Monday, August 31, 2009

breathing room

So, I'm not a good breather.

I don't know any other way to say it, really. When I'm stressed, I have to stop and follow my breath, all the way down to my core, to where it begins, full and lilting, at the bottom of my lungs, coming all the way to the top and expanding my ribcage, helping to uncurl my fists and drop down my shoulders. When I'm stressed and trying to sleep at night, I wake myself up in the night, pitched forward on the bed, gasping for air; I've stopped breathing. And when I'm underwater, I stop breathing. Well, that last one is probably for the best, but you know what I mean. You go underwater, you hold your breath, things are still flowing and you're calm and trustful and relaxed and oh look, a shiny quarter at the bottom of the pool.

I go underwater and panic seizes the tiny amount of air in my small lungs, I flail, twist this way and that, and come up sputtering. This even happened while I was learning to scuba -- I'd have a breathing apparatus, pumping air into to my lungs...and I'd still panic once I was under water. The scuba instructor would just shake his head at me and motion for me to come up to the surface.

"You need to relax," he'd say. "Or just quit trying to do this."

"But I can't quit," I'd tell him. "I love the ocean too much. Even though I'm terrified of it."

What kind of girl loves the things she's terrified of?

Me. I do.

Southern California is on fire. Don't know if you've heard. It's now threatening Mount Wilson, home of an amazing hiking trail and incredible observatory; it's creeping along the edges of some of my favorite hiking trails, trails that I walk and explore and visit when I need a little breathing room.

Today it feels like I'm running out of breathing room, just a bit. My weekend was busy, and I worked most of it, and while some parts were very enlightening and a good investment in my future acting and writing careers, none of it was relaxing and now it's Monday, I didn't catch my breath over the weekend and my hackles and boundaries are up a bit. My teeth are bared a little bit more than usual and my hands are closed a little bit more and my breathing is a little bit shallower, the full breaths that I usually take to deepen it and drop it down and let it go are leaving me full of ash and smoke and impatience.

I'll blog more later today about the good things that happened this weekend, including having a great time at the UCLA Writer's Faire and spending a good portion of Saturday morning with a casting director for a hit television series; just had to get this post off my chest and clear my lungs a little. You know how it is.


Sarah Alaoui said...


I heard about the LA fires, so sad :(

I hope it gets better--LA's in my thoughts.

Radical Bradacal said...

There is inspiration and creation with every new breath, no matter how shallow. If you need breathing room, I'll be the giant redwood that sucks up all the carbon monoxide. You can rest, and I'll keep growing bigger and stronger, watching over you, giving you more oxygen.

Kristin Quinn said...

I was going to say yoga too, but Sarah beat me to it-sounds so cliche but it really is great.

Every single year LA burns up. It is so sad.

drollgirl said...

FUCK. i used to have this cool thing on my desktop that helped. it literally was a breathing exercise you were supposed to while watching/listening. i am MADLY trying to find it. i will send it if/when i do.

in the meantime, please hang in there!!!!

drollgirl said...

BINGO! found it. maybe try it? maybe?

Iva said...

omg!! Hang in there!! Stress can be a killer! bleh! I hope you are ok!! :) BREATH!! :)

Phoenix said...

Thanks guys, for the yoga recommendations, breathing exercises, and general all-around support. Bradacal, I'll take a polar bear hug from you too if you're giving 'em out. :)

Wine and Words said...

Yoga shmoga! When I need to get rid of the stress I kick-box. I wear myself out smacking the hell out of things and there is absolutely no choice but to breathe. And in the end you lay panting in sweat and you feel full up with the air of release. Give it a go...we can spar if you'd like :)

Ah yes, our beautiful state burns yet again....and again...and again. The price we pay for so much sun.

Sarah Alaoui said...

oh man, kickboxing. I need something just to help me breathe after kickboxing, lol :)

Shanna Suburbia said...

Maybe you should just stay inside and play more Arkham Asylum. =P

I haven't tried it yet but I've heard lots of good things and the previews were AMAZING.

Archana said...

Take big, deep open air breaths when you're stressed out. Really helps kinda calm you down.

When I'm super stressed out, I just take some time out to sit down, take deep breathes with my eyes closed and just focus. Helps a lot.

Anonymous said...

We've all been there before. All ambitious people suffer from this from time to time. You'll be fine.

krista said...

you know, i'm totally claustrophobic and freak out at the idea of no fresh air. i have to have a fan blowing at night and there is always some sort of air blowing in my car, whether open window or just through the vents.
but i'm okay underwater.
isn't that weird?
i've always thought that was weird.

i'm trying to teach finn how to take a deep breath when she gets overstimulated or upset or just plain toddler crazy. she likes to mimic me but i'm not sure it works for her. but i figure teaching her how to breathe down to her core at a young age is not a bad lesson to learn. i wish i would have learned it sooner.

((, that was supposed to be 'hugs' but i kind of like the idea of sending you 'hughs' so i'm just gonna leave it))

Gwen said...

I'm with Wine and Words. Kickboxing is a fabulous stress relief and if you forget to breathe you'll pass out and hit your head. LOL!!! Sending good thoughts your way!!! XOXO

MildlySensational said...


Switzer Falls has been updated to say "...the burn perimeter is an estimate of maximum extent of the fire's boundaries, but not all of the enclosed area has burned." Hope that helps.

Also, I know the fires are huge & worrisome right now but I'm trying to make myself think of them as a cleansing burn. Think of all the green that will follow, free of dry underbrush. Eventually, things will be so green the air will be sweet, take us all by surprise. We just let the firemen work and think green thoughts. Green of promise and Nature doing what she does best. It happened in CO after the Hammond fire, it can happen here too.

Jmarls80 said...

I am feeling this post on a few levels. As a writer - loving the way you mix the fire in with the water you're afraid of and the air you're fighting for/against...and as a human, I just have to say I totally get it. :)

Wine and Words said...

I didn't post your comment on my blog, as to not spread your issues where you do not wish them spread, but thanks for letting me in. I'm sorry about the past and excited about your future. I will say this. We are all cabable of that kind of love and deserving. When love first blooms, it seems as if this is a natural thing, and then we take it for granted, and then we forget how. We leave the love of one and try for another, but love in the tempest is work...hard work. Do the work Pheonix, and may this love be the one of lifetimes. ((HUGS))

P.S. Guilt has no useful byproduct. It is a form of self flagellation that not even God requires.

Dionne said...

Yeah, the fires are insane! Most of my friends are in Cali, so I am always hearing about it from them on Facebook. It's terrible.

But I am looknig forward to hearing about the Writer's Faire! Sounds awesome!

Ida Nielsen said...

I find that the more I focus on my breath the more unnatural it feels for me to breathe (?). I guess that's why I'm not a big fan of yoga!!? Anyhow, I hope you've caught your breath by now and are feeling a little better.
We're following the wild fires closely up here and hoping for the best!!

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