (my eyelids slightly twitching), greet the ADD storm, acknowledge my heart pounding against my sweater, say hello to my uncomfortable irregular breathing as well as the heart-burn sensation in my belly.
Then I cast judgment on myself.
Good God, I think. Do I walk around like this all day and not even realize it? Is this my baseline?
Back to the breath.
Right before the timer is up, I have a paranoid feeling that silencing my phone will also silence my alarm. What if the alarm has already chimed? What if I’m sitting here not knowing that 25-minutes passed instead of 10-minutes?
Back to the breath.
The alarm eventually sounds serenely and… phew, I’m done!
This is where I am with it now. Many days I only meditate to check it off my list. But I notice a habit forming. When the timer is up, I feel thankful for noticing my body’s vibrations, warmth, and energy, even if it felt uncomfortable. I feel thankful for a body that can breathe.
Throughout the day, I’m noticing moments when breathing is an option where I might not have noticed it before. Like when I’m listening to my children slowly– bravely and beautifully–sound out words while they read out loud, or when I’m chopping vegetables for dinner. I aspire to remember breathing more often, like when Peter is telling me about a tough situation at his office, or when I’m yelling at Anna (who is pokey) to get her sneakers on so we won’t be late for school.
I have to admit feeling a little sheepish even bringing up meditating and writing about it. For the past few weeks as I worked on this post, I thought, I’ll write more about this when I’m better at it. When I’ve earned the right to write about it, like if I stick with it for years and get really good.
But writing for me is so much about acknowledging my life stage, and wanting to mark it for my memory so it doesn’t vanish away, and also to experience it more.
And so here I sit and breathe: a beginner at this, trying yet again, open and grateful at 35 days. It’s kind of like meditating itself. The only thing that matters is right now.