On Thursday mornings I take a yoga class at my local rec center. I like this class. It’s held in a large sunny studio overlooking a park. Between yoga poses I see squirrels scampering up trees in the fall. I see snow falling in the winter. I see dogs racing across an open field in the summer. I see groups of young women gather for mid-morning walks in the spring. All the while, I stretch and balance and attempt to do crow pose without smacking my face against my mat.
Our instructor is an upbeat woman who mixes in rock music with traditional yoga instrumentals. She plays Counting Crows and Elton John and Wilco. She reads quotes from a blog on meditation and invites us to “set an intention” for our practice, but she also tells us it’s okay to just do the poses. The physical practice is challenge enough, she says. We breathe deeply.
This week she talked about Valentine’s Day and how we tend to focus our love on other people—not just spouses and significant others, but also children and parents and friends. We aren’t so great at loving ourselves. “For the next hour,” she said, “imagine that you are on a promising first date with yourself. How will you talk to yourself? Will you criticize or encourage?” (Yes, this does sound rather silly, but yoga relies on a certain amount of “woo.” This particular instructor relies on less “woo” than others.)
Now would be a good time to admit I have little affection for Valentine’s Day and other retail holidays. I’d rather jam a thorny long-stemmed rose into my eye than to get dressed up and eat at a restaurant on America’s sappiest day. I like roses when they grow on a bush in my garden, but I don’t care for the arrangements sold by florists or floral departments. The scent of roses makes me think of funerals. Only lilies are more depressing. I prefer cheap, cheerful stems like daisies and sunflowers. My husband brought home a fat bunch of daisies for our dining table this week and I’m happy every time I see them.
In keeping with the theme of “self love” in this week’s yoga class, our instructor led us through an hour of intense heart opening poses. If you practice yoga, you know what I mean. If you don’t, imagine spending an hour balancing on one leg while attempting a backbend. With your eyes closed. These poses make me dizzy and several times I felt the darkness closing in. I had to stop and bend forward to keep from fainting. My heart, apparently, does not open so easily. At some point, while I precariously tottered in Half Moon, our instructor said, “How is this date with yourself going?” If I’d had an ounce of breath to do so, I’d have laughed out loud. I thought, Well, I’m a nightmare. That’s how it’s going. I certainly wouldn’t go out with me again!
I finished the class with as much grace as I could muster and dragged my closed heart through the remainder of an impossibly warm February day. I had a lunch date and a deadline to meet. I teach a class on Thursday evenings. My schedule was full. At some point during the day, my right eye started to itch and water. Then it began to swell. Apparently, if the temperature in Denver hits 75 degrees in February, my body reacts violently. I washed my face and used eye drops. Finally the swelling abated, but when I looked in the mirror I saw that my right pupil was dilated. If this ever happens to you, do not google it. You will become convinced that you are suffering from a brain aneurysm. With just an hour to spare before my evening class, I felt mildly panicked. Fortunately my husband is a clear thinker and pointed out that the dilation might be a side effect of the eye drops. More googling. Sure enough, he was right. Still, this knowledge did not make my drive to class any less treacherous. Have you ever driven with one dilated eye? On the tail end of rush hour? In the dark? I don’t recommend it.
The class went well and no one commented on my freakishly large pupil, but I was exhausted by the end of the evening. I made it home without incident and went straight to bed. My husband and I agreed if the eye was still dilated in the morning, I would go see a doctor.
This morning I examined my eyes before brushing my teeth. I’m happy to report my pupils looked normal and evenly matched. After a bit of coffee and a bit of work, I stood and stretched my arms behind me. I leaned back, closed my eyes, and lifted one foot off the floor. Not a wobble. Apparently I’ve decided to give myself a second chance. It took a whole day, but my heart is finally open.