"Our most ancient metaphor says life is a journey. Memoir is travel writing, then, notes taken along the way, telling how things looked and what thoughts occurred. . . .This is the traveler who goes on foot, living the journey, taking on mountains, enduring deserts, marveling at the lush green places...as a pilgrim, seeking, wondering." -Patricia Hampl
July 28, 2010
I've had this little issue for a while. I think they call it "anxiety." I call it a "tendency to be incredibly indecisive, uneasy, and crave order when about to embark upon enormous changes and/or be placed in awkward social situations." In lieu of drugs, like Xanax and the lot, which I'm sure have their own merits, I try to do things like rearrange closets, cupboards, and drawers, take walks, swim, and a pursuit of late, get tantric. Before you get lost in dreamy thoughts of Sting in odd positions, let me be clear:
I'm doing yoga.
But I'm not That Girl (yet). I don't hang out in yoga pants and a Starbucks accessory, nor am I practicing shoulder stands in my living room (but power to you, if you can do that). I still have trouble Threading the Needle and keeping Tree Pose, and don't know my Vyaghrah Kriya from my Kokila Asana unless you'd like to put those words in Devi-friendly words I can understand like cow, cat, dog, and tell me which way they're facing. The only Sanskrit I can decipher in classes is Shivasana, Dead Man's Pose, which is lovely because you lay down and take a 10-minute nap; also, Balasana, Child's Pose, which most teachers let you do after you've just tried something really hard. These are my favorite poses because, as my girlfriend Allison says, "any exercise where you get to put your head on the floor and sleep can't be bad."
The latest wave of anxiety began to wash up as my 20th-year high school reunion neared (it was last weekend). Evites were sent, the posts on Facebook became more and more frequent as the reunion approached. Text messages abounded. (How did anyone reunite before The Age of Immediacy?) Let's be honest: I hated high school and can distinctly recall the feelings of despair and self-loathing that met for martinis every morning in the pit of my stomach. I know I had friends, and I cannot believe how many of them I still keep in touch with--but I think my closest friends in high school were the hallway walls against which I'd walk so that I didn't have to be so...noticed. Unless one of my many crushes were walking toward me. Then I'd contort myself, I think, by putting my head in my armpit and walking to class half upside-down. Take that, yoga!
And so, married and a kid and a half on, twenty years out from high school, the common, high school phrases--I'll go if you go and I don't have anything to wear--resurfaced. I was pretty amazed at my confidence in deciding that yes, I would go, and show up eight months pregnant, a little bloated and sweaty, with an agenda as simple as finding out what everyone's been up to since the last reunion.
It turned out that I couldn't make it to the actual reunion, but I did squeeze my feet into a very fashionable (and high) pair of wedges for the pre-reunion-reunion. And just as I began to park the car, I got that icky, anxiety martini feeling again in my stomach. Luckily, I walked into the bar with some other reunion-bound girlfriends with whom I'd just had a massive, Indian feast. I'm sure I had garlic naan breath and was already pretty sweaty from the intensity with which I scarfed my dinner down (and lest we forget, the hottest summer in recollection atop a bunch of pregnancy pounds). I wasn't feeling particularly attractive at all--and was so full that I could have gotten into my shivasana right there in the parking lot and been very happy rubbing my big, pregnant, buddha belly. Onward I persisted.
It turned out to be a fabulous evening: naturally, I saw the requisite few I had little to say anything to, but got to talk and hug and catch up with some old friends (and not-friends) who've turned out to be fabulous people. The Kids are Alright, I thought. We've done well for ourselves, and after a while, that icky stomach vanished. I was truly in the moment: happy for people who were happy, happy to see that for the most part, we're living good lives. My true moment of Zen was a hug from an old homeroom buddy I thought I'd never see again (save for the few graces of aforementioned Facebook), who was as happy to see me as I was him. A scrawny but attractive and suave teen, he's grown into a gorgeous man who works for the San Diego Chargers and has an equally gorgeous family in Southern Cali. I did not cower from my old crush (still cute, by the way), nor shy myself away towards the walls from some of the "popular" girls whose very glances had once made me completely ungluey with self-doubt.
Perhaps I have my yoga classes to thank. (These are a far cry from those iconic aerobics classes in the '80s where an instructor was considered "good" if she barked like a drill sergeant and made you feel like a soggy noodle by class's end.) Both at my prenatal yoga class at CNY and at my mixed-levels class at the JCC, I have an instructor who likes to improvise based on the class's needs on any given day, who wants us to speak up about what we want and need, and ask questions, and generally not go gently into poses that might get uncomfortable. This is fantastic! (And remember, you get a nap at the end!)
The other perk of taking yoga is that attending class reminds you to do the most simple thing you already do everyday: breathe. There's all kinds of breaths you can take, like Lion's Breath and so on, but you're really just encouraged to breathe in and out through poses at prescribed times of movement so that you maximize the pose and (I think) let energies move where they must through your body.
I found myself taking those long, deep breaths while I was listening to some of my old cohorts talk about where their lives had taken them. Truly at ease: perhaps 20 years out, confidence comes with understanding that very much like practicing yogic poses, strength is a combination of time, mastering the art of knowing your limits, and simply breathing through the challenges.
I'm never going to be a lithe, sinewy, yoga body--I'm just not built that way--but I am enjoying these classes, and maybe this needs to be a lifelong pursuit: not for merely its physical benefits, but its overall affect on my psyche.
And maybe, sometime in the future, I'll have the time to attend classes more regularly, perhaps when our kids are a little older. Until then...I have to go clean out the fridge.