Slowing Down and Breathing Deeply: On Time and Inflating the Ordinary Moment

By Catherine DiMercurio

There are times in our life where we are keenly aware of how swiftly time passes and we wonder, how can I slow things down?

I have had numerous conversations with friends about how, as our children get older, life increasingly seems to be on fast-forward. I feel hyper aware of time. When my children were babies, I wasn’t cognizant of how quickly their first year went by until it was over. Though I was waking up several times a night to breastfeed, I tried to be present during the daytime, aware of how quickly the children moved from one stage to the next. But, I was simply exhausted and a lot of those memories are fairly hazy. It is only in the looking back that I perceive how quickly that time flew by. But day by day, within that time, it didn’t seem as though I’d ever get to place were we were all sleeping through the night. Now, I have an awareness even while I’m living through this time that moments are disappearing before I’m through with them. They are footprints in wet sand, washed away before I’ve finished taking the next step.

Tick Marks on the Timeline

The easiest things to remember are obviously things that stand out as atypical, as outside of the normal routine and pace of life—vacations, events, illnesses, and griefs. Recalling the things we’ve deliberately denoted as significant is also a relatively straightforward endeavor. Parents do this all the time—first Christmas, first day of school, etc. All the other days, those that seem to be undifferentiated from one another, are forgettable time. They are the spaces in between the tick marks on a timeline. Yet those moments and days and years filling in the gaps between the firsts and the vacations and the tragedies are where most of our living happens and where much of our memory fades. The passage of that time is what makes it seem as though life is going by so quickly. It’s because there is nothing to grab on to. The current of time rushes along, and without any specific memory to fix upon, we rush past, and remark on how quickly that year went by.

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So, I’ve been wondering how to shake free of this mindset, of this feeling that I’m caught in a current. I want to somehow fill in all the spaces on the timeline, to deliberately draw a line and exist in each moment, each day, as though it matters as much as a birthday, or the death of our dog, or a trip to the beach, or the first day of kindergarten, or one of our camping trips. Because, doesn’t it? Doesn’t each moment matter?

Maybe it depends on how we define mattering. I’ve heard people say that it is in how we handle tragedy and crisis that defines who we are. Perhaps, though, it is in how we manage the mundane that shapes us more. How do we respond to all that is dull in a day, in the weeks and months and years that we work and save, trying to earn enough to take that vacation and “make some memories”? If we can’t find something to savor in all that we’ve deemed unworthy of memory-making, then how much our lives are we relegating to those empty spaces on the timeline?

Yoga Breathing and the Value of the Dull Day

When the kids were in elementary school and I worked at home as a freelance writer, I’d take time during the late mornings to watch a yoga program on tv that guided me through a daily practice. This particular program incorporated some philosophy throughout and a few ideas have stuck with me. One is that our lives are not measured in moments, but in breaths, so we should breathe mindfully, deliberately, and deeply.

I’m trying to combine these notions of living and measuring. I want to be aware of moments, of days that seem undifferentiated and somehow, to differentiate them. I want to expand moments, to fill them up the way my breath fills my lungs. I think, how can I make this ordinary day different, or memorable, or significant? If I park in a different lot at work, or take a break and go outside for a moment, will it make a difference? If I watch and listen for a new idea or notice a sparrow or hear someone laughing or sit with the morning sun on my face before I walk into my building, will it matter?

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Will I be able to remember this day as a specific part of my life? It might be easy to brush this idea off and say, why would you want to? Maybe some days aren’t worth remembering. Is there any value to marking just another workday? I’m not sure yet. I hope so. I hope that in a month, I’ll be able to look back and not feel like it went by so fast. I don’t want to rush through even the dull days. Even though on the surface it might seem as though I’m experiencing an unremarkable day of work and returning home to make an unremarkable dinner, it is another collection of breaths I get to have on this earth, another meal I get to share with my children. And perhaps if I’m seeking opportunities to find the remarkable within the ordinary, I’ll find something unexpected.

Soaking It All In

This past weekend, my children and I, needing some warmth in this frigid Michigan April, drove to the Belle Isle Conservatory in Detroit. This being something that is outside of the realm of our usual routine automatically makes the event something we’ll all be more likely to remember in the future. But I tried with more intention and deliberateness than usual to notice the details of the day, the blue of the sky beyond the greenhouse windows, the way the sunlight illuminated the large green leaves of a tropical plant, the shape of leaf shadows on the leaves below. I took time to appreciate the details my children commented on—the worm wriggling through the dirt that my son pointed out, the tiny gauzy white cactus sporting an even tinier magenta flower my daughter saw. We sat on a bench together and I closed my eyes and felt the sun on my face. I wanted to soak the moment in, to draw another tick mark on the timeline.

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If our lives here are a journey, maybe each mile of the road trip is worthy of our attention. Notice the song on the radio, the sun through the window, the people with you. Get out and stretch your legs. Breathe deeply. Inflate the ordinary moment.

Enjoy the road. Love, Cath

2 thoughts on “Slowing Down and Breathing Deeply: On Time and Inflating the Ordinary Moment

  1. “I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life. To put to rout all that was not life; and not, when I had come to die, discover that I had not lived.” – HDT.

    I think this concept has been around since the first thinkers. Whether conscientiously, or behind fluttering eyelids and passing fancies, there is that inherent feeling of living and being and going that just drives you forward until the end. As always, you’re right – that feeling is a good one, and we just need to be aware of it and make the most of everything – live, breathe, go, feel… make all of it mean something.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love this one Cathy. I think if we are just all aware of things going on around us, even mundane things, we grow, exponentially, the moments of remembering. Like I tell your dad, “Lift up your head. Don’t just watch your feet move in front of you. See the sky. See the tree branches wave. See the flower unfold.Hear the birds singing.”
    Love you Daughter.

    Liked by 1 person

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