Back in May I kicked a chair leg and broke my pinky toe. It wasn’t a horrible break, but one bad enough to sideline me for the race I’d been training to do. At first, I was devastated. I’d spent months preparing for this race, hours upon hours of training – hours I wasn’t spending with my husband and kids, hours missed hanging with friends, hours not spent on my yoga mat. But the time spent was worth it and though I missed my “A” race, I had a back-up planned for early September, so no worries. My foot would be better by then, and all that training time would still have the outlet I was hoping for.
Recently, I saw my orthopedic Dr. I went to her to make sure I was healing right and that my continued training wouldn’t do lasting damage. For the most part, I’ve been feeling great, running hurts a bit, but I spent seven weeks not running, so I expected that. When she told me that my race in September was out of the question and that even a shorter distance later in the month wasn’t a good idea, I wasn’t sure what to say.
On the car ride home, I lost the composure I’d kept with the doctor. For the first time in months, I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t have a goal, something I could strive for. I felt lost. Maybe it sounds silly, but up until that moment, my schedule had been so structured around triathlon, I wasn’t sure what to do. I set this plan in motion because I thought a half iron distance triathlon was way out of my league. Over the months of training, I started to realize it wasn’t, that it was possible; and now because of a damned pinky toe, everything had to be put on hold and I wasn’t sure how to move forward. I failed at the one big thing I’d set out to do.
It wasn’t just the race that had me spiraling though. For the past couple weeks, I’d been struggling to feel like an even mildly good mom. The kids have been home for the summer and my patience has been somewhere else. Their bickering and teasing each other had me on edge. I wasn’t being the mom I thought I should be, I was yelling and losing my cool way more than I wanted to. Part of me just didn’t want to parent. What kind of a mom thinks like that?
Once I started down this road of self-reflection, I realized that I wasn’t being the yoga teacher I wanted to be either. At the beginning of the year I made a conscious choice to put my yoga on the back burner and focus on triathlon. With training, there just wasn’t the time to dedicate to expanding my practice further. I stopped rolling out my mat, and for a time I felt uninspired as a practitioner and a teacher. Let me tell you, there’s nothing worse than a yoga teacher who doesn’t practice yoga. Not because it makes her bad at her job, but because a yoga teacher who doesn’t practice yoga is adrift, whether she knows it or not.
So, there I was, in the car, the boys in the backseat and tears streaming down my face. If I couldn’t do triathlon, if I was a bad mom and a lackluster teacher, who was I? These were the things that defined me, that made me who I was. These were the things I used to describe myself to other people, they were the bedrock of who I was. To think that I was failing at all three at the same time, it was more than I could handle in the moment. When I got home though, I played it cool; I casually told Nick there wouldn’t be a half ironman race for me this year and went about the rest of my day. I felt broken, and at odds with myself, but I was determined to act like it was nothing.
Later that night, after the kids went to bed, Nick asked me what was going on. I was trying desperately to hold on to some sense of normal, but he knew better. Reluctantly, I laid it out for him. Though I felt a little silly, I told him how I felt like I was failing at almost everything I loved. I was a triathlete who couldn’t do triathlon, I was a mom who was doing a crappy job, and I was a yoga teacher who never practiced yoga.
The whole thing was a recipe for meltdown. Thankfully, after talking it through, I felt better (isn’t that how it usually works? Why, then, is it so hard to do? I’m not sure – we’ll get into that on some other blog).
If you were to come into class and we had this conversation, I’d tell you that you aren’t what you do. You aren’t your job, or your hobbies; you aren’t your kids, or your car. What kind of house you have (and how clean it is) isn’t who you are. You aren’t your hair, your skin or your weight. You aren’t how much money you have. You aren’t the labels you’ve been given (by yourself or others): funny, happy, boring, fat, skinny, smart, I could go on and on – I have tons of them myself, layers upon layers of them, like a big, greasy blooming onion. The good news about all this is that you aren’t your failures either.
You are something much bigger than all that, I’d say. You are a beautiful, complex soul who cannot be defined by simple titles. As Rumi says: “you are not a drop in the ocean, you are the ocean in a drop.” I’d tell you all this with the deep belief that it is true. I would want you to understand it down into your bones so the next time you feel boxed in or stuck, or just really low, you could remember the miracle that you are – no matter what labels you may wearing.