Remembering to Breathe – Relearning the Basics

I am drowsy but I can’t continue sleeping. Mostly because my body is exacting revenge on me and my big mouth. Four nights ago I joked with a friend that my immune system was “on fleek” after more than three years of working with germ infested children.

So now I’m writing to the sounds of my failed attempts at breathing through one nostril and my eventual surrender to mouth breathing in a continued effort to survive. My throat is on fire, like tiny steel daggers pushing into the back of my throat every time I try to swallow.

It passes my mind that maybe my body isn’t just being petty. Maybe this physical pain and discomfort is more than a spiteful response to the over-confidence I had in my body’s white blood cell infantry. Maybe my body is grieving 2016 – purging itself of the suffering and the loss.

I don’t know if I subscribe to this whole 2016 was the apocalyptic horror movie of all years past, present and future. I have heard from both sides of that argument and I think it probably has to do with perspective above all else. But I cannot deny that 2016 was not entirely kind to me.

2016 loved me like a sour patch kid. The one where the evil little gummy hacked off the girl’s hair and then gifted her a new hat to cover up the freak show on her head. Or the one that set off the house alarm to let her parents know she snuck out but handed her a change of clothes to alleviate the repercussions. Or my favorite – the ones that pulled tiny hairs around a young boy’s nipples so that he legit screamed like a buffoon during his attempt to greet some trick or treaters and then the sour patch kids collected the left behind candy from the terrified trick or treaters and offered it up as a peace treaty.

2016 cut me like a thousand paper cuts etched into my body, some slits connecting with others to create more significant lacerations, but it also gave me the tools to heal myself.

I left behind New Year’s resolutions what feels like a lifetime ago. The idea that a change in a digit or two of the numerical year will bring about the mindset needed for change and new beginnings strikes me as ludicrous. So there will be no New Year’s resolutions here. There are only two things that I want for sure in 2017 and I have already started working on them.

I want to write – fiercely, honestly and frequently. And I want to remember to breathe, especially when I fail to write.

Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending the program “New Year, New You! Choosing a Healthier, Happier life” in the Jewish Center of Jackson Heights. It was hosted by New York State Senator Jose Peralta and the key speaker was Corona, Queens native and author Kenia Nuñez.

She covered a multitude of topics on how to live a healthy, joyful lifestyle. Her life took a significant and unexpected turn when she lost her husband to cancer and was left to raise three children and battle with depression. Throughout all the different points made, there was an emphasis on self-care. How self-care is a non-negotiable because self-care is self-preservation.

Kenia shared the story of watching her partner take his last breaths – the steady inhale and exhale that eventually just stopped. She described his breathing in detail – imitated it for the audience. She then went on to explain that even a dying man knows how to breathe.

And yet I find myself walking around everyday holding my breath – shoulders scrunched or hunched or both, hurrying from one appointment to the next. I didn’t even notice I was holding my breath in 2016 until some things and some people sucker punched me in the gut. That sudden outburst of air and Kenia’s words on December 15th were my reminder to do what even a dying man knows he must do – breathe.

Late into the night turned morning on December 28th, I posted my first essay on this blog that I created and did nothing with for three years. I only discovered I had the blog because when I tried to sign up, I was told my e-mail was already in use. Upon posting it, I freaked out – checking my notifications maniacally. I messaged my teacher Vanessa Martir mid-freak out when I convinced myself she would be so offended by my word choice when describing her that she would ex-communicate me from the writing community. I am not exaggerating. Her response to my long-winded message: “Breathe, girl. It’s all good. Pero mira, it’s still 2016. The challenge starts Sunday. Eep!” ::deep sigh::

I know myself to be a sigher. They can sometimes be perceived as angry – the way I take deep, heavy breaths in and let them out the way a balloon releases helium. I think my tendency to sigh with the strength and the pace of squatting my one rep max at the gym comes from not breathing regularly enough. From not realizing how long it’s been since I last took a breath.

My partner always used to talk about building a foundation of friendship before we got married. Foundations are good. Actually, they’re more than good. They are necessary for longevity. So this year, I will go back to the basics by laying the structural foundation of life. I will remember to breathe throughout the everyday bustle and in the most painful and most uncomfortable of moments. I will take my time, steadying the balance between the inhales and the exhales. I will relish in my self-care and not be made to feel guilty for prioritizing it the way I do with work and family.

The sharp dagger pain in my throat has died down to a duller ache – a more manageable pain. This is not coincidence. This year I will write and I will breathe, surrendering to both often and without apologies, with the intention of healing and living fully.

*** Kenia Nuñez – Surrendering: When Pain is Transformed into Extraordinary Blessings is on my 2017 queued reading list***

10 thoughts on “Remembering to Breathe – Relearning the Basics

  1. Hi Nia!

    This resonated so much with me!
    I forget to step back and breathe often. I tend to let the waves of the moment pull me under and I get so caught up in the current that I begin to freak out. Afterwards, I look back and think about all the ways I could’ve handle the situation better. It can be upsetting, lol. Remembering to breathe is such a simple yet effective tool we all can do during our worst moments. Thanks for the reminder! Good luck with your writing! You’re pretty awesome at it and I look forward to reading more of it!

    1. Hi Sally! I love the way you put it, getting caught in the current of the waves of the moment. Definitely me. And it always feels good to know you’re not alone. Thanks for taking the time to read <33

  2. Love it ❤️ specifically not apologizing for prioritizing self care! I wanted to attend the “New year, New you” event but it was on the same night of our PTA meeting … very glad to hear you learned so much! I will put her book on my reading list as I often forget to breath. I look forward to reading your essays this year. xoxo

    1. Thank you for your constant support Josefina! 🙂 Her book is definitely on my list this year as well. She was a phenomenal speaker. I would go out of my way to see her again.

  3. Hi Nia, I absolutely Loved it!! It came in just the right moment I needed to hear it and be reminded that I need to breathe as that is what was missing in 2016 that has trapped me in some trance. Yes I was there too ,the light went off but that quickly it went out again and here you are reminding me again it’s simple, Just Breathe and take it to simplicity. Thank you my Love. There is always a reason why people reconnect. ❤ I am super proud of you taking the steps towards your desires! Beautifully well written piece can’t wait to read more of your blog! 2017 it’s time to Breathe. Namaste🙏

  4. Beautiful, beautiful writing! And a welcome reminder that sometimes, breathing is enough! “Maybe my body is grieving 2016 – purging itself of the suffering and the loss” (Me too…)

  5. Nia- you inspire, you amaze, and you breed a wisdom of 100 lives lived. Keep doing what you do. I’d like to share a thought with you-

    We often take for granted the things our body and mind are designed to do, naturally, perfectly and subconsciously. I have found that when we are deliberate in these things, we come to appreciate the power of their healing. One day I decided I wanted to become a yogi, and not just in any practice. I chose the easy stuff-hot yoga. I remember my first “session” in a crowded room, with 60+ yogis, on the side of 38th and 6th avenue. As I waited in childs pose, I wondered how the noise and distraction of beeping horns and restless commuters would play background to my new found hobby. I wasn’t unimaginative, I was a skeptic. As those worries swirled around inside me, the instructor led us through our first collective breath. She gently nudged us to push all the air our air out of our lungs and led us through what was the biggest and sweetest inhale/exhale I ever experienced. As that breath fled my body with furious urgency, it was the last sound I heard until my practice ended in corpse pose. You see, in that 1 hour, I had lived a WHOLE lifetime- free of of the things that plague me and the inner dialogue that distracts me from realizing my potential. For that 1 hour, I wasn’t too fat, or too new, or too slow or too bored- I was simply, fully present. Deapite my nausea (and brief moments of confusion lol), I learned a valuable lesson. I learned that when we breathe we heal and no matter how much noise fills our lives, we are built to conquer and overcome.

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