this post is a little bit late; i apologize
My yoga practice suffered last Saturday and Sunday.
I tried to blame it on irresponsible food choices, dehydration, lack of sleep…all the usual suspects. I knew, however, that I would eventually have to face the real reason why anxiety took over and dragged me through class: the grief and guilt I feel every single day, magnified by Father’s Day weekend.
It was only my second Father’s Day without my dad; he only died less than two years ago. I have all the feelings/experiences I consider “normal,” such as still missing him every day, reaching for the phone to call him with good (or bad) news, wondering how he would react to all my recent life changes, worrying about him for a moment when a major storm is reported in his area. I also have an odd sense of what I can only call “guilt” that surfaces any time I am struggling or in pain.
My dad–an incredibly strong, intelligent person who taught me how to swim, ice skate, water ski, and drive a boat (among many other things)–drowned in the lake behind his home. It didn’t make sense to me then, it still doesn’t now, and it never will. The old joke between us was that I would be the 75-year-old woman in the tattoo parlor getting a “Dad” memorial tattoo, because his side of the family enjoyed amazing health and life spans of 95+. (Instead, I was 32 when I got “I love you” in his handwriting tattooed on my left foot, 33 when, as a memorial on the first anniversary, I had pink apple blossoms added to my shoulders.)
Losing anybody–a relative, friend, pet, anybody–is difficult. It seems, at least to me, that losing somebody to a scary freak accident is even more difficult. In the days and weeks that followed, of course I cried because I missed him, because he wouldn’t see me finally get my Master’s and someday help me move across the country again, because he wouldn’t be there the next time I had a crisis. But I really focused on the things that he experienced: Did it hurt? Was he scared? What did he think of? Where is he now–lost, happy, not happy, just gone? I guess anybody could feel this about any death, but I wasn’t prepared for the way it got into me and wouldn’t let go.
Showering became a scary experience in which I would hold my breath until I felt dizzy. (Why not?) I still can’t drink flat water unless it has actual ice cubes floating in it (hence my obsession with sparkling water, and my avoidance of yoga-room-temperature water). I went to California, swearing I would run into the ocean; when the water covered my little tattooed feet, I ran back to the dry sand. And those yoga poses where it’s difficult to breathe and/or sweat drips deep into your nose? I panic. I don’t mean like “crap, it’s hard to breathe, I should adjust my pose,” I mean full-fledged, guilt-ridden, freak-out panic. And then I berate myself. It isn’t pretty.
Father’s Day was like any other day. I woke up, made a smoothie, went to the gym, worked on an editing project, cleaned some stuff out of the closet. When I got to the studio, I took one of my “regular” spots and sat down to tie a blue ribbon in my hair (as I did last year on Father’s Day, his birthday, and the anniversary of his death.) I was barely into standing head-to-knee when I realized that I wasn’t really breathing. I was hurting. I was taking short, shallow breaths. I considered sitting out, but told myself, “don’t be lazy, you know, your dad can’t even ever do yoga anymore ever again, get up off your ass.” (See? Berating myself.) Any time I feel sorry for myself (in yoga, when carrying heavy things, when burdened with work, when enduring verbal abuse) I fall back on the same thing. At least you’re still alive to endure this. I know it isn’t healthy or helpful. But it happens.
Somewhere during the floor series, my hair suddenly felt so tight that I had to tear the blue ribbon and rubber band out of my hair. I hate feeling like I’m causing a scene, but the sudden pain and discomfort was extreme. I still wasn’t breathing. I still didn’t think I would even make it through. I stopped to think, and decided that I should take comfort in the fact that I wasn’t the only person in the room missing their dad that day. It was a quite humbling experience for someone who has an “I can overcome anything I set my mind to” attitude. Because I can’t. I can’t overcome death. And even though it feels like someday he will call me again, or next Christmas he will be at the party…he won’t. Not in the way I’m thinking. And I wonder if that feeling will ever go away, if it will ever all seem real.
When I got home after (barely) surviving that class, I noticed that his funeral home card had “leapt” off the bulletin board where it’s been since September 2011. This has happened maybe twice before. I checked to see if all windows were closed, fans off, dogs in crates. Yes, yes, and yes. I picked up the card, put it back into its place, and thought about how sometimes, over-used sentiments can be true. I will be sad, probably forever. But I will try to focus on gratitude: I got lucky in the Dad department, even if it was for only 30 years instead of 80.