Bruce and I had only been married for a few months when a bat entered our 3rd floor, attic apartment. Bats were, we were told, a common occurrence there, but this was our first encounter. We discovered the bat’s presence in the middle of a hot, sticky August night whilst sleeping when a pen fell off a table near our bed. Let me restate that: Looking back now, I know the bat knocked the pen off the table. At the time, however, half-asleep, I thought the pitiful breeze from the sickly fan, perhaps with the help of a piece of paper, had managed to shift it. Half an hour or so later I was startled thoroughly awake by Bruce’s loud gasp of horror and sudden egress from the bed. The bat had crawled on his shoulder.
I’m not good with terrified things flying about in small enclosures. Who is, really? And how did I know that about myself then? I don’t recall. I just knew I’d be no good whatsoever. So I dove under the sheet, making sure it was tucked in at all sides and corners, told Bruce where my tennis racquet was and assured him that in my very limited experience (i.e. via my mother’s stories of her brothers’ bat extermination expertise decades earlier), a good whack with the racquet would do the trick. If I remember correctly, Bruce ripped the sheet off the bed, and thus off me, before finding my racquet.
I tell you that, in part, to give you a chance to laugh before I use you, dear reader, as surrogate therapist and sounding board. Lately I’ve been thinking frequently about my immediate response to that bat because I feel like I’m in fight or flight mode most of the time. I feel occasionally threatened, on the outs most of the time, with a constant sense of unease, and so I’m feeling the urge to turtle and to rabbit all at once. I’m having trouble articulating this feeling in general, let alone writing it down here, however, this state of being is causing me to feel like I’m living in constant fogginess, waiting warily for the anxious thing with shields up, all the while tucking in the corners and sides of my life, the virtual sheet over my head, and accomplishing little else. Or at least, little else meaningful or very well. In this mode of self-preservation, I have also been going out of my way to avoid people who have repeatedly hurt me, and whom I have learned not to trust. I’m starting to think one of those people is me. The enemy, in short, is within.
Monday this week I took Kate with me to the yoga studio. She has the week off school and I didn’t want to leave her home alone, nor did I want to miss another class. Our instructor and friend, Amy Jo, started our practice by saying we were going to do a little of everything (including going “upside down” — a fearful place for me) and that we should remember our intention and claim it as our seat, our asana, throughout the class. The word that popped into my head immediately was courage. That, and becoming strong, because I feel neither courageous nor strong these days.
When we do partner work in classes where she is present, Kate and I are usually a pair. So it was Kate who assisted my half handstand. I’m several pounds heavier (to say the least) than Kate, and she’s not known for physical strength and stamina, so I was a little doubtful as I prepared my body and head to go upside down. And I prepared very carefully, figuring the better placed my body was in space and the stronger my “seat” in this position was, the less work Kate would have to do. So I put courage and becoming strong front and center in my being, and we did it. I was upside down, and it was perfectly comfortable and safe. But the resolve with which I placed my care in Kate’s hands, and in my own, was immense. Courage. Strength. Authenticity. Flip sides of this bundle of fear, insecurity, and vulnerability I’ve got tucked under the sheet with me. Or are they? Self-discovery at my age. Who knew?
Your problem is how you are going to spend this one and precious life you have been issued. Whether you’re going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are. –Anne Lamott