“Toes pointed. Dip, swoop step. Dip, swoop, step. Now, right hand extends- REACH- Lean forward. Stretch. You can do this….. Hand Down. Kick legs up. 1, 2 Legs over…..”
All the self-talk and coaching in the world couldn’t have stopped it from happening. Instead of a graceful round-off- as planned-I landed flat on my butt. On the floor. The balance beam a few feet away- mocking me with it’s blond wooden sheen. Which wouldn’t have been a problem (I was well padded even back then.Yup- I’m butt cursed. Or blessed. Depends on your perspective.)except my lungs quit working at the same time. Apparently they are not as well padded.
I couldn’t get up. Actually? I couldn’t move. I fell over in slow motion, like a rag doll left in a breeze. “Shake it off. You’re ok.” I heard my “coach” call out. (This was in the old days, when gymnastics cost less than a college education and was mostly for what we called: fun. The term “coach” applied to a tall bald guy who liked to wear shorts to work. Which is okay- because I was no Nadia comaneci. Obviously. Hence the Butt slam that left me breathless.)
Except- I wasn’t okay. I knew it. Actually- I was pretty sure I was dying. My chest was making all the movements that normally caused oxygen to flow through my lungs- but it wasn’t flowing! I felt like someone had held a Hoover over my mouth and sucked the air out of my lungs like deflating a balloon. Then, it felt like they’d put just enough Elmer’s school glue in to make the sides stick together and make it impossible to refill. I wondered if the world had suddenly “vaccuumized” itself. Or if maybe the Earth’s atmosphere had suddenly gone AWOL. But, since I was the only one drooling on the floor mat- I knew it was probably just me. Dying. Possibly due to my round- off. Which was more like a flop- off and onto the floor.
I was panicked and paralyzed. The more I tried to breathe- the more I couldn’t.
My coach came over and lay on the floor next to me: “It’s ok. Just breathe with me.Pretend to. You can do it. relax. It will come.” He breathed in and out in such an exaggerated way-that he must have practiced (I don’t want to know why.) in order to avoid passing out from hyper-ventilation. However- since he’d also taught me to whip myself around uneven parallel bars without throwing up- I trusted him. And even though no air was flowing- I “breathed” with him. My lungs were on fire. I suddenly remembered an episode of Ripley’s Believe It or Not on spontaneous human combustion, and wondered if this is how it started…..I also wondered who would get my cabbage patch doll, if I died. (Jacobina Selma is still in my basement. I love her. Basement dweller that she is.)
But, I kept “breathing” with my coach. Slowly. Instead of passing out- (Or dying- which I totally expected.) I started to feel air move. Not just from my flapping in panic hands…. but in my lungs. out my mouth. in my nose……
I was breathing.
Finally. I didn’t die. Whew. That. Was. Close.
I wasn’t the first or last kid to have the wind knocked out of them. And the balance beam isn’t the the only place I’ve had it happen. I’ve fallen off bikes, ropes in gym class and various other less than exciting or death defying things- only to find myself “faux” breathing on the floor and waiting for the air to return to my lungs.
I’ve had the wind knocked out of me by life events, too. My husband’s prostate cancer diagnosis. Surgeries. Complications in pregnancies. Children’s asthma attack….Loss of loved ones. Fear. Stress.
To be honest-every time it happens- it takes me right back to that floor mat. I can hear my coach next to me… “It’s okay. just breathe with me.” I do. Slowly, the air comes back into my lungs. Instead of dying.. I realize I’m coping. One breath at a time.
I think that sometimes breathing- is an act of hope. You may not feel the air in your lungs yet- but it’s coming.
Today- I invite you to breathe with me. 1….. 2….. 3….. in out… it’s okay. we can do this. Just keep breathing.
Tomorrow morning, my husband is going for his first post- treatment PSA test. I’d like to say I feel like everything is going to be great. I’d like to say that I know God has this and it’s fine…. but Cancer sucks. It sucks the air out of your lungs. I kind of feel like I just kicked my legs up over my head and I’m waiting to see where I’ll land. Maybe this time I’l be firmly and gracefully on the balance beam- toes pointed- hands extended Nadia- like. Or maybe, I’ll be back on my butt. Wheezing like an asthmatic antelope.
But-today- I’m breathing hope. I’m taking the next breath, even when it doesn’t feel like there is any air left to breathe.
Regardless of what that test shows…. we can do this. together. Even here.
Not sure what’s going on in your life… maybe you’re on the beam, grinning with your gold medal. If so- I celebrate with you;) But, if you’re feeling like the wind’s been knocked out of you- I’m here. Breathing with you.
You’re not alone.
Neither am I.
Our Heavenly coach is lying beside us… reminding us to breathe in hope.
Dear Lord- I love you- no matter what happens tomorrow or the days following- not matter whether I land on the beam or on my butt- that doesn’t change- Please help me hear your voice and remember to breathe- hope. Amen
From Psalm 39
“Show me, Lord, my life’s end
and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting my life is.
5 You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Everyone is but a breath,
even those who seem secure.[b]
6 “Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom;
in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth
without knowing whose it will finally be.
7 “But now, Lord, what do I look for?
My hope is in you.