Advent Word: Breathe

Today, one of the social work students that I supervise in the food pantry announced that his papers were written, his exams were over and he was about to go on break.  I could relate to his joy.  However, I felt the sinking realization that his day was ending while mine was barely beginning.  I knew how much grading still stood between me and the end of the semester.

When work piles up for me, I feel like I cannot breathe.  Grading papers is one of my most dreaded tasks, and it seems lately like every imaginable task, meeting, or deadline is also pressing upon me.  I thought about ways to parse out my work but all I kept feeling was a tightening grip around my neck.

This is not a post about pausing to take a deep breath so I could face it all.  No, indeed.  If you want that, you can find another blog.  Being an INFJ, I know that there will be no rest for me until I feel free from my to-do list.  For me, it’s about choosing to hold my breath for as long as possible and getting it done so that eventually, I can breathe.

I was on paper 14 (of 26) around 3 hours ago.  I’m now finished with 24 with two late papers straggling.  I was fueled tonight by some caffeinated, fizzy drink along with two cups of tea and half of a pint-sized container of Cherry Garcia fro-yo.  My great reward for getting through this exercise in exertion is that I get to breathe in the potential of writing this particular (honest to a fault) blog post and seeing what happens with the grace of the ginormous post-grading breath.

At one point as I was submerged in tonight’s paper-grading, I remembered that my cousins and I used to have this game that we played in the swimming pool.  We would take in a huge breath, submerse to the bottom, sit with our legs crossed and have an underwater tea party fixing, serving, pouring, and pretending to drink imaginary tea.  The goal was to hold your breath as long as possible and get through as much of the tea ceremony as possible before having to resurface for air.

We would move through our motions and try to keep our bodies moving and our lungs inflated. And then, we’d rise up to the surface and gasp for air.  That air would literally taste sweet, warm as it filled our lungs and so very wonderfully non-chlorinated.  That surfacing breathe was deep and memorable, even decades later.

So, that is my advent image tonight.  Surfacing for air, pulling in the deepest of breaths after pushing through with the intense moments of living.  Even though I know it’s good for me…it isn’t always the steady, slow breathing which fills me.  Sometimes I am submerged, and I do the best as can for as long as I can before I surface for the air that I know awaits me.  And there is the beauty:  I know that even in my most submerged state, there is a source of air that will fill me, permeate me, and bring me back to the wholeness of life.

Go ahead, breathe it in.  Sometimes the Ruah, the breath of life, comes to us as the fullness of life when we joyfully gasp for it after being submersed.  Breathe it in lustily and whole-heartedly with gratitude, joy, and anticipation.

grading complete

In response to the AdventWord global advent calendar project with the Society for St. John the Evangelist. Today’s word: #Breathe. Follow the worldwide advent calendar at:

About harasprice

Professor of Social Work and Priest in The Episcopal Church, parent, teacher, learner, writer, advocate, and grateful traveller along this journey through life
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