When You Have To, You Will.

Dear Andy,

We are deep in the difficult world of potty training right now. It sucks. You seem to have a lot of anxiety. I have no idea where you get this from (kidding). All the tricks that people have suggested we employ lead you to screaming and crying fits. What I hear from other parents that I trust is that you aren’t ready. This feels right, but it’s unfortunate because you’re quickly approaching three and your school wanted you to be trained by now. But I’m resisting rushing you. Because bodily functions aren’t things you can force, and I want you to develop a sense of embodiment instead of urgency and shame. I’m taking to heart what my friend Dixie said dryly, “Don’t worry. No kid has ever gone to college in a diaper.’’ She has a way with the truth. And she’s right. Your journey with this has led me to realize that it’s the same with all things in life. We never EVER EVER do anything successfully before we are ready. When you have to, you will.

When I did my first yoga training in 2010, I got really into meditation. It was a transformative experience and I felt that I began to understand a lot about God and life through meditation. After I graduated from the program, my desire to meditate dwindled. I still practiced yoga, but couldn’t bring myself to sit still and meditate. I wanted to feel the way I had felt when I’d done it before- light, liberated, transcendent, blissful. But I had no desire to do it. I guess I just wasn’t ready to explore the inner workings of my mind.

When I had you, everything changed. I went into a deep, dark tunnel with postpartum depression and anxiety. My brain was like a prison. It was an inescapable nightmare of intrusive thoughts, shame, tears, sorrow, no motivation, and daily terror. With a new baby around to care for, it wasn’t an option for me to give up. So I made a lot of good choices that helped me heal. One was that I finally, after years, sat down to meditate.

I want to be clear. I didn’t meditate thinking “AHHH, this will feel good.” I honestly didn’t feel that I had a choice. My brain was like that hell scene from What Dreams May Come. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t make it stop. So I turned around and faced the thoughts and images and terror. I closed my eyes and I did something brave, I didn’t run away. Not because I wanted to, because I HAD TO. I knew that if I didn’t go into the cluttered attic of my brain and begin slowly sorting through old, unnecessary and toxic thoughts, that I’d never get a handle on my situation.

With my anxiety, I felt unsafe at every moment. I felt panicked and disconnected from my body. So I’d curl into child’s pose. I’d force myself to breathe. I’d allow myself to cry, and sometimes silently wail with you napping in the next room. I sat next to the framed American flag that had been draped over my Great Uncle Jesse’s coffin when he died. He served in World War 2 and was given a proper military burial. I’d think of his life and channel his bravery. I wept and cried and breathed until you woke up. And then I’d turn on my mom switch, and become the smiling, goo-gooing, bottle preparing, lullaby singing mom again. Because I had to. Those were dark days and I’m glad we got through them. But I’m telling you this because there will be many times in your life that you wonder if you “should” do something. So let me give you this piece of advice.

Today is January 9th, and everyone around me is making lists of ways they want to be better in the new year. We want to lose weight, be healthier, tidy up, purge our belongings, get a better job, read more, smoke less, laugh more, travel. There’s always a something we tell ourselves we SHOULD be doing. And there’s this pervasive image we hold in our egos of the person we think we should be. Maybe our thinner self is a happier self. Or maybe our more well-read self is a calmer, smarter self.

I see this a lot in yoga. There’s a belief about people who practice yoga, to some who don’t. It’s that people who do yoga are happy, bendy, blissful people who’ve magically transcended the muck of life. Andy. You know me so I don’t have to tell you this. NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH. I’ve been teaching yoga for nearly a decade and the most talented and caring people in healing fields that I have met have also been some of the most traumatized and scarred. That’s because no one comes to a healing modality without a severe need to heal. This includes yoga. Yoga is for people who are suffering, who are in pain. Yoga is for people who can’t touch their toes or escape the panicked voices in their heads. Yoga isn’t for happy people. Yoga is for people who HAVE TO do yoga. In my mind, that’s all of us, at some point or another.

So if you’re reading this and you’re questioning what you should do in your life, or you’re procrastinating on a big change you feel might be right, but aren’t sure, I’ll tell you this much-you’ll do something when you have to. You’ll leave that job because you can’t take it anymore. You’ll end the relationship because it takes more than it gives. You’ll get on the treadmill or write the book or buy the house. But only when you’re ready. Only when you have to.

I want to be very clear. The “have tos” don’t come from an external party. Of course, you’ll have to do things in life that you don’t like, but I’m not talking about homework or paying taxes. I’m talking about fine-tuning your inner knowing so that you know when it’s time for a big shift. It’s the voice within you that says “enough”. It may be a quiet voice. In fact, the quieter the voice, the more likely it is that it’s the one you should obey. When there is a window into silent stillness and you receive the message that it’s time, then it’s time. Listen and obey. It’s been my experience that no matter the uphill climb that follows, the decisions made from listening to the small voice are always the ones that pay off. Trust me on this.

So for now, I’m gonna keep gently asking if you’d like to use the potty. And if not, that’s fine. I trust you’ll tell us when you’re ready. And I hope this sharpens your skills for always knowing when you’re ready and how to be true to yourself in your own time. I know from the debacle of your birth and breastfeeding that you are not one to be rushed and that you do things your way. You’ve taught me how to adapt and how to not take things personally when we can’t follow the guidebooks together. Neither of us is less than for doing things authentically and originally. I’ll keep listening to the small voice in my head and the one that comes out of you.

I’ll be ready when I’m ready. I’ll be ready when I’m ready. I’ll be ready when I’m ready.

I’m proud of you. Every day.