I still can’t breathe sometimes.
It started when I was 8 and I saw a leaf fall from the sky:
So much beauty and so much death and so much ending all wrapped up at once.
Poignancy is my favourite word because what is a life without conflict? What is an existence without pain? These things rub against us to make us better, more human, more us.
It continued, this breathlessness ,in bouts of homesickness and feelings of displacement. Why am I here and not there? Why, at 11, am I dreaming and longing for a space open and wide and peaceful?
Because anxiety lies prowling, waiting, because children run into fun away from the claws of shadows.
I lived in my head as my mother lay dying, the life sucked out of her, my prayers not answered. She hobbles through life with strength and poise and I still can’t breathe sometimes.
My darling friend lost to us: we cried in strips of Cath Kidston print. Hollow and alone, I stopped breathing and started screaming.
Racing around the continent, trying to feel whole, pieces of me falling, cascading out of me. Crying on the Ubahn, leaking from my soul. The scream became too loud, the breathe became too tight.
I stopped holding, breathed out, started living. Hiccups of oxygen smoothed out by self-love.
But I still can’t breathe sometimes:
when people die, when people leave. When poverty doesn’t make sense and the mean reds come calling on those I love.
I want to stand in the channel of my breathlessness and scream ‘FUCKKKKKK OFFFFF YOU BAAAAASTTAAAARDS’ at the top of my lungs.
Don’t be anxious, be angry. Be angry at the disruption of peace, be angry at the wounds that don’t heal. Love the person, always.
I fight and I breathe. I breathe and I fight. Slow, deep breaths. Rhythms of peace and grace. Trying to sleep, begging to heal.
Breathing numbs the pain, breathing heals. Don’t hold it, let it out, don’t stutter it, smooth it out.
I know that the breathe will be disrupted but this time I won’t scream.
I’ll stand and face the wind and whisper:
‘Not this time, not this time’