So it was no surprise when my smart and lovely friend Liz invited me to Girl Brunch with twelve of her most awesome girlfriends and their babies. Oh. And mimosas. Babies and mimosas are obvious draws, but the idea of making small talk with a group of Married Women with Children is my social headstand. It's a pose I'd rather not attempt yet, certainly not in public, because if I did I know I would look foolish and I would also likely crush a vertebrae or two. I'm thirty. I'm single and straight and childless. I know nothing of cloth vs disposable, and I haven't been preschool shopping recently. On a good day, I love this about myself. On a bad day and some mediocre days, I compose snarky internal soliloquies in answer to the question I either hear or perceive on the regular: Why are you still single???" On awful days, I sad, sad, sing-song it to myself: Why oh why am I still single? What oh what's the matter with me? So the smirking Universe opened it's giant closed fist and handed me this opportunity to feel really freaked out and unsteady.
I smirked back and said Thank You and Yes, because that's what I'm here for. I spent the hours leading up to brunch with my favorite meditation: baking. I wore a soft sweater so that I could snuggle babies. I arrived, chit-chatted sometimes, assumed benevolence and opened myself up to the conversations about pack-n-plays and how long it's appropriate to breastfeed. I didn't feel bitter at all! I mean that sincerely! Not once! I felt my voice and face soften, my shoulder blades slide down my back to open my heart. I left when I felt ready, not when I felt ready to cry.
And here's the best part: when I walked out the door I was still me with my life, which is generally pretty stinking great. I'd missed a text from my soul sister Keri that said, When I woke up today, everything felt different. Another miracle! The miracle of some mending, a morning of peace during a stressful, messy breakup. Clearly, this needed to be celebrated. And like I said, I started drinking early. The two mimosas I had under my belt before 2pm assured me that a gathering was in order. So I called Courtney too, and we packed all of our miracles into my living room and drank coffee and ate donut holes and overwhelmed ourselves with talk of all these blessings.
Courtney's miracle left her radiant with joy, tearful with it! Her surgeon told her during her chemo check-in this week that she's CANCER FREE! Cancer free. A line in the sand. There was cancer, and then there was no cancer. And something in her relaxed around that and opened up. The muscle she's been bending and stretching--here's hope, here's fear, here's strength, here's fatigue--found its balance, it's still point. She breathed into it. She's bald, she's one-boobed for the moment, she's been through five rounds of chemo with one more to go, she's scheduled for five weeks of radiation, reconstructive surgery and tattoos. And she's completely sincere when she says, I am so grateful for my cancer. I don't know if I was ever truly alive before.
After all that, I was pretty sure my evening yoga practice would be nothing but good juju and smooth sailing. I ate a salad first, to make up for the donut holes. I couldn't stop smiling! But apparently good juju does not take the place of basic strength, balance and practice. For the first half of class, I was convinced that the amazingly strong and bendy instructor Dean had made it his personal goal to suggest poses I had never heard of before. I was clumsy and shaky and frustrated. And I know what you're probably thinking right now, but I disagree. Those mimosas were mostly orange juice, anyway.
Thank heaven for pigeon pose half way through class. Something I'd hear of, something I'd done, something I felt like I was pretty okay at. That is, until I plopped down into it and Mr. Super Strong and Bendy singled me out, presumably sensing my one moment of confidence, to adjust me. My first thought was, Seriously? I can't even do pigeon right? But then he pressed down with the weight of his hand and his body, gradual and heavy on my left thigh and my right lower back, and my hips rocked open in a new way, uncomfortable at first and then wonderful! My thoughts dropped away and I could hear that I was breathing down into my pelvis, my sternum touching my mat now with each inhale. I'd like to say the poses came easier after that, but they didn't. I still fumbled and faltered and stared sort of creepily at my neighbors to understand what my body was supposed to be doing. But I was easier on myself after that, and instead of feeling graceless I felt grateful. How cool to try something new! How exciting that there's so much to learn! How magnificent to work a new muscle and lighten up.
It's all the same fear, I think. The fear of opening--to a new pose or going deeper into an old one, to failure, to judgement, to imperfection, to heartache, to loss, to cancer even. How many times will I learn this? All you have to do is keep breathing. Accept the weight, bend with it and open up.