Learning to Breathe Again
By Tinka Oberholzer
A breath. Is that all that was needed? One breath that would justify 30 years worth of breathing. When was the first day that I forgot to breathe? I can’t seem to recall, but death occurred without my knowledge. How many years has it been since I last inhaled ... exhaled ... ? Enough! It is time for resuscitation.
I find myself on the edge of a mountain cliff two hours out of Johannesburg and two hundred kilometres away from the madness of the concrete jungle. The aim of the game was to slide from one hilltop to the next, with only faith under my uncertain legs. My corporate-infected soul felt misplaced in this openness. Maybe it was something about the freedom surrounding the girl hanging in mid-air that was featured on the pamphlet of this place that caught my attention? It could have been that small promise of instant peace while free falling that brought me to this rock, with ropes tied in specialised knots around my waist. At this stage in my life, anything sounds like a good idea. Not that life is bad, it's just so confusingly fast and frenetic; the office and studies, the family and dogs, household chores and shopping, all while working on a plan to achieve the dream that I am pursuing. The dream that will change my lifestyle, the dream that sometimes feel so overwhelmingly huge - to live this moment, this one chance I have in time with entire zest and balance each day like a sacred yin yang.
Sometimes going out of my comfort zone and into the wild, like hanging from ropes tied to hilltops, is exactly the kind of medicine needed to bring me closer to my dream, by shocking the stressed system back to living. Isn’t that what we are meant to do down here?
I descend from the back of the Land Rover along with seven others. We are all geared in harnesses, pulleys hanging from our waists. The clattering announces our arrival to the unperturbed nature. As we walk the guide tells us about the plants and trees with names I’ve never heard of and am unlikely to remember. How he does it is a mystery. I look at the trees he points out and even nod, but my mind is not captivated with the facts he so admirably shares about these wonders of nature. I am more fascinated by their freedom, of living out here in-between God and mother earth.
My eyes zoom in on the little girl in our group, the one with long black hair. Kimberley is about 11 years old, if I had to guess, and is first in line to swing the initial length. Following her eagerly, my eyes are in awe as she swings so carelessly between the mountain tops. So strikingly free and far too young to fear. I have been there once, at that wonderful point in life where fear didn’t exist. Who hasn’t been there? Yet we all lose it at some age and the fact remains unnoticed to ourselves until moments like these. I look down after I promised myself that I wouldn’t and see the trees far below welcoming us by waving in the wind. To call it fear is a possible understatement. Yet I am here and I’m doing it.
I am next and my unnerved legs are confused. Unease fills me. This freedom that I so yearn for is new to me, unknown or maybe just forgotten. I need reassurance from the man with the dreadlocks standing in front of me, placing the pulleys on the correct ropes to assure my safety. He reminds me of Bob Marley, but says his name is Sam. I look to the other side, the side where the rope ends and it seems so exceedingly far away. He tries to reassure me, "An Afrikaans woman is strong. They can do anything," he says. I force a smile while thinking about his statement. Is that what I am? Is that the label I will wear today? Why then do I seem so removed from my own heritage when facing the 30-metre emptiness between this rock and the next? My arms shake and I tell myself not to be so pathetic. Trying to stop the never-ending noise inside my anxious head I force my body forward. My body is a stubborn old mule, not listening to the mind as it tells it to move. I hear Sam’s parting words as my legs finally lift and I let my body swing over the edge of the rock, "Enjoy it."
Was that the secret to all the leaps I needed to overcome in my life.Merely to enjoy it? The analysis is cut short by the sound of screaming. I realise it is my own after the second full-throated yell. All the years of not breathing burst out into this scenic valley, in an audience of strangers. My eyes are tightly closed. I see nothing, but I feel the wind cutting through my hair and lungs. My awkward body slides at a speed that I cannot control. When did freedom become so daunting?
Forcing my eyes open I look straight ahead and see the brave little face awaiting my graceless landing on the other side. My feet are relieved to feel land again, yet the little girl inside of me, the one I so enjoy smothering, cries out for another go. There will be nine more I assure her.
We proceed to the next slide and my heart beats to a different rhythm. I am unable to explain the immense joy that fills my soul. I can breathe again and maybe life will sense it from now on. As we walk back I make a promise to myself: I will never stop breathing again.
Source: DO IT NOW