I was married once. It ended badly.
Or it ended perfectly, depending how you look at it, since it brought me here, and here is good.
“God bless the broken road”—and all.
This week I was reminded of two of the most bafflingly anxious moments of my life—the dress fitting and the day I walked down the aisle.
I’ll start with the dress fitting. It was 2005. I was surrounded by some of my closest friends, who I’d chosen to do the special honor of being my bridesmaids.
What a deal! You get to spend $300 on a dress you’ll never wear again, and be a shoulder to cry on when I complain about how horrible my relationship is. Ah, in hindsight I am so sorry for that, my friends!
As I stood on the dais in the sweet little bridal shop in East Greenwhich, Rhode Island and faced my reflection in my beautiful fitted gown with the lacy train, I was literally seized with anxiety. I couldn’t breathe. I felt panicked. I didn’t know if I should sit, stand, scream or cry.
The saleswoman noticed the queer look on my face and took me into the back of the shop. She sat me down, got me a glass of water, and helped me change.
I muttered something about stress, that my bridesmaids were cranky and weren’t getting along with each other that day. I felt sorry for myself. This wasn’t the fairy tale it was supposed to be. I secretly wondered what my body was trying to tell me. That I was making a terrible mistake? In retrospect, this seems plausible.
Cut to the wedding day. My maid of honor and I loaded into the back of a gorgeous vintage limousine to ride to the church—I was a good bride and did everything by the book, including the church.
Did I mention I’ll never get married again? Story for another time.
Riding down the winding streets along the rocky coast of Maine, again, the horrible panic rose up. I started hyperventilating, giggling, chattering away like a complete lunatic.
My maid of honor, a friend since elementary school, did the only sensible thing she could think of and took a few spectacularly funny photos of me as I went totally bonkers. The helpless limo driver offered me a mint. I took it. The day went on as planned. Eighteen months later my husband and I split, and after another three grueling, contentious years, we were officially divorced.
But that, again, is a story for another time.
Just the other day, I was driving to an important meeting when I felt a miniature version of that familiar anxiety rising in me. Immediately I noticed that the cute little red, braided belt I’d cinched around my waist was preventing me from breathing into my diaphragm, setting off a domino effect of stress in my body and mind.
Last month I attended Your Brain on Yoga: The Neuroscience of Namaste, presented by yogaHOPE’s founder Sue Jones, and learned more about the relationship between the body, breath and mind and why yoga works to reverse the effects of stress to bring about mental and emotional healing.
Despite other good reasons, I was panicking in my wedding dress because I couldn’t breathe in it! The same good reason why all those Victorian ladies were always fainting and “hysterical!”
I’ve known about the importance of the breath, but this new training, along with my own experience, has brought home a new commitment to the importance of breath—the simplest, least expensive tool to combat negative physical and emotional states that have us, frankly, not being our best selves.
To my students: going forward you will notice a renewed emphasis on breath in my classes. Now you know why.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, I met someone wonderful about nine months into my divorce. I was broke, totally insecure, and raising a seven year old and a one year old on my own. At first I was skeptical, to put it mildly. But we fell for each other, and over five years later, our relationship is going strong.
We don’t plan to get married. But that’s a story for another time…
Andrea teaches yoga, barre, burlesque, aerial silks and other movement classes in the Boston area. She holds a self-designed B.A. in Women’s Studies and Mind Body Wellness.Her mission is to empower women to live fit, fun and happy lives. She writes about what moves her on her Fit Feminist Blog and would love to connect on Facebook or Twitter
Like elephant journal on Facebook.
Ed: Brianna Bemel
Assistant Ed: Wendy Keslick