New Year’s Mantra

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Breathe in. Breathe out. Move on.

What a perfect mantra. Simple, yet sound. Tapping into the essence of our lives – that breath that constantly rolls forward, just as we carry on in age, experience, and physical locale.

This particular mantra surfaced on the backside of a bracelet my best friend from childhood gifted me over the Christmas holiday. Most bracelets don’t fit me, but this one – and the one centered on positivity that my boyfriend’s mom had given me a few weeks earlier – happen to. For the first time in 25 years, I feel like I’ll actually wear bracelets – these bracelets – and not so much for the purpose of accessorizing, but to extract the bands’ powerful messages. I’d been having a strong urge to tattoo ‘breathe’ on the inside of my left wrist, as a reminder to do just that when I become frustrated, flustered, or distressed. The power of that act is something I find myself continually reminding my students of and yet this fall hadn’t been so successful in implementing myself. So what a perfect gift when I saw what the inside of the bracelet held. I had found my tattoo – in bracelet form – thanks to Emily and the all-knowing universe that led her to find such an intention for me.

Timing is everything sometimes, isn’t it?

As soon as I arrived home to Wisconsin, a cold overtook my body. It normally wouldn’t be such a big deal, but something about being home and socializing constantly with family and friends I don’t get to see often brought on even more fatigue and in my case, a stark vulnerability (which for an already sensitive being can get rough). I felt myself slipping into a more observant, quieter role, a place I used to live when I was young but don’t inhabit as often these days in NYC, and I wasn’t so excited about it. While I may not be the life of the party, I feel as if I’ve developed a certain comfort in my social life as an adult; most of the time I can live in the center of it all, rather than on the outskirts. I suppose our places in social space can vary depending on our surroundings. It’s probably perfectly natural to fall into patterns of the past when we meet up with old friends and the family that has known us since birth. There can be a real beauty to reunions and our tendency within them to be just as we were. Yet there was something about the way I was becoming that seemed isolating – it felt as if my lacking energy was hindering honesty and richness in my interactions with others. I wanted to be enthusiastic and instead felt bland. I wanted to be as I am now, not as I was, and falling short of that goal just hit me harder; my cold wedged me into a pitty party. Breathing was exactly what I needed to do to move on and out of my gratuitous stupor. Emily’s bracelet abruptly drew me back to the present: to not make the most of my time with my family and friends from home would be disappointing once I returned to the city. I needed to make the most of my time with them, with or without a cold.

My family and friends back home are my solid rock. While all else seems able to change around me in an instant, they always are there for me, whether we are in the same place or not. The frame my brother’s girlfriend gave my parents this Christmas holds a poignant message that seems to capture this in a beautiful way:

Our family is like the branches of a tree.

We may grow in different directions yet our roots remain as one.

A few weeks back, my voice teacher had suggested I listen to the lessons I’d recorded nine months ago, to hear where I was then and recognize how far I’d come. The second piece to her reasoning was especially intriguing to me – while she wanted me to notice what skills had improved, she also wanted me to observe what strengths I had nine months ago that I might have let slip away in focusing on other aspects of my voice. There could be colors in there, she offered, that could create a real fullness in my sound, if only I could unite it all.

Her thoughts offer me a different perspective on the bracelet’s mantra. I initially had thought of the breath and its passage forward as a linear route, a ‘just keep swimming, just keep swimming’ sort of journey. But now that I think about it, aren’t our lives meant to take on a fuller shape? What we pass through each year, each moment doesn’t have to be left behind, for it’s those pieces of ourselves that make us who we are as individuals and that in turn, influence our communities, as we individuals interact with one another.

Perhaps as we enter into the new year, we can offer ourselves the opportunity to set more pliable goals, elastic in the sense that they do look to our future, but don’t negate all that has come before us that can support us in our journeys onward. Our paths forward – in the ways of family, friends, career, health, and all else – could be like balloons. Instead of having to be so straight and flat, we could allow them to get fuller and fuller as we draw in all that brings us to each point, and as we continue to breathe.

– Liz Beres

Comments
3 Responses to “New Year’s Mantra”
  1. Caitlyn Johansen says:

    WOW, I will post more later this evening when I am not running to work… But I really needed to hear this. I’ve been thinking a lot about not expecting myself to accomplish all of my goals all at once. And now that I’m out of school and developing my career I am realizing that I haven’t failed if I don’t reach a certain goal that I placed on my linear “must achieve” time-line. I am realizing that my passion and education are my roots but that my career journey isn’t going to be a straight line. Rather, my passions will keep me branching out into different job fields like the branches of a tree. And at some point all of the branches and roots will form a strong tree (metaphorically a strong career that suits my fancy!) I love it! I love the idea of growing into my career! Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. Jonathan Matthews says:

    WONDERFULLL. so many gold nuggets.

    “It’s probably perfectly natural to fall into patterns of the past when we meet up with old friends and the family that has known us since birth.”

    …For the past few times I’ve been home since starting college, I’ve been actually experiencing a the opposite phenomenon – however one that is just as puzzling to experience as you described. I have a younger brother who is going through high school as i go through college, and I’ve noticed that his journey to forge an identity for himself have been coupled with (regardless if they are of a causal relationship) a change in my parents that I can’t quite define…but that I can really feel…and when I subtly try to bring it up in conversation it’s as if I’m the only one who notices, which makes me feel like I’m in an episode of the Twilight Zone. So while I find myself reverting to my past patterns upon coming home, it sorta doesn’t make a lot of sense because it feels as though my fellow branches are moving forward at a faster rate than I expected…which at times makes me question if we’re still connected by the same root (or, at least, if someone put some new crazy experimental fertilizer in our soil).
    There’s also the way of looking at it that I myself haven’t had the time to notice that perhaps I have been changing far more than I think I have, and that the former experience is really a reflection of this lack of awareness with myself.
    I think the college student back and forth plus the intense focus/lazy time off contrast sets up these perceptions that are constantly seeking for something else that is never quite in the present, and when both parties are in this seeking state, there is nothing for either seeker to find and ground down on, which is what is so wonderful about your bracelet’s message. Coming back to breath breaks that trance and allows the various roots and branches of our lives to be uncovered for what they are…which doesn’t have to be anything more than extant.

  3. Molly McSherry says:

    This is so beautiful! I don’t quite have the words to express how deeply this resonates with me right now…
    While I was home for the holidays, I was sorting through old things and found a stack of old journals, and I had a similar experience to your voice lesson listening. With the journal entries, I found myself amazed at “where I used to be,” and I felt extremely disconnected from “that person.” It’s incredible that all of the words I wrote are still a part of me, even if I wouldn’t write them again today. We are cumulative beings, and I think that remembering this allows the past to help us be fuller expressions of where and who we are today.

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