Hand on the Heart

Friday was full.

Jeb stayed home with the sniffles while I tried to work from home.  He did as I requested, which was to keep himself occupied while I tended to my tasks at hand.  But being that he was not really all that ill, he had plenty of energy to essentially turn his room inside out.

The dishes in the sink, the pile of Legos scattered by the door, the voice of Casey Kasem as Shaggy on the Scooby Doo DVD  – I tried to tune out the peripheral chaos and focus on my work.  At one point I realized I had to see a client and Jeb was going to have to come with me and occupy himself in the car.  I’d sent an email and left a message with Rex in hopes of getting a little relief but there had been no reply.

I gathered my essential work-related items and then began hastily throwing together some snacks for Jeb’s backseat excursion.  A tangerine, a bowl of cheddar goldfish, a breakfast bar and some water.  He put a basket of toys together and we ran through the rain to load up in the car.

As I pulled out of the driveway thinking of how I could most gracefully appear professional yet still tend to the needs of my under-the-weather-child, I felt the tension ripple through my body.  I knew this feeling.

I’d spent 5 days in December having an intimate exchange with this strained sensation.  It feels heavy, like something of a mountain on top of my head.  And this mountain is ever-demanding and never lets up.  Under the pressure of this prominence my very being constricts and tightens.  Things move faster, my patience grows thinner and eventually…I get mad.

So Jeb’s in the back seat trying to see if one of his Star Wars Storm Troopers can fit in his remote control Jeep while Buzz Lightyear looks on.

Buzz Lightyear and a bald Mr. Potatohead

Riding shotgun with me is my laptop and paperwork, a ten page to-do list and a stick of gum.  I feel the overwhelm close in on me like a shroud.  And then I remember the words of the Ambassador.

If you follow the Archives you may recall the Ambassador shared his story of 15 seconds of grace. He also imparted some sage advice for moments when grace can’t even be felt for a millisecond.  He suggested the simple gesture of a hand to the heart.  A deep breath in.  And just be there like that for a moment.

So I’m driving down the highway with Jeb and Mr. Potatohead and I reach my hand to my heart and breathe.  There is a comfort there of simply feeling a hand on my chest.  An abbreviated version of a self-hug.  I notice the air in my lungs.  And I begin to see the green of the wet trees along the highway with a bit more vivid vision.  After about a minute, I do realize that my body has relaxed.

photo by Jessica Dofflemyer - all rights reserved

No circumstance has changed.  I still have a client to meet.  Jeb is still sniffly.  But I’m a bit more calm.  And then I realize that the mountain on my head is not just sourced in situation.  Surely life will provide plenty of external conditions to challenge me.  But in the end, I’m the one who decides how it affects me.  I choose to tighten.  I choose to lose my grace in haste.

Hand on the heart makes space.  I like this.

Within five minutes of arriving at my clients’, Rex texts me that he can be with Jeb.  I shuttle him to his father’s place with gratitude and have the rest of the day to focus freely on my work.  I’ll admit the day still saw instances of tension and I forgot all about my heart.  But I had a glimpse of mastery in that moment there with Jeb and the toys and the highway.

And you know, just for fun…if you’ve read this far.  I invite you to try it for yourself right now.  Put your hand on your heart and see how it feels.

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