Making Moments to Breathe

At times, if you’re anything like me, you think: “Man, if only I can get a moment to fucking breathe.” Life seems to come at you from all sides, you’re struggling with this thing or that, and you feel like you can’t really push or get pushed further.

Here’s the thing: life isn’t going to give you those moments. At least, it won’t when you need them. (Frankly, you probably get them more often than you think, and don’t notice them. But that’s a digression.)

I will digress a little further, and make a gaming analogy.[1] In Don’t Rest Your Head, as the GM spends Coins of Despair, they turn into Coins of Hope for the players. The players may, when their characters are in a moment of rest or calm, spend one of those Hope to heal their character.

And as the GM, it’s not my fucking job to give you those moments. You want to heal? You want to breathe? Make that moment happen.

The same with life. You need to make those moments happen when you need them. Sometimes that means pushing to accomplish something pressing harder than you otherwise might. But sometimes it means being honest with your capacity as a human being and carve out a time where you can breathe despite the feeling that the walls are closing in.

I cannot tell you which is right for you, because it’s all situational. I have to deal with a bunch of pressing health stuff right now, which cannot wait long. But once I accomplish the next goal with that, I can give myself a day or two to breathe. On the other hand, sometimes I need to give myself the day off of freelance work, because the pressure causes me to become subpar with the work. And evaluating which is which is a skill that I’ve only started to hone, and am far from mastering.

When these moments happen, I try to ask myself (though the wording is not quite like this in the moment in my mind): What is the most pressing problem? What’s needed to deal with this? Will pushing on it be a detriment to my short-term or long-term sanity?

And when I deem I need to, I force moments in time for me to breathe. Because no one is going to hand those to me.

That I didn’t do this enough in 2010 is why I crashed hard, burning business relationships and some friendships, and why I slowed down in 2011. After all, sometimes the reason we need those moments to breathe, sometimes we feel like we’re being pushed too hard, that’s because we’re doing it to ourselves.

I encourage everyone who works with me on projects to do the same thing, and I try to recognize (when I’m able, like when we’re working in the same office) when people need and aren’t themselves recognizing it or feeling the ability to ask. Because sometimes we need some help from allies to make those moments happen. No one’s an island, etc.

– Ryan

[1] Which breaks my rule for analogies: stick to food, relationships, or sex. Other analogies, including sports, don’t always translate. (Which reminds me of a story that Paul Tevis told me about baseball analogies not translating to his Swiss coworkers.)


2 Responses to Making Moments to Breathe

  1. This post meant a lot to me, particularly because my wife and I are in the middle of one of those times where we feel like we need to breathe. I appreciate your being open and honest with what’s going on.

    On a related note, this won’t affect my pitch for DHTG, as things appear to be settling down and I’ve still got some time.

  2. Nancy McKeown says:

    Also, sometimes those breather moments aren’t a day. Sometimes they last an afternoon, sometimes an hour, sometimes for as long as it takes to drink a cup of tea. It’s really important to take them, however short. They are worth it. :)