By Elizabeth Rowan
Ever have one of those days? One of those days where you’re mopey, got a case of the grumps, a woe-is-me, tear water tea day, one of the Holly Golightly-coined mean reds? Lots of self-pity with a splash of fear? We all do, and they’re the quickest way to ruin a day, fall down the rabbit hole of self-absorption (“meeeeeeee”), and likely not do your relationships any favors either. (Hang on, the nun part’s coming.)
Yesterday I felt myself teetering dangerously close to shifting a perfectly good Saturday into a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day that even Alexander would be proud of. And then: a flash. A flash of the self-awareness that yoga has heightened for me, a reminder that I can shop my thoughts. And shopping, well, that I can do.
I started a mental list of action items to, as an old personal trainer used to say, get my mind right. Top of the list? Help someone else. Wade my way out of whine and wallowing and into support of someone who needed it even more than me. Did I mention this “someone else” was a Scotch-drinking Catholic nun? Stay with me here.
To be fair, this is not your ordinary nun. A dear family friend, she has faith as strong as steel. She also lives in the real world and can hang with the best of us sinners without judgment and with a wicked sense of humor. She laughs, she drinks, she swears, she gets it: real life.
She’s also unfortunately been getting treatment for cancer this year. I know. I was crushed. You’d never know from her high spirits and work ethic that she’s a little more tired than usual, low on appetite and achy and sore sometimes. She’s one of those who looks illness in the eye and dares it to fight. A true font of wisdom and warmth, I knew she could use a helping hand, and that I could use a heart-to-heart. So I sent her a text, offered to bring some snacks and wine over (she was good on the Scotch stash), and headed her way. Together we’d turn whine into, well, wine.
Having recently moved, she had plenty of boxes for me to work on and small projects around the house, but not before we had a chat. And a glass of wine. And talked a little more. And poured another. Three hours went by. Bottoms up. Finally her phone rang and I was able to put sheets on her bed, hang up some pictures and set up her desk while she chatted all things Church and where to go for pizza with the Monsignor (Screaming Mimi’s if you must know) by phone. I got a little labor in and we both got a lot of love. A soul infusion, I call it.
The effects of my visit were wonderful for both of us: empty boxes, full hearts, the renewal that comes with a visit with a good friend. The perspective we both derived from sharing our struggles with another. Just like that, my mind chatter and negative self-talk had been ousted by positivity, hope and happiness. Her conversation changed from diagnoses and treatment plans to decorating the new house and dining. Yoga enabled me to see it coming - that looming black cloud o’ counteractive self-talk - and when I did, I lifted myself right on out and brought someone else up with me.
As I write, I wonder if feeling better is an entirely selfish motivation; if remembering the adage “it could always be worse” is enough to change a mindset. My conclusion is this: does it matter who took whose hand first, if the outcome is that we’re holding hands and feeling lighter of heart and stronger in spirit? I don’t think so.
Have you taken someone’s hand to help them heal, only to find yourself healing too? I’d love to hear from you. Or you can just join us next time for (another) bottle of whine wine.