A friend once asked me why I reference my day “off” in quotation marks. It’s because working several part-time jobs, it’s hard to really take a day off. It’s true that working from home means it’s hard to stop working.
My days “off” are days I don’t need to leave the house and go somewhere to work for money. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have things to do. There is always something to read or write. Food to cook. Chores around the house. I try my best to balance self-care with what needs to be done. But it is difficult to take an entire day without some amount of work. Perhaps this is true of everyone, but I know for myself I need one of those days several times a month. What I would have called “mental health days” when I still had a job with PTO.
A day you do not have to work and also take a break from catching up around the house. That is a true day off to me.
Today, on the other hand, is a day “off.” Partially because I am writing here, which is work, and need to do some of the reading I have been putting off for my education.
I went to yoga this morning. I left my water bottle at work yesterday so I planned to get some of their water, but the jug was almost empty. I was running late to class anyway. I felt behind the entire time. Like I was one and a half steps behind everyone else. There are days when I am acutely aware that I am the fattest and least flexible person in yoga class. Sometimes I can recognize it and let it go. Other days I have a harder time letting go of feelings of shame surrounding it.
Today was the second kind of day. I could not get out of my head the entire class, and felt self-aware every time I went into child’s pose. Even though I have been doing some form of yoga for over a decade, there are still some poses I cannot figure out how to do, whether correctly or at all. The teacher says to move my body in some way which feels alien and foreign and it’s like back when I was in dance class. No matter how slowly I had the teacher break down the steps, sometimes I still couldn’t translate the movement to my own feet. You want me to move what where? How would that even work? But they’re moving on, and I’m left behind.
In Shavasana the frustration welled within me. I felt a tear escape each eye and roll down towards my ears. I had come to yoga in order to escape or transcend my negative feelings. Not to be filled with self-loathing and shame. But I used the opportunity to breathe and allow the emotions to flow, rather than trying to cut them off. I laid there with my eyes closed until the other students had packed up and left. Then I got up to put away my mat once the feeling had passed enough I knew I would not be crying as I went to the front to pay.
Yoga is a practice. Some days are good days. Some days are off days. Just like any other practice. There is as much to learn in the days I cannot bring myself to love my body as the days in which I can. Living in weakness can be as instructive as grounding into strength. Today is a reminder that yoga will not always feel good, but that it will always give me what I need. Today is a day of sitting with the bad feelings and seeing what they have to tell me.
There is a metaphor I often use to describe my level of depression. I think I made it up, but if I read it somewhere and I forgot but you remember, please let me know. I am happy to credit. On a day when I’m not depressed, it’s like I’m walking on the beach. Each step is free and easy.
When depression starts to creep in, suddenly I’m trekking through the mud. I can still get where I’m going, but it’s slower and more difficult. My feet get stuck with each step, and if I’m wearing the wrong kind of shoes I might lose them. My feet and the bottom of my pants leg can get dirty. It’s annoying, but I can always rinse off when I get home.
As the depression worsens, it’s like slogging through a swamp. First, the water is ankle deep. Then, up to my shins. Then my knees. Soon, it’s up to my hips. Each step feels like a thousand steps as I push the weight of all that water in order to move forward. I am wet and cold. But I’m in the middle of a swamp. There is nowhere to sit down and rest.
The water can rise and rise until it’s up to my neck. Until my feet can’t touch bottom anymore but I’m too tired to swim. Drowning in this metaphor would be akin to suicidal ideation.
It’s been a long time since the water has been past my hips. Right now I’d say it’s shin level. Annoying. Time consuming. More difficult than walking on dry land. but not too miserable so long as you have a pair of galoshes to keep your legs dry.
I’m lucky that the water rarely rises above my ankles anymore. When you’ve almost drowned in the past, walking through a bit of mud is nothing.
I’m going to paint my toenails and make a cup of tea. And be grateful because how much worse would I feel right now if I hadn’t been to yoga at all?