I am feeling incredibly sad today.
It took me three hours to finally get out of bed this morning. I drank my coffee outside and cried in the woods while a squirrel barked at me. I’m trying desperately to drown myself in a little bit of work on my computer, and it’s not working.
Being sad is hard, because there are moments in the middle of the deepest parts of sadness that I think, “I can’t do this.”
Long story short, my gramma is very ill, and is nearing the end of life. I am out in Kansas City visiting with my family this week. My gramma (whose name is Billie Jean, honest-to-gosh) fought off lymphoma a few years back, but now she’s fighting a bacterial infection. She won’t get better, and that sucks.
I’m 31 years old, and I have not yet experienced the loss of an immediate family member. I can’t decide if that makes me lucky, or has jipped me out of the opportunity to learn how to process grief and sadness.
Anyway, I’ve spent the past few days visiting my gramma Billie at the hospital, watching my grampa hold her hand, pet her hair, and cop a feel every now and again (they’ve been together since they were teenagers over 60 years ago, and my grampa with a handful of my gramma’s butt is a scene I’ve been familiar with my entire life). Gramma’s had a few mini-strokes, so while she’s sometimes bright-eyed, she also sometimes doesn’t make a lot of sense. My grampa has Alzheimer’s, meaning he oftentimes doesn’t realize she’s not making sense… there’s a bittersweet hilarity to overhearing Gramma tell Grampa that she held the sweetest puppy earlier in the day, and Grampa trying to figure out where the hell the puppy came from.
In the meantime, I’ve been riding a rollercoaster of emotions this past week. By far, the worst is the sadness, which can be sneaky. I spent yesterday cracking jokes and making Gramma laugh – today I’m struggling to get out of bed.
Grief and Sadness are crippling. People don’t usually stay in bed because they’re having a great day. People don’t generally avoid visiting with loved ones because they’re happy and don’t want anyone to see them happy.
As I lay in bed this morning, trying to convince myself to get up, I pulled my breath practice in. Deep breaths into the belly; inhale one, two, three, four… exhale one, two, three four. Soothe the central nervous system. Calm the mind. Make it easier to acknowledge and tolerate the overwhelming waves of sadness, the unknown, and worst – the inevitable.
Years of time on a yoga mat has taught me that strength comes from going toward sensation, not away. To explore and be curious of discomfort, to sit on the edge and breathe. Growth won’t happen on the yoga mat if I avoid challenges, or worse – if I disassociate and disconnect from the sensations within my body.
It’s easy to disassociate. In fact, it’s the least painful way to deal with anguish, hurt, challenge. It’s a skill that is very human, to help us survive even in the midst of the greatest discomfort. But it also poses a threat to our ability to grow, heal, and be resilient. I have to go through the discomfort in order to learn from it. If I circumvent the pain, I deny its existence. And I can’t recover from something I refuse to acknowledge is real.
Today, I am hurting. But rather than getting up off of my yoga mat, rolling it up, and walking away, I’m going to try to stick with it. Breathe through it. And honor the sensations that arise.
This may be my most challenging yoga practice to date.