“Come on now. I want to see five big birthday breaths,” our spin instructor tells us. “Like you’re blowing out candles.”
I took as much air as I could into my lungs as he started to count.
“One—two—if you don’t breath you won’t make it to the end of class.”
Inhale. Exhale. I blew the air out.
“Three—four. Come on now, reach deep, the good stuff [oxygen] is at the bottom. Five.”
Birthday breaths are on my mind. This week I turn fifty-something.
While I might wish that my neck was still as taut as it was in my twenties, my hair a bit less gray, I feel fortunate. I am still breathing.
Breathing seems like such a simple thing. Most of the time, we do it without thinking.
Recently my sister was hospitalized due to her ongoing battle with brain cancer. She told me that while she was there, she experienced trouble breathing. I can’t imagine how frightening that must have been, not be able to do one of the most basic things in life: breathe.
The years pass quickly. Despite new aches and pains, the loss of beauty or the ability to do some of the things we did when we were younger, I still feel every year we get is a year worth celebrating.
My father occasionally says to me, “Don’t grow old.” I understand what he’s trying to say, that the “golden years” aren’t always that golden. Still, I always look him in the eye as I tell him, “But dad, the alternative is to die young.”
I am grateful for every birthday that comes my way. Each morning, I say thank you as I awake to familiar scents in my home, feel my lungs work hard in my spin classes, enjoy the fresh breezes and sweet aromas in my garden. As long as I’m able to breathe in life, I will.
Even on the days when I’m gasping for air, when I feel like I have no breath left in me, I remind myself: Reach deep. Sometimes the good stuff is on the bottom.