Coming Up for Air: Simple Acts to Redefine Your Life by Margaret Becker, NavPress, paperback, $13.99, paperback, 232 pages.
In 1995 Grammy Nominee and Dove Award winner, Margaret Becker, was in another hotel room and couldn’t remember where the bathroom was. She had been feeling disconnected from her life, like it was running her instead she being in control of it. When she couldn’t remember the last vacation she took, and her search on the computer didn’t help, she decided to get away. She would take a month-long vacation in Florida. There would be no cell phone, no checking in at the office, no taking projects to complete. It was going to be a month for her to rest, to watch sunsets and sunrises, and relax. In her third book, Coming Up for Air, Becker shares that month by the ocean, and how that month of discoveries was still playing out in her life 15 years later.
In the first part of the book, “Breathing In,” Becker describes her decompression period. She discovered how hard it was to be in the present, to slow down and actually rest or just sit still. In “Breathing Deep” Becker recounts how she began to evaluate her life and start dreaming about what she wanted for the rest of her life. After a shopping trip where she stocked up on paper, pencils, crayons, and other art supplies, Becker started to write down her dreams and figuring out the direction she wanted to go. Through writing, drawing, and dreaming, Becker determines how she wants to live her life, and how she wants to spend her time. At the end she comes to the conclusion that she wants to be at home more (so she can have a golden retriever), she wants to encourage people and help them fulfill their dreams, and she wants to write. As she goes through this process, she also remembers events from her past, the family that shaped her, and critical points that made her the person she is. The third section, “Breathing Free,” begins ten years after Becker’s first retreat. One of the decisions she made was that she would continue to have a yearly retreat where she stepped back, evaluated and rested. She has done that. She has also continued a practice she began on her first retreat: watching the sun rise and set. She talks about how her life has changed, and how she feels in control of her schedule and not the other way. She does have a golden retriever, and she has made the center of her life friends and family. She has learned how to say no to things that are not important to her and the goals she wants to accomplish.
Coming Up for Air is a well-written memoir of coming to grips with a life that has gotten out of control due to busyness and making the decision not to let “busyness” control your life. Becker’s honesty and candor shines through, especially as she recounts trying to come to terms with her own self image, or the fact that she has not been mindful of putting money away for retirement. She does a good job of describing how hard it can be to slow down, and how hard the evaluating and dreaming process can be. It made me want to sit down and dream about my life and write the necessary steps it would take to get from here to there.