The temperature has dropped to single digits for the first time this season.
My garage door protests opening. My car takes an extra moment to start. The world around me is frozen. The snow that built up from the week has a layer of ice to it and, against the winter morning sun, it is luminescent.
I’m driving down familiar roads to a routine appointment. Car needs new tires after a slow leak sprung on the side of one of them. It’s the final sour note on my car as the year winds down, a year spent with systematically repairing and replacing everything in the car, incrementally investing more and more money until I had no choice but to see it through to the end. Investments that, had all the problems been presented at once, I might’ve opted to abandon the car entirely.
There’s a metaphor there. I know there is. Perhaps one I’ll return to.
I can’t describe exactly how I feel as I’m driving. I try to focus on my audiobook before abandoning it entirely and leaning into this vague emotion. These are familiar roads, roads I once drove down in delirious anxiety and dread, and they’ll potentially always have a tinge of the past on them, the way streets wear the tire burns when cars peel out on them.
Time is a buffer, but sometimes the scratches are too deep to completely polish them away. Like an old injury that just has to be hit at in the right way in order to remind you it’s still there.
For a fitness professional, I sure spend a lot of them researching trauma.
A simplified idea behind post-traumatic stress is that, when the traumatic event happens, something gets frozen. In the mind, in the body, in the spirit. It’s actually why I try to specialize in trauma-sensitive yoga; I don’t know how to help the mind in any effective way, but at least I can help the body, maybe the spirit.
My career is starting to reflect that. In the new year, I’ll have two new teaching gigs, bare minimum three classes a week, that will focus squarely on trauma-sensitive yoga. Between the addition of new classes and saying good-bye to old ones, my schedule is looking nothing like it did in the beginning, or when my career started to gain traction.
It’s something I’ve given some thought to. There is a class I’ve had for almost five years, and two for almost four, but everything else has changed since then. Studios closed down. Some I had no choice but to walk away from. Others, I more amicably discontinued when the numbers dwindled to nothing. None of the classes from the start of my career continue on today, at least not with me as the teacher.
I already dove into this. How the trauma that started five years ago was so enveloping, the anxiety so palpable, that it got absorbed by my teaching schedule. That it froze against the studio walls the same way it had frozen against the road. And there was relief when I left those places behind, perhaps as a subtly symbolic gesture that life had moved on.
This time of year always gets retrospective for me. Perhaps a byproduct of it being such a heavy time of the year. Perhaps it’s because it was this time in 2014 that my father’s health went from a steady decline to a tailspin — and I got hint of what the next 10 months were going to bring. It was when my vulnerability was at its peak and my distress beacon looked a little too much like a dinner bell for the vultures. When the tremors of the cataclysmic unearthing that was to come had started to rumble under my feet.
Something froze during that time. Something got stuck, and now sometimes life is measured by the distance from that ground zero, the time that has passed, what has changed.
There’s a lot that has been resolved since then. Perhaps “resolved” is too strong of a term. Many of the storylines have found their conclusions. The endings weren’t the ones I was looking for but they were the ones I got. Funny, how I can write stories with unsatisfying endings because that is how real life works, and yet I had expected differently for my own life.
But regardless, the final lines for the chapter have been written, a few final lessons cemented in place as the decade winds down. A poignant way, bare minimum, to close out these past years, even if it’s not the most satisfying.
(No, that’s not accurate. The individual chapters have ended in anticlimactic ways, but – oh! – the storylines that branched off from it! Perhaps it’s all for the best that this book closes with the decade; I find I prefer its sequel tremendously more.)
There’s a lot I could’ve done differently. Different ways to navigate situations, my family, my life, my problems. A lot I did sub-par and a lot I did just outright wrong. I could’ve been better, more self-aware, more assertive. But it was in the cataclysm that I emerged with more of those traits, albeit with soot on my shoulders and debris by my feet. I am who I am today because of it, and I’ve fallen in love with that evolving soul I’ve become. The type of person who now has the wherewithal to recognize better ways of handling things in the first place. The type of person who has already demonstrated that she can, when parallel situations present themselves.
Perhaps that’s what needs to be focused on. Put all your energy not in wishing you navigated the past better, more intelligently, more assertively, but to make sure you’re a better person at the end of it and because of it. That whole “mistakes are only mistakes if you don’t learn from them.”
It’s a beautiful day, despite it being frozen outside. I originally plan on taking the same roads back — plan on leaning into the feeling and playing music that I had enveloped myself in, five years ago. Music that had also been frozen in time, in feeling. The tire marks on the chorus, the bridge. I had planned to lean into it, because sometimes that’s all you can do. Stare down the shadow until the light inevitably comes.
But the wheels take twice as long to install as they were supposed to. Without even remembering my original plans, I take the most direct route onto the highway, to get to my first class in time. I play the audiobook and listen along and it’s not until I’m at the first set of tolls do I even remember what I was originally going to do.
I have to smirk. Sometimes you have to lean into a feeling, a retrospective. But sometimes you have to go full speed ahead in the present moment. And I’ve got a lot planned for such a frozen day.