This post is in response to my blog-friend Lisa’s piece: The Surprise of Losing My Innocence.
Oh Lisa, times like this I wish we were down the road from each other instead of half a world away, because right now what we need is endless cups of tea and lots of talking it out…
Since we can’t do that, I want to say first of all how awesome it is that you wrote what you did. Often with writing/blogging it can be a game of hide and seek: how much are we prepared to share with the world? We’ve no idea really who’s tuning in to these rather public epistles.
Yet, I’m all for the open expression of vulnerability. Of honest reflection and offering up whatever we can about this human-state we share.
In this way we learn – as do our readers – that we’re none of us, alone. We are not cut off, nor the only person who’s ever felt the way we’re feeling.
Lisa, I guess that’s my way of saying that you wrote a beautiful thing, and thank you for publishing it.
Because if you like this can be considered a beginning: one in which the heaviness you’re feeling will evaporate like the last snow of winter, as warmer days return.
Or to put it another way – it won’t always be like this. Promise.
There is in what you’ve described, a conflation of the cultural, personal and especially the politics of being a woman. We live in this complex world, and even in countries such as Canada or Australia where women are treated as equals these days (for the most part), there’s still a lot of work to be done.
Much of that however, is inner work. Yet it’s work we’re generally not educated about. It involves the unraveling of the stories we have about our Self, and forming a relationship with the world where we feel both grounded and powerful, allowing for us to become our true Selves – utterly and completely.
The beginning of this work always looks like a disaster
When you think about it, it has to.
If everything looked and felt perfectly fine then there’d be no reason to question our lives, right?
So, a disaster it is then.
It could be enormous or relatively small; it doesn’t matter in the least. There’s no point judging the catalyst that brought you to this point of change.
Your disaster can engender a growing sense of panic and doom that fills your belly as your breath catches and the heaviness descends, making you feel perhaps… small and trapped and as though life has suddenly played a cruel trick on you.
It feels very sucky. And heavy. And difficult to move out of.
But move is exactly what we must do (and on that note – thank goodness for yoga!)
My own crows feet moment…
Was actually just as Lisa describes: glancing in the mirror induced a minor meltdown because the skin under my eyes was no longer smoother than smooth.
I was probably in my late 20’s at the time.
But if it’s not crows feet, then it can be an illness or physical injury that wakes us out of the slumber of youth.
I still haven’t forgotten the panic and deep-seated unease those (more than likely) almost unnoticeable lines, caused.
So what’s that all about, huh?
I suspect it was something like: the weight of change I wasn’t in control of.
Or: the realisation that my youth and my physical appearance were changing and would continue to change.
Or perhaps: my (at the time) rather fragile self-esteem being decimated via the mere shadow of the promise of aging.
Maybe all of the above, plus: the inevitability of all of this (life/death) and having absolutely no idea what to do about it!
What would become of me?
The bridge between Youthful Innocence and The Rest Of Life
One of my teachers likes to joke: What’s the leading cause of death world-wide?
*jazz hands* Being born!
Ahem. Okay, so a lot of this is kind of obvious when you break it down.
There’s the undeniable truth of life – that we aren’t immortal, forever young or limitless – this eventually settles into our awareness as more than just something that happens to other people (there’s a whole other piece I could write on how most of us reject death, even though its an essential part of the human condition).
However that truth is in direct conflict with every marketing message out there. “Banish fine lines” advises one under-eye cream, while other skin products are all about “anti-aging” and “looking younger”.
In other words, aging is rejected and considered undesirable even as we all witness the passage of time amongst family and friends.
For women especially, the general story we’re given is that young = attractive and old = unwanted. Which is why so many of us have trouble with milestone birthdays or telling anyone their age.
Speaking of… I am currently 41! YES! Which to my inner-always teenager, sounds very OLD. But right now I feel stronger, wiser, healthier (physically and emotionally) than ever and heck no, I feel anything but old! ;)
While these cultural mores and taboos swirl around our subconscious minds, there’s also this:
At some point, we realise there’s a seemingly vast stretch of time between our twenties (when we think we’ll be “young” forever) and “old age”.
No matter what you’re doing with your life, this can be terrifying.
Because there truly is no hand book.
Our education system turns us into (relatively) functional adults with skills to get a job and earn money, but nothing more.
For some, our twenties are about enjoying the f*$k out of our independence and exploring what it is we think we want to do. For others, it’s about having as much sex as possible, backpacking all over the world, or making money and buying a house. It doesn’t really matter though.
We’re young and vital. We drink all night, trash our bodies, eat crappy food and still bounce back. Until we don’t.
While mentally we feel as though we reach a certain age and stay that way… eventually our body betrays us in some way (wrinkles, illness or injury), providing proof that life is definitely not forever.
Which can feel like being slapped in the face with a kidskin glove: the challenge is on BUT there’s no way to fight it because there’s nothing to fight.
And this creates a sense of panic – perhaps it’s so deep-seated you don’t even notice it. For others, it can turn up like heaviness, depression, anger, confusion, etc….
For every bout of heaviness, there’s also a lightness
So… there’s that yawning gape of time (our life) that isn’t endless, yet is still relatively long-ish and indefinable.
We don’t want it to end although we know it will at some point, and yet we spend a lot of time wondering how to make the best of what we’ve got. Or… rather, we don’t. It takes a while to get good at Being Awesome at Living Life Well.
Like my pal Rachel wrote (also in response to Lisa!), these sensations and experiences are information. They’re meant to guide us to take action.
Heaviness is telling us to stop, or change direction.
Whereas lightness is giving us a big thumbs up, to say we’re doing what we’re meant to be doing.
Right now my life feels VERY light
Believe me, I’ve had plenty of hellacious times of heaviness.
A few years back I sat down for a heart to heart with myself and realised the only way for my life to be fulfilling was to do things that I love. Things that make my heart happy. I also wanted to make those things into my new career.
So I wrote a bunch of dot points around what I’d like to my life to be. It felt more like I was dreaming up awesome ideas rather than making a concrete plan.
I didn’t know how I was gonna get there either, but I knew what I wanted: work that allowed me to be of service and help people. Teaching yoga had to be a part of it.
I didn’t know how long it would take. But I planted the seeds and spent more and more time listening to my intuition and following its queues.
Now, here I am at the beginning of a new path. Life doesn’t look exactly like the dot points I wrote, but its pretty damn close.
I quit a job that wasn’t serving my best interests, and which was detrimental to my health.
I’m about to travel to a place I’ve wanted to visit for over twenty years.
And I’m putting the building blocks in place for a total career change in 2-4 years time.
It wasn’t an easy journey to this point, and I’m certainly not expecting everything to be 100% rosy from here on out.
BUT when you align yourself with goals that make your heart happy, life offers up encouragement.
So don’t stop when the heaviness hits. Not for long, anyway. Just take a beat to listen to what your heart has to say, then get on with it. :)