Did you know that I hadn't been able to breathe through my nose since 2003?
It became a topic of conversation early last year when a former co-worker and I discovered that we would both be having sinus surgeries, albeit slightly different ones, within a couple of weeks of each other.
When we both returned to work after our surgeries, as people that have been through these situations tend to do, we started comparing surgery and recovery stories. Around a month into shared stories of low dose pain killers, constant bodily fluids, and grindingly slow healing, he dropped this line: "You know? It almost feels like learning to breathe all over again."
There is something to that.
A lot of my life has been holding my breath: waiting for some situation to end; waiting for the other shoe to drop; waiting for the next day, or payday, to handle business or just waiting for the calm after the storm.
What is it like to breathe?
What is it like to finally get all of your credit cards paid off, without wondering how you will deal with an expensive emergency that you can't afford to ignore until you have the cash to pay for it outright, and you find yourself right back where you started?
What is it like to watch your child make progress and applaud without being constantly worried that it won't be long until, this, too, passes due to incident or circumstance?
What is it like to not wonder if you will EVER be able to change your housing situation for the better?
What is it like to breathe?
I am honest enough to admit that I have spent a lot of my life flailing: swimming against a tide of unfortunate circumstances, decisions made out of desperation due to aforementioned circumstances, and merely trying to hold it together no matter what. Oh Dear Dog, there was a great deal of "what".
I prayed. A lot. I changed my approach to almost every area of my life: work, child rearing, relationships, financial management. Some changes worked out, some definitely made everything worse, some were almost exceptionally neutral in that they produced zero net gains or losses, so I counted them as wins. And Boy Howdy, did I learn some hard lessons along the way. Like don't take every success story you read at face value. There is often some little tidbit that gets left out of the story that makes the end result a whole lot less heroic, or as easily achievable, as they are making it out to be. And not every debt management plan is for everybody. In fact, some plans will absolutely destroy your credit that you were trying so hard to build up.
In those rare moments when I have found time, space, and the ability to breathe a little, it finally occurred to me that these moments are fleeting. For everyone. The most profound statement I ever heard regarding these fleeting moments came from a gentleman at church, speaking before the altar call: "Right now, either everyone has just come out of a storm, is going through one currently, or is about to go through one."
There is so much truth to that.
The key thing in learning to breathe again is just remembering that the physical process that you adopted to get through your difficulties doesn't have to go on indefinitely. Moving from only short inhalations through your nose because that was all you could do, and mostly breathing through your mouth because you had no choice, to full deep breaths; slowly in through your nose, then out through your mouth, quietly, rhythmically, filling your lungs and regulating your breathing in the healthiest possible way.
We will get through this. All of us. Whatever "this" is for us currently. Some of us will pray, and lean on our faith. Some of us will put our efforts into doing the absolute best we can, to the best of our knowledge, to help our situations .Some of us won't be able to do much but hope for the best, as we have already done all we can.
And it is my sincerest wish that somewhere in the middle of all of the striving, and praying, and hoping, and working, and occasional chaos,, that at some point, we all have the opportunity to stop for a quiet moment. And breathe.