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Holding your breath. {A guest essay from Melissa Allen.}

Hi there captivating blog readers! My life has me unable to blog as frequently as I once was. I’m creating content once a week on Mondays (with the occasional Friday post here and there) and have decided to open up this platform for other writers to share when they feel led to! Today’s guest blog post is from writer, dancer, runner and all around amazing woman, Melissa Allen. Check out her blog here if you want to hear more from her. Which you do. 

Juneau, AK

I’m surrounded by the most magnificent mountains I’ve ever laid eyes on. Even the cruise ships,  taller than most buildings on the coast, can not match the breathtaking presence of these giants. Deep green pines stand sturdy on the ground reaching up to the clouds. Water traces the wrinkles of the mountains downward, finding the ocean and rivers to, once again, merge with. Stillness settles in every shadow and silhouette. You are safe.


This story has been written many times before, by men and women alike. The ones who can not stop their feet from moving them forward, always forward. Their breath sustained by opening doors, stepping across borders, knowing life is not a perfect diagram. Exploring is what keeps them alive. We all know these stories of these people. I’ve read them plenty. I never imagined I would one day be one of them.

For most of my late teenage and early adulthood years, I was a serious planner. Always looking ahead to the next big thing, holding my breath. The in between days, well, they were just that. Time to waste until this thing, or that person arrived to push light into me. My mother told me one time in high school that she was worried. That it seemed like I was never happy unless I had something to look forward to. I just kept my head down, eyes closed, mouth shut most of the time. This scared me to hear her say. I wanted to argue, tell her she was wrong.

Those same years were filled with chapters of sorrow. Pretending that my life was normal, that the struggles I felt on a daily basis were just what I was prescribed to take. Like the pills doctors filled bottle after bottle for me. It wasn’t a big deal, just close your eyes and swallow. I watched my sister climb in and out of hospital beds, and I followed. My own unidentifiable illness causing a domino effect of unsuccessful surgeries, and a lingering ache for those white and pink pills. I watched my family break. My father cry. My mother escape. I still remember the way my little brother pressed his young hands against the screen door, calling after my older brother the day he walked out of our house forever. Abbey and I sat on the living room couch together, her with the baseball bat, afraid of the storm inside the one who walked away.

I didn’t want to see life for the moments that truly made up my days. I wanted to frame it inside the nights spent dancing in the mountains. The strangers I fell in love with on those wooden floors. They only saw the beautiful parts of me, and that’s what I desperately wanted to see as well. So, I pretended that was all there was. The waltzing. The spins. Catching eyes across a sea of people, the burn of a fire I circled, the mouths I found in dark corners. I clung to those moments, even after they were weeks behind me. Memories frozen on 4x6s, taped inside my school binders. These scenes made up what many of my friends knew of me, and I kept it that way.

My mother was worried. I snuck wine into my dry house. I kept my door shut, purple string lights encircling my bed. I scribbled into my handmade sketchbook for hours at night.  Another circle of purple. Traces of wine. I drew figures and trees. I drew a freedom I wondered was only in the movies. I drew the heartbreak I felt from a family barley holding it together. The heartbreak I held, seeing my twin sister sick, pale shades of blue. I broke my own heart with fruitless searching for content. I was a teenager. A teenager with a pain addiction, a pill addiction, and a fleeting sense of what really matters. What counts? What’s on the outside or in? Both seemed too fragile, too worn, too sick to hold up to the light.

With those years behind me, in a bookshelf of stories yet untold, I’ve found something so small, so inconspicuous, a quiet revolution inside of me. I found it in the words of strangers I’ll never meet again. In the subtle change of smells walking past restaurants lining the street. In the eyes of an old woman watching me run by. I found that the seconds that pass in front of us are precious. Life is made of the tiniest of pebbles, not big stepping stones.

Finding the beauty in fleeting, unsuspecting moments has saved my life. You know, the ones found while the truck you’re driving dies in the middle of a traffic circle, or while waiting in line for the bathroom. Like sharing sips of a white chocolate americano with a guy who doesn’t know you but would rather hip bump than shake hands. Like a fisherman at the bar clasping and unclasping his hands. Or the woman sitting beside you, praying out loud. These moments define the happiness I’ve found. It’s a soft burn, a never ending stream of blessings. They are everywhere, waiting. You just can’t be afraid to shine light on it all, knowing that every single piece of the puzzle you call life is as magnificent and important as the rest.

Brett A McCall - April 15, 2015 - 6:43 pm

Another circle of purple.

Brooks Gonzalez - April 15, 2015 - 9:19 pm

Damn girl that is so powerful!! So open hearted and I thank you for sharing

Cierra Winters - April 15, 2015 - 10:34 pm

“HOLDING YOUR BREATH” by my coworker, Melissa Allen. Beautiful and powerful!

Emily Peele - April 19, 2015 - 4:11 pm

Easily one my favorite works of art I’ve encountered so far this year, you can stream it on Netflix…musing on a similar truth

“Bill dropped his keys on the counter and stood there staring at them, suddenly thinking about all the times he’d thrown his keys there before, and how many days of his life were wasted, repeating the same tasks and rituals in his apartment over and over again. But then he wondered if, realistically, this WAS his life, and the unusual part was his time spent doing other things.”

M o r e   i n f o