For a long time now I've felt like I can't breathe.
I'm a singer, so this is weird. It's like my breath only gets to the middle of my rib cage. Unless I take the time and the moment to inhale to the base of my pelvis, down to my toes, it gets stuck somewhere in my sternum. And then my sternum tightens and feels like the cinch of all my inner tension. Like the hardness of calluses and of a pressure point in the body, except nothing can unfurl it.
It's like a sail that's been furled for so long and buried under so much sand that it's petrified. And we have to pry it out of its sandy casing and crack open the sand that's like the graininess around our eyes.
For a long time I've felt like I've been sleeping.
Or rather, I felt that way for five-ish months while I fell in love with him.
From January to July. So, six months. The entire time, from when I first texted him in January to the moment in July when he told me he had come over to say that he wanted us to just be friends.
And then I didn't hear from him again, but whatever.
No. Not whatever. Whatever, for me, said a guy friend once, is a sign that everything is not okay. Except there was so much venom in that whatever that I think it's dripping with blood.
Blood I'd like to claw from his eyes.
He took my breath away, he sent me whirling and dreaming and hoping and loving and also anxious-ing and fearing and dreading.
Hope and dread, in one hand. Slippery like soap as you try to hold onto them.
He sent me whirling on my heels, hair spinning about my head, as I focused my eyes on him, ever wanting, ever longing, ever wanting him, every fiber of my being wanting him.
I was golden. I became afraid. I became dimmer. I was dawn. He made me afraid to break.
I was afraid my light would blind him. Would make him say, no, the light is too brash. And also I was afraid he would think the light was too timid: why isn't she high noon?
I wanted him so much that he stole my breath away because I was holding it, ever afraid he would leave me.
And then he did.
And I exhaled.
He walked out my front door and I locked it behind him and I stood in my bathroom doorway in my favorite sweatshirt and knit a frown deep into my face as I felt the anchor that had been balled up in my chest drop from my pelvis into the floor.
I had been unable to breathe. It was as if my sternum had been tight from January to July.
And suddenly it loosened.
I was sorrowful and I was angry and I wanted to cry -- but I could feel myself settle in a way I had not been settled since the winter.
Odd that the spring should be the time of my undoing, and that I should come alive again in the fall.
But it's Ordinary Time, and that is the time of dreaming and planning, and I have died and come back to life again.
And so has my dreaming.
When I was with him I stopped dreaming, you see.
And suddenly to dream again is like getting a lungful -- or two lungsful! -- of crisp autumn air. It's like inhaling blue so bright and true that you feel you might spontaneously combust. As if so much oxygen will set you aflame.
Because, you see, I have been holding my breath for so long that my oxygen supply has depleted. My blood has been flowing slower, and I have fallen asleep to the point of near unconsciousness.
My lungs have begun to burn with the smolder of death.
The rescue of sorrow. The salvation of sadness. The quest of the Lord to pull me out of the murk and the pit by allowing the first boy I ever loved to break my heart.
The way that grief becomes a cold and warm friend is a small miracle. The way its temperature feels cool and refreshing to a heated cheek, the way it wraps us up in warm, comforting darkness and becomes an incubator for a new hope and a new life and a new intimacy with God and light and the people that surround us.
The way that adventure feels quiet and gray and woolen, like a favorite pair of sweatpants in winter, is sometimes different than we expect.
I am learning that adventure is always different than we expect. That's, in fact, what makes it adventurous. It's in the definition. If we expected it, what kind of adventure would it be?
The sadness of a broken first love has indeed made me sad. But my heart has not been shattered. It's your favorite mug broken into three or four large pieces.
Honestly, the way his spirit stifled mine is what made me depressed. For it is depression that I am dealing with.
It's soft gray rainclouds.
I am ready for autumn to come to me.
I am ready for my favorite season to wrap me up in the scent of its air and the incense and the way it makes my soul catch on fire for adventure.
I feel like I do my best writing in the autumn and in Advent. So bring it, October, November, December. I hate the cold, but I love you.
Because this year, after this spring and summer, I can sink my roots deep and breathe the earthiness of soil again. And my golden leaves will peel away and fall off and I will be left with nothing but newness and a new season and freshness of air so crisp it makes me combust again.
It catches me aflame.
When he ended things with me it was like my flame was relit. And I felt again. I could sink my fingers into the memory foam of my own soul and take hold of something solid within me. The flame has sputtered for months, feeble and afraid and almost drowned with rain -- but even in my weeping and my grieving, I have felt it grow within me, until now it keeps me warm in the coming chill of the seasons.
Jesus lights my way and warms me from within, and lights me up with dreaming like the Christmas lights that are coming (come soon, Advent!).
Sometimes I still feel like I cannot breathe. The tension still sometimes feels like a knot in my sternum that I cannot loosen no matter how deep my breath is. Whether it sinks into my hip bones or not.
But I can feel something alight that I couldn't feel for a long time.
Something has caught fire, and I glow with the light of fiercely delicate dawn.
Dang, I hope that the words that describe me are fiercely delicate.
I am fighting dread and holding hands with despair and looking it in the face and saying, You have been warm to me. You have been an incubator. But, all due love, I am walking into autumn now. I am walking into newness and I will choose to let go of your hand.
I don't need to be lovingly coddled by despair anymore. I am being born again and getting a deep drink of air as if for the very first time.
And my lungs combust, and I cry with the pain of it.
Is this what growing up is like?
In fact, it is the light that feels a little harsher. That's why I prefer dawn. It is gentle and free and alive. Fiercely delicate. Dawn doesn't blind you. It is fierce and liberated and all at once; it is gentle and all rose and champagne and baby pink.
It's the fiercest bow on top of a little girl's head that you ever saw.
To him: I am alive again, and I can breathe. And I will take a deep swig of breath and dreaming and hope and light and drink hard and fast from the waxing Christmas-tree white lights within my soul.
Gandalf talks about being a servant of the Secret Fire. Is this what that is like?
Because the flame is a secret, but everyone can see how I'm lit from within like an ivory seashell.
And soon I will combust, and you will hear the roar in my singing, and joy will blaze along my spine like fast fire on a line of gasoline. Like something out of a war zone.
So breathe again, beloved.
It will not be this way forever.
You are only in waiting. You are only being born again. And again. And again.
Dreamers: the desire will come back. The lethargy will shake away from your limbs; you will brush away the sleep from your eyes. You will plunge headfirst into the deep water of your creativity once more.
Natural hopers: the joy never left you. It always had a hold on you.
Jesus has never abandoned us.
And then inhale. And allow yourself to catch on fire.
Allow yourself to dawn.
Allow yourself to breathe again.