This week’s Monday Mantra: “Remember to breathe every once in a while. Do not drown within your own storm” really rang true for me.
When I was in high school, the swim coach gave us an exercise. If we could swim to the bottom of the deep end, pick up two large bricks, and return them to the edge of the pool, we wouldn’t have to take the semester final. Well, much like today, I loved a good challenge. I had my mind made up that I would not be taking that final exam. Swimming was not hard for me, and I was an expert at holding my breath. This seemed like a piece of cake. I watched a few other students take a shot at it, fail. And another, fail. Once it was my turn, I had no doubts. So I dove in. Once I reached the bottom, I put one brick in each hand and as I looked to the top of the water, I began to realize that I never really devised an actual plan on how to accomplish this task. I pushed off the bottom of the pool and began to frantically kick my feet as hard as I could. This tactic was not working as well as I’d hoped. The bricks were significantly weighing me down and I found that I was quickly running out of air supply. I refused to give up and let go of the bricks for fear of looking stupid, so I paddled my feet harder and harder. I began to get more and more exhausted as I tried to reach the water’s edge. As I looked up towards the surface, I saw the coach yelling at the fellow school kids to help me up. She was screaming and waving her hands at the other kids in the water, but all I could hear was a mess of blurbs. Much like the mother in those Peanuts cartoons: “wah wah wah”. As I neared the top the world around me began to fade, I could see the surface but it just wasn’t close enough. All I wanted was air, but I could not seem to let myself feel the defeat of letting go of these bricks. By this point, I was unsure that I would make it even if I did drop the bricks. As I neared the water’s edge, I felt the world around me fade to darkness. Suddenly, two hands, which seemed as if they came out of the sky, reached in and pulled me to the edge of the pool. I remember even as I sit here now, that huge gasp of air I took as I pierced through the water. It was like taking a huge gulp of water in the desert. Breathe. Air. Nothing in life felt as good as that swallow of air that I took to bottom of my lungs. I could breathe again. Oh my god, I could BREATHE.
Looking back on it now, I can’t help but think to myself, “What kind of exercise was this?” In who’s right mind was this a learning exercise for swim class? Now, at age 30, looking at my 15-year-old self, I wonder, what could possibly be so hard on a swim class final that I’d choose to do such an idiotic exercise?
All dangerous concerns and thoughts aside: Why don’t we let go of all the insignificant things that weigh us down? Why don’t we ever allow ourselves to stop, drop the weight and breathe? We race through our days. We leap from point A to point B as people place bricks in our hands along the way. We pick up bricks from our work, friends, significant others, kids, and even the man we see at Starbucks every day who can’t seem to spell our name right. “No, it’s not Amanda, it’s AMBER.” By the end of the day, week, month we are exhausted, weighed down and unable to breathe. We find ourselves unsure how to get off the ground with the weight we carry. By the time we actually allow ourselves to breathe, the breathe ends up being a gasping inhale of necessity.
Last summer I worked myself so hard that I had to escape the city. I went to a small secluded place upstate away from the stressful hustle and bustle. As soon as I arrived, I took a moment to sit down and gaze at the gorgeous scenery. I immediately took an uncontrollable gasping breath and began to sob. Ugly sob. At the time, I had no idea why it was happening. I hate crying and all I wanted to do was stop. It was literally a million bricks of stress and frustration that I continuously collected over time until I couldn’t handle it anymore.
Breathing is something we take advantage of. We do it on daily and don’t even think about it. You’re doing it right now. Honestly, I’m happy for the struggle I had with those bricks that day. They taught me how to be strong and fight but also to not be such a Buffoon. We need to allow ourselves to let go of the things that weigh us down. The breaths that we take should be seamless. They should be calm. They should be invigorating. We need to stop holding our breath and pushing through the heaviness that surrounds us.
I know you’re all dying to know, Did I have to take the semester final? No way. I’m pretty sure I scared the shit out of the teacher and scarred her for life.
As we move forward this week, month, year, let’s learn to bravely suck up our pride, drop what is weighing us down, and give ourselves the calming happiness we deserve. BREATHE.