Once upon a time I believed in only good things.
I just assumed that I could anticipate what might be coming next, that it would be positive and that things, whatever they might be, would simply just fall into place.
It’s a fair assumption that I grew up pretty much thinking I would lead the life of Cinderella. Prince Charming, and all.
Sometimes I practice yoga at a studio where the first segment of the class is a standard flow.
For the first part of the practice I can anticipate what might be coming next.
We reach high and tilt back; we fold our bodies and bow low.
We lift halfway and straighten our backs, and we fold again with hands to the mat.
We flow through our Vinyasa into a high plank, then to a low push up, through to an Upward Facing Dog, and back to a Downward Facing Dog.
And we step forward and do it again.
I breathe, and it comes easy.
And then the practice really begins.
We move into challenging poses, not always knowing what is next.
Some days, it comes easy, and some days it does not.
Regardless, it is always work to get through it.
Set your gaze, the instructor says as he chastises the class for looking around the room. That’s how you find your balance.
As a Cinderella in the making, I basically breezed through the first segment of my life.
Growing up, I had a nurturing family, learning came easy and so did making friends.
I excelled in my endeavors, whether it was my studies or dancing or drawing, and my college graduation found me standing in front of my graduating class as speaker and Valedictorian.
A wedding followed, and we settled into a home with two beautiful children and our wonderful dog.
Cinderella had arrived.
This was my life’s first segment, my standard flow. I had anticipated it all, and it came easy.
But, as with the practice itself, what followed the initial flow were so many unanticipated challenges.
This Cinderella tried as best as she could to look ahead and set her gaze, but she could not always find her balance.
The instructor encourages us again to find our gaze for balance and to not resist the difficulty of the pose.
Still twisted and on one foot, I curl into as small a ball as possible.
When it gets hard, that’s when you breathe, he said.
So maybe I was not really Cinderella.
She had her challenges first and then lived happily ever after.
My challenges came later.
The marriage, the home, the dog. All gone.
My assumptions and expectations, challenged.
My flow, interrupted.
Me on my own with my two beautiful children.
I had no choice but to set my gaze and find my balance. So, that is what I did for the years that followed.
Today, my children are grown, and I have the gift of watching them support themselves and each other.
I unwind from Eagle Pose, untangling my legs and arms, standing tall and reaching up towards the sky.
It is such a satisfying stretch, to reach high like this after having been curled up while standing on one foot.
After so many years, I have had an epiphany of sorts.
And it has been a challenge to unwind.
I am learning, though, that it can help to breathe in the face of challenge, rather than show resistance.
That, I think, is what facilitates the flow, so I can move through it.
I am thinking that maybe there can still be a happily ever after without having to be Cinderella.
Maybe the trick is to just breathe into whatever challenges arise when things get hard.
In comparison, Eagle Pose and the rest of the practice seem like a breeze.