“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them–that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. ~ Lao Tzu
It always amazes me how much can change in just a few weeks.
Out here in the wet, temperate Pacific Northwest, the woods tell the story of constant change. Having been sidelined from my weekly forays into the trees near my home by a mysterious and nagging hip injury, it had been several weeks since my last hike. After spending most of yesterday feeling like an old woman hobbled by wincing pain, barely able to meander in and around a grocery store–let alone even think about a hike–this morning I awoke completely pain-free.
I called the dog and took off for the trailhead.
Suddenly voluptuous and verdant, the woods greeted me in an explosion of green. The trails now narrow with lush foliage, punctuated by tiny lavender, white and yellow blooms. They would likely be considered weeds in a more contained setting. But here in the wild, they provided brilliant pops of contrasting color amidst the emerald leaves. Immediately I began taking pictures on my old workhorse of a dumb phone, wanting so badly to capture the splendor I was in. I spend many, many hours on these trails year-round, and yet this morning my heart pounded with joy and exhilaration like it was my very first thrill ride. I couldn’t believe the beauty.
And the scent! Like a thick perfume of spring. Of growth and possibility. Dirt and flowers and rain. If I could, I would bottle that shit and make a fortune.
I walked steadily, paying attention to any soreness or pain that might crop up. Nothing. Up hills and down hills, over roots and footbridges with missing steps and around giant puddles of mud and downed branches that blocked my path. I felt great and had to remind myself to take it easy.
Balance. Yin and yang.
“It is awful to grow old,” was a refrain heard frequently from my mother. I remember feeling sad when she would say that, wishing I could take her pain away, knowing I was powerless to do so. I vowed to never say that to my children.
My chiropractor recently told me I shouldn’t run any more. A few short months ago his words would have left me dejected. Today, I have a new perspective. I don’t need to run or race or prove anything to anybody. Slowing down my pace affords me the time to pay attention.
As I trudged up the last hill I was filled with simple joy. This. This is all I really need. To be able to walk without pain. My feet, not on concrete or sidewalks, but connected with dirt and grass and rocks. Wild bunnies and chipmunks scooting across our path, birdsong in the air and my lungs filled with this breath of spring.
As much as I practice yoga and as much as I practice staying present in my life, I am still an expert catastrophizer. Prone to believing whatever I am feeling today I will be destined to feel forever. I sat behind the steering wheel of my car yesterday after limping through the store and watched as people crossed the parking lot. Old people, much older and less conditioned than I. All of them seeming to skip sprightly across the crosswalk as I watched from my car, bitter and resentful.
“I’m a yoga teacher, for cryin’ out loud!” I screamed to myself, frustrated with my pain and injury. Starting to wonder if my mother’s words were prophecy. Wanting to hit something or at least cry, but instead choking it back. I know that any pity party of mine is best kept short and sweet.
Back in the woods, with its ever-changing landscape, I learn a lesson again. A lesson of patience and grace and simplicity. Reminding me that the only constant in this life is change. Life gets hard and then it gets better. Over and over again. The woods turn quietly inward and brown and then explode with lush life. Predictably. Comfortingly. Brilliantly.
And so it is with me. And you. Growing older is not awful, I tell myself, but rather a privilege afforded to some.
The lucky ones.