My phone buzzed in my pocket. I pulled it out, saw it was my doctor’s office calling, and clicked it on.
“I have good news and bad news,” the nurse said.
I held my breath.
“First, you don’t have pneumonia.”
I exhaled. That was good news.
“But you do have two broken ribs.”
Not much of a surprise. The pain caused from the cough induced breaks had grown exponentially worse in the past days. Earlier that morning, I texted a few friends and asked them to pray. Why could I not get well from the respiratory issue that had plagued me for a month? Round after round of antibiotics, three steroid shots, and doubling my inhalers for asthma didn’t seem to budge it.
Then a day later, our furnace went out. At the same time, I smelled natural gas in the house, so we called our gas provider.
When the gas company man emerged from the crawl space, he told us a switch had gone out on the furnace. He smelled gas, too, and discovered the exhaust pipe from the furnace had rusted through dumping carbon monoxide into our crawl space and our home. Only God knows for how long. We had a detector, which went bad a while back, and we intended to replace it, but . . .
We were probably dealing with a low level of carbon monoxide but people with asthma like me, are particularly sensitive and the fact I was already sick made it worse. Even our dog Lucy had seemed lethargic. Jerry had been traveling some and does not suffer from asthma, so he was less obviously affected. Yet, who knows what the insidious gas may have been doing to him, as well.
We threw open doors and windows and aired out the house.
This whole episode made me think of another way we breathe toxic air--when criticisms and judgments are hurled our way.
Sure, we need to evaluate to see if there’s something to be learned from the comments but most of the time, we need to let them go. It’s hard not to take them to our heart. No denying the hurt is real. Creatives―artists, writers, photographers, musicians are particularly susceptible because we’re putting things out for others to see. If you scan Amazon reviews, almost every author has a few bad reviews. The challenge is not to let those bad reviews , those hurtful comments take hold in our heart.
According to this source, hemoglobin in our blood adheres to carbon monoxide about “230 times stronger than it does to oxygen, which is a problem since carbon monoxide does not provide any benefit to the body. It doesn’t take much carbon monoxide in the air you breathe to get carbon monoxide poisoning and it takes a lot of oxygen to get rid of it. . “
In the same way, something in many of us wants to focus on the negative comment in a string of good ones. We latch on and won’t let go. We make a choice to hold on to the negative. Like carbon monoxide, those remarks don’t do one good thing for us and it’s going to take a whole lot of oxygen to get rid of them in our heads.
For the believer, oxygen is the truth of God.
“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious―the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse” (Philippians 4:8-9 The Message).
We have to make a choice to focus on the truth and not let comments, sometimes from people we don’t even know, get to us.
Dr. Brené Brown in her book Daring Greatly offers a great tip to handling this, “Take a 1-inch x 1-inch square of paper and make a list of people whose opinions matter to you-those people who love you, not in spite of, but because of your vulnerabilities and imperfections. If you need more paper, you need to edit.”
I have God first on my one by one scrap and then family and friends who are in this life with me for the long haul, who love me unconditionally, and don't require performance for love. Then when someone launches(often trying to make themselves feel more important), I can pull out that scrap and check to see if their name is on the list. If it’s not . . . well, then, I’m moving on. Not breathing the toxic air.
I’m breathing easier now, in so many ways. Friends, I hope you are, too, but on the practical side, make sure you have a carbon monoxide detector!