Sunday, July 13, 2014

Take 45

A magazine columnist asked a woman of 90+ years what advice she would give to younger women. Her answer: “When you get home, sit down for the first 45 minutes.” 

That ain’t easy. Not with dusty tables, text reminders to coworkers, stuff to research on the Web, laundry screaming from the hamper, and the eternal “what’s for dinner?” You have the same stuff – only different -- demanding your attention, so you know what I’m saying. We go from task to deadline to got-to to must without even thinking about it. And here’s a woman who has successfully lived for more than ninety years, in good health and of sound mind saying: stop and give yourself 45. 

Her advice reminded me of a tactic my schoolteacher friend uses to transition her urban classroom when it becomes unruly: she holds up her hand, fingers outstretched so that you can count all 1-2-3-4 of them and her thumb and says “Everybody, stop and give me five!” It works. Her students know two things: 1) enough already! and, 2) she is about to tell them something very important, something they do not want to miss. It soooo works! I’ve seen kindergarteners to eighth-graders come to attention at her instruction. Once they’ve collected themselves, they make a smooth transition to the next thing. Sometimes all she has to do is hold up that hand to refocus the entire room. 

Having seen what a full stop can do for a bunch of squirming kids, I decided to take the grand lady's advice. Now, whether it is midday or midnight when I get home, I sit down for the first forty-five minutes.

The first few times I tried it I twisted my hair like a two year old because my hands were looking for something to….do. Sometimes I fell asleep. Sitting up. Sometimes I had to move from one room to another so that I wasn’t looking at the dust on the table. One day it dawned on me that if I took off my work clothes, it might be easier to take 45, so now I don’t start counting down until I have changed into my sweats. Sometimes I flip the pages in a magazine, but I do not read. I just look at the pictures and promise myself to make that recipe or stop by that store one day. 

Mostly, though, I let my mind do the thing it needs to do. Unwind. Daydream. Remember. After a few good minutes of that, my shoulders relax. Sometimes I start to hum a tune. There are even days that the answer to that nagging question begins to take form. It doesn’t happen all the time, but I don’t care. That’s the whole point: while I’m doing my 45, I am in the place where I am not care-full. No, it’s not mindful meditation. It’s just being there.

Oh yes, while I’m taking 45, I never, ever take a phone call or a text, although I will look at the phone in case it’s an emergency. Guess what? It never is.Occasionally my 45 turns into an hour or even two, but I’ve learned that when that happens it’s because I needed more that day. 

Today was a wonderful day. Good weather, good church service, good meal with good friends. You might think all that goodness was enough. Not so. 

Today, I still needed to take 45; to come to a full stop and just be. So, I did.



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