I’ve never been one for fame. The idea of being publicly known and have my privacy invaded has never seemed like the idea of anything I would want for my life. My anonymity is one of my most valuable possessions, and quite often, I find myself in a public place, aware that nobody knows anything about me, and find such peace in that truth. Keeping to myself has consistently been a place of solace, my introverted personality coming alive in moments of quiet.
Since disclosing the details of my internal battles, there has been a degree of that comfort that I have lost. The fact that so many people know the exact nature of my struggles means that I have been required to relinquish that privacy and lay it all out for everyone to see. I can’t even remember the number of medical professionals I have had to let in to the private areas of my heart that I spent years protecting. At the beginning, it was essentially a nightmare talking about it, since my pain told me that what I was dealing with was shameful. Over time, it has certainly become easier, but some days it still feels like I’m under a microscope, with people watching my every move and reading into every one of my words.
Boundaries that I used to have, the ones that I had to set to protect myself from people who have been sources of pain in the past, are no longer feasible, and I have to address anyone who expresses concern.
Don’t get me wrong, I seriously believe that being open about this is the better option, and has led to a significant amount of freedom from the issues that accompany isolation. What I do wish is that the conversations I have with people who know about all this, and who care about me were just not so heavy.. and that it didn’t feel like they were laced with subtext.
It’s like going about my day, taking in a bunch of tiny breaths and not taking the time to let any of it out. I had a chat recently with an old friend, and the topic of “exhale” came up. I think that so often, we wind ourselves up, with whatever it is that keeps us on edge, trying to do the right thing for all the right people, and we don’t realize the importance of releasing the tension.
The idea of the exhale can mean different things for different people. Sometimes it’s being around all the people that bring you peace and reassurance. Sometimes it’s a day free from work and stress, or a vacation from the daily grind. Sometimes it’s just a prayer on the way home, laying it all down and becoming free from the burden of the day. I didn’t know what it was for me, not specifically, until recently.
I have owned an inflatable kayak for about a year and a half now, half of that time carrying it in the back of my car. It came with a whole set of ambitions, but I didn’t do anything about them for a very long time. I only actually used it for the first time a couple of weekends ago. I went with a friend up to the lake and we spent the next several hours on the water.
The first thing I learned is that I didn’t know how to steer a kayak, so I ended up going in circles a lot. I also learned that it is a serious arm workout- (like I was sore for about 3 days afterward). The most important thing that I learned, however, is that being out there was the biggest moment of Exhale that I have had in months- the sun on my skin, the cool water splashing on my legs with each dip of the paddle, and the shoreline rocking in the distance.
(Photo for reference)
Out on the lake, there was no list of jobs that I hadn’t heard back from, there was no email to check, no medical bills, no unanswered text messages, just the sun and the water and my inflatable kayak. I am a firm believer in the majesty and wonder of specific moments in life, and in that moment, I was overcome with the awareness of God’s goodness, and the beauty of his creation.
There are all kinds of ways I think we can learn to exhale, but we also need to be reminded of the big moments, the places where we find our center, where we become the people we want to be.
Life sometimes makes us have to do hard things, and appease all the people, and take in everything that is pushed toward us. It’s all necessary most of the time, and we don’t have much control over it, but we do have control over what we let out. Find your place, find your peace, and just..
Stay as you are,