Take a Breath: A Playlist
—for those moments in life when you just need to hit the stop button.
Ever just feel like stopping and taking a deep breath? This world's all kinds of crazy, and we often get so lost in ourselves and our worries that we lose sight of the present moment. It's so easy to miss out on right now when you're thinking of tomorrow, next week, the months and years ahead.
You're in luck, though, because I've compiled a playlist that's all about taking the time to sit back and breathe—in all the shades of what that means to each person.
I invite you to turn off the noise of the world for a little bit, put your headphones on/earbuds in, and just bask in the living time of you, your lungs, and the span of moments too precious to waste.
"i can't breathe" - Bea Miller
Life sucks sometimes, I know. We thought 2020 was the pinnacle of what bad could mean, but 2021 has been trying to outrace the damage of 2020 in leaps and bounds.
It's okay if you feel like you're suffocating all the time. It's okay if you feel like time is just trying to wear you away and break you. It's okay to stop and ask for help.
And it's okay to admit to yourself that you just need a break at the end of the day. We're not machines. We're living beings with wants, needs, goals, and dreams. We may not have the answers all the time, but we strive for finding meaning in our lives nonetheless.
Now is the time to say, "I am doing all I can, and it's okay that I'm struggling." No person is a mountain—even all the people we see with "success" written across their foreheads and their Instagram feeds.
You are not perfect, I am not perfect, and we live in an imperfect world. Free yourself from expectations and should-be's. Be what you can be, whatever that means for you.
"Breathe (2 AM)" - Anna Nalick
We may not realize it at first, but our friends are struggling too. Even if they don't say the words aloud, all people have concerns that don't always make it to the public sphere. Whether the stressors relate to money or romance or just the daily grind, there are problems aplenty probably whirring through those brains of the people you know and love.
Focus on yourself, yes, but try to be there for the friends you have. Don't let time waste away where you get so self-absorbed that other people go by the wayside. Empathy is a great superpower to have. Stoke it, feed it, and realize that you're not alone on this great wide planet.
Every person is much more than what he/she/they present to the world. Remember that. There are secret histories abounding in real time that may never be known in the waking universe.
Be the one who understands, not the one who berates and belittles. We need to be so much better than that.
"Breathe In Breathe Out" - Matt Kearney
I've found that guys are often the worst when it comes to taking the advice of just putting the brakes on and taking a breath. Maybe it's masculine culture at work, but I think it's really hard for men (in general) to appreciate the present moment.
Is it all the pressure of trying to adhere to society's expectations of them? I'm sure that has something to do with it. While we all struggle with identity and what it means to be "us," guys have always been the de facto leaders/influences/foundations. The world may be changing, but patriarchal standards still persist.
I'm not saying men need to be given a free pass—they have a lot of privilege in society's hierarchy—but they don't always feel they can voice every emotion that comes to them. Honestly? The only time I feel a guy is being completely honest with me is during a stage of inebriation. They hide things and squirrel them away to the deepest hollows of their existences, and they often flex to show that they're "strong." But that kind of strength is toxic, eating away at what they are, and they may lose some essential pieces of themselves in the process.
And? Don't put down the ones who do share what they feel. They are unicorns, rare and high commodities on this planet.
In a nutshell: society's expected gender roles affect everyone negatively. Men, you do get a chance to stop and breathe. Don't let anyone take that away from you.
"Breathe" - Michelle Branch
Sometimes we all just need to get away. Even if we can't jet-set across the world on lavish vacations, taking time for ourselves in even small quantities is important.
You may just be able to go into a quiet room and shut the door behind you, but that is a precious thing to have. Sometimes all I had myself was a bathroom to go into to shut myself away, and I would just sit and allow myself to cry over what was bothering me at the time. It wasn't the best situation, but it was all I had. I needed that time as a break for myself.
Do you need a break? Take it. Even if it means going on a walk around the neighborhood by yourself, grasp that chance and stroll away to your heart's content. You need peace for yourself. And then, when you get back home, you may feel lighter for the time you took for just yourself.
If all you have is a bathroom door to cry behind, though, go ahead and utilize it. Allow yourself to be in your own head for a little while and take that deep breath as a kind of release.
Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
You'll be okay.
"Take My Breath Away" - Berlin
Love is hard. Anyone who tells you differently is trying to get you to buy something—probably chocolate or roses for Valentine's Day. No, those gifts won't really ingratiate you with your partner/lover/main squeeze/etc. The person will probably just look at you askance at the thought that you spent so much money on the chocolate/roses that you could have made a dent in your bills for the month.
I think we all want grand gestures in love at some time in our lives. We want the breath to be knocked out of us as we're swept in a flurry of pure affection and comfort. We want the kind of love that does strange things to us, that makes us lovers instead of fighters, that tells us that maybe the world isn't that bad after all.
(Am I projecting too much? Because that's what I want. Anyone else, raise a hand.)
The joy of having someone who understands you is that you can be open with that person, no matter what anyone else outside of the bubble may say. We want to be known, cherished, and sometimes romanced.
But being in a relationship isn't about just those big moments you crave either. Relationships take work. Love, in all its mystery, takes work. You may want to have your breath taken away on that first date, but by the time you're living with that person you may feel like strangling him/her/them.
Try to remember that you want someone who will try to calm you down and tell you to take deep breaths when you're upset much more than the person who will take your breath away with a passionate kiss.
"Catch My Breath" - Kelly Clarkson
I think there's a lot to be said for dealing with yourself on the basis of mental well-being. None of us have it easy, but some of us dance with our demons on a daily basis—whether that's from depression, a disorder, a disability, and/or an addiction.
Depression is a big stumbling block for me. When I truly get down about something in my life, it's even hard just getting out of bed some mornings. Recently, I've been on the job hunt, and demoralization has been the name of the game for much of it. What has that done to my serotonin level? It's plummeted, to put it lightly.
But I know there are others out there who have it so much worse. I have a support network to fall back on. Some people don't even have that luxury. Some people have to go it alone, no matter where the path leads them.
My struggles sometimes make me try to catch my breath with all that life throws at me. If you're the same, I wish you the best with your self-care methods. It's not easy.
Be kind to yourself as much as possible, and take deep breaths.
"Keep Breathing" - Ingrid Michaelson
One of my biggest struggles is seeing how broken the world around me truly is.
Even so, when I tell myself I would be so much better if I had the means, I don't know if that's the truth. Who's to say what I would do if I were a (m/b)illionaire like all those men and women we all want to pay taxes so much? It's something I think about. I try to believe that I would make a difference and donate so much money that there would be fewer problems in the world.
But I don't know. What if the world isn't just one big hole in which money can be pumped to cause a tidal wave of change? What if everything is unfixable at the end of the day? What if the hole is so deep that there's no point trying to fill it?
I think about these things, and I keep breathing because that's free—for now—and it's the easiest power I have.
"Barely Breathing" - Duncan Sheik
Ah, adolescence. Remember the angst and the heartbreak and the crushes that never looked your way?
A big refrain of high school for me was plugging in my headphones to my CD player and just listening to song after song that made me cry.
I would think of boys I tried to flirt with, the ones I failed to impress, the ones who were looking at all the other girls who would never treat them as well as I would.
Sometimes I still repeat this ritual—with an app on my phone instead of a CD player—and feel so silly afterwards.
I guess it's my way of trying to stay young, I don't know.
And sometimes the old heartbreak resurfaces and I think, "What if...?"
But it's pointless. What's done is done.
Sometimes you just have to move on already.
"Lose My Breath" - Destiny's Child
When it's time to move on from old heartbreaks, there's an opening to find new love—or even just change for yourself.
We seek out relationships sometimes because we feel a lack within ourselves. And then there are times where we fill that void with the wrong things—toxic people, unhealthy habits, time-suck hobbies that lead nowhere, etc.
In a performance-based society, it's easy to tell ourselves that everything we do has to have meaning or purpose. I get lost in that mind-set too. Even the relationships I foster lead me sometimes to wonder, "Where is this going? What investment am I putting in to get something back later?"
It's not a healthy way to live your life or look at the circle of people around you, I'll say that.
We may long for the things that pay off in some big way, but some things will just have no meaning, point, or profit.
You need to make peace with the fact that there are things you will do in life that have no guide-marker later when you look back—no matter if it was time, a person, or even just a choice made on a whim.
We want everything to have a reason. But that isn't always the case.
Not everything can be confined to logic's framing.
"My Last Breath" - Evanescence
And then there's the big elephant in the room: impending doom.
We have had scares, like with the pandemic, to make us reevaluate what our lives mean to us.
Some of us decided to grow closer to family. Some of us chose to go on journeys of self-discovery. And some of us are still just trying to figure things out in this brand-new landscape of what matters to us in the precious time we have while we're still alive.
For me, it's meant that I've thrown myself into writing—no matter the pay-off, no matter the size of my audience, no matter if I'm rejected or praised. My time matters to me more than it ever has before because I can almost feel the ticking of my internal clock telling me to push faster and harder.
It gets a bit overwhelming sometimes, and then I need to take my deep breaths more than ever.
I just don't want to take my last breath and feel pangs of regret.
But I'll figure out how to make my life matter in a way that satisfies me. I hope you find your path too in this wide and confusing world we live in.
And—don't forget to breathe.
If you'd like to see other playlists I've compiled, just click on one of the links below to find out what you've been missing!