Looking forward and back.


One of the first things I did on my epic road trip last month was write my dad a letter. I have not heard from or attempted to contact my father in about 25 years. I had reasons — very well thought out reasons, coolly held reasons attached to the version of the story I’d been telling myself all those years.

But earlier this year I had a sort of revelation. It was a combination of the ancient, raw desire of a little girl for her daddy, and the very grown-up acknowledgement that, like all stories, mine had gaps. It was made. It had been constructed on the foundation of my own pain and incomprehension at my parents’  divorce underneath years of inference from deliberate and well meaning, as well as off hand tellings from my mom. My story was made from pain and subtext. And anyway, wasn’t it just time to drop it?

So I wrote him a letter and carried it around with me for three weeks! Finally I mailed it. And yesterday I heard back from him.

His letter was heartfelt. He said that he blamed no one for our estrangement, that I owed him no apology,  and that getting my letter was the happiest day he could remember.

He also said that he had always loved me and always would.

And that’s when the crazy started.

I suddenly felt happy and hopeful and angry and hurt all at the same time. Only, it took me all night to tease those feelings out! For a while, I just felt crazy, out of my mind. My “dad stuff” got triggered and off I went.

Times like this test my yoga practice. The frenzy of my whirling mind is seductive, and again, familiar. Comfortable. It will take discipline to stick to the practice. What do I want to be attached to: old reactions running on repeat or new practices that nourish, strengthen and calm me? Doing yoga isn’t going to make the old feelings go away. But it does give me the opportunity — as often as I want to take it — to make the conscious decision to get off that particular hamster wheel. I initiated contact not to re-experience the trauma abandonment or self righteousness, inviting him in and then pushing him away, but to experience something new.

Times like this are why you need a yoga practice when times aren’t like this!

The mind is going to race. The unconscious wants to run the show. That’s what it does. A regular yoga practice in “regular” times prepares you for stressful times when your every instinct is to revert to old self-soothing ways. You need your practice to be routine. You need it to be something you just do, and not something you have to think about, make a decision about, and talk your self into doing. It helps make it feel less onerous, less like one more thing you have to cope with.

I’ll be using my asana practice — the part of yoga that is physical, doing poses — to shift all this swirling mind energy ground-ward where there is wisdom in my body. Where the knot in my stomach and the tightness in my heart ache for healing. It’s the best tool I’ve got to help me stay with my initial intention in reaching out to Dad in the first place, to help me keep looking forward and resist the urge to move backward.

2 thoughts on “That letter from Dad didn’t come with a Trigger Warning!

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