I don’t know how I got this way
I’ll never be alright
So I’m breaking the habit…Tonight.
– “Breaking the Habit” by Linkin Park
It had been an ordinary day. But that’s the funny thing about ordinary – the extraordinary is always trying to break through.
Thursday, June 8 was a warm and pleasant day in Chicago. Around 4 in the afternoon, it was time to step away from the office and my desk chair to practice some arm balances on the lawn in the sun.
By 5:30 p.m. I was in yoga class, thinking that this was just another day, just another yoga class. As in prior classes, every pose brought a delicate balance of strength and struggle, ease and challenge.
About 20 minutes before the end of class, it came time to move to the wall. I died a little inside. I tried to quiet the defeatist voices in my head: “I’m not good at this. I can’t do this. It will never happen.” I contemplated leaving class early, like I’d done the other day. It seemed easier to bow out quietly than to be the class joke who can’t kick up to meet the wall without instructor assistance.
Furthermore, my right shoulder had been bothering me for weeks. The stress that had always remained hidden under my shoulder blades had crept up and up into a much more noticeable pain at the top of my shoulder. A doctor suggested that I stop this yoga practice for a while. It seemed like my more recent troubles began there, she positioned. I wasn’t so sure, but I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to shake this ache.
I stayed in class. I turned to face the wall. I kicked up, expecting the ordinary.
Instead, the extraordinary happened. I kicked up. I kicked up and rather than finding air and coming straight back down to the ground, I found the wall. The connection made, I nearly catapulted down again out of panic, amazement or surprise – it’s difficult to say which, although it was probably a combination of all three.
Upside down, I expected the class around me to erupt into applause. Didn’t they witness this miracle, my awesome achievement? My impossible had become possible and only I seemed to notice and acknowledge it! I felt a little bit disappointed. This was my moment of glory! “Notice me, people!” I shouted inside of my head. After what seemed like forever, I stepped off the wall.
I leant back on my shins and stared at the wall, holding back tears of joy, wonder and disbelief. I did it. I really did it. I wanted to hug the wall. It seemed like we’d finally reached an understanding. After months of uneasiness with one another, we suddenly turned a corner. The wall no longer intimidated me.
As I sat there, I became acutely aware that the pain in my shoulder was gone. The realization led me to think that the shoulder pain and my fear of the wall were one in the same: my struggle to kick up had manifested itself as the everyday pain in my shoulder. Making contact with the wall dissolved all of that pain and fear I’d been holding. I was free.
When the instructor came by, I shared the good news. We exchanged a double high five. I kicked for the second time, successfully making impact with the wall again.
On this day of my breakthrough, the only one judging and measuring me all along was me. I was the only one who thought of myself as a failure. I was right to be the only one clapping for myself. I deserved my own praise. It didn’t need to come from anyone else. Only I knew how deeply this weighed on my soul, how this had become my Everest.
The summit reached, on that ordinary turned extraordinary day, everything felt possible.