One Breath

Occasionally, but not as often as I wish, I get a glimpse of that perfect now-ness I’ve heard so much about. That being in this moment so completely that the moment is everything. It happened to me this morning in the shower and, although I wasn’t able to hold on to it for very long, I was able to move in and out of it for almost an hour after. That was a gift.

In truth, it had been a bad night before. My hormones creating their monthly havoc, full moon in the sky, too much work the day before, a daughter who refused to requite love that I seemed to be pouring all over her, and my own bad temper with my husband – all resulted in a night of bad dreams, little sleep, and a general dis-ease I was having a hard time shaking when the alarm went off at 5 AM.

So here I am in the shower, skin feeling all crumpled into a knot that even the hot water isn’t quite undoing. Thoughts moving in and out of my head, none of them remotely comforting, I remember (randomly, it seems) that a few days ago a friend of mine and I talked about the notion of (not) taking one’s spouse ‘for granted’. This had been a recurring theme in our conversations, but I had had a sort of brainstorm and said, “Why not?” Why not take a spouse for granted? What does that mean, anyway? It usually means not sitting around in your pajamas and thinking that he/she will still find you attractive so that she/he will not run off and find some other, more attractive, fresh young person to love. But that’s not what this conversation was about. We are both beyond the pajama state. This time, we were talking about the big stuff. Death. Loss. So, my friend had a point when she said that no one could take a spouse for granted – that death and loss (and sudden new love) often showed up with no warning. But, I said, why not, as long as we have these partners, simply not think about the horrible things that could happen? In fact, why not begin to take the comfort of the relationship a little for granted, just enough to let go the vigilance and anxiety that so characterized our lives?

What’s interesting about this, is that I am a person who never takes anyone or anything for granted. Perhaps because I lived in India as a child, where disaster struck people often and randomly for all sorts of reasons, or because I had spent a couple of months when I was almost five years old in bed with diphtheria – in those days a sure killer of little children – or because in my family death was a living subject, always feared or invited, often threatened – whatever the reasons for this are, I have always known that death lurks around the corner and live my whole life waiting. Combine with that my abandonment issues and many broken relationships of all kinds, this ‘taking for granted’ thing is a path I have never trodden. So what am I saying?

Here in the shower I remember all this and – drowsy and almost drunk with misery and sleep – I wonder what I have been going on about. ‘Can’t take anything for granted’ is the mantra I live by. I know that death can come swiftly and without notice – all kinds of death. I know the sharp pain as well as the dull ache of deep loss and disappointment. What can I possibly take for granted?

That’s when it slides in – the clarity. This moment. This moment. This moment. I can be still in this one moment – shampoo sudsing down my face, warm water falling on my back, light through the shower curtain. And for one moment, everything is clarified and still. And then another moment. This I know. This moment is here. The past lurks around the corner with its bad temper, cramps, and fear of loss. The future is tremblingly ready to pounce. But this moment. And this. And this. I can take for granted. I can stop. And take a breath. This moment and there is nothing else at all. Now. Here.

The light that floods my face and washes through my head is almost palpable. What a beautiful feeling. With that thought, it is gone. But I can bring it back – breathe, realize the moment, feel it again. Maybe for a few seconds and then it is gone again.

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