Breathe In, Breathe Out

Breathing gif: Inhale, pause, exhale, pause

For the last 4 weeks, I have been holding my breath.

It’s not uncommon during this time of year when I am always looking for grief to come find me.

But this year, with my (fully-masked) son contracting COVID-19 from his Taekwondo practice just before the new year, the virus making its way unceremoniously through our family in more or less the most lengthy process possible (with nearly 7 days between each case manifesting), and a four-week rolling isolation period, it’s been hard to breathe. Literally and figuratively.

Today, my partner, who was the last person in our family to contract the virus, tested negative, ending our 4-week isolation and returning us to the world, still fully-masked, still cautious, but with a bit of relief for the next couple of months and with the reassurance that my son will turn 16 in that time, making him eligible for the adult dose of his booster (the 12-15 dose was approved the day AFTER he began showing symptoms).

In this time, I’ve been aware how important community care is. My community has not only asked how to help, they have just shown up, dropping off care packages, groceries, sending gift cards, checking in with notes and messages. And I’ve learned to ask and depend on others as well. When we were all isolated in the first two weeks, I ordered delivery, I asked for friends who offered to add our items to their grocery lists, I asked for grace when I just couldn’t do all the things, I soaked in the love of those sending good wishes. I rested because I couldn’t do anything else.

This is not normal for me.

While I believe in the deep and redemptive power of community care, I couldn’t choose it until I had to or until others chose it for me.

It is hard to unlearn the narrative of individual struggle, productivity, and exhaustion.

And while it was powerful and transformative, I also know there is still so much unlearning for me to do.

I haven’t been able to breathe, to reflect, to write, for four weeks. I continued to create to a degree and have been getting what needs to get done completed, but I am spent instead of energized. I felt constantly in a state of alarm because I have been in a state of disequilibrium. I am just beginning to come out of that today, with my partner’s negative test, with my children’s negative tests and being back to their lives.

I couldn’t see it when I was in it.

I couldn’t feel myself holding my breath.

Even when I was resting, I was not at rest.

But today, I am breathing deeply. My schedule does not feel so daunting although it is full. I am taking time this morning to write, to reflect, to be. I am taking a moment to feel all that I have been carrying for four weeks, and in cycles for 27 years, and even before that, at times, my whole life.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

I am constantly working towards a life that is more than survival. Today, I remember my body, my spirit, my heart.