Change doesn't come immediately and out of the blue, unless you aren't paying attention to its subtle hints. Like the small shifts in a person's habits, or the patterns of their schedule. Someone you used to see every morning at the coffee shop suddenly stops showing up. The way a room feels more quiet, or the conversation less spontaneous than it used to be; a subdued, reflective energy. Or the appearance of leaves on the ground at the end of August—despite the fact that there's no tree nearby in sight. (Could they have stayed that way over the winter? Don't think so.) And then there's the obvious one: going back to school and all the commercial clap-trap that comes with it. That's the culmination, in the most outward way possible, that summer is fading and fall is coming into view.
Last August and into September, I struggled with the fact that I was a parent of a grade-schooler. How could this be? (This year, I cried when we were exiting the Carters store after some back to school shopping, with the realization that we have almost outgrown it.) Nearly six years gone in a blip, and I had kindergartners. I spent the first couple of weeks of September feeling like I was never going to be that parent, and that I wasn't living up to someone else's expectation of parental involvement. That people would be looking at me because I wasn't like them; I wasn't that parent. The one who had her shit together all the time. The one who was able to volunteer time and energy at the drop of the hat. The one who remembered every detail and sent her kids off 100 percent prepared, 100 percent of the time. I forgot to send them in with $2 for the book sale. They forgot their back packs. They forgot their umbrellas. After a few weeks of getting adjusted to the boys being in kindergarten, I realized that a., I have a husband and we BOTH sometimes forget and b. I was comparing myself not to other moms around me (and that's another issue—why's it always moms?!), but to my own mother. She always had it together and was always volunteering at my grammar school, but that was her job and she loved it. She did not work outside the home. (Catholic schools, they always seem to need extra help!) I can't be that mom; it's not who I am. Nor should I be. And of course, no one is that perfect parent. A ridiculous thought even as I was thinking it, but I let go of it quickly. I struggle to keep my own sense of peace and have realized why I am a freelance writer; something about stubborn independence. But I can be present as much as humanly possible, in other ways that matter, for my children. And I've largely made my peace with it. (Thanks, yoga. That's another win for you!)
Change also begets change, it seems; once there's a crack, a sliver of space made or a shift, it's as if the universe has been given the all-clear. The only problem? Well, we mortals sometimes struggle to adjust to those changes, even if those changes are for the best. There are always lessons to be learned. Sometimes it's not clear of their benefit if you're just feeling the ripple effects, but you can envision it; sometimes they come with great pain, hurt or disappointment. Or all three, simultaneously. It is inevitable and normal. And healthy. The less we fight it, the better off we will be.
Change is also happening all the time. I once watched the late (I hate to even say that!) Wayne Dyer being interviewed about how we are constantly changing; the person you are right now is not, on a cellular level, the same person you were five minutes ago. Nor are you the same person you will be in another five minutes. Time doesn't happen in a linear way. Change is the only constant; a delightful conundrum if ever there was one and definitely the stuff of late-night college dorm conversations.
During these times of extreme transitions, I find myself scaling back both what I do in the kitchen and what I do on the mat. Back to basics. I made a salad last night, because I know the boys like it and because our schedules are ramping up again. And it's still hot, despite the calendar reading September and the equinox approaching. It's not the time for extensive experimentation; I do better with that in the winter, when the focus is on warming the home and time seems more expansive and the needs of the outside world less pressing. Still, I find myself prepping for more time spent in the kitchen, restocking the spices for fall baking and preserving the last gasps of summer's harvest.
On the mat, I am taking more rests in child's pose. There are deeper breaths and more grounding poses, more work in warrior 1, 2 and 3, and in the hips. The thought of going upside down right now, when life is a bit upside down, feels like too much to maintain, unless it's a headstand (those are more restorative.) Life gives us this gift, this reminder, that we aren't the same all the time; yoga reinforces that, provides for us ways to accept and grow comfortable with those facts. When I am having a particularly strong urge for restorative work, I sometimes marvel at the fact that I am the same person whose feet creep increasingly closer to the baseboard in a pincha scorpion variation performed against the wall. That I am the same person who loves working in supported dropbacks, which freak out some fellow yogis who normally toss off handstands as if they are no big thang (that, I have NOT mastered.) We all have different triggers. Similarly, when I'm equally jazzed about those challenges—the arm balances or inversions or dropbacks—I think I know why. I've felt the range of experiences and I have nothing to prove. It's not about that. I have learned how to understand my own energy and respect it. I know when it's a good day to do multiple urdva dhanurasanas, because I'm going to need that boost to power me through an afternoon of deadlines, and when it's best to do a supported bridge and just bliss the hell out because I didn't sleep well the night before, or I ran out of turmeric and I'm achier than usual. Or whatever.
We are fluid creatures. Change, as much as it's part of the flow, disrupts the fluidity of habits, until we become accustomed to the new norm, whatever it is. May you find some peace in whatever changes life is handing you right now, and find an opportunity to stop and reflect. But not for too long. Things change fast.
How are you handling the changes?