Birthdays, Life Presents and the Odd Broken Bone

At the beginning of every yoga class, my yoga instructor suggests that we "set our intentions" for our practice.  It's not really the same thing as setting goals --it's more like aiming yourself in a certain direction. I really like the idea of just aiming yourself because it doesn't lock you into the hard-and-fast track of having a goal and going after it with a single purpose. There's value in that, certainly, but if you get too single-minded, you might miss any other little delightful mystery that is revealed. (I usually try to consciously aim for a practice that transcends the confines of my body, with an added little prayer that my pants not fall down.)

I have been thinking a LOT about my intentions in other realms lately because Saturday is my birthday. I will be 46.

I KNOW!  Another whole year gone --whoosh.  I'm in such a good place this year, though, that I'm looking forward to it.  No, seriously.  I mean it. I am really interested to see what this next year holds, especially because I just got the most amazing birthday present.

I've been doing this on-line course based on the book The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown with my friend R. The course itself has been a little lighter-weight than I hoped it would be, but it's been very useful to keep the subject top-of-mind.  R. and I  have been talking a lot about the baggage we carry and the ways in which perfectionism and shame infiltrate almost every aspect of our lives. How they stop us from connecting with the people we love in an authentic and vulnerable way. Shame and perfectionism stop me doing the things I really want to do because I think I need to be more __(fill in the blank)__ in order to do them.  Thinner, richer, smarter, younger, hipper, deeper... you can exhaust yourself thinking of all the ways you're not perfect and don't measure up and all the reasons why you should just stay home hiding instead of going out and greeting the world in joy.  It's so sad to think of how many of us are carrying around this kind of baggage all day, every day.  Until, at some point, (maybe, say, on the cusp of 46,) we decide we are truly and wonderfully enough just as we are.

Anyway, in the course of our conversation, R asked me where I was on becoming a yoga instructor.  I told her that I had asked my yoga instructor and that he said most people have an established practice of at least a year before they start training to become an instructor, which I think is a sound idea. I'm still such a beginner --I can't even imagine being ready for teacher training even in another eight months, but maybe that's just my "I'm not enough" talking.

We were chatting back and forth about that, and my stupid foot and I was going on and on again about how transformational it has been to be reconnected to my body, after about five years of actively NOT being so.  It's really changed almost every aspect of my life.  I never understood how important it is to be on speaking terms with my body --I always thought that it was enough to be on speaking terms with my mind and heart.

And then R said something that just...well, it may have been the best birthday present I've ever gotten.

She said:

The pain, the deep knowledge of what it feels like to be betrayed by your body, the amount of energy it takes to endure the pain or tune out the pain; all of these things would make you an amazing teacher of yoga. [...] to have someone who can say, "I get it"  is huge!!  Also to hear someone say, "this worked for me" is huge!!  Or even to be greeted at the door and not have the teacher cringe because she/he doesn't know how to teach someone who isn't "normal" is huge!

And there it is, see: my intention for what I'd like to do with, well, maybe the rest of my life
.  (Besides raising and loving my family, and writing, I mean.)  I'd like to help people with disabilities or eating disorders or chronic pain issues or whatever it is that has disconnected them from their bodies. I'd like to help people reconnect with themselves.  If I could even give one person the feeling I have when I am in the midst of a good yoga practice, I will have made the world a better place.

Y'all, that's a pretty big present.

So, as I was making this discovery and getting ready to turn a year older, I was also dealing with some pretty intense foot pain.  I'm not sure what was/is going on but it felt like something bad.  The last time I had a spell like this, I went to my podiatrist and he told me that there was pretty much nothing he could do. THIS time I decided to try something totally new to me: acupuncture.

(I know, I know.  Clearly, the body snatching is almost complete.  The fact that I would even consider something that involved being a pin cushion (I am phobic of needles) boggles the mind.)

Dudes, the acupuncturist was amazing. It wasn't entirely stick-free, but it hurt only a little more than doing nothing, and then, like all of my experiences with Eastern stuff these days, it turned out to have a lot more going on than just some needles on some pressure points. I could FEEL the...whatever it is (energy? blood?) circulating around my body--my hair stood on end when it got there. And then this deep, deep relaxation. I was so relaxed that at the end, he did some manual massage on my FULF (Effed Up Left Foot) and it was AWESOME. I wasn't all tense out of fear that he would hurt me. I am going back next week.

And then I went to the mall to do some clothes shopping and I broke my toe.

(Because I guess I needed further proof that shopping was evil. Only I can break a bone while trying on clothes at Saks.)

I was kind of blissed out after the acupuncturist, which usually means I'm not quite in this world, if that makes sense. I had this big dressing room with one of those concrete round steps in the middle of the three-sided mirror. I guess that's for people to stand on while the tailor pins up their pants for hemming (or for me to practice my American Idol audition--errr. Never mind.) and I just...ran right into it. It didn't move.  It DID break the first joint on my second toe on my left foot --I guess I should be grateful that it's always my left foot that is targeted by these little jokes from the Cosmos.

(Well, maybe not GRATEFUL, exactly. GRATEFUL would probably require a little less usage of the "F" word.)

I was really sad, thinking that this toe thing might stop me from taking yoga when I realized that there it is, see: a chance to start modifying my practice to accommodate a special need. (You have to hand it to whoever is in charge of sending me messages about my life.  S/He's goooood.) So, I'm going to try it when I go to yoga tonight. I'll keep y'all posted.

Tonight is also important because the Smelly Lotion Giveaway is open until midnight if you haven't already entered.  If you don't want lotion but would prefer either yarn or my book, let me know that, too. Feel free to add a "Happy Birthday"--this year, I honestly feel like it's less of a wish and more of an intention!


ccr in MA said…
Happy birthday! Broken bone to the contrary notwithstanding, it sounds like it's going to be an amazing one for you.
Unknown said…
That. Is. Awesome. Yoga for different people. Love it.
Miri said…
does this mean that i can stop hiding out in my den while i do yoga? and can i borrow a little of your confidence?

Happy Happy birthday to an inspirational friend.
kim said…
Oh, my Gosh. That's right. You share a birthday with my favorite, little toddler! Happy, happy birthday. And, I don't always say it, but I do find comfort in your posts (and also inspiration) (and maybe a little crack up in the way you crack up when people slip on banana peels but then you feel bad for laughing). I, personally, think the FULF does not want you to be happy. Evil....
Annabanana said…


"I'd like to help people reconnect with themselves."

Barb - you already do. Seriously.


Buy yourself Erich Schiffmann's "Yoga, The Art and Practice of Moving into Stillness" yoga book for your birthday. Just do it.
Judy said…
I can so totally relate to what you are saying here. For over half my life, I've been involved in recovery (alcohol/drugs/food/codependency), but there were times when someone would present me with a particularly horrid experience, and I would be left dumbfounded and speechless. I would express words of faith and encouragement, but they always seemed hollow to me.

As life has a way of changing, the missing memories of my childhood started coming back to me. After much therapy and prayer and healing, I have now realized what a gift it is to be able to relate to anyone anytime EVER no matter what their horror or trauma. I'm not trying to "one up" anyone, but most definitely I GET IT. I know what they are feeling in my bones.

If being connected is the ultimate goal, and I'm beginning to believe that it is, then the experiences in life that give us the gift of connectedness with our fellows is the greatest gift of all.

Happy Birthday <3 every day!
Ei said…
Barb, I really truly and sincerely love you. I hope your birthday is magnificent.

Ei (and I ordered the book, will be here on Saturday, so that is, that.)
JUST happy birthday! Glad you are going to enjoy it with a passion this year!
michiganme said…
Happy, happy birthday to you!

What a delightful post - you articulate so much of what I'm thinking about but haven't found the words to express.

No need to consider me for giveaways - all I have is enough.
Holly said…
One word "wow" just "wow"
Mrs. G. said…
Wow that is a gift! How very cool to be in such a good, self-affirmiing place the night before your birthday. I hope tomorrow is extra special. Go, Barb, go!
Anonymous said…

There's a podcast I listen to of a public radio show called Being. They interview people who are in some way connected to the whole question of how to live. One of the back episodes was an interview with a disabled yoga teacher. Here is a link to a page that lets you download the show or connect to a bunch of related info.

Lynn said…
And next year, when you're an instructor, or on your way to becoming one, you can change the copyright notice at the foot of your page to read something like "...and I will bend you into the full lotus position AND LEAVE YOU THERE!" (I know, I know: not very Zenlike.)

The happiest of birthdays to you. I really enjoyed the last half of my fifth decade. I hope that yours is equally perfect for you.
Happy birthday, Barb. And many happy poses, as well.
Karen said…
Happy Day -- as I am sitting here, remembering my 47th year ... I can't help the smiles that come to my face, I know you read all about the changes in my life that year (2 years ago) - it was, quite simply, the best year of my life because it brought changes which I will treasure for the rest of my life. I know 47 will be just as amazing for you, and I can't wait to follow along with you!
Lomagirl said…
Happiest of birthdays to you! May this year bring wonderful surprises and not suprises around every corner. (And no broken bones!)
Susan said…
I hope it was a great birthday and that the yoga continuesto expand your world. My dad had great success with acupuncture - I hope it continues to help you.
Ei said…
Where are you lady?