Multiple fires across the state darken the skies in downtown Loveland, Colo., making for an eerie atmosphere.
By Shelley Widhalm
As ash falls out of the sky, I’m sitting in my favorite coffee shop struggling to write my blog.
The sky is spooky, haunted and surreal as leaves shimmer gold against a smoke blanket. Ash coats sidewalks in small, blowing piles of destruction, and pieces of pinecones curl like oversized eyelashes.
It’s nine days before Halloween, and I feel anything but eidolic, only thinking about fun and candy.
Like everyone else, I’m trying to sort through the tragedies of 2020, how they all seem to focus on breath. First, the masks that cover our faces, then “I can’t breathe” leading to the BLM movement, followed by fires across the West that significantly lower our air quality.
Trifecta of Breathing
I can’t breathe as my heart breaks at how the sky literally feels like its falling, but in little white and black pieces of life destroyed.
I can’t breathe as I run—I’ve moved inside and run in a gym, my mask in place.
I can’t breathe as I shame myself for my pivot from writing to editing. I’m not getting work fast enough. I might fail. And on it goes.
I started my writing and editing business nearly four years ago because I lost my reporting job at the local newspaper. When I got the pink slip at my journalism job, I gasped. Not me. I was told my position had been cut. I was laid off.
I couldn’t find a job. I started a business and gasped for breath as I tried to understand how to be a solopreneur. I read books. I met with consultants at the Loveland Business Development Center. And I called my brother, who owns a business, asking tons of questions.
After a couple of years, finally I felt grounded. My numbers were growing. It looked like I could quit my side gig job. And then the COVID-19 pandemic happened. I lost two-thirds of my business, and over the months, built it up to half of a loss.
As we got shut inside, I increased my hours at my essential services gig job (just by 4 to 24 a week). I became more engaged in writing and editing my novels. I got obsessed with Zoom webinars on writing and editing.
Fires Recolor the Sky
And then the fires came. I didn’t want to write. I stopped blogging, thinking it felt like a chore. And then I missed it, just like I miss Colorado’s blue skies I took for granted until two months ago.
Each day, I wonder what color the sky will be. I wonder how it will feel to breathe again without thinking of facial coverings and falling ash.
I wonder if I’ll cough, if my chest will feel tight.
I don’t wonder about love and passion. I love writing, and I love editing, my breath givers.
What are yours? What do you love that is helping you through these hard times? What are three of your passions? What are three of your skills? What are three ways that you can reach out to others?
What makes you feel like you can breathe again?