Tonight I spent a solitary evening pushing a mop, washing and folding stranger's towels, and wiping dust off windowsills. This simple work, two hours total every Wednesday for the unforeseeable future, gives me the ability to take unlimited yoga & pilates classes at a small studio a few miles from my house. The work itself felt meditative and relaxing. Alone in the studio, with the lights dimmed, folding towels for tomorrow's patrons of the studio, quiet except for the cars passing outside, I felt at peace.
It's funny, I've talked about giving up my metaphorical ugly robes to find the good ones, but when I started this project I didn't envision some of the choices I've ended up making. I guess that's the fun part. Tonight I did something I had envisioned though: I traded skills. What was surprising is that it could be something so simple: really it was just my time and willingness to do some unglamorous, but not difficult, tasks. But by giving of my time and energies, I gain something very tangible in return: yoga. Which is something I've recently identified as a possibly really healthy addition to my life; something worth making time and pausing for. A worthy investment.
I guess that was one part I didn't envision: what it was I would want to trade for, and how simple it would be to get it.
I also didn't envision what I'd have to give up in order to gain.
In this particular instance, I decided to stop playing kickball on the team I've co-captained for the last three years: spring, summer, and fall seasons x 3 years x every Wednesday evening = a lot of kickball. I guess to be honest, on some egotistical level I also felt important on the team, and needed by my peers. So I stayed on the team longer than I wanted, and with negative influences and relationships around me, in order to not disappoint others or let down anyone. (Forget about disappointing myself: I was worried about the team.) So last week I decided to give it all up - at least for the time being or until it feels right to welcome it back into my life - in order to do some better self-care.
So that became a part of it too: walking out of something familiar, into something foreign.
This year I am learning how much this happens, how often this is necessary. In some ways it feels like I am shedding my old skin...
Is that what I mean though? Or do I mean that I am finding what skin I want to live in; I'm being a little more willing to risk trying out different versions of myself to get at who I want to be? It's about acceptance, yes, but also risk. It's about seeing while change is constant, it's more exciting to be the executor of some of our changes. I want to try new things and be more fully human because it's a choice I've made. I want to be happy and centered and caring for myself deeply - by choice.
And a big part of self care is reframing how I think about being alone. What activities can I take part in by myself that are energizing, life-giving, and nourishing, rather than depleting? At a retreat a few weekends ago, though surrounded by people, I discovered the possibility that yoga and pilates could be one life-affirming activity that is as good solo as it is in a group. Certainly caring for my body and my health is a huge part of the many activities I find joy in on my own - including cooking, gardening, going for walks, and reading outside. (Okay, that last one was a stretch...)
So tonight I discovered not just what I can give up, but what I can give, in order to receive the things I need. It's a small step, but a step towards more fully understanding myself and my place in this world. No (wo)man is an island, but sometimes to get back to the others, we first need to get back to our self.
Or at least that's my theory. I'll let you know how it all shakes out.