When we’re born, everyone waits for our first scream. Ironically, it’s the only scream for which most parents are grateful. The rest of them are more like nails on a chalkboard. A siren in the middle of the night, a replacement for the alarm clock, a signal which demands immediate attention.
But that first scream – it’s when we first prove our worth, our life, the functioning of our lungs. Every breath after that is involuntary. Heck, even that first one is but it’s translated as on purpose by those surrounding us on our original birthday.
So, why then, would we need to learn to breathe again if it’s something our body just does?
Stress. Anxiety. Fear. Trauma. Happiness. Joy. Surprise. Life. Things which temporarily steal our breath. Moments during which our intake lasts longer and we must consciously remind our lungs to exhale and inhale. You know them – moments in which everything around you stops, slows down, swirls about you as if you’re stuck mercilessly in some sort of vortex.
For many, those moments are few and far between. For many, it may not happen at all. But for those of us who know these moments all too well whether they be for good or bad, learning how to breathe again can be an exhausting task. We learn how to breathe deeply in the face of adversity. To take in the air in front of us slowly and exhale it slowly. To take poisoned angry air and exhale it with joy. It’s not about literally breathing. It’s about forcing ourselves to continue to move forward with our lives even when all we really want to do is inhale and never exhale again because that next breath? Will be the hardest damn inhale we’ve ever had to take in our entire lives. Shattered, broken, crumpled, exhausted, breathing is last on our list of things to do. We flail, shudder, convulse, everything but gasp for air. Gasp for survival. We run away from it. The pain awaiting us with that next breath overwhelms us and we run. Even though we KNOW it’s not what we should do – that we should run headlong into that fear, toward it like a linebacker toward a quarterback about to throw a game winning touchdown. Tackling that quarterback is going to hurt like hell. But it will feel good. That quarterback? Is fear. Is anxiety. Is stress. Is trauma. We can’t let it win the game. Ever.
Run toward the quarterback. Knock him flat on his back. Scream at him the whole way. Fight for it. Don’t let him win the game. Because you? You know how to breathe. You’re worth it. And you? Have got this game in the bag.