We are only separated by space.
His mother, whom he was very close with, came to the train station before it departed. She was distraught. To comfort her, Dietrich called out the words, “We are only separated by space.”
I’ve revisited these words and this story many times. Again when my mom moved away. And yet again, when I left Utah to live where I am now in Georgia.
Now, here we are. I feel these words are more important than ever. Our whole world is dealing with the suffering, confusion and chaos of COVID-19. I find myself on a roller coaster of emotion. Feeling disappointed that many of the endeavors I’ve planned and worked towards have either come to a screeching halt or are dissipating away. Feeling guilty that I am one of the lucky ones who gets to stay home and social distance while healthcare and social workers are on the front line. Feeling sad that I took for granted the simple pleasure of sharing a conversation and cup of tea with a friend. Feeling grateful to have a patio and the time to let the sun shine on my skin while I read books. Feeling well rested because I have nowhere to be, so there’s plenty of time for sleep. Feeling feeling feeling. I sometimes forget how useful feeling is.
This whole experience is important. It’ll be important in many ways. It’s important because I’ve realized how many beautiful people I have in my life. Family members, friends, acquaintances, and strangers.. We are all connected. Even though I’m apart from my people, I feel their love and kindness. I’ve seen more smiling faces on my computer screen, on my walks, on my drives than I’ve noticed in a long time.
I still feel a lot of things, fear being a big one. But I know that this is a shared fear, one that we don’t have to carry alone.
I’ve been thinking about the subject of holding space. This is a big part of how I spend much of my time: sharing yoga & movement classes. I view holding space as the most important aspect of this work. I used to think of it mainly as creating a calming atmosphere: Lighting, music, tidiness, etc.
This is what holding space for myself looks like:
Early morning practice
Each morning when I wake up, I sleepily stumble out to my yoga mat. I light candles and turn on music. What happens next is typically different each day. I usually do some repetitive stabilizing movements, roll around on some massage tools, stretch my arms up overhead, move any cricks and creaks from the previous night’s rest. Then I sit down to meditate with the hope that I can simply enjoy being alive: sitting, breathing, and feeling. There are also days when none of these things happen. I come to my mat and lie down and that’s really all I can muster. This is where the next piece of holding space comes in: acceptance.
Acceptance for how I’m currently feeling.
This has been a challenge for me. I would honestly rather be happy and playful all the time. I don’t like feeling sad or annoyed or anxious.. But who does? I acknowledge that they are necessary human feelings. Let me clarify that this doesn’t mean I let the emotions take over (very often). For example, when I feel anxiety, my instinct is to escape from my life. I just want to get into my bed and binge a tv show; or daydream about moving far away. My practice in holding space for anxiety has been to accept the feeling as it is, knowing that it’s very likely I will always have this occasional feeling. I then remind myself that I don’t have to figure anything out right now. All I have to do is the very next thing. One step at a time.
This is where developing a rock solid routine of self-care comes in. When it’s set in your calendar as a non-negotiable, it gets done! It gets done when you’re feeling good.. It gets done when you’re feeling bad. The biggest barrier to having time to meditate/ personal practice / any time that’s set aside just for you -- is consistency. Keeping an appointment you made with yourself is incredibly difficult- because letting ourselves down is the easiest thing in the world. The second someone else's convenience / time / resources are affected, we jump to make things happen. So how do we overcome this in order to keep holding space for our own growth? Schedule it, set your alarm, make it a non-negotiable, and show up for yourself. Be there. Witness your breath, thoughts, aches, emotions, energy, and pain with kindness.
I am making plans to curl up in a blanket and enjoy a warm cup of tea. But I also want to jump into a freezing cold shower and shout YES to the cold hard truth that change is painful— but necessary.
I am gazing out into the horizon. I see the beautiful peaks and carved valleys. I want to plan my approach, set guide posts along the way, and celebrate each one I reach. But I also yearn to be happy where I am. I want to be content in not knowing whether or not my legs will carry me toward the place I set out for.
I am going to bed early each night. I want to practice my cozy rituals of unwinding, decompressing, taking off the cloak of the day, letting myself land in a soft place. I also want to go outside late at night, look up at the stars, breathe in the cold night air, and respond to the beauty with a loud belly laugh.
I’ve decided to read all the books on my shelf. I need to get lost in stories, and understand different perspectives. I want to learn from people who have outlined a subject with beauty and wisdom. But I also want to put the books down. I am acknowledging the wealth of wisdom that is held in my own container. I realize most answers I need to uncover are hidden in my own heart.
I want to put my nose to the grinding stone. I want to become one with the flow of inspiration and passion. I want to keep working, even when it feels like there are no more words left to write, and no more steps left to take. I’ll also let go. I want to let people, places, and projects be who and what they are. I’ll be open to different outcomes than expected.
I want to acknowledge my inner critic. I want to hear all her doubts and validate her reasons. I will sit down with her and attempt to understand why. I also want to hold her hand, and walk towards everything that scares her. I want to explain how living a fulfilling life means being vulnerable, taking huge risks, and creating things that some might not understand.
I am learning this is possible. I can be light, stubborn, open, regimented, adventurous, sad, free, spontaneous, anxious, and willing- all at once. It’s called being human.