I caught myself holding my breath today. Clenching my teeth. Tensing my shoulders. It’s strange when you think you are okay, but your body tells a different story. When what is happening to the bodies of others is felt, in some distant but distinct way, inside your own.
I once listened to a podcast episode about a woman who felt everything she saw. If someone fell and hit their head, she would suddenly have an excruciating headache. When her family ate dinner and she saw them placing their forks inside their mouths, she felt the sensation of those utensils entering her own mouth. When she noticed someone was lonely or sad, she felt it. Deeply.
None of us know what is going to happen. We guess. We quote articles and news reports and our aunt’s best friend’s son. But none of us know how long this will go on, how many lives it will take, or how many people will lose their jobs. I have a pantry full of rice and beans and pasta. But I log onto Facebook and see that a friend is being rushed to the hospital. That another is struggling with depression in isolation. That a family of six has lost their livelihood. And I feel the weight of all the things I can’t stop. All the things I can’t fix.
I don’t know what to do, so I try an ancient practice my friends have been telling me about called “breath prayer.” I breathe in Psalm 62. I inhale, My soul finds rest, and exhale, In God alone. I inhale, My mighty Rock, and exhale, My refuge is God. It brings a stillness.
I take a moment to watch the steam coming off my cup of coffee.
I pet the dog, noticing his velvety ears and brown eyes.
I delete Facebook and Twitter off my phone.
I mix together flour with water, salt, and yeast and let it rise all night long. In the morning, I powder my hands with flour and shape the dough into a ball. I put it in the oven, and when it’s perfectly brown and crisp, I slice a piece for myself and my husband, and we eat it with plenty of butter.
There has been so much rain. Which means the worms have surfaced in my yard, and the robins are so happy. They hop and squawk, showing off their plump, orange bellies.
I read my Bible, writing down the promises. The hopes I cling to. I want them in ink. Sometimes we need to read the truth in our own handwriting.
Sometimes we need to take a walk in our own backyard.
Listen to this sketch