Tag Archives: friendship

Becoming the Wind

10 Jun

On a sunny morning last summer I found myself lying on my bedroom floor, sobbing, unable to get up. I say “I found myself” because it was like an out-of-body experience. As though I stumbled upon this girl, a heaving pile of limbs, and I could do nothing to help her.

Thankfully, someone else was there to scoop me up off the floor, put me in the car, and take me to the doctor.

While I sat in a bare clinic room, cheeks sticky with tears, he made the difficult call to my mom, gingerly explaining to her what was happening. My parents were on a plane to Asheville the next morning.

And there were other knights in shining armor. A friend who called me from the endodontist’s chair after I sent him a text message asking for help; who got me out of the house for a walk in the woods; who sat with me at Urgent Care, dropped off my prescription, and took me for a slice of pizza. Another friend came to spend the night with me, armed with movies and the willingness to listen. One thing I know for sure: I am a lucky woman to be supported with such love.

The most difficult thing to explain is just how I reached such a low state. From the outside, things seemed to be looking up. I had just completed a master’s degree, moved into a new apartment, built a solid group of friends, and was dating a lovely guy. But something was off.

Trying situations had been amassing over the previous year: heartbreak, loss, unemployment, and that whole 26-and-directionless quarter-life crisis thing. In June I came to the painful (and expensive) realization that I didn’t want to do the very thing I’d just spent two years becoming qualified to do. In July my ex-fiancé’s new girlfriend gave birth to their daughter. By August, I’d been unemployed for months, couldn’t pay any of my bills, and had no desire to do anything productive.

That last part was the scariest. A total paralysis. Here was a girl who has essentially worked since she was 16, now utterly afraid to seek employment. I couldn’t even imagine myself interviewing for a job, let alone having one. What if I broke down crying in front of my boss? What if I couldn’t get up in the morning and had to call out? I felt pathetic. Suck it up, I kept telling myself, millions of people are much worse off than you. But for some reason, I just couldn’t. Or wouldn’t.

Looking back, I think I was overwhelmed by change. Nearly every single aspect of my life had changed in the course of a year, and it felt like life was happening to me. Worse yet, every time something good came along I clung to it with a death-grip that immediately strangled it out of existence.

We have all observed change in nature and called it beautiful: fall leaves like glowing embers, an emerging butterfly, grapes fermenting into wine. Of course, these changes mean that something has died, and without death this beauty wouldn’t exist. Yet when death reveals itself in our immediate lives, we resist, turn away, or dig our fingernails deep in a panicked attempt to hold on.

Depression is a strange friend, in many ways. Often brought on by separation or loss, it beats you down until you have no choice left but to give up or stand up (or let someone pick you up…). General sadness does not compel such transformation–it allows you to keep trucking along, thinking tomorrow might be better.

“Standing up” and moving beyond depression is not about stubornness nor determination. It’s about letting go and becoming the wind, as Rilke puts it in the poem below.

Through yoga, long chats, books and yes, a brief stint on medication, the tide shifted. Yoga, in particular, is teaching me how to embrace change. What was the worst time of my life turned out be the bearer of life’s greatest fruits: the “children” of whom Rilke writes. For me, these children were deeper friendships, a renewed passion for writing, and a sense of belonging in this little mountain town of mine. Right now, that is happiness.

When life changes drastically again, as it inevitably will, I’ll remind myself of all I’ve gained from loss. Hopefully, I’ll be able to do what Rilke suggests…

***

Want the change. Be inspired by the flame
where everything shines as it disappears.
The artist, when sketching, loves nothing so much
as the curve of the body as it turns away.

What locks itself in sameness has congealed.
Is it safer to be gray and numb?
What turns hard becomes rigid
and is easily shattered.

Pour yourself out like a fountain.
Flow into the knowledge that what you are seeking
finishes often at the start, and, with ending, begins.

Every happiness is the child of a separation
it did not think it could survive. And Daphne, becoming a laurel,
dares you to become the wind.

Rainer Maria Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus Part Two XII

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Let it Go, Let it Go, Let it Go

5 Dec

Recently, the Universe seems to be asking me to do the same thing over and over again: let go.

Let go of a relationship, let go of your idea of who you are, let go of a friend, let go of your expectations, let go of your failures, let go of the engagement ring, let go of unnecessary stuff that clutters up your house. Let it go, let it go, let it go.

Unfortunately, I am an expert at doing just the opposite. I hang on. I hang on until someone finally peels my fingers back, releasing my grip and forcing me to fall. Then I get up, dust myself off, and proceed to reattach myself as quickly as possible.

It wasn’t until I started taking yoga classes that I understood the power of letting go, and realized just how difficult it is for me to do.

During my first yin yoga class, the teacher instructed us to do a sleeping swan pose. The pose is designed to open your hips, but my body rebelled in a way I’ve never experienced. First, I got pins and needles in my foot and ankle. Then I completely lost feeling in both. As I sunk deeper into the pose, I could feel my hip joint freaking out. It tensed up, then I tried to relax it, only to have it tense up again. Back and forth, back and forth—it went on for the entire 5 minutes.

Yin yoga poses are supposed to be passive, allowing yogis to relax the muscles and become meditative throughout the stretch. How the hell was I supposed to be meditative while my hip joint was throwing a fit?

Then my instructor said: This pose is all about working out the letting go muscle. And it clicked. I immediately saw the connection between my inability to relax my muscles in the sleeping swan pose, and my inability to let go of my expectations for how my life should be.

Sleeping Swan Pose

From that point on, every time I do the swan pose (or the similar pigeon pose), I think about something in my life that I need to let go. I imagine that “thing” sitting in my hip joint, and I focus on letting it go. The third time I tried this, I started to cry. Yes, right there in class. That’s when I realized the discomfort of that pose is mental and emotional, not physical. In fact, the discomfort I feel in every yin yoga pose is mental and emotional. As soon as I mentally detach myself from the physical sensations, my muscles relax. My body becomes free.

Initially, I thought these connections I was making were just helping my yoga practice. But now I realize it also works in reverse.

Last week someone important to me walked out of my life. The fear of losing this person had been creeping up on me for about a month. The closer I felt to losing him, the tighter my grip became. I did what I’m good at: I hung on. I hung on for dear life. And that did absolutely nothing to stop me from losing him—if anything, it probably made things worse.

Now, as the pain of missing him arises throughout the day, I find myself thinking of sleeping swan pose. Work that letting go muscle, Lauren. Thanks to my yoga practice, I know I am capable of letting go. I know the benefits that can be reaped from letting go. If I can detach myself, I will be free. And I can do it right here, right now, regardless of what happened ten minutes ago (or what happens ten minutes from now). Letting go doesn’t mean I will stop loving this person, it simply means I will give up my investment in the outcome of our friendship.

My letting go muscle is still stiff and out of shape. But the more I work it out, the stronger it will become.

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