Tag Archives: breath

Heart Racing

29 Apr

“So are there harnesses? Or just regular seatbelts?” I kept my eyes low, looking at his shoulder instead of his face, and then turned back over my own shoulder to see if I could find a strap of any kind.

“Nah, they’re aren’t any seatbelts. We just ride, and if we roll we roll.”

There may have been a significant vacuum in my silence as I gazed at the sharp corners of the sun-grayed asphalt track stretching to the edges of the horizon in front of us.

“Nahhhhhhhh,” he laughed, glancing his hand off my left knee lightly but grasping it just enough to knock it into to my other knee. “I’m just messin’ with ya!”

Hearing the exact cadence of The Cowboy, I felt myself relax into the safekeeping of a Texan. I may have only met you two minutes ago, but I know you. You’re gentle and smart and fast and tough and soft and protective, and you will not roll this car with me in it.

When You Least Expect It

18 Sep

Countless times, eyes closed with my arms dangling around the chest of some man or another, I have felt my lungs fill with the slow pace of boundless affection. Every capillary in my person gasped with a tiny influx of love that was sometimes shared and reciprocated.

Whoever he was, he was the center. I wove all my thoughts and feelings in and around him, and with every inhale donated endless consideration for what he might want that very instant. Upon each exhale, I might think just for a fraction of a second about what I may need that year, or decade, or maybe just at some point in my life.

Somehow, whether loved or not loved by these men, I always heard the same refrain from friends and therapists as inevitably I couldn’t breathe anymore. “You don’t need a man to validate you. You need to love yourself first,” they all said. Practically in unison. And I’d nod like I knew exactly what they meant.

Finally last year I got really frustrated with this advice when yet another therapist pointed out how cruelly I spoke to myself all day. “How do you start loving yourself?” I demanded. “Just flip a switch?” There was no answer other than some gentle advice to say kind things to yourself every day and “stop the negative self talk” as my mother always used to say when she was in her psychology phase.

I knew I would absolutely never, ever actually achieve self love in this slow, tedious, cumulative way. It was going to feel like a lightning bolt, like everything else good and wonderful in my life.

So I waited. Then a bunch of terrible and wonderful stuff happened. Some horrible men appeared in my life, some kind men made brief appearances, and incredibly loving friends stayed ever present all throughout. My mother got much more sick, and I uprooted myself and ran away to Texas so I could actually be useful to the person who loved me first in this world.

Almost four months have passed since I began to sever ties with my old life and give myself a new chance. Everyone worried that I would be friendless in my new home, but I was confident that I would make plenty of friends, and that much has already come true. I’m good at that part.

What I wasn’t good at when I first got here was living without any sort of male to worship. I flailed around looking for an object, and then I surprised myself with the rewards of impermanent intimacy. Who needed obsession when you could just sip at temporary connection when you needed it, and put the rest in the fridge for later. Awesome, no longer need a man to validate me, check.

So I kept breathing, just like I promised my heart I would do way back in February of this year. Steps toward a new life were made deliberately. I turned my sunny new countenance to the world and was rewarded with ample kindness from strangers and new friends. I felt more and more settled as I made plans and filled schedules and found my little orbit.

Exhale. And then as part of my renewal, my yoga practice changed. Rather than devoting my practice to some broken man or another, every time an instructor told us to choose an intention at the start of class, I chose something for myself. And I spoke simply and plainly to myself.

First, for several classes, my mantra was: “To accept love for myself.”

Then, I made it more broad for a few sessions on the mat: “To feel love.”

And this evening, wracked with stress and suffering the severe headache that has clenched my skull for days, I sat down on my mat and immediately felt the pain dissipate. Goodbye. And so the mantra for tonight leapt into my mind, even as I grasped for a new idea about love. It pushed its way to the front: “Relief.” Yes. I am here today for relief. I want relief. That’s an okay thing to want for myself.

So I breathed it in, I breathed it out, and I kept returning to relief. Every time the teacher angrily yelled at people to remember their breath, I felt secure in knowing that I’ve never had trouble maintaining the controlled intake and exhalation of air. I am so good at pairing movement with breath. I am a little machine.

Breath by breath, even though I arrived at class tonight totally starving and in need of dinner, I built a solid, strong practice. Then, when it was almost over and the teacher commanded us to enter the challenging pose of Wheel (always a tough one for me, one I have never done without support), I heard her words “Now just go!” And I flung myself up into a real Wheel. For the first time ever, ever in my life.

I mean, I knew it was coming, since in my previous class I had been able to do almost a full wheel by myself several times in a row, surprising myself and pleasing myself and making myself so damn quietly happy in my corner of the classroom. I knew I was destined to have Wheel. And tonight I got it. And I did the biggest, most complete upside-down smile while I arched toward the floor. I was a strong, amazing, super human. I really was, and I will keep getting stronger.

Then I had my lightning bolt. When we came down out of that and endured plenty of ab work and who knows what other sort of rigorous labor, we were settling back down on our backs on the mat, and my mind said something loudly. It’s been saying it in a little whisper in other yoga classes, but this time it was a big, sweeping wave, a huge wave, and it burst across the verbal part of my brain without being spoken, just like it’s done a million times before. “I love you.” Pause. “I love you so very, very much.”

Except this time there was no boy in sight. No one to direct all my love at while I totally annihilated myself by comparison. This was just me and my muscles and my breath and my ability. I love you so much.

I’m going to write this down for anyone who has been told to love themselves first. When you finally feel it, it’s like a lightning bolt. But behind that flash is actually a slow, slow build of gentle steps and self care. Oh, and you need to ditch the boys who don’t love you back and move to Texas.

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