That’s the name of a book. I have it in my bookcase but I don’t remember reading it. There are no underlined pages, so I don’t know what I thought of it at the time. I turn pages and write in margins of books almost as note to future me. I take them down and dust them off and see how the book read me last time, often marvelling at what past me was like, sometimes wondering what was so significant about a sentence or a sense. Waiting to Exhale is a book about relationships and I think it was even a movie, and I’m stealing the title because that’s what life feels like a bit right now.
I have a seventeen year old who is getting his driver’s licence and his pilot’s licence and has his boating licence, so every time he takes to the road or the sky or the water I take a big deep breath in and hold and hold and hold it until he steps out of those adrenaline filled worlds and back into the nest. Yes, I know I have to allow this stretching to occur. Yes I know it’s good for us (I assume the broccoli rule holds true: something that feels so yuck MUST be good) but that doesn’t mean I like it. I spend my professional days helping people to understand the difference between something that hurts and something that harms, so it’s not a new concept, but it doesn’t mean I like it.
I have a fourteen your old who is learning to act and sing and go out all day without me, so every times she leaves to hang with her people I take a big deep breath in and hold and hold and hold until she steps out from those magical worlds and back into the nest. Yes I know I have to allow the flexibility to bend and flow, but that doesn’t mean I like it. I go to yoga classes where I learn the difference between stretch and strain in my own body, so the concept is familiar and maybe even comforting, but that still doesn’t mean I embrace it.
I stole the title of Waiting to Exhale, because for in life as it is in art, our lives are really all about relationships. It’s probably a big part of why we are here: striving to tribe, collecting connections. We spend a good part of our days trying to find ways to connect more dots and see what is hidden in plain sight- what bigger picture will be revealed. We breathe in to prepare ourselves, to fill our brains with oxygen and to get activated. And once the anticipation and the excitement is over, we exhale to calm down and be at peace. To lick our wounds, or lips or each others faces as we settle into our nests to rejuvenate.
A big part of parenting is spent waiting to exhale, and for me that’s a big part of the world right now. We have taken the big breath in and now we wait to see what will happen next, what the next rule will be or what the next stats will show us. So much of the lives that we are playing in are dependent on external things, whilst we hold, hold, hold our breath like big wave surfers running underwater to increase their lung capacity. Like parents in the small hours- half in slumber, yet still waiting for the headlights in the driveway and the key in the front door heralding the arrival of the chick back to nest, and to exhale.
This week my girl has spent hours rehearsing all sorts of musical wonders that I will never fully understand, and my boy has spent hours up near the clouds, tickling his brain with dreams of what will be. I remember once telling him to take his GoPro on one of his adventures. He asked why. I said so you can remember it. He said I remember it here and here, pointing to his head and his heart.
So on my week goes. She sings. He flies. And I sit here, quietly, waiting to exhale.
Do (or did) your kids stretch you like the marks on your stomach? Did you ever bounce back?
…From The Ashers