Breathe Amidst the Gasps

From March until the end of June, I did not breathe. I was constantly gasping for air. One gasp after another, to provide temporary relief that lasted seconds… until another gasp was needed. Repeat. Over and over. No exhale. Just inhale. Never a true breath. Surviving, moment by moment.

As summer rolled in, I felt myself desperate to breathe again. I knew that in order to do that, in order to relearn how to breathe again, I needed to step away. Worrying, thinking, contemplating, and agonizing over what September was going to look like would simply lead to more gasping, and I knew this wasn’t sustainable. I began intentionally distancing myself from anything school-related that would bring on stress and even gave myself permission to take a break from writing, for no predetermined amount of time. Although I continued to read certain education books, and participate in educational Twitter chats, I purposefully didn’t click on articles that talked about school plans across North America, or engage in conversations about how teachers were getting their physical spaces set up. I scrolled right past educational Facebook groups and I avoided posts where educators expressed their worries, stresses and anxieties, not because those weren’t worthy, but because I found them to be suffocating instead of liberating (by the way, I’m not judging here, I fully understand that those posts were perhaps the exact outlet that some people needed… I just know that it was not what I needed). I shut down my work e-mail for the first while and truly disconnected to provide space for my breath to come back.

I substituted filling my cup with education-based passions by pursuing another passion and began running more and more. Through this, I clung onto a handful of people who encouraged me and not only fueled this ever growing passion, but helped me to learn to breathe again during the process. Instead of talking about school, we talked about pace, cadence, speed work, distance, heart rate, workouts, races, PRs, and everything in between including burgers and fries and ice cream. I even started focusing on my breath during my runs in order to slow everything down and float away into this meditative type run. I learned to acknowledge thoughts that would pop into my mind and let them go, without judgement. I learned to clear my mind and be present, in this run, with every step, and hear every word of the songs that were helping me sink lower and lower inward.

I learned to breathe again.

Breathing feels so good.

Overall, I think I did a really good job of stepping away in order to regroup. Really, the only time I thought or talked about school was when people who know I’m a teacher would ask me what this school year is going to look like (as if I had some sort of magical insight). As stress would rise, I often halted it by giving a short answer explaining that I’m not even going there because it’s going to change one hundred times before we get there anyways. But then yesterday, I sat down and forced myself to start thinking about school because this mama of four has to get organised for child care while I set up my class). I’m not going to lie, walls started closing in faster than I had anticipated. Tears started flowing. I started gasping. All. Over. Again.

I went to bed early. “Tomorrow’s track day,” I told myself knowing that that would help.

As I raced around the track this morning and pushed limits while sinking lower and lower, I began to understand that next year will be filled with gasps again, there’s no way around it, and that’s okay. Gasps are okay, I just need to remember to slow down, look inward, and float away. I need to remember the high that I feel with every deep, true, grounding, breath. I need to remember to breathe amidst the gasps.

A special shout out to Dan Tricarico, author of The Zen Teacher and Sanctuaries for enlightening me with the difference between a gasp and a breath during his episode on Tara Martin’s podcast, The Real Journey Show. If you haven’t listened yet, I strongly encourage you to, and I also highly recommend his books. The world needs more Zen Teachers, especially right now.

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