Writing to Heal and Finding My Breath

“Nothing can be delicious when you’re holding your breath.”

Anne Lamott

Heat: a poem

I used to start fires everywhere—
the sweat-bees lining up 
to taste the mineral of me 
licking the magnesium 
hoping for the fuse, and I 
was twirling in flames
scorched and naked 
as if my cells were silicone;
I was riding sparks, kicking coals
touching toes to lighting bolts
and burning bridges to the ground.

I used to start fires everywhere—
sucking sulphur and swallowing 
the stench of seared flesh
eyes ablaze, dazed from the loss of it all
smoke-choked and wheezing
holding my breath;

My breath
really, did it ever make it all the way
down to the diaphragm?
there was always too much oxygen
too much heaving
too much stoking and poking;
but never a good breath
never a conscious, awakened breath
a tangled interchange of atoms—
to freeze the flames and settle the ashes
to link the heat to the heart, to the blood, to the bone
to pucker the lava and lift the burning away;
to anchor my soul and finally send me home.

©Skye Nicholson

Image by author

For me, poetry has the power to heal, to transform. It is how I shake out the cobwebs of past shame and through open the curtains to shine light upon my darkness.

The poem above speaks to the years of my life that were reckless and burning— the years in triage, wondering how everything had become reduced to dust.

It wasn’t until I freed myself from the repetitive cycle of drinking and hanging-over, that I found my BREATH, and paused long enough for things inside me and around me to regrow.

I believe we all have a fire inside of us, a beautiful flickering flame of personal power with great potential. When we tend that flame, feed it and guide its growth, we are capable of amazing things. Yet just as easily, as with any fire, we can become careless and allow it to rage out of control—spewing sparks and bringing chaos and destruction.

My addiction was fueling self-destructive behavior, and my self-destructive behavior was fueling my addiction. I was caught in a vicious cycle that I did not have the tools to escape.

It took effort, awareness, and most importantly, the willingness to be open to self-love, for me to get to the point where I could step out of this cycle. (Notice how I said that? Self-love is not as easy the affirmations claim—it requires patience and vulnerability to get there.

I am still on this journey of healing and self-acceptance. I have learned the importance of breath, of pause, of stillness. And I have to remind myself to apply it every day. Some days are harder than others, and I have fires to put out. But for the most part, I am tending to my inner flame with love.

Take a moment to sit and notice: What is your relationship with your inner fire? Is it fueling your dreams? Is it snuffed out or struggling for air? Has it jumped the firelines and now raging out of control?

I invite you to take out your journal today and write about it. You never know what your writing may reveal. I am always amazing at the perspective that flows through my fingers and into my pen or the keys. 

Comment on this post if you want to share what you write!


I am in the final editing phase for my upcoming book of collected works, Unexpected Alchemy, due out in early 2022. You can show your support for my writing by making a one-time donation below!

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