The golden rule in scuba diving is to always breathe or rather not to ever stop breathing. If you ask me, this is a pretty good rule in life regardless of your environment. In recent months, however, I found it increasingly more difficult to just breathe. It’s such a minor thing, really, you don’t even need to exert a lot of effort to be successful at breathing, just fill your lungs with air and then release. In it’s essence, quite easy, in life – sometimes, not so easy.

In the last six months life has shown me the highest mountains with incredibly magnificent views, views I never thought possible. But life has also shown me the darkest and scariest valleys in cold and treacherous terrain. For every high I experienced, there is a million small lows. None of these highs and lows comes unexpected, the way up is difficult and so is the way down and each time I tell myself, ‘I got so far, just a little bit more’. Every time when something else unexpected happens, I tell myself, this is it, this is the worst of the worst, and then, like on cue, something else comes up and I am again telling myself that it can’t get any worse than this – but we all know better.

Now, you may think, what really can be so difficult in my life? I have a wonderful husband, a loving and supporting family, I got a dream job, and I am absolutely living my life to the fullest – I really am. But I uprooted my whole life for this opportunity and abandoned everything safe and sound. In that I lost someone very dear to my heart, I am at the moment also dealing with the aftermath of health issues that my dearest have to go through. I am not the one suffering, but I am front and center in other people’s crises. I am not complaining. But I am telling you, ever time my phone chimes, every time I open my email, I am holding my breath while holding on for dear life, hoping from the bottom of my heart that there is nothing else, nothing worse, nothing more horrible happening.

Turns out, no matter how much I hold my breath, something worse is inevitable to happen. Now, don’t think I am just holding on to the bad things, because I am not. Every day I remind myself of all the wonderful things, like when I get to walk along the beach during my lunch hour, or when I finally write a paragraph on my PhD that does not sound like I am just making stuff up, or when my puppy is over the moon excited where she almost falls down the stairs when she hears my keys in the door.

In all the madness, I decided to do some reformer pilates which my dad described as, “one sport that I know I hate by the sound of it” as I explained to him what it is that we do in class i.e. laying on my back, with my bum balancing on a ball, while my legs are extended in the air while I am holding weights in each of my hands also extended in the air, balancing my feet and while doing so I make circular motions (or attempt to) with my arms and legs… I am exhausted just thinking about it. I also started some weight lifting classes where every week I  am one of these annoying people that can’t put down their weights quietly but have to slam them into the holder. I also started running again, because if none of the other things weren’t challenging enough, running is always the one that always makes me hate myself just a little bit. I also took some mindfulness classes, because I thought it would change my life, which it did, as in – never in my life have I slept as well as when I did meditation at night, not the purpose of meditation (to drift of while meditating), still true though. And then, I took up scuba diving, because – why not. I’m not even getting into how terrified the first few breaths under water were…

See, all of these things thought me one thing (other than that I have a very high bar of tolerance when it comes to torturing myself physically) – it’s to breathe. We sometimes forget, to just breathe, being in the moment, and just letting it be. Breathe in and out and consciously tune in with the breath. Every morning after my alarm went off I lay in bed and just breathe in and out and listen to myself. I don’t think of anything, I just pay attention to my breath. Every time something good happens, I breathe and I let the enjoyment take full effect. Every time something bad happens, I breathe and let all the emotions in (or out). And then I move on, with my next breath.

Regardless how hard life is, if I know one thing, it’s that things will change, things will pass, and that just like with a breath in, air will also come out and eventually whatever I am feeling at that moment will pass (I guess mindfulness also taught me that?).

So, when life hits you hard with all its unpleasantness, just remember that the golden rule of life (and I cannot stress enough, also scuba dive!) is to breathe. However difficult, however unfair, however unbelievable, however beautiful – just breathe.

On a Sunday Walk with my red shoes, breathing in the wonderful springy air in Ireland.

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