Sunday--the holy day of rest, to some--seems like a good day to post a few thoughts about feeling alive.
What does it mean?
I remember asking a friend once if she ever just felt really good inside, for no reason. I asked her more specifically if she ever found herself driving down the road and all of a sudden noticing that she was smiling.
I was sad when she responded all too quickly, "No."
There are times when I feel that way frequently. And there are times when I don't feel that way at all. When I don't feel that sense of aliveness, I know that's when I'm too focused on work or something that's not going right in my life. I'm tuned in to the outside world rather than the inside.
But I'm really glad I notice when that smile appears.
I'm glad that I have the ability to recognize that.
It's happening in my life right now. I feel alive again. I've been so focused on my book project that I've neglected to maintain a sense of balance. I don't regret it, because I was accomplishing something I really wanted to do, and I knew it would require a sacrifice on my part. Someone told me after I announced that I'd finished my book that I should be careful now, that I should be sure to maintain the pace I've been keeping, because I could fall into depression if I'm not careful. My mind's become used to working, I guess, is this person's theory. So if I let it relax a little too much, I might feel a void.
But I don't feel a void. I feel free. I feel like I can get back to doing things I've missed doing while the book was my main focus. I feel alive.
I know this is true for several reasons. When I was in the midst of my divorce and focused solely on that, my senses were numbed. I didn't feel much of anything except anxiety. But I do know the exact moment when that numbness began to lift. On one occasion, I was out with friends at a favorite hang-out. We were sipping glasses of chardonnay when a man walked by our table. Instantly, I smelled his cologne. I couldn't help myself when I reached out toward him. Before I knew it, I had grabbed his neck toward my nose so I could take in that scent. It smelled so new and good and strong. I asked him, of course, if I could smell--and smell again--and he obliged.
He also took it the wrong way. I wasn't coming on to him, as he suspected. I was merely regaining my sense of smell and recognized it. I was thrilled and didn't want the moment to pass me by. I wanted to take it all in, and I did. My friend was aghast and told me I definitely needed a chaparone when I went out; she was not going to let me go out alone. Not ever! I laughed at her assessment of what just happened, and I got it. But I don't think she really understood the giddyness I felt during this moment of recognition. It was the beginning of my reawakening to all of life's possibilities. I'm forever grateful I recognized it.
It happened again to me this past week. After several months of being cooped up in my office with nothing more than the pile of notes, books, and other papers needed to complete my book--and a computer--I didn't realize how numb I'd become to the outside world until I went back out there. My first outing turned out to be a spontaneous visit to the Farmer's Market on Wednesday afternoon. I arrived and immediately went to the vegetable stands and bought apples, grapes, tomatoes, big thick carrots, and a few other colorful veggies to take home and make a salad with that afternoon.
Then I proceeded to walk around to see what else was for sale. I stopped at the soap booth. A woman was selling fresh soaps that she'd made herself in her own kitchen. Before I knew it, I was picking up each and every scented soap and sticking it to my nose. Smelling. I found a scent that I adored and couldn't put the soap down. I was laughing. I was talking out loud to myself. I was enjoying every minute with these hand-made soaps. And I bought quite a few to take home so I could continue the silly excess. I even bought something for my neighbor who'd been taking good care of me in my last few weeks of work on the book. I was in heaven with these soaps. It was just like that moment in the bar with the man and his cologne and my nose in his neck.
But that's what it means to be alive. You notice things with your five senses. You can smell better, see more clearly, observe more closely, hear things louder, feel textures. You pay attention to things you may have ignored before...the birds chirping in the trees, the way the wind makes the branches on a tree sway back and forth, the cologne on a strange man's neck . You feel a sense of joy, and it's unexplainable. You smile about nothing in particular while driving down the road in your car, or sitting on the bus, or walking from room to room in your house.
It's something that comes from the inside. You can't force it. It just shows up when you're ready.
When was the last time you felt like that? Post a comment about it here so the rest of us can be sure to recognize when it's happening. It could be right this very minute.
All my best,