Failure, Progress, and Freedom.

Focus. Breathe. Tighten. Relax. Clear your mind. Tune in to your body. Drop your shoulders. Don’t forget to breathe, again.

I hear a seagull outside. Focus, Sarah.

Okay. Don’t drop your belly. Open up your hips. You’re not breathing, again.

That person next to me is really getting into that open-mouthed exhale…

One more breath in. One more breath out. Lean in.

Wait, did the instructor seriously just tell us to picture our internal organs squeezing and flushing out toxins?! That is disgusting. Great, now I can’t get the picture of my insides out of my mind…

This isn’t going so well.


My third yoga class of Self-Care September wasn’t exactly what I had hoped for. I had walked in confidently, my yoga mat tucked securely under my arm. As I set up my little zen spot, unrolling my mat on the floor and positioning my water bottle and towel beside me, I pictured how much better I would be in this class. I was ready. Ready to execute the moves a little more accurately, ready to deepen my extension, and ready to start to get the hang of this whole yoga thing.

That’s not how it went.

My body wasn’t responding to my instruction, my mind wasn’t clearing, and all I could think about was how terrible I am at this whole yoga thing. Crap.

The instructor came over to adjust my form. She lightly pressed her hands on my hips and shoulders, gently repositioning me. As soon as her hands dropped away, so did my confidence. I was trying, but it wasn’t working. As I transitioned from one pose to the next, trying my best to breathe and flow through the movements, I couldn’t arrest the thoughts. Anxiety about work, how my day had gone, and what was still left on my to-do list clouded my focus. I pressed on anyway.

Why wasn’t this working? This was my third class of the week! I should be seeing improvement by now!

As my frustration mounted, I took a look around. I realized I wasn’t the only one needing to drop down to my knees, and I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t entirely, 100% focused. I breathed a little easier. I inhaled, then exhaled. Deeply and completely.

That’s when the acceptance set in.

Suddenly, I accepted that my body wasn’t doing miraculous things on my third class of yoga. I acknowledged the tightness in my muscles that I could not fight, the disquiet in my mind I could not rest. I realized that I was holding on to a resentment towards myself for not being where I wanted to be, yet, and I let it go.

Holy crap was that freeing.

I let go of the feelings of inadequacy. I let go of hating the fact that I wasn’t as strong or as sure as some of the other class participants. I let go of these expectations I had for myself, and I settled in. I focused on doing each movement as best as I could, forgetting about the fact that the best I could do wasn’t very good at all, at the moment.

Deep breath in. Deep breath out. Letting acceptance flow freely in, frustration and self-doubt flow freely out.

Before I knew it, the class was coming to an end. In a seated position, I pressed my hands together in front of my heart and I took the deepest bow I could manage; giving thanks to the class, to my body, and to the experience. I wiped off the sweat, rolled up my mat, and tucked it back up under my arm as I walked out.

I had finished the rest of the class. I didn’t finish it perfectly, not one little bit, but I finished.

So many times I have left a workout feeling defeated. Mad, frustrated, disappointed. This time was different. No, I didn’t love the class and I didn’t love the instructor and I didn’t love my performance. What I did love, even though it felt like I fumbled my way through the entire 60 minutes, was leaving that class feeling like an accomplishment. Somehow, in failing, I had still made progress.

And you know how I felt? I felt light. I felt open. I felt rejuvenated. I felt free.

I was calm and grateful; grateful for the emotions I had experienced, for the respect I had given my body by showing up, and for the opportunity to learn something more about myself.  I felt ready to do it all again.

4cfed69eb2b5cfb0a24dce7ea182d5a2

I can’t wait to get back on my mat.

What is your favorite type of yoga to practice? Do you have a favorite class that you take, or have you ever had any difficulties similar to mine? 

xoxo

Sarah

*All photos pictured are via Pinterest.

Out with the Old, In with the New

As I am closing out the last few weeks of my mid-twenties, and preparing to kiss twenty-six a sweet farewell, some changes need to be made.

The change most relevant to you, my lovely readers: the blog name 26 and Stumbling.

It occurred to me about a month ago that I hadn’t considered the fact that naming my blog after my age would require some updating in the future. I can’t even begin to figure out my own thought process on that one- except that there wasn’t much of one. Ha. I guess that, in that “creative” moment, I hadn’t known how it would go. This whole blogging thing. If it would even go. But here I am, closing out twenty-six, and I feel as though I am just getting started on developing my writing and presence as a blogger. Well, let’s be honest here, trying to develop my presence as a blogger. Also see: attempting, struggling, sometimes deluding myself into believing …etc. Anyways, I digress.

When thinking of a new name, I wanted something that would be relevant and interesting to twenty-somethings in a broad sense. The twenties are an amazing and difficult time; they are all about finding and learning to love yourself. It’s a growth process. It’s at times painful. It’s mostly glorious. You are all you’ve got, and you owe it to yourself to try your hardest to become the best version of you possible. The twenty-somethings are supposed to be your selfish years, where you put yourself first in a resolute and unapologetic way. Sometimes, it feels like everything is happening all at once and you cannot quite keep up. By “everything”, I mean life. The highs, the lows, the accomplishments, and the challenges. It’s sort of like when you accidentally increase the speed on the treadmill too high and you start to lose your footing, and you have to grab the sides of the machine in order to keep from falling flat on your face in front of the incredibly fit chick running effortlessly next to you. Not that that’s ever happened to me. And, not only is it all happening at once, everything seems important on a monumental scale. Even the nothings- like a first date, a new friendship, or a particularly good day, are felt deeply and hugely. There are just so many feelings so much of the time when you are a twenty-something.

So, without further ado, I would like to introduce you to Twenty-Everything. The new and (hopefully) improved version of 26 and Stumbling, just like I hope the big 2-7 will be for me. A little bit of everything, and hopefully more along the lines of finding my footing than stumbling.

It is still going under some edits and revisions, so please bear with me during this time. Like me, it is a work in progress. 🙂

xoxo

Sarah

 

The Point of Growth

The point of learning, of growing, of achieving, of self-improvement, is not to puff ourselves up. The point isn’t to inflate our egos or to spout off about the self-actualization we have attained, or to throw it around disguised as self-importance and arrogance. The point is to give it away.

For it is not by breaking down others that we build ourselves up, and it is not by shouting out to the world our need for attention that we gain recognition. Instead, we work tirelessly. We work tirelessly to be a better friend, a better employee, a better shoulder to lean on, a better partner, a better human. Lead by example it is said. This is difficult, because often on your long spiritual journey up the proverbial mountain it is impossible to see your own progress. With your pack weighing you down, your body sagging from exhaustion, and with sweat dripping off of your forehead blocking your view, you can’t see if you are any nearer to the top. Step by step you struggle forward, pressing on with no idea if and when you will ever reach it. If you will ever get there. 

The truth is, there is no THERE.   There is no when or someday either, only now. So how can we make now enough? For when you are in the middle of your climb you cannot see the crowd of supporters at the summit, cheering you on. You have no idea how your progress, and struggle, is inspiring those that are watching you. One foot in front of the other. That is how we do it. That is how we make now into enough.

We make now into enough by realizing that we don’t need the perfect anything to be happy, we just need to be growing. We stimulate growth by challenging ourselves; by getting out of our comfort zone and saying yes to every new opportunity. Thus, the importance does not lie in reaching the top of the mountain. It lies in your path to getting there.

The World will never be in short supply of people who will try to tell you, loudly, how to live your life. What you should do, how you should act, and who you should be. It’s crap. All of it. What you should do, how you should act, and who you should be, is entirely up to you. Write your own script. The only person you need to measure yourself up against is the person you were yesterday.

So keep it up. Keep up the journey, keep up the struggle, keep up the discomfort. Enjoy the good moments the best that you can, for small triumphs lead to large successes. One tiny step forward is much further than no steps at all.

Xoxo
Sarah

The Big Plunge

It really is astounding how quickly the universe will work to make something happen once you decide you want it badly enough.  

After weeks of interviewing, sleepless nights, hoping, wishing, and praying- everything changed. I have accepted a position in the field I am passionate about, actually using my degree, working for a company I am already so in love with I could pinch myself. Had you told me five years ago that I would be tickled pink at being presented with health coverage, paid vacation time, and a 401K incentive- I would have told you that you were absolutely nuts. But now here I am, twenty six and couldn’t possibly be happier that I no longer have to fly under the radar without health insurance. Oh how times change!

I’m sure that not everyone is as easily thrilled as me. I’ll take my wins where I can get them. One piece of advice that I was given awhile back and try to follow religiously: always be in a state of gratitude. The universe is far more likely to help you accomplish the goals you set if you are constantly giving thanks.

Despite my attitude of gratitude, I have to admit that I never thought it would take me this long to get started. I never thought I would have to fail so many times, in so many different ways. I never knew I could fail so many times; then get right up, brush myself off and try again. Oftentimes, over the past few years, it has felt as though I have had two hands tied behind my back while the world pummels my front. Trust the process, I told myself. What is meant to be will happen. 

And it did. 

In an instant my world was turned on its axis. Gone will be my schedule of days free and working evenings with a twenty-something hour work week; replaced with rising early to work a full and productive eight hour day. Something I have never, NEVER, done. My whole adult life I have been working in restaurants, or in school AND working at a restaurant, or (for a brief stint) working in a medical office AND a restaurant. Until the new job offer came in, and faced with having to let go of my old way of life, I hadn’t even realized a certain truth that resonated within me.

The truth is…I love my restaurant job. I know that serving food to hungry people isn’t brain surgery, and sometimes us servers joke that we could train a monkey to do our job, but really it’s a tad bit ridiculous how much money people throw at me for the joke amount of hours I work. And the best part? It’s fun. I’m not kidding, like really really fun. I work with an absolutely amazing group of people. My coworkers are some of the kindest, most supportive, most dedicated individuals I have ever been blessed to meet. It is literally impossible to walk into that place at the beginning of the shift and not have a roaring good time while I am there. Those beautiful people, my coworkers, are constantly cheering one another on, making the work hours go by quickly and turning any crummy mood around. We are each others’ cheerleaders, lending a hand or an ear whenever it is called for. And also when it isn’t. My mangers are just as awesome. When I think of my place of work, that huge feeling of gratitude takes over. I am just so blessed to have had the opportunity to get to know all of these amazing people, to work side-by-side with them, and feel so lucky to call them my friends.

When I think about the change that is about to happen this coming Monday, fear threatens to take over. After a moment, I allow the fighter within to speak up loudly, telling my inner self that living in fear is for the weak.  Doubt is for those with no faith in their future or confidence in their journey. I will never gain anything if I allow myself to shrivel up into a fear-based ball. I believe in myself, in my story, and in my potential. I don’t have any time to waste on on being fearful, I have wasted enough already by not pursuing my dreams. I take comfort in the belief, and faith, that there is a plan set for me. I just don’t get to know what it is.

So here I am, about to take the biggest plunge in my career as a twenty-something woman trying to figure it all out. Maybe it will be perfect, maybe I’ll hate every minute. But my gut tells me that everything is going to work out just as it should and that I am in for one beautiful ride.

xoxo

Sarah

Seconds and Inches

Hope is both the earliest and the most indispensable virtue in the state of being alive. If life is to be sustained hope must remain, even where confidence is wounded, trust impaired.” -E.H. Erikson 

Seconds and inches. That’s all that separates our paths from each other, from our fates. One step to the left, one step behind, one second later, one second sooner. Timing is everything. The funny thing about timing is that we have absolutely no control over it. Our lives are shaped by the decisions we make. Our lives are shaped by who we surround ourself with, who we date, where we choose to work, and where we choose to spend our free time. Life is fluid, ever changing. 

I read recently, in a book called To Heaven and Back, that life is like a tapestry. This book is a lovely account of one woman’s journey through death, heaven, angels, and back to life again. I highly recommend it to anyone who is exploring their spirituality, faith, and relationship with a higher power. 

Life is like a tapestry. A million different threads make up the tapestry of life, yours and mine alike, and your individual thread helps shape the unique design that is created by all of our different threads. Your life, your decisions, the moments that define you, determine how the thread is weaved into the pattern. One step to the left, or right, and you shift the pattern. Each step is neither right or wrong, for without your thread which is weaved by these steps, the tapestry will be incomplete. The point is that every single individual, every person you meet in your daily activities, has meaning. This got me thinking. What is the meaning for my life right now? What does my thread mean to the tapestry? What is my purpose

Recently, life threw me yet another curve ball. I watched a man have  a seizure right in front of me. The whole day leading up to then had been off. Weird. Odd. I was not even supposed to be where I was. A last minute decision, someone else’s last minute decision incidentally, freed up my evening so I could end up there. I was sitting, completely immersed in my own thoughts. My own worries. My own crap. Sitting. thinking. Thinking of how unclear my current path is. How not okay I am with how unclear my path is. And then, the man started to tense. I watched as his body became rigid and he started to shake, and I knew immediately it was a seizure. My mind went on autopilot. Was he epileptic? Was he overdosing? “Get him on his side!” I thought to myself. There were people around. Hundreds. About ten of us in immediate proximity. I always want to help people. I want to be the fixer. I want to be the hero. But I was blocked. I was blocked by chairs and the three people already surrounding him, doing their best to help. Everyone was terrified of the situation. Not only was I blocked by physical objects, I was blocked by my own fear. My own self-doubt. I knew to get him on his side. “God please don’t let him bite his tongue off”, I thought. “I should go over there. I NEED TO HELP.” But instead I stood there, less than five feet away, and I called 911. I stood to the side rather than putting my hands on his body to steady him, to help, as I really truly wanted to do. I thought for a moment, deep inside of me, that I was going to watch this man die. He was going to die and I would have done nothing to stop it.

The horrific event continued on for two minutes or more. It seemed like hours. Then his movement began to calm down. His breathing became more regular. The paramedics came in heroic splendor. Within twenty minutes the man was responsive, his color returning to normal, able to answer questions. He was going to be okay. He was alive. I was flooded with relief. Flooded with gratitude that he was . That he would recover. 

It hit me. The reality of my situation. Where I was sitting, unable to provide that man with the medical care or knowledge that I thought by now I would posses. Remember that seven year old self that I referred to in the last post? The one that was positive that by this age I would be well on my way to being a doctor? Well, reality is I am not. Reality is I have no idea what I want to do. And reality is that while I appreciate my life as it is now, and have immense gratitude for the blessings I have been given, I am not where I want to be. I am aware, however, that there is a plan for me and I do not get to know what it is. Being the control freak that I am, it does not sit well with me to not know that plan that is my destiny. It seems more often than not I am dealing with what life throws at me defensively, rather than being able to play offensively. I seem to be fixing the problems that are constantly thrown at me rather than attacking those of my choosing. I know, deep inside of my heart, that I will flourish. I will be great. I will kick life’s ass. Someday. 

We carry on. Progress, not perfection. Maybe it is our mistakes that make our fate, our greatest miscalculations that mold us into the people we are destined to become. Remember, we are only separated by seconds and inches. Seconds and inches separate me from who I might have been, and from the woman I am becoming. Because becoming that doctor, or becoming that dedicated military wife to the man who turned out to be the person that hurt me more than I imagined was possible, or becoming any other person than who I am at this moment, isn’t my fate. My seconds and inches that comprise my history, the same seconds and inches that brought me in front of the man having the seizure, are weaving my tapestry into something completely unique, beautiful, and meant for me. And at my weak moments, when I feel like everything is falling apart, I have to hope that holds true. When I cannot BELIEVE unfalteringly in the tapestry, I have to HOPE for it. After all, I am only seconds and inches away from who I will become and realizing the beauty of my dreams. 

What do you believe in?  What gives you hope?

Sarah