Risky Breathing


I love air. Fresh air is my first choice by far, but if you think about the alternative, any air is better than no air. Talk about having a monopoly on your market.

A few weeks ago, I attended a conference for consultants. The conference is more like a retreat; a small group of invited participants from a handful of countries. Besides the people, who are wonderful, I was most excited by the location where we were meeting: Carmel Valley, California.

Ah, Carmel! Even in the midst of a drought, it is incredibly beautiful. Redwood groves, valleys and vineyards, cliffs and coastline... And the air.


The air in that part of the world is... delicious. And nourishing. You know how you feel when you eat a nourishing meal? That is how it feels to breathe in Carmel. Being located in NYC most of the year, you can imagine how excited I was to go there. I told anybody who would listen. If they asked how I was or what was new, that was my opening to gush about my plans. I was going to Carmel and couldn’t wait to breathe.

And breathe I did. In fact, I think I took extra breaths just because I could. All those trees... they sure do make a difference. When it was time to leave, I bid farewell to the stunning scenery, wonderful colleagues, and yes, the air. Gosh I might just miss that air the most, I thought.

Landing at 1am, I was lucky to catch the last shuttle from Newark to NYC. At that hour, traffic was light and we sped toward the city. I sat back and prepared for my re-entry to the east coast. The first thing I noticed was that I felt a breeze. It was brushing against my skin and very soothing. The air here can be nice too, I thought.

And then I inhaled through my nose.

As anyone in the NYC metro area will tell you. Landfills abound in parts of New Jersey and Staten Island. They are what gave those places the not-so-deserved reputation of being, well, a pit. The trip from Newark to NYC passes right through a gaggle of garbage dumps and that is evident whenever you drive through the Turnpike between exits 13-15X.

From a marketing standpoint, the location planning of putting the landfills and the Turnpike in such close proximity is rather unfortunate, but that’s another story for another day.

There I was on the shuttle, feeling the breeze, sitting in reverie filled with fond memories of western air and suddenly I was gagging. Dorothy, you ain’t in Carmel anymore. It was awful. Stick your head in a trashcan and see if you agree. I don’t recommend it.

The shock of inhaling that stench got me thinking about how all air is not the same. And yet we can only breathe the air around us. In fact, we must breathe the air around us. So what do we do when the air stinks?

For me that night, I focused on the breeze, which felt good. I switched to mouth breathing, reminded myself this was a temporary situation because I was moving through the landfill-laden area. I was headed to a place with trash-heap-free air. I just had to hang in there. And finally, recognizing how much fresh air really meant to me, I started planning ways to access even better air when back in the city.

In other words, I engaged in survival tactics and planned a way to mitigate exposure to negative elements.

Are you going through a landfill-laden area in your life? We all do at one time or another. In the moment, we can only breathe the “air” around us, but, if we remember to move through the stinky zone, we can focus on the aspects that are working well, cope with the parts that can choke us by using any decent means at our disposal, continue to moving forward and use the opportunity to note what is important to incorporate in our next destination. Breathing can be risky business, but the alternative is no business at all.


For more pics from Carmel, click here.