I’ve never been good at breathing. As a kid, I was always holding my breath or trying to minimize the wheezing that inevitably came with my existing. But it never really worked. Everyone could always hear me breathe. Which made disappearing a difficult task.
Every so often, in some weird, magical, I don’t even know what place, I’d overcome my breath and life would be as it should be. Like, I could actually run and jump like everyone else. Like better than everyone else. And I wasn’t ever sure what caused that magical whatever, but there it would be.
It made me believe that I had more in me than what I accepted as me.
In elementary school, my gym teacher said something about me having asthma–which made me ask my mother if I had asthma–which made her ask him why he said I had it. He assumed I did–since obviously. So, we went in. I got tested, and yup.
It was more or less a nuisance growing up–nothing altogether life threatening. But it taught me to live in shallow depths of breath. Which I suppose is a metaphor for a whole bunch of other things.
And eventually, my asthma got worse. As I started pushing my limits especially.
I rarely breathe deep. I breathe like I have tiny lungs–which means I get tired really fast. I’m always catching my breath. I’m always reaching for the next moment–running some race against some self I created.
I used to do yoga. I sucked at yoga. So I stopped.
And then I found swimming. Where air is everything. And I realized why I like water–why it relaxes me so much. It’s like the whole world is inhaling and exhaling with each wave.
I’m learning to breathe again. To access memories and emotions I’ve long since buried. Things that live in my cells, but not my consciousness. I hate it. It makes me self-conscious. That old feeling of being a little girl, panting because her lungs didn’t quite work. That little girl not wanting anyone to see her. If you heard her, you’d see everything. Her red face with the freckles and the asymmetrical everything. And the not good enough.
When I feel things, my instinct is to build a dam. I can feel this pressure in my chest–the erecting of walls to keep the pain at bay. To keep life at bay. And it’s taken me a while–several sessions of breathing–and letting someone hear me breathe–letting someone see me cry–letting someone in on all the secrets. It’s taken months of that, but–now–when I feel myself holding back the Universe inside me? I go back to my breath. And I let the wave pass through. I let it lose its energy and find rocks to kiss. And fade out into the ocean to the peace I never knew existed behind the heartache.