On stories, Intsagram and prayer hands

I am scrolling Instagram. The images move on my screen like numbers spinning around a slot machine. I stop and like a few pictures. I comment on one of my friend’s photos. “Love!” I write and search for the emoji with the two hearts as eyes. I see my friends’ children at the park, in their backyard, in the kitchen; inspirational quotes; yoga teachers on retreat, at an altar, sitting before a packed class of students in savasana; shots of frothy beer mugs aside a delicious looking salad; dogs, cats; more yoga poses, a video of man doing a press up handstand, a sunset, an afternoon jog, a hyacinth. I take a screen shot of a quote and save it in my library so I have content should I need it. Why and when I made this a habit is something I am still wondering about. But I have come to accept it and even make friends with technology and heed the advice of those whose feeds look like art projects, to treat this time as if it were art.

A few days ago I posted a photo of myself from my wedding. I am looking away from the camera, smiling. I write that I am 37 and pregnant with my third child and situated in my life. Certain. Comfortable. Madly in love. I never know why some posts get more attention than others. This one had an unusual amount of engagement — more comments, likes, emojis. Lots of triple pink hearts and prayer hands.

The picture was taken eight years ago. A #TBT. It was taken at a time I might refer to as my past life. Certainly, it was a life before Instagram. It was before my third child was born. It was before a lot of shit hit the fan in my work, my family, my finances, my community. I am sitting on a wood bench with the floral wreath in my hair about to marry the man of my dreams. I write in the comments that I want to tell that girl to “brace herself for the education she is about to receive.”

I can’t stop thinking about the book I just finished reading. A beautiful memoir about time and marriage written in a mosaic style. Sound-bytes are framed in delicate passages and it is a book whose words have stayed with me long after I finished it. It’s one of those books where you read a line, nod and think, yes, I get it, I think that too, I have been there. The truth is always recognizable.

I heard this same author once say that when you read good writing, you forget that you are even reading. You are transported. You are sharing a consciousness. This is insight I try to parlay into my yoga classes. When the teaching is good, you don’t even remember that you are doing yoga poses — something bigger is at play. I have repeated this line to teachers in training.

Early in the book, the author lists what doesn’t go on Instagram: “Our bank statements; past due notices; quick glances exchanged when our son isn’t looking. Hangovers; sleepless nights; tuition bills. Emails bearing disappointing news… “ and so on.

I was teaching in Maine last weekend to a group of local yoga teachers and I said it would be refreshing if we posted pictures of the classes where only one or two students showed up. We all laughed.  I smiled and thought how glad I was to be there when only a few days before I had dreaded the trip.

Nobody will come.
I don’t have enough content to fill a weekend.
I no longer practice yoga poses like I used to.
What I know is not enough.

My inner critic was relentless.

Before I left for the weekend, I had dinner with a friend and I lamented that I had no idea what I was going to teach. “All I can do is be transparent,” I told her. Something I say a lot to myself.

There is a story I refer to often enough when I am teaching. It is about a writing class where the teacher told the students they had five minutes to write down the most embarrassing moment of their lives. Something they keep hidden. When the timer went off, I was told, every writer in that room of well over fifty started scribbling away. “Somewhere in there,” the teacher said after the timer went off, “is your next big story.”

When I sit to write I don’t often know what will announce itself. Lately, I have been thinking about the role of shame in my life. A random Instagram quote I posted months ago:  “Thou shall not judge because thou hath fucked up too.” Comments were, hahaha! Awesome. and And how.

Hidden but not gone swirl memories inside my body that have taught me the most about humility and forgiveness.  I know that only now. When I teach or write or meditate I hope to live inside these moments.  Moments where I get to pause now (when I should have paused then) and pull out from under deep folds within myself a time that still lives and breathes. Silently, these memories have matured me and have introduced me to my softest me.

Brace yourself.

This past year I taught a three-hour workshop in New Orleans for three people. I posted on Instagram, “Heading to NOLA to be with my favorite community!”  My stack of books and notes of preparation took up most of my suitcase. When I showed up at the space I looked around as if invisible students might suddenly appear. “It’s just us,” I say almost apologizing to the three women who staggered in.

Months before that I forced myself on a  group job interview for a famous yoga lifestyle brand where “I was a shoe-in” to get the job a yogi friend told me about. I sat around a picnic table drinking iced tea being asked to share a fun fact about my life to a group of peppy twenty-somethings. “What is your rose and what is your thorn,” the twenty-something manager asked me grinning. I pretended I was a journalist doing research and not actually applying for a per-diem job at a retail store at this point in my 46-year-old life.  I wished I could tell you I was able to decline the job offer but I never got offered the job. Instead, I received a form letter that they went with somebody else.

The cat hair is everywhere. The pilly fabric on the sofa. The ignored responses to the queries I have sent out on behalf of my new manuscript. The polite “thanks, but it’s not for us.”

I am thinking of a poem I share in my classes.  What if all the people who could not sleep/at two or three or four in the morning/left their houses and went to the parks/What if hundreds, thousands, millions/went in solitude/like a stream/and each told their story/woman fearful if they slept they would die/and young woman unable to conceive/and husbands, wives having affairs and children fearful of falling/ and fathers, mothers worried about paying bills/and men, women having business troubles/and both unlucky in love/those in physical pain/ those who were guilty/ what if they all left their homes together? … Would they be the more radiant ones?

If this poem were captured as an image on Instagram, people everywhere holding each other’s hands and walking in the moonlight, exposed, safe, lit up–  I imagine many likes and emojis with hands clapping and thumbs up and smiles and hearts and winks and prayer hands.

Make yourself deserve more

            My youngest son was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome last year. (Nowadays they call it Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder). Either way, for the past year my husband and I have taken to the books, the internet, doctors, healers, and angels to find the best course of treatment that would serve our son and help him thrive in every possible way. Talk about our children being the gurus.

             I have always been good at trying to find the lessons in my life. From the muckiest muck, I found a way to clear the smudge from my eyes and see that there was something bigger I was being pointed toward within myself. I worked hard at that, not realizing that effort alone had it’s own cost on my system, and in a strange way a kind of delusion that I was in control. With regard to my son, as our children often encourage, it was time for me to learn new ways of communicating, and different ways of spending my time.

             I often look at my move to Chicago as something which held more significance than leaving an old life behind. I got here and had time to look at what in my life needed the most tending. I had the space to contemplate how I can be better with my family, my finances, my time, my health. I had space to listen to where my interests were being pulled. I had time to live the patience I often spoke about.

            This year I have learned more resolve than I ever thought was possible. I could feel that was happening evidenced mostly by how much softer I was responding to certain truths of my life.  A few months ago, I wouldn’t have necesarily admitted that. I was staunch on protecting the power of my victimhood. There was a certain satisfaction in being angry at my life, my husband, the world for me not being where I thought I should be in life. But like all things, that truth shifted for me and I stopped. I was tired of that stance. I was tired of rolling my eyes at every motivational coach speak about what it was like to “not live in your true purpose!”
I was also just tired.

          Meantime, there was my husband on the other side of the kitchen table taking these things from glass bottles. Minerals. Supplements. Super powerful foods. I watched him from my seat at breakfast. He seemed exuberant and lively and sometimes I wanted to strangle him (in a loving way). “Supplements are vital to strengthening your spiritual body,” I have heard him say, and watched him chug ounces of silicia and ocean minerals and nitro oxide and deep purple liquid from clear pouches. I had to admit, he did seem great. Softer. Clear eyed. Loving. Patient. Energized. Happy. “It just helps your healing when you are feeding your body these things it longs for.” 

                He started giving our son these supplements under the guidance of a very special healer. I watched from the side lines and saw that in a weeks time there were behaviors my son demonstrated that had been a struggle his whole life -more eye contact, more social curioisty, more go with the flow. This was enough to make me stop and wonder about my own spiritual body and the layers of connections that were possibly short circuiting due to a lack of replenishment. I thought I replenished. But my fatigue and low level anxiety said otherwise.

               I was never a supplement girl. If I tried in the past, it lasted a week at most. I had yoga and tried to drink more water and eat less sugar. In the wake of my son’s newfound aliveness, and my husband’s undeniable vitality, I have come to make them part of my daily ritual. In fact I have come to love this period in the morning. My coffee sits to the side and I swallow this life food and feel like without any effort at all I am doing the best thing for myself I have done in a long time. And it is so much easier and gentler than some of the yoga classes I sometimes force upon myself.

             With self-care being such a current topic in the field at which I have been a part of for most of my life,  I ask myself how is it that I am applying that level of care? Is it possible that I always thought it couldn’t be that easy? Is it possible I never thought that I could boost the potentcy of what  practices intend to do  simply by strengthening my wiring witin? Could it be that I just needed the right supplementation?

          I have approached some close friends and family about my newfound love of these products which I believe at the heart are pure goodness. Yesterday I received some messages like, “I am so happy for you, but this isn’t for me.”
I got it. I never thought I would be that girl who walked around talking about how a food or a drink changed her life. (I may have talked about how tee shirts could, or poetry). My own skeptism was quickly overided by my body’s messaging.
I slept better. I thought better. I choose better. I am so much better. (Not to mention that I looked better).

        I winced at the my friend’s resistance, a doubting that I recognized. It didn’t matter how much I wanted her to have what I was having. It mattered more that I could hear her as I could hear myself.  I  realize that on this path of healing ourselves, we hear and see and feel what we need to at the exact time we are ready.

 Make it easier on yourself.  It should be.