Breathe In, Breathe Out

Who thinks about breathing, ever really?  Unless I guess you are choking, in active labor, or spent your whole adult life smoking, I think most people don’t think much about breathing, BUT I’m learning that people who are learning yoga think about breathing, a lot.  I can’t begin to count the number of times a day that I find myself thinking about getting air into my body.  This would be strange to the “old” me, like thinking about swallowing, for example, but the “new” me thinks about breathing many times throughout the day and not just the many hours each week that I am learning how to move my body and use my brain in these new ways.  I’m finding, discovering I suppose is a better word, that since Thanksgiving, when I first signed up for classes, my propensity to lose my cool is fast becoming a thing of the past.  My way of flying off the handle and then assessing the situation has given way to thinking first about the situation, and then thinking about breathing, and then contemplating whether or not flying off the handle would be the right course of action.  Generally it isn’t.  I’m not, by any stretch, implying that I’m no longer ever mad, nor alluding to a better version of me who is always mellow, but the man I love will tell you this if you ask him, “she is on her yoga high” if you were to ask him about my general mood or manner and overall disposition almost every day…

It’s certainly possible that this better, mellower version of R* is simply growing older and wiser, and with that gaining a calm and serenity that she did not have when she was young and perhaps less evolved, but I suspect it’s more than that. I seem to find that so many of the things that always annoyed me seem somehow less annoying…for example, I drive a very big, ridiculously long, heavy truck with a cap, and so for all the years I’ve driven this truck, when fools who don’t understand the most basic rules of physics and speed and weight and braking, pull out in front of me, I used to get so angry.  Lately I find myself braking sooner, meaning as soon as I see their foolishness in action, rather than seconds before it appears I might plow into the rear of their car, and think to myself, “it’s the universe telling me that I need to be here and not there at this second” and then tell myself stories while I take a few deep breaths about how that jerk who turned right on red without stopping, into traffic moving 50 miles per hour, right in front of me driving a 9000 pound truck, is maybe saving my life by making me be 12 or 20 feet farther behind than I would have been had he not cut me off…it’s a silly mind game, so many mind games are, but I play it with myself as I take those necessary calming breaths and it seems to make me a much less angry driver.  It might seem like a poor example, but if you have ever been a passenger with me in any vehicle you would likely say, “oh, how nice that her lead foot is lighter, and she does not scream up behind the tail of those who annoy her anymore!  Oh joy!” 

I’m certain, had I learned about yoga at 18, or even 28, 38, or 48, my life would have been much different.  I have always called myself a silver lining seeker, that hasn’t changed, but I’m a much less upset person it seems about everything, and I like that.  I certainly would have been a better mother while raising my daughter.  I was not a “No More Wire Hangers!!!” kind of mother, but I certainly was not as good as I could have been, or should have been, to a small growing learning little girl.  Had I been better at taking the necessary breaths to assess situations, instead of flying off the handle, I would have had a far less stressful home in which that little girl lived.  It seems she didn’t suffer too badly, she sure turned out fabulous, and she lets me help her raise her girls, so I was not THAT bad, but we live and learn, and like that expression ‘when you know better, you do better’ and so I’m doing better in just about every area of humanness.

I also think about breathing when I walk into a store or building where a person does not know how to measure 25 feet from the door as the allowed space for smoking near an entrance.  And when I walk through the stink I think about my lungs, I think about breathing, and I think “how on earth did I do THAT for so long and what on earth must I have been thinking??!!”  And I say a little prayer to the universe that I quit in enough time to heal that damage and I don’t end up like that disgusting “we can help you quit” commercial, where the man is sitting at his dining room table gasping for breath with lungs that make a sound like pebbles being raked and wearing an oxygen tank…when you know better, you do better

I still get mad about a lot of things, sure, but I seem to be less mad about all of them.  Last night for example we went out for Mexican food and I asked for some more pico and the server instead brought guacamole, and I said, “that’s okay, I’ll have that” and then she charged us $4 for it.  $4 for two tablespoons of guacamole would have made the old me super angry, but the new me just calmly said, “well, we won’t make that mistake again.” I can’t know for sure that learning how to breathe differently and move differently and think differently because I am learning yoga is WHY this is happening, I can only know and observe that it is happening.  Next time somebody pulls out in front of you, blows stinking smoke in your face, or overcharges you for something you didn’t even order, just try to see if some really deep breaths, in through your nose, out through your nose, helps you think about how to react, or even to react at all… I think you’ll be glad you did.  I mean really, we have to breathe to live, it makes each day possible, we might as well try to do it in a way that also makes each day better.





I think of myself as an imaginative day-dreamer; not the kind of person who wastes or whiles away her day with her head in the clouds, but the kind of person who manages to get all of her daily work and chores done but with her head somewhere else much of the time, and yes, often in the clouds.  I would go as far as to write that for all of my life I have been a dreamer; always thinking about things that are not, that likely never would be, or couldn’t be, and forever creating scenarios, and even dialogue of situations, that are nothing but thoughts, and not at all part of what is.  On NPR the other morning, I heard the term, I.R.L., In Real Life, during an interview with one of the world’s greatest computer hackers.  He said it’s a term common to gamers or programmers and they use it, IRL, to briefly identify the difference between what is imaginary and what isn’t.   As a woman who is currently using a photo-shopped profile picture on social media from an app that’s to see what “you will look like as a Hollywood star,” it should not be a surprise to learn that the fake world of my brain, as opposed to reality, is not an unpleasant place for me, rather, it’s really quite comfortable for me to be there for extended lengths of time…

In the imaginary world of my head, the man I love, regardless of brand, size of tube, or fullness of said tube, squeezes toothpaste from the bottom only, every single time.  I.R.L. he squeezes right in the middle, no matter the time of day or type of tube, and it really frustrates me, but that is the real life.

In the imaginary world of my head, when I’m driving my new Camaro, blasting music from the Hair Nation channel and singing my heart out,  I’m as hot as that blonde in those cut off Levi’s shorts in the She’s My Cherry Pie video, and could, if I so desired,  drape myself all over the hood of that car like Tawny Kitaen from  Here I Go AgainI.R.L. anybody who looks in the yet to be tinted windows, can see very clearly it’s not some young, big-haired, blue eye-linered 80’s hottie, and it frustrates me that I now occupy this middle-aged vessel,  but that is the real life.

In the imaginary world of my head, when I am in squat at yoga, I elegantly wrap my left arm behind my back, and then my right arm around the outside of my right knee to join my hands, and I slowly and carefully get my right knee into the crook of my right elbow while my left hand is still wrapped around myself, and with the strength of my left leg, begin to stand, and then straighten up into the bird of paradise pose,  or Svarga Dvijasana.  I.R.L. I squat, over the floor and with my knees as wide as they will go with my hands at my heart, possessing neither the skills nor the strength to move like my teacher demonstrates, and it frustrates me, but that is the real life. 

In the imaginary world of my head, the man I love, regardless of the time of night, gets into bed beside me and reads, and turns off his night table lamp when I do, and the room is silent and dark as we fall asleep, and stay asleep until morning.  I.R.L. he likes the tv on and tosses and turns and kicks, as he loathes my tightly made perfect hospital cornered linens, and his inability to be still wakes me up, and then I become devastatingly aware that my skin is hot like lava, and I too begin to toss and turn, he often simply  gives up to sleeplessness and goes to the sofa, and then I lie there overheated and frustrated that the sheets are now messy,  but that is the real life.

In the imaginary world of my head, I put the required time and attention into my friendships and let people know how much they mean to me by picking up the phone when I think of them, and making time for them, and having regular dinner parties and gatherings.  I.R.L. I put so little effort into my interactions and feel bad about myself every time I think fondly of somebody, or have a joyful or funny memory about fun time spent together, and it makes me feel frustrated that I am so lazy in the arena of maintaining friendships, but that is the real life.

In the imaginary world of my head, these two gorgeous granddaughters of mine will get through their teenage years and grow into women without suffering excruciating boyfriend sadness, or heart breaks, or having their feelings stomped on.  I.R.L. they will likely experience the same teary upsets that their mother did, and I did,  because the sob stories of our youth are what make us so much more grateful for the relationships we later build and cultivate in our adulthood, and I know I will feel frustrated when I can’t soothe their distress, but that is the real life.

Life is sometimes messy, often super messy, inexplicably cruel and total crap, and things don’t go as we wish, and for some life goes wonky far more often than it goes well, and that too seems grossly unfair.  THAT is real life.  Work, relationships, friendships, the “stuff” that makes up our lives simply sometimes stinks, and difficulties frequently  amplify before they diminish.  I am learning, the older I get, that frustration with real life is pretty much pointless, and that nothing lasts for too long to not be able to handle it.

In the imaginary world of my head, I am surrounded by love, even when I don’t feel lovable or very loving.  I.R.L. I am surrounded by love, even when I don’t feel lovable or very loving.  When I take the moments to reflect and reboot when I need to, it’s almost laughable how much wonderfulness the universe has dropped into my lap, year after year there are far more good times and good experiences than there are bad.  Life is as beautiful as we make it, and we can daydream all we want about what it ought to be, or could be, or we can accept all that is in real life and make the best of each and every moment.  Despite my frequent frustrations, it is a wonderful life, and I bet yours is too, you just have to sometimes take your head out of the clouds to see clearly…