I’ll be the first one to admit, I’ve been that asshole who used to be like “Oh yoga? Not for me, thanks… I like to WORK OUT.”
Yeah, I know. I was a complete jerk. I also didn’t know anything about it, other than a vague idea in my head that involved hippies, patchouli oil and people who might be less familiar with regular bathing and razors than I was. I may or may not have a habit of dismissing things with a haughty wave of my hand when I’m out of my comfort zone. (Those of you who know me, shush right now.)
For those of you who don’t know me at all, I’m not a complete dick. I promise. I was simply, for many years, a girl not connected at all with yoga in any shape or form resembling a contemporary practice. In recent years, I have connected with several friends who are very much involved in a yoga practice, and one in particular who has subtly (and not so subtly) over the past 4-5 years suggested that my wound tightly, stress filled, type A, list making, OCD, easily overwhelmed, pulled in a million directions self would benefit mind/body/spirit from a little yoga in my life.
Of course I poo-pooed this for the most part because I had realized that I wasn’t ready for the walls practicing yoga would break down. I’ve spent a good portion of my life carefully constructing safety nets for myself emotionally. I don’t do vulnerable well, and I certainly don’t share my soft marshmallow center with strangers. Thanks, but I’ll stick to kickboxing, my 6am bootcamp, and other rapid fire, adrenaline pumping, wipe the floor with me when I’m done exercises. Redirect anger and stress that way. I’m good with that. Hold the pain, wounds, and places that have been hurt inside, because those who have hurt you don’t get to see that. (There’s a very long story for another blog or 30.)
Fast forward past the wedding I worked so hard to make perfect in 2013. I’ll admit, it was fabulous. But the stress of working, planning, and DIY’ing the entire thing left me wiped out. In hindsight, hand making all of my flowers with coffee filters probably wasn’t the best idea, but they kind of turned out fantastic. Long story short, I ran myself ragged, even though I knew better having gone through severe adrenal fatigue about 5 years before. My body was toast.
I started gaining weight. My migraines began increasing in frequency again. Allergies flared up. Hip pain was growing exponentially worse, to the point where it took me 10-15 minutes to get out of bed. Everything hurt all the time. I just wrote it off as my thyroid under functioning again.
My body ended up so incapable of fighting infection that I got sick while on vacation in Vegas with my husband after Christmas this past holiday. Turns out it was strep, which got so bad it landed me in the hospital, twice, with a peritonsillar abscess. Three rounds of hardcore antibiotics, and I feel like I’m 100 years old. 2 months following, I finally get in to see a new endocrinologist, and thankfully, we are on the right path to regulate some of the hormonal problems I’ve been experiencing. (Side note: YAY!)
Bad news? The doc said MY STRESS MADE ME SICK. What? Hey, shut your face doctor who I know is right but I have to still be indignant because I wanted not that answer to come out of your mouth. So what can I do? Well, I have a list of foods that are creating inflammation in a body that’s trying to kick its own ass already, so that’s a lot of fun. Oh, and I’m supposed to sleep at least 7 hours a night. Sure, also funny. The little one goes to college in about 8 years.
I’ll just go back to low carb and get back to the gym.
NOPE. Sorry, you can’t do that. It’s too stressful on your body.
I’m sorry, what? I can’t go to the one mother fucking way of eating that works for my stupid post hypothyroid body and I can’t go to kickboxing? Sweet. So, I’ll just go to Wal-Mart, buy myself some stretchy I gave up clothes and settle into middle age with zero style, grace or self esteem. Could you please point me to the nearest oven so I could stick my head into it?
My sweet endo, who becomes exceedingly uncomfortable when the freckle faced 40 year old amazon woman either rages or cries in his office, pats me awkwardly on the shoulder and starts talking to me about diet options. Modified low carb, staying out of ketosis, limit caffeine (my life is over), limit alcohol (goodbye unhealthy coping mechanism), no processed food, and all that jazz. Ok fine, I’ll do it.
Exercise? No kickboxing. No bootcamp. No running (which is fine, because now I have Dr’s orders to avoid something I have tried to love but I hate it, it hates me, so again YAY).
Skip, hop, jump through some personal stuff, some soul searching, some hard lessons, and I find myself really REALLY needing to take care of me. And also really REALLY needing to work out.
So I give yoga a go. My friend B, yes, the one who knew years ago I needed this, warned me that I might get emotional during some poses. Great. I’m already an emo mess thanks to hormones, but whatevs. I’ll just curl up in the corner and make up a new pose called Weepy Mom Embracing Houseplant.
Confession? I loved it. I loved every sweaty, awkward, stretchy, bendy, tearful moment in that class. I sank into pigeon for the first time in my life, and as soon as that hip opened, apparently, so did a lot of old pain, because tears dripped down onto my mat.
I sat in my car. Cried a little more. That door was open for a while. Something was working through me. I felt emotions come to the surface from my divorce. Old hurts from people long ago. Recent wounds I’d pretended didn’t bother me. It was uncomfortable. But for the first time in a very long time, instead of fighting those feelings, I let them happen. I let them be OK.
That day, I cried a lot. I cried because I was scared of what I was feeling. I cried because I had forgotten what it felt like to be kind to myself. I cried because for that one hour I didn’t hate my body. I didn’t hate my body for being broken, and sick, and in pain. I’d been fighting it for so long, even when I was doing what I thought was “healthy” I was fighting it, pushing it too hard, not listening to what I needed. My body and my mind have been in a war against one another since it first betrayed me following a horseback riding accident where my thyroid was damaged.
That day I made a decision to work with my body. And to work with my mind. To listen.
I made the decision to do something for ME. To stop a pattern of self destruction, and to stop hating myself for not being who I was 20 years ago, or 10 years ago. As a woman who has always had to be the best, do the best, out perform, be smarter, better, than everyone else, this was hard.
On that day a few weeks ago, I decided to treat myself with love. Not when I’m back in my skinny jeans. Not when I’ve made X dollars from a sale. Not tomorrow, or next week, or next year. I’m going to treat myself with respect, and love, and if I can’t say I “love” my body RIGHT NOW, I can at least say I don’t hate it. It’s a step.
Something inside my head changed. I had a lightbulb moment, and I rarely have those.
I just wanted to come back. So I did. I came back. I did a sweaty class at another studio with two friends, and didn’t judge my 40 year old body in the mirror next to the 20 something girls with their fluid movements and pre-baby bodies. Where was the self-loathing and shame for “letting myself go”? It wasn’t there.
The tears still keep coming. Emotions bubble to the surface during class, and I’m learning to breathe through them, and just let the tears fall onto my towel without losing breath. Sometimes, bits of white hot rage course through me. That takes me by surprise. But when I walk to my car, I find I’m lighter of spirit, as I’ve left those negative feelings in a little puddle of sweat on my mat.
And that’s empowering. I can sink my body into beautiful (at least in my head) poses, and take one hour each day for me. One hour to breathe. To quiet my mind. To still the voices in my head. It’s beautiful. I’m more responsive as a mother, as a wife, as a person in general.
I want to know more. I want to read more. Learn more. Practice more. I’m challenged to push my body. I’m ‘excited to see what this perfectly imperfect body can do.
While yoga is a newfound love, I think it’s here to stay. If I have reached a place in my life where instead of making excuses for what I can’t do physically, I’m celebrating what I can do, and seeing progress every day, then I will embrace the tools that gave me that success.
It may have taken me 4 decades to learn to be kind to myself, to stop berating myself for not being perfect, but I realize I might never have gotten here. I will take the gift of self love, an open heart, a clear mind and a strong body in my 40’s and beyond. And I will embrace a life with a lot less suppressed hurt, fear, anger and pain. Right now is all we are guaranteed. I want to live right now without the shadows from yesterday interfering with my joy, or the worries of what might come holding me back from embracing an experience to its fullest.
I know myself well enough to know that somewhere ahead there is a big pile of sabotage waiting. Being comfortable has never been comfortable for me. But today, I’m in the moment, and as I sit here with a body feeling fatigue in muscles it forgot existed, a mind spinning with ideas for paintings, a sweet husband lying next to me, and the gentle snores of our dogs on the floor at our feet, I’m comfortable. I’m happy. And I don’t care how zen I get, I’ll always have a warped sense of humor and say “fuck” way too much for polite company. I’m not gonna down dog all my sharp edges away.
XOXO – Carrie