After a 9-hour day of yoga therapy training I headed to New York to meet my husband and daughters at my mother-in-law's. The three of them arrived the night before to stretch out the weekend and give the girls extra time to play with their cousins.
As I closed in on my destination, I felt tension settle in my shoulders and jaw. I was tired after the hard work of the day, annoyed it took 40 minutes to get across the George Washington Bridge, and concerned about how much longer the day would extend once I arrived. After all, I hadn't seen my family since Friday morning and my mother-in-law for several weeks. Hellos, a few rounds of hugs, recaps of the day, play time, a snack, snuggles, and a story and song at bedtime were in order.
It was time to rally, to turn on the happy, to will myself energetic.
I struggled to reconcile how I could want to see everyone and also lay down in a dark room and close out the day. I felt guilty for wishing the latter was an option. I also struggled to accept that I was lingering in my declining mood instead of making an effort to shift out of it. I should be able to help myself with deep breathing, especially after being at yoga therapy training all day, right? Why wasn't I calling on my tools and yoga teachings to snap the negatron out of my system?
It was almost 9 PM when I arrived. Everyone was in the kitchen. Even now as I write this, almost 1 month later, I can't help but smile as I remember the scene: My mother-in-law was glowing, happy to have her son and granddaughters around her kitchen table. My husband was relaxed and laughing with the girls, who were in their pajamas. The dim light peeked in and out of their perfect mess of curls as they kneeled in their seats as children like to do. The girls giggled in between slurping spoonfuls of vanilla ice cream. Their eyes were bright with pure joy. They were doing exactly what kids should do--eat ice cream with sheer abandon!
I hesitated to make my presence known; I wanted to absorb every element of this ideal moment. The carefree energy that enveloped the kitchen penetrated my being. I felt my shoulders come down, my jaw relax, and my eyes smile. The heavy exhaustion lifted.
As I witnessed my daughters' joy I was transported back to a time when I did the very same thing with my sister at my grandparents' home--eat ice cream with unbounded exuberance. No fear, doubt, concern, or conflict. No need to hide, undo, or chastise. No counting, calculating, or limiting. Just the moment and the sheer contentment within it. The time in my life when ice cream was just ice cream.
"This is a place of love," my mind whispered to me. "My girls are loved, they are content, they are happy, and they are nourished." Rather than shrink back and resist the joy of both my childhood memories and the one forming in front of me, I was moved to embrace all the goodness those lovely bowls of ice cream represented. This was the real work, this was my yoga--choosing to receive the joy of the moment; to embrace it rather than resist it; to drop habitual reactions; to celebrate my daughters, husband, and mother-in-law; and create a new but familiar association with that joy-inspiring ice cream.
I find myself looking forward to summer ice cream excursions with my girls. If old tapes should creep in, I trust I will only need to see and feel their happiness to remember that I know how to choose joy over fear, the present over the past, and emotional nourishment rather than physical deprivation.