There is a promise of respite in the air tonight. A rumbling thunder that just might offer a reprieve from the oppressive heat wave we’ve had. For nearly two weeks temperatures have been at or above 100 degrees.
This weather lends itself primarily to malaise. I want to shower 4 times a day and turn the air conditioning down absurdly low and cover up with a light blanket and nap.
Not that most days that’s feasible, but it’s always an aspiration.
Last week I went to a yoga retreat lead by my dear friend Ali Hinks. It was at a serene locale, about 30 minutes from my home.
The purpose of the retreat was “yoga for loss”. So I thought, I’m probably not quite the demographic for this class. I’ve had my share of loss, but I’ve also got a lot of years of recovery under my belt. But Ali was teaching the class and I knew that if I were to ever find the chutzpah to attend a retreat – it would be under Ali’s gentle and watchful eye.
It also bears mentioning that “Attend a Yoga Retreat” was on my bucket list. Sandwiched between “Sit in Daily Show Audience and Profess Undying Love for Jon Stewart” and “Go to Movies Alone”.
Feeling far more comfortable in my understanding of yoga asanas and practice, thanks to my dear friend Wanda who patiently teaches a class for “Mommies” with special needs kids from her home and somewhat accomplished at being able to hold the poses, despite the unwanted pounds I’ve been carrying for the past 18 months – I signed up for the retreat before I could convince myself not to.
The night before I berated myself for leaving Peter on a weekend day to go do something “frivolous” for myself. Already wrought with guilt about having recently become a working mother again after three years strictly devoted to him. My dearest husband reminded me that I deserved self-care and encouraged me to go. He also noted that I flake on things a lot and that’s not cool.
In an effort not to be a flake, I packed my bag and set out for Stone House in Mebane.
I met some great people at the retreat. I did yoga, I wrote in my journal, I ate a wonderful local vegan lunch, I lay in a hammock and stared up at the sky, I sweated buckets and had three wardrobe changes…and I pushed myself to acquaint with nature.
I don’t like nature so much. It’s true. I don’t like the heat, or wondering which critters are lurking in the tall grass. I don’t like bodies of water that have their own ecosystem.
But I was going to make the most of this experience. So I set out with my camera to capture my surroundings.
There was a pond. It looked like a place I could die and not be found for months. Did I mention I fear bodies of water? I know I did, but I just want to reiterate.
It was a time to conquer my fears. It was a time to try new things. It was also 140 degrees. So I walked into the pond and naturally my trusty Old Navy flip-flops immediately sank into the murk and mud. I was stuck. The pond was also 140 degrees. I couldn’t see the bottom. I wondered how long it would take for the vultures to pick my bones clean. I thought about screaming, but then decided against it. At many points in my life I exempted competent problem solving skills – so why not see if I could summon them now.
I slipped my feet out of the shoes. Plodded through the mud. Put my camera down on dry land and went back out in search of my shoes. Incidentally, they had not budged an inch. I tugged at them, breaking the flip (or was it the flop?) on one of them and managed to fling mud all over myself. I looked around. Just to make sure no one had seen. I tried my best to clean my feet and shoes in the grass, using the contents of my water bottle sparingly. I fixed the flip (or was it the flop?) and meandered to a hammock. As the mud caked on my feet and legs dried I lauded myself for my self-determination. I got myself into a mess. But I also got myself out.
Gus has been home with Peter and I for nearly a year. In that time I have watched his confidence in his role as Daddy grow and flourish. I’ve also found myself less confident about my abilities as Mommy. I all too often find myself calling out to him for reassurance or help with Peter when I actually have the capacity to handle the situation myself.
It’s comfortable to rely on him. But I have to remind myself that I possess resilience. I’ve had it all along. I’ve gotten stuck in the mud before. I’ve pulled myself (and my child) out. I can do it. It’s not easy. But I can.
As our lives face another impending change, Peter moving on to Elementary School, Gus going back to college, me becoming more entrenched in my career: I have to remind myself that oftentimes my fears are irrational and stem from a lack of self-confidence.
I owe it to myself, and to Peter and to Gus to face those fears, even if if means getting stuck in the mud, even if it means breaking the flip (or was it the flop), because if I never try it’s true that I will never fail – but also that I will never succeed.
I guess that was the lesson I was to take away from the retreat. I guess that I too was experiencing a loss – a loss of self-confidence and identity – and that I had been symbolically stuck in the mud for a while .
Perhaps my fear of stagnant bodies of water had some merit.
From the other side, however, I’m fairly certain the lesson was worth it.
PS: I did however find a tick on my inner thigh three days after the retreat while in a bubble bath. I did scream for Gus to remove it and I did Google Lyme Disease for the next two hours incessantly – so take heart, it’s not like I’m totally cured of my co-dependent irrationality.