About ten years ago I found myself in MAJOR transition. After serving as an active duty Army logistics officer, I traded in my captain’s bars for a Boppy pillow. At the time, I thought I was more than ready to be a mom. At 28 years old, I had successfully navigated my way through West Point and the challenges of serving in the male-dominated 3rd Infantry and 82nd Airborne Divisions. With all my “expertise” in the male arena, I truly thought raising a little boy would be a piece of cake.
I quickly realized it was NOT a piece of cake at all. Perhaps I was a bit overconfident out the start gate. Just six weeks after our little man was born, my husband left for 60 days of training. I suddenly found myself home alone and in a place where my thoughts seemed to keep me awake almost as much as our crying baby. At that point, I can remember stepping back and looking at my life as if it was a split screen on CNN. On one side there was me with pressed BDU’s and shiny jump boots. On the other side of the screen was me in sweats with hair that hadn’t seen a brush in two days. I have to admit, there were some similarities. The 4:00 am calls to come in to work for a random piss test where replaced by a little boy crying at 4:00 am to have his diaper changed.
Don’t get me wrong. I was NOT feeling sorry for myself. I was completely baffled that I was feeling anything less than overjoyed at being a stay-at-home mom. In fact, I was downright frustrated that I was remotely depressed about even the whispers of post-partum depression! Like any good military officer, I had planned this pregancy and birth, down to the last stitch of new bedding and useless wipe warmer. We had strategized our finances and started our son’s college fund before he ever saw the light of day!
What I had not counted on was how I would feel about not being recognized and rewarded for all my efforts or not being high-fived for surviving another sleepless night. This is not to say my husband, extended family, and friends were not supportive. They were extremely loving, understanding, and helpful. What was different was living in the heart of a military community, just outside the gates of Ft. Bragg, NC, and no longer feeling a part of something “bigger.” I was no longer standing in front of a formation getting an award for excellent service. No boss was pulling me into his office to say congrats because I made the promotion list. No one was even calling me to see if I could swing a quick lunch. Until looking from the outside to the inside of those ranks, I never realized the extent to which I desired to be seen in those ways. I wrestled over whether or not being seen by just those baby brown eyes was really enough for me.
During this time my husband had also made a big transition from the “regular Army” to Army Special Forces. He had earned his green beret after an intense selection process and qualification course. He had also shined in grueling schools such as SERE, and Ranger school. I threw a big congratulations party for him when it was all complete, but I can’t deny that there was a part of me that was jealous. Even while frosting the cake, I remember feeling as pea green as his new beret. I knew that period of time was challenging for him on every level. On top of everything else, he was missing out on seeing his newborn baby growing. For all I knew, he was jealous of me for staying home. No matter what, at the ended of the day, I knew he was very fulfilled by what he was doing, and as for me….well, I wasn’t yet convinced.
It took some time for me to move through these feelings. Instead of moving through them in mind, body, and spirit, I chose to work through my issues as I had always done – by just DOING MORE. As a very sleep-deprived mother I enrolled in grad school. Six months and about $10,000 later, I dropped out. I went through a period of perfectionism where I was obsessed with the perfect house, perfect garden, perfect parties….till “perfectionism” just steam-rolled me completely. There was point where I thought getting back to 6.5 minute miles, was a great idea too…. up until I discovered that giving birth to an 8 pound boy naturally sometimes causes issues “down South.” I once heard someone call hemorrhoids “balloon friends,” but I can tell you, they are NO damn friend of mine!
Somewhere along the way, I got a grip on myself and realized that doing for the sake of being more was just downright stupid. It really doesn’t work that way. This is where yoga stepped up and became the Light that invited me to come on in. Growing up with a yogi-mom, I had done plenty of yoga before, but I had never experienced yoga. Despite all the psychotic mind chatter going on in my severely sleep-deprived brain, I heard yoga’s whisper. I found a class at my local health club (which also had child care… yippie), and I soon became a regular. Least I forget God’s great sense of humor, my first real yoga teacher, a true master yogi, was a male AND a retired Army first sergeant!
It took me a few classes to move from doing yoga (and wondering how I measured up in a class of studs) to experiencing yoga. When I made that transition from doing to experiencing yoga, the sense of my own BEING-ness washed over me. What does that feel like? The best way I can describe it is using the words of Saint Hildegard of Bingen, a 12 century Christian mystic. When I am connected and aware of my BEING-ness, I feel “like a feather being transported by the breath of God”. How did that happen? One word….SURRENDER. I gave up trying to do or be anything more and than what I was in that very moment.
After many years of practicing yoga, I now identify my yoga mat as my magic carpet. When I step on it, I surrender. I’m not doing yoga, I am experiencing my body, mind, and spirit in that moment… a witness to what IS, not what I wish for or what was long ago. I just witness ME – in the moment. Whether I step on the mat for five minutes or an hour and fifteen, I have no self- judgment, no expectation, no agenda. It’s just my magic carpet and ME.
Now I am mom to two little boys. My husband and I have survived and thrived after more than 15 years in the great “Green Machine” (a.k.a. the Army). Now, yoga is more of an old friend than an actual practice. Like any true friend, it brings me back to myself and makes me more of who I am. I hope that everyone, particularly in our military community (including those who wear the uniform AND those who don’t), have one of these non-judgemental, no expectation/no agenda kind of “friends”…. whether it’s a yoga mat, a fly rod, a bicycle, Zumba, or a comfy pair or running shoes. When you move your body, you still your mind – pure and simple. And when you still your mind, you begin to hear the whispers of who you really are.
Move your body, and your Spirit will follow!
Aloha nui loa & happy “Aloha Wednesday” from the not-so-sunny Pacific Northwest ~