My, My

There’s a power in the stillness of a steady yoga practice. There’s this awareness that builds, slowly but so quickly, when you force yourself to stop for a moment and breathe. When you sink slowly into yourself, breathing into long shapes, moving without thinking, yet consciously aware of how every fiber around you connects; there’s a power that can’t be replicated, yet carries into every piece of your daily life. Tuesday this week was the first time I’d gotten on my mat since Saturday, following the big weekend and its subsequent recovery period, and in those few days away from practice, somehow everything and nothing happened. At work on Tuesday, I couldn’t get my mind to focus. In that strange time between everything and nothing, anything else seemed uninteresting, and I could feel the slow slope of despondence start to creep back into my head, a familiar creep that is what you could call step one to my convincing myself I ‘don’t need’ to practice tonight, because really how much better is it going to make me feel anyway?

Okay. I’m going to cut the dreamy speak for a minute and just be real. The past few weeks have fucking sucked. There, I said it. My back is aggravated again from an old yoga injury, work has been crazy, I had a reality check about the things that matter most to me in life, and I can’t go into context here but let’s just say if I hear one more fucking person tell me “You never know what’s going to happen in a year!” or respond to my joking exhaustion related to weddings with “Don’t worry it’ll be your turn someday” I’m going to FUCKING LOSE IT. And actually, last night as I was sitting on my couch after everything and nothing, I did just that. I grabbed a pillow and screamed into it, just screamed, like a toddler having a tantrum. I cradled the pillow between my arms and my chest and dug my fingernails into my arms and just screamed until I lost everything, lost the breath in my lungs and the will to fight this battle that I was never going to win.

Once I was done screaming and I cleaned up the blood from where I managed to break skin on my arms, I sat and stared at my mat that I’d rolled out ambitiously when I got home from work like it was a cockroach in the middle of my living room. In all the screaming, I think I’d finally given up on something that I’ve held onto like a talisman for so many years now: hope. I just couldn’t put the energy into being a hopeful person any longer at that moment. I stared at the mat, gently calling me despite my resistance and sighed, eventually dragging my bloodied and hopeless self to lay for a minute against the cool material of my happy place, and let my carefully curated Yoga Pump Up playlist drift over the mini speaker. As I lay and breathed deeply, I started moving slightly, stretching my arms out, and up, and over, stretching my spine convex, concave. Finally I told myself to get up and stand in a Downward Dog, and then I could go back to wallowing alone on my couch, like always.

And then this song came on while I was stretching “just a little,” and I stopped. I listened for a minute while I took deep breaths in Down Dog, maybe the first real, deep, honest breaths that I’d taken in a long, long time. I let the lyrics run through me like shattered glass and like butter, and I closed my eyes and started moving with the slow beat of the song, forward to plank, rolling into a backbend, opening shoulders and hips and hamstrings and heart. It’s a song that I’ve listened to so many times before, but as I moved and stretched and listened, I realized that I don’t know what the song was about – like it’s written so you don’t know if she’s sighing about how love saved her or how it destroyed her life. The best conclusion I could come to is that it’s both: the words spoke to every end of the spectrum I’ve experienced: the melody played real, true love, and it played to a lost love that feels so long ago. It reminded me how your heart skips at the start of anything, new friends and new beginnings, and how hard it sinks when those things finally come down, pieces scattered like broken memories. As I listened to the song, really listened to it, I let my body move, in total focus, deep breaths, doing what felt right, up to a headstand, down to a split; the whole time the song played behind me, or maybe around me, or maybe through me, and when I finally stopped, I could feel the stirrings of hope come back to me, and I knew everything was going to be okay.

There’s a power to a steady yoga practice. There’s this awareness that builds, slowly but so quickly, when you force yourself to stop for a moment and breathe. There’s a power that can’t be replicated, when you let yourself surrender for just a minute, and become aware of the present moment, and what’s happening right then. Because it’s easy to dwell on the What the Fucks and the Why Mes and the endless, endless parade of shit that storms on all aspects of life over time. It’s easy to live in the past, and try to fix something that can’t be fixed. It’s not easy to look forward all the time. But for me, that night, a few minutes in Down Dog is a way to start looking in a different direction, at least.

Breathe.

Yesterday afternoon, as I was frantically packing up my desk, trying to rush off to a client meeting across town while simultaneously navigating a document that came in last-minute that morning, I got a text from my partner-in-crime R. At this point in the day, I was exhausted, stressed, nervous about this meeting, trying desperately to remember what I’d probably forgotten, and pretty hungry, despite snacking on more than one of the “emergency” Almond Joys my work friend keeps at her desk since about 10 a.m. The final content of the text is irrelevant, a silly conversation between friends, but the way she started the message made me smile. After a crazy morning, I checked my phone to read “I’m texting you this because anyone else might judge me.”

I will never pretend that I’m not a judgmental person, to the same extent we all are. I do like to think of myself as more tolerant to quirks though, given that I inundate people with my own. Examples: I have a tendency to speak very quickly and interrupt others, I lose my own train of thought way too easily and as Kristen Bell once put so eloquently, if I’m not “between a three and a seven on the emotional scale,” I’m crying. And let’s not overlook that I post questionable life decisions on a public forum, so I’m obviously fine with a certain level of scrutiny and judgment. I like to think that the level of judgement I exude in situations where say, someone pushes past me on a crowded subway, despite both of us getting off at the next stop, will come back to me, like when I order a bacon cheeseburger with a Diet Coke for Sunday brunch. But lately it’s felt like things are off-balance, teetering too far in one direction instead of a happy medium, professionally speaking more than anything.

Something isn’t clicking with me the way it’s supposed to at work these days; things are making sense and then all of a sudden something is apocalypse-level urgent and very wrong. I internalize a lot of professional issues, trying to be the team member with the positive attitude and the one who can handle anything, but that’s just not been me lately. I’m struggling with things that should come easily by now, making mistakes I shouldn’t be making, and my confidence is wobbly at best, completely fucking shot at worst. I feel like everything I do is wrong, just wrong, and at times on one side and then on the other, there are words thrown around like missed arrows, enough to brush past your cheek and leave a mark, but not enough to pierce the skin. I’m letting the bad parts of work affect the other parts of my day, not doing yoga in the mornings, saying “fuck it” to buying coffee instead of making some at home, inhaling a pumpkin muffin despite having already eaten a full breakfast. I’m focusing on what other people are thinking about me and my work, rather than focusing on my job, working to please a judgment rather than rising above it and delivering great work.

It’s in these moments I feel like I’m drowning, unable to surface for a welcome break, a breath of fresh air while sitting stubbornly in the stale confines of my own head. I forget to breathe at times, holding in all of the frustration, the feelings of failure, the despondent haze that’s too comfortable in my life these days; I find myself literally holding my breath when things are really bad, like I’m afraid one quick exhale will put all of this frustration, the feelings of failure, the despondence, out there for everyone else. I can feel the judgement scales tipping in one direction and then another, teetering at one extreme until flipping to the opposite, and my reaction is to hold as much in as possible, afraid to sway things yet again.

Reading that silly intro from R yesterday put a smile back on my face, and I took a deep breath, calming down for just a minute as we traded some TMI. I put my judgments about my situation aside, stepped back from the imagined (or not) judgment from people around me and tried to get back to the grounded place I know is in me somewhere. A deep breath in, a deep breath out, yoga in real life, repeating again and again that I can and will get through this and come out better. I’m frustrated with myself, for certain, and angry that I’ve let things go so far down this rabbit hole. I just need to remember to breathe in times like this, to pull confidence from somewhere deep within and breathe through it all.