Illustration by Molly Askey-Goldsbury
By Bryn Bamber
I get a small sick feeling inside but I don’t want to hurt his feelings, so I say yes. Yes, come over even though I’m tired. Yes, don’t worry about bringing my keys back. Yes.
I say yes to him and betray what’s right for me.
Even now, I think: should I really write this? What if he reads it and recognizes the example? Will he be hurt? Maybe I should choose another topic. Something softer. Something safe and sweet because that is who I am: a sweet, loving, caring, compassionate woman.
I am not angry. I am sweet. I will be sweet and no one will get hurt.
And I wish it was true but what I’m realizing is that by trying to protect him, I have been hurting me. For years I have not listened to that small sick feeling. I have been putting others first at all costs.
In the Yoga of Healing, Swami Radha writes, “Pain has to be recognized as a great teacher.” And I realize the small sick feeling is my pain, that the small sick feeling is my teacher. My body is trying to tell me something and I haven’t listened.
I can barely hold back my tears as I wait for the others to speak. When it’s my turn, I start crying and struggle to get the words out. When I was 8 years old two of my cousins died as babies. I was young. I didn’t know how to grieve them. I was struck by the loss.
It had been such a joyful exciting time. My parents had told me that I was going to have a new baby cousin. It was going to be a girl and I couldn’t wait to hold her small sweet body.
But then 10 days after her birth, we got a phone call. She was gone.
I wish that it was a dream, but I don’t wake up from it. I learn to harden my heart so I will never feel hurt like that.
Then it happens again. A baby girl. Five days old. Gone.
This time I don’t try wishing it was a dream because I know that it won’t work. I just try harder to dull my love. I try harder to control. I know I can’t take getting hurt like that again so I vow to do whatever it takes to keep myself safe.
And now, 21 years later, I am crying. I am finally grieving the loss of the girls and I am also grieving the part of me that was lost with them.
It’s the middle of a workshop with two teachers from the Ashram. We are looking at transitions – times of loss or change from our past – to learn about how we handled them, about our patterns and about what we want to change.
I realize that I’ve had back pain for as long as I can remember. I’ve gone to many health care professionals over the years to resolve it. I’ve seen doctors, physiotherapists, massage therapists, chiropractors, a body talk therapist. I have an athletic therapist I see when it gets really bad, but the pain never really goes away for good.
And it’s like the small sick feeling. I feel the pain but ignore it. When the pain gets too bad, I manage it. But I haven’t stopped, listened and asked, “What is this pain trying to teach me?”
So at the workshop I do it. I write in my journal, “What can I learn from my pain? What are you here to teach me?” And the answers come fast and furious. I scribble them down, making note. After the workshop, I keep asking. Sometimes the answers come quick but other times are slow and quiet, trickling out one by one.
I start to see that in relationships, I have often taken care of my partner at the expense of my needs and then expect him to do the same. This seems like a pretty fair deal, except for that my partner is not a mind reader. He can’t know exactly what I need. Inevitably he gets it wrong and I resent him.
I realize the coping mechanisms I developed during that difficult period when I was 8 years old are still impacting me. A part of me is constantly trying to control so that I won’t get hurt. I harden my heart. I manage my life. I don’t allow myself to let go. I don’t allow myself to live or love fully.
And I want to change all of this. I want to stop trying to control everything in order to protect my heart. I want to let go and let myself love someone without trying to figure it out, manage or control it.
And most of all, I want to be me. All of me – with my sweetness and my anger and my sadness rolled together. I want to let it all out. I want to be more honest than I’ve been in years. I want to be me.
Listening to my pain feels like the beginning of a journey. It feels like turning left at the crossroads after years of turning right.
I know these changes I want to make won’t be easy. But I also know the discomfort of trying will lead to a life more real and more whole than the life I had before.
Here I am: at another crossroads, deciding to turn towards the life I want.
About Bryn Bamber
Bryn Bamber is an educator, writer and Yasodhara Yoga teacher who is obsessed with bridging the gap between dissatisfaction and the desire to live a life filled with meaning. Her writing has been published in Scratch Magazine and at brynbamber.com.
Read her other articles in Finding Yoga.
“I realize the coping mechanisms I developed during that difficult period when I was 8 years old are still impacting me. A part of me is constantly trying to control so that I won’t get hurt. I harden my heart. I manage my life. I don’t allow myself to let go. I don’t allow myself to live or love fully. And I want to change all of this.”
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