Recently I taking an online yoga class with Kaitlyn. At the end of class, she guided us to wrap our arms around our back for a shoulder stretch. Essentially, hugging ourselves. It reminded me of when I used to hold my own hand. This is what I mean.
4 years ago when I was living through the emotional jungle-swamp-dessert of mentally processing a divorce, I began an odd practice. At night when I’d lay in my bed trying desperately trying to let the day go, I would roll to one side, with arms stretched out, I would place one hand inside the other. I would hold my own hand. Did this help me feel that I was not alone? Maybe. There was nobody to hold it, so I did it myself. I was trying to feel some kind of relief. The relief you feel when someone, a special someone, holds your hand. Maybe I was praying.
I sat in a steam room regularly. A steam room was like a giant tear. I couldn't tell the difference between the condensation and sweat on my cheeks and the tears rolling down them. The heaviness in my chest and on my heart felt better in damp heat. When the steam would kick on, I couldn't see the other side of the room. That felt right for me. I couldn't see anything.
I swam. I began swimming because I always loved watching the swimming competitions during the Summer Olympics. Swimmers had long, lean bodies, muscles, and if I could swim and feel these changes...how great - sign me up. So, I bought one of those swimsuits that swimmers wear, a swim cap and goggles. I was really going for it. I went to the gym and I swam. Pretending that going one full lap without stopping made me a gold contender. (I could only do one lap btw.) I was engaging in an exercise where I was literally trying to rinse away a former life, bad habits, and self-criticism. Looking back now, it helped, and I enjoyed it.
I ran to the bathroom a lot. Emotional stress is a fantastic way to clean the pipes.
I drank. I drank a lot in my early 30’s. I guess I could dive deep and uncover the hidden anxieties and trauma that contributed to drinking in excess. But on the surface, I did it to entertain myself, I felt bored, unseen, unheard, and alone. I wanted to feel good. Period. Now I know the more I drank the smaller it made me - making it pretty damn hard to be seen and heard. I did not know who I was and I convinced myself that drinking was a romantic way to find it. I’m learning.
My Dad said to me recently that I go hard with everything I do. In the moment, he was referring to my ambition. But I knew it meant more. I did not take this as a compliment but rather a wake-up call. All my career goals, life goals, ideas, tasks, to-do's, self sabotage and booze. I go hard.
Now, every day I tell myself.. “slow, be still, be calm, be quiet”. It’s working.
Slowly, as it should.
Slow down, Linda...
It’s time to just Listen.
I’m going to cut off here because there are other things I’ll share about this time later. But the beans of it - self soothe when your life calls for it. Please. When you're running to the bathroom too much, drinking too much, crying in small spaces alone, and trying to channel hustle energies into dignity - just stop. You’re not fooling anyone.
Hold your own hand.
+ Kaitlyn Woodford-Shell is a yoga instructor and co-owner of Yoga Squared, in Akron Oh. I highly recommend her and the entire YS group. They (slowly : ) brought me back to life through yoga and their guided mediations.