There was a kid’s cassette tape that my daughter had when she was in kindergarten that she would play over and over again and it would tell a story about a girl who had a dress with great big pockets that she would put all her stuff in. She had so much stuff that she could barely walk. She goes to a carnival and wants to ride the “upside-down-turn-around” machine. All the stuff tumbles out of her pockets as the ride turns her, you guessed it, upside down. Even though she loses all of her most precious possessions, she finds out the world looks different when you’re upside down, and without all that stuff weighing her down, she was free to skip, dance, and play.
I’ve been in the “upside-down-turn-around” machine for some time. And yes, the world does look different when you’re upside down. You find out who is in your corner and who is not. You see the words “trust” and “friend” in a different light based on who puts salve on your wounds and who walks the other way, pretending not to see or feel (whichever is easier). I wonder if it is like the childhood game of peek-a-boo; if I don’t see your pain, it doesn’t exist. You look at how you spend your time in your career and calculate how many hours you’ve dedicated to the cause you believe in and wonder when the going gets tough, will it even matter if the cause you so diligently helped build no longer is recognizable as such. You look at your health and see it as a gift rather than something to take for granted. You see the devastation of selfishness vs. selflessness. You wonder if it is harder to cry when you’re upside down, because gravity is on your side. You discover if you scream in that position, people expect it. They think that is normal, like being on a carnival ride. You see hell as an ICU room full of ringing alarms and multiple IV lines. And you see future planning go out with the tide no longer regulated by the phases of the moon.
This morning I decided to try and empty my pockets by starting a daily yoga ritual. It was appropriate that I was presented with poses that included hand stands, head stands, and neck stands. I could feel the blood rush to my head, revealing my pulse throbbing alive and well in my temples. Many of the positions I hadn’t attempted since I was on the gymnastics team in high school. I was surprised that most of them I could still do, a little wobblier, but I was reminded that in yoga the attempt is just as important as the pose. I appreciated the supporting wall that was always there for me, keeping me from harm like a trusted friend that would never let me fall. It let me touch base and then move toward independent balance, always there to catch me if I went too far. Yes, I cherish my friends that are like that wall.
We moved on to warrior poses and restorative breathing, and finally, after what has been a month of pure and living hell, I could lie still without the feeling that I had forgotten how to breathe. I felt for a moment, that I could get through another day no matter how many disappointments, tragedies, or injuries were waiting for me. I turned to my daughter’s cat who had been observing my morning metamorphosis skeptically. She rose from her prone position and with little warning threw up. All I could think was, “I know how you feel. But somehow you have to do it anyway.” The upside-down-turn-around machine may not be for everyone, but sometimes you’re not given the choice. My advice is to keep your pockets light, let the hairballs fall where they may, and try to skip, dance, or play even if you’re not feeling like it. And for goodness sakes, find your wall.
© Kelly Tweeddale 2012