I have never done yoga. It seems cool, but not a single one of my dogs has ever faced downward. Most people assume I have; I seem like the kind of person who would have—whatever kind of person that is. Not a regular, but like someone who has to, at least at some point, have attended a class. I seem vaguely yogic.
Maybe that’s my problem then, no yoga. I never officially learned how to breathe correctly. That’s why, when I get anxious, I can forget how to do it. My mind goes blank and my rib cage locks—until I remember again.
But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m not remembering how to breathe again. It’s much more likely that I never officially learned how to breathe because I didn’t have to; I was born knowing how. I have never breathed a single breath that wasn’t mine.
Speaking of organized breathing, I used to run relay races. So did you probably. Everyone runs relay races. Unlike yoga, they are inevitable.
Rounding the track, the next legs in their singlets are a jostling blur at first. Then as the gap between you narrows, you cross into the exchange zone and lock eyes with your teammate. They are supposed to start running when you enter the zone. They go before you reach them, so that by the time you do—the two of you are roughly moving at the same speed. Then, with any luck you hand off the baton without losing any ground.
It seems counterintuitive—them moving away when all you’re trying to do is get closer. So much can go wrong—if things aren’t in sync, if you don’t trust each other, or if you’re just not in the right place at the right time. You can move too fast or too slowly, they can leave too soon; one wrong move and you could lose everything. It can be difficult to judge how close you need to be in order for things to work out. It can be difficult to judge when to let go.
What if letting go is like breathing? Maybe I don’t need to learn or remember how to let go. Maybe I was born knowing how. Now I just have to figure out when and where. Or we have to figure it out, together. Timing is everything.
I have never breathed a single breath that wasn’t mine. But that is where the certitude of my possession ends, for now. Sometimes—in love and relay races—moving fast enough to let go can make it harder to breathe. But I know I won’t forget how.