Without knowing it, I was paving a path for my life years ago. I was laying the groundwork for what would turn out to be one of the most meaningful moments in my life.
The appointment was mid-day and the sun was shining bright as I drove to the location where I was going to offer yoga to people with disabilities. I had my speech ready and I repeated it over and over as I drove. I hushed the thoughts that raced through my mind that were laced with doubt. The nervousness that I had in my body was quieted as I walked into the board room. It was quieted by my own courage. Without an intention of receiving anything in return I knew that I was there to give from my heart. Little did I know that I was setting those stones of courage into place along my path that would eventually circle back right to me.
Seven years later, the path of courage has found its way back.
Halfway through the evening class at the brain injury facility, I asked if anyone wanted to stand for a pose. In a quiet voice behind me I heard him say yes. I walked slowly over to him and asked if he was sure. He nodded his head and sat up straighter in his chair. I offered him my hands and cued him where to put his feet. With all of my strength, and all of his courage, he stood. I asked him to look at my face. With focus and effort he lifted his head and our eyes met. The tears instantly pierced my own eyes as I looked directly into the face of courage.
Slowly I took his arms out to the side and he stood in a magnificent modified star pose. His first standing yoga pose. Beaming with happiness we stood together and the others cheered. I whispered in his ear that I was so proud of him. I thanked him.
Had I not had the courage years ago, I would not have been there to see that moment where he stood in star pose. Life is a circle. The path has come back.
For me, being a mother spans across countless levels of love and endurance.
In the beginning, the love was new and full of protection and sometimes paranoia. The countless nights of checking, and checking again, that they were breathing and warm enough. I found myself falling deeper in love with this beautiful tiny person with each new day. During this time, the endurance of providing physical care seemed endless–snotty noses, diapers, bouts of stomach flu, picking up toys, sanitizing everything over and over, lifting, lugging, buckling, feeding, and ultimately chasing.
In the middle stages of my mothering, I spent the years discovering who I was while attempting to allow them to do the same. I was immersed in myself and the love and endurance I focused on was different. I was striving to be consistent and open. I wanted my children to see my love as an attempt to be lead by my example. I wanted them to see my endurance as demonstrated by sticking through anything. I hoped to be an example of tenacity and strength. I loved ferociously and it bled out through my battles and discovery of my own voice.
Today there is a softness to how I mother my kids. My love remains vast and still runs deep to my core. No longer is the endurance of years past motivating me. Instead, there is a relaxed quality about not only me, but how I love them. I am more trusting. I love knowing that their path is theirs and theirs alone. I get to stand alongside pointing out the beauty that is along their path, helping them to notice the things that I missed on my own path. I still get to be there, to help them up when they fall and wipe the dirt off the boo-boos they get through learning those hard lessons. I get to be the soft place to settle into when they are ready to share.
I look forward to the next phase of mothering as it will be whatever it needs to be then. I know for sure that throughout my experience of being a mom, it is the love and the endurance that has guided me. It is the willingness to give it all, to love unconditionally, and to be the constant no matter what.
I spend 45 minutes a couple of times a week with a group of people who have endured a tragedy of some sorts and in an instant, their lives were altered. These special souls live in a facility for people with traumatic brain injuries and I am the luckiest gal in town to be able to share Yoga with them.
I often block the thought from my mind. Yet, I knew the day would come. The day when one of these special people would be set free.
That day came.
She never once complained about her life, or her body that was limited. In fact she told me, at least once, every single time I saw her that “everyday is a beautiful day”. It was her mantra. With a sense of certainty, she spoke her affirmations with pride. She believed what she spoke and it was with her determined voice that others believed her too. She never had a bad thing to say about anyone. Instead, she encouraged those around her by cheering them on and reminding them of their own courage. For me, having this one special lady join my group of men for Yoga gave me a sense of sisterhood. We often joked that our feminine strength balanced out the male energy in the room. She took her Yoga seriously and often would be found doing poses while the others were settling in or were off-task. She loved to try new poses and sometimes she would tell me just how to do the pose. I occasionally would ask her if she wanted to teach that evening. Shyly, she would say “oh no, you are the teacher”.
Little did she know.
What this woman taught me is simple. Believe without any doubt, that this day is a beautiful day. This day. This moment. She never looked back with sadness or grief, nor did she ever look ahead. She lived now. And she lived now with the genuine feeling–and the knowing–that “everyday is a beautiful day”.
Fly free sweet one….and know that you really always were the teacher.
Sometimes it is so easy to get caught up in the mentality of more. Whether it is more time, more money, more love, or more whatever. It happens. The fear of not having enough often drives our desire for more.
This morning as I walked alone, I contemplated the idea of recognizing the little things in my life. Not necessarily the abundance in my life, but rather the little things. Those little things that make the bigger things even better. My top five for the week:
- The way the cinnamon tastes in my coffee
- That five extra minutes in the morning
- Time in the car with Evan
- Watching the crazy curly hair dog at the dog park
Easy. Little things equate to big things when they are noticed. In doing this, I realized that there really is no need for more of anything. I have it all.
Teaching Yoga at the facility where people with Traumatic Brain Injuries live is difficult to capture in words. Each time I go, I am offered something beyond anything that I may have been trained for, and certainly I receive more teachings that could ever be offered in a text-book or seminar.
These teachings come from the heart. These teachings are pure and simplistic in nature. These teachings are why I go. They open my heart space to reveal something so primal and so authentic. It is raw. It is my soul finding comfort.
This past week as we closed the practice, a young man who I am deeply endeared to offered to speak the closing word ‘Namaste’. As his hands were pressed together he looked into my eyes and said, “You’re good, I’m good…Namaste”.
Nothing else needed.
Those words guided my week, guided my practice and guided my teaching. No fancy explanations to anything, no verbiage that is spoken in an often unintelligible language. Just the truth.
You’re good. I’m good.
I have started and deleted post after post this week. The words have been stuck somewhere between my heart and my hands and no matter what I have tried, I just could not articulate what I was feeling. Some say everything happens for a reason, so maybe the heart-wrenching post I attempted to write all week is instead replaced with a heart-filled post.
On Tuesday, the girl and I attended her high school ‘Senior Breakfast’. This is a time for family and friends to come together and share the accomplishments of the K-12 educational experience. An accumulation of memories, successes, accomplishments, and of course, friendships. Keeping in mind for someone with autism the examples that fall within those categories are usually nothing like those of the typical high school senior, but regardless it was intended to be a morning of celebration for all.
And for many it was. For me, I was again a stranger in a land that was foreign. I was lost in the sea of smiling families and the chatter of young adults. My eyes stung with tears and my ears hurt with the swirling sounds of conversations. Again I was the observer and my girl sat close to me attempting her very best to be part of this special day.
Years she has spent sitting in classrooms, lunchrooms, art class, and even recess playgrounds with these same students and not one single word was spoken to her during this breakfast. It was as if she was invisible. There are 350 graduates in this class and not one person said hello to my girl. Not one.
I was grateful that she wanted to leave early. As I watched her sit uncomfortably silent, I was drowning in my emotions and wanted out. I drove home cherishing the capping ceremony card that she had written down the words, “I love her a lot”. We never made it through the capping ceremony–imagine getting up in front of hundreds of people, having someone read the words, hugging your mom and having a photo taken. No way. She was out.
Another day and another breakfast.
Today in a completely different celebration people spoke to her and she was honored for her efforts. The elementary school where she spent the semester working as a volunteer in the library held their appreciation breakfast this morning. Today there were no tears fought back. The years of fighting and advocating, and sometimes pleading, for purposeful educational experiences all came together for this special day. Today was the day where I saw that she no longer has to try to fit in, instead she truly belongs and she is connected. She is part of something that supports who she is. At today’s breakfast I watched her smile, interact, and have confidence.
In the weeks to come there will not be any words spoken about scholarships or GPA or letters of acceptance. Instead, there will be a heart-felt success of her own courage and her own accomplishments. It is a shame that some of those 350 graduates can’t see what she has done. There are no big awards for the ‘best librarian aide’ or for the student that courageously tried.
The post that needed to be written was this one. Not one of sadness and pain, but instead one of hope, courage and compassion. Most important, it is a post about the value of belonging.
What seems like a lifetime ago, in a small board room when my girl was in the first grade, I was handed the poem ‘Welcome to Holland‘. Over the years, I would often come back to that poem as I came across moments in my girl’s life where I felt out of place in situations. Those moments where I was able to stand back and watch the people experiencing Italy and know in my heart that Holland is where we belong. During those times I would find myself feeling sadness because Italy seems so exciting and so full of things that just do not exist in the same way here in Holland.
We have gotten pretty used to the beauty that comes by living here in the world of disability. Those moments of feeling out of place have become rare as we have settled in.
And then without warning, the tears stung my eyes as I was transformed back into that space of uncertainty. Stuck into a land of unknown territory, I watched through what appeared like a window into the world of Italy again. I was surrounded by other parents eagerly awaiting the information about the upcoming senior year activities and graduation. The language that was spoken was unknown to me–I heard words like college scholarships, acceptance letters, and honor cords. The culture I observed through this perceived window was also unknown to me–hugging, laughter, anticipation, and parents with hope for the future.
The sounds and the words being spoken were swirling around me as I sought to take in all of this unknown land. My girl next to me was my only familiar comfort. As I looked over at her, I saw that in her own way, she too was observing this strange land. I wondered to myself what she must be thinking, and then I was comforted by remembering that she is the tour guide on this trip through Holland. I remembered she has the ability to see and experience parts Italy and not feel any sadness because she knows that Holland is where she belongs and it is extraordinary in its own beauty.
My heart was heavy and I was tired of fighting back the tears as I drove home. Sitting next to me in the car, my girl clutched her cap and gown with nervousness and excitement. As I glanced over at her, I remembered that any sadness I have is my own, and that she is good. She is content. She is completely okay being in Holland. I came back to the present moment and I became grateful for that moment years ago when the door was opened for me, and ultimately her. Had I kept the death grip on Italy, I for sure would have never grown to love Holland.