Surprise gasp, or gut punch – most surprises fall short of that in terms of pain/pleasure surprise of fear/amazement … coming over a ridge to a magnificent view, rolling over to bump into amazing experiences, or confronting something dramatic (or, having it confront you like a whack to the forehead) – the blow might be hard or soft, but the gasp equally dramatic.
A punch to the gut isn’t likely after we’ve left our childhood playgrounds.
A punch in the gut is: getting fired, being left, being foreclosed, being homeless, being broke, losing your keys, falling when walking in the dark, landing on an icy street, having your brakes fail or being in an uncontrolled skid – these leave bruises, physical or emotional, and take your breath away.
Not all breath-taking moments are sad or negative or tragic.
Some are inspiring – watching your child being born, standing in front of great art or magnificent nature, looking into a microscope or a telescope, having (or living) a splendid dream.
Gasping for breath is something I’ve seen many times – when someone it gut-punched and cannot get their breath when someone old/COPD patient (both of my parents) struggle for breath as they did in their final years. And my daughter Krista, as a child with asthma … scary moments of rushing to emergency rooms in the middle of the night for treatment, for oxygen, for drugs and doctors.
To be left gasping – ecstasy of one kind of gasp, desperation of another.
This is a cruel paradox for one word to endure, or for any person.
Gasping is often something we can’t do out loud – we can’t express our surprise or our awe, or so we tell ourselves. We should all gasp a little more, more openly, and more fully, to show our joy or our pain to those around us may not share our feelings, but who will better understand us and support us in acknowledging our feelings.