Adho Mukha Vrks..huh?
It’s 11:28am and I am on the verge of tears for the thirteenth time today.
Not because it’s day 5,029,632,764 of quarantine.
Not because I’m any more tired, lonely, pissed off or agitated than I have been since the genesis of the Great 2020 Dumpster Fire. There is nothing particularly frustrating or triggering about this particular Wednesday; nay, up until the week, I would say I’ve been doing pretty well. All things considered, these last few weeks of 2020 have felt like a welcome reprieve to the monotonous and predictable disappointments that this year has so often held.
In the last month, my husband finally landed a new job, I started teaching yoga more and our financial situation, which had been upended due to COVID, finally stabilized.
Sure, there were a few fringe things that had been irritating me — there’s always something when you’re relegated to social isolation within the confines of a 1,000 square foot apartment — but none of these were why I sat, fingers curled around the edges of my purple yoga mat, glaring into the blue screen of my Macbook Pro, holding back hot, angry tears.
I was crying because I couldn’t do an Adho Mukha Vrksasana.
If you have zero idea what that is, wonderful, because we are in the same boat.
On this particular day, I was enrolled in day three of an online ZOOM yoga teacher training — something that would basically provide me with enough continuing education credentials to keep teaching and expand my yoga teacher portfolio. The style of yoga I was learning was considered to be pretty advanced, but I hadn’t thought too much about the difficulty thanks to a tendency towards rose-colored glasses idealism and self-confidence stemming from pure, unabashed naivety.
It will be fine, I told myself. If it gets too hard I’ll just pretend like I needed to go to the bathroom. Oh! I had to pee! I’m back! Obviously I could’ve done that pose, catch me next time.
The beauty of online learning.
Well, s**t got hard REAL QUICK. It was day three of this training and I was very clearly the underdog of the group. Our instructor assumed his students had some basic foundational knowledge of what he was teaching, which I most certainly did not, and this caused me to lag behind the other 54 people in the group so severely I almost injured myself countless times trying to keep up.
“Deep breath in! Plant the hands — Adho Mukha Vrksasana. GO! Straighten your legs! Now, from handstand, bend both knees and bring the feet to rest on top of the head. Vrischikasana. Breathe in. Come back out. Adho Mukha Shvanasana to Camatkarasana. HOLD!”
I pounded my mat over and over with sloppy attempts at what he was commanding until I finally sat back and started to cry, shutting off my camera, one hundred percent over it all.
On our next actual bathroom break, my husband popped into the room to check on me, reading my face and body language with humour and gentleness.
“Hey, how’s it going?” he asked, quietly sitting down next to me.
“I’m learning a lot about myself right now,” I said, biting my lower lip to keep it from trembling.
He smiled and pushed back my damp hair to reveal my sad, watery eyes. And then he said something that blew my heart and mind wide open:
“Like that you don’t need to be, and never will be, good at everything?”
Friend, if you’re reading this right now and that sentence hit you in the gut the way it hit me, I want to grab your hand and tell you that you are not alone.
From the time I was a kid, I believed the lie that my sense of value, purpose and worth was tied to what I could achieve.
The belief that my value was woven into my ability to produce is a lie that I bought into early on in order to generate a sense of importance for myself. Being perfect and being ‘good’ was the currency I paid to experience love and acceptance.
And now, as a full grown adult human, the lie that being worthy = being perfect is causing me to second guess all parts of myself to the point where I don’t even want to try new things unless I know I’ll be good at them or beat everyone else who’s competing.
This mindset has held me back from so many things in life that it honesty hurts to count. But sitting there on my yoga mat on that Wednesday afternoon, listening to my husband challenge my perfectionistic narrative, I had a breakthrough.
Maybe I don’t need to be good at something in order to try it.
Maybe I don’t need to be perfect at something in order to deserve acceptance.
Maybe I don’t need to be the best at something in order to be loved.
All these things are things I’ve known, but never accepted as true for me. In my head, I’m the exception. Surely, that can’t mean me, too? Am I really allowed to be average at something, and still enjoy myself?
The answer is YES.
Friend, if you’re anything like me, then read these words and breathe deep:
You are allowed to be bad, average, or a beginner at something you love.
I’m learning this slowly.
This journey I’m on to reclaim my childlike curiosity and beginner’s spirit is a hard one. If it were up to me, I would be the best at everything, and my ability to seamlessly execute handstand (or Adho Mukha Vrksasana, apparently) would draw admiration and praise from my peers in a way that wouldn’t require me to do that hard work of exploring exactly WHY I need all people to think I am perfect ALL of the time.
The funny thing is, the more I tap into the love that surrounds me, the more I find out that not many people have this expectation of me. I’m the only one that demands perfection.
My humanness is something that gives others permission to experience their own humanity.
I don’t need to be perfect to be loved. I just need to show up to the table and let myself be seen.
So do you.
As we spend these next few months of 2020 riding the roller coaster wave of social distancing, a new school year, new jobs and a new normal, I want to invite you to remember what I’m learning during this brave new world, in hopes that you find a flash of freedom, too: just show up. You don’t have to have all the answers, be the best, or know what comes next.
Just show up.
You might be surprised at how many more of us there are, showing up with you, ready to embrace you exactly as you are.