Keep your heart center open

Most of the time I want to post snark. Snark about students, work, the weather, other drivers…always about others.

I didn’t realize this until today at yoga.

During triangle pose Hannah said, “twist up and keep your neck soft. Keep your heart center open.”

And a voice inside me said, “to myself.” Keep my heart open to myself.

In a heart to heart (ha! No pun intended.) that my mom and I had right after L finished treatment and I graduated in 2010, she said that the hardest part of my moving on would be tolerating others who have not experienced the trauma that we have. That the moving on for me would be marked by moments of exasperation and frustration and impatience. Funny how mothers know us and can get to our very core quicker than any other. I am fortunate that these words were said to me with love and empathy. But, they were still hard to hear, mostly because they are true.

Impatient. That is how I feel most days. Even now, 4 years later. Impatient. Why was that truck parked at the gas station (it’s a gas pump not a parking spot), while the engine idled (duh! gas!), and the driver chuckled on his cell phone? Why is he in my way? Why is he blocking my way to the pump? Doesn’t he know I am already late? Doesn’t he know that I have been through more than him? Doesn’t he know that my son and our family have been through a lifetime of fear and agony and so the rest of life should be smooth sailing?

I thought all of those things in the span of ten seconds this morning, all before 8:15am. That’s a lot of thinking and a lot of brutal self-awareness. I so desperately want to move on from our experience with cancer. Yet at the same time, I wear our experience with cancer like a badge of honor, trying to be an advocate and drum up awareness. I use it like an angry megaphone, when maybe a quieter instrument would be more effective.

In the deepest, truest parts of my soul, I know that there is still healing I need to do. I need to forgive myself for not seeing L’s cancer sooner. Maybe if I had looked harder I would have seen it sooner.

I need to forgive my friend who betrayed me when I needed her the most. I need to forgive myself. Long before she betrayed me, I saw things in her that made me uneasy. I chose to ignore them. I shouldn’t have.

Many of the things that are frustrating me about others, are really things that are unresolved in me. The thing with trauma is that it takes your locus of control and flips it upside down, backwards, and sideways. In childhood cancer world, there is not control. You are a slave to the protocol and absolute neutrophil counts (ANC). We spent 15 months rudderless and hyper-paranoid. It’s exhausting. The re-entry into a world where I do have control (in theory) has been long. It has been arduous work that I underestimated.

I can’t go home again. I am not the same and neither is home.

Today in yoga, a voice told me that my snark is about me and not anyone else. Today in yoga, a voice told me that I need to keep my heart center open- to myself.

Practice makes…good enough

I’ve been doing yoga lately. On Tuesday it’s “Basic Yoga” with Hannah (pronounced Hah-nah like Ah-nah but with an H in front) and on Wednesdays it’s “Yogalates” with Scott. No interesting pronunciations there and sadly, no lattes either. “Yogalates” is half yoga and half pilates. I’ve never had a male yoga instructor before either. He’s very zen. But not in an over the top way at all. And, he has a tiny little gut that hangs out of his tank top. It makes me like him more.

Both of these classes kick my butt and my mind in the best ways possible.

I have actually done yoga and pilates off and on for years. Prenatal yoga was an absolute necessity for me and pilates helped me get some of my pre-baby body back. I always seem to find my way back to yoga. And when I do, I am always like, “Oh, yeah! This is why I come back.” I love yoga. This cracks me up because yoga is the complete opposite of everything I think of myself: fast-paced, sharp-tongued, east coast, impatient. Yoga is none of those things. And that is why I love it.

At first, I was hesitant to take a “basic” course because I’ve done yoga before and I was like “I’ve done this before, I don’t need basics!” Then, the first day of class, and every day since then, I have fallen more in love with “basic” yoga. Hannah is always telling us, “don’t let anyone tell you that basic yoga is not hard. It’s hard to focus on one thing. To actually stand there and work on one muscle at a time. And tomorrow, you will feel it.”

Basic means you focus on one part of your body the entire class. Last week it was shoulders. Today it was hips. We do maybe three or four different poses. But in each one, you focus. It’s hard work to stand or sit and only focus on one thing. One thing! You breathe. You stretch. You strengthen. You practice. I love this about yogis (Am I allowed to say that? I’m not a yogi, so I hope I am not breaking some cardinal rule here.). They are always saying, “the practice of yoga” or, “today in your practice, focus on this.”

Practice. Isn’t that a lovely concept? Not mastery or perfection. Practice. Get out there. Put yourself out there. Try. Fall down. Get back up.

I love yoga because it is one of the only judgment free zones in my life. I don’t judge anyone who is there, ever. And I don’t judge myself. Yoga provides the time, space, and place for me to practice. Practice breathing, standing up straight with my shoulders back and heart center open. I am not sure about you, but spending hours in front a computer pretty much guarantees that my shoulders are kissing my ears by 830am and they don’t come back down until 530pm, if they come down at all. That 50 minutes at lunch is all about me and my body. Listening to what it is telling me. I am learning to listen back and not push muscles (or thoughts) that shouldn’t be pushed. And, areas that can be stretched a little bit more each time.

Today, Hannah threw out this gem that has stuck with me all day: “They say that shoulder and neck tension is the most recent. As you go further down your spine, the tensions are older. So by the time you reach your lower back that would be the oldest tension.” Whoa. I’ve had lower back pain since 2001. That’s a lot of holding on to stuff.

I have also been thinking of student affairs practice. I remember in graduate school the word practice got used a lot. I remember writing essays about my philosophy as a student affairs practitioner (rooted in the word practice). As a mid-career professional, I feel pressure to have it all figured out and am no longer allowed to practice. Practice means doing the same thing over and over and over again, until it clicks and becomes innate rather than forced. Practice means making mistakes. I know I made at least one mistake today. Tomorrow, I will go to work and hopefully not make the same one again. I am going to practice.