When I speak with people, I hold my breath.
Well, I don’t always hold my breath. I think it started recently, after I moved to Wenatchee. I noticed it a couple days ago in one of those forgettable moments. After parking my car I was walking back to the office where I work, and on my way I passed a guy on the sidewalk walking the other direction. I nodded at him, drew in breath and held it, and muttered “Hi.”
“How’s it going?” he said in response, then kept walking before I could answer his question.
As we walked away from each other, I let out my breath.
To be honest, I don’t know why I held my breath in that moment. And from what I recall, I held my breath when I spoke with other people this morning as well. In fact, I feel as though I have not drawn in a breath for the past two weeks, which is when I first arrived in this city.
I hold my breath in those moments because I want to be acknowledged. I’m afraid the other person won’t respond. Many times I feel sad when people don’t respond to me. It seems like they are ignoring me, and I don’t enjoy being ignored. I know what I have to say is worth hearing. It must be. After all, I’m saying it. (I hate myself a little for being so haughty.)
But that isn’t the main reason I ignore my need to breathe–it’s merely what I like to tell myself so I feel like I’m valued.
The reason–or at least a deeper reason–is discomfort. I don’t know many people here and I don’t like that. It’s uncomfortable. Wherever I go, I feel like I don’t belong. And I know it’s true: I don’t belong. There is no way I could since this is only my second week in the city. Comfort comes from familiarity, and I must endure this discomfort to get past it. There is no other way for me to gain comfort while I live here.
I say “gain” deliberately. Comfort, I’m finding, is something added to my mindset. Comfort isn’t a default setting: it grows like a tree in a backyard. Most thoughts and feelings I cultivate, but comfort isn’t in my care. I don’t control comfort. It simply grows; and like all times I’ve felt out-of-place, it won’t seem like long before I can’t remember the last time I felt uncomfortable here.
Comfort comes from trust. It comes when I trust I know the area around me and the people around me. But there is a deep comfort which I can have even as I sit in my as-yet-ungrown garden of discomfort. This deep comfort comes when I trust God to take care of me where I am. It comes when I remember He is with me in all I do. He is always leading me and helping me grow in faith, humility and wisdom. Sometimes God places me where I feel I belong, while at other times (like now) He gives me just enough peace of mind to allow me to keep moving forward. Deep comfort is available when I choose to trust Him, and circumstantial comfort grows in His time and through His work, not mine.
For now, comfort hasn’t pushed past the top layer of soil. So I’ll keep holding my breath, trusting my good Father to give me a chance to breathe again precisely when I need it.