I didn’t realise I was doing it until I stopped.
I didn’t realise how loud I’d made my life until there was silence again.
I didn’t realise how long I had been holding my breath until I exhaled.
Finally I exhaled.
I’ve been filling up every moment with something, anything, everything.
Filling it with noise. Filling it with people. Filling it with places. Filling it with lists. Filling it with jobs.
Filling it all up so there was no space left for anything else. No space to think… or to breathe.
It was a survival mechanism. A way to make it through, and just focus on what was right in front of me. A way to not let my worries get on top of me.
But I can’t do that forever.
And so I stopped.
Instead of listening to a podcast to keep my mind from over thinking as I feel asleep, last night I lay in silence and let my mind wander.
Yes, my mind wandered to my worries.
It poured over all that has happened so far this year and picked things apart, turning them over and over.
It listed all the things I still need to do, and told me I will never get it all done in time.
It visited all the worries that I’d smushed down deep, and let them out for a while. What will happen next year? How will we cope?
My mind went to all those places I’d been trying so hard to drown out. But instead of blocking, I held on during that bumpy ride until, eventually, my mind went to that familiar comfortable place of thinking about all kinds of random crap. My garden, roasting marshmallows, the smell of a Christmas tree, swimming pools…
I didn’t realise how much I had missed just letting my mind ramble wherever it wanted.
I’m not sorry that I held my breath for such a long time. This year has been rough in so many ways, and the only way I have gotten through is has been by dealing with one small chunk of it at a time.
I needed that block, but I also needed to exhale.
You can’t fill up every moment of your life with noise and action. You can’t hold your breath forever. And you can’t manage your worries if you never face them.
Am I the only one who does this?
If anyone else has been holding their breath for a long time like I have, I hope you find some time, space, and strength to exhale soon.
Read the comments or scroll down to add your own:
Hah I’m still doing it! But I really like how you’ve explained it.
I’m in that “I only need to hold on for a few weeks more and then I can exhale” stage/cycle, only problem is that this just-a-few-weeks started in Term2 and every time I get almost to the end of the current breath-holding something new starts up requiring it to continue. But I only have to hold for 2 more weeks, right? This time?
I use podcasts for in the car or doing mundane chores, and repeats of fave TV shows for falling asleep or background noise while working, all to stop my brain from spiralling down that vortex that I am scared to travel. Thanks for exploring it and showing that its a tunnel and you can come out the other side, because it doesn’t feel like that from this side.
It sounds from your description like exhaling must be more like a movie-version black-hole where it’s actually a wormhole to another place, rather than a real-world black-hole where you are crushed into oblivion, which is what it feels like it will be & why we hold our breath so desperately for so long. That is really reassuring. Maybe I’ll just hold for one more week instead of two ;)
But even though I can’t bring myself to exhale just yet, you have planted an idea-seed in my brain so I thank you, and will appreciate you again when it sprouts.
I really like your blog and what you have to say in your posts often resonates with me. I rarely comment on blogs, but yours is where I am most often moved to say something (and you can see how rarely I do that!).
Thanks for being brave and sharing.
I’ve only just found you but it’s like you are reading my mind….. my dad has been dying from lung cancer for over a year, I work and have two young kids, I feel like I haven’t breathed in so long it’s like I’m a crushed shadow of myself. Compartmentalising is my only survival option. I’ve been quick to anger with my children more often than I like but I’m trying and reconnecting and being kinder to myself – thank you for revealing that I am not the only one that feels like this sometimes!
Much love and strength to you!
I know holding our breath and filling our days to shut out the hard stuff is not all that healthy… but I also know that sometimes it’s what you need to do to make it through. So please gentle with yourself!