A few Fridays ago, while playing with my son, Beckett, I smelled burning. A crackle pierced the apartment, then a huge splash of orange light reflected off the silver backsplash in my kitchen. There was a fire, a real fire, in my home. As I watched one of the walls in my bathroom burn, I called 911 for the first time in my life.
Have you ever seen a fire burn? I hope you haven’t. I never had. And now that I have, I have a healthy new respect for speed. A new understanding of just how fast fire moves. In that moment, my thoughts moved faster and my heart beat even faster than the fire climbing the wall of my bathroom.
While I was talking to the 911 operator, and my son was screaming “stop, drop, roll Mommy,” behind me, the fire’s flames started to flirt with the ceiling – then everything paused. What pierced my reality at that moment were these words: Be present in this moment. And I really did not want to be present. But, this is ultimately what practice is for: To be present when I don’t want to be. On Friday afternoon, the only thing I could control was how I responded to the decidedly sucky situation in front of me.
This is exactly why I get up at 5:30 am to run. Why I roll out my yoga mat to count inhales and exhales again and again. There’s a daily practice so when the life-kicks-your-ass practice happens, I can do my best to stay present in the moment. As I scooped up Beckett and ran downstairs, my foundational thought loop was, “be present in this moment,” even as the tendrils of my mind leapfrogged into between the “what ifs” and “oh gods.”
So, I narrated each moment in my head and out loud to Beckett. It was the only thing I could think of to do. This moment we are closing the bathroom door. We are now leaving our apartment. This moment we are knocking on our neighbor’s doors to tell them to get out. Now we are going downstairs to let the fire department in. And so on and so forth until 25 very short (but eternally long) minutes later, we were back in our apartment, alone and safe. Thanks to the quick response of FDNY, and the 911 operator who told me exactly what to do, we have no bathroom, but there was no other damage. We inhaled no smoke. Our sprinklers did not go off. We are completely and totally fine.
This all happened on the Friday after the Monday filled with sadness and tragedy in Boston. I was running on Sunday. I had signed up for a four-mile race months ago. So, what was supposed to be a small race on a random Sunday all of a sudden became part of a weekend of hope and solidarity at running events.
Along the run, there was a guy, and wow, was he fast. Like, should-have-had-a-low-bib-number kind of fast. Around mile three, he passed me. He was wearing the BAA 2013 jacket, which meant he ran on Monday. He was saying really positive stuff to runners, but it was his super positive energy I noticed. It just streaked behind him like a fluffy shiny unicorn tail. But one thing he said resonated in my bones: Every mile matters.
Every mile matters. Be present in the moment. No matter if you use yoga language or running language or some other metaphor, the mantra is the same. This is the life you’re in and be in the life you’ve got; not the wanna-be life or wanna-was life. Sure, we all have those moments, what I call the “this is not my beautiful house, this is not my beautiful wife” moments. Alignment occurs when we accept, with grace and from the strong skills that a daily practice builds, that indeed, this is my life. No matter how glorious or hideous the moment may be. Because the only thing that’s sure is that the moment will change and the only thing you can control is your response to it. Every moment matters. And every mile counts. And it all happens in the now.
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