The Ability to Exhale

Peace of mind is something of which I've never had any experience--or very little. My childhood was both a bedroom hell and a boxing ring, neither of which were my choice. Later, as I grew into adulthood, those abuses took their toll on me and I made some desperate choices based on fear and conditioning. Don't get me wrong. I've had some good relationships, but none that I can truthfully say gave me peace and contentment. Always, there was my inability to exhale, always that dread that the other shoe was bound to drop. And it always did.

Even after meeting Nettl--as miraculous as our relationship is--I couldn't quite relax and, as those of you who have been reading my blog for any length of time know, I've been plagued by what I call my "upon waking panic attacks" for ages.

After my mother died (she lived with us for the last four years of her life), I experienced a genuine sense of relief, not emotionally, but psychologically. She was my mother. I loved her. But she perpetrated and allowed all kinds of abuse in an effort to eradicate the pain of her own abusive childhood. It has taken me the past two-and-a-half years to understand and forgive her, but I will always carry the scars. Because I was so often wakened by both her and by my brother to serve their sick purposes, waking up is difficult for me. That's why I don't relish the idea of going to sleep in the first place. Not hard to analyze that.

But something wonderful has happened, something I've never experienced before: Peace of mind. The panic attacks are gone, unless I'm broadsided out-of-the-blue with a stress ball, and my home life is serene, regardless of the fact that we are a family of 6 and 7, with three teenagers.

When we're young we get bored if there's no drama of some kind to languish over. Now that I'm middle-aged, I avoid it as much as I can. I can at last sit looking out the window on any given day and not have my head full of "what ifs" and "what nows". Some of you may not be able to understand what a precious thing that is, especially if you were blessed with a relatively peaceful life. Hold it close to you and thank God for it. Thank your parents, your siblings, your spouse and kids. Thank yourself. Now that I have tasted a tiny part of it I'm going to relish and nurture it. It can be demolished in the wink of an eye.

Thank you Nettl, for giving me the most precious gift of all: the ability to exhale.


  1. Boy, can I relate to this. I have experienced some of those things, and am experiencing others. Unlike you, though, I'm still looking for that sense of peace. Right now, life seems so insecure. We are so dependent upon outside things like utility companies, the government, jobs, etc.- things we don't have control over but that can destroy our lives. More and more, I'm driver to load up my backpack and head out into the wilderness where I do experience brief respites of peace, freedom and tranquility from the overall craziness of life. And I truly believe the day will come when I disappear into the wilderness for good. When I backpack, I'm in control and I have everything I need for my survival and am dependent only upon myself. I'm the only one I can blame if I screw up there, and the one who gets the credit when things go right.

  2. I am a lucky one. Nothing to overcome in my relationship to my parents except my own guilt for some of the things I did.

    Sheeesh. I would have killed me.

    But the ability to sit back, as you say, is the greatest gift of passing 50 I've experienced (plus the older I get the better-looking older women start to look but that's another story).

    I can spend an hour on the back deck with a cigar and a couple glasses of Madeira, think of nothing, have trouble getting up and enjoy myself supremely.

  3. I hear you. An evening glass of wine on the veranda, surrounded by plants, the fountain, the ceiling fan turning softly, the cat chasing crickets out on the patio, frogs singing in the ponds near our house... EXHALE! This kind of peace is more valuable than riches any day.

    But then, the day time comes around and there are bills to pay and work to attend to. The trick, for me anyway, is to carry that veranda around in my head where ever I am.

    Perhaps it takes less to make us happy the older we get. When I was in my 20s I used to say that being content was a curse. Shows how much we know at 20!

  4. I know what you mean. I remember thinking that contentment was another name for "settling". It isn't. It's not settling at all. It's simply being able to appreciate what you have and be happy with your life. In chaos as well as calm. Maybe that sounds to simple, but, simple is good. Simple is peaceful, simple is easy. I like simple.

  5. I love you. It's just that simple.


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