It’s Okay to Breathe

…In fact, it’s good for you.

Yes. Breathing is essential, a very basic need for survival. But I’m talking about breathing in more than the physical, life-giving sense.

Do you ever feel like you just can’t catch up in your own race? Or that you’re running that marathon in circles, ever-doomed to repeat the same mistakes? Your mind knows you need to stop, catch your breath, take a break, or any number of other self-care items, but your ego tells you lies: I can do it all. I can’t afford to stop. If I don’t get all these things done… 

What? What, my friend, will happen if you don’t clean your bathroom, go grocery shopping, do five loads of laundry, vacuum the entire house, make dinner, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera? But, but, but! What about calling to make my kid’s doctor appointment or renewing my license that’s about to expire? What about making sure I’m balancing time with my husband (or significant other) and my time with my friends and, heaven forbid, time to myself?

Oh, stupid, stupid, stupid! Why did I think I could do all this? Who am I kidding? Now I don’t want to do anything! I wish everyone would just leave me alone. All I want to do is cuddle with my blanket, a bottle of wine, a box of chocolates, and a good book or ten days of Netflix in my bedroom and not be disturbed. I’m done. I’m just sooo done.

Anyone else relate? Raise your hand. Yep. Even you in the back there. Come on, sweetie, it’s time to be real and transparent, because if we can’t be real about running ourselves into the ground, we’re denying the first stride of being able to step into our authentic selves.

Not to mention 2020…well, I don’t need to say anything more. Let’s just say IT’S BEEN A YEAR. Maybe we’ll look back at 2020 with 20/20 hindsight vision and see more clearly what all this was teaching us, but for now, let me just say this: 2020 is teaching me to slow down. It’s kind of forcing it, in fact, even though my stubborn ego is still arguing.

Breathe. Just breathe. Sometimes we really do need to start with a breath. A deep one. A long one. One that’s sustaining and calming and centering. The Bible speaks of the breath of God. Allow that truth to flow through you and begin your journey toward peace.

Firstly, stop beating yourself up. You’re not in a wrestling ring. I often ask myself: Would I speak the same caustic, judgmental, condemning words to my friend if she were struggling? Those very words I often utter to myself like some sick mantra? Answer: No! Give yourself the grace to be kind toward yourself. Pray for yourself. That’s not selfish. In fact, if you don’t help yourself first, you can’t help others. To be in a place where and in a time when you can help others, you need to be practicing self-care. That’s not to say you need to be perfect. Release the expectation that you somehow need to achieve some next step or certain goal before you’re ready, but start with kindness toward yourself, then that same kindness will flow like life-giving waters toward others.

Secondly, realize that something has to give. You may feel like you need to be Super Mom or Super Woman or Wonder Woman or whoever or whatever, but you’re not. And that’s totally okay. You’re YOU. Beautiful, messy you. God made you just the way you are, imperfections and all, not so you could berate yourself or have regrets or run yourself into the ground, but so you could spread love. In essence, do your part to bring sunshine to a world overcome with darkness. 

You don’t need to go far to see that darkness. You don’t even need to purposefully seek a news article. The headlines hit you the moment to go on your phone or computer. I’m not here to get into a debate about all that’s going on out there. We can’t control the world or other people, but we can control ourselves, most specifically our reactions and our choice to see the good in the world, to find the good in even bad circumstances. 

Because God can use life’s brokenness and heartache to paint beauty. I’m not saying to be falsely positive or to undermine the real hurt out there, but what I come back to again and again is my own brokenness.

I was trying to do too much for too long. It took an atheist whose novel I’d been editing online to tell me to TAKE A BREAK. I believe God uses everyone for his purposes, and yes, even nonbelievers who live in love are spreading God’s goodness. Here was a man who I’d known less than a month and was corresponding with through email because of a business contract. He was one of my customers, but rather than demand that I keep delivering when I was clearly beyond worn out, he told me to step away from editing (even writing) for at least a month.

Well, I’ve taken the rest of the year off. You may say, wait, isn’t writing your passion? Yes, yes, it is, but when your passion is causing you undue stress, you lose the joy. When you overextend yourself, you lose the joy you find in good things. And while the editing jobs were bringing in money, which is nice, I had to weigh the necessity of money with my wellbeing. Also, the effect on my mood when I’m overworked and not sleeping enough weighs unfairly on my family. I’m a better mom and wife because I’ve stepped away from doing too much.

So, what am I doing? I’m breathing in. I spent a couple of hours last week sitting at the kitchen table drawing and coloring pictures with my kids. My family went apple picking and through a corn maze over the weekend. We celebrated an early Thanksgiving with my husband’s family. I laughed and drank a little wine. My husband and I are watching Poldark every evening together. I’m taking walks. I’m talking to friends and also telling my friends that my schedule (and body) are demanding I not stay out late. I’m reconciling with getting another year older and how my body is changing, and I need to accept that and give myself the grace to go to sleep earlier to get the rest I need. I’m taking my vitamins. 

And I’m being intentional about reading the Bible every day. I’ve committed to a 40-day study through Proverbs 31 Ministries. We’re in week four of eight, and I’m enjoying reading a bit of the Bible and a devotional, then answering some questions in the study guide. It’s reframing my mindset to slow down and really breathe in. 

I’m seeing God in more and more aspects of my life because I’m actively looking and listening. 

This morning, I received two emails from different friends regarding faith-based items. The first friend felt comfortable enough to share her heart with me, and she gave her own testimony to how God has been working in her own life. The second friend asked if I would be willing to endorse her book regarding faith and mental health. Wow. Just wow. Can I say how amazing that is?

It’s not my intention to preach to you, but I’m sharing what’s on my heart. It’s freeing because, you see, I’m finally breathing. And like physical breathing is necessary to keep living, I am going to try my hardest to maintain the breathing I’ve been doing these past few weeks. To make these choices a lifestyle and not just a season. 

Will I still write and edit? Of course, but I’m going to slow down. There is no race but with myself, and while I’ve known that all along, I didn’t really believe it until I stopped and stepped out of the loop and started down a different path. A path toward peace, love, grace, kindness, understanding.

3 responses to “It’s Okay to Breathe”

  1. I can’t tell you how very much I love this post. You’re speaking to the choir, sister. I’m learning to slow down in the season too. And it feels good.

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