I have been on a bit of a journey lately. It’d be difficult for me to describe the path I’m taking, but I can offer vignettes. I’ve meandered through vegetable gardens (three), discovered a body (mine) capable of doing things I never expected, fallen head over heels in love (again), and begun drinking strange potions that taste unpleasant. How and why these things are strung together in my life as they are, in the space and time they are, seems a bit unclear. The thread uniting all of them charts a circuitous path through my past and my future, and I’m pretty sure it doubles back on itself and may be tied in knots along the way.
It all begins with something that happened about a year ago while I was in Nicaragua with R. We had a fight, as couples do. But this one was less of an argument and more of a reckoning, on both our parts, that we were making huge life changes – together – and we needed to figure out how to make it all work. Together. Now, R, being the intelligent and compassionate guy that he is, didn’t really need this reckoning. The one who needed it was me. I needed to be reminded that I had to really take pride in, be happy with, and love myself in order to be present and active in our relationship. Something that, at the time, I was not really doing.
So, over the last year I have worked hard on making myself happy. I’ve been examining my motives, and analyzing when and why I sometimes feel discontent. It’s been a bit trying to take a fine-toothed comb to my intention, and asking whether my actions are rooted in desire, obligation, competitiveness, or perhaps a bit of each. It’s been a long-overdue process of claiming ownership over my actions and my life in a way that I had never done before.
One thing that has been a valuable tool for me on this path has been yoga. I’ve written about it to a certain degree here, but it can be a hard thing to write about because to me yoga is very emotionally laden. It’s taken me an embarrassingly long time to really understand the mind-body connection that is intrinsic to yoga; that yoga is about much more than achieving a pose. But, with time, and probably through confronting heartache and pain during my practice, I’ve begun to recognize how much emotional impact the physicality of yoga has on me. With time I have learned to recognize why the emphasis is in process, form, and patience. I also realize now how the powerful connection between our minds and our bodies can be an amazingly transformative tool.
So, yesterday after a hard practice based in the theme of “letting go,” I lay on the floor of Shri during savasana and listened achingly as the girl beside me sniffled quietly before choking back a loud, painful sob. I felt for her. I wanted to reach out to her and let her know things would be okay. I’ve been in her place– during savasana with tears pooling in my ears as I laid on my back, or feeling emotions rise up during a long hard run that leave me doubled over. Crying.
I may be a particularly sensitive person, or I may not. I’m not entirely sure. But I know that at times life can really beat you down. It can be relentless. But, in my experience, from those depths it’s sometimes possible to see just how valuable your connections to people are, and to level with your own failings and weaknesses. One of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver, says of this low place: “Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to see that this too, was a gift.”
I have lately felt like a teacher in the sense that I feel I have something to share with those around me traveling the path of sadness. Some of the people closest to my heart are facing their own heartbreaks – which inevitably leads to the soul-searching moments, the doubled-over crying, and the confrontation with real, agonizingly stark grief. I feel like I have walked through that fire and reached the other side on my own personal path.
I guess that’s probably why on Monday, when I went for my first ever Ayurvedic consultation, I wasn’t surprised to have my doctor look into my eyes, deeply furrow her brow and note gravely, that I have DEEP stress lines in my eyes. But, she went on to say that I had stress lines in both eyes, meaning that I had carried significant stress in my body for quite some time. The good news was that in my right eye, which indicates my current state, she could see that I was healing.
It’s funny to say I am healing, when I honestly can’t quite describe my illness. All I know is that for a long time I wasn’t happy. I can’t say why, exactly. Except perhaps that I lived with a pervasive sense of uncertainty. I feared missing something, the future, an unexpected change that would dash my hopes and dreams. I honestly, am not sure what I feared – probably simply failing at being the person I wanted to be.
Have you ever see Take This Waltz? It examines this dilemma pretty well, in my opinion. Admittedly, I’m mildly obsessed with this movie, but it’s worth taking a moment here and watching the trailer to look at the pretty people.
The end run is, I’ve come to a place where I am not scared. I am content. Each morning when I wake up an wander my three gardens turning on hoses, pulling out weeds, and eyeing the growth I see, I know I am doing it from a place of love. Each time I soften my shoulders and feel that I no longer have that sticky spot in my back hindering my mobility, I know it’s a product of the work I’ve done. And each time I see R smile, I know he knows. He knows that I have grown. He’s seen how I have changed. He knows his role in it, and he knows my immense gratitude for his help and guidance through some confusing times.
I guess the point I’m trying to make through all this rambling is that lately I’ve been witness to a fair bit of loss and sadness. It’s served to shine a light on my own experience of grief, and made me aware of how far I’ve come beyond it. My immediate loss and then my general sadness were once both so deeply entrenched in my life that it was hard for me to finally let them go because they had come to define a piece of me. But with time, love, and lots of hard work I think I can say that I have put away the pieces of my past sadness that once defined me. They can sit on a shelf in my past, reminding me of my path, but today I am going to tend to my squash, and my life, with the dedication of someone who has worked for what she has and is grateful for it.