Coming Up for Air: Simple Acts to Redefine Your Lifeby Margaret Becker
How did I end up here? Has that question ever flashed through your mind? Perhaps you feel as though life has just/i>/i>
”From time to time, I felt my life separate from me as though it belonged to someone else. It was as if I were fulfilling a role that seemed familiar but, in truth, was not my own.”Margaret Becker, in Coming Up for Air
How did I end up here? Has that question ever flashed through your mind? Perhaps you feel as though life has just pushed you along, leaving your dreams and aspirations in its wake. Have you ever wondered if you’re living the life God designed for you? Take an adventurous dive with Margaret Becker as she chronicles her own personal journey of discovery. Becker daringly opens a Pandora’s box of life details, tackling subjects such as exhaustion, loneliness, faith, true success versus perceived success, family, financeseven tooth flossingin a lighthearted yet thought-provoking narrative. With equal parts wisdom, humor, playfulness, and spirituality, Becker offers a simple process that lets you come up for air while you redefine, reclaim, and rejuvenate your life. Tyndale House Publishers
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Coming up for Air
By Margaret Becker
NAVPRESSCopyright © 2006 Margaret Becker
All right reserved.
Chapter OneBreaking the Surface
December 1995. I thought I was just taking a long vacation, four weeks to be exact. I needed it.
This vacation was going to be unlike any other I'd ever known. I was going to unplug entirely and do absolutely nothing. No phone calls. No faxes. No check-ins to the office. No long overdue work related projects. No catching up on correspondence. No self-help makeovers. Just nothing. Wide-open calendar space. Nothing written in the whole month. A time to be indulgent. Sleep till noon. Play Solitaire with real playing cards. Watch endless reruns of Columbo. Eat chocolate for breakfast. That kind of vacation.
I was used to traveling. I'm a singer, or a writer, or a speaker-depending on whom you ask. In fact, I never know what to write on forms that ask for my occupation, because what I do has felt like pleasure and play for most of my life. It's a living by default. Most of the time, I feel guilty listing it as "work."
The worst I can say about my career over the past two decades is that the travel gets old. Packing and unpacking take it right out of me. Who would've thought that finding the correct underwear and shirt could be such a mental drain or that sitting motionless for hours mesmerized by the din of jet engines could be such a chore?
But even on the worst days, with delays, close-connection "travelsweat," hunger pangs, and middle seats, it sure beats bill collecting at Sears. And this is my mantra as I run thirteen gates in the Dallas/Fort Worth airport, trying to beat my best time of four minutes.
With each step I remember the "Rs": Reilly, Restuchia, Richards, Richenstein, Romano, Ruggiero. The names of people that I was responsible to "shake down" for Mr. Sears and Roebuck in my first "real job" after college. What a miserable occupation for someone like me. Half the time, I'd take part of my own paycheck and pay on the delinquent accounts. Trying to collect money from people who just don't have any is hard enough, but when you add the duty of talking to a woman about repossessing her washer and dryer or, worse yet, her refrigerator, you're placing your life on the line. I had to do it under an assumed name. It was just too dangerous otherwise.
Seems like it was a million years ago, yet the memory of it is like a growling dog whose breath I feel at my heels, ready to nip if I don't keep moving. And I had spent years doing just that-moving, going, being, fulfilling obligations and dreams, running from the dogs-to the point of exhaustion. Not physical exhaustion. That would be a handy excuse to do what I ended up doing. It's deeper than that, harder to justify to others. Exhaustion somewhere deep inside, the kind that makes a person overly sensitive or never able to catch up in life. It's the kind of fatigue that permeates everything yet leaves no calling card. You can barely explain it because it's everything and nothing all at the same time.
It was sometime earlier in 1995 that I woke up in a hotel room for the hundredth time, again unable to remember where the bathroom was, that I came face-to-face with my exhaustion in a way I couldn't deny. Stumbling first to the closet and then into the faux maple dresser, I fell inelegantly onto the Barcalounger, where I was forced to assess my surroundings. My eyes adjusted slowly in the dark: basic brass floor lamp overhead, coarse, nubby upholstery on the chair, TV bleeding through the wall next door ... ah, yes, the Comfort Inn.
I sat there for a while, wondering if all frequent travelers have these hotel blackouts. And after a little while, the Barca started to actually feel like a good place to meditate on the current state of my life. When the sleep timer on my neighbor's TV went off, I asked myself the question that any hardworking overachiever hates to ask: When was the last time I had a vacation? And the even more frightening, When was the last time I truly relaxed?
I had to turn on my computer to find the answer. Consulting the calendar, I scrolled furiously until the tiny little watch icon popped up on the screen, warning me not to push my luck. I went back years. I couldn't find the last time. There was no last time since escaping the growling dog at twenty-five.
Swathed there in the yellow light illuminating from the hotel parking lot, I dreamed the impossible dream: to escape. Escape from my life with no guitars and cords, no oversized baggage, no "work"-just for a while. Escape to a beach, the place that has always held the sights and sounds of freedom for me. When I was a kid growing up on Long Island, summer vacations were always filled with endless days on the Atlantic shore. They had a trance-like effect on reality, blending one day into the other, until school, responsibility, and structure seemed concepts as foreign as taking cod liver oil for all that ails you.
I hatched my plan at the Comfort Inn. By morning, I was on the Internet researching good beach deals. I wanted something cheap, not too hot, right on the water, secluded and clean. I settled on Destin, Florida, next winter, after all the year's obligations were fulfilled.
I needed time. Time alone. Time away. Downtime. Just time.
The following week, I told my record company, my booking agent, my managers, and my family about my decision. The standard response was, "Is everything okay? Are you in some sort of crisis?" I felt foolish trying to explain it. Why does something have to be desperately wrong before a person is excused from the daily grind?
My answer was disjointed and seemingly deceptive. There was nothing massively wrong. I just felt out of touch with my life, like it was ahead of me, always slightly out of my reach. I was chasing it rather than leading it, and catching up only from time to time. I'd almost wished I had a big crash or crisis on which to blame my need to retreat, because with each subsequent explanation, the whole thing sounded more and more self-indulgent. But in my heart, I knew that it wasn't. I feared that if I didn't make the time to "get off the merry-go-round," I might blink my eyes and be another ten years down the road. I needed this, for reasons not even I fully understood.
So December came and I packed for my winter beach retreat. I took the haphazard approach. I scooped up a stack of soft T-shirts, sweats, worn-out jeans, and all the saggy socks you can't ever wear in public. I did it like they do in the movies: in a rush. I packed like that without looking back. I didn't want to think. I had to just keep moving. Must get to Gulf. Must put feet in sand. Must ...
The escape commenced. It felt reckless, sloppy, loose, and so much unlike my life as I had come to know it. When I crossed the Alabama line from Tennessee, I forced myself to turn off my cell phone. It was my next act of defiance and bravery. The world would go on without me, and when I rejoined it, I planned to enter more peacefully. How? I wasn't sure, but I'd give it my best shot.
It was in Florala, Alabama, that "Jimmy Crack Corn" started playing over and over in my head for reasons I don't ever want to understand. No big deal, I told myself as I turned on the radio in an attempt to drown the song out. I am a successful, well-adjusted woman. I'm just a little tired, I reasoned. I'm still sane-I think.
This is how it all started.
Excerpted from Coming up for Air by Margaret Becker Copyright © 2006 by Margaret Becker. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
MARGARET BECKER is an acclaimed writer, speaker and Dove Award-winning recording artist. She currently resides in Nashville, TN.
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Once again Margaret Becker has written a truly refreshing book! In Coming Up for Air she challenges, encourages and guides her readers into a lifestyle free of burdens and guilt. This book is a great tool for someone looking to become more comfortable with who God has made them as they attempt to enjoy life and make a difference in the world at the same time. I highly recommend it.