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Living my Half-Best Life NOW...
Why is self grace so hard?
I just completed an hour long hot yoga class-my first one in about four years. I used to love going, but several years of physical issues, surgeries that didn’t always end up where I thought they would, and the (oh, yeah) pandemic put me out of practice-literally. I knew going in the doors that this was going to be brutal…
About two thirds of the way through power flow I was feeling it. Different parts of my body were having arguments about which part hurt more. Mentally, I was in a battle for dominance, but a calm voice, barely audible over my neighbors Ujjayi breathing, reminded me of a phrase I use frequently in the workshops I run…
This isn’t about perfection, it’s about permission to do what it is you need to do.
What? No, this was about conquering my physical issues. Several people I know are doing the 75 day hard challenge. At first it was intriguing. I could see their results, “train your mind and your body will follow” I was told. Hello, have you seen my body and do you know what’s going on inside? 75Hard is all about training your mind, your body, and following the RULES. Fail any of the five daily tasks and you have to start over. It is a “Tactical Guide to Winning the War With Yourself”, it’s about “mental toughness”. These are words off the website, google it if you are curious because I am not willing to add a link to this. And here’s why. I have a problem with the word failure (among other things). Also, there wasn’t anything in there about grace.
I don’t allow anyone to use the word failure in groups I lead-to try is what is essential. Defining success or failure on your own terms is necessary because we can’t compare ourselves to others levels of, well, whatever, as a way to feel better about ourselves. Beginning, doing, and following through- I can get behind but not for some form of toughness. Also, the last time I checked, I was not at war with anything. War is a term that is overused. War is horrific, devastating and my inability to walk away from a chocolate chip is not a war. It’s an issue of priorities. And, darn it, some days I need a chocolate chip.
What does this have to do with yoga?
At this point in the power flow I was in a ‘battle’. I wasn’t in a full on ‘war’ with myself, but there was definitely some sort of skirmish going on and faster than an Instagram attention span I was beating myself up because I couldn’t keep up. My body knew what it needed, but my mind, whether from training, or prevailing performative/transactional attitudes, kicked into the loser mindset; power through, no pain no gain, all the motivational hoohaw I grew up with. But I knew on a deep level, that pain meant pain and it would be something I would pay for more than not pretzeling myself into another pose.
I wish I could say that I sat down on my mat and spent the rest of class in savasana but this would be a total lie. My powering through prevailed and while it may not have been as impressive as it could have been I completed the class then signed up for another.
Fast forward a few days and I have gone to my second class. I sincerely considered not going but I know if I quit now I will regret it. My joints have gone into full rebellion, my muscles have not forgiven me for the last class, but they at least cooperated. Mentally, the soundtrack was very different. I had spent the few days in between classes reviewing what exactly happened. I mean, I know the practicals, but what really happened? I allowed all the voices to get in my head-the ones that we follow on on social media that tell us the five things we need to do to succeed, the way to pray our way through anything, six easy steps to anywhere better than where we are, side hustles to help us live our best lives, NOW.
I’ve been over the best life now mantra for awhile but I am fascinated by the lingering effects these ideas have on our minds. Kind of like long Covid, it’s unpredictable, insidious, harmful and rife with unknowns. Sitting in my sweaty clothes and laughing to myself about living my half-best life now started as an admonition-a form of self shaming-but then as I thought about it something clicked.
The distance between best life now ideology and reality is an echoing canyon. At least for my reality. Is it any wonder it is hard to find satisfaction with doing our so called best? What if my personal best is really only half best? Would that be so bad? Would it be so bad to offload the baggage of never being good enough because I have been busy comparing my best to someone elses and that doesn’t add up, nor does it make sense anymore? What happens when I let grace enter the conversation? And not just grace for the people around me-that is something I am comfortable with-but grace for myself to be simply where I am and be ok with that.
So, here’s a little update- even though I wrote this post nearly a week ago, I loved, and felt, this podcast episode enough to drop everything and add it. Please, I beg you, listen to this episode…
Permission to be exactly where we are is an awkward concept. It involves a shift in thinking, a laying down of certain ideals that we have perhaps outgrown, or aged out of, or merely learned along the way aren’t sustainable. At least not if we want to maintain some sort of balance and sanity. This kind of thinking isn’t a once and done. It is a continuous learning. We are not who we were five years ago, one year ago, even a week ago-why should we cling to something that isn’t working anymore.
Getting older has its benefits. Some people think that this means you get free coffee and a free pass to fart in public. Yeah, no. I’m not in for that sort of grace. I don’t want the free coffee that comes with the fact that I had the sticktoitiveness just to get older. No applause for me please when I reach an age milestone-I’ve seen a lot of people get old but never change and to me that isn’t an accomplishment I want to be a part of. Getting older brings with it a burnishing, a refining, a caring more about how I carry myself in the world with softened edges that bring comfort into the spaces I enter. It carries with it a responsibility to evolve, to grow, to learn and lean into the lessons we encounter. It means not buying into every new idea that will make us “more” or “best”, or signing up to be a project.
So, yeah, this is what happens when I go to yoga. I am no guru, no social scientist. I am someone who lives in a culture inundated with information designed to make us uncomfortable with who we are, dissatisfied with what we have, disappointed with being remarkably unremarkable. And, you know what? I am putting on my stretchy pants, rocking the messy gray bun, sitting my wide butt down on that mat to stretch, and move in the way MY body can. I am going to live the heck out of my half-best life, NOW. I may need ibuprofen to do it, but I'm so doin’ it.
And because I love P!NK no matter what age I am….
Nothing to see here….
Nope, no list of things that I think you should be reading, 100 places to see before you die. All I’m going to share is one more song by P!NK because we all need to dance in our kitchens more, grab our kids-or grandkids- swing them around, grab our spouses and move…even if you need ibuprofen.
Dance my friends,
Eirini se Sena-