21 Apr 2013

How to Turn 30, Weekend 3 and Beyond

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My apologies for the delay in birthday month posts. Life took over in ways that will become evident further down and distracted me from writing. Lots to catch up on!

Birthday month continued into the third weekend in March. At this point, it was starting to feel a little self-indulgent, but I was determined to get an actual birthday party in at some point in this 31-day extravaganza. For my party, I decided to realize a long-discussed dream event amongst the Birmingham yoga community members: Yogi Twister.

Birmingham Yoga graciously agreed to let me host the party in their space, so we set up two Twister mats, brought the food potluck style, and turned on some tunes. At first, it was just me and the kids getting in on the action…

But later, my yogis brought it…

And the action got intense…

We took a break for some cookie cake and celebrating…

At this point, most everyone knew about the major shifts going on in my life. I got a lot of lingering hugs and well-wishes that night. There were also a lot of smiles and laughter. It felt so good to be surrounded by joy, a counterpoint to the heaviness I was feeling in other areas of my life. It was also wonderful to feel surrounded by a community during such a difficult time in my life. I had no idea how much I would need that community or how much more difficult things would get in the coming days.


On the Monday after the birthday party, a very brief, very strong storm blew through Birmingham. It lasted about 15 minutes and brought 80-mile an hour straight-line winds. I was practicing at The Yoga Circle before my class when it blew through. I incorporated my awe of its power into my meditation but didn’t give it much thought beyond that. I taught my class as usual, then drove home. I noticed several houses in my neighborhood didn’t have power. I arrived at my house as a truck from Alabama Power pulled up in front of my neighbor’s house. Once again, I didn’t think much of it and just assumed they were there to restore power in the neighborhood. I wasn’t surprised at all to see my house had no power and assumed it would be back on shortly.

Until I looked outside my kitchen window and saw a line hanging down that hadn’t been there earlier in the day.

I went into the backyard to investigate. A vague sense of panic began to set in as I saw the Alabama Power workers had climbed the fence from my neighbor’s yard into my yard. “Hello?” I said tentatively.

One of the men turned around. “You’ve got a really big problem,” he said, without preamble. (Nice to meet you, too, buddy.)

The problem was this…


Which caused this…

A fifty-foot tall whale of an oak tree at the back of my yard had been blown down during the very brief, very intense storm. It had crashed into my neighbor’s yard, taking down the power lines that run between our houses and yanking all the electrical connections off my house. The power company employee told me I was responsible for removing the tree and would be without power until I did so.

That’s when full-blown panic set in. I had been alone in the house for two weeks and two days, had not yet even adjusted to living alone, and here I was facing a disaster that I had no frame of reference of how to handle. I began to cry panicky tears. Do I call my insurance company? Do I have to get a chainsaw and cut the tree up myself? What on earth do I do next? I’m not strong enough to handle this by myself. I can’t do this. I’m not good enough. I can’t do this alone…

NO. Something inside me rose up. Something very strong, very centered, very grounded. No, this is not how this is going to go. We’re not giving in to old patterns and old beliefs. We’re going to get through this, one step at a time. This thing will not defeat you.

Abruptly, the tears stopped. I became almost supernaturally calm. I called my dad and asked him to come over to look at it with me. I called a friend and asked him to bring me dinner, because I knew I would need my strength to get through this. I called my insurance company and filed a claim. I pulled coolers out of the basement and began to pack up the food in my fridge, unsure of where I would take it that night, but knowing I didn’t want to waste it. I took deep breaths and put one foot in front of the other. By nightfall, I was confident I would get through this, alone and well.

I was without power for a week. It was a week full of meetings with contractors and electricians, frustrated phone calls to various insurance reps, anxiety over costs and deductibles. But it was also a week of a massive outpouring of love. Friends and co-workers took me in for meals, nights, and laundry dates. I had more offers of help than I could possibly accept.

In the middle of all this, two days after the tree fell, I turned 30. I woke up on my actual birthday away from home, ungrounded and uncertain of how all this would play out, but feeling surrounded by love. More than that, perhaps. I felt pushed forward by a tidal wave of love. I felt like a community had rallied around me to say, “You can get through this. And you will. And you’re loved.”

The day before the tree was to be removed, I went and sat with it for a while. I studied it, gazed at it, took it in. I asked it, “What are you here to teach me?”

(I know the following sounds like weird hippy hoodoo, but I swear it happened.) The tree gazed back at me, studied me, took me in. “You’re stronger than you think you are,” it said.

The day the tree service came to haul the tree away, I asked them to leave me a few pieces. Despite all the havoc it had caused, in the end, I couldn’t bear to part with it. Not completely, at least. This great oak had taught me something powerful about myself: The times that I feel weakest and most vulnerable are the times that I have access to my greatest strength. I can move through most challenges, and accepting support doesn’t make me weak; it makes me loved. I plan to use the wood to create something–maybe bowls for my kitchen or seating for my backyard–some symbol of this time of profound growth and realization. Something to remind myself of what I tell my yoga students in nearly every class I teach, something that bears repeating over and over: You’re stronger than you think you are.

Strong enough to jump out of a plane? Stay tuned for the final post from Birthday Month!

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