The Sunday after New Year’s I went to yoga.
It’s New Year’s resolution season and my usual spot by the wall was taken by a newcomer. I shrugged off my annoyance, reminding myself that they don’t assign mat positions like seats in grad school, and placed my mat in the studio’s center.
I don’t know if it was not being in ‘my’ spot or the post-holiday season blues, but my poses sucked. I wobbled. I couldn’t touch my toes.
I was starting to wonder why I’d come when the teacher said something simple but profound: “Work within the confines of the pose and make the best choice for you today.”
The words leapt out at me.
We all deal with the confines of the pose, so to speak. The limits of money, education, time, and more. There are always trade-offs. If I go to yoga, I won’t have time to finish doing laundry before bed. If I spend my money on a cute new top at Anthropologie, I might have to turn down going out with friends.
While these are realities of life that most of us have adjusted to over time, the limitations of the choices available to us can feel particularly pointed during a divorce.
Throughout the divorce process and afterwards, I struggled with feeling powerless. Even though I chose the divorce it still cost more than I’d planned, dragged out too long, and left me feeling exhausted. None of my available choices looked that good to me.
Not all women choose divorce. One of my friends’ particularly nasty situation was sparked by her husband’s infidelity. Definitely not something she’d ever wanted to deal with. Those women, blindsided by the impact of another person’s choices on their lives, can also feel powerless.
And that’s when you have to work within the confines of the pose.
What it really means is: work within the boundaries you’ve been given. Push as hard you might, it could be impossible to shift them. The law is the law, even if is unfair. The realities of a new economic situation are the dollars in your bank account, though you can definitely hustle, sell unwanted items and jewelry, and go back to school to better your financial situation. But some things — and some people — are unchangeable. The only thing you can do is change how you react to them.
It’s a tough lesson to learn. Like yoga, it’s a practice. I can fall into anger, or argue with a man I know will never change. I can give him my power and let him push my buttons. But then I have a choice. Stay in that place? Or take a metaphorical step back and center myself? I can look at the limitations and get angry or upset. Or I can look at the choices I can make within those limitations and take back my power. It’s a shift of viewpoint.
And what about that last word she said: today?
I’m not the most flexible person in the world but I can generally touch my toes, get my heels down to the mat in downward dog, and balance nicely in tree pose. That day it wasn’t happening. And I was comparing myself, not to other to yogis, but to my normal abilities. Comparing and criticizing. The peace I’d come to class to find just wasn’t there. And not because I had to stand somewhere else but because I wasn’t living in that moment. I wanted it to be a different day, a day where I felt stronger, a day where I could touch my toes. How many of us waste too much time wishing it was a different day?
Our capabilities shift. On Monday you may feel confident and kickass, on top of the world, ready to take on your new, single life. Tuesday, well, you may be curled up in bed crying because a date didn’t go well and you wonder if you’ll always be alone. Don’t beat yourself up, it’s a natural part of the process of healing and moving on from divorce. Work with what you’ve got that day. Comparing yourself to yesterday does you no good.
Each day, look at the choices you have available to you and make the best one for you. Whether you’re balancing like a pro in eagle pose or lying flat on your back in savasana, just glad you made it through. And find the freedom in learning how to work with what you’ve got.
About the Author: Dena Landon is a single mom who eats raw cookie dough, passionately debates intersectional feminism and frequently tangles herself in yarn. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Narrative.ly, Salon, bust.com, and in Dance Teacher and Dance Spirit magazines. Her first novel was published by Dutton Children’s Publishing in 2005. She blogs at femmefeminism.com, and can be found on Instagram and Facebook.