Just Breathe and Enjoy Your Life
A short story: ‘He was enjoying the feeling of having nothing to do. To let life take him on its currents and trust the tide without desperately trying to control every water droplet.’
Arsa was the sort of boy who wanted to outline the map of his whole life before he tred it. He wanted to know his life before he lived it. He never wanted to make any mistakes.
Christmas came gently that year, and though snow did not fall where he lived, it seemed like the nearby mountains brought him good tidings all the same. On Christmas eve, Arsa sat alone on a slanted wood shingled rooftop. Stars had appeared overhead, drenching the night sky with magic.
‘What in the world — ’ A gasp startled out of Arsa. He lifted himself onto his tiptoes, locks of his hair rippling in the wind. Some creature was soaring through sky towards him as though it was fuelled by light speed. Was it a reindeer? Was it just a huge burst of a supernova?
Whatever it was, Arsa did not have time to deduce, because the light charged straight at him and knocked him flat on his back. He felt himself falling backwards off the rootop and screamed. It would surely be a fall to end his time.
But he landed on something soft. Something dusty and feathery. Arsa jumped to his feet, shaking himself like a dandelion, inspecting his limbs for any sign of injury.
‘Aren’t you wondering what you just fell into?’
He looked around and found no source to the voice. Then he felt something pawing softly at his feet. A snowy white, blue eyed baby wolf was blinking up at Arsa. Hadn’t he seen that familiar prickle of wolf ears somewhere else before?
‘Is that…Are you Icicle?’ Arsa bent down to stroke her head and the little wolf seemed to nod as she nosed into his palm. She did look exactly like the newborn wolf he had once saved from floating downstream. But he had only been a nine year old boy then, rowing without permission in the local river before winter iced it out.
‘It’s so great to see you, Arsa.’ If wolves could smile, he was sure she would have, but her eyes looked warm and joyous all the same.
‘You fell into something there,’ she said softly. ‘Why don’t you look?’
It was so special to just see her, especially when he was here all alone, that he picked her into his lap. Just like he used to when he was a boy. He felt his heart rate calm down slightly.
Arsa turned around, kneeling on the floor. The soft and feathery stuff he had landed in turned out to be huge slips of paper. They toppled on top of one another, corners crinkled with ink. This was his own handwriting.
It was from all years. Eight, ten, twelve. Right up to twenty one. It was a list of plans and goals. Schedules in colour coded pens for January, February and December. A checklist of achievements ranging from weekly to yearly. A strong and stringent progress chart made up of hundreds of scribbles. There were scraps of motivational quotes that he once hung on his bedroom walls. There were his journal sticky notes talking about everyday life. But now as Arsa read them, he realised they half sounded like sin confessions.
‘Today I could not do everything that I promised I would in my timetable. But I know I’ll do better tomorrow. I cannot let myself be like this.’
‘My entire summer holidays passed without me signing up for a single ice skating competition, even though all I do in the daylight is practise on our frozen lake. I feel so guilty.’
‘Sometimes the pressure builds up within me to such a weight, yet instead of going off like other people, I just let it settle like a rock of dissapointment in my chest. This dissapointed weight just exists, and the worst part is that it’s not even about what everybody expects of me. It’s what I expect of myself.’
‘It’s my birthday again. I know I should be happy, but I can’t help thinking about how I’m a year older. But I haven’t reached where I thought I would.’
‘I woke up at four am today and sat working away at my books, but eventually fell asleep at the desk. That shouldn’t happen again. I should do better. I should be better.’
Arsa let the final piece of paper flutter away from his palm. He had only been a young child when he wrote some of these words. Now as a man of twenty one, he realised something sadder. In a childhood where he should have enjoyed having fun, Arsa had wasted so many days worrying about what would happen next. If he would ever be good enough to make his dreams come true.
He felt a feathery white paw dab at a tear droplet on his cheek. Icicle was trying to get his attention.
‘Why are you sitting there crying?’ She shook herself in one frisky movement. ‘Better follow me instead.’
It was no sooner than he got to his feet and started after her that the world shifted once more. He found himself sinking headfirst into a sleigh, but Iceicle crouched between him and the wood, saving him from breaking his nose. Arsa was trying to get a grip on things now, but how on earth could he measure all this?
‘How long have I been here? Will I — ’
‘Yes, you will get home.’ Icicle nuzzled at his palm before staring him down soberly. ‘All in good time. There is more you must see just now.’
The sleigh was picking up speed, bells tinkling and slivers of light cutting away beneath it. Arsa settled in gingerly and began to look beyond. Iceicle’s voice was warm like a cup of hot chocolate and it wafted in the air towards him.
‘I am going to show you the moments you often overlook when you look back upon your life. There is much to cherish within memories you didn’t think were important. There were times you didn’t have to struggle. You think struggle makes success. But you didn’t here, and these times marked great progress and happiness. They were the making of you.’
Memories shimmered to life before him one by one, blown up as if they were on a theatre screen. Warmly lit upon iridescent northern lights.
Arsa saw himself. There he was, a sixteen year old, warmly swaddled up in a blanket next to his mother and father. His father was making both of them laugh as he told a story and his mother kept trying to scold him even as she laughed. There were cups of warm tea by the bedside.
The next memory flickered on. He was walking down his school road on a spring day with a rowdy band of close friends. Their jeers and cheers rose in the air like a song. He saw himself throwing an apple core on his friend’s head. ‘What kind of fool are you, Arsa?’ The boy made a half amused, half irritated face at him.
Now he was on a frozen lake again. This looked like it was just a few weeks ago, because he was wearing his newest ice skates. The sun was sparkling on the ice and making it gleam. His eyes saw a world of gold that whirled endlessly as he went spinning on silver blades. It felt like being free. It felt better than flying.
Memories rested next to each other like neatly stacked ice. He was just sleeping under blankets under a twilight window in some of them. Eating delicious food in another. Laughing at memes on his phone. Reading his favourite comic books or randomly dancing to the music within his headphones. He was just relaxing and looking happy in so many of them.
He wasn’t struggling, he was being. He was enjoying the feeling of having nothing to do. To let life take him on its currents and trust the tide without desperately trying to control every water droplet all the time.
‘You’re just chilling,’ Icicle declared.
‘I’m just chilling.’ He murmured back to himself. ‘Sounds about right.’
‘It is right. The whole point of me kidnapping you for Christmas wasn’t just to make you think you had gone mad dreaming up wolves that talked.’
‘No?’ Arsa smiled.
‘See the importance of just enjoying life instead of trying to struggle with it.’
Icicle looked at Arsa. ‘Love yourself. And I mean not just enough to make yourself work for your dreams. You have to love yourself enough to let yourself breathe easy and relax. Let things take their time to develop. Trust time itself. The best way to your dreams is to take it one step a day.’
‘I understand,’ whispered Arsa.
‘Remember that life is not just about your dreams. It is about those who love you. It is about small miracles and big blessings. It is not just about what you dream, but everything that you are gifted that you never dreamt of.’
Arsa laid a hand softly on Iceicle’s fur. Her blue eyes twinkled at him.
‘You are lucky enough to be alive, my friend. That is more than enough.’
With those words echoing in his ears, everything seemed to blur around him. Arsa felt the sleigh fly higher, once more at the speed of light, and he charged forth with the momentum. The sky was falling. Or was it? Perhaps he was falling.
He felt himself float downwards onto a familiar wood shingled rooftop. Footsteps were lit in a shadow in the doorway. It was his mother. She wore a warm red sweater and a worried frown, peering into the darkness to find him.
‘Arsa? Come inside, you crazy boy. It’s freezing outside and you have been on that rooftop forever.’
Arsa hurried towards her, following her into the warmth of the house. He looked back once. The sky was completely empty. But the moon was out and ever since he had been a small boy, Arsa used to believe that he could see the face of a little wolf in the craters of the moon.
His mother embraced him tight. ‘It’s midnight. Merry Christmas.’
He smiled and rested his cheek on the top of her head.
‘Merry Christmas, Mama.’