Seven weeks post double mastectomy, I thought it was about time I get my mushy sagging butt back to the yoga studio.
My car instinctively knew the way, so my mind wandered as I drove. Soon, I found myself just sitting there, in the parking lot, with my hand on the door handle. I was a mix of gleeful anticipation, doubt and anxiety. And a tiny bit of dread.
A couple of weeks ago when I started physical therapy I realized that I had been holding back from things because I was afraid I would open my incision. When the PT doctor assured me that would not/could not happen, I only half believed him. My anxiety, fear, and instinct to self-protect almost outweighed his professional scientific knowledge. But I decided to trust him. I breathed deeply, and began to move, slowly and carefully. Science prevails!
But here I was again, hesitating, holding myself back. Was I really ready for this? What was about to happen? How would I feel when I walked through the door? When I saw people I haven’t seen since before the surgery? When hugs were offered? When I got on the mat? When I started to move? How would I feel and how would I react?
I took a deep breath as I opened the door. Come on, then. Let’s just see what happens. That’s all. Just see.
At the beginning of every yoga class, whether the instructor tells me to or not, I always set an intention. My intention is an idea that my mind will come back to over and over again. It isn’t a goal, or an expectation. It’s just an idea that flows with me through the practice.
I have trained my brain, through years of repetition, to come back to my intention every single time I bring my hands to heart center. It’s a habit now. When my hands come to my heart, I think Intention? and then I repeat the mantra du jour.
Sitting here, on my mat, I could hear the low rumble of the what-ifs and the maybe-you-shouldn’ts. I brought my hands to my heart and I repeated the words that brought me out of the car. “Let’s just see”.
So I moved. I followed the teacher. I noticed that each time we moved on to a new pose, my mind would hesitate. Maybe I’m not ready for that one? Maybe I shouldn’t do that one yet? Maybe that one will hurt me?
All of the maybes want to protect me. But from what?
There is no clear and present danger. The maybes are still trying to protect me from past pain. From things that don’t even really exist in the here and now. My brain was trained to protect me by my recent trauma. And now, it’s time for me to train it again.
So each time my brain hesitated I took a deep breath and I thought ‘Let’s just see’. And I saw. Each time, I just saw. No goals, no expectations, no judgment. An absolute beginner.
How many things in our life do we say no to right away? Or hem and haw about until it’s too late? We sit around saying but maybe this will happen, or maybe that will happen. We keep ourselves up at night with what-if-this and why-didn’t-I-that?
We think we are protecting ourselves from harm by exploring all possible scenarios and rehashing past mistakes. But we are attempting to control the uncontrollable. We are trying to avoid all discomfort. Instead of identifying the anxiety, fear, and doubt so that we can work through it, we spend our time avoiding it all with fantastic fictional thoughts.
Our misguided sense of self-protection holds us back. Our past experiences, our false expectations hold us back. We miss out on so much opportunity and achievement. We miss out on the feeling of contentment and accomplishment. We miss out on actually living.
I don’t want to miss out on any living. I want to do all of the living I can.
What’s gonna happen next? Let’s just see…