Til You Can Breathe Again

When I think about sitting down to write something--because I want to sit down and write something--all the possibility of words tumble around in my brain and jam up my ability to write anything at all. Like the bedding I pulled from the dryer this afternoon, heated mattress cover rolled over and over sheets cocooned inside in a damp ball. No ideas are drying thoroughly around here.

Or something like that. That analogy doesn't land right, but it's better than the other one I shared among friends in July when I talked about my need to write and my inability to find the words lately--I'm creatively constipated. That's the blunt and simple truth.

So I have a moment to get a few words down, but I'm stuck on the laundry sitting around our home in piles that we're in our 3rd week of living out of. I have so much more I want to say about this season, but the laundry piles and the outdated goals sheet displayed in my room since May say it all.

I pick my daughter up from middle school and she asks if we can go to the store for a Reese's peanut butter cup. I kind of brush it off with "yeah, probably sometime." She expounds that's one of her teacher's favorite candybars and she wants to get it for her since the teacher's friend died by suicide. She has the idea to give her the candybar with a card and a drawing of her favorite animal.

My daughter disappears upstairs after doing her homework and returns a bit later, first to ask if I'd look up a picture of a sloth so she can draw something that looks less like a monkey. Then she comes back and slides the finished card on the counter in front of me asking me to read it and let her know what I think.

In it, she tells her teacher about a sermon she heard at church when we visited family in Idaho this summer. It was about suicide and the importance of letting people know how you feel and ask for help when you're feeling low. I had wondered what she'd thought about that sermon or what she took away from it, but didn't have a great opportunity to ask about it then forgot about it soon after. She tells her teacher she's sad for her and wishes that didn't happen and will be praying for her.

She asks me what I thought. I tell her it's so thoughtful and will likely mean a lot to her teacher.

A couple hours later, after going to the store for the candybar and dinner and reading, I tuck my daughter in for the night and her stomach's in knots and hurting because she's afraid of dying in her sleep. We've been working through different versions of this same fear for months.

I remind her of ways to ground herself in truth, because our minds play tricks on us, especially at night, and make fear seem like reality. I remind her she can get the essential oils she likes, she can think about the story in the book she's reading, she can do the things she knows how to do. She tries and sometimes it doesn't seem like enough and I encourage her to not give up, to keep doing what she knows how to do. (We also regularly have conversations to decide if and when to seek professional help for her.)

We pray. For the redirection of her thoughts on truth. For her teacher as she mourns the death of her friend. And I wonder if maybe her jumping to action for her teacher was a little bit about releasing her own fears and anxieties around death. She knows acting on truth is how we show our anxieties where to shove it.

Before school started in August, her anxiety was hitting a depth it hadn't ever reached before. Her panic at night made her hard to calm, her irrational fears couldn't be reasoned with. She had been working on writing a new book and asked if she could read it to me. I didn't even try to stop the tears as I heard her share her story describing her anxiety and how she coped with it. So wise, honest, and in touch for anyone let alone my 11-year-old.

She goes to her happy place in her mind, which is often school, and when that happy place is in jeopardy (like when she didn't know what to expect before school started at her new middles school), there's nothing left to fight off the anxiety. It grows and takes over like mold on bread. That's how she described it. I ache for her, my sweet baby girl. And I can relate.

Today, I asked someone what helps her destress--when life weighs on her, what helps her be able to breathe again.

I have been feeling my own need for a release. The tension building inside of me--from stress, including the good kind, and holding it all together. Without the proper outlets even the things that bring us great joy and give our lives great meaning can weigh us down and leave us at a loss for what to do with it all.

As the words jumbled in my mind this evening and I wanted to open Notes on my phone or post something on Instagram or open a notebook and put pen to paper, I realized I can breathe again when I write.

Not to over-simplify very complex things, but that's really what I want to say with all of these words. Suicide and anxiety and tackling work-life balance and change of seasons in life are big things. Most of them too big for me to tackle ever, let alone in a blog post. But this I can ask: What can you do in this moment to breathe more freely?

Take a walk to get fresh air, ask for a hug, vent to a friend over coffee?

This evening my daughter wrote her teacher a card that included a drawing of a sloth, baked some muffins, and read a book.

I posted the current state of my life in my Insta Stories, folded the laundry in my room (nevermind what's on the couches, I had to start somewhere), and sat here writing something. And I can breathe again.

Your answer may not solve everything, but it's a worthwhile place to start:

What will help you breathe today?


also see:
new? start here...
finding calm after the jump
where life happens