I can’t believe it’s August already. Time really flies.
When I look back on the past year, I see so much growth. And a lot of strength.
Walking home alone tonight to my one-bedroom apartment– a place I’ve only just begun to feel “at home” in– I began to think about the changes that happened this year. I moved back to LA, in rapid succession but no particular order I lost: the man I considered my life partner, my job, my home, not one but two sanghas, and my belief system. Big changes, all around.
When I think about all these changes, I think not only of how they affected me, but also how I appeared to be affected. We all know that things are not what they appear, especially when it comes to people and their emotions.
In this world of photo editing and filtering, social media and heavily contoured makeup, it’s hard to see people for what they really are. It’s hard to see, period.
In the midst of all the chaos, I began dating again. Brilliant timing, I know. As you can imagine, this person got a pretty distorted impression of me. I remember him reflecting it back to me one night; he commented that he never thought he’d be interested in a girl who was content to be a “housewife.” Furthermore, though he didn’t use the word outright, I could tell that his overall idea of me was that I was weak. Someone needy. Someone unable to stand up to the world on her own.
I was shocked receive this reflection of Who I Was. I mean, had he met me at all? No one, in the history of my life, has ever said that about me. But strangely, even though I didn’t agree with this character, I found myself slipping into the part anyway. Maybe, I eventually thought, I was as weak as he implied.
Believing this narrative about myself was by far the worst thing that happened this year. I think at the time I thought it would bring me some comfort, to just settle into this pre-scripted role for myself: a sort of needy ingenue. But it wasn’t me at all, and it only pulled me down farther into instability and pain.
There is a distinction between being vulnerable and being weak.
This is what I have realized. I think it takes an incredible amount of strength to be vulnerable. Opening yourself up and not covering your feelings and letting yourself surrender and say “Yes, this is hard. Thank you for your support,” and being completely honest about who you are and where you’re at takes some serious guts. It is scary. It means honoring who you are, as a human being, limitations and all. Softness is the most underrated quality, and I think it’s because it scares us. Allowing ourselves to soften into the pain that life brings us means opening ourselves up for injury. Or so we think.
In hatha yoga classes, we often have students hold asanas for relatively long periods of time. This isn’t because we’re trying to torture them. It’s because, after a minute or so, the body begins to soften. It fatigues and starts to find ways to conserve energy, to relax into the pose. The true expression of the asana doesn’t begin to take shape until the body releases a little, stops fighting and allows itself to become pliable. We fight and tense up because we are afraid. Literally, our muscles contract because they don’t trust the body’s ability to hold itself together. Relaxing takes trust. Letting go builds strength and actually lessens the likelihood of injury.
We are so much stronger than we believe. We can hold ourselves together under the most incredible of circumstances.
The fact of the matter is, however unpleasant things are right now, they will change. Maybe not as quickly as we want them to, maybe not in the direction we want them to change. But they will keep moving, nonetheless. I still cry often (because I’m still hurting) but it goes quicker now and it honestly feels so much better to just allow these things to move through me, rather than fight them off. They have begun to feel like what S.N. Goenka calls “Storms” of emotion. They roll in, make some rain, and then leave.
I’ve found that I can’t Tarzan my way through things, hoping to push past (or shut out) all the “bad,” mundane stuff (like emotions) and force my way into some “higher” blissful state. It doesn’t work because I’m finding that the mundane stuff has little bits of blissful sprinkled in it. I can’t force these things to exist any other way than they exist. They are messy and complicated and uncontainable. It’s really a lot like glitter. It gets everywhere.
Allowing the world to exist as it does– with all its creation and destruction, all of its comfort and discomfort– means becoming strong and relaxing into uncertainty.
Being flexible and allowing myself to feel all the things that come with this human life is the real strength training. It takes a strong person to walk the edge of staying together and falling apart, knowing that either way, things will be changed but ok. Acceptance of the mess, softness with change, and a vulnerable approach to the uncertainty are all a part of strength. They are not weak. They are brave and a necessary part of experiencing this fragile and fleeting life.
I may have let go of some important people this year, but I gained many others. You have allowed vulnerability without judgement, and provided support when I needed it. Thank you.
May you be strong and open and vulnerable. May you weather the storms, knowing they will pass and knowing you will be changed when they are over. May you come to love both the light and the darkness, and all the grey that exists in between.