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Beginning Again

March 25, 2014

February embraced me with her gray folds. Hibernation-worthy fatigue walloped me after a harsh winter and, frankly, a long year. Looking back, I could see why I was exhausted. Surgery. Recovery. A cross-country move. A CROSS-COUNTRY MOVE. Heart-breaking goodbyes, soul-mending hellos. Card board boxes. Fucking boxes. Unknown quantities of pizza. Big changes. Small changes. Using GPS to get everywhere in a city that, while new, feels familiar with the sturdy, Midwestern sensibilities of my youth. Being the New Girl. Again. Navigating social circles. Again. A broken leg for Henry–a full-leg cast and crutches through the mounds of January snow. Abby was sick. Henry was sick. Abby was sick. Henry was sick. Hubby was sick.  Then I got sick. The temperatures hovered around zero for weeks. I didn’t write. I didn’t run. I ate many french fries and drank red wine and my muffin top flourished. 

I judged the progress I made with my new life and our new home. I judged the lack of it, too. I judged my emotion and judged how slowly my To Do list shrank–if anything, I watched it grow exponentially each day, becoming a serious contender for my muffin top. I struggled to feel as if I progressing.

Judge judge judgity JUDGE.

Beginning again. Starting the momentum, gaining the energy to sustain. When at the beginning, it seems that beginning  again is the hardest part. 

:::

I stand in the vestibule outside my Yoga class. I begin to shed my exterior winter armor and whittle down to a tank and black leggings. The hushed greetings of students mill about. My winter skin glows garishly. I pad, bare-footed, across the hard floor, dodging puddles of melted snow on my way into the studio. I find a spot near the wall, slightly separated from the other students, slightly alone.

I unroll my mat and thawp it down on the floor. I love the certainty of this sound, mat to ground. I find my shoulders, standing attention at my ears. My life, stresses and the past year are very much alive in knotted colonies in my muscles. Rock like, rigid, terse.

Ahhhhhhhhh.

From several mats away, a fellow student enviably exhales as she lays in repose, awaiting the commencement of our practice. I am jealous of her languid exhale as my staccato breath punctuates the calm, open room. Subtle incense burns.

I step gingerly onto my mat, a vessel with a destination in which I’ve placed a lot of stock–delivery back to myself.  I try to stretch iron chains, tangled and rusty from misuse and neglect. My knees pop in the silence. A dust mote saunters by. 

:::

A thick, stubborn, glacier-like dam resided at the end of our driveway. A temporary break in the frigid temperatures (a balmy 38 degrees F) yielded a brief thaw. I stood at the end of my driveway, surveying the ice dam. It was just me and a big shovel, slowly chipping away at the ice. A brave bird chirped. I lowered and lifted the spade. Slowly. Repetitively. I began to enjoy the methodical work which I knew would make some dent in the ice. I shed my coat as the physical labor warmed me. I paused and turned my face to the golden, late afternoon sun.

Returning to my work, I listened to the comforting gurgle of melting snow and ice, trekking downhill to hidden tributaries below. I surveyed the black slush, the marred shoulder of my street, the gravel, the fray of this winter. The fray of this life.

:::

Ever since the last box left my house, I’ve been practicing yoga. The yoga poses have started to become more comfortable and familiar and have lost their intimidating edge.  During my practice, my thoughts monkey about, tapping my mind like a petulant child,

Should we get a Lulu tank? Everyone has one and they loooove them.

You need to schedule your mammogram.

Loooook, she knows all the poses. 

You need a pedicure!

Nice effort, muffin top. Way to gain the real estate. 

I’m hungry. Are you? Can we get french fries after this?

I try to release them. I shoo them away.

Each time I come to my mat I am amazed at how long it takes me to join my physical body in the present. And once I am fully present in that stark yoga studio, tears often come. Like buried bulbs, my emotions unfurl in the warmth of my attention. They stretch into the room, into my consciousness, into the light. My teacher guides me into this foreign terrain, the fertile ground of my experience. There I twist, raw emotions and muck tumbling out into the room, onto my mat, down my face IN PUBLIC. Then, I worry. I worry that my fellow students will hear my emotion and that I will disturb their practice.

My teacher guides us to child’s pose and I rest with my knees pointed east and west, my forehead on my mat. She begins reading a passage and her words reach me, open and splayed on the ground:

There is Buddhist story about the lotus and the mud, an ancient anecdote which chronicles the necessity of the dark, fecund mud to produce the glorious lotus bloom. The mud. The lotus.

It seems as if her words have been selected just for me. I’ve been tilling this fertile soil, layering the compost of stress and life so I can wriggle my toes, spread my roots and bloom.

The sun beats down on my face and my feet are grounded firmly in the mud. The moments of grace exist within this regular life, filled with normal challenges and frustrations. The warm connection of new friendship. The solid comfort of tenured friendships, physically connected again. Dissonance. Gratitude. Stress. Joy. Happy Sad. The satisfaction of having Made It Through. Watching the walls of a house transform from a place to a home. 

The dark, rich, fecund muck.

Stretching, reaching, growing.

And, the resulting, beautiful blossom. 

photo (3)

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100 Comments leave one →
  1. christagal permalink
    March 25, 2014 2:41 pm

    Love this Denise. Every word.

    I’m debating getting a small tattoo. It will say “no mud no lotus”. ; )

    Would you like to have tea with me and maybe a friend who is relatively new to your area, too? Say this Saturday or Sunday morning?

    Christa Gallopoulos

    http://www.christagallopoulos.com

    Sent via iPhone, with all the inevitable autocorrects!

    >

  2. adkamanda permalink
    March 25, 2014 2:46 pm

    Oh, the fecundity, friend. You’ve done good, hard work. Courageous and grueling.

    When I find my way to acupuncture or yoga I always weep. Same goes for a good shampoo, something about the utter groundedness of doing something for my self, that sweet, reliable gal.

    I am so happy to hear you again, sweet submarine. xo

  3. mommytransformations permalink
    March 25, 2014 4:01 pm

    Once again your beautiful work has resonated with me. You are transforming. I always know I am in the process of transforming when I cry at yoga. When I moved to NYC from the midwest, yoga was my safe haven. I shed more tears in the shadows of the dimly lit studio than I could ever count 🙂

    • March 31, 2014 11:57 am

      So touched by your comment. And so very glad to know that I’m not alone, wiping tears away during yoga.

  4. Katrina Kenison permalink
    March 27, 2014 1:19 pm

    Denise, the blooming is well underway, in these beautiful, heartfelt words. “The fray of this life.” Yes, just so. And the fertile soil, too.

  5. March 29, 2014 4:13 pm

    This resonates with me. Especially the bit about the mud and lotus. See my tag line:
    http://mindculture.wordpress.com/

  6. March 29, 2014 4:52 pm

    This is so, so beautiful, my friend. Sending you lots of love and inspired by your description of your practice. xox

  7. March 29, 2014 5:48 pm

    JUST what I needed to read! By the way, you have a very wonderful way of writing. 🙂

  8. March 29, 2014 6:45 pm

    A gorgeous post! Thank you. I cry in yoga too and its always when I am working something out mentally.

  9. March 29, 2014 7:36 pm

    I loved reading this. The way you write makes me feel as if I am right there with you, feeling things as you feel them. As one who has recently faced the endless cardboard boxes as well as experienced that place during yoga where everything bubbles to the surface, I really enjoyed reading this.

  10. March 29, 2014 9:40 pm

    This reads like a poetic prose. Beautifully done!

  11. whenwemumble permalink
    March 29, 2014 10:33 pm

    A very well written post!

  12. March 29, 2014 11:19 pm

    Beautifully written. Emotions realistically described. And I can totally relate to every single word you wrote here. But I want the blossom and I’ll get there! Thanks for the inspiration.

  13. March 29, 2014 11:35 pm

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  14. March 30, 2014 2:26 am

    Nice..

  15. March 30, 2014 4:56 am

    Wow! Powerful. Once I got swept up in your words, I didn’t rest – ebbing and flowing with your emotions and word pictures. Thank you.

  16. March 30, 2014 5:22 am

    Reblogged this on sotonz's Blog.

  17. March 30, 2014 8:49 am

    I have never yoga. But I understand the mind needs to be less stressed. I was a teacher for years in a middle school. Yoga would have been a relieve from the drama. I understand renewal. It is a necessary calmness required by life. I blogged today about love and would love you to peruse it and give me feedback. I think you might enjoy it. Let me know, Sincerely, Barry

  18. March 30, 2014 9:15 am

    I am so glad that I stumbled onto this piece. Glorious writing, it was soothing as I connected. Just loved every bit.

  19. March 30, 2014 10:19 am

    Great post!

  20. March 30, 2014 10:36 am

    beautiful. honest. flowing. lovely. open. refreshing. raw. engaging. comforting. hopeful. deep. thoughtful. emotional. heartfelt, blooming. What a gift to share, thank you.

  21. March 30, 2014 12:29 pm

    Well done for surviving all the stress. A beautifully written piece, beautifully expressed thoughts and frustrations and the blossoming end is sight for you, I am sure. Love the analogy of the mud and the lotus flower.

    • March 31, 2014 12:06 pm

      Yes! I feel it, too, and am grateful to feel the sun again. Thanks for reading!

  22. March 30, 2014 12:58 pm

    Beautifully written, and I am right there with you. Thank you for creating the exact thing I needed to read, right now.

  23. March 30, 2014 1:48 pm

    I am always amazed at how words spoken aloud to a group reach out to find me, reminding me where I am and why I am in this space at this moment in time. I enjoyed your words today. Thank you for sharing.

  24. authorwin622 permalink
    March 30, 2014 3:18 pm

    Reblogged this on Women of wisdom A personal journey.

  25. lilypetal91 permalink
    March 30, 2014 4:44 pm

    I’m starting again. I walked away from a really great guy who I loved, because it’s what we both needed to do. I found the strength to put myself first but now a few weeks later that strength is wavering. Every day is a battle to take baby steps forward instead of great lunges back. So I’m starting a yoga class tomorrow and focusing on just getting to that, on doing that one small thing just for me. Love your style of writing and glad I found you 🙂

    • March 31, 2014 12:09 pm

      Oh, sometimes it’s really hard, isn’t it? This living, this life? But the small graces, like you doing what’s best for your heart and your health, that’s the beauty of this life, too. Thank you for stopping by.

  26. March 30, 2014 8:52 pm

    I happen to see your blog on “Freshly Pressed” and boy am I “Freshly Surprised”!
    I feel as though I was to find you there. I too feel all that you had felt in this post! My hubby and I had to leave BEAUTIFUL So. Oregon and relocate to Arizona, and I still cry myself to sleep every night. I had to give my 2 babies away to friends, ( our Cats), and I still cry every night because I miss them.

    We to are 50 and starting life over, and I have kicked, screamed, and thrown many a box around!! I hate the Desert! It’s been 7 months since we left Oregon, and ……I guess things are slowly getting a little better. I guess I just need an Attitude adjustment???
    Wonderful Post! I don’t feel so ALONE now….LOL.

    Hugs and Blessings,
    *Catherine* 🙂

    • March 31, 2014 12:11 pm

      I understand. Moving has a way of throwing everything into chaos. But in that rubble…. in that mud… Best of luck to you on your journey.

  27. March 30, 2014 9:26 pm

    Beautiful and grounded. I am still feeling it all. Beautiful. xo

  28. March 31, 2014 1:26 am

    Truly insightful comments about the dangers of the judge. Lovely post.

    • March 31, 2014 12:12 pm

      I’ve told that inner critic to take a hike many, many times. I just keep practicing.

  29. March 31, 2014 5:08 am

    Great one!

  30. March 31, 2014 11:19 am

    The amazing thing is, though I’ve never been a yoga student, I feel I’ve just taken a class right beside you. If you take comfort in anything, you should take comfort in your prose – you paint with keystrokes. I hope everything is working out for you and your family is well. You strike me as the type who’ll make things work out…
    AnnMarie

    • March 31, 2014 12:16 pm

      I will cherish this comment always. “Paint with keystrokes.” A tremendous compliment which I will do my best to humbly accept. Thank you so much.

      • March 31, 2014 1:35 pm

        Your writing is real-life-wonderful. I look forward to reading onward. Have a wonderful day!
        AnnMarie

  31. March 31, 2014 11:31 am

    I am so glad i read this! I have been avoiding doing things like starting yoga, returning to meditation, etc. because of my fear of the emotional release (ok, i imagine a breakdown) these things will undoubtedly bring. Your honesty is refreshing, and therapeutic. Thank you for this!

  32. March 31, 2014 12:26 pm

    I am late to this discussion, but wanted to echo the fellow commenters.
    This is so beautiful and inspiring. Glad to see your words, Denise.

  33. Amazing Opportunities and Resources permalink
    March 31, 2014 12:40 pm

    This is is so inspirational. Remember that new opportunities await in your new home.

  34. March 31, 2014 3:02 pm

    Reblogged this on linzeloveslife… and commented:
    I loved reading this! It is very inspiring considering I am moving either across the country, or maybe even over seas, in approximately one year.

  35. March 31, 2014 3:05 pm

    I am moving across the country, or possibly overseas, for graduate school in one year. Yoga and meditation help keep me sane and connected to reality instead of the story we all create in our heads. Thanks for sharing your story!!

  36. March 31, 2014 3:10 pm

    I felt like that as well from the city to the country, I never knew that my heart was set on such quiet atmospheres. But I wouldn’t change it for the world.

    • April 1, 2014 10:46 am

      I’m learning, as I get older, that I’m much more of an introvert than I ever knew.

      • April 1, 2014 6:39 pm

        I actually take those self test about who I am and its meaning, crazy things I find out about myself, and yes you do realize as you get older you will see and notice different aspects of your life!

  37. March 31, 2014 4:29 pm

    very nice post…

  38. March 31, 2014 5:01 pm

    Reblogged this on lookuphigherdotcom.

  39. April 1, 2014 4:43 am

    Necessity of the fecundity to produce a bloom! You are artist, in every right… Really touching…

  40. holliekrysten permalink
    April 1, 2014 10:02 am

    Your writing is brilliant, and I, like so many women, can relate to your struggles and triumphs and every pose and fry in between. Amazing!

  41. April 2, 2014 10:31 am

    Really lovely. I cry in yoga class, too. How wonderful you have rediscovered the bloom.

    • April 5, 2014 9:58 am

      Thank you so much, Jessica. I’ve finally realized the tears are cathartic and the process is always practice, always learn.

  42. April 3, 2014 1:25 am

    You’re an incredible writer, and your journey is so worth reading about.

  43. April 3, 2014 4:25 pm

    This is absolutely beautiful – gorgeous writing and such depth. I am SO glad I found you. I, too, consistently find peace and renewed perspective in my yoga practice even though I often resist doing it.

    • April 5, 2014 10:00 am

      Yes! It reminds me of when I was little and my mom would suggest a bath. I’d find all sorts of reasons NOT to get in the tub and then when I finally acquiesced and got it, it was heaven.

  44. April 4, 2014 2:20 pm

    Thank you for this post. I appreciated every word. We all have our good and bad days, weeks, years. Yoga, Tai Chi, and other spiritual practices have been helping me tremendously too… I’ve also been surprised at the emotion that can be released during those activities. Anyway, thank you again.

    • April 5, 2014 10:01 am

      I used to think I was alone with my tears and now I realize almost everyone who practices experiences this emotional release. Thank you for stopping by! Namaste.

  45. April 4, 2014 8:32 pm

    Reblogged this on Admittedly Kai and commented:
    Just beautiful.

  46. April 4, 2014 11:51 pm

    Reblogged this on mynewbeginnings2012 and commented:
    Lovely

  47. ar1112013 permalink
    April 5, 2014 4:59 am

    Hi I love your blog please look at mine at http://marmadukesbook.wordpress.com/

  48. Jeremy amrith lay permalink
    April 5, 2014 8:19 pm

    since i have followed your blog please follow mine at http://www.jeremyamrithlay.wordpress.com as i hv enterd for a blogging competition and desperately need followers

  49. April 10, 2014 9:59 pm

    Lovely post…!!

  50. April 15, 2014 3:37 pm

    Beautifully written with powerful words. Loved it! Looking forward to following your blog…. Namaste

  51. April 17, 2014 12:19 am

    “A dust mote saunters by.” My favourite of the images you created for me.

  52. istralouise permalink
    April 17, 2014 1:39 am

    Loved this post.. I’m trying to restart aspects of discipline again and really appreciated you sharing your struggle to get adjusted and overcome to grow the lotus out of the mud. Wish me luck in my journey, you sound like you have a good handle/grasp for what you need to do on your own travels now. I will be sending good thoughts/prayers your way.

  53. April 17, 2014 8:46 am

    Good blog !
    Fred

  54. April 17, 2014 5:52 pm

    This is so gritty and lovely and you. Lovely.

  55. April 20, 2014 3:54 am

    I learnt about a life I’ve never lived… Beautifully composed.

  56. April 27, 2014 10:33 pm

    After the birth of my second daughter I too hid at the side of a yoga class trying to quiet my mind and find some solace. Thank you for sharing a part of yourself.

  57. May 3, 2014 4:20 am

    Really good stuff. I will be reading more of you.

Give me your grit.

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