By: Amber Leventry
I lay on my yoga mat during savasana, or rest pose, when a man broke the silence of the room by opening the door to the studio expecting to start his own practice for the evening. This apologetic man made the innocent mistake of entering a room ten minutes too early. The time during savasana is the hardest for me. While the stillness may be a comfort to some, I am only aware of how uncomfortable I feel. Not moving, not doing, and not thinking are not things I am good at. I do not like the vulnerability of lying flat on my back, exposed and unable to guard my body from the unknown.
While there was nothing to be scared of, this stranger’s unexpected interruption scared me. His simple act of walking through an unlocked door tapped into a fear that is always in me.
I am plenty distracted by all of the doing that goes into being a parent, so I don’t always feel it. But in the middle of helping, teaching, and loving my children it is there. It comes from a specific point in my childhood I can’t remember. I was too young. I don’t remember the first time I was sexually abused by a family member or the first time I was hit by my father. But like phantom sensations or imprinted codes, I will never forget the feelings and memories associated with my childhood. They are as much a part of me as is the DNA I am made of, and with that fact I am comfortable.
I am who I am because of the events that happened to me. Not because those people or events define me, the strength to work through the mess that was made of my heart does that, but I don’t know how to be any other way than this. And this me is pretty good in spite of the bad I experienced for so many years.
But sometimes I am scared.
I’m no longer scared for myself. I am scared for my children. I have stopped the cycle of abuse and have surrounded myself and my family with love and kindness, but I know too well what humanity is capable of and that terrifies me.
Sometimes my children’s words, emotions, or bodies trigger an old memory or emotion and it hurts. I see myself as a child. And then I see myself as a parent to these beautiful children and I want to hold them forever, protecting them from hurt. But I don’t. I can’t. Every day I let them go a little bit more. Each time my daughter leaves for school or each time one of my toddler boys gains language and skills that lead to independence, I let them go. They will hurt someday. I know that. But I don’t know when or how or by whose hands they will hurt.
As I struggled to find peace during my last few minutes of yoga, before the notifications on my phone reminded me of deadlines, before my brain refilled with the usual clutter of thoughts and to-dos, and before the rush to get home to help my partner get our three young children ready for bed, I became scared.
At any given moment in time, someone, usually a man but sometimes a woman or child, armed with weapons and a need to create pain to fix their own can walk through an unlocked door of a school, theater, or yoga studio. I try so hard to teach my children kindness, yet when that man walked into the room, my first instinct was not to expect kindness. That scares me.
Sometimes in the middle of fixing torn books and broken toys, I worry less about the amount of time the tape and glue will hold and more about my ability to hold onto the fixed version of myself. I know I am good at the active participation of being mama to my three kids. But at the center of helping, disciplining, and loving my children is a quiet fear. Fear that I will fail them somehow, that I will look back and regret not loving them properly or spending the appropriate amount of time with them. This fear is good for me. It keeps me present.
But while lying on my yoga mat, vulnerable and trying to find comfort in an uncomfortable situation, being a parent felt like being a child. My heart, which sometimes withholds to protect itself, was exposed. The satisfaction and lightness of another practice completed was taken away by a stranger, a stranger who meant no harm. I thought of my children and of my partner. I thought of the love in my life.
Sometimes this love scares me.