There is one universal thing that we all do as our first act in this world. Breathe. Some of us come to it naturally as if we have waited lifetimes in the womb to fill our lungs with air; embracing this change. Others need a violent smack on the bottom to bring it about. But, regardless of how we arrive we all start the same way. We take a breath.
I am finding during these past many days, months and years under extreme pressure I have apparently forgotten how. I am at an age when many of my friends are talking about biofeedback, yoga, and meditation as if to finesse the art. I would just settle for “in” and “out”. I’m not trying to finesse anything. I’m simply trying to remember how to do it.
And there are other infancy lessons that follow shortly behind breathing in the earliest of our days that are also a struggle for me now in my mid-40s. Eating and sleeping to name two. If I remember to eat at all it is always on the run and usually consists of something like saltines with a side of saltines. I make a family dinner every night. Certainly, I do that. And I sit and listen to my children talk about their lives while the salad chases the fish – both outrunning my fork – in a clockwise circle around my plate. But I am too weary to eat it. And, if I do, it sits in my stomach like mutiny.
I sleep for about four to five hours a night. Six if I’m exceptionally lucky. And I wake 13 times per hour. (This is not an exaggeration. 13 times per hour! I’ve been tested.) I wake with panic. Often fearful. A sense of foreboding. And about once a week I wake myself with my own voice crying out. My neurologist tells me that I cannot spend the rest of my life sleeping with one eye open regardless of what I have been through. Au contraire. I disagree. I most certainly can. What is really at issue is the length of the ‘rest of my life’ if I do. On that point, he and I see eye to eye.
An infant knows to scream when it is thirsty so that the whole world hears. She fundamentally knows that she will perish if she does not make this basic need known. And yet, if I manage one glass of water during a 24 hour period I am doing well. I touch my parched lips as I sit entering my 11th hour at work and I think about getting another glass but don’t amidst the next deadline, call to the pediatrician, letter to my lawyer or insurance company, or conversation with a friend who is going through a mid-life crisis of her own.
I am parched to my core. Out of resources. Emotional. Money. Time. Health. Support. Touch. Friendship. Perspective. And sometimes even dangerously close to being out of Hope.
I have been the master of taking care of everyone else since my dad died in 1977. This was one of three promises that I made at his coffin side ~ that I would take care of everyone. That’s a hefty promise for a bitty thing just 10 years old with a Dorothy Hamill hair cut. And as much as I have been trying to make good on it there is one thing that I failed to consider. That I am a ‘someone’ too. And the sad truth is that, even as I write this, I wonder if I really am.
In the last two months my intuition is tugging at me like a persistent child in need of nurturing telling me to go inward, be quiet and keep things simple and small. As I’m blogging this now that sounds like the womb again, in a way.
So forgive me if I am not there for you as readily in the upcoming months. Or you can’t lean on me in the way you are accustomed. Or if I don’t meet your every need and expectation as I would on a normal day. And, if any of that bothers you, let me be the first to say: screw you just a little bit. I am a ‘someone’ too.
Time to start over and take a ‘first’ breath ~ again.