We sat in the rows of seats at the Driver's License office, waiting for our number to come up. Our son studied his manual again, reviewing the numbers, the laws, the statistics, preparing for his written test to earn his driving permit. On the wall, a digital display asked trivia type questions, then scrolled through the words, "Welcome to the Colorado Department of Revenue. Have a nice day," followed by the answer to the previous question. "What was the first animated movie to receive an Academy Award?" (Beauty and the Beast, 1991). "What are the most used letters in the English alphabet?" (t,a,e,s - I think that's what they were). This question caught my attention: "How many breaths does a healthy adult take each day?" The answer, 23,000.
All day and all night, 23,000 breaths, in and out, rise and fall, fill and empty, the rhythm as waves of air pulse in and through and out of our bodies. It made me grateful I don't have to think about each breath. Another son, with a nasty cold, breathes, resting on his bed, and I can hear each raspy, labored, congested breath. Exhausting, the effort he takes with each breath. Gladly, that is not normal, and he will soon be breathing again without thinking about each difficult breath.
But sometimes I do have to remind myself to breathe. That means a deep, slow inhale and a slow, relaxed exhale. It means taking the time to think about the breath, the life-giving calm of oxygen filling my lungs ,the energy distributed through my blood and body, and released, out.
He did pass his test. We have been out driving three times so far and he has done well. There will be plenty of opportunities over the next year for both of us to remember to breathe. Me, especially, as I sit in the passenger seat and attempt to direct and guide with calm patience. His older siblings have all successfully learned to drive and earned their licenses, I know he will, too. I want to remember to be grateful for this time with him, to talk and laugh and learn together. Not to be the storm cloud sitting in the passenger seat.
I want to take this opportunity to breathe, to not take for granted the incredible life we have both been given. To know that no breath is trivial. The calm, quiet energy of each breath is a powerful life-full force, and until each of us takes our last breath, there is opportunity for hope and love and life, one breath at a time.