In the last year, Liadan Hynes' marriage fell apart. She is now working on adjusting to the new reality. In her weekly column, Things Fall Apart she is exploring the myriad ways a person can find their way back to themselves.
Somewhat to our horror, the Work Wife and I have become people who have gurus.
This is not us. We are the type of people who laugh up our sleeves at such things, who roll our eyes at inspirational quotes. But after a difficult last year, here we are, having politely just shy of passive-aggressive conversations with each other in which we attempt one-upmanship over our chosen life coaches, both women we have interviewed, and then attached ourselves to.
“She’s just a wonderful mixture of the practical and the emotional,” one of us will say. “Yes of course that is what I have loved about mine, for MONTHS now,” the other will reply grimly.
My guru, now a good friend, once mentioned the notion of a wellness plan, a sort of bespoke self-help routine built into everyday life in order to withstand everything from draining people to life’s biggest crises.
When it became time to face the fact that our marriage was in trouble, I remembered my friend’s words, and instigated my own wellness plan, in a measure to protect myself, as much as I could, from the coming fallout.
I tried to exercise a little bit more regularly. See a good friend every couple of days no matter how busy I might be. Eat as healthily as possible. All little changes that made me feel as good as could be expected, given the circumstances.
But I realised that intermittent, larger, more dramatic measures would be necessary. Events that would act as relief valves, so I would stay on top of the stress of that time. So that things did not get on top of me, I promised myself that every two months I would plan something bigger. A weekend away with a friend. A few days in London to do a meditation course. And my homemade yoga retreats.
I had long wanted to try an actual yoga retreat, but the prospect of holidaying with strangers, and the possible crustiness of said strangers, put me off.
On holiday at our place in Spain though, I came across Carla. I was there for three weeks, at a time when I had finally cracked exercise as a regular thing, after months of stop starts. I was loath to stop for the duration of our holiday.
Research had unearthed a nearby gym, one of those pared back, rather brutal concrete boxes where one undergoes intense circuit training. For quite some time, I managed to go along with the fantasy that I am the kind of person who would enjoy this kind of thing. Then we got to Spain, and the thought of sweating in Lycra, and all that grunting competitiveness that tends to go with that sort of exercise became a reality, and I accepted the delusional nature of the project. I would hate it.
But I discovered Carla, instead. In a nearby white cube of a studio, clad in bougainvillea, Carla is an Icelandic yoga teacher. Imagine a sort of Helena Christensen in yoga gear, with the same slight warrior quality. As it happens, she has been separated twice, so not only completely understood my situation, but acted as a comforting blueprint for 'woman-who-is-flourishing-post-separation'.
Carla teaches aerial yoga; yoga which takes place in a swing, much of it upside down. Which, it turns out, is a revelation. I have never been the kind of person who could do handstands or cartwheels. I have a deep fear of finding myself in situations which involve having to scale a wall, or jump over things. However, neither have I ever been the kind of person who thought their marriage would be over before one of us actually died. When that happens, you need to rethink things. Throw things upside down. Make a small act of bravery in order to reassure yourself that you are capable of bigger ones. So first class in, I find myself upside down, held in by the fabric, doing a handstand. Delighted with life.
Aerial yoga allows for stretches not possible when you’re anchored to the ground, and the tension of months peels off. Carla ignores my muttering about just wanting to stick to the yoga and throws in a workout. Afterwards, I am insufferable; is there anything as unbearably smug as a person who works out while away on holiday?
I do not, in general, much care for the bashing on about me-time for mothers. It’s not that I’m against me-time. It’s the delivery; the inherent notion that you are in some way being victimised by motherhood. Poor thing, quietly toiling away with not a moment to herself. Not able to speak up for herself. There’s a pitying tone to it. I am more than capable of finding my own me-time. And to be honest, while parenting is tiring, I find time with my daughter generally restorative. She is my favourite person to hang out with.
But through all this, there was a definite need for me-time. And so I invented the homemade yoga retreat. No strangers, no crustiness. I hijacked the Father’s trip to Spain for four days. The daily itinerary was an hour and a half of aerial yoga with Carla each morning, followed by coffee and carrot cake from Giacomo, our favourite local restaurateur, and then a day of reading on the beach before dinner and red wine. Nothing else to think about. Heaven.
This weekend, the Work Wife and myself attended an aerial class in Dublin. For most of it, we joked around, enjoyed the newness, the time to ourselves, the little break from life. And then the last move, swinging upside down. I virtually charged our rope, jumped up, and threw myself upside down. And there it was again, that jolt of adrenaline. Delight in one’s own bravery.
Sometimes you need to turn everything upside down in order to fix it.
Photo by Loe Moshkovska from Pexels