There’s a thing about breathing. We forget to do it. Or we go through the motion of it so mechanically we’re startled the second our lungs make a false start. Over the past few weeks, I’ve woken in bed with my chest rattling, wondering how to enter into the next blessed sleepy moment. Don’t waste time speculating what has me riddled with breathlessness. I’ll come right out with it. Among other stressors, the grief over losing my dog is walloping me. Yes, all the non-dog people of the world, now is the time to have a good laugh.
But the dog lovers. Those who’ve also loved and lost (or can’t imagine when that day comes). Well, I know you get it.
I had to teach myself to breathe again while restless in bed the other night. Training air to enter in through my nostrils and pour out through my mouth. And when I forced the inhaling and exhaling, concentrating until the act of breathing grew more natural, I eventually fell asleep.
Why am I sharing this?
Because a few times over the course of the last few days I’ve thought about the movie Sleepless in Seattle when Tom Hanks is sitting in his Seattle home opening up to his son about missing the boy’s mom, his deceased wife. Hanks talks about this breathing thing.
Then, as I’m only pages from reaching the end of a great book club read (The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty) earlier today, I hit upon this line. “She hadn’t realized she was holding her breath. This kept happening too. She had to remember to breathe.”
As convoluted as we humans can be, there really are universal strings that will always tie us together.
When we grieve and experience loss there will be moments we forget to breathe.
Which brings me to one of my favorite openings of all time. “From my first breath in this world, all I wanted was a good set of lungs and the air to fill them with—given circumstances, you might presume for an American baby of the twentieth century. Think about your own first gasp: a shocking wind roweling so easily down your throat, and you still slipping around in the doctor’s hands. How you yowled! Not a thing on your mind but breakfast, and that was on the way.” ~ Peace Like a River
I’ve decided it’s in the trusting—the trusting that the next breath will come that I’ll push through this. And in the slowing down and feeling, no matter how painful the emotions may be.
With confidence and somewhat bashfully, I’ll admit I loved our dog more than I have loved most people. It makes sense to me my breath would stop on occasion, tripped up like ornery bike gears.
Stumbling upon lines in great books like those listed above regarding conscious breathing and remembering Hanks talking to his kid, I’m reassured I’m not alone in this. Sometimes we need to go back to the basics.
It’s here as we experience the raw art of breathing that we are able to humbly identify how vulnerable we all are.
Here in the inhale and exhale of grief.