Cultivating peace of mind and wellbeing is ongoing. I’ve learned that there is one way to fail at yoga (and preserving peace of mind)—that’s by not doing it. I’m so grateful for my growth in 2023. Looking back on my experience a year ago at this time, I can definitely say I’ve shed some of the issues weighing down my soul, but have only just begun to find my peace enough to share and help others.
Coming off about a week’s vacation in Puerto Rico (yes, another one!) I wish I’d done a better job taking my own advice and staying in touch with my yoga practice during the trip. Turns out I missed some good opportunities to practice with a local studio and if I am ever back, I will be checking it out. I feel like almost a different person now looking back on that week, and it’s actually a little hard to even understand why I, at times, felt so desperately not at ease while traveling.
I know some of my struggles may be hormonal, and that’s worth monitoring, but I also have to be mindful of things beyond those hormonal tides, or, shore myself up to handle them better, like making sure I allow myself time to maintain my yoga practice during these trips!
A few days in, I finally released into some yoga, and felt my baseline mood shift. Reflecting more, in addition to the yoga, I’ve identified a few learnings that I hope to ingrain in my own mind to remember for next time, and that might help others.
None of these are earth-shattering, but if, like me, you could do with periodic reminders, here you are:
1) Don’t take things personally. As we navigated the new-to-us and tight, crowded streets of Old San Juan our first day, fresh (well, not so fresh anymore) from the airport and car rental, each of us in our family had our own thoughts running through our heads along with our jobs to do at that moment. For my husband, it was the physical driving. For me, I was supposed to be navigating him to a parking garage. Our daughter’s unofficial job was to not complain while we figured out our next moves, with an eye on finding lunch. After a couple go-rounds covering only a few blocks on a crowded Saturday, the conversation turned to whether we should just head to our Airbnb about an hour away and come back to the city another time when it was less crowded.
We were hungry, some of us more or less than others, but also tired, and it had taken longer than we expected to get the rental car. Still inching along the narrow streets as we debated, a cute little spot caught my eye with the words “birra y empanadas” and I spoke out, “Oh look, beer and empanadas!” I was met with derision of the nature of it being some random place and why would I say we should go to some random place I just happen to see on the street and him acting like it was the stupidest thing anyone could say. It hit me hard. Harder than it should have. I pushed back.
Even our daughter noted his response seemed harsher than necessary. I didn’t really get it at the time, but looking back, I can guess he was just tired, or something. Figuring out the depths of the “why” behind his response, I could explore a lot of different things that may or may not have happened to him that day or in his life. But I should not have taken it as personally as I did, and somehow, I let the pain of his remark stay with me far too long into the trip.
His unkindness made me crave reconciliation he would not give. It made me feel like a victim who then needed extra care, the kind he does not readily give, especially when he doesn’t think anything is wrong. He doesn’t fawn. I would have done best to let it go and find comfort in something else for a while. It didn’t mean as much to him, good or bad. He didn’t mean it as bad as I took it, and had I just moved on instead of trying to get him to make me feel better, I would have felt better sooner.
2) Speak up, respectfully, if something isn’t right. So, this could pertain to point one, where I did push back on how my husband spoke to me, but the point I want to make about speaking up actually applies to a couple of the services related to our trip. After that long day of travel, squabbles about birra y empanadas (which we did not go to, by the way, but looks like it might have been cool) we were looking forward to showers and bed. But the showers were not hot. Barely warm. Our daughter was the first one to freak out. I thought maybe she was over-reacting. I guess by crying and almost refusing to go to dinner, she was. But then after dinner when it was time for me to try the shower, it was absolutely confirmed and I lost it, too. There was no way we could be here in this apartment with cool showers for five more nights.
So I texted our hosts and they actually came to check it out. They said we did have hot water, and I was like, well, no, not really, but that’s fine. I told them my daughter had read somewhere that some parts of the island don’t really have hot water and so that may be the case here, and maybe we have different opinions of what warm is, but it was just not what I was expecting. I was ready to let it go, having said what I had to say. But then, after a little while longer they let me know that they were swapping out the hot water heater. That night and for the rest of our stay we had hot showers. Had I been a meeker person or just accepted the cold shower without even questioning, we would have had that discomfort to add to the other inevitable discomforts of being away from home.
On the flight home, too, it seemed our electrical outlets for charging our phones were not working. So I mentioned it to the flight attendant and minutes later, they worked. Apparently, these were the kind that the flight attendants had control over and apparently they could be turned on and off. If I just assumed they were broken, I would not have gotten the opportunity to charge my phone while using it, which I had good reason to do at that time (yeah, yeah, I know, time on a flight unplugged could have been a thing, too…)
Regarding how I spoke up with my husband on his mean words, however, that brings me to the next point, of not doubling down. I spoke up when I didn’t like how he snapped at me about birra y empanadas, but then when he was initially unreceptive to my bids for getting him to soothe me, I should have taken the hint and moved on, found another path at that point instead of trying to convince him. Don’t invite more of what you didn’t like in the first place.
3) Don’t double down. As with with letting it go with my husband’s mood and lack of initial reconciliation to my liking, I also should have let go some of my quests for pleasure when it should have been clear I would not be satisfied. Like a couple dining experiences. Weak drinks. Order another. Not feeling anything. Maybe I am trying to feel the wrong things. Or trying too hard not to feel. Average food. Why think more will delight me? Maybe expand where I find my pleasures. Maybe be more grateful.
4) Welcome fresh starts. Eventually my husband was just naturally nice to me again in a way that resonated enough to snap me out of my ick and I leaned into it. I’ve become good at embracing fresh starts without official apologies. That’s what longlasting couples have to do. You need not crush someone’s pride insisting on a certain degree of contrition before just accepting their next interaction where they try to bring neutrality or even niceness. You’ve got to rebuild from somewhere.
5) Sleep is more important than ever. Vacations tend to have our family on-the-go. We were warned by my husband about the need for early wake-up calls a couple of the days. Even so, it was hard to get good nights of sleep. A couple of us snore, albeit seemingly at different times. We had to move some furniture around to avoid bunk bed claustrophobia when I decided to crash in the room with my daughter. We tended to stay up later than my husband. She was feeling lonely in the weird place. We couldn’t get the temperature right. The air conditioner, as ineffective as it was, was noisy. The room was not dark enough. And then my daughter had some pretty harsh psychological insomnia issues where every anxious thought was magnified and needing talking through. After the annoyance of losing sleep passed in seconds, I enjoyed being able to be there for her and try to talk her through things.
We tried breathing techniques. Body scans. Calming music. It ended up being a matter of just passing out tired. Eventually. It took a lot to wind down. And I, as the ma, am always the last one awake (even when I fall asleep early in the evening during TV time at home). So my mental health and capacity to withstand aggravation was a bit tested by lack of sleep.
Being rushed around the next day by one who kept me up was maddening, and a low point of my stress on the trip. I complained and called her out on it, but she would not see my point of view—and doubled down, ha ha! At that point I should have laughed off the absurdity of it all and took some comfort in the fact that I am the adult and more emotionally mature, more evolved, less selfish, etc etc etc—except I guess I am not, yet, since it got to me! I like to think with adequate sleep I would have acted more like an adult. I was told, “you’re used to getting only four or five hours of sleep, so you shouldn’t be bothered”…touché? I’m definitely focusing on getting better sleep in general going forward.
6) Frozen food is rarely going to satisfy. As a foodie who likes to cook, I should have known better. But after making so-so manicotti (forgot to add egg to the ricotta to firm it up) from scratch, I was not in the mood to do a lot more extensive cooking subsequent nights. We ate out plenty, but the prices gave me a bit of anxiety, too. We ran out of time one night due to a slow ferry ride back from Culebra. But, the frozen empanadas and pizza were just a bit depressing. If I’d just given myself a little more space and stillness, I could have found the energy to put effort into some quesadillas or bean burritos or something of my own making again that would have been much more satisfying. I think it’s the factor of being processed moreso than being frozen that made things so unappealing.
7) Keep curiosity alive. This is one of the easiest for me. I am resilient, even if I hang onto sad feelings a little too long. I eventually bounce back, and with more fire than before. In a good way. Wanting to experience new things on the island—as well as a day trip to the even more remote Culebra—after a while I made the choice to just interact positively with my family, whether I felt they apologized enough for their obnoxious behavior or not. Whether they behaved conscientiously or not. I reminded myself that a big part of compassion is not expecting more from people than where they’re at at that point in their life.
Upon returning home, I saw that the yoga instructor I met at my former home studio, who inspired me to venture into yoga teacher training was subbing some classes at the next-closest studio to the one that closed down. Her energy, the way she leads and holds space, did not disappoint and was such a gift.
It’s a gift I hope to be able to share with others someday, too. I’ve been attending classes now and then with this new community and exploring whether it would be a good fit. That remains under consideration, but what I am sure has been reinforced is my need to be more faithful to my practice—and that means practicing “at home” wherever home may be at the time, on my own, in addition to, or in lieu of, in a studio with others. It’s that important to my physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing.
And, I’ll be serving beer and empanadas for New Year’s Eve.
Reinvigorating our practice—old teacher, new studio.
During one of my bouts of bitching back home, where I was sweeping our floors at 10 pm or something, and complaining about some mess my husband made, he dismissively, but cleverly, said to me “Thank you, you’re perfect.” I love this and it is such an ideal thing to say. A lot of times I am just venting and this response made me smile and was so much more well received than excuse-making or denying the reality of what I’m complaining about. All that said, I want to be intentional about complaining less. It implies weakness and a victim position.