One of my yoga instructors has a tattoo on her arm that reads, in her own handwriting, "Just remember to breathe." Good advice, indeed.
Without breath, we really have a whole lot of nothing. And sometimes, the universe conspires to teach us to slow the hell down and breathe. Take, for example, last Saturday. I began the day with a run - the 5K Monster Dash along Chicago's lakefront. To run, ya gotta breathe. For me, running takes a great deal of effort, so it's a constant forward motion to a rhythm in my head that pretty much goes, "pick it up, put it down" to my feet and "in ... out" to my breath. My footsteps and my breath join in a cadence that keeps me going, and the run becomes an exercise (pun intended) in connectedness.
So imagine my shock when, a mere 10 hours later, I found myself in Charleston, IL, having yet another emotional freak-out and forgetting to breathe.
I'd made the journey back down to pick up the Jeep after it had been repaired, and I was so excited to get back behind the wheel of my baby. It started up like a champ, and then I tried to drive it. Sluggish and noisy, especially on corners; there was no way it was drivable. Commence meltdown.
My poor friend Annie, who had driven me down to Charleston. My poor dad, on the other end of the phone. My poor brain, a pool of moosh as my worst fears seemed to become real. Moments passed. I drove around the parking lot, Annie waiting patiently, Dad listening across the miles, in hopes that all would be well. I finally decided I would just go stay with friends for the night and figure it out in the morning, letting Annie go and crying on the phone to Dad. As I journeyed through the one-way streets of Charleston, my dad suggested I try the emergency brake.
In a flood of relief, I found the lever, pushed it to the off position, and all was perfect.
If only I’d remembered to breathe.
The whole event is an important reminder of two things. First, if I’d just slowed the heck down – mentally, emotionally – perhaps I would not have panicked. Perhaps I would have noticed the brake and kept peace in my heart. Perhaps neither is true; perhaps I still would have jumped to conclusions, but I could have done so a tiny bit more rationally, I suppose. I’m quite highly strung, in case you hadn’t noticed. Perhaps I can work at being less so.
Secondly, I was reminded – for the second time in as many weekends – of my intense good fortune when it comes to people who love me. No one would have left me stranded. No one would allow me to endure whatever was wrong with the car in an isolated state, regardless of how it felt in the moment. And even if the worst were true, I was in a place I love, with access to people who would care for me through whatever came next. There was really no need or point to the meltdown.
And so, all’s well that ends well. I spent Sunday with my girlfriends, surrounded once again with the absolute truth that is my life: I may feel alone, but I am not. I just need to breathe, and remember that.