Learning to Breathe

There are many times when I feel so ridiculously caught up in work and school and stress and whatnot that I drown.

I drown in the sea of homework, tests, quizzes, obligations, extracurricular activities, etc. I even drown in my own writing – because all of a sudden even the things I love to do, like reading and writing poetry, seem like work.

I’m sure I’m not the only one in the world who feels this way. But I think I’ve figured out a sort of solution.

You have to learn to breathe underwater.

It’s not easy to do (it’s anything but easy!), though it’s very easy to say. But there are different ways of doing it, and I think if you can find what’s right for you, it really helps. A lot.

I started this thing a while back that I like to call my Journal of Inspiration. It’s basically a collection of things that inspire me or brighten my mood – pictures, poems, Dove wrappers with inspirational messages, etc. Any little scrap of motivation goes in my Journal.

On the very first page is my oath:

The Oath

1. No worry or fear is to enter this notebook.

2. This notebook is meant solely for non-academic purposes.

3. I am not allowed to use pencil in this notebook because I should be AM unafraid of making mistakes.

4. I promise to write what resides in the very depths of my heart.

It might seem silly, but this is what lets me breathe underwater. Today I sat at the kitchen table and taped a picture of a flying baby in my Journal. Underneath I wrote, “If a flying baby isn’t inspirational, I don’t know what is.”

I have poems by Shel Silverstein and Rudyard Kipling in there, along with some of my own poems. I even taped Halls cough drop wrappers in there – because there’s “a pep talk in every drop.”

I guess learning to breathe means finding something that you really love to do and that makes you smile. For me, it’s taping things into my Journal and flipping through it on gloomy days – days when I don’t feel motivated to work on my manuscript or start hacking away at that mountain of homework.

Obviously none of the work I have to do is going to go away. But I think motivation is important – and my Journal serves not only to motivate me, but to remind me why I work so hard for the things I love. I work on my manuscript because writing is my passion. I work hard in school because I value education and want to be more knowledgeable.

And I think sometimes we ignore that little voice that screams “Don’t give up! You can do it!” But if we can find something that makes us smile, that allows us to breathe underwater when we’re drowning in work, we’ll be much happier. And I think we’ll find more meaning in the things we work so hard for in life.

The Old Man and the Sea

I couldn’t sleep last night because of this book. Which is strange, because I read it last December. I can’t tell you why it rushed back to me all of a sudden. But I can tell you how it made me feel.

I couldn’t sleep because each time I closed my eyes all I could see were the vast rolling waves. It wasn’t just a dark ocean; it was a menacing one. I was scared.

I was scared of that black, endless ocean. And the sharks. Oh man, the sharks! They were enough to strike terror in one’s heart.

I know I put this in the Book Reviews category, but it isn’t really a book review. It’s more of a “this book made me feel something and I want to share it” sort of thing. Certain books leave an imprint on my mind, and this book is one of them.

When a book doesn’t let me sleep at night, I know it’s good. When it doesn’t let me sleep almost a year after I’ve read it, I know it’s really good. And when I can see the ocean every time I close my eyes, and I can feel myself moving because of the waves tossing and turning and pitching below me, and I can feel the strength of that marlin, I know it’s really really  good. Actually, no – it’s more than that. It’s powerful.

I guess what I’m trying to say here in a sort of roundabout way is that a book doesn’t necessarily have to be long and fancy to be good. The Old Man and the Sea is 127 pages long. It’s not even really a novel. It’s a novella.

But I don’t think I will ever forget it.

Because it made me realize that there are things like this in the ocean:

I’m not saying that I didn’t know sharks existed before I read the book. But… they just didn’t seem real. It was like, “Oh yeah, sharks. No big deal.” Not like, “SHARKS!”

Hmm. I don’t think this is coming across the right way. I’m not trying to show that I’m afraid of sharks. I guess I’m trying to show that I’m in awe. In awe of the ocean, and all the creatures that live there.

And I didn’t really realize that until I read The Old Man and the Sea.

It wasn’t a perfect book (no book is – gasp!), but it was beautiful. And it made an impact.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t think I’m doing the ocean or the book justice right now. I feel like I’m just rambling and none of this actually makes sense.

So I’ll stop. Right now. And hope that you take away something meaningful from this post.