Within the Shadow of Suicide

An article, link included below and also on my Fynewever Consulting Page, has the full magazine article I wrote in 2015. I repost it now. For the media covering famous people, for the truth in lesser known names, to the honest tell of my own battle.

I reprint it in portion here… because I don’t have new words to write at this time, but I will not stay silent.

Text 741-741.

Call the crisis hotline.

Make one more appointment and stick to it.

Drive over to a friend’s house and ask for a couch to crash on.

Call someone who you trust or you know has been vulnerable and scared before, too.

The overwhelm is huge, but we got to remember we are not alone.

Within the Shadow of Suicide

by Nasreen Fynewever, M.ED

For C’est La Vie Magazine

https://issuu.com/cestlaviethemagazine/docs/cestlavie_issue2_jan2016_final/23

The room fell to a hush. Truth was, it was never too loud to begin with. But today the shuffle of feet and the sliding of book bags felt especially clamoring in the absence of words. Within this there was noise enough that an unsteadied voice whispering, “Dear creatives” was enough to halt movement and volume both. The voice was mine and the room, it held grief, fear, and wonder for all. A blending of eyes wide with expectancy for life and wisdom from their teacher and the grief which simultaneously lowered their gaze to the clenched hands on their laps swirled dramatically in the room.

Their breathing met an edge of fear of the unknown or worry of blame. I recoiled internally with my own fear of speaking of a student suicide. This was not the first time in my teaching tenure that a young life was shortened by the dark grip of hopelessness. I needed enough poise to get through the day and yet enough real to show the raw wound was placed upon my heart as well.

I rarely get nerves to jilt and jolt for the anticipation of speaking. I find energy in speaking words aloud to move messages and missions forward, calling for lives to hold the vibrancy and honesty they can. This moment, however, seared through my typical calm and left the tense chill of fear. We all dreaded the conversation, but this was the opportunity laid before me to state that uncomfortable and painful conversations should not be cowered away from.

I had wanted this very conversation when I was in high school. I had wanted this conversation a month earlier when my own mental health invited worthlessness and death to be bedfellows with my spirit. We needed this conversation to happen a week earlier, a real person willing to voice the plea for life to win.

In this thought, my resolve stumbled about. I slipped out of the present tragedy and let my mind traverse the past the faces of youth who had sat in front of me in class, at speeches I had given, or passed by me in the hallway. Their images held power and conviction. One young lady was blurry in my mind, she was from a school I did not teach at. I had spoken to the student body about being hope chaser. But the setting not intimate enough to see her eyes or carry any of the weight of her journey. The news of her sharp death met me while I reflected in a car outside another school several states away. My energy dropped out and my mind saw the message I was going to deliver as weak and lacking meaning, it would not return life to the girl gone too soon. How was I supposed to walk into another auditorium full of youth and ask them to fight for life?

A student walked in late to the class I was standing in and my mind returned to the room abruptly. Announcing, with a quiet voice, what was known to almost all those seated before me, that a young man had taken his own life over the weekend and the tragic loss for his family had to be felt by us all, whether we knew him or not.

I did know him. I was one of the last adults to speak with him that day. I looked into his eyes, I noticed his wide-smile, I felt our time was too swift and chided myself for letting responsibility push me past the person who stood with words to say. I had been that teenager. I had been that adult. Feeling far too different from those around me. Feeling smothered by the limited ways out of depression. Feeling sorrow for not belonging when I craved a place to stand with pride. I had words to say half my life ago. I had words to say as an adult. And yet I believed that speaking of wanting to die could not meet the air and ears of a real conversation.

This should not be so. I believe we need to hold the ridiculously uncomfortable conversations before people stumble to despair and I believe we need to speak pointedly, even in moments of grief, that suicide is not the answer. We must not let one another believe that we can become so very alone that no one would reach a hand towards us if we spoke. We must learn to listen to the words, uttered and those silent, but screaming out from eyes and actions.

I have resolved to move through the following steps to help those, in the shadow of suicide, to keep light present and accessible.

Ask

  • Do you value life?
  • What makes you answer that way?
  • Do you have someone you can turn to or ask for help?
  • Do you feel like you are seen/known
  • Do you know that myself and _____________ are options? We care for you.
  • Is it okay if I connect you with ________________

Listen

  • Listen for the overt asks/cries for help
  • Listen for the story they want to tell, there are hints as their eyes meet mine for a moment or their speech pattern quickens
  • Listen for the non-verbals of body posture, work ethic, day-to-day choices, and air of loneliness

Tell

  • Tell students they matter
  • Tell people they are seen and heard
  • Tell friends they are goodness
  • Tell struggling women that they hold beauty and purpose
  • Tell them of the professionals and resources which connect to their need
  • Tell people I will check back in a few days (and do so) for accountability and to quietly confirm whether their stability
  • Tell others of my the vulnerable corners of my life that are filled with shadows.

Believe

  • That things can better
  • The current situations are not the sole thing that define us, we get to live into the person we are becoming
  • The hope of faith and the promise of how healing can occur

Can I or those whom I encourage to do this perfectly, can we follow this prescriptively? No.

But there is space to let more grace, mental illness awareness, and movement towards the light to be a goal of classroom conversations, late night coffees, carefully penned emails, timely blog comments, quiet letters, dynamic small group meetings, and our daily lives.

Releasing the fear of discomfort for the opportunity to move away from death and into life shared together is worth every ounce of nerves, time, conviction.

Chase hope and light with me–one shadow at a time to reduce suicide one conversation at a time. Reach out your hand for others. Grip some one else’s if you need it. #life

 

 

Asa Nasreen

Stand another day, even when it seems impossible. 

That’s what I typed today, to myself and to others.

Do I believe it?  Do I buy into this stand again, rise again mantra? Do I believe mercies are new each morning?

I love my husband more now than when I married him. That’s good, right? We stood on promises when life buckled a bit.

I am a more complicated daughter now than when I was adopted. That’s intriguing, laced with possible pain, and worth exploring, right?

I have seen more of the world in the past five years than the previous thirty years.  Why is that? Have I been more places or did I just slow down to be present and see people lately?

I have been devalued and dismissed in places and by people who I will turn and defend and celebrate none-the-less. Is this okay or does it make me open for blind-sides and hidden hurt?

I have flare ups of depression and trauma demons, yet as I walk others through and amid theirs, I find allies and staying power. This is why I write–to be the fragrance of restoration and persistence of person, faith, and future. Safety of spirit is not yet something we measure like the data we collect on homicides, war, and poverty. Yet there is much work still to be done for both the known and unidentified troubles of this earth if we are willing to stand to spread the good. Depression doesn’t own me; I get to contribute to the communities I am in.

Grief riddles gaps in our steady and we are compelled to pray for peace–peace of land, peace of people, peace of mind. I still pray, although my anchor feels buried further from my sail than I would like.

I have friends who show their stories and hear of mine. Isolation is distant somedays until I beckon it near and believe it is my closest companion. But those around me chase it far again and let love stay the day. This is a gift to me.

So standing–do I believe in it?

Yes.

We get to.


Life can hollow us, but it can not deny that we are created to thrive, hope, acclimate, and overcome. We are not expected to do this on our own, ever, but rather together.  Encouraging one another…

So stand, even when we do not know the answers or the journey, even when it seems impossible–

STAND…

…in your marriage, in your work place, in your journey, in your parenting, in your cities, in your beliefs, in your friendships, in your hard seasons, in your joy, in your you

STAND ON. 

“If you fell down yesterday, stand up today.”H.G. Wells

“For a lot of people, Superman is and has always been [a] hero. He stands for what we believe is the best within us: limitless strength tempered by compassion, that can bear adversity and emerge stronger on the other side. He stands for what we all feel wewould like to be able to stand for, when standing is hardest.”

J. Michael Straczynski, author

Another day, suicide and life

It dropped lower and lower.  The weight of my forehead nearly rested upon the cushion as my body caved in around the tender air. I was sitting no more and found all of me in a curled cower.

The pressure pushed against my chest and both fatigue and failure inhaled without respite for exhale.

I was choking on life.

This is what it meant to finish another day. He opened the hours before me, so timidly unpacking a minute at a time,  I parceled out my energy to see others, to meet requirements, to do right by a career and family, friends and a future.

After all, in breathing came life, in doing I proved I was alive.

But depression clung to my every step.  It seeped into my pores and criss-crossed my face leaving hollow eyes and an unrelenting somber sheen.  Life did not wait for me; no, it created a tide of expectations and a current of must dos.

The formula for joy alluded me and the season of sadness seared itself to my shoulders.  My smile real enough to some and the shallow clear to others.

Earlier that day I shifted from flourescent lights to the crisp cold of the outdoors. I beheld a new ceiling, a canopy of heaven stretched over the snowy floor. I witnessed the creator kneel to kiss the earth. The sky wrenched itself into showing the sun. Colors and splays of nature beautiful enveloped me. Gasping in the frigid air, I stored life in my veins and could reflect hope for another moment in time.


Yet what about the time suicide asked me to play? When time took these three decades and reduced them to a single story of unworth which wrecked me as a kid and could dismantle me as an adult.  Why did it look so alluring and okay? Why couldn’t I stop the lie it offered?

What about the time abuse took what was not to be detached from me? Each grievance never looking back and I was left to make sense of fighting my way to health and whole.  Could I ever be healed from the shredding?

What about those who removed their love or favor when my presence clouded with something other than ease and light-hearted life? Why don’t  I make sense to others and why does it always matter so much to me?

This week could not outdistance memories.

This week could not unhinge from the present.

This week a colleague laid his beloved wife to rest after a torment of days and a life journey with the demon of mental illness.  This week a student could not stay where bridges were built and allies found.  This week my husband had to carry the home and  children grow up faster than innocence would ask. This week my friend could not conjour words from myself, a writer, when my own death attempt danced as memory and marker.

Yes, it dropped lower and lower. The weight of my forehead nearly rested upon the cushion as my body caved in around the tender air. I was sitting no more and found all of me in a curledcower.

In the choke of life, I felt removed from all I offer the community around me.  Depression robs me.  It thieves from many. Yet this I know, when strangle felt close, my lungs still filled.  One more breath, one more day.

I can not do all of life the way I wish or take away others’ pain. I can not belong in all the ways an orphan girl is supposed to once adopted. I can not change the color of my skin or how I fit into people’s constructs. I can not unlearn my trauma or forget my twisting of perception.

But as sorrow lies near–I live

To love.

To teach.

To lead.

To write.

To whisper.

I do not know who will follow or who will listen, but my steady foundation of faith and the formation of friends and family remind me: be me to the world.

Who I am, whether small and in a ball, tired from the day or I am strong and tall knowing my purpose, I am alive.

LIVE with me.

One more day, friends. To tasks and talents, give what you can.  Allow others to lend you hope when yours is low and depression is real.

Another day, yes, the light still shines.

——

With respect and deep sorrow for those near and far, recent and years gone by, who have lost a loved one to the grips of mental illness’ lying voice.  

—–

A song by VERIDIA shared to me by a friend–raw art https://youtu.be/hymuOXYAuwk 

—-

Find someone to text or talk to if you need it. If you feel alone:

CRISIS TEXT LINE: 741741, text GO any time, for free, and trained professionals will interact with you during your rough hours. 

CRISIS PHONE LINE: Call 1-800-273-8255.

Welcoming 2017

His voice wavered yet his hand remained steady.  It was as though he placed all his concentration on appearing unfettered in motion that he had forgotten how to speak.  Outstretched palm and piercing eyes to follow, he expectantly drew close to both hope and grief, new and old.

The gust of air and the flash of chill drained the day, still warmth enfolded the land.  A trickle of water near the eastern edge flushed into a stream and farther yet it became a river shallow.  Later still it roared into river deep and rich, beauty blossomed where it had not before. 

The man knelt as perceiving the waters nearby pushed life through his spirit.  Peace cascaded over his arrival and he showed how turmoil and tragedy could release into restoration.  

I leaned down, unsure of how to shake the hand of this nurishing gift. He was close and humble, layered and longing–he promised nothing to be certain beyond that he was here to stay.  I shall walk with him to the river’s edge and allow roots to grow and branches to spread.


Yes, he came steady and in more quietness than I might have imagined.  But his eyes tell the story that my heart will have hours and hours to read.  

I placed my hand into his and whispered back to his mouthing silence, “Happy New Year.” 

Welcoming 2017 with resolve and wonder.  Might you, too? 

Left out.

Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn wrote the book entitled Half the Sky. This married couple (both reporters) has become a voice for women and girls worldwide.  They reveal often unexplored truths about oppression. The writers question their own field for holding a wide margin between reporting breaking news versus ongoing realities which remain unreported, yet are newsworthy. They set out to be different when they learned many stories left out of mass media.  
Who is left out?  Their book trends to oppressed females in circumstances that will break hearts and turn stomachs.  


However, since reading the book, I ask myself this question nearly everyday.  

Who is left out? 

Left out of our big dreams and success accolades.  

Left out of our quest to be better and creation of opportunities.  

Left out of our communities and our resources. 

Whatever you passion, your bent, your thing–this week work with me to lessen the severity of consequences for those who are left out.  

Give what you can, not directed by other for competition. Give money when both wise and personally prompted. Give hands when asked and able.  Give time, one of your greatest commodities. Give diligence in all endeavors. Give professional knowledge and personal care in daily dose. 

Give love always.  

I can not change a whole field like education, but I can create a radar for the left out and actively work with those around me to reconnect people to hope and tools. Join me, in the fields and places you are; be different, be mitigators.

Even when a social problem is so vast as to be insoluble in its entirety, it’s still worth mitigating.

Nicholas Kristof

 

We need others, students and adults alike. 

I thought I didn’t need anyone.  A child with my own pains and own learning fumbles, I pushed aside family and teachers that proffered to help.  The help seemed like a facade of good intentions and I felt unworthy of the true care any outlier might have had.  Yet the persistent presence of education in my life, a privilege not lost on me ever, but especially now having seen more of the world–it’s presence embedded understanding  within me.
Understanding is a loaded word, much like pain.  Yet education done correctly is all about unshelfing assumptions, erroneous perceptions, and ignorance. Education is a noun, a verb, and an adjective all spun together to create a thing, a place, an action, and a description of growth.  I grew to understand that faring it alone would leave me less knowledgeable and less equippedthan my counterparts who linked arms as little girls to skip across the playground, buddied up to create an explorer research project in the 4th grade, or crowded together in celebration of one who was accepted to her desired college years later.

Hindsight reveals that the times others’ emotional, academic,  life support, and encouragement was present in my life, I became more–more involved in school, more able to aspire to success, more willing to dream. Trauma had short circuited my brain to believe that all of life was fight, flight, or freeze. I have spent decades dismissing learnings and opportunities not out of want, but out of a wiring in my mind that fixated on not taking risks and defending baseline.  

Indebted to educators and youth workers who modeled that I did not have to diminuitively accept the short road, the path of least resistance, the less than my potential goals, I have started to train my brain to fire in the direction of belief. I have learned how to get unstuck. With this comes the realization that we must shoulder to shoulder our efforts to make the world a better place.  Not just utopianly on a large scale, but intimately for our own lives and momentously for our direct communities.

In understanding how people function, how systems work, how messy stories still have positive outcomes, we all grow to hope more is possible.  The dismal state of dysfunctional and injustice can always find a counterpart and these antithesis communities and peoples are ones who have not gone it alone. Counterparts who break cycles of poverty, recover from addictions, end generations of abuse, rise to stand amid the plague of mental illnesses, and those who beautifully proffer life in the face of their own ongoing grief, these are the men and women our students and children must see and have access to.  Business leaders, gym enthusiasts, Navy men and women, die-casters, musicians, hair stylists, gamers, politicians…there is no end to a list a people who learn understanding from others.

Nearly a decade ago, psychologist Carol Dweck and her colleagues put forth convincing research of how people, specifically students, who operate under the premise that growth and effort, flexibility and new learning can develop a mindset fortified enough to dislodge fixed ways of thinking and living.  Her work has become foundational to a number of education reforms, both overtly in professional development and low-lying in those who practice a growth mindset and then contagiously affect others.

Dweck revisited her work in Education Week last year. Her update and clarification brings further insight to the statement of how we need others. Dweck asserts that we can’t just try for better, we must be presented with new ways of trying and receive feedback/support of others to reach optimal growth.

A growth mindset isn’t just about effort. Perhaps the most common misconception is simply equating the growth mindset with effort. Certainly, effort is key for students’ achievement, but it’s not the only thing. Students need to try new strategies and seek input from others when they’re stuck. They need this repertoire of approaches-not just sheer effort-to learn and improve. 

Dweck, C. (2015, September 22). Carol Dweck revisits the ‘growth mindset’. Education Week. Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/09/23/carol-dweck-revisits-the-growth-mindset.html?cmp=eml-contshr-shr

We need others. We need people for when we get stuck, for when we are discouraged, for when our dreams need the network and support of those further down the long road. We are not entitled to the help of others, but we are worthy of it. Growth hinges on new understandings, so let us surround ourselves with those who for a “we understand” instead of seclusion or self. 

Let us teach who Orville was to Wilbur Wright, let us share stories of the Missionaries of Charity who surrounded Mother Teresa, let us uncover who encouraged Cesar Chavez to believe, and let us tell the stories of Peter Norman standing beside Tommie “The Jet” Smith and John Carlos in the fight for human rights. Let us be the ones to tip our heads and hearts to those who are different in our lives. Now is the time humbly remind ourselves we did not get this far on our own and celebrate those who helped us understand, grow, and become.

Our students and children need us, not just as cheerleaders, but they need role-models, activators, door-openers, challengers, and genuine assistance to their next step of learning and growth.

They need others…and truth be clear, so do we.

no. 10 Work 

  
no. 10 

Today I miss Bangladesh.  It might be because the remaining affects of the mosquito-carried disease slow my steps and cross my mind.  It might be because I look out at students who venture to express themselves and wonder of their futures.  Whatever the reason, to the lives we live and the work at hand, I pause to view another snapshot.  

A woman, sweat beading and muscles extending, she shifts the bricks above her head and carries on.  

The work we do, each day, in our respective corners of the world–it matters. We are tied to our work with labor and time. We live our hours with dedication to a cause, a goal, a profit, a purpose, or a calling. Oh, the stories we would each share of we spoke of our toils and triumphs from all our years. May we not just make survival or just make money, may we also find that, today, our contribution to the world matters

#seeOthers #BeExcellent #Work #Life #birthcountrytravel #perspective @thehighcalling #Bangladesh

Forgiven, Forgive me, too? The Love Strong Chronicles VII

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Dear Hurtful Ones,

To the one who abandoned me… To the trauma without words in my infancy and in the months to follow which can still cause my body to reel in yet my mind has few memories and my voice no utterance…

…I don’t know who you are or what the circumstances were. I wonder if you think of me. I shorten my breath when I consider how early death or misfortune may have stricken your days. I do not search for you, the distance and details make such a journey futile and my wonder released that years ago. But today, in the thump thump of a heart trying to heal, know this.

It is true. You hurt me.

I forgive you.

Once and with finality. I forgive you. Giving up a child should not hold shame, but rather imperativeness to the world and to the arms of love to scoop up the orphans. I have been gifted much and in this know that mercy hunts us down and can cover all actions. Those who leave and those who are left, remember because forgiveness stands, love wins.

To the ones of my youth… To the ones in my home, in my daily happenings, and circle of influence that speared my innocence and grappled with attachment to me as I trampled opportunities for love… To the ones who caused angst and tears, touch and trust to become ideas that made me tremor and escape from…

…Know I have learned from those who teach me that each generation does the best with what they can and how they know. I agree. It will be true of my generation, too. There is much we would all do differently if we were granted hindsight in the moment. Today, without intricacies blasted from the rooftops because there is no need for that and in the slow inhale that brings oxygen to my muscles and girds my loins, know this.

It is true. You hurt me.

I forgive you.

Slowly, repeatedly, engaging in the process of allowing layers of me be rebuilt, I rise. Understanding that not all is redeemed and may never be this side of Heaven, but gathering freedom and releasing grace in waves that my human ways mirror heaven’s endless pour out. I use life and loving, writing and wrestling, speaking and silence to fill the gaps of what was lost in me and pray your empty spaces find in-pour, too.

Because we survived and forgiveness has been whispered, believe with me that love wins.

To the ones of recent… To the ones who misunderstood my character and defamed my name… To the ones who claw at my worth by diminishing the good I do, the beautiful I am… And those, those who love in messy human ways that cause my core to feel cold or actions to be reevaluated…

…Don’t withhold your hearts from me, I have a wind of warmth that breezes through day after day, circumstance after circumstance; I am held. So today, in the chase of hope that my spirit finds the forward in, know this.

It is true. You hurt me.

I forgive you.

Without hesitation. It comes swiftly because love covers a multitude of grievances. Without end. We walk the road into who we are and who we will become.  We grapple with truths and grow in what is real. I could not stand again until I forgave. The world of our hearts gets turned upside down in forgiveness. It walks life back into afflicted strands and in this life, know I am still for you. I can not be deterred from caring because love has won.

Right now, all those who hurt me, knowing or unknowingly, actual or perceived, understanding and remorseful or still wielding bludgeoning weapons, know this:

It is true. I hurt you, too. I hurt others. I stand in need of forgiveness.
I can not demand it of you or convince that it is vital to both of us.

But for the times I distorted the radiance of the Life gifted to us, I am sorry.

I am sorry. Proffer what you will to me.

Grace is ours bathe in, hope is ours to chase, forgiveness is the ignitor of life anew.

And to the nun that opened my willingness to write the Love Strong Chronicles out loud, thank you.

To the arena full of women who share stories and asked for mine, thank you.

To the students and parents who affirmed that in educating, we all learn and find places to grow roots, thank you.

To the loved ones near in actuality and in spirit, I am indebted to what you teach me to feel, to be, and to hope for; thank you.

To the One who has forgiven me and raised me from the ashes of hurt, an unending thank you.

Forgive others with me today, in the next week, when your heart can.

We do not get to think the world is stacked against us and be victims when victory can heal. Life is hard, and it may not get easier. There is no spring flower that blossoms in the freeze of winter’s cold, so let the seasons be, but when summer draws us in, go with it to the noonday sun and be better, love stronger.

Friends, for all that you enjoy and for that which you endure, now is the time to forgive and let the strength of love outdistance, to allow the grace to go further, so much further than the hurt. I am cheering for you, more than you know.

Serve.Weep.Love.Hope.FORGIVE.

nasreen

john 16:33

Real life takes real stories — INVITATION

Vulnerability.
Belonging.
Worth
.

Trigger words.

They are lauded and lofted as the things that make community work.
Rightly so.
These are needed and craved by human hearts.

But the words.
They trigger.
Our fear.
Our past hurts.
Our current insecurities.

These words play red-rover with our hearts and minds since we are both wired for flight in unsafe scenarios and wired to need connection.

Connection and having a home for your heart is important to me.

It is part of chasing hope.

The hope that as I laugh and cry, dance and bleed, sing and silence in front of you, here, on this blog each Friday in the Love Strong Chronicles, that you will find parts of your story come alive. That you will lean into people near you and share your story. That you will spill across the internet with your big bad bold self and own your passion. That you will heal and arise, that you will do good work where you can, and that you will never give up.

Chase hope with me.
Share your story.

The one you lived last week or the one from decades past.

The one you are proud of and the one you trying to free from shame in.

Friend, I am convinced, that in the sharing of stories–
the story of my life,
the unleashing of yours,
the listening and learning of what real is,
that connections and community will be birthed and our hearts will be of great hope.

Story sharers– We will become a more humble strong, a more resilient courage, and a more active surrendering people.

I am excited to join with places like (in)courage, an online community that has gone got their boots on to hit the floor of our hearts and raise our eyes to community anew.

I am honored to be a part of their 2014 (in)Real Life Conference this April 25 & 26. This is a conference comes to you, right where you do your life.

This FREE conference takes the time to share how real life takes real stories.

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Meet our crew of speakers HERE.

Check out the agenda and register HERE.

So consider this your invitation if you haven’t gotten one already.

Your thing? Join in!

Not your thing? Give it a try.

Not a woman? You know one, right?

Not sure your friend was invited? Get on that!

This isn’t a conference of saints or uncontrollable sobbing, but it is of those who hope and those who will lift emotions to the light of day as stories chase and rest in beautiful truths our hearts need to hear.

And, did I mention, we need YOUR story. We invite you, share life with us a while.

Join us in a month.

Feel free to learn more by visiting the Twitter party tonight at 9 pm EST by searching for the hashtag #inRL or zipping me an email.

If you are in the Twin Cities, I will be hosting in my home Friday night and joining a meet up in Edina on Saturday. You are welcome to join me at either or both places.

In real life…
Cheers.
Chase.
Connect.

nasreen

Gasping for Air: The Love Strong Chronicles Part II

Gasping for air.

There have been moments the past few months I have been gasping for air.

I had not run too far.
Smoke had not met my lungs.
The walls did not actually cave in.

But oxygen escaped rapidly.

When my lack of belonging and my questioned purpose lifted breath out of me and prevented it from returning to fill my chest, I felt lost.

A teacher without a classroom.
A writer without a book.
A speaker without a message.
A sojourner without a destination.

An orphan without a home.

But how dare I feel that.

How in the facts of being granted a family and chance at life in the States, with adoptive parents who sacrificed much and got a run for their money in my rebellion, could I say I was an orphan without a home?

Might I have any claim to be without destination when I have been blessed with two towns that have welcomed me and embraced what I had to offer? When I profess a faith that keeps its eyes not on this world alone, but in the promise of more?

And of the message, the hope chaser, the one who believes that in loving strong we truly become alive and when we do good work, activate in our potential, we can grow ourselves, communities and the world. Of this message, did it fall mute on my own ears when death stole from those I care for or did it lose strength when people stood on the fringes of faith?

Write on and remember it as such. No book defines the writer, rather words scribbled on paper or across the heart, splattered on the computer screen or spoken into the open. This inflicting thought reared false too. Surely the ink has dried to reality.

But the teacher. The teacher without a classroom is perhaps the most absurd. Are we not all teachers? And one of curriculum and academics, desks and pupils, shall not the lessons ring evermore in new venues and mediums if the passion and training did not exit?

Why then did my chest concave?

Was this fear?
Was this hurt?
Was this hunger?

I chased air.

I needed answers.

I chased.
I needed.
I craved just enough to get in a car with a dear friend and meet the unknown with urgency unqualified and my momentum uncategorized.

Yes, two weeks ago I talked to a nun who held my abandoned, rejected self and who had set out to care until I was gifted a future. The phone had been pressed to my ear and my beating heart nearly muffling the song her voice was to me.

My lungs burned to expand again.

I heard her words.

My husband and boys gave me space and I listened. I listened to the nun.

She told me to come soon. (Read Part I HERE)

And I did.

The next day.

Her words fought against my buckling from suffocation and landed me in South Bend, Indiana.

This, the visit to the Sisters of the Holy Cross to see the nun, who with others, would finish out the days of her vows at the Mother House. Each with decades spent abroad serving with their nursing and teaching skills, with their hands of love, I went to visit.

There we sat.
Holding hands like we had loved for a lifetime.

The nun held my hand with a quiet strength.

Her eyes bounced around her memory and then shifted to take me in.

I was one of her babies.

Warmth found my chilled skin.

Belonging danced with acceptance in my soul.

The chairs around me filled with angels as if the great cloud of witnesses came to affirm this aging nun that she had done good work.

The unfaltering smile on her face hastened me to believe that the trip to the convent was well-placed.

The demons of my insecurities would not find welcome here. Peace drew close and wonders piled in, but with calm, they filled the couch space to my left.

My mouth parted open but nothing met sound. It turned to a nervous smile and the nun swiftly let her other hand reach to tap my face.

A hush little baby lullaby floated through my head and the slam of a creaky door outside the room brought the finale to my minds’ wander.

The tap tap, as if a secret handshake between her years gone by and my cheek.

My body leaned in.

Had I felt this before?
Her gentle constant.
Had she really never stopped loving me?

The final tap lingered and turned to one of the purest strokes my being has been witness in.

Gasping for air. Again. Here.
This was not fear.
This was not hurt.
This was not hunger.

This was being overwhelmed in the gift of time. The eight hour drive exclaimed confirmation of time well spent.

I was nearly not able to bend to grab the scrapbook that sat near my feet. She thought I was leaving and she clutched tightly until I spoke of pictures I had brought. Pictures sent with letters during the long wait for my arrival 30 years ago.

She took in the pictures.

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She told me of laundry.
She remembered the hostel she founded.
She recounted the hours she spent after teaching to help babies eat and be safe.
She spoke with fervor as she spilled details about the group of 19 Precious Jewels she brought to America.

And then she said it.


I can hardly breathe.


One of my babies is here!
You came all this way, I sure hope I’m worth it.

The nun.
The one who told me to come soon.
She gasped for air, too.

She wrestled worth just as I do.

And then she stopped.

Swept back to the joy, she began to soften her shoulders and moved back towards me.

She stretched her heart and life’s work out like the table in front of us. The years had smoothed out the mountains and valleys and her spirit had peace.

I soaked her in.

I listened as she continued recalling snippets of a life I had once been a part of.

I vaulted it. The hurt of my story was certainly going to arrive, but not there in the visitor’s house lounge.

Not then.

Hours later it would, but in that moment, I belonged. I had a right to teach others of their belonging even if I question mine.

She, the nun who ascribed worth to little dejected children, she questioned her own and then stopped…

….to start breathing again.

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There is more.
But this Friday bids us pause.

Tell me of you.

Feel the air with me.
With her.

We are allowed to breathe.

Best of all is it to preserve everything in a pure, still heart, and let there be for every pulse a thanksgiving, and for every breath a song. ~Konrad von Gesner, scientist, theologian, writer

For all that you enjoy and for that which you endure, chase hope, breathe deep, and when you gasp, remember you belong.

nasreen