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New Beginnings Aren't Just for Mondays

I have long liked starting new goals or routines on specific days like the first day of the month or on Mondays. January 1st and the first Monday in January are the epitome of new beginnings for me. I used to think it was beneficial to pick a symbolic day as Day 1 because it solidified my resolve. It allowed me to jot it down in my agenda; highlight it in bright yellow - the day it all changes. However, what I’ve come to realize is that it also delays progress and often gives me a bit of an out when I fall off the wagon. I’m notorious for that actually; starting on a Monday and doing well until Thursday or Friday. I slip up and I immediately throw my hands up and push back the start date to the beginning of the next week. You can bet that the period from slip-up to Sunday evening includes binging bad habits, knowing I have to go cold turkey again on Monday morning. I’ve done it so many times that my kids now taunt me as they see me stuff another chocolate in my mouth - “guess you’ll start cutting out sugar again on Monday, huh Mom?”

I knew that pushing back Day 1 to Mondays wasn’t working so well for me. I decided it would be healthier to appreciate the present and to treat each day, each hour, each moment as an opportunity to make a choice that benefits me and those around me. I will mess up here and there but returning to my goals should be immediate. It sounds great in theory but, like many things, it’s easier said than done.

I caught myself a few times last week thinking that the New Year will really start on Monday, January 11 because that was when my younger daughter was set to physically return to school. I was expecting that the need to drive her to school would help to ingrain a new routine that would permeate all - an earlier rising, getting dressed, walking the dog before the breakfast routine, etc. The Ontario government’s announcement to delay in-person schooling was not really a surprise and was not necessarily unwelcome but I felt it like a blow to my gut.

It felt odd actually - the announcement left me spinning, almost frantic. I couldn’t quite figure out why I was feeling it so acutely. My brain was telling me that this was the safest option; that I was happy to have both my daughters ride out this COVID-19 wave safely at home; that I was happy to not have to trek them back and forth to school; and that I would get to spend more time with them. Why was I feeling so crummy then?

Have you ever felt like you can’t quite rationally explain a feeling? Like your brain and your heart just suddenly come at you from opposite sides? This is where my meditation practice helps me out tremendously. I found a quiet spot and sat there, feeling this defeat. I acknowledged it as a valid feeling and sat with it for a while, waiting to see if it would morph into anything. You see, I spent years admonishing myself in such situations and saying that I shouldn’t be feeling what I was feeling - or worse, telling myself that I was a bad person for having these feelings in the first place. After lots of inner turmoil that usually ended up making me feel like less of a person, I began instead to trust that feelings crop up for a reason and that they have a message or lesson for me.

After a few minutes of sitting quietly, the feeling did begin to feel more tangible. I wasn’t trying to analyze it or run through scenarios or reasons for the feeling. I was just allowing myself to feel it and breathe through it. It felt like defeat, hopelessness, disappointment and then it changed to sadness and grief. Huh. Grief? Of course, someone yelled “Mom” from somewhere in the house and I had to pull myself out of it and go see what was up. As I went through my day though, I connected with this grief. What did I have to grieve? What was behind this sadness, this feeling of loss?

It came to me later that evening as I was heading to bed. My response to the announcement about the return to school timeline had nothing to do with my kids at all. It had to do with this desire that I was harbouring that 2021 would “officially start” on Monday, January 11. It was about my hope that 2021 would break with the challenges we faced in 2020 and allow us to begin anew. It was as though by pushing that date out by two weeks, the government was telling me that the way of life of 2020 was bleeding into 2021. There would be no demarkation; life would just be more of the same. For this, I was sad.

I’ll admit that at this point I was a bit annoyed with myself as well. Did I really think that a global pandemic would just magically disappear in the new year? Of course not! What I was doing though was giving myself an out. I was allowing the government’s announcement to push back my plans, my goals by two weeks.

I could sit here and tell you all about how having kids at home impacts the amount of work one can get done or how rules around social distancing and lockdowns clash with the ability to complete certain tasks. I wouldn’t really be telling you anything you don’t already know. It’s felt across the board. But does that mean that I do nothing about my goals right now? That I give up on my plans until the conditions are right?

The truth of the matter is that I am starting to understand that going back to our pre-pandemic normal is either far out into the future or may never quite return in the same way. That is not something that I can control. What I can do, is do my best to have a positive impact within the parameters that are available to me. This means that my vision must shift because the world in which I operate has changed.

That’s when I realized what it was that I have to grieve. I am truly sad that we, as a global population, are having to change how we interact with each other. For me, it’s more than just having to wear a mask. As a yoga teacher, I miss the sense of community that comes from practicing in a class and feeling the energy in the room. If you’ve ever attended my classes, you know that I’m very much a hands-on teacher. I believe touch is therapeutic for those who are comfortable with it and welcome it. I believe that a bit of pressure on the lower back while in child’s pose can help release hips; that working out knots in the shoulders while in pigeon can send a signal to the body that it’s okay to release the hip and let the body relax. If you’ve ever been “stretched out” by me while in Savasana, you might have been able to melt into your mat a bit more easily. So, as a yoga teacher, how do I reconcile what I most love with virtual classes? Do I dig my heels in like a petulant toddler and refuse to teach until I can teach the way I like or do I shift with the times and adjust as best I can? This is where my power lies - in this one choice.

I allowed myself some time over the next few days to connect with this grief and it finally released its grip and I sent it away. I made a conscious choice to be grateful for every moment I have, to treat it as an opportunity to inject some positivity in a world that sorely needs it. I trust my intuition. I trust my feelings even when they blindside me and leave me wondering where on earth they come from. These feelings are worth our time, attention and curiosity. It is quite possible that 2021 will not be very different than 2020 was and that’s okay. Our power lies in our actions and how we treat each moment that is offered to us - not just Monday mornings.

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