Monthly Archives: September 2014
A few thoughts on who Breathing Room is written for . . .
I wrote Breathing Room because I was in search of space, and I needed to know how to find some in my own life. My soul felt tight, and if you’re interior world has ever felt tight, then you know that things can feel anywhere on the spectrum from uncomfortable to downright desperate. So I started writing about that.
How it felt to feel tight inside. How it felt to feel like I couldn’t find my way to any kind of space. What I was longing for. What I believed Christ was offering me. I wrote about all that.
I think we arrive at “soul tightness” a million different ways. Trauma can take us there. Loss. Change. External circumstances can push and pull and twist our insides in all sorts of gnarly ways. But then there’s also our internal worlds, and the thoughts and beliefs that rattle around in our heads and hearts all day long, usually kept hidden from the rest of the world. That internal world is as powerful as our external circumstances and can catapult us into overwhelm as surely as any catastrophe.
I wrote Breathing Room for the person who is navigating that soul tightness — who is wanting to lean into it — no matter how it has arrived. No matter. We don’t have to line up our reasons and see who is most worthy of struggle. I’m inviting everyone, instead, to come to the table regardless of how your life looks on the outside. If your insides need relief, space, hope, breath, life, then let’s talk.
So Breathing Room is for anyone who needs to be reminded that . . .
- Being blessed and struggling can coexist. They are not two ends of a spectrum. We can be both grateful for our lives and also be overwhelmed by them at the same time. That works in God’s emotional economy.
- We will never find breath and space as long as we are in an adversarial relationship with ourselves. We must learn to be on our own team.
- We are human.
- We have been offered the grace to begin again.
- Praying the tiniest, simplest prayers is a great place to start.
- Phoning a friend can really change things.
- One of the few things we can control in life is how we treat ourselves.
- We might want to consider letting go of the ways we are bullying and silencing ourselves.
- We need to forgive ourselves.
- Moving our hands and our bodies often helps.
- Wandering doesn’t always have to be a waste.
- Beauty can arrive when and where we expect it the least.
- We are heartbroken.
- We can continue, even in the face of our heartbrokenness.
- God is offering us a lifeline . . . that lifeline rarely comes in the package we would have liked or chosen.
- God not only sees us; he loves us.
I hope this gives you a bit more of a feel for who might be interested in picking up a copy of the book. But if I’ve left anything out or if you have additional questions, please go for it! Anything you’d like to ask me about the contents, themes, material, intended audience, etc.?
Love you guys, tender warrior tribe.
Well, friends, Breathing Room is making her way out into the world. Here she is in NYC at my dear friend Joanna’s gorgeous apartment. What a life. That book has it good.
It was so very fun to see you sharing your photos of Breathing Room yesterday as some of you received your copies or spotted a copy in a store a bit earlier than expected! September 30 is still the official release date for the kindle version, and October 7 is still the official release date for the paperback, but it looks like she’s finding her way into mailboxes and bookstores already. I’d love to see your selfie with the book if you can manage that kind of thing. But, on the other hand, I can totally understand if your mental and/or emotional health do not support selfies. Believe me. I get it. On the off chance you’re feeling wild, we’re using #BreathingRoom.
Some of you have asked if there are ways you can support getting the word out about Breathing Room. So here are a few of my thoughts:
Write a review on a bookseller’s website (i.e. Amazon or Barnes and Noble), on Goodreads, or write a review on your own personal blog or FB page. Reviews help people understand the book better and they help people know how you experienced the material. Always good. You have my permission to be 100% honest in your review and to say that me taking a picture of my own butt and then writing about it was just too much for you. It’s fine. I’d rather you be honest.
Of course we all know the power of social media. It’s a huge engine that can get the word out about things in lightening speed. If you want to mention Breathing Room on your favorite social media outlet, then so be it. I won’t stop you.
I think a personal recommendation is still the most powerful way that a book gets passed around. If the content of Breathing Room resonates with you in some way and you think of someone you’d like to pass it along to, your personal recommendation will go a long way with those who know you and trust you. So, I’d invite you to recommend it to someone — again, if you can tolerate the fact that some people might not appreciate the story about me punching Steve in the ribs. You know, for example.
And, of course, with the holidays on the horizon, perhaps you might consider slipping Breathing Room in someone’s stocking. I mean, the cover DID turn out pretty, I have to say. You could put it with a delicious candle for someone you really love. Now that would be ridiculous.
Thank you so much for putting up with all the book talk during this season. You guys are truly a tender tribe.
I will do my best to not carb load my way through this entire book release. Please pray.
Love and chips and salsa,
Just about exactly four years ago, I wrote a guest post for a fellow author’s website. He asked me to write about how doubt was currently coinciding with my faith. I was up to my eyeballs with twenty-month-old twins and my own anxious swirling — how I was inadequate for the task at hand, how I wasn’t able to give these gorgeous darlings all they needed — and so I wrote about that.
A few days ago a friend found the post online and she sent it back to me.
The timing is interesting because that very post was the raw material, the grist for the mill, of Breathing Room. It is the season, the feelings, the exposed longing that has become Breathing Room.
So, I thought I’d reshare that four-years-ago post with you . . . because some of you may need it today and because some of you are wondering about Breathing Room and this will give you more context for the book. If/when you get your book, you will recognize a bit of this material.
As always, thank you for reading and for being just generally badass.
Love and more love, Leeana
I reread The Awakening recently. Such a haunting story. Edna Pontillier, privileged by every standard, decides she’d rather end her life on her own terms than live by someone else’s. Barely able to tolerate her doting-yet-detached husband and two young children, Edna longs for a life she can’t have.
In an ultimate act of defiance, she strips down naked and walks out into the ocean–leaving behind her husband, her two young children, her creative dabblings, the lover she has taken up with–and she never comes back.
My husband, Steve, always gets a little nervous when I pull out this book. It’s like, “Babe, can we try and stay away from the stories about the women who drown themselves because they can’t stand their husband and children? Pleeeeeease?“
I’ve always felt something for Edna. A recognition, an empathy, a melancholic sisterhood. I’ve always identified with her longing, that most exposing of human conditions.
Since becoming a mother myself, I’ve attached to the story even more. Motherhood has been harrowing for me so far. Twenty months into it, I’ve got a set of nearly perfect boy/girl twins, a deeply foul-mouthed internal monologue, and sub-par personal hygiene. My living room floor is the constant confluence of abounding joy and mind-numbing terror, so I get why a woman might need a little space.
I was driving earlier this week and saw a fresh twenty-something walking down the street. She had on enviable boots and her hair was pulled back into a messy-on-purpose chignon and she carried a venti Starbucks and an I’ve-got-things-together sort of handbag. She wasn’t drop-dead gorgeous or anything. She was just clean, newly washed, and I was the farthest thing from such ease. I started crying right there at the red light, watching her float down the street while I felt like nothing more than a big barnacle.
These are critical moments for me, the kind of moments when I will either torment myself with self-loathing and despair, or I will allow God to be near me. The toxic voices in my head beat me down, rehearsing all the reasons why I should drive West and walk right out into the water. “Why can’t you be more?” or “The good women can handle life, why can’t you?” or “It’s hard to believe you’ve become such a wreck.”
I deeply fear my own inadequacies, the pain I feel when I hit up against my human limits every day. I despise feeling wrung out and wasted and left longing. I hate that I can’t be more, that I can’t perform better.
Where is God in the ugly toxicity of my inner thoughts? Where is God when the rackets start raging against me? Where is God while I do time on the living room floor, crazed and unshowered? Where is God when, day after day, I am confronted with my own persistent ache? For belonging. For love. For worth. To become something or someone that matters in this world. For peace. For less striving and proving and managing. For the toxic voices to be silenced once and for all. For stillness and yoga-breath and sanctuary. For direction. For energy. For freedom.
Edna’s story touches on the longing I often avoid, often numb, often suppress. Not the, “man I’d love to own a little farmhouse someday and grow herbs in pots and wear those tall rubber wellies they’re showing in the Urban Outfitters catalog this fall” kind of longing. (You know, for example.)
What we’re talking about here is the longing that pools in the deeper waters. The place where my most exposed self resides, wrought with conflictions and contradictions and . . . yes . . . naked yearning. The place where I am literally crying out for salvation. The place that scares me because it is so unpredictable and unrefined and uncontrolled. The place that embarrasses me with its snot-dripping neediness and tearful angst.
On the Edna days, I surrender to all the wrong voices and give in to my own death. Not necessarily death by drowning, but death by drowning-out. When I choose the drowning-out, I am choosing to walk away from my need for God.
This is the moment when I begin to doubt, for the millionth time, that any of my believing matters anyway.
What if I trust and believe and pray and none of it makes a difference? What if God has better things to do than sit on the floor with me and my kids? What if I let him into the true state of affairs and he isn’t able to (or doesn’t care to) help me?
And just like that, this faith that I’ve been nurturing and nourishing for over three decades feels impotent.
Cue the swirling waters.
On the same day that I saw the girl gliding down the street, I began crying again. This time, I cried right in front of my daughter, Lane. I let myself go toward the longing, and I let myself feel it instead of numb it. I let myself ease toward the raw need.
Lane looked at me silently, and (I swear) knowingly. She brought me three stuffed animals from her pink bookcase and she crawled up into my arms. We held each other for some time, and right there on the floor of her bedroom, I felt as if Christ himself had his arms wrapped around my neck.
In fact, I don’t doubt it.
photo credit: Katie Gardner
Today, I thought it would be fun to give you a little sneak peek into the Table of Contents of Breathing Room. This gives you an idea of some of the themes I’ve written about and hopefully starts you thinking about how this book might intersect with your own life or the life of someone who might need to read these chapters.
Which chapter title most interests you?
Have a great weekend, dear friends.
Love upon love,
In case it wasn’t readily obvious, I thought I should let you know that I tend to be on the more anxious side of things. I tend to be the kind of person who gets a little manic and panicked and nuts and — when I’m in that state — everything feels urgent and everything feels as though it must be solved. Immediately.
This may or may not sound (very) familiar to you.
All of sudden I feel a visceral need to know: Where we will live for the rest of our lives. What we will do with the carpet in the girls’ bedroom. What Middle School the twins will attend (they’re 5). And whether or not we will paint our kitchen cabinets. It all must be solved, answered, put to rest . . . Right. Now.
I’m grabby. I need a bumper sticker that says: “Put your life down and back away slowly.” I need to keep my grubby mitts off my own life, but it’s so freakin’ hard.
Every time I try to fix or solve out of that anxious place, it backfires. It’s like the hole you can never fill. No matter what you throw into it . . . it’s never enough.
When I’m around other people who are frantic and frenzied and anxious and think they have to solve everyone else’s problems, it makes me highly annoyed. Calm down, stop trying to fix everything, stop making everyone around you crazy, I want to say. My annoyance with others’ inability to relax, their out-of-control-ness, is such a clear indication of the rejection of those traits in myself.
The truth is, that frantic lunatic is me too.
Recently I felt very defensive about something. And I wanted to run to my own rescue. I wanted to defend myself. I wanted to launch into self-protection mode and, if I had, it would have been disastrous. Instead, my dear friend Tina saved my bacon in a big way. She knew I was getting crazier by the second about the whole episode, and she said to me, “Leeana, this is not an urgent matter.”
Put it down and walk away. Let. It. Go.
Sometimes I get very worked up over things that are not urgent. I get frantic. Frothy. And then I see that I have picked up something I was never meant to hold. And, what’s worse, I’ve believed that all the power is in my hands to change or fix or rescue. This is a bad recipe.
What have you picked up and made an urgent matter that you need to put back down? Or better yet, put into God’s hands.
Today’s urgent matters: For me, my urgent matters are being a good companion to myself, nurturing my kids, keeping a sense of humor with my husband, creative expression of some kind, ongoing prayer with God so I don’t unleash on those I love most. Oh, and breathing. Breathing is always an urgent matter.
Everything else, I could probably just hand over to God. Yep. Seems like a fairly good strategy.
What do you need to take your hands off of?
What are your urgent matters today?
(Always, we begin again.)
Thanks so much for all of your amazing comments about my new tattoo and the story behind it.
We need to know that life isn’t about bowing down to fear, anxiety, people’s perceptions of us, or our own shame. Despite the fact that it’s uncomfortable, I believe so many of us are wanting to honor the free, intuitive voice inside instead of always listening to the anxious, fear-based, shame-based voice. I think we’ve all had it with being silenced and edited, even if — especially if — we’ve been the one silencing and editing ourselves.
And the world is in such great need of us showing up and speaking up with our true voice and not some diluted version of who we believe others need us to be in order for us to be accepted and loved.
In some small or large way, I just encourage you to show up where and when you have previously allowed yourself to be silenced. With wisdom, of course. With discernment, of course. But if something is nudging your soul, I just want to cosign on that nudge, and give you permission to take a deep breath and . . . become. Speak. Sing. Roar.
I’m encouraging all of us to take one step closer toward being on our own team.
Amen and amen.
Yesterday I got a tattoo. My first one. It’s turquoisey aqua and it’s henna, two of my very very favorite things in all the world.
Here’s the story:
As you well know, Steve and I have spent almost a third of our marriage living in the Middle East due to Steve’s job in the Navy. Ten years ago, we were newly married and living in Bahrain. I was doing a couple of odd jobs on base, but basically I was not working. Steve, on the other hand, was working nonstop. So that meant I had time. Free, discretionary time. Like I’ve never had before or since.
What happened, in that spaciousness, is that I picked up a pen and I began writing. I wrote what felt like a world’s worth of words that had been bottled up inside me and came tumbling out. I have always written. Always. Since I was a very young child. And my adult self — my newlywed, twenty-something, totally unscheduled self — returned to writing. Returned to the soul voice.
During that season, I had a spiritual experience that was so very real and so very personal that if I ever doubt the existence of God or his love for me, I only have to think of that experience to be re-convinced. It was that profound. In a moment, God opened a door for me to be a working writer. He literally opened a door that I could have never, in a million years, opened for myself. And he invited me to walk through it. Absolutely nothing changed overnight. If anything, it has been the slowest of unfoldings. But, there in the Middle East, he gave me a chance. A chance I didn’t even know for sure I wanted, and yet there it was. I had to decide what I really wanted and then go for it.
Fast forward ten years, a job at my church, one book (Found Art), three babies (Luke, Lane, and Elle), and another tour in the Middle East and back, and here we are on the precipice of Breathing Room, a book that has been rattling around inside me for the last five of these ten years.
The tattoo commemorates this journey: God’s whisper in my ear all those years ago — in our flat overlooking the Persian Gulf — that sent my heart pounding and my fingers flying on the keyboard and started me down a path that I am still very much in awe of. The tattoo commemorates Breathing Room and the tenderness and struggle and overwhelm that birthed it. And this tattoo commemorates me, showing up with my big voice, even though I get scared. Even though.
The biggest obstacle for me with this tattoo was not the fear of the pain. It definitely wasn’t “comfortable,” but I have been through much worse pain, for sure. Essentially, everything related to childbirth.
My biggest obstacle to getting this tattoo was what people would think. And I am asking God to help me heal from this disease of needing to know that everyone approves of everything I’m doing and saying. Of not wanting to disappoint anyone. Of not wanting to displease in any way. So, maybe as much as anything, this tattoo commemorates my brave step toward letting go of what others may or may not be thinking and welcoming my own desires. This is actually deep, incisive work for me. Goes to the core. The struggle between wanting to own my voice and yet not wanting to make any waves with it. This is the work I will continue to do, and I hope that every time I look down at my wrist, I will be inspired anew to be very, very brave.
I hesitated to share all this because, ultimately, it feels like it’s just about me. But then I realized that so many of us are dying to connect with that soul voice inside us, struggling to set him or her free, desperate to celebrate — shamelessly — our unique and true self. We are longing for a touch from God’s transcendent hand that shifts everything, absolutely everything. And, we need someone to give us the permission to be very, very true to the work of God in our lives, letting go of how others believe we might need to be doing it.
OF COURSE, I don’t think you need to go get a tattoo to be your true self or to celebrate God’s work in your life. But, for me, this was a huge step in owning my own story, my own voice, and my own creativity.
The tattoo is designed to look like henna, inspired by the Middle East. I chose turquoisey aqua (a perfect blend of green and blue) because it makes me so very happy, a signature color. And I chose to put it on my right hand because that is my writing hand.
Here’s what is very unexpected: Every time I look at it (and, I realize, it isn’t even 24 hours old yet), I think WOW, IT’S SOOOOO BIG. And then I think WOW, IT’S SO BEAUTIFUL. I’m a little bit afraid of it, and I love it.
Letting go of being tame and quiet and fearful on the exhale, I breathe in life and voice and courage on the inhale.
HEAR ME ROAR.