It’s so good to be home. And yet, my heart has two homes. No matter which one my body is in, whether Colorado or Oregon, I long for the other. While I was in Oregon last week, I spent part of the day at my aunt’s house in Gleneden Beach. As I mentioned yesterday, to be there, to walk on the sand and hear the ocean but for only a few hours, was simultaneously wonderful and heartbreaking. It just wasn’t enough time, never is.
Which leads directly to another conflict — I want my own house on the beach so I can go whenever and as much as I want, but I also want to live more simply so that I can eventually quit my job at CSU to focus on my writing and teaching. It’s hard to see how I can do both things. For starters, I don’t even know if we’d qualify for a second mortgage big enough to buy a house we’d want, and even if we could, I don’t know if we’d be able to afford the expense and effort of maintaining a second home 1200 miles away. And if we could and did, would I ever be able to leave my job at CSU? And if I don’t, will I ever write the books I’ve been carrying around inside of me, will I ever be able to teach the classes I’ve planned, to lead the retreats and workshops I’ve imagined? First world problems, I know. I also know how lucky I am that this is my “conflict.”
I get frustrated with my life, with myself. It feels like there’s too much possibility and I can’t focus. Some people seem able to be single minded. They can pick one thing, a path, and devote themselves entirely to it. I’m not like that — I want to deeply understand and intensely focus on a lot of things: yoga, meditation, writing, and dog. I want to learn to swim, play the ukelele, take long hikes, go running, eat healthy, cook, take singing lessons, garden, fix up my house, have a house at the beach, write books, read, build a business based on contemplative arts, make art, be an advocate for civil rights, work to dismantle homophobia and fat phobia, help to shift rape culture, do my part to cultivate a society that is wise and compassionate, do work that has meaning, help to change things for the better. Learn all the things and do all the things and fix all the things and experience all the things. How does one have that kind of time or energy?
Sometimes I think of all the things I want and am overwhelmed. When I try to hold them all in my heart and mind while attempting to determine what to do next, I freeze. I’m still figuring out how to make it all work.
This summer has been rough, in that first world problem kind of way. I started off really sick and in a difficult situation that needed addressed at work, which made me depressed. Even as I started to get a bit better, I was still dealing with a lingering health issue that required a lot of attention, self-care, patience. As that gets better, a debilitating pain in my foot means that as I enter week five of the Couch to 5K program there’s a chance I might need to take a week off when it’s already been so hard to keep going. It isn’t just one thing after another but rather many overlapping things that require so much attention, so much extra care.
In part it feels like a bit of a backlash, a rebellion. For so long in so many ways I’ve ignored my body, denied it what it needed, pushed past its very clear boundaries and limits. I understand now that my care, my efforts must be genuine to have an impact. And yet, the need leaves me slightly irritated, impatient, and discouraged. I’m trying to connect with the wisdom of my body, but it’s frustrating. Sometimes it seems like a whiny toddler or one of those people who constantly complains about all her aches and pains. At other times she seems deaf and mute, unreachable, and even though I’m trying to listen, to connect, to understand, she’s an enigma, a complete mystery, and I don’t know what to do. What does she want? What does she need?
Even so, I feel like there has been a significant shift. After years of trying to determine the source of ongoing fatigue, the thing that finally helped was to stop dieting, stop restricting, stop starving myself, stop working out so hard, put on a little weight — a direct contradiction to what culture tells us. And through yoga practice particularly, I have moments of being fully and completely in my body, after years of living mostly in my head and viewing my body as the enemy.
One thing I know is I must feed myself more joy. I’ve been restricting it in service of “getting shit done.” This doesn’t work because there’s always more to do. There is no “done,” and all that effort and focus on what is unfinished, on what is still wrong with no joy leads to depression, despair, deep hunger.
I return to the core teaching, the essential truth: relax. It’s so simple, but somehow not so easy. It doesn’t mean being lazy, sleeping and doing nothing, but rather to soften, be gentle, ease up — in all things. I can watch myself complain about what’s wrong, struggle with myself, generate so much suffering, and feel frustrated, irritated, depressed, or I can see it for what it is, allow it to be and not get too attached to it, be gentle with myself — relax.