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I went through the combination once more, pivoting to put my weight behind my right hook.

“Again!” the coach yelled.  “Harder.”

I tried to swipe at the sweat running into my eyes while I took up my stance to start again.

I take a boxing class once a week.  That’s right, this suburban white girl goes to a hole-in-the-wall gym to work out with a bunch of sweaty, burly, tattooed boxers.  You might imagine this as awkward.  Me, standing at five-foot-nothing inches tall, dressed in my Target off-the-rack workout finest, squaring off with a six foot brick wall of a sweaty man (and ‘brick wall’ is a pretty fitting description for most of these dudes.  It’s a good thing they like me, because I wouldn’t want to be on anyone’s bad side).  But amazingly, it’s not awkward or weird.  I actually enjoy these workouts immensely – the challenge of speed, endurance, strength.  Well, I enjoy it when I can breathe.


This week, I was working on an intricate combination of hooks, jabs and upper cuts with ducking and sliding thrown in.  Coach kept repeating his mantra, “Again!  Harder!  Faster!”

On the verge of passing out, I finally had to stop.  While I was doubled over with my hands on my knees, sucking in air like I’d been deprived of oxygen for a decade, Coach said, “You have to breathe.”

Really?  What does it look like I’m doing, buddy?
(In reality, this was communicated by me barely turning my head in Coach’s direction and semi-grunting between gasps of air.)

“You have good form, you know the combination, but you’re still holding your breath.  You HAVE TO BREATHE with each punch.  Now come on.  Again.”

Having gotten enough oxygen to my brain, I checked the impulse to sucker punch Coach in the gut.  Instead, I nodded, stood up, and took my stance.  For the rest of the class, I struggled with the impulse to tense up and hold my breath, wanting to push through the rest of the workout with sheer force.

Driving home, I started wondering why it was so hard for me to keep breathing.  Isn’t my body supposed to know to just DO that?  I don’t consciously think about breathing when I’m working, cooking, sleeping.  My body just takes care of it.  Why, in this scenario, was I having such a hard time?

I finally realized that this scene exemplified how I deal with stress in life.  Whenever I’m faced with pressure and stress, I have a tendency to bear down, tense up and just push my way through a situation.  This can go on for weeks without me realizing it, my body so full of tension and stress as I try to move through a particularly stressful or busy time, not realizing that I’m not giving myself a chance to relax.  To breathe.  To find the rhythm and just go with it.  Brute strength and skill don’t always get you through every situation.  Sure, they’ll take you quite far, but you’ll be exhausted and worn out by the time you reach the finish line.  Breathing and relaxing into a situation, no matter how stressful, help give you that edge, that confidence, to weather anything.

And yes, I am proud of myself for making this parallel.  It was an aha! moment of realization about how I try to just “get through” life scenarios instead of embracing, learning, sustaining.  So maybe next week I’ll take on one of the burly, brick wall guys with neck tattoos… you know, since I’ve had this big revelation and all.  Or maybe I should keep practicing over in the corner since I kind of need my nose intact to breathe.


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The Guilt Goddess

Giving guilt a voice one post at a time.

I am your average guilt-ridden mother of one (or 2, if I'm being honest and including my husband), trying to balance running my own business, running my household and now writing a blog. Someday I hope to have vanquished all of my myriad pangs of guilt and be living blissfully free from moment-to-moment. But, until that time, my guilt will live here.

Twitter: @guiltgoddess

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