In Phoenix, there’s a long tunnel on one of the freeways that spans between 7th street to 7th ave. As a child, my friends and I would hold our breath while we drove through it. The rule was that if you made it to the other side without breathing, you’d get one wish. I always made it.
I don’t believe that I’m the best at very many things, but I think I might be the best at holding my breath. When I’m hoping for something or waiting on big news or nervous, I hold my breath. When I’m walking past a store window and catch my own reflection, my automatic reaction is to suck in my stomach and hold it in. When I’m in the middle of a hard workout and need to get through it, I hold my breath.
There are different methods of breathing for different activities. For example, in yoga, you’re supposed to inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. As an actor, you’re taught to breathe visibly deeply and not to hold it in, something that I had given little to no thought to until the first time I was in bed with Alex. I lay next to him, with my body pressed against his, my head on his chest, both of us drifting towards sleep, when he said “You know what’s funny? We both breathe like actors. I can feel you breathing from your diaphragm.” And I knew that this meant that he could feel my stomach pressing out against his and that it meant he could feel my heart beating out of my chest and I knew that it meant I couldn’t hide that I felt things. But in that moment part of me didn’t want to care.
I still hold my breath often. In fact, I spend most of my life holding my breath. But in those moments where I can’t help but feel everything and nothing all at once, those times when I can feel myself breaking down, I take a deep breath into my diaphragm and remember that I am alive. All I can do is breathe.