Before Christmas, one of my co-workers marked his fourth-decade birthday with handshake-hug-handshakes all around the office. I took the opportunity to interpose another only-in-real-life vocabulary lesson: Was there an idiomatic equivalent for "over the hill" in Spanish? I wondered aloud. Segundo aire. Second air.
The term took on its own gravity immediately as I scrawled it down in my field notes, letting my attention ramble during the next meeting to let the phrase stand on its own terms in my cortex. In English, its equivalent conjures a snowballing inertia toward incapacitation and death; in Spanish, a pulmonary pause before something better. How could sentiment and meaning part ways so starkly in one translation?
The Lord knows our lung capacity. And for all the talk of Him never giving us more than we can handle, muscles and lungs must be torn to top their capacity—avoiding the overload is merely pain arbitrage, trading immediate struggle for a more lasting fissure just beyond the horizon. So break now, I say. Let the air push against my ribcage until I can fit more in, oxidize quicker, send more blue blood to feet and heart. I don't know how much I can handle; fear complicates the metric. I only know that when I've been inflated and collapsed, I have the promise of new breath, Adam's first. This year represents more than one digit closer to the next imminent apocalypse scare, it's renewal in its quirkiest form. 26 and learning to breathe again. Not exactly on the list of resolutions, but I'll go with it.