His eyes were kind when he said it, when he told me this would be the hardest thing I ever did.
I thought, “Really? The absolute hardest? Like I’ve never tried so hard for something in my whole life? I doubt it…”
But, in ways, he was right.
Sometimes, getting myself to my yoga studio and on to my yoga mat and into the deep, heavy rhythm of my breath and my body is the damn hardest, most exhausting, most bone-aching, excruciating task ever. Doesn’t matter that I do it five days a week or that I commit to challenges that require me to make that trudge to the hot room daily or that deep down I very much love my yoga practice. Still, simply showing up can be so very, very hard.
Because the excuses to not go are endless—I’m too tired; I’m too busy; my body hurts; my new Netflix movie just arrived, and I can’t wait to watch it; I don’t like the teacher who’s on the podium; my practice sucked yesterday, and I need a day off to recuperate… Blah, blah, blah. The reasons not to stand atop my mat oftentimes weigh so heavily that I’m surprised they haven’t broken the scales for good.
But, that’s all of life, isn’t it? There is, always, an excuse to do and an excuse not to do.
Thing is, we all do things that are painfully difficult, in the literal and exaggerated sense, all the time. I mean, some of us hate our jobs, but we go, and we do our work. Some of us dread the gym, but we drag ourselves there and hop aboard the treadmill. I know at least a few of us loathe our in-laws and feel ill at the thought of even an hour spent in their company—but, we put in the necessary face-time, and we smile our smiles, and life goes on. I am willing to bet that each of us has mended a shattered heart, despite the bruising, bitter truth that losing the person we loved was the hardest blow we’d ever taken.
And we survive all of this. Most of the time without even breaking a sweat. We confront the struggle, and we overtake it, and then we stand atop it, and then, suddenly, it is behind us, left in rubbled ruin.
I wonder if all of life is a series of such hurdles. I wonder if we ever reach a place in which we aren’t having to tackle those “hardest things.”
And if we did…well, what then? For all our bitching and moaning about life’s hardships, I wonder: would we grow terribly bored without them?
I heard a girl sitting outside the yoga room last night muttering to her friend about how she hated the mirrors in the hot room. She was saying, “Do I really want to see myself all sweaty and gross? NO! Ugh. Having to look in those damn mirrors the entire class is so freaking hard. I just hate them.”
I bit my lip and grabbed my bag and headed for the door, knowing that it wasn’t my place to butt in and wax philosophical on her when she was just venting to her equally flushed and frustrated girlfriend.
But, part of me did want to rub her shoulder and say, “Oh, yes, I know.”
Another part of me wanted to point my teacher in her direction so that he could give her the “showing up is the hardest part” speech.
Mostly, though, as I began the long, chilly walk home through Cambridge’s darkened and narrow side streets, I thought how I wanted to go and sit next to her and say, “The thing I’ve learned is this: you probably hate the mirrors because you hate what you see. But, by looking away, nothing changes. Not your reflection, not your body, not your attitude, nothing.”
And maybe that’s why we keep setting ourselves up to face these “hardest things.” Because, otherwise, nothing would change.
We would not change.
Although my lot of hardships is, in the grand scheme of things, rather minor—heartbreak, lost friendships, lost loves, bad decisions—I am comforted to know that I made the conscious choice, time and time again, to keep coming back, to keep working, to keep trying to make my way over hurdles, even if I stumble.
I am strangely eager to see what mountain I must climb next. I am proud I have not given up staring back at my own two eyes in the mirror, in that hot room.
I am quite certain I would rather a lifetime of facing “the hardest thing” than a lifetime of looking away.