Heart Forward, Heart Open

One day, long ago but feels like just yesterday, when I was in the throes of being the wife of a cancer patient, I reached what is commonly referred to as my wits end. In other, not so pretty words- I was thisclose to losing my shit. Being the caretaker for someone you love pushes you to the brink of sanity, pulls you back in to ok-ness, and back to the brink again.

Over and over and over again.

It is draining.

So one day after I dropped my daughter off at school I had a panic attack. I didn’t know what to do or where to go or how to make myself feel better. I wanted to run far away. Then it hit me- yoga.

Yoga has been a mainstay in my life for 15+ years. When I can’t seem to get my life together, it’s always there, waiting on me with welcome arms.

This fateful day was no exception. I googled “yoga classes birmingham alabama” and the first hit was the one I called. A class was starting in 30 minutes. I drove straight there.

The instructor was kind and gentle and exactly what I needed at the moment. I found my home there. No matter what cancer threw at me, I could show up and breathe in and breathe out and focus on my movement and work through it. I’m a chronic over-thinker and yoga doesn’t allow space to overthink. Yoga allows you to focus on yourself when you are at the bottom of your own priority list.

Yoga is better than therapy. Yoga saved my life when I was ready to take a slow walk into rush hour traffic.

My yoga family is irreplaceable to me. They have wiped away my tears when I couldn’t hold them in anymore, they have hugged me when I needed someone to just grab me and hug me and couldn’t ask for that, they have made me laugh, and offered a loving and accepting space when I didn’t have a safe space to just be. The week after Matt died at my first class back I cried my exhausted self to sleep. I was so exhausted and so embarrassed, but every emotion I had been holding in just came out and sleep was greatly needed. They just carried on with class around me without judgement.

And when I strayed and didn’t show up for class for 2 months, they didn’t forget about me. When I spent more time in a botabox than I did on my mat, no one chastised me when I finally came back. I was welcomed with open arms. I need to remember that I can love yoga and love my wine at the same time. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Tonight I was back at home on my mat. I breathed in, breathed out, and moved. Tonight’s class was with one of my favorite instructors, the one who taught the first class I attended there, the one who taught the class I fell asleep in after Matt died, and the one who has seen me come in with puffy eyes from crying and has celebrated little victories through cancer treatment and grieved with me when the end of Matt’s life crushed me completely.

I have been filling my head with too much lately. Financially, I’m screwed. Cancer does a number on you. Socially, I’m an outcast. Widows carry a heavy burden that most people just don’t have time for. Being alone now means I’m really alone, and I feel the weight of that the minute the last friend leaves and it’s just me and Quinn trying to figure out life. Every time the house empties out it feels like a kick in the teeth. Most people have moved on to the next tragedy. It happens. Trying to move on and be happy in my life has brought uninvited criticism into my life in the form of a bitter ex-wife with so much time on her hands to talk down about others. I’m just out here trying to live life and be happy. Some people don’t want to see others happy, and that’s ok. There is no timeline, no rule book, and no set schedule for how to grieve. I’m winging it.

Tonight during class our instructor told us to have our heart forward, heart open for warrior one. This hit me hard. I have been slowly closing myself off. I’ve let the opinions of others affect the way I carry myself and the way I live my life and most importantly, my happiness. When I’m upset about something my dad always tells me to remember who I am. Solid advice. What other people think of me doesn’t matter. Never has, never will. Somehow I forgot that when I was busy carrying the weight of other’s expectations on my already tired shoulders. Grief is the loneliest road to walk, but it’s making me stronger every day.

Heart forward, heart open. Warrior mode.

At the end of our class this poem was read. Perfect timing.

Everything is Waiting for You

David Whyte

Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

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