Thursday, January 27, 2011

Breathing Room

I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart:  I am, I am, I am.  ~Sylvia Plath

Six weeks. Six weeks since my surgery. Six weeks since I was wheeled into the operating room, breathing in and out, hopeful that I'd breathe well under anesthesia. Six weeks since I felt as if I could take in a deep breath and let it out fully. Six weeks since my body was whole. Six weeks of recovery. Six weeks of set backs. Six weeks of big leaps forward. Six weeks of discomfort. Six weeks of thankfulness. Six weeks of fear. Six weeks of laughter. Six weeks of profound worry. Six weeks of sincere appreciation. Six weeks to catch my breath.

It's been a tricky thing, catching my breath. As a Yoga instructor, I'm trained to breathe consciously. Obviously we all, as human beings, know how to breathe. We're born knowing. From the moment we enter the world, we are breathing on our own, if we are healthy to do so. The inhaling and exhaling process is innate. Yet, all too often, we lose our depth of breath. We are worried, we are anxious, we are troubled, we are nervous, we are frightened. We breathe shallowly, not filling our lungs fully, not releasing all the Carbon Dioxide completely. We hold onto what we shouldn't, and we don't fill ourselves with what need desperately. We go through life with clenched stomach muscles, poor oxygen levels and headaches. As a Yogini, it should be second nature to me...breathing with depth and meaning. But when in pain, when scared, when overwhelmed by life, I forget my training and sink right back into the panicky, surface breath of the devastated.

Breathing deeply has been the lifeline to which I've clung the past six weeks. During the times I've been unable to unclench my fists, I've listened to music to help me let go enough to catch my breath. My daughter created a playlist of gentle songs for me to listen to to help me relax. My husband and she bought me extraordinary Bose headphones for the hospital. The beeps, the bangs, the unsettling noises of the hospital were making my poor breath pattern even worse. The Bose headphones began their life with me by simply blocking out the harsh hospital resonance. I was able to relax slightly simply by removing the jarring and replacing it with silence. When I came home, and my discomfort was so palpable that I couldn't separate pain from my reality, the music that I was able to play on my I-pod enabled me to transport my psyche from discomfort to direction. It's very tough to breathe deeply when one feels out of control. Music allowed me to regain some feelings of governance over my body.

Despite knowing how to breathe properly, it's been a challenge for me in the past six weeks, both literally and metaphorically. Catching my breath has been somewhat like climbing a ladder. I am able to tackle one rung at a time. Yet with each rung, I realize how far I've come...but how much further I have yet to go. I still am battling some truly unpleasant obstacles to recovery. I still feel overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of what I used to do on a daily basis. However, I constantly remind myself that, instead of just looking at the illustrative wall against which the ladder is leaning, I must secure myself on my current 'rung' and turn around to face outward, and to peek downward. By looking out at how far I've climbed already, by taking stock in where I've been, I can breathe a little more easily. I can also take deep breaths to appreciate the moment in which I'm currently resting. I may not be close to my destination yet, but I've been climbing and climbing on this journey. I'm most certainly on my way. 

Breathing room is the space I need to create for myself on this journey. I need to quit worrying about whether or not I can button my jeans yet. I need to let go of my own preconceptions and guilt regarding what I should be doing at this very second. I need to come to terms with the fact that my body isn't healed yet. I need to treat myself with kindness, patience, gentleness and mercy. Perhaps then, I'll find my breath....and my voice...once more.