Breathing through the Meltdown.

When I was little, I would occasionally  have meltdowns. As did most of us, I’m guessing. One of the things I remember most distinctly is how my mom would stand calmly in front of me and simply say “Breathe.”

Of course, I didn’t really appreciate that at the time. My thoughts were usually something along the lines of “What are you talking about, breathe? I’m busy melting down here, and breathing is NOT a priority. Sobbing is.”

I was like four years old, okay? Don’t judge.

Nearly twenty-two years have passed since that time, and I’m proud to announce that I now handle meltdowns like a pro.

Sometimes.

At other times, not so much.

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Now maybe nobody has noticed, but over the last couple of weeks my blog posts have (subtly or not so subtly) been little rah-rah pep talks that amount to “I’m not experiencing writer’s block. No, no, of course not. It’s just a little momentary hiccup. I’ll be fine.” Meanwhile my brain has been screaming “You’re not fine!”

Ugh. I’m not fine. The writing has been going slowly and steadily down the tube for close to a month. It started with an inability to figure out endings (what else is new), then progressed to an inability to move things beyond the little anonymous conversations that take place on one of the tracks in my brain. Now it’s reached a point where even my little brain-dwelling babblers have shut up. I haven’t even picked up my notebook in four days.

Normally when inspiration is on a low ebb, I use it as time to revise the junk I wrote when inspiration was happening. Not this time. I’m terrified to even open my last NaNovel, because just the thought of seeing the trash I’m capable of churning out when I have a deadline has me wanting to burst into tears. Hello, four-year-old self, I didn’t know you were still in there.

But this morning, I suddenly remembered how my mom tried to counsel me through the meltdowns all those years ago, and I think I might be okay. In this case, “breathing” means reminding myself that even if I haven’t been writing, I’ve been doing a lot of good productive reading, which can teach just as much as doing the actual work. Also, it’s a reminder that even writing one measly paragraph is progress. If I can feel myself REALLY spiraling out of control, breathing means turning my brain off completely, like doing ballet barre work that forces me to focus all my attention on tiny nuances of motion and stillness.

Listening to something soothing also helps.

We all know that allowing ourselves to have full-on meltdowns never leads to anything productive, even if the meltdown is in reaction to the fact that NOTHING ELSE is leading to anything productive. Panicking has never saved anybody. So I’m allowing myself (forcing myself) to breathe, and reminding myself that life is like Bolognese.

Does anybody else out there have good “breathing” tactics? I’d love to hear them.

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