The COVID After Times are like becoming a mother. Never was there ever an experience so common, so universal, and so bewilderingly isolating. Everyone’s doing it. And everyone’s doing it alone.
When I became a mother, I thought I was becoming part of a club. Part of a whole. Part of a unified conglomerate. So I was mystified when I felt disconnected, instead. Separate. Detached. As if I was forging a path through the jungle, unsure what dangers lurked around me, equipped with a malfunctioning compass that refused to point me toward the village. I knew one was out there. Somewhere. The elusive village where the other mothers laughed as their children played. Where there was sleep and respite because there was someone willing to hold the baby.
Imagine my surprise when I figured out the village wasn’t very populated at all. Imagine my surprise when I stumbled across the other mothers with their own broken compasses, as stuck in the jungle as I was.
I’m not sure there are many things harder than change. Especially when the changes alter the course of a life, the course of a plan, the course of our expectations of How Things Will Be. Especially when the changes cause our old lives to die and plunge us into grief and force us toward rebirth.
I planned for motherhood. I didn’t plan for a pandemic. But I’m finding my reaction much the same. An old life gone. The Before Times full of joys and flaws, but familiar. The After Times full of joys and flaws, but unfamiliar, so unsettling. I catch myself doing the same things now that I did then—telling myself I have it easier than some, that I ought to be grateful, that I’m weak for the grief and confusion I feel. I should adapt better. I should be more able to flex. I should focus on the good.
It takes energy and time and conscious effort to slow that reaction down. To remember this isn’t the Suffering Olympics. To remember I don’t have to have it The Worst to have permission to feel loss. To remember sad feelings don’t undermine The Good or make it lesser. Sad feelings are just sad feelings. They exist simultaneously with The Good. They’re valid. They’re allowed. It’s rough in the jungle, trying to cut a path forward.
I told you I’ve been doing some Real Things lately to treat myself as kindly as I treat my dogs. Yoga is one, and I will tell you the hardest part for me. It’s not getting my ass on the mat. It’s not the twisty shapes. It’s not the waiting or the quiet. It’s not the dogs chewing my ponytail and licking my face or my kid bellowing from the stove that he doesn’t know how to scramble eggs while I’m supposed to be resting in corpse pose. It’s that Adrienne the yoga teacher keeps telling me on the YouTube to move into positions “with ease.” Adrienne the yoga teacher keeps telling me on the YouTube not to sit in any sharp pain. Adrienne the yoga teacher keeps telling me to slow down and be gentle with my body.
And I have that running around my brain on repeat. Because every time Adrienne the yoga teacher reminds me to move “but with ease,” I realize I’m clenched. My muscles are taut. I’m squeezing and squeezing, trying to hold myself rigidly in place. “Table top position,” she says, “but with ease.” And that’s when I release the tension. That’s when I remember releasing tension is even possible. That’s when I realize even my face is tight, and that I can choose to relax my cheeks, my jaw, my forehead, my neck. The weird part? I can hold positions of strength longer when I’m doing it “with ease” than I can with my body tight and shaking.
And none of this leads me to write you with kind of conclusion or any kind of Knowing or Deeper Understanding. It’s not that kind of Look at This Lesson I Learned blog. Instead, it leads me to wondering.
I wonder how we might adjust to all this change. I wonder whether there’s a different way to exist in this Strange Communal Aloneness. I wonder if I can learn to approach more things with ease and without sitting in any sharp pain.
I just… wonder.
P.S. That’s a stock photo. I just thought it looked like she was at ease while looking into the unknown. I also realize those are probably her footprints, but I like to think they’re buttprints and she just scooched one little butt-hop at a time because walking in deep sand is really, really hard, and now she has sand in her pants. But she has sand in her pants with eeeease. Because, honestly, if you can have sand in your pants with ease? I feel like you’ve officially arrived at zen.
9 responses to “Adrienne the yoga teacher keeps telling me on the YouTube to move into positions “with ease.””
Where is Adrienne the yoga teacher? I could use a “with ease” reminder. So much clenching.
My husband likes Adrienne and can apparently sit (and do those other maneuvers) with ease. I hurt just looking at them. Heck, I can hardly lie down in bed at night with ease. But I can rest there all morning with ease.
I’m trying to sit with certain feelings “with ease” — including anxiety over our children’s futures, especially the one with undiagnosed TBI.
God bless Adrienne! What a blessing she is and has been through these days.
I have also been doing yoga during the pandemic. Doing yoga might be a stretch (hahaha), maybe its more like I turn on youtube and decide to do a whole 10 minutes when I feel like it. There are lots of times when laying in the warm bed under the comforter for 10 more minutes is way more appealing than doing yoga. But sometimes I actually do it, and I feel accomplished. I am also trying to unclench over here, maybe one loaf of sourdough at a time and 10 minutes of yoga at a time. Thanks for sharing!
I love yoga and am also not ready to engage with it. It feels to daunting and hard and too much of a commitment even with Adrienne who is always so generous and reassuring. However, a friend and I have decided to be gentle movement accountability partners. We check in via text each day to describe what kind of gentle movement we did for 10 min each day. Not exercise, just movement.
Sometimes my friend marches in place for 10 min while watching a show which cracks me up to think about (she is really tall, has 2 teens that I know are asking what is going on, and is currently rocking a boot with a broken toe). Sometimes movement is me saying it didn’t work out today but, I got to spend some time with my mom (distanced and masked) but it felt like a great way to honor my needs. No judgement and no pressure.
I feel I am only days away from meeting up with dear Adrienne who I know will make my body and mind feel more at ease.
Yoga has been SO helpful for me during these After Times! Most of all learning how to breathe—which I didn’t know I needed a tutorial for, but I did. And my yoga teacher is forever telling us to “unclench your jaw” or “soften your face” or “release your tongue from the roof of your mouth”, and I think “HOW DID SHE KNOW I NEEDED TO DO THOSE THINGS?” Bless the yoga instructors. If only the whole world would just take some yoga and learn how to breathe and unclench.
Waving in the dark back to you.
Oh my gosh YES You have spoken right to my heart this morning. I was raised with the “keep it positive and keep it moving, there are people who are much worse off than you” mantra. As a 37 year old woman I have just started realizing this is not the Suffering Olympics! My struggles and worries are valid and ok. Thank you for all of this. I’ve also been trying Yoga With Adrienne and the part that always gets me is when she says not to try to rush on to the next position, to sit in the moment and be gentle and be still. I have a hard time with that. Thank you Beth ❤️ waving over here in the dark!
So glad you found Adriene. She is saving my sanity. I love your analogy. It is like being a new parent. Your life is never going to be quite the same so you have to find a different way of living. Some people seem to find it easy (which makes you feel less than) but others find it very tough and wish they could have a chunk of their old lives back.
Those are TOTALLY butt prints, and you have reached mega zen if you can sit with sand in your pants -with ease. I find myself sitting all clenched repeatedly. Maybe I need to record her mantra to play on a loop.
Big hugs, waving from the dark