What’s the next chapter?
My children, Twelve and Nine, are midway through eighth and fourth grades. My third child, the studio, has just crossed the three-month mark. In human development, the fontanel has closed and the infant can now hold its own head up, more or less. When Twelve and Nine reached those milestones, I exhaled a bit and loosed my grip, a little.
The advent of motherhood—however it presents—changes a woman more than any other event in her life. In my experience, when Twelve was born, I was derailed: I was an entirely different person after he was born not only than I was before but than I had ever imagined wanting to be. I left my career path, I gave up my earning power, I changed friends, social groups, daily habits and lots and lots and lots of diapers. I managed my health poorly and left off the care and feeding of more than one important adult relationship. For the first years of his life, none of that mattered.
A dozen years later I sit with my friend Susan, the photographer who took this smiley picture of me,and tell her a little of my story as our tea grows cold. We have a lot to talk about, Susan and I, finding ourselves in a new, undeveloped moment together. But this isn’t a playgroup about our children, like I joined when Twelve was three months old—this is an entrepreneurial peer mentorship, a time set aside when she and I can figure out how to expand our businesses and somehow maintain some balance with family, health, life. Like me, moves across several states and babies shifted Susan away from her first career. As a creative today, she is far from her start in finance.
Susan didn’t know I had been an English professor and then, after babies, had reinvented myself as a freelance editor. “How, then, did you get to yoga?” It was a flying leap. One day, someone plants a tiny, improbable seed. In this case, it was my yoga teacher, the incomparable Linda, who flipped by me in the hall and quipped, “you really ought to think about teaching.” She meant yoga. I was flabbergasted.
The yoga I learned from Linda was Iyengar yoga, renowned for its attention to alignment, for a quiet, mindful practice, moving from pose to pose with pauses between to set up and approach each next pose with care. The holds are long and sometimes you repeat the same pose over and over such that in ninety minutes, you may realize no more than six or eight full Asana.
A move six states away and a year and a half later, I actually taught my first yoga class. The yoga I taught was a blend, Linda’s influence still paramount to keeping my students safe but infused with the energy of the studio to which I now belonged. Alongside editing, teaching yoga was something I could do part-time while my children were in school or home with Da. And while my personal yoga journey continued, with additional trainings and certifications and more teaching, I still rolled it up with my mat, compartmentalized it, and kept it around the edges of family life.
At our coffee shop table, I drew a picture for Susan. It looked a little like a funnel attached to a narrow rubber tube. I suggested to her that our lives started wide with possibility, like the top of that funnel, and as we made choices about education and jobs and where we lived and whom we married, the funnel narrowed in what was a mostly comfortable way. Then children arrived. That’s where the funnel feeds into the tube—a narrow, twisting path without much room to diverge left or right. Because of the twists and turns—the long sleepless nights and the days that are closed down when someone is sick and cannot be dropped at school—it’s very hard to look up and see any farther ahead than the next trip to the grocery store because, goddamnit, the fridge is empty, again.
One day, another shift, and I realized that Twelve and Nine were companions rather than physical drains. Their care and nurturing are still paramount, but it is physically less exhausting and mentally no longer all-encompassing. And then I could look up and out and beyond and begin to imagine a future, one that included something that might look like a professional path. That path, too, has been full of explorations, wrong turns, and curves, but it has landed me here at last, studio owner. It’s pretty cool.
My drawing for Susan reflected where I am now—where she is, too—at the end of the long snaky tube and at the opening to something new, something explosive. It’s still sort of funnel shaped, but this one expands wider and wider, a vortex of possibility that spins and dips and opens and opens and opens. That explains the wind in my hair, the sense that I need to cling to the middle as I spin, and the never-ending dive in my stomach as the pace accelerates. I orbit in a widening arc around this beautiful world, my peeps still very much at the center. It’s fascinating and thrilling and terrifying.
Working through my visualizations for this year, I was surprised to discover that I feel like I need more yoga in my life. On my mat about sixteen hours a week, I thought that really ought to be enough; apparently my journey requires more. So I began attending one of the classes taught at my studio, Vibrant Vinyasa. My teacher is Gayle—she starts us slow, breath-by-breath, warming the body, setting up a flow of interlinked poses, every pose met with a counter-pose. Vinyasa comes from the Sanskrit, Nyasa, to place, Vi, in a special way. As we move, placing hands and feet, bending knees and opening our hearts, Gayle reminds us: “If you lose your breath, you lose your yoga.” Sometimes, my breath is off, inhaling when I should exhale. But I keep breathing and it is my breath that connects me to my mat, even when I’m not on it—driving, waiting for the school bus, steam-cleaning the studio floor, writing this piece.
The next chapter? It’s this one, the chapter where I no longer compartmentalize or wear many hats, but where one activity flows right into the next, pose/counter-pose, breath-by-breath. I place, in a special way, and breathe into the next place. This chapter is my life flowing into the heart of middle age, a time Patricia Cohen writes is full of “extravagant possibilities.” It is vigorous, it’s vibrant, it’s life lived as Vinyasa.
A new January moon rises tomorrow (1/23) along with the Chinese celebration of the Year of the Dragon. The Dragon brings us a lively year ahead, but since Snakes are compatible with Dragons, I’m ready. As always, thank you for being a part of my journey and for allowing me in to be a part of yours, Rxo