Here’s the story: after packing up our lovely little Tahoe house in May, Nick and I set out for some East Coast family time for 10 days before hopping the pond to Londontown.
Family time has that interesting quality of being filled with love and a feeling of home like no other and also the biggest test of your yoga practice (patience, humility, compassion) than any other.
For those that work with or know me privately, you know that family relationships are a true test of the work we do on the yoga mat. Many of my great yoga teachers have reminded me of that: “Feeling peaceful and grounded, ‘advanced’ in your yoga or spiritual practice’? Go see your family.”
And see my family, I did.
I got to spend time with the people who I always see through love-colored glasses (and some I have to try harder to see through those glasses). The one I’ll share with you is about my NANA, who, you may have guessed it, is BRITISH!
At a newly 93 years old, Kathleen is sharp-minded and as full of love and kindness as I have ever known in my 30 years with her. Always the matriarch and central figure of love (and food) in our family, always welcoming anyone in need to her table, she currently resides in Phoebe nursing home where she used to volunteer for decades (she actually won awards for her service).
As a little girl, I used to go with her to Phoebe, playing Scrabble with the Wise residents of Phoebe Home… as Scrabble with my Elders was and still is one of my favorite pastimes – nothing like word games and stories of women who have Truly Lived, through a history I will never know, save in my imagination.
Now she sits in this place into which she poured so many days of her love and is simply lucky and grateful to be sitting here at all. A few years ago, she went from a relatively self-sufficient healthy life at home to being severely ill overnight.
I received a devastating phone call telling me she may not make it and quickly flew across the country, praying all the way that this wouldn’t be it, that I wouldn’t have to say goodbye just yet, that I would make it in time. Please let this not be the last time.
Upon arrival, I saw a version of my Nana I never wanted to imagine: sick and feeble, slighter in frame, pale, and most of all, losing her memory and sharpness. My heart simply shattered.
This woman is everything I know about love and compassion and has lit the flame in my heart and soul to share it with the world. The loss of her seemed absolutely not survivable. My brain did everything it could to search for solutions and my heart wasted not a moment on anything but prayer. I pleaded with my dad and uncles over what care she was receiving, whose fault this was, and who we needed to speak firmly with to make sure she was getting the treatment she needed as often as she needed it. Pray. Plead. Please, please, please, hear me, see me, know that I cannot live without this woman yet.
Prayer is something that I have been taught as a child and not until the last 5 years do I now feel it’s power, my connection to it, understand the purpose and meaning for us as humans.
I stood with her, in all the strength I could muster, sharing all hope I had, freely, and assuring her she was going to be fine. I silently quieted my doubt and skepticism and FEAR as I massaged her legs that struggled with circulation and told her how well my yoga practice was going, how I love being a yoga teacher, how I’m so lucky to have found love with Nick, and just about every other positive reflection on my life I could think of.
I wanted to share with her all of the LOVE and Hope and Comfort she had always given me in every moment we shared together. I wanted to keep lit the light I knew must stay alive for her to keep fighting.
And it is in these moments that I just know my purpose…and hers.
I know that she gave these gifts to me so I could be here for her in moments like this, and be here for others when the time calls. That everything I do is based on this – becoming the woman I needed when I was lost and hurt, becoming the woman I need to be now, and fulfilling my role in this life of serving you and anyone else who crosses my path in need.
Alas, at the end of my visit I had to surrender. I had to make a choice and trust that it was the right one. I left my hometown and flew back to my Tahoe abode and friends and students, continuing to live my dreams as my Nana always wants for me.
Almost a year went by and a light shone on my Nana that I could only describe as a miracle. In the first months of her illness, there was little hope, but I kept on with my own prayer, settling into confidence that what was meant to be would be.
After that first year went by, she started improving. What had seemed like a slow march to the end began to turn around. It is certainly a slow recovery but not too long after she started improving, her memory and mind came back and she is back to being the 93-year old Wonder-Woman I described earlier. We played Scrabble during my visit, played with her new bird companion – a cockatiel named Ruby who loves millet treats – and talked about her younger life as a GI Bride in Northern England during WWII.
At the end of the short days of my visit, I once again had to make the same choice. This time, the wheels of my mind returning again and again to the idea of staying, of spending every precious moment I have with her, with absorbing every bit of wisdom, and nurturing every cell of love in my body that I share with her. The weight of guilt of not staying, the sharp fear of regret for not staying, the debilitating fear of the loss that could happen any time, of the time I might never get back.
But this time, the journey in front of me was one of even bigger dream-worthy proportions. My life-long dream of traveling the world, of teaching, of exploring and learning and teaching and helping people transform from these places that call to my heart. The pull to travel the world and pursue transformational teaching without boundaries or limitations, with true freedom, is palpable. The unparalleled level of inspiration and personal growth I experience from travel calls to me like a long-lost friend. It feels like a story that is already written that I am just uncovering one page at a time.
So I am stepping forward, straight into the fear, and onto the next leg of my journey of travel, self-discovery, and teaching. This requires a HUGE amount of softness and forgiveness of myself and my choices. All of the fear that I may not be moving in the right direction and pressure to succeed is of my own creation, nobody else imposes that on me. My Nana wants me to live my life fully, experience all of my dreams and hopes and desires. She never wants to hold me back from that and is always a phone call away.
When we are faced with big questions like this, the Fear of making the wrong choice is always going to be right there in the forefront, the Big Bad Wolf of choices. The truth is that every big, new Transition in your life is going to bring up that Fear. That Fear is there to keep you safe and in some regard, that is a perfectly amazing thing. We do need to be safe but most of our choices don’t pertain to our actual safety, but instead pertain to our comfort and safety in who we are or who we define ourselves are. When we put into question who we identify as, it can feel disorienting – because, you know, who would you be without that?
What if who you are meant to be is just one or two steps beyond the Fear? It usually is.
The only way to grow is to step into the fear, allow yourself to Soften into the experience that’s scary and try on something new. See how it feels.
Tell me, if you close your eyes and get quiet for a moment, what calls to you?
If you were truly the bravest version of yourself and there were no limitations of money, relationships, or responsibilities holding you back, what would you be doing?
- I really want to hear what is calling to you. Please send me a quick reply via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what you want to be doing, what is calling to you, or if you don’t hear anything?
- I’d also love to know what you’d like to hear more about from me in the next couple of weeks. Send me what you’re most interested in hearing from me? (examples: finding my purpose, at-home de-stress yoga, yoga lessons for daily life, or anything else!)