March 1, 2015. I’m having the best weekend of my life. I wake up in my new apartment, back in midtown Sacramento. It’s everything I wanted- walking distance to Zuda yoga with a washer/dryer in-house. I drive out to my women’s over-30 soccer game. I am the unofficial but undisputed MVP of the league. It’s my morning warm-up for the two other games I’ll play that day. The air is cool and sharp on my face in the first half. It’s 9 a.m. and it feels like the sun is barely up but I can feel the warmth of summer on the horizon.
When I get home I walk to breakfast with my boyfriend. On the way home I grab a green smoothie and a seat on the small, metal chairs outside the local, organic juice shop. I soak up everything I’ve been manifesting.
For 18 months my life has steadily ascended to everything I’ve ever wanted. Beginning in September, 2013, when I left my lawyer job and came to lululemon, I can’t remember an unhappy day. I can’t even remember an unhappy moment. It was good and then it got better and then it got better, and better, again. I play sports on the weekend and practice yoga every day and have a job that is so fun and rewarding I can’t believe I get paid to do it. I challenge everyone around me to find the same joy and fulfillment in their careers. My best friend can’t get through a dinner, or a text message thread without being subjected to my subtle, sometimes overt, persuasion to come work with me. I thrive in the fast pace of jam-packed days and unwind through slow, exhausted nights. I rarely take the time to acknowledge the miracle of how I’m living but I can feel, all-over my body how lucky I am.
March 1, 2015. I’m having the worst weekend of my life. My upper body is covered in blankets and my lower body is buried in a pile of frozen peas. I’m trapped on my couch watching the minutes tick by on my Ipad screen as I pretend to read the previously awesome book I’m no longer interested in. My new apartment is freezing and dark and empty and uncomfortable.
I did not manifest this.
I remember falling asleep that night to the peaceful relief of a hard day ending. I remember waking up the next morning to the fear that it was only the beginning.
June 12, 2015. I’m seated across from my orthopedic surgeon, forcefully smiling with sweaty palms and an accelerated heart rate. My life without a daily yoga practice is plagued by anxiety. The persistent sensation of fear and worry is amplified by the uncertainty of surgical recovery. Every tiny tweak or small pain sets off a surge of panicked, irrational thoughts.
I am at once two versions of myself. My bold and confident self-assurance listens for the green light to resume my regular life at full speed. My nervous, distracted mind ticks off a long list of worst-case scenarios.
My surgeon is pleased with my progress but skeptical of my patience. “Go slow. This is a big deal.” Not what I wanted to hear but better than “You’re totally fucked,” I guess.
My mind starts racing again so I only hear every fourth word he says for two or three minutes. I catch up to reality just in time to hear “what to expect next.”
Ah yes, I’ve been waiting for this part.
“You’ll have good days and bad days. That’s totally normal right now.” He makes a slow roller coaster motion with his right hand, “Up and down, like that.”
This office is a fortress of disappointment.
I was seeking something definitive. Measurable. Specific. A barometer by which I can evaluate my progress. A way to win at this.
There is no arriving in yoga, no crying in baseball and no winning at orthopedic recovery.
Only slow progress towards the vague goal of “returning to normal activity.”
Patience. And rest. And patience again.
Early in my recovery I developed a clear explanation for my persistent unhappiness. I repeated it as a mantra to myself, daily, and delivered it confidently to anyone who asked how I was doing.
“My body is broken and I can’t do anything that brings me joy, therefore I am miserable.”
Between the lines is my chosen truth that I will continue to be unhappy until I can do every, single thing I could do with my body before my injury. Because I prioritize trying to control my experience over actually experiencing it, so long as I still have bad days, I refuse to have good days
July 11, 2015. 75 consecutive minutes in my body and my breath. The mid-summer, early morning sun on my face, back and shoulders. The comforting rubber scent of my yoga mat. A perfect, gentle breeze. Yoga, finally.
Later I’m climbing in and out of empty hot tubs being ridiculous with my two lunatic best friends. My legs are carrying me up, down and around the California State Fair and it’s the first time something I’ve done before feels relatively the same as it used to. An active day that started early ends late with a triumphant walk up the stairs to my apartment, one foot at a time.
I climb into bed and acknowledge: today was a good day.
In the morning, I hesitate to get out of bed. I’m attached to the success of yesterday and apprehensive in the uncertainty of today. I only want to ride the rollercoaster if I know it’s going up.
Today, I feel the first, minor inkling of a breakthrough. An awakening to my responsibility for my own suffering. A realization that my life isn’t on pause until I heal completely. This is my life.
We are all recovering from something. A heartbreak, a job loss, the struggle of a morning, or a meeting or a conversation that didn’t go the way we planned. A tough week at work, a difficult relationship with our parents. The onslaught of challenges from the last six months. Or the last 20 years. We are all in the process of healing from something, or many things, at once.
I am recovering from knee surgery. I am also recovering from severe anxiety and compulsive over-achieving. I am recovering from the anorexia I had in high-school and the break-up I went through in college. The process is the only constant.
There are good days and bad days.
My work is to stay in it. To ride the ups and downs of a life that is sometimes exhilarating and sometimes terrifying. To savor the experience of ascension and cultivate patience in the descent. To recognize the degree to which I am choosing what type of day, or week, or life I’m having.
To shift when I need to, breathe when I need to and try to enjoy the ride.