Looking through my google docs this morning, I came across this piece.
On this cold, November morning, it was nice to be reminded of that early summer day, nice to remember how good it felt to push myself out of my comfort zone, nice to remember, again, that I am brave. Even the act of writing these stories down and sharing them publicly takes a bit of courage, but every time I do, I get a little bit stronger.
These small acts of personal bravery may seem insignificant to some, but I don’t care. They mean something to me. And if something I write encourages another to step out of her bubble of comfort-even the smallest bit- and live a little more fully, then I think it was worth the risk to put my words out there.
June 2014 Stratton, VT
I just spend the weekend with three glorious women. We traveled to a farmhouse in the Vermont woods and talked and ate and laughed. During the day we journeyed over the mountain and were brave enough to attend the Stratton Wanderlust festival. I say brave because it isn’t really my scene; the crowds are large, the music’s loud and the bodies young and beautiful. It’s a bit much for this almost fifty mom of seven, but I am lured by all the great teachers gathered in my little corner of the world.
My friends and I would all go to our individual class choices and then meet at the end of the day for a debriefing with a glass of wine, relaxing and enjoying every second of our time together.
This was my second year at the festival and I decided to try something different: Paddleboard yoga; it’s basically yoga on a fat surfboard. It just looked so cool! I paid my extra 50 bucks (on top of the festival fee) for the class and tried to get a friend to join me. The only other taker was my much younger friend- fit and beautiful and cool. I knew I’d probably be the oldest, biggest person on the pond, but I was going for it, dammit.
A few months ago, I ran across this passage in a book I was reading by Elizabeth Berg:
“I’ve seen that when you’re pulled away from your normal routine, it’s as though air and sunlight come into your brain and do a little housekeeping. A lifting up of what’s been practically rusted into place, to reveal something else, a thing that makes you understand the origin of the phrase new and exciting, a phrase usually offered with irony, in order to hide the longing.”
Well, I was feeling rusted and definitely longing. The monotony of my day-to-day was wearing me down. It was time to shake things up a bit. So, within a few clicks, I was on my way to new and exciting.
But, as the day of the festival approached, my confidence was waning. What was I thinking? I’ve never even SEEN a paddleboard, let alone done yoga on one! When I googled it, every picture and video featured incredibly fit 20-somethings doing seemingly impossible moves on a floating surface. Shit. Luckily, I had paid that extra money for the class. I couldn’t justify backing out now.
The morning of the class arrives and it is unseasonably chilly for the first day of summer. The sun is dancing behind clouds as the wind gusts. My young friend is all ready to go in her cutting edge, quick-dry pants and sleek tank top. I am in my mom-over-forty bathing suit with built-in tummy control and I’ve-had-lots-of-kids built-in skirt. The butterflies start in my stomach. Now, I am not an anxious kinda gal and I don’t get intimidated very easily, but I am nervous. I have to stop and analyze this unfamiliar feeling…Wow, what was this about? Body image? Aging? Insecurity? Or maybe just the old standby: fear. Doing this new thing with new people scares me. I don’t want to admit it to myself, but it is true. Eleanor Roosevelt’s classic quote, “do one thing everyday that scares you” comes into my head as we climb onto the shuttle bus that will bring us to the lake. Ok, Eleanor, here we go.
The ride is bumpy and not quite long enough to soothe my nerves. The sun glistens off the (very!) choppy water as we emerge from the bus and gather on the small beach. Our perky, photo-shoot ready instructor was waiting for us, paddle in hand.
As all the participants gather together to listen to the preliminary instructions, I peek nonchalantly around the circle at the rest of the group. Apparently, I am the only participant expecting to fall off the paddleboard, because everyone else is standing about fully clothed. I am shivering in the wind in my granny suit.
And then, like there’s nothing to it, we’re told to hop on our boards.
I sent some more oxygen to the winged creatures in my stomach and approached the water.
I thank the fit, beautiful assistant (in a wet suit!) as she pushed my board toward me and hands me my paddle. I crawl on and float on my hands and knees. Now this I can do!
Then Miss Perky yells from the water, ”Now come up to your knees and start paddling. If you’re feeling really stable, come on up to standing.”
The board wobbles as I make even the slightest shift, but it is actually a lot more stable than I thought it would be. When I manage to get on my knees and start paddling, I look up to see everyone standing but me. My ego will not this happen. Before I think too much, I’m on my feet and paddling. I’m digging that paddle into the water and I am cruising. The sun is on my back and my granny skirt is flitting about my legs and it feels like I am flying. I am having FUN.
We journey around the perimeter of the pond and I am strong and beautiful and free. Suddenly, Perky’s voice breaks through my reverie: “Now that we’re warm, lets anchor and start our yoga.”
What? Yoga? Oh yeah, I had forgotten about that. Couldn’t we just paddle? I got the hang of this!
We come closer to shore and tether all of our boards together. The wind whips and water splashes and the boards bump together. Yoga? Really? Who the hell thought this up anyway?
Perky wastes no time and before I know it, I’m in down dog on a paddleboard. I’m flowing through the yoga poses as my board rocks and my body reacts to each unexpected movement. I’m doing it and I’m doing it well. Fuckin’ a, man, I’m doing it! My 49-year-old body is in a backbend on a floating board in a pond on top of a mountain in Vermont. I heart is bursting with gratitude.
The class winds down and I find myself in the most glorious shavasana of my yoga life. Perky is respectfully silent as we all float together on our backs and feel the sun on our bodies and the sway of our boards. The only sound is the water slapping the board and the call of the birds. It is a moment of pure grace.
The class regrettably ends and I get off my board knowing that a small part of the self-doubting me has been transformed. I catch the eye of my younger friend and know right away that the profound experience was mine alone. She agrees that “yeah, that was cool.”
But for me it was more.
I did something that I was afraid of, that I felt intimidated by, that my nasty voice whispered that I was too old/fat/uncool to do. I could have easily chose another class, (or not even come to this damn yoga festival to begin with!) but I did this one and I fuckin’ rocked it. Now, I am walking away full of pride.
I am strong and beautiful and friggin’ amazing.
Bring it on, baby.
moral of the story: want more fun in your life? Get out there and grab it! It’s out there, but you have to go find it…it ain’t gonna come looking for you. And when fear asks to tag along, acknowledge it and kindly ask it to step aside. You’ve got a life to live!
When you’re done, document it somehow: write about it, put it in your journal, save pictures of it, appreciate it! Say thank you, thank you, thank you! These are magical, transformative words; the more you say them, the more powerful they become.