What do you breathe into others?

“My next breath may very well be in your lungs. Store it wisely, because my life depends on it.
Jarod Kintz, This Book Title is Invisible

At the gym this past weekend, a woman struck up a conversation with me. I believe she complimented my bag (nearly everyone does) and asked if I’m a quilter.“No, no”, I responded, too eager to tell her it was lovingly made by my mother-in-law and has been my exercise catchall since.  She mentioned she didn’t realize Saturdays were so busy, that she only comes to swim, that she lives in Hampshire, that she’s a writer, a widow…And my heart vernacular translated her ease of detail to this: she is very, very lonely.

I told her my husband comes to swim too, but I come for the classes. And yes, Saturdays are always packed.  Later in the conversation, I mentioned that he loves to go dancing, but that I’m more of a homebody, to which she replied, “Your husband likes to dance and you don’t go?  That’s terrible. Shame on you!” I wasn’t prepared for her candor, but immediately reminded myself that perhaps her husband was like mine and perhaps she was like me.  And now he’s gone and she’s left remembering no’s instead of yeses and dance floors that could have been explored by anxious feet and a sacrificial spirit.

By this time we were joined by another woman, excusing herself as she wiggled past me wrapped in the club’s small white towel, length-appropriate only for those aged 8 and under.  I responded then, with both women’s backs toward me, “Well, I breathe into him in other ways, so I don’t feel too bad about the dancing.” “What was that,” miniscule-towel-woman asked, “you breathe into him?  That’s a lovely thought.”  “Well, I do,” I responded.  “We all do.”  And there it was:  we. all. do.

I realize there is much out of my control, which is oftentimes why I refrain from watching the news, reading the paper and do a daily dodge of Yahoo News clips.  Because here’s the thing: bullets, terror and hatred are out there.  They’re in every country and every city on this great big, blue planet.  And when we hear of them and see the faces of those hurt or killed by them, I believe something Divine is silenced within us…something that inherently whispers goodness and tells us we’re more.

I’ll remember that Divine voice then next time a terror plot is foiled or carried out, the next time someone is trafficked, the next time a life is senselessly taken, the next time skin color is a reason for profiling, the next time a child is abused for being “different”, the next time a newborn is dumped in a trashcan, and the next time one person’s trauma is put upon another through acts of violence or emotional indifference.

I’ll remember.

And then I’ll remind myself that while I may not be able to change the hearts of the man wielding a machete in Nigeria or the woman setting her newborn alight in New Jersey, I can choose how and what I breathe into others.

I can choose kindness and love, instead of malice and hatred.

I can choose grace and forgiveness, instead of frustration and hostility.

I can choose Fullness instead of fear and life instead of death.

And if I breathe goodness into you, and you breathe it into others, and so on and so forth, then perhaps we will be the paddles which shock emotional hearts into rhythm. And perhaps then that Divine voice, our Divine voice, will whisper once more.

Our circle might seem small and our impact even smaller, but if we don’t act for fear that our actions won’t be enough, we extinguish our flame before it has even met the breath of opposition.

Make the choice to act.

Breathe Truth, light, Fullness and love into those who cross your path.

Be changed.

And then do this…

ask that they might be, as well.

Why Hospitals Don’t Suck: Notes From a Former Hater


I don’t remember much after fainting.  It’s all abstract confetti of snapshots, sound bites and smells like the exam room that suddenly became the size of an Altoid, echoes of, “we’re almost there” from inside the ambulance and then warm pressure from Jenáe’s cheek against mine, hushing me in the darkness.

I was sick.

Really sick.

And scared.

Six days earlier my gallbladder was removed.  It was supposed to be a routine procedure with a routine result: no more gallbladder attacks and a return to the beloved cheeseburger. But it was not routine.

I had a series of complications: stones in my common bile duct, an infected bile duct, pancreatitis and, the pièce de résistance, hepatitis.  The infected bile duct was what landed me back in the hospital; the other stuff was what kept me there for over two weeks.

It’s no secret that I have had a quiet loathing of hospitals.  I think it’s been that way since age 4 when I tripped on Grandmere’s rust-colored shag carpet and broke my face on the base of her dining room table.  I was rushed to the hospital then.  And a few times since.

I’ve always found hospitals to be a deceitful sort.  The way they embrace you as you walk in.  The way they’re often filled with light and flowers and a calming waterfall stocked with lily pads and unassuming fish or a player piano, which is just weird. The way the air is heavy and sterile, masking the scent of death, illness and suffering.

The way it so easily is the last place some will ever see.

But let’s be honest.  I’d never had an extended stay before.

I’d never formed bonds with nurses and doctors, dependent on them for my every waking need.  I’d never looked forward to morning blood draws on the off-chance they’d reveal something different.  I’d never been so comfortable being nude before multiple pairs of eyes, looking at me with only my return to health in mind.

In truth, I had never been so vulnerable.

We became like family, FHN Memorial Hospital’s 3rd floor medical staff and me.  Patient ID 216570.  Room 3308.

I made friends with everyone.

I knew their faces; I knew their names:

Captain Carter took me for MRI’s and CAT scans.  Betsy took me for walks.

Jennifer and Erica squeezed my hands during my liver biopsy (note to reader: never get a liver biopsy), while Elaine cradled my fears.

Jena brought me laughter, OPI nail polish and a recent issue of Cosmo.  Jackie brought me peace.

Sam, who smelled of lemon trees, quietly confessed the contents of her car: 3 bags of cookies and 2 bags of M&M’s hidden from her personal trainer husband.  Paige confessed she’d never know anyone as brave as her mother and showed me the underside of her wrist inked in homage.

There were others, of course, but these I count as family.  As sisters.

They helped me inhale blessings and exhale anxiety and lament.

In the deep of night, they were there.  When my bed became a tangled web of breath, lines and limbs, they were there.  And when I didn’t even know it or couldn’t feel it, they were there.



At the end of February, I was released.  And while I still have a long way to go, I couldn’t have done anything without my hospital family.

I hope to go back for a visit once I’m feeling better.  And I also hope to go to nursing school, so I can be the one who holds hands in the dark and hearts in the light.

For now though, I am a reformed hospital hater.



And utterly thankful.