Last summer, I managed to injure both of my hamstrings fairly severely. Two months into recovery, I got pregnant.
Running, biking, and much of my yoga practice was out; instead, walking was still the only mode of transportation.
Then I got a small back injury.
Yoga became even more difficult. Walking was slow at best. I had to stop going to yoga classes because I kept over-extending my legs, and most poses in a 90-minute class require the ability of your hamstrings, quads, and lower back.
13 weeks pregnant and vomiting, unable to exercise, and exhausted.
Cat and cow became my peak pose.
Lying on my back in Savasana became what I could do.
In a previous life, I was a college swimmer. An open water ocean swimmer. I splashed, danced, and sprang around the world in my body.
My body was one of my best friends. My body did what I wanted, it followed my instructions. And I listened to her, leaned on her, discovered new ways inside of her.
And then, in the span of six months, I went from a Sunday morning with yoga, soccer, and a bike ride all in one day, to wrapping my arms around the vomit bucket and heaving twice daily to empty my bowels, then icing my hamstrings and legs to help unwind the stiffening of the joints. My body was not my body. It felt so foreign, so different, so difficult.
Where did I go wrong?
I couldn’t help myself but think that it was somehow my fault. That I manifested the pain, or that I was doing pregnancy wrong.
It became easy to rally up and get frustrated and angry. Some nights I got so frustrated I could barely stand it. For most of my life, I’ve been an athlete. I’m an athlete because movement helps me deal with anxiety and stress. Without movement, I find my stress levels mounting.
Some nights I got wrapped up in sadness and I felt tears springing up out of the corners of my eyes. We hadn’t told my company yet, and most people still didn’t know that I was pregnant. I felt invisible, both to myself and to people around me.
I worried that I couldn’t keep up with my desires, and I wondered if it frustrated the people around me that I wasn’t able to show up in the way I used to be able to. My go-to reply in emails became a version of the word “no,” including my favorite, “Now’s not a good time for me, let’s check back in a month or two?” And then, I hid and I cried, because I wished for the person who used to be able to do these things.
Sometimes being homebound and sick made me feel as though I’d lost my words, that I was no longer able to communicate clearly. The haze of mental chatter everyone carries around them blocked them from seeing how I’ve changed.
I asked a friend to meet me for lunch and she replied by suggesting two late-night dinners.
I clenched my fists behind my computer screen in my house. I can’t DO DINNERS RIGHT NOW, I thought to myself.
The polite social self put her hands to the keyboard and typed. “I can’t do dinners or evenings right now,” I replied. “What about breakfast instead?” She suggests another night for dinner. I feel the failure on both parts: either I’m failing to tell people where I am right now, or they’re failing to see me, where I am, right now.
Not being seen feels like a small, persistent stabbing outwards of your skin from the inside out. A craving for the touch of recognition that is lost; skin that feels like it doesn’t know how to be skin anymore.
It felt like I failed at telling her what I was trying desperately to say:
I can barely leave the house right now, my legs don’t work, I’m so tired, and I use my nights to cry.
Is that clear?
I don’t know.
It’s not who I used to be. I don’t recognize the self in front of me.
As I was walking, meander-paced, around the small block around my house, feeling the proximity of my distance radius shrink from many miles of adventurous exploration to a close half-mile circle around my house, I glimpsed several possible scenarios. I could walk across these same streets again and again angrily, pissed at the sameness of it all, pissed at the closed-ness of it all.
I could walk and ignore it, letting my consciousness glean over the repetitive nature of the sameness of my surroundings.
I could, also, as another option — a choice we have in front of us, at all times, if we look — to LOOK, and to SEE, and to study more closely the things directly underneath my footprints. The cracks in the sidewalk. The last gasp of the trees. The final leaves that surrender inside of November’s rain and wind. The intricate details of each metal-laced buffer between the brownstones. The neighbors and their rituals and patterns. This could be a world of study, if I weren’t so impatient to get going.
A voice appeared in my head. I don’t know if it was mine or a spiritual one. I will give credit to all the higher powers for nudging me to attempt to reframe this as a net positive. It asked me,
What can you love about right now?
It’s easy to love the right now when the right now feels good. When I’m traveling, energetic, moving, happy, smiling, seeing friends, out and about — the right now feels spectacular.
When it’s something much more difficult, whether it’s trying or challenging or tiring — what is there to love inside of these present moments, still?
How can we love right now, right now?
Exhales teach me to look up and see inside the eyes of the same people on the subway. I smile and meet the cafe locals because they are my environment.
We are all here right now.