I am in a rut – or rather, I have become the rut itself: trenched deep into the brain pattens of years past, channeling a former mind entirely. When stress arrives, I will always revert to Sloth Mode.
When I am twelve, my older sister finds me sitting on the bathroom toilet – in its blue shag covered glory – drinking maple syrup from the bottle. What are you doing, she asks?
Mom made me break up with Kyle, I explain.
Her empathy offers no hint of surprise, because this is what one does when one mourns, when one is frustrated, when one’s rope is a bit frayed on the end. One consumes breakfast condiments on the commode. Naturally.
And although my present day stress level hasn’t yet created a repeat occurrence of this particular sort, it has had its moments, to be fair. Just yesterday, I scream at a gaggle of geese crossing the road. I am late for the dentist! I shout to the empty, abandoned street. Get on with it! What are you doing?!
What am I doing?
And so, yoga.
My love for yoga has astounded everyone over the past few years, myself included, and it has become obvious when I have not been showing up for class. I will arrive home from the coffee shop after a morning of writing, and a single phrase – did you take out the trash? – will reveal to Ken whether I indulged in a yoga break or not.
Lately, it has been not.
Things have piled – the dentist, remember? – and our days have become shorter in the full kind of way, where there is less white space and more productivity, a kind of black calendar magic I do not particularly perform well in. And for every red circle on the calendar – Tuesday’s dinner, Saturday’s afternoon wedding, next weekend’s neighborhood block party – there is another thing: cheese, and wine.
I consider myself a disciplined person. I rise every morning at 4:45am to greet the day. I keep a strict schedule, I eat well, I avoid soda. I trim my nails. I read my Bible. I consume ridiculous amounts of water and I have a vial of Thieves on my nightstand, which I hear works wonders for things I do not quite recall.
But cheese and wine. Can anyone resist their prowess?
This is the reason for the rut. The yoga skipping, the feta, the wine.
And so, shortly after the dentist and geese debacle, I vow to do something special that might promise a bit less rut and a bit more trench-rising.
I change my pants.
I text my girlfriend – Random question: can I sneak behind your property for an evening of al fresco yoga? – and she says yes, of course, and I smile, knowing people have probably done worse things behind her property than a few sun salutations.
I pack Bee, and my latest Nature Box delivery, and I dust off my mat from the backseat of the car (where did that finger paint splatter come from?) and I wrangle Ken into coming, too, but perhaps it was the snacks that did the wrangling.
We arrive, and it is golden hour, and it is quiet, except for the frogs. I unroll my mat between trees I cannot identify and I stretch, breathe, twist, be. I begin to lament myself for taking this long, for moving through life for weeks on end before pausing to give my body a nice, good wringing out. But then I stop.
The birds are singing, and there is no room for lamentations. It’s time to celebrate.
I move through a few Vinyasa flows – Sun A, Sun B – and somewhere between dancer pose and a headstand, I feel an unmistakable joy for this mat, this life.
I have heard it said, many times, that who you are on your mat is who you are off your mat. For weeks, I have been absent. I have been preoccupied with deadlines, with a looming project of which little progress has been made, with future doubts, with current trials. I have become absent on my mat – I don’t have the time! – and I have become absent off my mat – I don’t have the energy!
But tonight, as I near the end of my secret little yoga class, the sun begins to fall and the air grows thin and weeks of absence melt away into now, here, this.
Bee runs up to show me some rocks she’s collected as I layer on my favorite hoodie, and we settle in for some snacks (the Blueberry Nom Noms are unreal). She tells me of her adventures off the mat; I tell her of my adventures on.
The rut has been conquered, if only for tonight. If only for this present moment, in which I realize that off my mat, I am a mother.
And on my mat, I am the same.
This essay was written for Old Navy and Nature Box in celebration of their Shape Up for Summer giveaway (enter to win a year of tasty snacks, $500 to Old Navy and $4500 to meet a fitness goal of your dreams!). I’m wearing the following items, now available online from Old Navy Activewear!: