Tuesday I took a great class at my aerial arts studio called Flight & Flow. The class starts with half an hour of yoga and ends with half an hour “flying” (that is, working out on the sling and silks – doing upside down sit-ups, pull-ups, climbing, sweating, having fun). As we often do, we began the yoga portion with deep breathing, letting our breath go all the way down to our bellies.
Here’s a thing: I never relax my stomach. I grew up being told to suck in my gut because it supports your lower back, blah blah blah. I suspect my mother just didn’t like my belly hanging out (yes, I still have mommy issues). Anyway, I tried to let my belly un-clench, allowing the breath to go deep, and I noticed my breathing was shuddering strangely. So I said to Kate, my talented and fun instructor who also owns the studio, “My breath is doing something weird, like I’m crying.” And with that statement – I started crying. I continued to cry during downward dog (tears dripping off my forehead), during warrior pose (tears dripping off my chin) and during side stretches (tears slipping into my ears). I. Couldn’t. Stop.
When we moved into the air, though, the tears dried up and I had fun – until we went upside down, at which time I started to feel nauseous. The nausea increased, and when class was finally over and we were cooling down, I jumped up, ran to the bathroom, and puked. You know how I said I never relax my belly? I also never puke (maybe there’s a correlation?). In fact, aside from an ill-advised bottle of wine on an empty stomach which led to an evil and unexpected hangover last year, I haven’t thrown up in EIGHTEEN YEARS (I remember, because it was during labor when I gave birth to Lizzie). I’m just not a puker.
Kate was proud of me. The crying, she said, showed that I had “moved to the next level in my yoga practice.” And the puking? Well, I guess that since I had released so much emotion during the crying bit, the puking was just more release – literally getting rid of some vomitous stuff.
The truth is, I haven’t done much grieving about my mother, who died earlier this summer. I’m sad, obviously, but instead of crying or talking about it, I have tended toward sleeping and avoidance. When I came home and told Paul about the unusual class I had just had, he said in a loving, gentle manner, “Oh, honey, you’re a mess,” and I didn’t disagree.
After that, I went to bed. I had an excuse: if you throw up, you rest, right? But lying there feeling that familiar tightness in my chest and churning in my gut, I tried to tune in: what the heck was this feeling that was making me sick? And it hit me like a hard smack upside the head:
Pure, galloping terror. I am terrified, and have been, at some level, since July 12, when Paul woke me up to tell me my mother had died unexpectedly in the night. Because despite my mommy issues, I always knew Mom had my back. Like Robert Frost said, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” No matter that Mom had moved to Phoenix, where I had never lived: she was my original home and always would be.
I have a loving home here. I know my husband is always here for me. I have loving kids and loving friends and a loving father and brothers. Here’s the thing, though, people: what if you all start hating me? What if I do something unexpected and horrible, and the whole world turns against me? Where would I go? Mom was always there. Now she’s not.
If I become a social pariah, I’ll have to move to a tiny apartment above a truck stop off a highway exit with no name and become a waitress serving coffee to long-haul truckers and I’ll probably be wearing some light-blue uniform with a white apron that will be too small because I’ll be putting on weight from sheer misery and I’ll have to stalk social media for news of my long-lost husband and children and I won’t have a cat or dog because even animals will hate me. And I won’t be the kind of truck-stop waitress where the truckers call me doll and flirt with me harmlessly and look forward to stopping there because I’m warm and motherly when I serve them pie, and the grumpy cook in his stained white T-shirt who also owns the diner won’t secretly have a heart of gold. Nope, I’ll be lonely, miserable and flat-out mean and everyone will avoid my tables.
So, yeah. When everyone and their pets start to hate me, instead of going home to my mother’s loving arms, I’ll have to be a bitter outcast and die alone with really bad hair (see picture above).
You can see where my terror springs from.
I made a new friend (she doesn’t hate me yet, I don’t think) who suggested faith might help. My belief in God goes up and down, from absolute belief that God’s got me safe in his arms to absolute belief that he’s a big fat lie and humanity is a random event in a random universe. But maybe she’s right and there’s a higher power that might give me strength and comfort. In fact, she pointed out that maybe she and I connected for a reason – hinting, I assume, that God had hooked us up. (I read a blog post of hers that resonated with me, reached out to her, and we ended up having a lovely email exchange that lasted an entire afternoon – and she had many words of wisdom to share.)
I made another new friend yesterday, now that I think about it. I ran into a friend, and she was with her friend, and we immediately clicked. I told her I write for middleaged women, and she said she couldn’t read it because she’s no longer middleaged unless she dies when she’s 124 (she did the math so quickly!). I said I’d let her read it anyway, that maybe she could still relate to it, and that women need to bond over honesty because, fuck, life was hard. Then I apologized for my language. She said, “Don’t worry. Middle aged women say fuck.” You can see why I fell in love with her.
So I must not be a social outcast yet. I’ll try to hold onto that. Meanwhile, friends, keep sending strength, because I appreciate your thoughts and love (while it lasts). I hope that if you’ve had similar challenges, it will help to know that others have felt the same. As I said to my new friend, this big life is easier if we don’t have to go through it alone.
Have fun til next time,
PS: if you feel like reaching out to me, consider posting comments here, straight on the blog, instead of on Facebook (or in addition to Facebook), so all my readers can see them. Your thoughts might help them, too.
PPS: At class the following day, Kate was extremely nauseated, as was my son that evening and the next day. So maybe I didn’t throw up from overwhelming emotions. Maybe I was just sick. Still, it’s a good analogy, but take it with a grain of salt.