Leave the Past in the Past

This was my mantra as 2020 was prepping to unleash all its glory upon us. It’s a strong statement, one that has escaped my lips on several occasions in relation to various aspects of my life. Unfortunately, I actually can’t recall more than one discarded item as I prepare to draw a symbolic narrative on how freeing it has been, and I doubt that it has been so successful as to have erased my memory of those attachments, but it has been a hell of a year. This has been the kind of year that demands more of the present because reflections on the past are too painful when we consider all that has been lost, but this was not my goal when I put those words onto my private 2020 bucket list.

I wanted to see what would happen if I softened my grip on the shadows of the passions that have actually been fading for years. Some of these practices have defined me for decades and as their images shrink in my rear-view, the feeling of loss has disarmed me to the point of not being able to truly let go. 

When I retired from teaching yoga in 2016, I was exhausted from trying to meet my own expectations of success, and retirement gave me permission to stop wanting embodiment for everyone else. At some point I realized that all those years of teaching had kept me at an imperceptible distance from my own embodiment and I had to leave it behind in order to reclaim my own mind-body connection.

After leaving the dissection lab in 2019, I committed to taking a year off to write. The revelations my yoga practice exposed following my retirement were so profound I wanted to see what a year of reflecting on dissection would uncover. Turns out, a lot. And I’m not sure I need to cut into another cadaver as long as I live.

That’s a tough statement to swallow.

Chances are if you think or speak of me, the words yoga and dissection are probably present. So you know how huge this is.

This past weekend I cleaned out all of my drawers, cupboards and closets. I came across the first book I wrote. I hand wrote it during the years of 2007 though 2009. It’s about my journey into yoga and teaching —and it’s really bad. I pulled it out months ago as reference for the current manuscript, but couldn’t stomach more than a few pages.

It’s not that the writing is bad. It does perfect justice to the young woman I was when I wrote it… but I’ve come a long way. 

I knew this volume would not survive me to live on in my absence, but didn’t know how to dispose of it properly (and completely). I thought of throwing it in a campfire, but I only filled 200 pages of a 488 page hardcover journal —that would take some time to burn. I could take it to Staples and pay for it to be shredded, but that would mean trusting someone else to complete the task. I had to do it myself. 

This week I had a brief text conversation with a friend from the lab. She had a scalpel in her hand carving her way around the shoulder, neck and skull. 2020 has unceremoniously closed her business and she confesses to be nearing her limit on dissection; aimless and wondering what to do next. I respond in support of her sentiment, like one foot is in the familiar, while the other is already marching forth into something new… but neither of us really know yet what that is.

I pull out the scissors and begin tearing pages out of that first book. As I do, my eyes are taking in small snippets of the manuscript that wasn’t destined for anything greater than this moment. As the words flash through the blades of my manual shredder, I see exactly what 2020 has taken. Taken in terms of denial; all the things we had to forfeit. But also taken in terms of what it has required; all the ways in which we were or were not prepared.

This pile of paper on my coffee table is the past. It’s all the hurt my young self carried along to the point of finally saying: Leave the past in the past.

2020 has been pretty great, actually.

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