Back in April, on my way home from a visit to my parents house in Maine, I took a yoga class in the Seacoast area. I left the studio feeling sad, angry and confused. Throughout the class, the instructor was raising her voice in a passionate and excited boot-camp kind of tone. While I could tell that it was uplifting and motivational for the other people in the room, it was not having the same affect on me. Instead, it was like listening to fingernails down the chalkboard of my soul. The class was demanding, she was intense, and I wanted to put on noise canceling headphones so that I could cut the crescendo in her pitch and focus on my barely breathing and shaking body.
As I was driving home, it occurred to me that the reason I was feeling so unsettled was because I had just experienced a tangible lesson in the latest theme that was taking place in my life:
I am moving towards a softer existence and in doing so, I am gravitating away from “hard.”
It started at home. About 6 months ago, I tapped Mike out of a watchful match with a tantruming Sam. Instead of remaining undisturbed, I wrestled his little body and raised my voice in a way that scared both he and I. Mike stormed into the room and said, “don’t hurt him,” and his words sliced my skin open right across my throat. I would never hurt Sam. But instead of letting Mike see the pain from my wound, I yelled something back at him from the shallowest place in my body. That night I went to bed feeling terrible about myself.
The next morning I was reading an article about relationships and a quote from Dr. Alexandra Solomon jumped out at me: “When we feel guilt, it is a signal that we are making a choice that is not aligned with who we want to be in this world.”
I have a choice.
I am not against pushing myself, stepping out of my comfort zone, finishing tasks, maintaining integrity, and strict(ish) parenting. All of those things still define me. I believe, as Glennon Doyle says, “We can do hard things.” But something inside of my soul has woken up to the power of calm. Life can be hard. Getting through cancer treatments is hard. PTSD is hard. I have a son who (I’m sure) will break my heart a million times over hard. I’m not in control of what life throws at me. So if it continues to hand me tough things, (as it is the balance of our being) then why would I ever CHOOSE difficult when I actually have a say in a decision/reaction?
That yoga class in May was a powerful example for me. I started teaching my own classes in an even more fluid voice than the one I had been using since I came back from cancer. I took out all of the overly upbeat and loud music from my playlists. I’ve been taking yoga where the teachers are challenging, but calm. I’ve even been going to some slower paced restorative classes and letting my body heal and stretch while draped over a big blue bolster. It’s quiet there. I close my eyes, throw a shirt over my face and I’m in a cave of self exploration. My brain shuts off and then starts back up again. Ideas for writing come up. Ideas for my life come up. I go blank. I leave feeling happy.
I’ve learned to see my (almost) three year old son as someone who is just doing the best he can. When I think of all of the things that I know and he doesn’t, it seems unfair to put myself against him. So now I purposefully choose to soften when he screams. I feel my heart starting to beat faster and my initial reaction is to snap, but I remember that we are actually on the same team. So I work at staying low-key. I’m not always successful but I am a WAY better parent than I was before that awful fight with Sam. No one wants to feel my anxiety on top of his. I use the skills I’ve learned in my (almost) 39 years of life and we get through it. I don’t go to bed feeling like shit. I go to bed feeling like I accomplished an arduous task by using my strong and easeful heart.
I have also evaluated some of the relationships in my life. I stopped watering friendships with people who in the past had taught me hard lessons (that I needed to learn), but who in the present day just make me second guess myself and feel stupid. It was easier said than done but I quickly recognized that as soon as I stopped feeding the friendships, they died out in lighting speed. I realized that I was the one who had kept them alive the whole time. I was choosing a hard thing even when it wasn’t choosing me back. I went through my Instagram account and unfollowed a bunch of people, places and things that I don’t actually care about like yogalebrities who are skinny and have pretty hair but write really vague words because they’re TRYING to be inspiring. I unfollowed some people I personally know because I found their inauthenticity to be infuriating and I was spending too much time feeling something about their lives when their lives and how they choose to live them are none of my business.
And of course, during this epiphany these lyrics found me from a song on Spotify: “I’m letting go of the things that don’t serve me no more.”
In May, I called a friend and told her about my recent lessons. I said, “I don’t know what it is, but it feels like I have to clear away even more shit in my life to make room for something else. I feel like a big thing is about to happen.” She asked, “Like a baby?” I replied with a maybe, but that it wasn’t something that I could put my finger on. I told her about pitching my article to Mantra Wellness Magazine in the hopes that it would be published. I told her about the “Finding Authenticity” writing and journaling workshops I had planned for the summer and the event I was going to be speaking at in July. I told her it felt like I was just opening up the windows, sweeping out the crusty and rigid cobwebs, adding a few soft and fluffy pillows to my essence, and making space for more light.
Fast forward to this Thursday: I went to my mailbox and found a yellow padded package from California. I TORE it open. In my hands was the latest edition of Mantra Wellness Magazine. It had been sent to me a week early because they had printed an article I wrote for them. Page 50. A full spread. My name. My words. Published in print.
An hour later I got a call from my OBGYN.
She said, “Your blood tests came back normal. You’re having a baby boy.”
Our second son is due at the end of January.