My choice to transform and grow through the challenge of deployment
Yoga offers many tools and opportunities for self-reflection and growth. Just the other day, I was reflecting on how my yoga journey began. My husband had just been deployed shortly after New Years about 8 years ago. My son had a birthday coming up just a few, short weeks later. Typically, our birthdays are big celebrations with lots of prep work, food, games, entertainment and basically lots to do. But, we have always enjoyed making our boy’s birthdays special and do all of the work ourselves such as cooking, baking and decorating. Me, not wanting to short change my son, started planning and decided on a taco bar and an ice cream sundae bar for dessert. There was lots to do and I rolled up my sleeves and jumped on in to plan fun games that the boys could play outside and a back up plan for indoors in case of rain. So, this stuff gets me going creatively but normally I’d have my other half in the trenches with me. I’m fortunate and grateful to have a close circle of friends, that have become family here in San Diego, for stepping in and helping out when we’ve needed them. The party was a success, we had a lot of fun. I can’t remember having any major breakdowns during the party planning and prep but I know that at this time in my life I was constantly reminded that I was doing it all basically alone. We’re such a tight team, my hubby and I, that I miss his presence and help when he’s gone. These times of organizing and planning an event can be overwhelming. They have always been a time of high stress and anxiety for me because I would take on so much and I put so much pressure on myself to do it just right or “perfect”. I had ridiculous expectations of myself and I would set myself up to explode, sometimes yelling and getting frustrated with my kids.
At the end of the party, we were winding down and my girlfriends and I were chit chatting. My next door neighbor at the time invited me to go to yoga the following morning. She knew I was missing Frank and feeling stressed out so she suggested that I try it. I had always had such positive feelings and ideas about yoga and had always wanted to try it. It took that kind invitation to take action and finally experience it for myself. I prepared my morning snack and told the kids what was up for the next morning. I met my neighbor and we walked over to the local studio a few short blocks away. It was a brightly colored building with hand painted murals on the side. I’d passed it so many times before and was always curious but had never had the courage to go in. I was unsure of what to do, what to wear, etc, but I just followed my friend’s lead and went for it. It was uncomfortable at the beginning, physically, but I was hooked. It gave me a feeling of relief, it felt like coming home. It became my sanctuary and I quickly signed up for the monthly membership. I planned out my schedule for the week and signed up for classes so that I would stay committed to going. I began with a few classes a week then I made it an almost daily practice. This was the first time that I really took time to care for myself in this way. Before yoga, I took care of the household and family, cleaned, cooked, taught English part-time and occasionally had fun outings with my friends. But, never had I taken good care of my mind and body. Very quickly, I felt the benefit of the practice and I no longer relied on my neighbor or anyone else to go with me. Going anywhere alone to work out or otherwise was so uncomfortable for me. Yoga was different in that I didn’t need anyone else. I spent time on my mat getting to know myself on a deeper level. It was a warm environment and I soon got to know the other yogis around me. We supported one another with smiles and hugs. This physical contact and encouragement was what I needed. Isn’t that what we all need? To have others around us that are like-minded and that want to share with you is a great support system.
With my yoga anniversary or birthday around the corner, I reflect back on this time with love and gratitude. Since then, I’ve consistently practiced and this has filtered into every part of my daily life. When I first began, I had to humble myself and build strength and dedication. I would bust out some cool arm balances on the living room floor to wow my boys. They were impressed even though they tried to be cool about it. When I was feeling down or tired and didn’t feel like practicing, they would say, “Mom, you need to go to yoga! You’re getting grouchy. You really need yoga today!” They noticed the shift in me and how I dealt with the everyday stress and the compounded pressure of having my spouse away on deployment.
Years later, I turn to my yoga practice to remain in a balanced state. Life and all of its obstacles and challenges are still present. But, now, I have tools that yoga and meditation have given me to overcome anything.
I welcome challenges and know that I’ve made it through before and I will again. During this current deployment, my focus has been to take good care of myself mentally, physically and spiritually. I set up a few safety nets by reaching out to friends, a therapist, my mom in order to establish a support system. I left behind anything that no longer resonated with me, anything that felt toxic or heavy. I decided to take action on my plans and creative ideas and to find my purpose in life.
With my boys, now young men, I have more freedom with my time. I’ve also had to let go of the fear of being alone and feeling lonely because my boys are independent and have their own social lives and activities. My determination to not isolate myself and dwell in the pain of separation has been critical to my well-being. Being a more introverted person that has a small circle of trusted confidantes, I have to make an effort to get out into the world and have human contact. My biggest saving grace has been to sit quietly and practice yoga in order to be open to all of the wonderful things that are around me. Because I let go of the need to hold on tight to my kids, we have re-established a closer bond and have been spending a lot of time together. I’ve been learning new ways to communicate with them and have begun to offer yoga classes to them and their friends. A few of their friends actually asked me for yoga and I was more than happy to do it.
I’ve also shifted my perspective on deployment. The reality of separation is still there but it is temporary just like yoga teaches us. In the yoga teachings, we are reminded to stay present and also to be with everything that comes in; sensations, emotions, distractions, discomfort. We can be with it and what’s empowering is that we can work through it. There’s nothing stuffed down or undealt with. We have the tools to feel and deal with all of it through the practice. The self-reflection and internal work brings us the greatest gifts. I’ve erased the doubt that I’m not capable of doing things on my own. I can and I have. I’ve also become more flexible and comfortable with asking for help. It has become a time of great growth and as I continue to learn and expand, I offer my experience to others as an example of what is possible. It just takes that action, that first step, empowering yourself and tapping into your tremendous strength and ability to not only overcome, but to come out better on the other side. These experiences are here to teach us and we only have to be open to understand that with challenge comes great growth; mentally, spiritually and physically. I choose to grow and transform through challenge and difficult experiences. I choose to use my gifts and abilities to help others through yoga.
This is a blog post that I contributed to the Warriors for Healing website. I'll be guest blogging on the site sharing my personal story about how yoga has helped me as a military spouse. Please check out the work of my fellow yogis at Warrior for Healing. www.warriorsforhealing.org