Two years after I almost died by suicide, a car wreck threatened to destroy our marriage.
It was September of 2014. My little boy, Ben, was turning three, and Sweet Caroline was about five months old. I had been in recovery, rebuilding my life, for two years. But, sadly, I slipped back into my old routine of pushing, performing, and moving to the point of extreme exhaustion. I was working two jobs and pulling 60-hour weeks with two little ones and my sweet wife at home.
For some reason, I had borrowed Lindsey’s car that Saturday morning. I was so tired from working till midnight the night before and having to be back by 6:00 AM., the kind of tired that gives coffee the stank eye and laughs in the face of a nap. I only fell asleep for a second, but it was a second too long. The impact of the other car jolted me awake.
I couldn’t believe this was happening. We were covered in debt, and I’d picked up an extra twelve-hour shift that morning to try and make ends meet. The worst part? The insurance agent promptly reported, “Mr. Austin, your auto insurance lapsed three weeks ago.” In my busyness, I had completely forgotten to renew it.
I called to deliver the bad news to my wife. I felt like all I ever gave her was bad news and a lack of presence. But this was too much. I can still hear her say those heavy words: “I’m taking the kids to Florida for a while until we can figure things out.”
I hadn’t cried in front of my dad in years, but that day, standing in my parents’ driveway, telling him my marriage might be over, I sobbed. I realized that, in my constant struggle to be the good enough, I had neglected the most precious person in my life.
While my wife was packing her bags for Florida, I started wracking my brain for something I could do to find some semblance of peace for us. I knew I had to do something different. The same old thing just wasn’t working anymore. Desperate times call for desperate measures, right?
For me, desperate meant getting really quiet. I spent that Labor Day weekend in silence in a monastery in Cullman, Alabama. I mean, it was quiet AF. I disconnected from everyone and everything I'd been using as a distraction from what was going on inside of me, just like I’d done in the psych ward. But where the psych ward deals with the brain, this trip was for my soul and body.
In my borrowed cell, my soul found stillness and my body was able to rest. I turned off my phone. I only brought a couple of books, pens, and a journal. If I was ever going to redeem my marriage,
This is why Brennan Manning’s words are so powerful: “Silent solitude makes true speech possible and personal. If I am not in touch with my own belovedness, then I cannot touch the sacredness of others. If I am estranged from myself, I am likewise a stranger to others.”
I learned that when I'm not in touch with my belovedness, I’m more susceptible to the lie that my worth is found in what I do, create, and give. As much as I wanted to believe I had recovered and was in a great place, I wasn’t in a healthy frame of mind at all. I had worked to have my ego stroked by how well I performed and how loudly the crowd applauded. A weekend of stillness allowed me to realize that and take a step toward healing my marriage. That weekend of silent contemplation reminded me again that I am loved because of who I am, not in spite of it.
I share this bit because I know the loneliness that naturally comes as a result of this Coronavirus pandemic can be really heavy at times. For me personally, I'm in my home with my wife and kids. But what about those with no immediate family or roommates? I can't imagine how lonely this whole Covid-19 issue must be.
I started trying to think of ways to help or encourage folks during this time and quickly realized the last thing a single or lonely person wants is advice from a married guy with a wife and kids. Like, how could I even begin to understand their situation.
So rather than a bunch of cheery advice on how to just "choose joy," (which has never helped anyone), I want to look at two things:
If you listen to the first episode, "The Difference Between Solitude and Loneliness," you will:
If you listen to the second episode in it’s entirety, you will discover:
As a bonus, if you’d like to make some more online friends and find a safe space to breathe and just be, join the Catching Your Breath Community on Facebook. For a limited time, due to Covid-19, I’ve opened the group up for free. Here's the link.
After reading this e-book, you will be able to:
✓ Find the balance between work and life.
✓ Integrate your spiritual and mental health.
✓ Discover how to come up for air and breathe again.
Steve Austin is an author, speaker, and life coach who is passionate about helping overwhelmed people learn to catch their breath. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, "Catching Your Breath," and "From Pastor to a Psych Ward." Steve lives with his wife and two children in Birmingham, Alabama.
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