I suppose, at some time in the near future, I may need to consider renaming this little blog of mine. I’m not racing at the moment, not running at the moment, but I’m still on that quest for Zen, so the name will do for now. While I ponder the future of this site, I’ve decided to write from the heart, perhaps a bit randomly. So forgive my lack of over-arching theme for now and we’ll see where this road takes me.
This past Friday I taught my Diabetes Prevention class and had an appointment at the salon an hour later. After arriving a half hour early to the salon, I veered left and decided to hop into my favorite coffee shop across the street. I had a book under my arm and 30 minutes to spare, so I grabbed a cup of coffee, indulged in a piece of zucchini bread and settled into a chair at a small table. As I sat there, sipping my coffee and cracking open my novel, I had a strange sense of deja vu and closed the book for a moment to think. “Ah, yes!” my brain seemed to say, “We’ve been here before!” And, yes, indeed, we had.
Fifteen years ago, in the spring of 2000, I found freedom. Shortly before we were scheduled to move into a new apartment, my boyfriend of nearly two years decided to move back home, to leave me and return to his native Virginia. We’d had a long-distance relationship, followed by his moving to live near me, followed by our plans to move in together. Except we didn’t. Except he decided that he hated being away from all of the people he knew and the friends he had left behind. He decided that I wasn’t enough to stick around for and that the year-long lease we had just signed was going to have to be my problem to figure out. I was devastated, and yet, oddly relieved at the same time. Looking back now, I would describe the relationship as abusive. In the haze of being 20 years old, I had believed that having this man demand to know where I was at every moment of the day meant he was “loving.” I would have said that he cared deeply about me, which is why he questioned any male name I mentioned, isolated me from my friends and refused to become a part of my social group. In the end, our arguments became louder, longer and more destructive. Friends that were brave and dear to my heart spoke up and suggested that he wasn’t treating me well. Those same friends showed up to help me move into the new apartment alone, staying the first night to help ease my anxiety about being on my own.
With my new-found freedom, I began spending my afternoons at the same coffee shop, writing in my journal, reading books, job hunting in the help wanted section of the newspaper. I can remember the first time that I realized I didn’t need to call anyone to tell them where I was, when I would be home or who I was with. I could sit at the coffee shop for as long as I damn pleased. It felt like being reborn. Here’s an excerpt from my journal on one of those days, written at my then college campus:
“I sit in this place now, prepared to never return. This has never been home for me. An escape, yes. Then, a course of duty. Class after class, book after book. Never a startling revelation but only useless busy work. Opportunity for success and opportunity for failure. Now I choose neither. I choose merely to run away, to end this relationship with this school. But where to? Where will I be escaping to? What corner, what window can I find to curl into or fly out of? Something in me pulls me away, gives me freedom on the ramp to the highway, inspires me to dream of far away lands.”
Freedom, delicious freedom. I did quit school. Left after two years with the intention of transferring and then decided to take an entire year off instead. To work, to explore, to just be. One of the best decisions of my life. But somewhere in my quest to be an educator, my desire to be a good spouse and a great mother, I forgot about that girl. The one filled with wanderlust, the one who wanted to DO, to GO, to LIVE.
Fast forward to 2014. I took a weekend class in Ayurveda (yogic medicine) in April. During that weekend, I learned more about myself than I had in the previous ten years. The teacher, who I am blessed to now call one of my bosses and mentors, introduced us to the idea of finding one’s dosha. Ayurveda uses the term dosha as a means of classifying human personalities. That’s a very short version of a larger explanation, but you can take a quiz yourself and discover your dosha here. I took the quiz (and have taken it roughly 20 times since) and discovered I was a Pitta. Pittas are fiery. We’re sharp and intense, but when out of balance we can become hostile, angry, argumentative. I looked around the room to see if there was a hidden camera or if this was all a joke. How had this teacher and this magic quiz, this simple set of questions, just nailed me to the wall? I felt exposed. But then I felt like I had just had my entire personality explained to me in a breath. Yes. This was me. 1000%. With Tatyana’s guidance, we learned how to best care for each dosha, how to create meals that best served the person (no vinegar for Pittas – we tend to have more acid than what we need) and what type of exercise or yoga would best serve them (Interesting fact – running is not good for pittas. It takes our already elevated body temperature & creates more heat, putting us out of balance). And then she asked the magic question. It went something like this:
“What do you think a Pitta needs to be happy?” I pondered this question, and all possible answers, for far too long. My classmates threw out suggestions and I sat there, speechless. What did I need to be happy? I didn’t even know myself well enough to answer anymore. A schedule? A routine? A new coffee pot? A 20 miler to run on Sunday mornings? What the hell did I know? I hadn’t been really happy in a long time. And then Tatyana answered her own question.
I was dumbfounded.
Then I felt as if twenty different questions were answered in my brain at once. Like that moment that Neo discovers that he is The One in The Matrix.
Why did I hate meetings where I was required to sit and take in information, locked in a conference room or auditorium, unable to leave for fear of calling attention to myself?
Why did I feel like a caged rat in my classroom?
Why did I hate the treadmill?
Why did I panic in traffic jams, the anger rising, the terror at being stuck overwhelming me?
Why did I love the open road, riding for hours on my bike?
Why had I begun to despise my job, where I was required to use certain software systems, attend useless meetings, justify myself and my student progress to my bosses?
Why did I have new dreams of being my own boss? Of leaving the world of education behind for something entirely new?
Maybe you’ve had one of these moments in your life. The moment when everything becomes crystal clear. The proverbial scales fall from your eyes and you are able to see like you have never seen before. This was one of those moments for me. Freedom. I needed more freedom to be happy. After years of “doing what I was supposed to do,” I needed to be free to do what I wanted to do.
My days are filled with teaching classes that I have agreed to teach. I choose what to teach everyday – or I wait to see what students show up in my class and I teach for them. I no longer need to report to work at 7:15am unless I want to. I no longer sit through weekly meetings where I contemplate the career consequences of walking out of them. I can say yes or no to commitments. I can sit in a coffee shop at noon on Friday and read a novel and sip coffee. The sense of freedom is stunning. Breathtaking. Peaceful.
But at what cost does all of this come? Financially, the cost is significant. My financial freedom is low, but I wouldn’t trade more money in exchange for the sense of being trapped. And I wouldn’t give up the joy, the sense of awe that I have for my students. My students choose to show up on their mats in my classes. To bring their souls, their bodies and to lay down in my presence and let me guide them in yoga. When I guide a group into savasana and sit in silence in their collective presence, I know that I am doing my life’s work.
May you find freedom in your life, in the work that sets your soul afire.