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Letting Go of How I Think Things Should Be

It was one of those days. You know the type. One of those days that blindsides you with its flailing chaos simply because every day before then, for at least the past week, was smooth sailing.

And no. It wasn't my daughter. She was an angel. It was the writer who'd flaked on the article I'd assigned him. The 30-odd impenetrable research articles I had to pore through in order to whip up a replacement piece in the eleventh hour. The silence required to accomplish such a thing, silence I no longer get even when Em is in a good mood (her happy sound is a high-decibel shriek).

I knew I needed to press pause. To take a small chunk of time to just breathe, to sit in silence. Luckily, Em's afternoon nap time was approaching. It was now or never.

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I lay Em down in her crib and cranked the wheel on the mobile. Then I tip-toed out of the room, pulling the door partway shut, slunk across the hallway, and shut myself into my bedroom. I settled myself into a half lotus position on my pillow-top mattress, pillows piled up behind me to support my back. Then I pressed play on one of my Headspace meditations and closed my eyes. Almost immediately, Em began crying from the other room.

Meditation is something I'd tried, off and on, to incorporate into my life over the past few years. My practice really hit its stride during my pregnancy, when I took a series of hypnotherapy classes and started playing around with various relaxation techniques and guided affirmations. But when Em was born, things changed. It became nearly impossible to find a chunk of time in which to sit by myself, in silence, with both eyes closed. And it made me wonder if I should just give it up entirely.

Motherhood has been a constant education in changing my expectations of how I think things should be. Of redefining things for myself.

The same thing happened with my yoga practice. Pre-motherhood, I went to class at my local studio four to six times a week, and I taught just as often. The fact that I didn't have the self-discipline to build a home practice didn't matter. I'd just go to the studio to get my yoga on.

But as a mother, I scaled back my teaching commitments to one weekly class and one monthly workshop. I took class on Saturday and Sunday mornings, when I could leave Em with my husband. I was a lazy blob the rest of the week, because it felt impossible to find an hour in the day to move on my mat. Especially during my work days, when so many other things were higher on the list of priorities. And if I couldn't do a proper one-hour-and-15-minute flow, was it even worth it?

But then a recent asana challenge conducted within my group of yoga friends challenged me to rethink my practice. Couldn't I commit to doing poses every single day if even five minutes of movement counted as success?

So I began doing sun breaths in the mornings, for just a couple minutes, in order to wake myself up and warm up my body. In the afternoons, after Em's nap, I'd roll out my mat next to her play mat (I'd roll out her baby yoga mat, too) and follow a 10- or 15-minute video. Sometimes, Em would play happily beside me. Other times, she'd get in on the action. In the evenings, if I remembered, I'd do some hip openers and other gentle stretches, plus a restorative inversion. For the full 21 days of our asana challenge, I managed to get on my mat every single day. And it made all the difference in the world, because doing even a little bit was better than doing nothing at all.

And this is true of so many things in my life. The work I do. The time I enjoy trying out new recipes. The reading I squeeze into the cracks of my day. The evenings I am able to slip away to a Toastmasters meeting or to book club.

Sure, my identity has shifted since I became a mother. But the person I was before hasn't disappeared, nor should she have to.

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Motherhood has been a constant education in changing my expectations of how I think things should be. Of redefining things for myself.

So when I struggled to meditate for 10 minuscule minutes the other week while my daughter sobbed across the hall, I had to remind myself that she was okay. I had to remind myself that meditation was a means of learning how to find stillness within chaos, comfort within discomfort. I had to look at my life as a yogic challenge.

Sure, sometimes I forget these lessons. I haven't achieved enlightenment quite yet. Which is why, every time I set my intention at the beginning of my yoga practice, I tell myself, in the wise words of Elsa of Arendelle, to just "let it go."

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