I was walking my dog on Saturday morning and the 72F sunshine crept up on me, so I tied my sweatshirt around my waist. After about a block, the pocket in my sweatshirt, with my keys in it, started to swing from left to right.
It was annoying because it was dragging my sweatshirt down on one side and the keys kept whacking my left thigh (but not enough to stop the swinging)! I thought, “do I try and adjust the speed or step length, to stop this phenomenon, or do I just roll with it?”
This reminded me of the Louisa M Alcott quotation: “I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.” As I walked I thought about this some more. When in life is it better to accept a given situation, when can we adjust our own reaction & experience to the events and when should we try and make a change? This type of thinking can apply to many cases in our lives.
In some situations it’s obvious that there is nothing we can do, so we just have to accept. When my son was diagnosed with cancer, I could not change that fact, I just had to come to terms with it. But then I realized that I had the power to adjust my own experience.
So, I did. I meditated, I practiced yoga, I did Tonglen meditation for my son – the practice of exchange, where I visualized taking in his pain & letting it melt in the bright, white, clean, clear light of my heart space and exchanged it for my health and wellness. These practices allowed me to be present during the experience for my family and not wonder what I might have done to cause this to have happened or whether he was going to live to see his older brother turn 5 years old.
Sometimes we have the choice or ability to change a situation. Then the question becomes, should we? For me, this requires weighing up the effects on those around me – who will this affect and will it have a negative impact on them and on myself?
I faced this dilemma over ten months ago, when the father of my children walked out of a family vacation, leaving us in our holiday home. It was not the first time he had walked out. But, this time, I did not take him back. As I adjusted to the shock of his actions, working to keep it together for my children’s sake, I started to feel something different, something new. I felt, for the first time in years a sense of deep calm and peace, which told me that my marriage was over.
On so many levels I did not want that to be the case – I had married the first man I fell in love with, when I was 24 years old. I felt the weight of standing up in front of a church full of people who loved us and my promise to stand with this man until one of our lives ended. I felt the weight of my three young children. I felt the weight of my immigration to the US, for a job for my ex, living so far from my family in England who supported me and loved me and how difficult this would be for them to process and provide the help that I knew they would want to give me and my children. I felt the weight of this shared, co-constructed life that we had built and which would now fall apart.
Yet, I knew, because I have spent the last few years working on self-care – in therapy (marital and individual), studying and learning about Ayurveda, meditating, practicing yoga – that the time had come to act. I could not continue to live in a situation that was making me so unhappy and was negatively effecting my children and my relationships with my children. The journey is not an easy one, but my middle child said to me a few weeks ago “Mom, you’re a happy person. You are really happy.” Oh, the joy this brought me! “Yes, I am happy,” I said, “Because I am living the life that I am supposed to be living.”
I am now creating a new rhythm. I am learning how to navigate the world as someone who used to be part of a marriage. I am learning how to navigate the way that old friendships have evolved as a part of this experience – the inevitable taking of sides, those friends who seem to navigate between us, those friends who have just fizzled away, as if they might get infected by the “divorce” virus.
I am learning how to manage my children’s transitions between these two worlds and all the feelings this engenders. I am learning how to develop skills to cope with the way that my children try to understand the situation and lash out and hurt me, because they are, sometimes very sad about the new life they lead. I am learning how to think of myself in a different way, in the way that I used to be, in the way that I was before my marriage became so difficult – not as an unhappy person, trying to find ways of being positive, but a happy person who occasionally works with unhappy or sad moments.
By the way, I left my keys in my pocket and walked on, working with the annoyance as a practice for when I am subjected to something much more frustrating and I will need the skills of acceptance.
“Sometimes, when things are falling apart, they may actually be falling into place.”
Copyright Tamsin Astor, Yoga Brained LLC, 2015.