When I was a child it used to bother me when singers on TV and soloists in church would close their eyes as they belted out their song. I didn’t understand it. Were they tired? Were they afraid to look at the audience? I assumed they were somehow embarrassed, and it did not occur to me until I was nearly grown, that emotions and feelings could run deeper when the windows to your soul are closed.
I have just recently come to realize how empowering it can be to block out the world in this simple way. Through the first thirty years of my life I was uncomfortable closing my eyes in public. It made me feel vulnerable. I couldn’t keep track of what was going on around me. Surely people would think I was loony if I made this a common practice. About the time I quit worrying about what people thought of me I found the therapy of the closed eyes.
It began on my bike. I was at the gym; riding my heart out, legs pumping, sweat pouring. I am very aware (and not surprised) that I get a lot of looks at the gym. I am the only one there with an artificial limb and it intrigues people. It doesn’t bother me, but it does distract me. Purely by accident I happened to close my eyes one day, mid bike ride, and discovered that I could escape to the inside of my thoughts with this simple gesture.
The music on my headphones became a personal concert, just for me. My sweaty neighbors on the treadmill no longer existed. They could look all they wanted, at my robotic leg, and I would never know. I got lost in the music and felt my body relax into the rhythm of the ride. I concentrated on listening to my body, now that I was quiet enough to hear it. I was in tune with the deep breaths my lungs drew in. I concentrated on using different muscles in my legs with each pedal stroke; first working out my ankle, then calf, then thigh.
My mind was floating by this point, free of all the life distractions I normally let in while on the bike. Suddenly Lance was beside me. We were on a French hillside, and we were pushing ahead towards the Eiffel Tower. I made my legs push so hard they burned. But I couldn’t let Lance out-pedal me, so I pushed harder. In the end, I think I beat him.
And when I bravely opened my eyes again, re-adjusting to the reality of the gym, I felt cleansed. My mind was free of clutter; my body was exhausted with a cleansing sweat. I felt empowered, not vulnerable.
The feeling came back a few days later, after a hard day of micro-managing a house full of children. I escaped for a few seconds, to my bathroom in the back of the house, and after doing the business that drew me to the room, I reached for the cloth to quickly wash my face. As my eyes closed, to welcome the cool rag, I let them remain closed for just a few extra minutes. Instinctively I drew in a deep breath. Naturally I let it out slowly. It felt so good I did it again, all while still blind. In a few short minutes I was a new person. I was a transformed mom. I had my bearings back and was ready for the next challenge. For less than two minutes I had blocked out the world, descended into deep-cleansing land, and had come back re-born.
I am thankful for my new understanding of how to get back to myself. My only regret is that I could not have found it earlier. But maybe I had to first come to this place in my life where what everyone around me thinks holds a lot less weight. That change, in itself, has cleared a lot of the junk out of my attic. But the stresses that come in everyday life, especially through years with little people in the household, can pile up rapidly, and soon over power. I am pleased to have found this simple gesture that can so quickly center me once again. It is a gift I will pass on to my children, by example and instruction. My advice to them; don’t be afraid to close your eyes when it is not yet bedtime. You might be pleased to see what you can find inside.