In my Wednesday morning cardio class, we always begin with music that has a slow beat. Over the course of 45 minutes, the music gets faster as the beat increases. Our breathing becomes strained, heartbeats race, and movements grow more rapid as our instructor calls out the steps in that day’s routine. The class flies by, with a short break here and there to get a drink and take a breath, then resuming at a faster speed, all of our thoughts and efforts focused on the precision of steps, proper breathing, and keeping up with the pace of the music, until we welcome the cool down with its smaller, slower movements and calming breaths.
This morning, it occurred to me what a perfect metaphor the class is for life. We start out slow, unsteady, unsure of what lies ahead, focussing on learning our steps and finding the right beat. The majority of our lives are spent running the race, fighting for our breath, making our movements in the world larger, faster, more meaningful. And then, in the blink of an eye, we’re forced to live at a less hectic pace, find a slower rhythm, breathe a little easier, knowing we made it all the way through and have come out stronger, smarter, and more aware of the person we have become. But have we?
I’m reminded of a waterfall–a gentle river that lazily rolls along until it picks up speed, rushing and turning, breathing in leaves and twigs, pebbles and debris, until it plunges off the edge in a torrent of energy, ending its journey when its furthest ripples become a calm and placid pool. We are like the water, swept up in a life over which we have little control, unable to stop the swirling chaos as it gathers our time, our energy, and our very being and rushes toward the precipice, falling into serenity at the end of the journey. Has the water changed? Has it grown? Has it found its own rhythm, told its own story? Have we?
As my youngest prepares for her senior year of high school and my oldest begins talking about a future wedding (no, she is not engaged, but she’s a gal in her twenties with a super guy at her side), I am beginning to feel the rhythm of my life start to slow. I’m no longer running the roads every day, driving my little girls to and from school. My school volunteer commitments are narrowing down, and I’m focussing more on my writing and less on homework and class parties and play dates. The loss of my father-in-law has also really put things in perspective for me. I made a vow to spend more time with my parents. I don’t have to be home every day to cook dinner or tuck my almost-adult youngest child in bed, so a night or two at mom and dad’s is not only possible, it’s a blessing and a joy. And it makes we wonder what I’ve missed along the way. Did I always stop when I needed to so that I could take a breath, smell the roses? Have I led my own life or allowed the constant push and pull of commitments and the ways of the world to dictate what I did and who I’ve become?
Yes, I’m still a long way from the end of the cool-down (at least, I hope I am), but I’m seeing the wonderful opportunities that lie ahead as I readjust my steps and take deeper breaths. Life is such a beautiful gift, and it saddens me that it goes by so quickly while we are all moving to an accelerated beat. I pray that my own girls can live their lives at a nice steady speed, enjoying a healthy life while, at the same time, keeping up with the demanding pace of this modern life. I’m sure there is a healthy balance in there somewhere. They just need to find the right music and remember that no matter how long a person is on earth, life is short. Don’t forget to take a deep breath, slow down, and always look for the rainbows that bend over the rushing waters of life. Let them be a reminder to you that it’s okay to stop and take a breath as often as needed or desired.
What I was writing about this time last year: Eight Books You’ve Never Heard of for the Summer of 2017.
Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her latest children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available; and her novel, Summer’s Squall, can be found online and in stores.
Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017)