My long arc of motherhood, like that of my yoga practice, continues to go through stages. Over the past 28 years I have seen four sons through gestation, birth, babyhood, toddlerhood and the middle school years. Four teary-eyed first trips on the school bus (those were MY tears…), two high school graduations, one college graduation and one wedding. Three trips to freshman year dorms, and a few trips to the Emergency Room. No bones broken, but certainly our share of high fevers and mystery spots.
The twenty year arc of my yoga practice began soon after the birth of my third son, and continues even as the fourth son enters adolescence and towers over me. As these beautiful boys have grown into beautiful men, I have watched my yoga practice lapse, change, accelerate, molder and thrive.
The first year of yoga was all about quiet, gentle practices that allowed me time to find my post-natal body. Oh, how the borders of my body-self spread as I gestated, gave birth and widened my embrace to include all the emotions and actions that came with parenting! Motherhood also required a high level of physical activity, and so I toted, lifted, hauled, ran, reached, suckled, juggled and performed all manner of actions designed to nourish and transport my nestlings.
When more physical strength and mental fortitude for parenting were needed, Ashtanga Yoga became my vehicle. A fellow (male) Ashtangi, younger than me by a good 10 years, became the stick against which I measured my progress. The stick had nothing to do with ego, and everything to do with survival. If I could stay one step- or two- ahead of his stamina, I stood a good chance of likewise staying somewhat ahead of the demands and antics of my brood.
The growing independence of My Four Sons allowed me more room to play- with them and within my practice. Tasting the offers of various yoga teachers, and trying different approaches to asana and meditation led me to embrace a more improvisational approach to yoga, which I utilize to this day. I couldn’t improvise the way I do, however, without years of solid, foundational practices behind me. Same thing with parenting. I would never claim that ‘practice’ has made me ‘perfect’ in the realm of either yoga OR parenting, but thankfully I did manage to learn fast, on the job without egregious mistakes or long-lasting injuries.
Lately, I am met most every morning with the sense of my life having very wide, expansive horizons. I am not comfortable with this landscape, not yet. With one son still in the nest and three sons off living their lives, the actions that defined my days for so many years are… well, I hesitate to say useless or outdated, but there are many moments in every week where I find myself standing in the kitchen, or some other room, having finished some chore or another in near record time, with all this SPACE around me. Physical space. Time space. Heart space.
What is a mother to do?
Much like those early days of motherhood, then yogini-hood, it’s all about trial and error, curiosity and dedication, balance, and more. My husband, in his infinite wisdom about All Things Liza (well, most things…) observed and named my current state of transition and loss long before I could. Maybe it was hearing the forlorn quality in my voice over one of our many Skype calls, or seeing me in meltdown mode during our infrequent reunions (It has been a helluva a year thus far. See prior blog posts). Without babies or boys or my husband or even our cats into which to mold my body or shape my days, I have been experiencing a whole new realm of loss.
This transition, this ‘loss’, was written at my sons’ births. I knew they would eventually grow up, move out and forge paths of their own. Yet even with that knowledge, being in this place is still really hard. Staying present to slow change, I have invited all parts of myself to present themselves at the table. The grieving, the joyous, the confused, the lonely, the unsure; many are here and more are expected.
The familiar contours of my yoga mat helped me stay present to the challenges of active parenting. It would seem I need my practice more than ever, to both guide me through this sense of loss and into places where new possibilities await. It’s a big one, this question of when parenting’s no longer one of my full-time jobs, who am I?