We spent Labor Day up at my parents’ house in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. It was a significant weekend for me, because it marked the end of my maternity leave. I’ve been feeling anxious about returning to work. I’m excited, but also overwhelmed. It has brought up some big questions. How will I balance my career and motherhood? How will I do it all? How will I be it all—for my students, my work, my beloved, my daughter . . . myself? I’m blessed to ask these questions. Deep down, I trust the bigger picture. I know it will all come together—it always does, even if rarely in the ways I expect or appreciate until long after the dust has settled. But right now, my faith is of little comfort to me. And so, vacation.
I wish I could say that our time at the beach gave me some space away from my thoughts, but alas wherever you go, there you are. Instead of savoring the final moments of this particular chapter, I dug my heels in and denied myself a lot of opportunities to relax and enjoy the weekend. As if to prove a point, I spent my energy doing the very things that are triggering my anxiety. I made to-do lists. I worked, a lot. I insisted on taking care of Chloé in ways I could’ve easily outsourced to my family. I kept telling myself how hard this is going to be. I tried to write this blog post multiple times, pulling my hair out in frustration, which was a total waste of time—thanks to hormones, my hair is falling out all on its own.
In my experience, digging myself deeper into a hole is exactly how I burn through the last of my resistance. I invest (maybe too much) energy into those final desperate moments before reality sets in, doubling down on the exact mentality I’m trying to change. It’s a sadistic technique, but highly effective. Forcing myself to face my anxiety about doing it all prompted the reality check I needed: I can’t possibly do it all.
Reality, as it turns out, is a relief.
After meditating on this OBVIOUS truth, the true source of my anxiety was revealed. My greatest responsibility as a mother is to demonstrate what it is I hope to teach my daughter. Therefore, it’s not important what I do; it’s how I do it.
This is where my entire yoga practice and everything I’ve ever taught comes full circle and smacks me across the face. Yoga, for me, has always been about the how and the why, not the what. Practice, I’m reminded, is the effort toward stilling the mind (sutra 1.13). Furthermore, that effort must be consistent, patient, and earnest (sutra 1.14). Attitude counts for a lot, which is a big call to action for me as I tend to sit in my own crap and stew.
My desire to lead by example has brought up a lot of my stuff—habitual ways of seeing that I thought I’d already handled. It has lit quite the fire under my ass. And boy do I have my work cut out for me, because the opportunities to demonstrate my practice lie in the darkest corners of my life. If I want to teach Chloé how to show up for herself, then I better start practicing what I preach. In this particular moment, loving myself means cutting myself some f*cking slack.
While my time in Connecticut wasn’t exactly what I wanted, it turned out to be just what I needed. There were a few defining moments when I was able to find grace. Billy and I took a long walk on the beach; I held his hand the whole time and soaked him in. Then there was that hot evening I went up to the roof deck and drank a beer, by myself. I asked for help with Chloé so I could write. We spent an afternoon in Essex where I visited my favorite shop, Weekend Kitchen. All of these little moments represent a choice I made to take a step back, reframe my anxiety, and shift my attitude. These are small victories, but as B.K.S. Iyengar wrote in his book Light On Life, “We must not belittle the small daily victories of moksa [freedom] — they come from the persistent and sustained will to be ever more free.”
I’m excited to return to the work I love, and I’m ok with feeling overwhelmed about it, too. How could I not? I know the real work, though, lies in my dedication to show up for myself with love and tenderness. I want Chloé to see her mother’s dedication—to her work, her family, and most importantly herself—and be inspired. As my teacher Genny says, “We can’t be afraid to do the work.” I’m ready.