Self Care and Coffee.

I don’t often get time alone. I stopped in the cafe for coffee and a sandwich. I am a pseudo-single mama, stuck in marital separation limbo. Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” was playing, reminding me that long ago I was a kid. My daughter looks like me in the 80’s. Apparently neon and ruffled skirts are back.

I went into the cafe stressed and tired, slightly sick, deepening the horizontal line I’ve been etching into my forehead. One might think a mama out alone could order a sandwich and coffee and eat in peace, but I made my own internal noise.

There was an old woman at the table across from me, with perfectly round, fluffy white hair. She was wispy like a wishing dandelion, quietly sipping coffee from a chunky white mug. She had passed the worrying years, while I am in them, trying to keep a clean home and plan meals, worrying about money, avoiding Pinterest because it makes me feel less than, hoping my children are happy, feel loved, sleep enough, get time to play, dig in the dirt, run in the grass, eat enough vegetables, and know that I love them until the stars turn to fish, even though I feel like I’m screwing it up nearly every day. Just drink the damn coffee, mama, I told myself.

My children want their dad to live with us in our house again. They don’t understand that sometimes parents need a vacation from one another and need space.

The coffee was supposed to be relaxing. Self care. But it is not self care to sit quietly and mentally beat up one’s self. The dandelion lady was gone. A fresh-faced, blonde haired tween in skinny jeans and Ugg boots took her place, coffee in one hand while the other picked an enormous muffin apart into manageable chunks. She licked her fingers between bites and said “like” every ten seconds. She was happy and talked with sticky muffin hands. I am somewhere between the muffin girl and the dandelion lady. My coffee got cold.

I Did Cold Yoga. Slow Yoga.

I’ve been feeling lost since my beloved bikram studio closed. I cannot use hot yoga towels for anything other than hot yoga, damn it! And I have two rolled up at home eyeing me, clean, ready to go, and silently shouting, “Use me!”

Alas. No more bikram for this mama. For now. I had a choice. I knew I could easily weep, gnash my teeth, and rend my shorty shorts, but I decided instead to try a yoga studio quite close to my house. But it was regular yoga. Flowing yoga. Probably with silk eye pillows and sun salutations. Likely with music and poses that seemed more like a soft dance than a workout. I wanted to sweat. I wanted to work. I wanted to push and growl at myself in the mirror and flex. Yet the class descriptions online listed “Yoga for Athletes”, so I figured I’d give it a go and bought a Groupon for an unlimited week.

Mistake number one: I must have mixed up the calendar. I showed up expecting to find Yoga for Athletes and found myself right on time for Restorative Yoga instead. The teacher was gracious. The space was cold and dark. Several students were already on mats, each with at least two Mexican blankets, foam blocks, round bolsters, and a long cotton strap. One student was wearing a cardigan. Oh Toto, we’re not in bikram anymore. We stayed in each pose, completely supported by the blocks and bolsters, for several minutes. No need for the muscles to do anything. Relax, muscles.

Mistake number two: I wore bikram clothing to cold yoga in December. When I should have been breathing and otherwise restoring myself, I spent my time envious of the girl next to me who knew enough to wear sweatpants, wiggling my cold toes, and making sure the blankets were tightly tucked around me.

Inwardly I dubbed the class “Sleeping in Yoga Poses”. The studio was clean and well appointed. The teacher and students were welcoming and kind. But I have been using yoga to figure out my life, or to escape it. I have been searching for answers. I need yoga to be a strong presence at a time in my life when I don’t feel strong. I need it to move through me and make me change. This particular style wasn’t for me.

My husband rents a little house nearby so he can still see the kids. They are happy and loved, but I know they feel the effects of the separation. He travels for work, and they miss him so. As much as I need restoration, I think I must do it the hard way.

 

 

 

Day 16. Yoga Girl and the Mirror.

A very young, very pretty, very good at bikram girl put her mat down so close to mine today. Sigh. There were plenty of open spaces available. Why must she put herself in my back pocket?!

I know I’m only supposed to look at myself in the mirror. We are all on our own unique paths. But damn, my self esteem got the better of me today, with this perfect girl so close to my wobbly reflection. She is lean. She is flexible. Her thighs are golden and smooth. She wears the short shorts. She is unwrinkled. Untroubled.

I am a back row beginner. Advanced students usually take the front row, so they can be good examples for the rest of us. I don’t know if I will ever feel confident enough to put my mat down in the front row, directly in front of that mirror. I like hiding, as much as one can possibly hide in front of a floor to ceiling mirror that spans the length of the entire room.

It’s a funny thing, that mirror. It doesn’t lie. I am almost 35. I’ve had two kids. I can see that fact in my hips. I never had hips before, and suddenly, BAM. There they are. I wear capri pants. No, you can’t hide from the mirror. You must confront yourself, and sometimes that mental work is harder than 90 minutes of sweat and strength.

Day 3. The Girl Who Cried At Yoga.

84asanas

I’m not going. I’m too sore. I should drink water so I’m hydrated for class. But that isn’t necessary, because I’m not going.

Where is my towel? I should stay home and rest. Where is my pink sports bra? I’m dressed, so I might as well go. It’s going to hurt. I’m standing in the hallway examining a poster of the 84 classic asanas to avoid going into the hot room. Maybe I could sneak out now and go home.

The room is packed. The sun is on the floor, but it’s not as hot in here today. I wonder if the furnace is working correctly?

The routine is more familiar today. I can anticipate. I can synchronize my movements with the dialogue. Almost. Noticeably better, though. I can focus on my breath a little. I can correct my reflection. Right hip forward. Left shoulder forward. Chest up. Sometimes I am so wobbly, but today I smile and laugh at myself. I try again.

Today I use my breath to push further. I want to phone it in, but I can’t do that to my reflection. There is a difference between laziness and knowing your limits. I focus on form and then I push. I can hear the sweat dripping and hitting my towel. I like it. It feels like I’m working.

Today I didn’t bring a washcloth to wipe my face and hands. I think it keeps me cooler to just let it be. I’m all for avoiding excess movement. But I’m actually not dying. This is a relief. It’s hard, but I feel strong.

I smiled several times today. (Except during that damn locust pose—my elbows felt like they were being twisted in a medieval torture device.) During the final few postures, I felt like I could keep going. What is happening to me?

During the final savasana, the instructor talked about the absolute importance of taking the time for yourself. Yes. I was there for me. I was making myself stronger. As she kept talking, my heart starting beating hard and my eyes filled with embarrassing hot tears. I realized I was, at last, finally doing something for myself after four intense years of ever constant motherhood, sleep deprivation, depression, and feeling alone in my marriage. It will make me a better mother if I take care of myself. Rushing to the grocery store alone doesn’t count as “me time”. It’s been a long time.

So on day three, I cried. I cried in yoga. My usually Type-A, control freak self decided to let those tears fall. They rolled down the sides of my face and into my ears and were eventually absorbed by my special yoga towel. I didn’t dare move my arms to wipe them away. This is a time of change. It hurts and feels amazing. (Even if I’m now the Girl Who Cried At Yoga.)

I left that hot room feeling so unbelievably good! I stood up a little taller as I walked to the changing room. I couldn’t believe I almost stayed home and missed such a great day! I’m definitely coming back.