Single Parent Faith

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Just Breathe

Leaving work late tonight (around 7:30 pm), I called my teen daughter to let her know. The huff and tone in her voice told me she was displeased that I left later than I initially planned.

Mommy guilt would normally interject its finger wagging thump against my conscience. Only tonight, that was not the case. You see, instead I felt, “I’m doing the best I can.” This week I was home all day with her Monday, and left work early yesterday to take her to a doctor’s appointment.

I am employed full time, and as such, I have to make sure I make up any time I miss from work, or take vacation hours for the time I can’t make up. As a single parent, juggling my hours and figuring out how much time I have to make up is a way of life. Four years ago I was blessed with the opportunity to begin telecommuting part of my work week, thus, making it possible to make up time in the comfort of my home. Prior to this, I had to make up my time physically on the premises, which meant often I would work my weekends and late into the wee hours. During those years she never had to experience me leaving her alone or with a baby sitter so I could go into work, because I’d make up time when she was with her dad. This was my choice, but it came at the price of my exhaustion.

Once she began Junior High School she was too old for daycare, but not quite ready to handle a lot of unsupervised freedom. My employer was very understanding and accommodating, allowing me to come in late in the mornings (so I could drop her off at school) and leave work early (so I could pick her up). This of course meant I had a lot of hours to make up!

I’ve tried not to burden my daughter with the details of how I made all this work and the sacrifices I’ve made both professionally and personally. It is after all my love for her that has driven me to do what I do. However, this evening when I heard her disapproval, I realized it’s time to let her in on the logistics which mom has to consider and juggle to make things happen. Though I had good intentions by sheltering her form my reality (didn’t want to induce guilt), doing so invokes her to have unrealistic expectations of my time. I was cautious how I phrased this so that it wouldn’t come across as a guilt lashing. As I began, my phone went dead, only I didn’t know that, and instead thought she was giving me the silent treatment. After a while I asked, “Did you hang up? Or are you just being quiet? Hello?”

I continued talking regardless of the lack of confirmation, then began to laugh as I caught the absurdity of it all. Crazy mom talking to herself and now laughing by herself!

I didn’t take myself seriously (didn’t stress over it). I didn’t take my daughter seriously (didn’t get upset about her unrealistic and self-centered teen expectations). Leaving work later than I would have liked, I found myself resigned to it,“it is what it is.” After all, “I’m doing the best I can.”

As I drove home the words, “Just breathe,” strangely popped into my head. These words were spoken to me three years ago by a single dad. At the time he gave me that advice, I remember thinking, “How shallow.” I knew he meant well, but thought this nugget of wisdom pale and lackluster.

Today, however, I heard those words differently. It took me only three years to see the hidden nugget in his advice─ better late than never─ as I recalled breathing exercises from yoga classes I’ve taken. Not just any breathing. We had to take in such a deep breath, that you could hear everyone’s throat emitting a long whining sound as the air compressed against our throats. Until this moment I did not realize that the breaths I had taken every day of my life (no matter how deep I thought) were actually shallow in comparison. Shallow….there’s that word I used, to judge his advice. Ironically, as long as I interpreted his advice as shallow, I was exhibiting my own shallow understanding of the possibilities that lie within the very act of taking in a breath.

Taking in a deep breath cleanses, replenishes the brain with needed oxygen and requires intent and will to accomplish. To exhale slowly requires the same. To focus on one’s breath means we place the present dead center in our thoughts. Doing this means we have no room in our thoughts for guilt, anger, regret, un-forgiveness (for not being super mom or super dad), or anything else that will rob our energy reserved for the breath.

Taking in breath, sounds basic and simple enough, but as the very essential part of life, it is a formidable act. We leave the comfort of our mother’s womb and enter the world through our first breath. We leave this physical life, when we expel our last breath. All the time in between, we generally breathe without taking pause to appreciate it, or to be present to it.

So as I drove home tonight, giddy from laughing at myself whilst taking in deep breaths, I also felt exhilarated to realize that sometimes it takes years to finally understand the wisdom in the words of another. All the more reason not to be dismissive of others’ advice, no matter how shallow it may initially seem. It was not his words, but it was I who was not ready to see beyond the ordinary meaning of words, to search for their hidden treasure.

I pray that God open my mind to less judgment and more clarity, such that I may see the blessing in the simplest words spoken. That I may see what He wishes me to glean and how to apply it to my own life. Amen.

Ella Venezia
Copyright © 2011 Ella Venezia. All Rights Reserved.

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  1. Hi Ella,

    As I read this post, I couldn't help but smile at the mental image of you explaining "the logistics which mom has to consider and juggle to make things happen." -- Have you considered doing one of those, "Can you hear me now commercials?"

    Breathing is both good and theraputic. It allows tense muscles to relax (a very good thing). A Tai Chi instructor once shared with me that when we feel stress, our muscles tighten because we either stop breathing or we shorten our breaths. I'm glad that you Just Breathe through moments that might cause tension or stress.

    Blessings and peace.


  2. MTJ- Great idea! That has the possibility of being quite the zaney commercial.
    I find that when I couple breathing, with looking for the humor in the moment (though this is often easier said than done), I get back to peace quicker.
    Thank for sharing what you learned from the Tai Chi instructor.


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