I stopped holding my breath

Hold your breath. Right now. Take a moment. Breathe in, and hold it… keep holding it… don’t stop, keep holding, holding, yes, keep going, don’t–

You had to stop, right? There is a hard limit, for all of us, to where we just can’t hold it anymore.

It’s okay. It’s human. We are all, every single one of us, only human. 

Except, there are times when many of us forget that and we think that we can hold our breath forever. In fact, we don’t even notice we’re doing it. And so, we keep holding it, and we keep holding it, and then something inside of us dies a little bit.

By now, it’s obvious that I’m not talking about physically holding one’s breath. I’m talking about emotionally. I’m talking about the ways in which we don’t give voice to what we really need or we don’t show who we really are to others. Instead, we hold it back, we tuck it down inside, we pretend to be:

  1. Cool
  2. Funny
  3. Clever

And in that pretension, we really come across as:

  1. Aloof
  2. Shallow
  3. Sarcastic

Don’t believe me? You need not; there is no requirement for you to take what I’ve said as true. All I can speak to is my own experience.

I just spent the past few days on an island with my girlfriend. Yes, really, on an island, surrounded on all sides by water too deep for me to escape through, and so, really, no easy escape paths. Possibly not ideal for a first trip together. No easy escape paths is something I rarely get myself into (and the few times before I have, oh, the regrets).

But this time, it was different. We had an amazing time; we didn’t want it to end! During the trip, it was hard for me to wrap my head around why this time was so different. Part of it was the person: my girlfriend is one of the kindest, most grounded and solid people that I know. She’s special.

However, part of it was me. I was different. In truth, I’ve been different for awhile now. I been decidedly sloughing off that “cool, funny, and clever” shell for the past year, but on this trip, I really went for it. I held back nothing.

I make funny noises all the time. I’m a mutterer. I’m a bit dorky, actually. I wore socks while swimming (there was a reason! and they were for flippers, also, they were super comfortable). I can be a little lazy. I probably should drop 10-20 pounds. While I love a good scotch, I’m not actually a fan of drinking too much or getting drunk. I like simple meals; I like sharing my meals. I’m competitive with Scrabble. My morning tea habit is the real deal. I make puns.

I like to talk about my feelings. I like to share not just facts and figures, but why they matter to me (or they don’t). I’m sometimes afraid to share all these feelings (not cool, right?) but I’m even more afraid to not share them because these are the things that matter.

And I’ve reached the point in my life where I only care about doing things that matter.

So, I stopped holding my breath. I stopped hiding me. How did it feel? Exactly like how you think it would: absolute relief! Air is sweet, life-giving, and life-sustaining. I compare now to before and I’m not even sure how I survived. I’m certain I was dying a little bit every single day because of it.

I’m not anymore. I’m breathing, just breathing, and it feels really good.

We should all keep doing it. Why? Because we’re only human. It’s what we were made to do.

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