Every year, for quite some time, I’ve chosen a little word-of-the-year for the 12 months to follow. At the beginning of 2013, I chose “self-awareness” as my word(s) of the year. These words were chosen from the stand point of injury prevention but also with the broader view of the Noble Eightfold Path from where right intentions (thoughts, words, and actions) are aspired to be followed. With the year coming to an end, it is time for me to look back and take a closer look at the year from the vantage point of self-awareness and following a path of rights.
A trend which I have noticed in the past couple of years is that choosing a word of the year in no way guarantees that the year will be filled with the virtue of the selected word. Take last year for an example: At the close of 2012, my year-in-review exercise revealed that not only was 2012 a year of “balance” but that the quest for balance had the a component of “self-preservation” included with it. This was similar to the previous year (2011) where my chosen word “health” went hand-in-hand with “patience.” There seems to be a hidden twist in my word-of-the-year activity which makes the exercise a bit more tenuous than previously thought; quite honestly, it makes me wonder if I should risk choosing a word for 2014.
The year 2013 was trying for sure. Rather than avoiding injuries, it was a year laced with a chronic pain and a multitude of injuries revealing my areas of vulnerability due to scoliotic curves, weak joints, muscles, etc. The pain and injuries did force me to go within and assess whether I was following the right path or whether I was headed down a path of misinformation and misaligned actions. All of this served well in becoming more self-aware albeit trying.
With the year coming to an end, I shake my head as I look back through my posts, here and on Keeping Balance (the companion blog). There are a few words I could use to summarize what my quest for self-awareness brought to me, but today I choose “contentment” for all the frustration and awareness of my shortcomings, misaligned priorities, wants, and yoga postures, as well as a tendency to push the edge when I shouldn’t have forced me to be content …or suffer.
The year started off on a positive note. After getting my first cortisone injection (placed in my SI joint), I launched into a new phase of my yoga training by committing to the 500 hour TT program. It was soon evident that the cortisone injected into my SI joint missed the mark completely, I succumbed to my shortcomings, had a 2nd cortisone injection (placed in the epidural space in my lumbar spine), and cancelled plans to ride in the Solvang Century. I shifted my focus toward building a stronger Foundation in my quest spinal health and happiness.
Much to my disappointment, the brief respite from pain was already starting to subside early the following month. I tried to manage my level of stress better and further cut back on my physical activity. Later in the month, I bid farewell to BoBo (who had been on a 3 week leave from the USAF) knowing that he would not return until after deployment scheduled for late 2013. Trying to stay positive, I tried looking at my inability to do any sort of physical activity well as a cycle of life (which I hoped would soon pass).
After giving up the pride that I have in trying to do everything myself, I let someone help me work the complicated referral system in my HMO world. Having worked within the system myself, I thought nothing of the good deed that was being offered. However, not everyone looked at in the same way and I contemplated returning to a take-help-from-NOBODY mentality. While I struggled to break from a pattern of always one a level of acceptance, or another, for a job well done, YaYa waited to see if his application for his chosen high school would gain acceptance.
Rather than continuing to be troubled by my failed asana practice, I tried rolling out my mat each day with a more meditative intention. On BoBo’s birthday, YaYa and I took the dogs for a hike. Many of the times when I *was* able to practice yoga was like it was for me in the beginning. While I was feeling a little discouraged for missing Boston, the bombings on race day quickly changed my perspective. After a 3rd cortisone injection (2nd epidural), I was honored to participate in the yoga practice as a photographer.
With the words of the physician performing the last cortisone injection still haunting me, I began rethinking my return to running. Shortly after resuming my yoga practice, I broke my toe doing yoga and, once again, I had to rework my practice. Still appreciating just being alive, I enjoyed moments of playful happy goofing off. This was good for soon the side effects of my broken toe set off the return of hip and back pain. In the last of YaYa’s middle school days, we worked on reinforcing the stitching of his final paper, studying for the final exams, and finally got to relax.
With graduation just around the corner, with 6 months of being accused of wrong doing, I got a final test of my ability to follow my yogic code of real world ahimsa – and surprised even myself. After beginning again (how many times have I begun this year), I close my eyes in savasana and find myself anew. Sciatica and back pain now raging, it was troublesome just going downstairs for my morning cup of coffee. I did my best to work with what was being delivered and find contentment.
Challenged by much pain, I managed to complete a second 100-hour teacher training and finished it off with a new mantra: I am NOT my pain. Although I was scheduled for another cortisone injection, I cancelled the appointment and told my physician that, instead of having another medicated dulling of the pain, I needed to find a way to manage the pain myself. I took on a quest to walk the walk so-to-speak and even managed to run a little. Although I didn’t know the entire Ashtanga Primary Series, I decided to brave my first Mysore practice and learned the importance of just showing up and being present to whatever comes — if we don’t, we risk missing out on something that really matters.
Towards the end of summer came challenges with scheduling; I learned that when Julie’s life gets tough, my practice does too. After fighting back the pull to stay in bed and skip Mysore, I was super energized when I finished the Primary Series for the first time. Later in the month, with the added stress of weekend work hours, I laced up my shoes for a 5 mile run (even though I had not run a mile for several months). Life stressed me out even more and, as my practice began to suffer, my body began to complain even more. I tried to turn negative into positive – even when plans for YaYa’s birthday dinner gone awry I launched up my yoga site/blog.
Work stress wasn’t all I was dealing with. BoBo’s upcoming deployment, coupled with YaYa playing front and center, had me worrying about my son’s at all hours of the day. With that worry came more pain. I started coming up with excuses to not practice or cut it short.
My SI joint started giving me problems; threatening separation, I was forced to take a break from all yoga, a number of other activities, and take up walking/hiking. Summer came and went without so much as a weekend camping trip. Hiking Mount Whitney *would* have been the only trip of the year – however, the government shutdown insured that I would not enjoy that outing either. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise but still. Without the big trek to work towards, I was forced to motivate myself to get out and go in the peak of year of my pain. In doing so, I was pleased to discover that movement could indeed be medicine: just the medicine I needed to return to my mat. The year is still months away from completion and already it ‘s been a year of lessons learned.
YaYa took a hit HARD and incurred a concussion. Fortunately, it was a mild one. About the time he was set to return to the field, it was also time for me to take on another 100-hour teacher training. I was torn with the want to be there to witness his return and to reignite my dimming goal of becoming a yoga teacher. With that came lingering pain and a worry that I wasn’t quite ready for the dynamic practices that this particular training would demand. The training started off good, and got better from there. I emerged in one piece with a renewed zest for the goal ahead. And, thankfully, YaYa came off the field in one piece as well.
With Christmas just around the corner, I began creating a few more personal gifts from the heart then feared they wouldn’t be “good enough.” Illness hit hard and landed me in bed for the final days before Christmas. It kept me from second guessing my gift-giving choices. All I wanted was to be able to be out of bed and breath through my nose for Christmas. Half of my wish came true; I was able to watch everyone open their gifts. As it turned out, those who received gifts of my own creation were happy recipients.
As for 2014, I’ve considered bringing back the daily photo project (which I did religiously in 2010) and choose the word “focus” as the little word of the year. I have not yet decided if I will do it. The project was a lot of work but it inspired a lot of creativity by forcing me to pull out my camera on a daily basis. If you would like me to bring it back, leave a comment in the comment section of the blog. If I get enough interest, I’ll likely do it. If not, who knows.
Also in 2014, I’ve plans to cross off another item on my bucket list. Keep on coming back to read more about it.