Thursday, November 10, 2011

Paying Attention


I went to bed early last night, a nagging cough and general cold weighing me down. I hoped to sleep the night through, wake up and be ready for a run in the morning just like yesterday. Things didn't work out that way and I'm trying to pay attention to how I feel about that, what it means, and where to go from here. This might sound silly. I mean, so what if I didn't run? What's the big deal? That's exactly the sorts of questions I want to pay attention to today.

I woke this morning at three to the sound of our oldest daughter struggling with the same cough I've been feeling. She just couldn't beat it and, at four, when I heard her get up to use the bathroom, I got up too and found the cough medicine. I gave her some, almost smiled at the yucky-face she made swallowing the stuff, and hugged her off to bed.

"Dad," she said, "you won't believe it but all my coughing hasn't bothered the dog at all."

I believed it, but I was surprised by how happy I felt, standing in the hallway at four in the morning having this little talk with my daughter. Then she went back in, stepped over the dog, and got herself back into bed. I went back to bed wondering how I was feeling physically. It was hard to tell because emotionally I was so good. I knew that I was going to wake up tired, but the little conversation in the hall lingered and I drifted back to sleep for a bit, woke to my alarm and knew immediately that I wasn't going running. I went back to sleep right away.

I woke again at six to shower, dress for work, get my things together and get out of the house. At different moments throughout the morning I worried that I hadn't run. The weather, though a bit moist, was perfect for a run with temperatures in the fifties. But I wasn't perfect for a run, I kept telling myself. And for some reason I believed.

In the past (the recent past even; such as yesterday) I've struggled with this kind of understanding. My body isn't ready to run. I have a cold, a hacking cough, running nose, sore bones. What I need is sleep, quiet, and orange juice. (I've always felt like orange juice is a magical elixir.) And so this morning I've paid attention to how my body feels, not trying to anticipate or look backward, not trying to act in a certain way. I feel a soreness in my left thigh, a clogging in my throat, a hitch in my breathing, and a dullness beneath my forehead. But my body is loose and I don't feel tense. That's an odd thing for me. I usually fight my body, but today, I'm just hanging out with it, checking in, saying hello, and so on.

What's the point of all this rambling? (The excuse for the rambling is my general malaise and petri-dish-like nature.)

I'm paying attention to a couple of things today. One, my body and how I feel. What I can and can't do. Trying things and seeing how they go. Two, my mind and how I feel. What I need to think about and what I can cast away. Thinking about where I focus my energy. Three, my daughter, my other daughter, and my wife. How they make for moments of wonder almost all day. How they are like food, vitamin C, some magical elixir of life. And four, what makes me happy. How do I choose happiness?

It seems to me that I choose happiness by being alert and paying attention to things that matter. Simple things like why I didn't run today, my daughter's happiness that her cough hadn't disturbed the dog's sleep, the fact that Rick Perry can count to three but can't remember three things, and all the other stuff that makes me smile and know that the day is a good one no matter how often I need to blow my nose.

Even a rambling 750 words essay like this is okay. It's not the best thing I've written in this series and just might be the worst. Okay, well, then I've reached that level and, like mine and my daughter's health, there seems nowhere to go but up. I just smiled at that bit of thinking and there again is some happiness. See, all I have to do is keep going. All I have to do is pay attention. All I have to do is write on.