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JUST BREATHE

Cindy Maddera

When Randy and Katrina were here a few weekends ago, Katrina handed me a rubber bracelet that had "just breathe" written across it. Then on Saturday, my massage therapist told me I wasn't breathing. She had spent forty minutes removing knots from my shoulders and just under my clavicle. She took the flesh between my shoulders and neck and pulled like she was pulling pizza dough and tears welled up in my eyes. Because all that crap I was stuffing into that spot had to go somewhere. I also caught myself holding my breath. Yesterday, I did a training for a postdoc who had "just breathe" tattooed across his forearm. 

OKAY! I GET IT! Feel the breath as it hits the back of the throat on the inhale, following it out of the throat on the exhale. I say it to my yoga students every week. Apparently I am the very embodiment of "those who can't do, teach." 

This morning I received a text from Michael saying “We are on lockdown.” It was immediately followed with “False alarm.” It is 9/11. Flags are at half mast. Facebook profile pictures have been updated with ‘we remember’ banners. Memories and Memes are filling up timelines. The feeling in my chest is not unlike the feeling I had seconds before stepping up to the edge of the 9/11 Memorial in NYC. Tight. Shallow. I am holding my breath in anticipation to the pain that is coming or that I expect might be just around the corner. Bracing for impact. Do you remember watching the space shuttle explode? I still hold my breath when watching a space shuttle launch because of that one time as a kid, I witnessed a shuttle exploding like a firework.

Today is the 17th Anniversary of the day that changed everything. God, I remember how Chris and I would mock that statement of ‘9/11 changed everything’. We let 9/11 change everything. There’s a nice opinion piece in the New York Times today written by Joe Quinn, a US Army Veteran. In it he talks about why he enlisted, his time in Afghanistan and the lessons he learned.

I learned that Osama bin Laden’s strategic logic was to embroil the United States in a never-ending conflict to ultimately bankrupt the country. “All that we have to do is send two mujahedeen to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written ‘Al Qaeda,’” he said in 2004, “in order to make generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note ….” Why are we continuing to do what Bin Laden wanted all along?

That paragraph struck me the hardest. Why are we continuing to do what Bin Laden wanted? We have no control over things that happen to us, but we do have control over our own actions in regards to the things that happen.

The last time I was visiting my chiropractor, I had to schedule my next appointment which happened to be 9/11. I said “Hmmmm…that’s 9/11.” The receptionist said “but it’s also Dr. Fran’s birthday!” So I scheduled that appointment, partly because I needed it, but also so I could wish Dr. Fran a happy day. I am deciding to relax and stop bracing for an impact that may or may not happen.

I am focusing on just breathing.