Breathing in Those Around Us

Mandy Arioto

I overheard a conversation yesterday, because I am nosy and the two women were enchanting.

They were sitting on a velvet green couch in the corner of a hotel where I was also staying. Sitting close, almost knee-to-knee, one with silver gray hair and red lipstick, who, even from 15 feet away, smelled like Coco Chanel perfume. The other woman sat with bright eyes, her nose pink from holding back tears and two babes playing at her feet.

As I pretended to check emails on my phone so I could linger near the couch without distracting them, I overheard these words spoken through the bright red lips of wisdom, “You are going to be a thousand different women in your lifetime; there is no need to worry about what you aren’t right now. Soon enough you will be more than you ever imagined. Just focus on breathing deeply and being inspired.”

I am always amazed at how wisdom is all around us, swirling between red lips and over babes playing on the floor, and into our hearts at exactly the right moment, even if we were eavesdropping to hear it.

A few weeks ago, a friend reminded me of a quote I had heard years before, something about how to be inspired is to breathe in. The idea came back to me as I watched these kindreds on the green couch remind one another to be inspired, and I thought about how if I had to add to the quote, I would make it not only about inspiration but about being inspired by the people around us. The ones who smell like Coco Chanel, and the ones who smell like play dough. Because in order to appreciate ourselves, sometimes we need to learn to appreciate others by breathing them in. And maybe that is the inspiration we have been gasping for all along.

Searching for inspiration like you are searching for your next breath is about noticing, about being awake, and about practicing gratitude.

In Genesis, there is a poem about God beginning the world, and it paints a picture of a God who breathes all of existence into being. I like to believe this God can also breathe new life into situations, events and people that appear to be, at some level, dead. And so all of us, humble bags of bone and skin, have been inspired by the divine, infinite, eternal, creative force of the universe who has breathed into us and everyone around us. This means we are surrounded by inspiration if we choose to experience it.

In almost every language you will find a dual meaning for the word breath, from Hebrew (ruach) to Latin (spire) — the word for breath is typically the same as the word for spirit.

When we talk about the spirit of something, what we’re naming is its ethos, the way it makes us feel, the ideas sparked in our minds when we interact with it. Take a song, for example. Certain pieces of music move us in unique and powerful ways, and the word we often use is inspiring. What do we mean by this? We mean that it breathed into us something good, hopeful, true, comforting, healing or genuine.

I believe the same spirit can be appreciated in the people all around us.

I love Dancing with the Stars. There it is, I said it. It would be much more hip to say I count down the moments for Broad City or Game of Thrones, but instead I love the cheesy theatrics and sparkly costumes of a ballroom dancing show. One of the reasons I appreciate it so much is I am constantly inspired by people doing what they do best alongside people who are giving all their effort to learn something new. This also means I choked back full sobs at an elementary choir performance my daughter, Ellie, was in. Not because every single one of the 55 kids in the choir got a solo or every single one sang with all their hearts whether they nailed it or not, but because their teacher stood with her back to the crowd and shook her booty along with all of the music and led those kids through eight songs with full choreography and had a blast doing it. She was doing what she does best. And I sat there thinking, she is such a great teacher! And look at these teachers being awesome, sitting in the front row at seven o’clock at night, not because they have to, but because they want to cheer on their classes. These are the luckiest kids on earth!

Choosing to be inspired requires exhaling any feelings of jealousy that might pop up when I feel like someone is better at something than I am and choosing appreciation instead. I am thinking of several women right this second whom I admire for being such good moms or others who are really good at friendship, or my friend Chalese who has a beautiful voice, or Michelle who can take breathtaking photos, or Drea, who is never afraid to say how she is really feeling.

And I think about how the world is breathing over me, anticipating regular moments of inspiration if I only pause to inhale (and occasionally eavesdrop on other people’s conversations). I am choosing to breathe in and instead of worrying about what I am not, I am focusing on breathing deeply and being inspired.

Also, I am thinking about putting on some red lipstick, just because.

This originally appeared in Hello, Dearest Spring 2015. If you didn’t get a copy and would like your own, you can subscribe to get Hello, Dearest in your mailbox every season or purchase a copy at the MOPS Store. If you subscribe, forward your receipt to and we’ll shoot a copy of the current issue in the mail to you for free … just because we like you.

Mandy Arioto
Mandy has three kids, one dog and married her husband in spite of the fact that he used the cheesiest pickup line ever to ask her out. Mandy loves to travel and wanderlust is her middle name (not really, it is Jan), but her favorite place in all the world is snuggled on the couch between her kiddos. She and her husband recently moved from Southern California to Denver so that their kids could learn how to make snow angels and because they believe in adventures. Stop by her house and there are sure to be dishes in the sink, laundry on the floor and chocolate in the pantry.