Open Heart, Open Body, Open Life

 In the last few years I had stopped expressing my deepest emotions, hopes and dreams. I even stopped journaling. My life was so entwined with my husband, that in some ways there was just no room for me. K. had very strong personal boundaries and views on what he wanted to share with other people, I think, to maintain some semblance of dignity.  He had lost so much of himself in the last few years, and had a hard time accepting that. I firmly believe that people have a right to share their own story, in the way they choose, so I kept much of our life private. In addition, Kim could, as they say, yak the hind legs off a donkey.

 I sought escape (and silence) in the form of audiobooks, listening while in my car on the way to and from work, and at bedtime. These were the only times I could have uninterrupted to live vicariously through lives and worlds of the characters. I know this is not a functional long term way to maintain emotional and psychological health, but it got me through some trying times.

In the past five months, two weeks, and 4 days I have been finding my voice in my new life. I started journaling again. I have been blogging.  I have talked to friends and family, started therapy, and I am about half way through a 13 week Grief Share program.

When I started to write again, I was surprised to find how it all flooded out of me. I have poured out my emotions, thoughts, and dreams. Everything that I had held back for years, my current progress and hopes for the future. It has helped me to feel again. Sometimes my writing takes me down paths I don’t expect and I discover something new about myself. Recently, my therapist gave me an assignment to write about the 5 stages of grief. I am not a fan of the 5 stages theory, but I decided for simplicity’s sake to stick to just that. Seven pages later with two of them being seriously off topic, I finished. I really went all in, excavating my worst fears about this whole situation (Will I always be so angry? Why does it seem that I just don’t care about a lot of things lately?). I later related to my sister that it was as if my inner literary Kraken had been released. In case you aren’t familiar, the Kraken is a mythical giant squid capable of ripping apart ships.

I have also been trying to exercise again. It is clear that just walking the dog twice a day isn’t enough to keep me fit. I have done some walking on the treadmill, swimming, yoga and weights.  Don’t get too excited, this is a very recent accomplishment and I have not done much of any of it.  One day when I was writing in my journal about what I wanted to do, and to be like, I wrote that I wanted to do yoga as part of my healing and that when I could do the camel pose (I hate the camel) and be happy doing it I would know that I had succeeded. For those of you who are not familiar with the camel I will describe it to you.  You start out upright, on your knees and then gently tip back your head and bend your back. Next you reach back and place your hands on your heels so that you look like a capital ‘D’. Let me just say again that I hate the camel. My camel never looks like a capital ‘D’ and I feel irrationally irritated every time I try to do it. My camel looks briefly like an incomplete triangle before I topple over backwards into the inflexible idiot’s pose.

I was looking for things to do this past weekend and saw that there was a class on yoga backbends at a nearby studio. I decided to challenge myself and go.  I rationalized that I could tell the teacher I was just starting out and she would probably have mercy on me.  Aside from the physical benefits of yoga backbends, there are emotional benefits as well.  All backbends are opening poses. People who are anxious, sad or stressed have a tendency to be hunched over, shoulders rounded forward, almost drooping. It is a natural reaction to stress.  I have spent so much time closed in on myself both literally and figuratively that I thought this would help in my quest for openness. 

Our teacher Samantha Dunman ( greeted me upon arrival, and I gave her my “just starting exercise” explanation. It was a very small class, only 4 other participants and myself. I was a little intimidated as everyone else had clearly been practicing yoga for some time.  I put my mat down and surreptitiously watched the woman next to me stretch and do a few poses. I avoided doing any pre-class stretching because I didn’t want to make my lack of flexibility obvious. Samantha had us all introduce ourselves and tell everyone why we wanted to take this class. When my turn came I started to cry, and said that I was a recent widow, and I came for the emotional benefits of backbends. I also described my particular dislike of the camel and my desire to be able to do it with happiness. Geez, all I have to do is start talking about the camel and my emotions start pouring out.

Samantha talked  a bit about the anatomy of the spine and the related muscles, the importance of flexibility, particularly in the hips. She led us through a warm up and then into a series of backbends.  Yes, I did the camel, and no I did not fall over this time, nor did I burst into tears. When we finished that particular exercise, I found I didn’t hate the camel quite so much. I’m still not on speaking terms with it, but it didn’t make me feel angry either. At this point I wouldn’t say that my yoga Kraken has been released, maybe just the small yoga squid, and it probably looks and sounds something like Squidward from Sponge Bob Square Pants.

One thought on “Open Heart, Open Body, Open Life

  1. Jill,

    Something I found myself thinking about after reading this post is how specific your desire became, once you had some time and space to reflect, and how directly led you are to your own healing. From not knowing, to yoga, to enjoying camel is a demonstration of the whole mind body connection, and the fact that you went so quickly from thought to action is also probably why in one class you already made progress. You’re obviously hot on the path of your healing.

    I’m so grateful.


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