Life is messy.
Yet I spent most of my life trying to avoid the messy stuff.
As a kid, I remember tip-toeing to avoid a dirty floor surface, my camp counselor looking at me curiously and laughing at my disgust over the wet, sandy floor. I grew up in a house with a mom who was constantly on hands and knees, scrubbing the kitchen floor in an “out, damn spot” sort of fashion.
What can I say? I was accustomed to a clean floor.
Our parents’ hang-ups have a sneaky way of seeping into our psyches and hearts, perhaps carrying on the legacy of those who came before us. And at the same time, they present an opening, an opportunity for change.
Although I am a hippy at heart and my feet love to be free, I still have a thing about walking sans shoes if I think the floor is dirty, has been stepped on by dirty soles (that have been God-knows-where), and I encourage friends (and more aggressively, family members) to take their shoes off when they come to my home.
While I stand by my no-shoes-inside rule, as my yoga practice deepens and old habits and patterns unwind, I begin to see the connections more clearly between my inner and outer worlds. And I begin to understand that there is something more to my avoidance of messy surfaces.
I am not only protecting my feet. I have been protecting my heart.
My dating history is spotty and bizarre. Dates and relationships have been rare, yet when I do meet someone, strange and inconsequential details like the color of the guy’s shoelaces become deal-breakers. Sorry, no-can-do on the green laces; next!
It has dawned on me that this tendency is a means to avoid intimacy.
Maybe the part of my brain that fears intimacy lights up at the first sign of it: danger, danger. I have, as a result, spent many years alone. Lonely, I should say, since you can be alone and fulfilled.
I have longed for someone to connect to, to share my life with in a deep, soulful way, yet I have continually gravitated to men who are not good for me in hugely obvious ways. They are unavailable due to emotional issues, addictions, dating around, being non-committal, or, in more extreme cases, married.
These broken men are the ones I obsess over, I believe on some innate, cellular level will cure my loneliness. Yep, absent papa issues wrapped up in there for sure.
But this has been slowly changing thanks to my yoga mat, and I am beginning to feel comfortable, whole even, in my aloneness.
From my yoga mat, I see out of my peripheral vision the whole class moving together in a meditative dance. Ujjyai breath like ocean waves. Movement and breath. Connection. I am suddenly aware in this moment that I am not isolated on my mat.
Sometimes in class, we become so in tune to our own practice (is my Warrior I perfect?) that we forget there are people around us and that we can tap into the power of this connection at any time. I suddenly know, from the deepest place inside of me, that I am not alone.
Recently, I was in the park with a guy friend. We were sitting, barefoot, on yoga mats under bright pink cherry blossom trees. The wind was out that day, all feisty and refreshing. I didn’t know this person well, had only recently met him, but felt comfortable around him like one would with an old friend.
As we were getting ready to leave, he walked across my mat, leaving big dirt footprints on it. I immediately started wiping them away, saying something like “Gross, my mat is all dirty.”
He helped me wipe away the dirt, smiled at me, and said, “That’s life.”
Indeed, I thought to myself, that’s life.
Later that day, I went to my yoga class and another student commented that she liked my shirt. I pointed out that it, unfortunately, now had holes in it from my devilish but beloved two-year old kitty who I cannot keep from biting and eating my things. Without missing a beat, she said “You can have love in your life or you can have things.”
She went on to describe how messy her husband can be and that she realized at some point that she could have love or a clean house, and she chose love. I thanked her, telling her it was the exact message I needed to hear and laughed inwardly at the perfection of the universe.
In class that day, the theme of the sequence was “heart openers,” poses that warm up your upper body, especially the chest and shoulders (chronic areas of tightness for me) so that you can physically open up the heart area.
I get it, universe. Namaste.
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Asst. Ed.: Moira Madden / Ed: Catherine Monkman