From Greg to Greg

Greg, my brother, born August 1, 1960, died July 11, 2004.

Greg, yoga instructor.

Neither Greg knew the other, and couldn’t be more different, but I have experienced a journey that started with my brother’s death and led me to the yogi, and, what I believe is the start of something awesome and life-changing; something I’ve been meant to do, that I would not have found, had I not experienced my brother’s death and all the events following.

My brother died in his sleep, apparently peacefully at the young age of 42.  As far as I and the rest of my family were concerned, it was unexpected and obviously horrific.  His death, I am positive, exacerbated an already existing illness in my mother.  She died sixteen months after Greg, and my father, unable to cope, died two months after my mother.

Having studied counseling in college and graduate school, and understanding its importance, I immersed myself in it, both privately and in group therapy sessions.  I relied on therapists, and strangers experiencing loss, and friends and family.  I grieved passionately and completely.  It was a dark time.

Somehow, in all that darkness, I started doing yoga.  Looking back, I’m not sure what led me to that first class.  I just knew I needed something.  Something new, something to feel like a fresh start.  The first class I took was very gentle, taught by a beautiful, sixty-something woman who admitted to enjoying a glass of wine after a long day.  I immediately liked her.

For several months, I would lie in savasana with tears streaming from my eyes, leaving a small puddle on either side of my head on my mat.  I would come home, puffy-eyed and exhausted but cleansed.  (My husband, worried, would ask, “Why the hell do you keep going to this class?”  To which I would reply, sobbing, “Because this feels good!” I’m not sure he was convinced, but he didn’t argue.  Smart man, my husband.)

The love for yoga didn’t dissipate when the grief did.  I decided to explore and found another teacher, this one the embodiment of yoga both on and off the mat, and my ultimate inspiration.  I learned more about the practice and found myself wanting to continue to learn.  I got a subscription to Yoga Journal.  I tried a home practice.

Then, another tragedy.

While jogging one evening, I was hit by a car.  The impact broke both bones in my lower leg and shattered my ankle joint.  I had surgery the following day and months of recovery and physical therapy.  It was a very hard time, faced with yet another (thankfully temporary) loss, that of my physical body.  But I still had yoga.  I could still breathe, and move my arms, and use my core.  My instructor came to visit me several times during my recovery, helping me to move and teaching me to ultimately “find the lesson.”  Not an easy thing to do when something you love has been taken away (again).  My recovery was quicker than expected and I came from that experience wiser, more compassionate and, more of a spokesperson for yoga than ever.

A couple years later, I decided to leap and signed up to complete the 200-hour training to become a yoga instructor.  My first classes were led by an instructor named Greg.  The net had appeared.

From Greg to Greg.

Had Greg not died, had my parents not died, had I not been hit by a car, this journey would not have happened.  When one door closes another opens…Look for the silver lining…Look for the lesson…Have faith.

This journey from Greg to Greg took nine years.  But it happened.  I never would have thought when I got that dreaded phone call, telling me my brother was found dead in his apartment, that I would be standing on a mat, in a yoga studio, feeling whole, feeling grateful, feeling like my life is beginning again.

We all have loss and lessons.  I guess the key is to let go, feel it, embrace it, and use it.  Use it to begin again.  Because loss doesn’t have to take away from who you are.  Perhaps in time, however long it takes you, it will mean it’s time to redefine how you see yourself.  Perhaps it’s time to change.  The older I get, the more I realize that that is what life is:  change.  Experiencing losses of all kinds, grieving them in your own time, asking for help, never giving up, but always looking for, being open to, and finding the next door.

Walk on, walk on
What you got they can’t deny it
Can’t sell it or buy it
Walk on, walk on

And I know it aches
And your heart it breaks
And you can only take so much
Walk on, walk on

~Lyrics from U2’s “Walk On”

Thanks, Greg.  And you, too, Greg.

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When Childhood Beckons

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Last night I had some extra time on my way to a meeting so I decided to grab a tea at our local coffee shop and enjoy the beautiful fall evening.  My meanderings landed me at the elementary school playground, where the swings were completely empty.  There was a football practice on the adjacent field and several kids were playing on the monkey bars and slides, supervised by bored parents.  Almost compelled, I set down my tea, purse and folder and grabbed a swing.

I’m sure I was quite a sight:  a forty-seven year-old woman gleefully swinging on a swing, alone.  But it was just that:  gleeful.  I started slowly, a little apprehensive, but then found myself pumping and trying to get as high as I could, finding that my stomach was not used to the movement and the tickle almost made me giggle.  Giggle.

What an unexpected release it was, to be childlike, if only for a few minutes.  To forget, for a few minutes, about the fight I had just had with my defiant teenager, the bills I paid the day before with not a lot of money.  You know, the overall weight of adult life.  I went to my meeting refreshed and a little lighter. 

I began to wonder:  what can we do to incorporate childhood, and this lightness, into our everyday lives?  Lay in the grass and watch the clouds, eat cookies and milk, jump in the leaves, blow bubbles, take a nap?  Or swing on a random swing that seems to beckon.

Whatever it is, I recommend that when childhood does beckon, listen.  Be silly, be free, feel the tickle in your stomach.  Giggle.  You will totally love it.  Just sayin.’