This week, I will turn 34. I was thinking about it the other day and wondering if it had “flown by,” as they say. I did not have an answer. But it has certainly been strange to realize that I will be in my mid-thirties.
So many people I grew up with have followed the path I was headed down. Full-time job, marriage, kids, mortgage, friends, community.
I tried those all those on for size, but none of them seemed to fit very well, like a one-size fits all that really fits no one.
I wonder if they are happy. They look happy in images posted online, but we don’t know each other well enough for me to really know what happens beyond the visual image.
I felt lonely yesterday after my life partner and I had argued and he went on a solo camping trip. I sat the on the porch in his grandmother’s tiny rocking chair and wept, full-bodied sobs. He is the only person I have cried like that over.
Maybe, it was less about him than about me. Maybe, I just needed a really good cry.
Much has happened since I joined the thirties decade contingent. Most of it has been deep and transformational: divorce, PhD, leaving a permanent government job, creating a startup company, leaving the traditional startup model, finding yoga again.
I remembered yesterday that another reason I returned to yoga was in response to a talk by a Prescott College alumni, Will Duncan, which was deeply inspiring. You might recall the series of posts I wrote in response to his talk.
Will Duncan had just completed a 3 year, 3 month, 3 day silent meditation retreat with his life partner. I could not imagine spending three years with my own sweetie in a cabin just beside him and not being able to talk to him.
I think there are moments in our lives when certain ideas and idealists speak to us. Had I listened to this man several years ago, I imagine that I would have been inspired. But at that time, there was not the spaciousness in my life to follow the path I am moving along today.
Will Duncan had spent years of his life studying Buddhism and yoga. He was a trained yoga teacher. I knew that I was not prepared to embark upon a multiple year silent retreat (I can hardly stay quiet for a minute when in the presence of others). Perhaps, yoga was a good place to start.
At the time I began thinking about yoga, I was in the midst of getting my startup company going in Arizona. I had experienced success while living in Massachusetts, but I had only a few hours each week to pursue music performance and songwriting while also working full-time.
In startup visioning, my business partner and I had thought about offering multiple day songwriting retreats. I noticed that Dar Williams offered a songwriting retreat at a center in New York State where the participants could take yoga in the morning.
Why not take a yoga teacher training and be able to offer something similar?
So the story goes. I have written extensively about beginning a 20-hour yoga intensive studies course. I have written about the ways my vision of being a songwriter and yogi have evolved since I started the course in March of this year.
My yoga teacher told us that our lives may change in unexpected ways, and it was true. I have participated in life-changing programs before and experienced a transformation that was only possible when I immersed myself fully into the possibility of change.
So here I am once more in the midst of change. It seems like a kind of constant limbo and shifting has been the theme of my life since I turned thirty. I can only imagine that 34 will bring more change.
Change is a constant, they also say. And I am always changing, whether or not I pay attention. Change can sneak up on me if I ignore it until one day I do not recognize myself.
And it has snuck up on me before. I have been unprepared in the face of change, and it has been difficult to embrace.
My practice right now is awareness and intention. I want to pay close attention to each moment and to change as it happens in real time. This means that sometimes I have to step back in order to appreciate just how much I have changed in the past several years, months, and days.
Right now, I am riding the change wave, maintaining my foundation and balance as well as I can while the water moves to its own rhythm and shifting patterns. I can see many people watching from the shore. Some applaud and cheer me on. Others look disgruntled and annoyed that I have not fallen into the water altogether. I can only watch them for a brief moment, or I will lose my balance, so I am working on paying attention to those sending out love and support. When I can, I try to send love to the disgruntled ones because I imagine if they were truly happy they would also be happy for me.
I know from experience that when I am happy, it is much more difficult to feel enmity toward others.
Yoga is all about learning to recognize the stories we tell ourselves that create suffering. As I approach my mid-thirties, I am reflecting on the stories I tell myself that make me sad, happy, vexed, or peaceful.
Happy almost birthday to me.
This year, I would like to be happy and peaceful.