Required Skill: Advanced Training in Breath Holding

black and white dead die diving
Photo by Life Of Pix on

I’ve been rethinking my path in life. My career. My goals. Where I want to be in 10 years. And I think I wrote an opening statement for my resume that will help snag the next great, suffocating, corporate gig.

Summary: Marketing professional with lifelong training in breath-holding; extensive experience freediving into nothingness with an optimistic attitude and adept leadership skills.

You could say I come from a long line of breath-holders. People who willingly take on any task or goal regardless of level of commitment or energy required, as long as monetary gain is attached. You could even surmise that monetary gain is enough motivation for us breath-holders to take on anything. “I’ll get through it,” is our tribal chant, even when a tiny voice in the back of our minds warns “don’t do it.”

The tribal leaders taught me how to hold my breath to get through anything life presents. First from watching them, then mimicking them, then finally being placed on center stage to perform my skill. I gained adulation and cheers from both my trainers and peers. They all wondered how I was able to so successfully withhold life-sustaining oxygen from my hypoxia-riddled body. You could say I was a prodigy of sorts.

One of my uncles is considered a paragon of breath-holding. Someone so successful at this task, he’s held the brass ring and inspired the rest of the tribe with his accomplishments. He has a special gift. One that allows him to hold his breath for extended periods of time. So long, in fact, that when he finally exhales, he can breathe fire. This fire is a special combination of the whiskey he takes to sustain his breath-holding and the rage buried inside his chest from not feeling.

Once I thought I wanted to be like him. Until I slowly realized he was either universally feared or hated. True, he has all the markings of success in our world of commoditization and materialism: money, a high-powered job and of course, more money. And he rarely ever takes a breath. In fact, the older he gets, the less I’ve actually witnessed him breathe.

I remember when he was young. He was full of laughter, optimism and a wry sense of humor. That person no longer exists. What’s left is a beast of sorts. One that snorts, breathes fire, and occasionally breaks character to toss bourbon or whiskey down its throat. I shutter at the thought of having to be in his presence again. Of having to try and relate to someone who no longer knows how to breathe.

I’ve been trying to learn how to regulate my breathing. How to rid my body of its long-held hypoxia. I held my breath for so long (with of course weird, dysfunctional half-breathing sessions when I couldn’t withhold air anymore) that I’ve created a pattern of neurological impulses that I’m trying to rewire by hand. I’m no neurological electrician though, and this is tedious work. I have a guide, but she can only show me so much. Most I have to learn on my own. But learning, I am. Slow, it is. Frustrating, it can be. Magical, it is at times.

Breathing. And Living. Contrary to popular belief, they aren’t inalienable rights given to us at birth. For some of us never learn how to do either. And few of us learn how to do both.

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