Being okay with not being okay
It has been a difficult couple of months for me.
I suppose, in a way, that's a big underestimation of what's been happening.
At the end of July, my mother passed away. 61 years old. It wasn't expected. She ended up with an infection in her brain that was causing crazy-long, brain-damaging, uncontrollable seizures. She ended up on life support and my Sisters and I, and her siblings, had to decide to remove her from life support.
Being a part of a decision like that, no matter how small a part is a life-changing experience. And what followed was even more challenging. For mom, it wasn't like in the movies or television shows. The body is designed to fight for itself. And when the machines were turned off, her body kept functioning for many days. Days I spent at her bedside, holding her hand as she slept... holding her hand as I slept. Whispering all the comforting words I could think of to give her peace. Saying goodbye over and over again every minute for hours and days on end in my heart.
It was the most difficult and intense experience of my life.
Until the day of her celebration of life service, which happened in September.
Suddenly I was faced, again, with my grief - and a whole slew of new grief - this time over all the things about our relationship that could never be. The bad stuff in our past. The stuff that could never see resolution and could never turn a corner. In July, I mourned the loss of my mother. But in September I began to mourn the loss of the mother I never got to have. And this experience of mourning, of grief, knocked me flat on my back emotionally.
It had been a long time since I'd felt so emotionally NOT okay. Even when she'd passed in July - I felt like I processed and moved through emotions in a pretty healthy and productive manner. But after the service I just couldn't keep it together. And yet, two days after her service I was due to resume my teaching schedule. I'd had no problem teaching - and hosting a successful Yoga retreat after her passing. But the Monday after her service, I just wasn't sure I could really be there for my students the way I wanted to be.
This was devastating for me. What I most wanted was to be able to get on my mat at the front of the class and show how together I was. To be okay. Not being okay felt unacceptable. So I fought it. I pushed against it. I berated myself for my own falling apart. I felt like I was failing. I had two classes to teach that Monday. They were both newer classes. When I showed up at the studio to set up for the first class, I dissolved. I couldn't stop crying. I set up anyway. No students showed up that day. Coincidence? Maybe not.
It was in the moment when I realized that a huge part of the pain I was feeling that day - was not the grief and the loss - but the way I felt like a failure for feeling so raw and sad.
Buddhists hold to the idea that when bad stuff happens to us, we are hit by TWO arrows (arrows representing the pain). The first arrow is the *stuff* that happens. The pain. The loss. The hurt. The inevitable things we can not avoid. But the second arrow is what we tell ourselves about what happened. What we tell ourselves about the pain we feel. And this second arrow is what was causing me the most suffering.
I realized I needed to find a way to move forward. So I picked myself up. I dusted myself off. And, most importantly, I gave myself permission to not be okay. To feel sad. To feel loss. To feel grief. And I committed to get on my mat and teach from that place of sadness. And that's exactly what I did.
Miraculously, once I admitted my grief, admitted that I wasn't all that okay, things started to feel right again. I felt like I was able to be there for my students from a place of authenticity because I showed them, by showing up, that it is okay to not be okay.
The reality is that sometimes we're NOT okay. Life happens. Pain happens. The most important thing is our willingness to show up for our life, on our mats and off, even when we aren't okay - without feeling like we have to stuff it all down and pretend it doesn't exist. This is just one more thing my Yoga practice has taught me.