“Don’t measure your life by the breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away.”
Life cooperates by being breathtakingly breathless. It begins at the beginning…
It’s hard to breathe when you’re born. You don’t know how to do it in the bright, harsh, unknown world that assails you when you emerge from your mama. This new outside reality is so shockingly unlike the inside of your mother’s belly you need a good slap to kick-start the breathing process.
So are many of the millions that follow.
It’s hard to breathe when the blankets on your bed are made of lead, so dense and heavy they pin you down, your dreams along with you.
It’s hard to breathe when you run too far, too fast, jumping over hurdles, taking unexpected detours, running, running, running to get there, often without knowing where there is. It’s equally so when you lean into each step, dragging the weight of your world behind you.
It’s hard to breathe when you cry from your core and your sinuses become a thicket, and your throat chokes, and your body shudders, and tears flow down your cheeks like a river.
It’s hard to breathe with your back up against the wall and a knife at your jugular. It doesn’t matter if the knife and the wall are real or not.
It’s hard to breathe with your hands tied behind you, even though your hands have nothing to do with your breath, and the ties that bind are invisible.
It’s hard to breathe when someone punches you in the stomach and knocks the wind out of you, either literally or figuratively. Sometimes a figurative loss is worse because it may last a lifetime; one can usually catch a literally lost breath in less than a minute.
It’s hard to breathe when you lose someone or something you love. I thought about that when I broke a treasured china cup and its saucy sister this morning. I knocked them off an antique commode while I was moving a coffee table. One of the table legs swept the exquisite pair onto the floor, where they shattered into a hundred pieces. I mourned their loss for a few seconds, then swept up their remains, and tossed them into the recycling bin. I’ve gotten that way about breaking things and saying goodbye. I used to be sad for a long time. Now I take a deep breath, deal with the debris, and move on.
I wonder if it will be like that when my mother dies.
It’s hard to breathe when you climb so high the air becomes thin enough to slip through the cracks in your psyche, yet too thin to quench your thirsty lungs.
It’s hard to breathe when you are so afraid your brain forgets to tell your lungs to expand, and contract, and expand, and contract, and expand, and contract and expand again.
It’s hard to breathe when you are wracked with anxiety, and you race, race, race from one thing to another in a constant state of overwhelm, because you have too much to do in too little time and you only have one life to live and this may be it so you had better hurry, hurry, hurry up and make it count and if that means foregoing breathing, well, that’s just the way it is and what can you do about it anyway?
It’s hard to breathe when you are overcome with excitement about the possibility of the next moment and your body goes into a breath-free spasm until the moment and the possibility have been realized. Or not. Either way, you then exhale.
Life is so unrelentingly breathtakingly breathless, it’s hard to breathe when you’re alive. And it’s easy to forget it’s even harder when you’re not.