On Wednesday I had the privilege of being a lightning speaker at the fifth Canberra Girl Geek Dinner. Being a lightning speaker means that you volunteer to deliver a short, sharp talk about any topic that relates to women working in IT, be it technical or lifestyle focused. Each dinner the organisers call for volunteers, and I put my hand up for this one. I haven’t spoken anywhere in about 18 months and I miss it, so I jumped at the opportunity to speak and to build up a bunch of busy ladies (and a couple of guy geeks too). My talk was called “Sometimes I forget to breathe” and it was inspired by this blog post by Randy Elrod about skylights. What follows is an adaptation from my talk.
I don’t know if this has ever happened to you, but sometimes when I am working away, concentrating on something, in the flow, or stressed silly…I forget to breathe. All of a sudden I will feel as though I’m underwater, and I sigh deeply, taking in a huge draft of air.
It’s not that I stop breathing altogether… as yet I haven’t turned blue and fallen off my chair, it’s just that my breathing has become so shallow that I am slowly but surely robbing my brain and body of oxygen. I’m doing barely enough breathing to stay alive…and I have to remind myself to breathe deeply.
It got to the point where I have put up three or four post-it notes with the word BREATHE written on them in my cubical. They remind me to take deep cleansing, energising breaths. You know, the kind that leave you feeling awake and released?
Take a couple now…in…out…in…out.
There’s that moment at the top of the breath when you’ve taken in as much air as you can that’s almost like a moment of pure peace isn’t there? I work with a team that’s 99% blokes and they think it’s hysterical that I need to remind myself to breathe…they sneak up behind me and remind me to breathe from time to time and snicker like I’m some kind of nutcase…..yeah thanks guys!
The thing is that a lot of the time we tend to live our lives that way too. Doing barely enough to get through life without paying attention to the quality of the life we’re living.
Limping from week to week.
Being involved in knowledge-based tech work, we are always moving at break-neck speed, aren’t we?
We’re jammed into a 3 by 3 non-descript box in a fluoro-lit cube farms. Or perhaps we’re in the isolation of the home-based workspace and working crazy hours because it’s only us to do everything.
Things change so fast, things break and need fixing all the time, there’s always a client who wants something, deadlines and milestones go by like white lines on the highway. And then we go home and there’s the housework waiting for us, the dog that needs to be walked, the partner’s brain dump to listen to, and if we have families, there’s the incessant cycle of kids’ activities. The list is never ending and we stay so busy that we’re just “doing life” as it screams past and all of a sudden we find that it’s Christmas again!
We’re living fast and shallow — like my breathing — and slowly but surely we’re suffocating! We’re robbing ourselves of the vital moments of peace and revitalisation that come when we stop to smell the roses because we’re moving too fast to see them whizzing past.
I want to encourage you to remember to take those moments to smell the roses and bring some fresh air into the lungs of our suffocatingly fast lives.
Few of us have the wherewithal to control the speed of our days, we’re driven by necessity. We can’t very often say “Stop the world I want to get off!” But we can press the pause button regularly through our days by shifting focus from time to time and recognising beauty around us.
But what is beauty?
What is it that will give us that momentary lift during our day?
It’s not what the glossy magazines tell us is beauty. Alan Alda in a piece he wrote for the Huffington Post said this about beauty:
“It’s more than something pleasant looking. If it doesn’t stop us in our tracks and make us unable to move for a moment, unable to put it into words…..then maybe it’s pretty, but it probably isn’t beauty.”
Beauty is that moment at the top of the breath where you feel like the world has stopped spinning momentarily — just for a second or two. And it’s subjective. Beauty is different for everyone!
Here are some of the things that speak beauty to me. These are the things that bring a flash of peace and refreshing in the midst of a busy life…
- that very first mouthful of a glass of wine after a loooong day
- the smell of very very new babies, and the peach fuzz of their cheeks
- waking 10 minutes earlier than I need to and snuggling with my husband on a cold Canberra morning
- a smooth flowing fountain pen on creamy Moleskine paper
- velvety chocolate mousse
- the unexpected smell of a really sexy spicy cologne
- guitar music
- hot chips and gravy on a grey rainy day
- the smell of coffee beans when you first open the bag
- the curves of a gorgeous car
- having 15 minutes to draw
- sitting on the back step in a thunder storm
- my iPhone
They’re different for everyone…What are yours? What makes you stop and breathe again?
Beauty is that special thing that lets us break free of the routine for just long enough to take a deep breath.
Beauty makes space.
One of my very favourite beauty moments is having a full-on belly laugh. To finish off I want to tell you a story about something that happened at my house last week. My 11 year old is an asthmatic, but he’s also just getting to that stage where he’s getting conscious of his impending manhood. He had just taken his preventer medication and I reminded him to rinse his mouth out with a bit of water. His father was sitting there and asked why I was asking him to do that, so I explained that the preventer had steroids in it, and that the residue needed to be rinsed out of his mouth. At this point my son’s eyes got huge and he slammed his fists onto his hips, and let fly, “Oh great! Thanks mum! Sooner or later my nuts are going to be tiny!” and stomped off.
He has a flare for the dramatic and grand gestures.
We couldn’t help it, we just laughed until we cried and could barely breathe. Kids are gorgeous, great entertainment value! And that was a beautiful moment that breathed a little bit of what life is really about into an otherwise crazy busy day. (Suffice it to say that he now understands the difference between the different types of steroids.)
Stay intentional, be sure to look for moments of beauty in your life, and don’t be going so fast and focussed that you don’t see them.
Some days and seasons of life it feels as though there is truly nothing of beauty in our lives, but I want to assure you that there are still pockets of beauty to be found, it’s just a little harder to find them sometimes, and it’s those times you truly need to search for them..and above all, remember to breathe!
What are your moments of beauty? Do you forget to breathe like I do?