A deeper meaning of yoga on the beach
I used to be magnetically sold on the idea of “rising above” life’s scars and tragedies. Something about the concept appealed to my ego driven thirties, as it can, depending on one’s interpretation, imply elements of “better than” and “willpower conquers all”. Externally, it is a measure by which we judge others in crisis, which is already a cultural mistake in and of itself. How often do we hear “It’s amazing, she’s just not letting it affect her” or “He didn’t let this change him at all” as an approving assessment of how someone is dealing with a loss or a trauma?
Rising above, like most coping strategies, has its place and should not be tossed out with Monday’s trash. Plus I’m usually not a believer in absolutes. However, the notion and then experience of going THROUGH something, for various reasons, has been a pervasive theme in my infertility journey. Infertility has unequivocally affected and changed me and I don’t view that as a failure in any way. Chalk the transformation to “through” up to my yoga practice or to my more broadminded I’m (finally) getting over myself forties – Who knows?
Yielding to the confines of a crisis, for me, has been both harder and richer than muscling my way around and above something could ever be. The fright inducing act of succumbing to churning emotions and limitations is understandably not a first choice for most of us – what if we turn away from the easier, happier side of ourselves never to see it again? What if we discover a weakness during our plunge into our deepest selves?
Fear not, my friends….well no, be as afraid as you need to be but know not all is lost on the trek through.
I suppose the first year after any major loss is stuffed with “first” hurdles. As an infertile, this year so far has presented a thorny maze of firsts – my first birthday knowing I’ll never have children, as well as my first Mother’s Day and then first Father’s Day facing more of the same. August brought our first wedding anniversary knowing we would never create, bear, and then raise each other’s children. Although I was giddy on many levels, I also approached the time with a wariness all too familiar to someone on their way through a loss or a crisis or a trauma. Through brings with it an unpredictability, and widens the capacity of situations that we’ve deemed “should be happy” to include all other emotional possibilities. Yikes.
And really, I had plenty to be happy about. Knowing everything in life is impermanent, I felt and always feel immense gratitude for time with my husband. We were able to go away for a few days to a place we love, (Long Island’s north fork), which is always a luxury to me. Plus, there’s a lot of wine there. Can’t complain so far.
But then there were so many elements of sadness outlining the “getting through” of this particular first. The shock and dumb-foundedness over this is not where we ever dreamed we’d be in life on our ninth wedding anniversary. The partial numbness that is the putting one foot in front of the other component to moving forward while grieving. Being privy to people bringing their young children to wineries; on the surface we enjoyed mocking them because if a winery is not the illest fitting place to bring your baby or toddler, it could very well make the top ten. Ranking only slightly behind Riker’s Island and the Amazon River. Yet underneath our banter it cut deeply. And oh, yes. My period. Three days early (which has never happened before) the evening of our anniversary. Suffice it to say the mind fucking torture of having a cycle after you know you’re not having children when you wanted them is going to be a whole other blog post….so brace yourselves my male readers! As only those who have experienced this truly know, the clearest explanation I have to offer is that periods are a constant reminder of my loss. I often wonder if I’m not one of the few people on earth excited and hoping for an early menopause. That day on our drive out to the north fork I had felt an (at the time) unexplained pressure in my uterus and my mind even tap danced off into that hopeful fantasy space it can go to so easily, but so rarely does any more. “After all we’ve been through, maybe a surprise pregnancy on our anniversary??” I gleefully mused, even though I know medically this is just about impossible. And that night bleeding commenced and BAM, SHATTERED AGAIN. Even though we can take a vacation, infertility never ever does.
The following day my husband was a bit irritated with not only my period’s intrusion but with my obvious emotional response to it. And I less than satisfied with his lack of willingness to let it in and empathize. Off we went anyway to one of our favorite places, a striking bluff over-looking a very unpopulated beach which just so happens to have a winery sitting right on top of it.
After enjoying a bottle and some cheese, about five flights of rickety wooden stairs funneled us down into the most perfect collision of earth, air, water and fire. Just the right measure of sun was blanketing the Long Island Sound whose small yet steady waves were sliding up over the multitudes of polished rocks that make up parts of the beach. And with the easy breeze at times stirring itself into a feistier cadence, it was a scene both peaceful and undoubtedly pulsating.
When you’re infertile, being around people is nothing if not an always potentially cumbersome game of chess. From people talking about their kids to asking you if you have any to looking at you like you should be thrilled about the presence of their kids to the constant social expectation that, as a woman, I should be amazed at and understanding of everything maternal – gutting social possibilities lurk everywhere.
Neil Peart’s line from his “Limelight” lyrics describe the position an infertile is in perfectly:
“Cast in this unlikely role, ill-equipped to act, with insufficient tact, one must put up barriers to keep oneself intact.”
As a result, NOT being around people for me these days has sheer bliss potential. During our almost three hour beach odyssey, we came across a grand total of three people, which is nothing short of an infertile delight not to mention sort of an oddity in the painfully congested greater New York metropolitan area. And unlike the experience of infertility, the few people you come across on this beach get it. There is no need to speak, just knowing exchanges of pure “aren’t we the luckiest people in the world to be here now?” smiles.
I was amused by all of nature’s leftovers on the beach that we had to negotiate in order to take our “walk”. Although I was on a yoga break, boulders and drift wood begged to have poses perched atop them, so I delighted in throwing down imperfect misaligned poses on the appropriate objects. Driftwood, boulders, and shorts that are too tight create some definite alignment challenges, but we’re infertile so hey what’s one more obstacle? Sandy beaches are boring. This was fun.
My self preservationist determined to navigate through unchartered waters would of course re-immerge later, and that’s ok because she is a necessity AND I like her too. However our excursion along “our” obstacle laden beach was a chance for my spontaneous goofball to come out again, and let me know she’s still in there somewhere alive and kicking.
The content images and feelings that were part of our time on the beach are still so vivid to me. Was I rising above the painful circumstances that were also a present part of that day? I don’t think so. Because rising above the bad stuff results in pulling one away from sweet moments too. I was simply being. Does being conquer anything? I don’t know, and I don’t think I care either. The dividend paid by being in hard moments is that when the joyful ones come along, (and they can be so infrequent with infertility), you are right there in those too. That is through.
6 thoughts on “THROUGH”
Sarah it has been amazing to witness your healing process. I love the way you ended this particular piece – I just love it – such wisdom – such truth – and very universal. You’ve done an amazing job of moving through the last few years with unconditional presence to your truest self and your courage in sharing it unapologetically is incredibly inspiring.
Aw, thanks. I was fortunate to be taught and then have the opportunity to explore the principles in the last paragraph in a Yin yoga/meditation class I took a few years ago. In the end, like most things, it’s a practice that reveals everything from wisdom to clumsiness to neutrality.
And you, my friend, get the award for being THE BEST at the job no one wants (ha ha) – sister in law to an infertile!! Am always comforted and honored to have you on board. And I’m really glad you also get to look forward to your new and wanted job! Good luck.
Beautiful post. I too use to value ‘rising above!’ in fact, for the first year after my hysterectomy (due to invasive cervical cancer), I spent it trying to just pretend nothing happened. And then I realized that sucked and was destroying my sanity. So, I stopped and allowed myself to be sad and just feel whatever the heck I felt on that day. it was the best thing I ever did. It is a hard lesson to learn. i think our culture is definitely very pro “sucking it up”. There are lot of interesting articles on cancer patients/survivors are always supposed to be smiling/upbeat/positive and how that’s a load of BS. I have always thought this applies to those who are infertile as well. I think you are correct that just being is the goal.
Your beach escape looks beautiful!! I’m glad you and your husband were able to find some solace and peace (and a place with very few people!).
Thank you. I’m sorry you have had to deal with invasive cervical cancer and its rippling life effects. How brave of you to connect to your feelings. For me too it’s one of the hardest things I ever did but also the best gift I could have given myself. I have found in doing so I sometimes get support, and other times am responded to as though my feelings are a mistake. Like as if I’ve got it wrong or I’m failing at being infertile or something. I’ve had to assert “No, infertility really sucks and it’s painful AND I’M QUITE CERTAIN I’M NOT MISTAKEN” on more than a few occasions!! How about you, what has been your experience?
Was reading an article yesterday on a woman who recently lost her 11 year old son to cancer. She mentioned most of her friends don’t know what to say and that she’ll even often wear bright colors to try and project the image of happy. Which of course made me feel sad. I’m like, what’s so wrong with us (our culture) that we expect ourselves or someone else who lost a young son to cancer to be happy? That’s f’d up if you ask me.
I’m an infertile too and so relate to the feeling of failure every time I get my period. I also have a home in NOFO and live on the uws (kidsville yuck). Small world. Maybe I will spot you doing yoga poses on my beach –iron pier.
I heard the north fork got plastered with snow – hope everything is ok by you. Yeah, I can’t seem to help but throw down yoga poses on boulders and drift wood even when I’m on yoga breaks…….but not in the winter as I’m a total cold weather wimp.