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The Skinny By Elaine Langlois

Living Every Moment

Most of us can't remember what we ate for breakfast this morning, unless it involved sugar-let alone what we've been doing with our lives. Asked to recall the highlights of the past decade, many women can summon only jumbled, chaotic memories of men they're pretty sure they dated and sex and luxury cruises and Thai food.

While that doesn't sound too terribly bad, you can do better. You can step off the moving walkway of your life and start living mindfully, aware of every moment.

Brushing your teeth. Focus on each individual tooth. Think about how they work together to chop your food into tiny bits. Think of how poorly you pay them back by eating Mars Bars and double chocolate mousse cake and not flossing regularly or brushing three times a day. Reflect on your cavities and how you might not have them if there were fluoride treatments when you were a child.

Forgive yourself. Forgive the research scientists and product development chemists and society at large. Apply a Whitestrip. Run from mirror to mirror, basking in the glow of your dazzling smile.

Listening to others. Give yourself to the insufferable prattle of your children. Pretend you want to play Brios and you're actually interested in what Ernie and Bert have to say. When you are with acquaintances and friends, refuse to allow your thoughts to wander from their shallow, vapid talk.

You have heard the saying that you really don't know someone until you walk around in her shoes. Say very politely, "Do you mind if I try on your shoes?" If they're really good shoes, make a dash for it.

Cleaning the litterbox. Think about the litter and its purpose, of how you are giving your cat a clean and healthy place to perform her natural bodily functions. Think about how you wouldn't be stuck with her if you'd just driven home the other way that day or didn't have your child with you and could ignore this scrawny kitten mewing pathetically atop a fencepost.

Think of how she's shredded the antique lace canopy over your bed and urinated on the mattress four times. Think of how you're stuck paying her veterinary bills for the next 17 years. Tell yourself you are prosperous. Say it three times: "I am prosperous!" Then scoop.

Driving. Slow down until you are going pretty darn close to the speed limit. Ignore the procession of cars forming behind you. Turn off your cell phone, or at least put it on vibrate. Focus on your breathing. Feel the rattle that comes when you press the accelerator. Notice the pale streaks of dust across the dashboard, the smell of must and stale apple juice, the steady winking of the Check Engine light.

Imagine yourself in the car of your dreams. Maybe a Ford Explorer or Jeep Grand Cherokee. Or a Volvo YCC, the new concept car for women, with its ponytail-friendly headrests and hood that can't be opened except by a mechanic. Or a BMW 7 Series, its "active seat" gently massaging your thighs.

Close your eyes and visualize it. You are zipping along "the road not taken," which in your case is a scenic coastal highway with the occasional better outlet store. A handsome, well-heeled companion sits at your side. You are 20 pounds lighter. Your talk is witty, very witty, and you sport a chic haircut, impeccable makeup, and extremely fashionable attire.

Open your eyes. Take responsibility for your life and your actions. Take the ticket the police officer hands you. Take the insurance information of the driver you just rear-ended.

Communing with nature. Go for a long walk in a park. Create a quiet space for yourself, a shady spot far from suburban life where there are neither vicious dogs snarling from behind electric fences nor signs saying Stay Off because lawn chemicals have been applied.

Listen to the mixed and peaceful melodies of cell phones trilling in the distance. Look at the clouds. Think about how you might remember what kinds of clouds they were if you had paid attention in science class or when your child was watching Bill Nye. Reflect on whether you should have brought your folding umbrella, the pink one that goes with your capris.

If the park has a lake, take a leisurely swim. Notice the boaters with whom you are sharing this space and time, their bloated bellies and half their buttocks sticking out of their clothes, playfully chugging beer and shouting obscenities and relieving themselves in the water. Accept them as part of your present state. Accept the diseases you may contract from swimming in their vicinity. Accept the water going up your nose. Accept your sunburn and cellulite, the gnats and mosquitoes and honeybees and chiggers.

Take the time to notice that you are lost. Accept your lostness, your lack of a sense of direction.

© 2005 Elaine Langlois

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