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  • Writer's pictureMo Reynolds

Don't Hold Your Breath

My dad was a scuba instructor when I was a little girl in Panama. I was too young to go with him, but I did buddy breathe with him once to dive in a river in NC to find my glasses. Miraculously, we actually found them. That was a dad win.

While I've been scuba diving here and there, it is still an eerie sensation, breathing under water. The natural instinct is to panic a little, which makes you breathe faster, which means your tank empties faster. My dad always said that rookie divers tear through a tank because they can't relax and breathe slowly. Or, they try to hold their breath, which can lead to bigger problems.

My scuba diving dad left my mom when I was 19 years old. And I think that's when I started holding my breath, waiting for an apology that would never come.

I thought I'd forgiven him, I really did. But, then things would flare up again and I realized I was still holding my breath. The moment of freedom came when I was reading in a book of scripture called The Doctrine and Covenants, about forgiveness. I read there that God required me to forgive all men. Sure, easy.

But then there was this: "Ye ought to say in your hearts—let God judge between me and thee."

There it was. The exhalation. Suddenly I realized that I wasn't just witholding forgiveness, I was nursing judgment. I was waiting for an apology sincere enough, some suffering acute enough, that I could finally extend my merciful hand and forgive. But really, what I needed to do was let go, walk away, and say "this is between you and God, I'm moving on."

I started breathing again. I moved on. It was beautifully liberating and my Dad had no idea it happened. Over the years I've been able to see my Dad as more than one huge mistake. Forgiveness has allowed me to remember other stories besides the ones that hurt.

And all this without an apology.

These sea women know how to hold their breath. They are remarkable, strong, adaptable, brave women who raise and feed families and protect each other.

They also hurt each other. There is deep, searing pain in this novel. And for the majority of it, you feel the protagonist holding her breath, holding her pain, refusing to forgive a hurt that you don't even learn about until the end.

It hurts so many people, this refusal to breathe. She does not suffer because of the wound, she suffers from re-opening the wound again and again and again, rejecting healing and refusing closure.

Forgiveness, I believe, is not a "get out of jail free card" for the wrong doer, nor a sanction of the action or dismissal of the pain. It is a liberating release for the wounded. It is simply breathing out, moving on, and trusting that there is a greater justice ahead, and we do not have to dole it out. We can simply keep breathing and enjoy the view.

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