The hubby and I went for a li’l getaway recently to celebrate our anniversary. We headed to the mountains, which is homey for me in lots of ways.
But in my heart, I’m a beach gal, so I took full advantage of the pool — soaking up some rays (or what could get through my 45 SPF sunscreen) and bobbing around in the pool.
One afternoon while my husband took a baseball nap (napping with the baseball game on), I went down to the pool by myself. No one else was there, so I had it all to myself.
As I stepped in the water and got over the initial shock of how cool it was, a thought flashed into my mind: maybe I’ll swim a few laps.
And instantly, fear flashed into my heart.
You see, I’ve been (mostly subconsciously) avoiding raising my heart rate for close to a year.
Last year, I was all about the gym. I spent time on the elliptical machine with my favorite podcasts in my ear. I actually found it pretty enjoyable and only went when I thought it would feel good — a far cry from the years when I forced myself to go no matter what. I’m someone who needs alone time to replenish, and I found this a great way to get it.
But when I came back home after my dad died in September, everything was different.
For the next four months, really until the start of this year, I had almost no energy for movement. Sure, I went about my daily routine fine. I didn’t have a problem getting out of bed.
But my yoga practice? Was exclusively on the ground, mostly laying down.
And anything else? Was of absolutely no interest to me. At all.
So I held it all lightly, not making myself feel worse about an already difficult situation. I knew my body would tell me if and when things needed to change.
After the start of the new year, I started to feel a bit more like myself. I noticed an uptick in my energy during my daily routine. My yoga practice slowly incorporate seated and even standing poses.
But I still had no interest in doing anything else. Sometimes I judged myself for that, getting down on myself about how I “should” do some cardio exercise.
I’ve been working to check in and not instantly respond to that “should” voice, though. So that’s what I did. And when I looked deeper, I realized it still wasn’t time.
As I drifted about the pool this past weekend, it suddenly occurred to me what had been happening.
My heart had already withstood so much the past 9 months, it couldn’t take anything else. So it was self-care in the deepest form to instinctively keep things slow and deliberate.
And then I had another realization: things had shifted. And I decided to swim to the end of the pool.
Instantly, I was clutched with fear. I really did not want to feel any intensity in my heart.
So I promised myself that I could get out at the other end and walk back to my chair if needed.
After several deep breaths, I pushed off and swam across. I felt both panicky and relaxed as I swam. Panicky because the fear was kicking up with every splash of my foot. But relaxed because on a deep level, it felt really good.
What the Body Knows
When I got to the other end of the pool, I hung out for a minute or two. I resisted the urge to get out and decided I could make it back across. This time, I encouraged myself to find as much ease as possible — to swim with less anxiety.
And with each turn of my head for another breath, I felt the loosening up of my heart. I allowed myself to feel into its quickening and realized that nothing scary was happening.
That it was okay to feel this heart.
That my body knew something I didn’t.
To me, this is the beautiful thing about finding a movement practice that you enjoy (or more than one). Of course, yoga has been my constant teacher and companion throughout my grieving process. But I believe I needed another vehicle for this realization because the body unlocks different things in different ways.
Eight More Laps
In all, I swam back and forth across the pool eight more times. Each time I felt braver and paused less between laps — not out of ambition but out of gratitude.
For the reminder that my heart is more resilient than I know.
And so am I.