Time to “Breathe”

Nov 26, 2022 | 8 comments |

Most of us take breathing for granted, exemplified by the expression “as natural as breathing.”

Breathing is natural…until it isn’t.

As some of you know, I have asthma, a chronic lung condition. Although my asthma is usually well-controlled, this autumn I’ve had a series of viral respiratory infections resulting in increasingly serious asthmatic episodes.

Combined with allergies, the airways in my lungs became inflamed and narrow meaning that breathing—something I usually do naturally—was a struggle.

On doctor’s orders, I’ve just had several weeks off work and everything else to put my feet up, rest (with help from furry Nurse Floppy Ears) and recover.

Thanks to this enforced break, I’ve been reminded of some important life lessons.

Creativity comes from quiet moments

I haven’t been writing or even reading in my usual genres, romance and women’s fiction.

When I felt like reading but couldn’t concentrate on an entire book, I turned to magazine articles, short non-fiction (Canadian journalist Marsha Boulton’s Letters from the Country about leaving Toronto for farming life was a highlight) and children’s stories.

They turned out to be just what I needed:

  • Easy to read and “digest.”
  • Unrelated to my fiction writing.
  • A distraction from medication side-effects.

And the bonus?

Whenever English Rose complained of being bored as a child, I told her that “from boredom comes creativity.”

Taking my own advice, shutting down and shutting off from everyday life gave me new writing ideas.

Not being able to breathe is exhausting

It was only when I started the right medication and treatment plan for me that I realized how tiring struggling for breath had been.

I can now take Floppy Ears for a walk without having to stop several times to rest.

I have enough energy to bake.

My brain isn’t foggy, and I can focus and concentrate as I usually do.

And oh, the joy of a good night’s sleep without waking up coughing.

Life truly is about the little things

Reminders to “focus on the little things” are so frequent the phrase has almost become a cliché.

However, this time of rest has reminded me of the importance of small things I often overlook.

The rugged beauty of the Canadian landscape as autumn turns to winter.

The satisfaction of reorganizing my kitchen pantry one shelf at a time.

Interesting architectural details in my small-town world.

And most of all, the realization that although breathing is natural, it’s also a gift and one I’ll never take for granted.

Heartfelt thanks to…

My doctor, nurse practitioner, respiratory therapist and everyone at Rideau Community Health Services for kindness, compassion and exceptional TLC.

My agents and editors for understanding and support.

Friends and readers for good wishes on social media and privately.

And while I’m now back to work half-days, I remind myself to be in the moment and, as American country music artist Faith Hill exhorted in the hit song of the same name, “Breathe.”


  1. Angela Joynes

    I’m so glad you feel better Jen. The first time I went to a tertiary care respiratory hospital for my lung issue, the nurse asked me, “do you know the right way to breathe?” I thought What???? But she was right!

    • Jen Gilroy

      Thank you, Angela. You evidently understand how I felt from your own experience. Wishing you easy and regular breathing with your “lung issue” and a healthy cold and flu season.

  2. Lydia

    It’s wonderful to hear you’re feeling better! If you like hugs, I’m sending one. Here’s hoping the rest of the cold and flu season is a healthy one for you.

    • Jen Gilroy

      Thank you, Lydia. I’m a “hugger” and appreciate your hug too! Hope you have a healthy cold and flu season too.

  3. Jennifer Wilck

    I’m so glad you’re feeling well enough to come back, even half days. Wishing you continued good health!

    • Jen Gilroy

      Thank you, Jennifer. Much appreciated! It’s been a long time since I was so ill and I’m grateful to be feeling like myself again.

  4. Heidi Vanstone

    While it can be hard to have an enforced “recovery” period, I hope you will continue to feel better with each passing day. Slow and steady wins the day, whether it’s project work or returning to better health! And, here’s to the discipline of slowing down and breathing! 🙂

    • Jen Gilroy

      “Slow and steady” is a good reminder, Heidi. Thank you. I appreciate your caring and good wishes.


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