I started my Yoga practice about two years ago, and I am continually grateful that I came to the Yoga practice when I did. I needed the quiet, the introspective time, sometimes the opportunity to think deeply, to cry freely, to let things get worked out in class. It was part yoga, part therapy.
I started yoga around the same time I realized that there was a deep problem in my marriage, mostly on my end. My feelings had changed, my love had changed, and I didn't think I was ever going to be able to go back. I had reached an exhausted point - I was physically and emotionally wiped out. I felt I had nothing left to give. I had stopped decorating for holidays, stopped doing fun things with my kids, stopped reading, stopped trying to make new foods. I was just...done. And I hated that feeling.
On the surface, very few people could tell anything was wrong. There were a couple poor souls who were subjected to my almost weekly phone calls, filled with tears and heartache, trying to figure out what I should do. I kept teaching class, kept working out, kept painting. Hardly anyone knew I moved out until several months after it happened.
It's been over a year since I moved out, just about one year since all the papers were signed. Yet, this has been the most difficult month so far.
I'm starting to come to terms with one of the biggest factors that led to the demise of my marriage, and in fact, the thing that keeps coming up in most of my relationships.
My problem is that I try to make people happy because in turn I wait for them to make me happy.
It's not as simple as "I made you dinner now tomorrow you make me dinner", or "I bought you a new shirt now you go and buy me a new shirt". It was giving in a lot of little ways, every day. I enjoyed making the foods that my family loved, I enjoyed sending birthday cards and gifts like clockwork, I enjoyed keeping a clean home. There were days when from sun up to sun down, it was just me, doing things for my kids, doing things for my husband, and never having anything done for me in return.
This is where I am sure many of you are saying "Well wasn't your husband out working so you COULD stay home with your kids? In-grateful bitch!" "Don't you call paying the bills DOING something for you?!" OK. Fine. I get that. You don't know the whole story. And I was a wife, not a servant.
(It happened in other relationships, too, but I am not going to create a laundry list of "I did this yet they didn't do that".)
Just sharing how my mind worked for most of the day, every day: How can I make ____ happy? - for every person in my life. And it wasn't just about giving...it was about who I was, how I was trying to make other people happy in the way I lived my life, instead of living a life that made me happy. I thought "If I am the person they want me to be, they will get involved...they will love me back" when all that did was make me miserable, and it did not get them involved.
I realize that I stopped enjoying just giving to people. Giving little gifts, giving extra hugs, giving homemade food, giving any little thing, just because. Giving turned into a desperation. I was in desperate need of...connecting. I was desperate for my happiness to matter to someone. I was desperately hoping for reciprocity.
I am not saying that people did not CARE. I was feeling alone, isolated, forgotten, taken advantage of. I was not being my authentic self, either. Sometimes people just don't realize it's happening, or that this is how I felt. I was out of sight, out of mind, for most people. And, truly, I know we are all busy people.
(I do not want to sound like nobody did anything for me, ever...there were nice things done for me sometimes. And sometimes, it was so unexpected, and I was so out of practice accepting something thoughtful, that I would be shocked into tears)
But I was letting a lack of connection with my husband create a desperate need in myself for SOMEONE to care. And I tried to get that by doing whatever I could for anyone else in my life. And, eventually, I realized that this was the wrong way to go about it, because the only thing that was happening was that I was making myself miserable. I was not making myself happy.
So here's where I finally come back to yoga.
Today in class, my instructor had the class pair off, so that we could practice Thai Massage on each other. As we massaged each other's feet and took turns rubbing shoulders, he repeated several times "Giving and Receiving are the same thing. This is a two way process."
I'm sure everyone interprets quotes and anecdotes and lessons in different ways, but for me, I had to get back to what giving USED to mean to me: that I was showing someone love, that I was showing someone I cared, that I found JOY in making those around me happy. I had to start finding the JOY in giving, rather than give as a desperate attempt to have someone else do something to bring me a bit of happiness.
Which brings me to the second part of today's lesson.
Paraphrasing my fabulous instructor, he reminded us that "breathing is the key. It is how we react to the moments in life that define us, not the moments themselves. Breathe about it. Don't react to it".
So...learning about where I am and how I got here... I have terrible reactions. A lot. I react with guns full blazing to a lot of little moments. I am slowly realizing, though, that it has very little to do with that particularly difficult moment, and a lot more to do with my own happiness.
Now I must admit - I think the phrase"you are in charge of your own happiness" gets used as a cop-out by some people when they do not want to take any responsibility for how they can make other people feel. Intentionally or not, if you hurt someone's feelings, you don't turn to that person and say "well I'm not here to make you happy. That's your own job".
I know that it is my job to seek out the relationships in my life that feed my soul. I know it is my job to let go of those that don't. I know it's my job to nourish my art, because my art makes me happy. I know it's my privilege to raise two amazing, healthy, smart, funny kids, and that it is truly a joy to do so. I know what I wear, what I eat, where I go, how I dance, should all make me happy...not fit the mold of what I *think* will please someone else enough to want me in their lives.
I need to get back to giving because I WANT to give. I have to get back to doting on my children while realizing - they are just kids. Kids who are self involved and not yet capable of reciprocity.
For a little while, I was thinking to myself "you need to stop doing things for people. It just doesn't work".
And you know what? That thought made me miserable. I love doing things for the people I care about. I need to stop doing things for people as a deposit on future return, though - I need to treat giving like it is receiving. End of story. I give, I get joy. Done.
It's been a tough year, and a very difficult month. I am thankful for my art, my time in my studio, which truly is my joy, and my therapy. There have been many tear-filled nights holding a brush, trying to work through difficult passages in a painting while also trying to comprehend all of these emotions. But...you know...progress is being made. See? I got my handstand...well...almost...soon enough I won't need the wall :)
Yoga is a practice. Art is a practice. I am so thankful that I am learning these lessons, whether it's the first time or the tenth time. I am grateful. And...becoming happy.