July 22, 2011

Broken Plans.

“If you want to make God laugh, make some plans.”

It’s summertime, so of course we have plans! Loads of them. And really fun ones, too, I might mention. We planned an overnight at the beach with some dear friends. We planned to head back up to New Hampshire for week filled with cousins, sunshine, boating and swimming. In the depths of the snowiest winter we can remember, we rented a house at the beach for two weeks — and found friends to share it with us. We planned to hike with the dog, swim every afternoon, bask in the sun, and walk into town after dinner for ice cream as often as possible.

Can you hear the divine giggling?

Last Monday, exactly one hour into my son’s birthday party, my daughter crashed into her friend on the inflatable water slide we’d rented for the afternoon. Her friend walked away without even a bruise. Katie badly broke her tibia and is now in a hot pink cast that reaches from her fanny all the way to her foot.

We hadn’t planned on that.

Katie’s tibia is not the only thing that broke that night. Our illusion of knowing what lies ahead for us broke as well. It is now painfully obvious that we don’t have the slightest idea what our summer holds in store. We’re in a whole new world. We’ve never lived with a super-heavy, unwieldy cast before. Everything (and I mean everything!) requires us to climb a learning curve. Seemingly little things like getting into the car, washing hair and sitting at the dinner table now take logistical (and physical) maneuvering that makes our heads spin. We certainly have no clue what it will be like to go to the beach or out on a boat!

But we’re going to try. After all, as much as we had deluded ourselves into believing we knew what our summer would be like, we really didn’t know. We didn’t have any more idea how things were going to be before Katie broke her leg than we do now. Weather, illness, moods, malfunctioning pools, you name it … all are completely unpredictable, and all can wreak havoc on any summer day. Katie’s injury has simply brought the uncertainty of any plan into the spotlight of our awareness.

Nowhere have I more regularly had to face crumbling plans than on my yoga mat. Many times, I’ve dashed off to class eager for an intense, sweaty practice, only to have my teacher guide us through a quiet, centering series. I can’t count the times I’ve showed up on my mat determined to work on something specific (back-bending or hip-openers, say), only to realize that what my body needed that day was wildly different than what my mind wanted. A few times over the years, my practice has been limited by injury, forcing me to spend weeks or months gently modifying asana as I waited for healing to happen.

Ironically, these unplanned-for incidences on my mat have taught me that, when things aren’t going my way, my reactions are a heckuvalot more predictable than my plans. Invariably I get frustrated. Almost always, I feel disappointed. Often, I get rebellious. Sometimes, I get whiny. (I hate it when that happens.) Not very often, but it happens, I get angry and throw a little inner tantrum. No matter where I begin emotionally, however, finally I acquiesce to my reality. That’s when the good stuff happens. That’s when I settle into the unexpected series my teacher is offering. That’s when I stop fighting my body and instead allow it to lead the way through my practice. It’s when I let go of my plans that I really reap the rewards of my practice.

I wish I could say that, because of my yoga practice, I was able to leap-frog frustration, disappointment, rebelliousness and the like when Katie broke her leg. Not so much. Apparently, no matter how much I practice, it’s still hard for me to stand by while my plans shift and change! It has been watching Katie’s courageous, determined acceptance of her reality that reminded me that I know how to do this. I can approach this summer the way I approach an unexpected yoga class or a limiting injury on my mat. I suspect life will not differ too much from my yoga experiences. I suspect there will be loads of good stuff in store for us once we acquiesce to our new reality.

While none of us are celebrating Katie’s summer stint in her long-leg cast, all is not lost. We’re still headed to New Hampshire and to the beach. We’ve just shifted our baggage a little bit. Sure, we’ve picked up a 10-pound, hot pink cast. But hopefully we’ve also jettisoned some weighty expectations. No matter how you slice it, it’s still summer and we’re planning to enjoy it! 

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tanya lee markul Jul 22, 2011 7:45am

Hi Amy. Thanks for sharing and lots of love and healing to your daughter. You are so on – there is so much that is unpredictable! And, as much as we'd like things to go a certain way, there's no guarantee that it will. In some crazy way, it's a nice reminder to live in the moment and not too far into the future. 🙂 🙂

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Tanya Lee Markul, Assoc. Yoga Editor
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Amy Nobles Dolan

Amy lives with her husband and three children in suburban Philadelphia. She discovered yoga when her third child was still a baby as she searched for a way to reclaim her body as her own. Very quickly, yoga went from a weekly two hours of “me-time” to a life-changing passion. It is Amy’s great joy to be able to share the very real, every-day gifts of yoga with others—through both her yoga classes and her essays about the practice.

Become a fan of “Yoga Thoughts” on Facebook. You can read more Yoga Thoughts essays on her website. www.yogawithspirit.com