This post is part 2 of a 3 part series of musings on my changing relationship with the idea of perfection. In case you missed it, you can read part 1 here.
Some days I wake up and strap on my ass-kicking boots.
Some days I wake up and strap on a lifejacket.
Let me tell you the story of a very recent lifejacket day.
Not a full-on sob story floor puddle day, but well into that end of the spectrum.
On this day, however, in keeping with the “My Best” mindset, I tried something a little different than I usually might. (Spoiler alert!)
I dropped the self-judgment.
I leaned in to my neediness.
And oh, how I needed.
I woke up that morning feeling miserable. It was a sweaty sleepless night, and not just because I had been sharing the bed with a four-feet-going-on-six-feet-long furnace who doesn’t ever sleep with me so much as on me. I felt achy, exhausted, and had one beast of a cough. I suppose The Furnace decided it wasn’t fair for mommy to be having this disco dance party alone, because she began to toss and turn, too. Before the alarms went off to rouse us for school she woke up in tears complaining that her “neck and ears” hurt, a moderate pain which yawning evidently made excruciating. Long story short, in the course of caring for both myself and this mysterious throat-and-ear-pain experiencing kiddo, I heard myself say to the little one, “it would be a lot easier for me to take care of you if I felt better.” And that’s how I ended up finding my mom’s couch after our visit to the clinic, resting and nourishing my body with healing foods and full-on depending on my mommy so that my own little one had more options for rest, play, and healthy interactions than if we two had isolated ourselves at home.
So while I felt pretty pathetic on my mommy’s couch that day, I knew I was doing the best I could do.
My best choice on such a day was to call in reinforcements.
If I had chosen otherwise – if I had assumed “my best” had to look like “doing it all myself” – I might have worn myself into the ground just trying to anticipate and meet all the needs of the little one, neglecting my own needs and possibly even worsening my physical condition. Instead I decided that “my best” would consider the long-term needs of this little family unit (i.e. having a healthy mama capable of keeping the boat afloat) and I asked for the help that would allow me to tend to those needs on that day.
Physically, I was smack dab in the middle of a wonderful weekly rhythm when the body decided to beg for a break. (As a yoga teacher/massage therapist/flow artist/gym rat, I sure do like to move.) So when my body asked me to slow it down, I had to let go of all my expectations of “success” where I might apply the concept to my movement practices. I had to really ask myself in return what kind of movement would be useful to my body, if any, to help it through this little flare-up rather than overloading an already-taxed immune system with more muscular recovery needs or. I had all kinds of excuses not to move my body at all, too (for example, reeeeeeally not feeling like it), but ultimately I did “roll out the mat” (hypothetically, since I hadn’t brought my yoga mat with me to my mom’s house) and spend some time dropping into my breath. I didn’t do anything strenuous or creative or Insta-adorable; I didn’t even change my clothes. I just breathed into the areas of my body that were asking for attention, and I allowed that breath to grow into organic movement, slow and gentle, steady and sweet.
After probably 20 minutes (Me: “that doesn’t count as a real yoga session”/Also Me: “Well, it felt really good“) of a gentle vinyasa my body was warm and I wanted to get in at least a tiny weight session, so I managed to squeeze out a few pull-downs (yay back day!) in my dad’s exercise room. On any other day, the ego would have deemed the weight I used as warm up worthy, no more. On any other day, I would have hit more weight, more exercises, more sets, more reps. On this day I honored the truth of how I felt in that very moment, and I kept my focus on my form and on the way I like to engage my muscles: radiant from the core. I made it mediative; I visualized each muscle fiber in contraction, I washed the breath down the length of the controlled release.
It all felt so useful, like I engaged my body just enough to help burn up any virus, flush out any lingering toxins. It was much less than what I would consider typical for my activity levels, but still on track with my daily intentions for physical engagement and strength building. I circumvented the issue of needing to either “catch up” or “skip a day” – neither of which would have ended the world, but both can feel like a failure to someone whose places a lot of value in practicing with consistency – by making small but real adjustments to my perspective and, therefore, my approach.
The real success of the day, though, was that not once did I judge or expect more of myself. I just kept checking in with myself to see what resources I had for the task at hand and used whatever I came up with to do My Best.
And by that evening, I felt better. Not completely recovered, mind you, but so much better that I was able to return to my own home and get back in full on Super Mom mode in time to finish L’s selkie costume for her school’s Literature Festival the next morning (we’re having an all-things-Song of the Sea phase).
The cough ultimately lingered for almost two weeks absent any other symptoms, but the sleepless nights and compromised breathing were enough to put me completely off my rhythm. Yes, as I edit this post the night before publishing, I am celebrating the conclusion of my first full BIG, CLEAR BREATHING day since the whole thing went of the rails. And it’s been a complicated time. I’ve had to reschedule clients, I’ve had to pause creative projects, I’ve had to adapt my physical practice for several days (including *gasp!* taking multiple rest days) while a dry, hacking, miserable cough determined my exact pace of life and lack of sleep. I’ve processed frustration, impatience, loneliness, physical discomfort, and – key here – sympathy. It all culminated in an incredibly cathartic release prompted by some unusual meditative movement.
And that’s basically how I got to thinking about the attainment of a “perfect day” as a bit of a moving target…
I’ll see you back here Monday for the conclusion of this 3 part series, in which I lighten the mood a bit. If you still haven’t checked it out, you can read part 1 here. Subscribe to make sure you always get the latest post in your inbox!