The story is not what we think it is. When I was a teenager, I wrote. By the time I was nineteen, I had abandoned it.
Then in my early twenties, I discovered Yoga. My friend brought me to the Yoga Workshop in Boulder, CO on a Sunday morning, and we took a class with Richard. The room was quiet and warm, and packed with people, and there was a sense of unoppressive reverence in the air that intrigued me. I liked this place, it had my attention. But I knew at the time I couldn’t confront what so dynamically started to surface in me, and I stopped going to classes after a few months. Two years later, I stood on a street in Kathmandu looking at a little temple that was sagging back to the Earth, and I thought, with a simple easy consideration for my life’s purpose, that I needed to study Eastern Philosophy–and not in Nepal or India but back in Boulder at the Yoga Workshop. Within two years of that day in Kathmandu I had returned, and committed myself to Yoga.
In 1998 I moved to New Mexico. I gave birth to three children, a set of twins and one before them, all boys. To be sure, there was beauty in it. The children were healthy and adorable, we had a garden of flowers in the front and vegetables in the back of our old, rambling adobe that was built by two Jewish sisters who had survived Germany during WWII and sought renewal here, we had a fortunate life under the sun, relatively free of urban stress and the endless momentum of modern American life. My husband’s business provided for us. He kept me laughing with his wit, we gave each other time for our creative necessity (he would write, and I would practice Yoga), we would go to sleep at night discussing how wonderful the next morning’s coffee would be. My intention was to integrate practice into my daily life, my relationships with my husband and the children, how we raised the boys. Somewhere though there was a miscommunication between him and me, my clear intention for happiness didn’t mirror so with his, and something had shifted, irretrievable. A few months before my twins’ fourth birthday, their father and I parted. We’d been together ten years.
Raising children is hard, doing it alone is ungodly. The loneliness at times is unfathomable; the responsibility, made worse in the hours pre-dawn, is mind-splitting. As people accurately describe it, one has to be both a mother and a father, and does neither completely nor well. As a member of a professed emancipated society, the single parent in fact is still totally marginal. For me, like for so many, there has also been the financial struggle. If during those years I arrived with a smile to teach Yoga, it was not because I had perfected grace amidst the despair of samsara, conditioned existence, but because being there gave me joy, a remembrance of a path I felt I had once been on and hoped to find again some day. And yet I knew it could be so much worse. It took about one year for me to drop my sense of myself as the mother I had been and adored, four years to lose my connection with sangha, another two and a half to recognize that what was left was nothing–no practice, no lover, no secure direction or occupation, no devotion to Yoga, no tether. Except my boys. My boys–the reason I moved here to begin with, away from sangha and the gentle studio in Boulder. Having finally surrendered to the thoroughness of my loss, the air shifted rather quickly, the light became something different, and I was at ease. To me it felt that within nothing, you need nothing, and you are complete. It became bliss, both humbled and raw. And too, when all had been stripped bare to what to me felt like zero, my boys were in the next room. How wonderful to go to them, with nothing.
When I was a teenager, I wrote. For almost thirty years afterward, I wrote a little bit more than not at all. I didn’t know then what I know now which is that the written word is a pathway to mysticism. Back then, like now, it was a conduit to my mind. Without doubt, I just did it. Some subterfuge was at work, though, and by the time I was nineteen I had stopped; until this summer, that is, when I was fortunate to go to Tuscany and Umbria with my teenage son. We were in Florence on a hot evening in July, and I watched him taking in Italy. We had dinner outside on a narrow street and he said about his entree what I was thinking about my glass of chianti, “This plate of spaghetti is changing my entire perspective on life.” Good, I thought, that’s why I brought you here. Florence, he said the next day, is a place he thought he could live; he could write at the cafes, read his books, be a musician. Here I am, I thought, on these beautiful streets in Italy, walking alongside my un-jaded companion whose heart is in one piece and who happens to be my son, and he’s telling me how to write.
I see now that perhaps what I had wanted with my family did actually materialize. I had demanded a Yogic lifestyle with my boys, and I got what I asked for. We do not live in a world of rigid formula, there is no way to do so, but one of authenticity. Practice has brought me to here despite my tenacious protest, my egregious rejection of the sadness I’d been handed, a failed family I had tried so beautifully to uphold, for which what great sacrifice I had made.
What matters most is simple–the unadulterated absence of longing for anything other than what is, the truth in the moment, the people in it. The Autumn this year has been spectacularly sunny and warm, with very little wind. Now that I’ve washed my windows we can see the changing sunsets on the horizon and the light on the valley in the morning. It snowed the day before Halloween and I sat under my portal with a glass of wine watching the snow fall in the night, talking to my sister on the phone from New York about the impossibility of costumes. I make dinners again, the way I did when I was married, with as much sensuous satisfaction as then. We talk. We are a whole family. The story is not what we think it is.