My husband loves to tell the story of when we first met. It’s a unique story since we met while living on a tour bus together, but that fact barely makes it into his telling. His favorite details to include are 1) that I brought a pair of costume butterfly wings with me, and 2) that I was reading a book called “Try Giving Yourself Away.”
I was a moderate hippie by most late-90s standards. I never made my own backless shirt (though I so would have if I knew how), I didn’t smell of patchouli, and I didn’t even smoke pot (which might actually be instant disqualification). I did, however, have a nicely worn-in pair of Birkenstocks, some baggy corduroys, lots of body glitter, and a general outlook that was the opposite of cynical.
As I moved through my 20s, through years of panic attacks, through a semester of law school (not exactly a hippie haven), through my first job at a news magazine in New York City, into my yoga teacher training at age 24, and through my adventures as a freelance writer/yoga instructor/script reader/waitress/swim instructor living in Brooklyn, my hippie spirit remained largely intact. It grew and matured with me, I suppose. It adapted to the world I was living in but never – I’m proud to say – never burned out.
Until I became a mom. Somewhere between choosing hypnobirthing as my childbirth method and being diagnosed (incorrectly!) with gestational diabetes, a shift occurred. As my body was gradually taken over by the incredibly, amazingly beautiful and yet parasitic relationship that is pregnancy, I came to understand, implicitly and unconsciously, that it was time to put away childish things – like butterfly wings.
I did so without hesitation; it made sense at the time. Being a mother is serious business, I have lots to learn, etc, etc. Besides, my husband is the eternal kid-at-heart, so I should provide the counterweight. Yes, of course.
But I’m realizing now that I’ve waited far too long to find my way back to those parts of me that I put away. In fact, I’m only now understanding that they still exist. I’m also – despite how this essay may read – accepting the idea that this didn’t happen to me, that it happened because of me, and that it’s my responsibility to gather up and integrate the pieces of me that will serve the whole person I wish to be.
So it is with this in mind that I head off this weekend to Wanderlust, a yoga and music festival that happens throughout the year in various locations around the world. Their slogan is “Find your true North,” and I’ve actually come closer to that ideal each of the three previous years I’ve been.
Six or seven yoga classes within a 48-hour period with some of the most inspiring and self-aware instructors I’ve found (i.e. Seane Corn, Suzanne Sterling, Elena Brower) is like a time machine for me. On my yoga mat, I can choose to look into my past and reacquaint myself with that 22-year-old hippie my husband first fell in love with. I can tell her that I still need her in my life, that my relationship needs her.
I might linger in the present for a while honoring the beauty and opportunity in my everyday interactions with our two soulful little kids – and the part that I’ve played in helping them become who they are.
And I can feel my way into the future to meet the version of me that is whole and free and real and joyful. The more I see her, talk to her, understand her, the closer I get to becoming her.
As I sit here writing, I feel that mixture of excitement and anxiety that comes up for me anytime I leave my kids for a few days. Granted, it doesn’t happen often and that may be part of the problem. Ah, but here again I’m playing out that story where I’m a mom first and all other things (a yogi, a hippie, a dreamer, a woman) a distant second.
So I take it back: I feel excitement. I feel wonder. I feel pride. I know that I’m doing this for myself – to help reclaim those parts of me that I never actually needed to put away or give away or push away at all.