Thursday, November 8, 2012

Notes to Self

This morning, I woke up and this man will still be president for a good while yet:

image from the NY Times

But more importantly, I woke up this morning and, other than being way too tired because I stayed up way too late for surgery time with friends to watch the election returns, I did the exact same thing I always do, every day.  Which is to say that I stumbled through my morning routine, downed some oatmeal with peanut butter, went to the hospital, and worked, along with all the other people.  And my joy at the president's reelection notwithstanding, the immediate thing about the day after the election that makes me the happiest is a tie between not having every single Facebook status update on my feed be something stupid and political, and not having to hear "... and I approve this message" for another couple of years, at least.  

I say more importantly because today really was just like any other day in our country.  The day after a huge election to decide our leader, the day after a bitter and ugly campaign race between two very different candidates, the day after our huge and diverse and struggling country all went to the polls - life went on as usual.  There were no riots, no violence, no coups.  I went and voted, as a woman, driving my own car, and then went to my job, where I am pursuing my dream, getting a top education, and training to enter the career field of my own choosing.  There were no hostile, tense or unkind words today among colleagues in the operating rooms, even though as a collective we made an impressively mixed gathering - we were men and women, young and old, black and white and everything in between, from all different backgrounds, histories and countries from around the world.  Those of us who were American citizens had undoubtedly cast our votes for both parties, and those who were not able to vote undoubtedly held similarly strong and varied opinions regarding the candidates.  And everything was normal.  

How amazing is that?  

Even more than the outcome of the election, the thing that I was most glad about this morning is our incredible good fortune to live in a country and in a period of history where all of that is possible.

~ ~ ~ 

So, I went to work today, I scrubbed in to a few surgeries, I ate my lunch during our late afternoon lectures, and then, when they were over, I had enough time to make it to an evening yoga class for the first time in weeks.  Now, this is going to sound all crazy-hippie-yoga-crackpot (and especially now that you know how I lean politically) but tonight's yoga class was exactly what I needed, and not just to stretch out my sore back muscles.

I don't really know much about this sort of thing, and I think that going to church just because you really like the pastor's sermons is not the best or most valid reason to go to church, necessarily, but I do believe that going to church even for any random reason can put you in a space right when you need to be there to hear right what you need to hear right when you need to hear it.  And when it happens, you know, because that word speaks to your soul.  And I know it might sound strange, but I have also had that experience in yoga classes before.  In fact, when I was a senior in college, I used to go to this Wednesday night yoga class.  I went almost every week, almost the entire year.  I adored the teacher, and the class actually met in a multi-faith chapel on campus - we would stack up all the chairs and push them to the sides and corners of the room, and then fill every available space on the carpeted floor beneath the stained glass windows and the quilted tapestries with imagery of doves and we would do an hour-long yoga class as the sun set.  The lights in the chapel would be dimmed, and often we would end class in near darkness.  

That yoga class was one of the most powerful spiritual experiences I have ever had, even to this day.  I was just able to meet and connect with God there, for whatever reason.  It can be hard for me to do that in a church, at least consistently.  But that yoga class that year was like a sacred time for me.  I have continued to practice yoga as regularly as I can since then.  I have been to probably over a dozen different studios and practiced with more teacherrs than I can recall, but I haven't had another yoga class come close to the spiritually transformative experience that my practice was that last year in college, until tonight - the class I just took tonight was by far and away to nearest approximation to it.

Anyway, that was a lot of rambling just to say that I don't think that you need to be in a church to conect with God, and I don't think that you can only hear a message you need in a more "traditional" spiritual setting, whatever that means to you.  Nor do I think that if something speaks to you in a yoga class, that it means you are buying into Buddhism or Sanscrit or Hindu spirituality or whatever.  But I do know that tonight, something about the class just touched me in a way that I really desperately needed, spoke words to me that I was only dimly aware I needed to hear.  I actually cried a tiny bit at one point, it moved me so powerfully.

Weird, right?

I raced home to try to get it all down on paper before I forgot what it was that the teacher said during class that grabbed my heart and gave it such a good shake, but what I remembered is definitely not going to do justice to the way I heard it in class.  At any rate, some of the basic gists were something along the lines of this:  "Be here.  The future is only a concept- you have never been there.  You are here, now.  You are alive right now where you are.  Be here.  Only when you reach the limits of your own strength do you discover the strength that comes from outside yourself.  Only then do you discover who carries you.  You will get tired if you are doing this on your own.  Your worth is total and complete, and it depends on nothing - not what you do or what you accomplish."

Yoga is pretty cool like that - the asanas, or the physical practice, are so symbolic of the way we tend to approach our lives.  The teacher can be talking seemingly about one thing, but then when you pay attention, deeper layers of meaning reveal themselves.

Life has been tough lately.  School is tough.  Surgery is really tough.  Lots of other things are really tough.  And I am starting to feel the kind of worn-down that makes me feel numb and disconnected, and not at all like myself.  I just feel completely subsumed by the demands of what I am doing every day, and by the end of each day, I'm not really happy or sad or angry or proud or excited or loving or... anything.  I don't really feel.  I am just tired.  Drained.  And I find myself thinking a lot these days that the people I am working with have no idea who I am, because I am not myself.  Not a good version, anyway.  But I have also been realizing that they have no idea who I am because, paradoxically, being so exhausted makes me focus only on myself.  I feel like I am constantly in Survival Mode.  I am self-conscious and insecure and unsure of myself.  I become more difficult to engage, I am distracted and distant, I don't go out of my way to care for anyone else or show that I am interested.  Honestly?  I probably seem like a total bitch.  And later, I end up berating myself for how I must be coming across, and that only makes me feel worse.

Literally everything the teacher said in class tonight felt like it was personal, meant specifically for me.  A lot of it felt like a reminder of really obvious stuff that I shouldn't need reminding of, and other things were more challenging.

"Be here without effort.  It doesn't mean that the intensity will be any less, but let it be effortless.  Even when things are intense, that doesn't mean that you have to feel suffering.  Settle in here, embrace this, now.  Stop struggling against it every second of the way."  Back when I wrote about being out in the Hallway?  I still feel that way.  I still hate it.  It still feels really, really shitty.  And the more I try not to dwell on how much I hate it, the more impossible it is not to think about it all the time.  And it is totally exhausting.

I don't know how to ingrain the words I need so that they inform how I live day to day, when I am so tired and worn-down and it feels like it takes everything I have just to get by.  But I figured that writing them out was a good start to remembering them.  Especially, especially remembering the ones that made me cry tonight, the ones that speak directly to the absolute hardest part of life right now:  "You are not alone.  It is a lie, the isolation that you feel.  You are not alone, you are connected."


  1. The paragraph you wrote starting "Life is tough" - I could have written every word. So your last line resonated deeply with me. We are not alone.

    I hope this brings a smile to your face - I gave you a Liebster award because I really enjoy reading your blog. I know not everyone likes memes, but if you're interested, it's here:

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  3. Love this, love you! Can't wait to (hopefully) see you over the holidays!

  4. This post and your yoga teacher's words are just so beautiful; something someone I really admire would call a 'good word' not only b/c it's worth passing along but also b/c each time its passed along it truly resonates w/ the people receiving it. Reading it, I could not help but think about what a former classmate said in her blog about the power of reflective writing how it "gives our actions meaning and perspective" and helps us remember the forces that have shaped us.

    - D


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