Why Are We Telling Each Other to Breathe?

The first time I remember telling someone to breathe I was following the teenage son of a friend being wheeled into the emergency room several hundred miles away from his family.

I was on staff at a camp and Wesley was playing 3 on 3 basketball. The competition was physical between the older teens, all of them 6′ and more. Wes and an opponent went up for the ball when the other guy fell down on top of Wesley’s foot. His 6′ 3 frame crumpled to the ground.

The hospital was in a nearby town. It was an agonizing ride for Wesley. He was placed on a cart to wheel him into the ER. He bent over his foot holding it in silent agony. I realized in his pain he was holding his breath and I said firmly, yet as calmly as I could, “Breathe, Wesley”.

Today we see that word on memes, mugs and T-shirts. We have it on our phones. We choose it as our word for the year. Breathe

My cousin gave me this necklace as a reminder

My cousin and I have been texting it, writing it and saying it to each other for a few years now.

Why do we have to tell each other to do something we’re already doing? We are all breathing or we wouldn’t be alive.

Just like I noticed Wesley holding his breath when he was suffering we hold our breaths in a figurative sense.

Grief cripples us and our breath becomes shallow. We are trying to hold back the pain.

A hurricane demolishes a community and the effects continue long after the rest of the country has forgotten. Our breathing becomes angry gasps.

Divorce, job loss, miscarriage, empty nest…..they take our breath away. We gulp for air to stay alive but we aren’t breathing in real life-giving breath.

And we say to ourselves and to one another, “breathe“.

To do this we have to loosen our grip around the pain.

Wesley’s pain didn’t go away until he got medical attention. Some of us might need to start with appropriate medication to help us loosen our grip on what’s holding us.

When Beki tells me to breathe I know the she means slow down. Be in the here and now. Stop thinking about the what ifs and what was and what should be. Stop thinking about the unknowns and start with slowing down my mind. When I do that my breath follows and they are in rhythm together. 

The thing I’ve learned is I have to repeat this day after day. My mind is ready to race away with anxiety and worry. When it became overwhelming I sought professional help. While that has brought some relief, it doesn’t release me from needing to create practices that will help my mind and breath find a healthy rhythm.

I often find that healthy pace in the creative process. I read, journal, spend time with people who are healthy and not afraid to remind me to breathe when they see me gasping. I have faith in a God who loves me and restores my breath.

As my son has reminded me, let people help you. It’s how God has always worked in my life – through the hearts and hands of others.

Breathe, friends. Breath in deeply and exhale peace.

At the end of the day

Is this summer really busier than most or were slower summers just seen through hazy-want-it-to-be-so memories?

Summers when our kids were young seemed to stretch on with long days in the pool and road trip vacations out west. Then they started going to sleep-away-camps and working all summer at camp and summers got hotter and hurried to fit it all in.

Children add the pauses in life. Appreciated only with some perspective.

the granddaughter

the granddaughter’s recent visit

It has been a hurried July. Issues at work that can’t be resolved with simple decisions have stretched on, tethering us closer to home. The times we’ve enjoyed away haven’t been allowed to linger as we quickly put the photos aside to take up the next thing on the list.

The collision happened this week as it has before. The expected when working with people and disappointment more tragic when working with those getting their footing in recovery.

We throw some people right into the fire it seems. You get some traction in this recovery thing. You’re making all the right moves: sponsor, meetings, giving back, yep, you’re a stand-up guy. You’re hired.

It has to happen sometime this going back into the world, beyond our seemingly safe walls with counselors down the hall from you and recovery language spoken all around. Even here the addiction demon rages and pulls some down again.

80's night

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It was that kind of week. We’d been gone two days and back in time to put the finishing touches on our big 80’s night. Smack in the middle of summer where we knew we needed to laugh off the steam of the day. Back to a turmoil we didn’t know was brewing. Back to relapse that had us scrambling for replacements and action and grace.

I was home most of the day, with the granddaughter at the pool. Oblivious to anything amiss until the phone call not intended to inform me of the chaos others had been swept in. A simple question about the audio for the night and the simple statement, it’s been a busy day. “Good busy or bad busy?“, I asked. The new employee on the other end hesitated before he said bad busy followed by, “I don’t want to be the first to tell you.”

“Better get use to it“, I said and so it went from there.

The granddaughter still in the pool wanting me to come back in, safe from our grown-up world of disease and heartbreak.

Even the counselors get into the spirit of the night

Even the counselors get into the spirit of the night

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God knew. He knew when this would happen and that it would happen on the day we set aside to have a party. He knew at the end of confusion, uncertainty and frustration we would need to laugh. And we did.

A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance. Ecclesiastes 3:4

There are seldom more events that make us realize life goes on than relapse. One falls but 98 others must be held up, encouraged, shown a new way, a new life.

So we had our 80’s night with more of the younger ones embracing the costumes of a time before they were born. We laughed and cheered and booed when the judges didn’t score Pat high enough in karaoke. We danced with the counselors and wore silly things not in character for us. And in the process, some wounds were soothed.

At the end of the day, the fallen are cared for, taken to shelter and told they are loved.

At the end of the day grace. 

Five-Minute Friday {rise}

Deerfield beach

There are some days, or weeks, when our job of caring, the job we’re called to do, when that is, well, more like a job. It demands more time and attention and drains everything within.

When you’ve run out of tissue to wipe the noses or tears, when your arms have tried to hug away disappointments, when you’ve had emails from daughters asking if you’ve heard from their father because he’s dropped out of sight, again, that kind of caring can overwhelm and  leave you feeling empty and parched.

For those times, I hope you’ll find your stretch of sand, figurative or literal, and stretch out your towel to watch the sun rise higher in the sky. To feel it’s warmth embrace on your skin and know that is the God who loves you more than deserved and loves without question.

Yeah, it’s been that week and there will be more like it. But I have this place in the sun (and Son) where all can be made fresh.

Why would you ever complain, O Jacob, (O Debby)
or, whine, Israel, saying,
“God has lost track of me.
He doesn’t care what happens to me”?
Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening?
God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.
He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath.
And he knows everything, inside and out.
He energizes those who get tired,
gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out,
young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
they walk and don’t lag behind. Isaiah 40:27-31 the Message

Linking up with Kate Motaung for another writing frenzy called Five-Minute Friday.