The day before my birthday I woke up with a feeling of tightness in my chest. But somehow this tightness felt different to the familiar symptom of anxiety I get from time to time. It was lighter, and gentler in its pressure, as if it was merely trying to call my attention to something that needed to be addressed, without the panic.
My body was sore from three intensive days of painting, so I had allowed myself the rare pleasure of binge-watching something trashy on Netflix. But me being me, this ‘trash’ still had to be in Spanish with Spanish subtitles, so I could brush up on my language skills. This is my way of relaxing. I had opted for the new season of Valeria, the modernized, Spanish version of Sex and the City that right from the get-go promised hot sex, and an even hotter Maxi Iglesias. It didn’t disappoint. Already in the first two minutes Valeria and Victor (played by the impossibly dashing Iglesias) were having sex incessantly, while the camera never missed an opportunity to showcase Iglesias’ perfectly toned, and perfectly tanned body. Really, it was too much. I’m convinced that the organic version of ‘ecstasy’ is called Maxi Iglesias. But it’s not without its side-effects. Besides lack of sleep and improved Spanish skills, watching Valeria pleasured by Victor was a cruel reminder of the action I was clearly not having.
I had been so good at telling myself that I was too busy to date and that I needed to focus on my creative projects, I almost believed my own lie. But within the first ten seconds of looking into Maxi’s green eyes I knew it to be untrue. The tightness in my chest was the pang of loneliness, not anxiety. It called my attention to something important I had been neglecting, not out of busyness, but out of fear.
In my previous post on dreaming, I wrote about being ‘in the arena,’ fighting for your dreams. Fighting for my creative endeavours is far from easy, but still, a hell a lot easier than showing up in the arena for love. When it comes to ‘putting myself out there,’ I am a complete coward, always opting for the comfortable seat from where I can continue to ‘live happily ever after’ and have the greatest sex with an unattainable sex-God, in my head. It doesn’t require me creating a dating profile on line, or playing the field. The likelihood of rejection is nil. The possibilities in my head, by contrast, are limitless and always work out in my favour. It is safe.
A few days before this tightness in my chest, I had received an email from a friend with the subject line: ‘SOS.’ I was quick to open it. In her e-mail she had asked me to be her ‘writing/yoga/house project guru.’ (In her words) she needed a coach/consultant to help her figure out how to balance all the shit she needed to get done, while also staying healthy in mind and spirit. Although I had never done such a ‘consulting job,’ I was confident that I could help her. On our first meeting over a casual tea, I asked her some tough questions. By the end of the day, I helped her devise a plan to keep her on the writing track, limit house projects to the bare essentials, get her teenagers involved in executing some of the chores, and gain some perspective on what mattered, and what mattered less in the next two weeks. Part of my daily consultation with her was a 5-15 minute yoga and meditation practice that would help grounding her. When I teach yoga, I am all about my students, so whatever second-hand well-being I may gain in the process is a bonus, but never the goal. After a ten-minute gentle yoga practice, I asked my friend to bow her chin closer to the chest, place her hands on her heart-centre, and focus on the energy/wisdom residing there. I invited her to address her heart, as if it were her kindest friend, and ask, “Dear Heart, what is it that you need from me right now?” I had guided many students through the same meditation, warning them that it may take some practice before they hear an answer, or that the answer they may hear first is likely to come from the head in the form of a long sentence, or a short paragraph. I rarely get insights, or answers of my own while I guide others, because my focus is with them and not on what goes on within. But on the day I felt this tightness in my chest, my heart spoke, and its message was loud and clear: Trust.
As I took this word in, my heart centre softened and my eyes welled with tears. Trust. Just trust. It’s going to be okay. You are going to be okay. Just trust the process, the words were repeated to me. When my friend and I came out of meditation we both had teary eyes, but we were also smiling.
To ‘just trust,’ is sometimes the hardest thing. To trust that your hard work will pay off when there are no guarantees, to trust in love after you had been let down, and above all, to trust that you are enough, with your various quirks and faults – is a practice in itself. It might take me a lifetime to perfect it. But one thing is for sure, I can’t do it by being the observer, sitting in the comfortable seat. In love, as in my creative life, I need to step into the arena and face the blows. I’m not quite there yet, but at least I have risen from my seat and take the first awkward step. Trust. Just trust, I tell myself without knowing where this first step may lead me. Not to Maxi Iglasias, but my version of him: less toned, less tanned, not necessarily Spanish, but hopefully complex, interesting, kind and authentic. Confío. Vamos, in Spanish it sounds less terrifying.