10 years ago, after my youngest entered school full-time, I took a major detour in my exploration of new career possibilities.
Rather than enroll in a Masters Program in Organization and Development in New Hampshire, or in a vigorous life-coaching mentorship out of Colorado, and in lieu of resentfully renewing my lapsed teaching license in Vermont, I showed up at a place called Kripalu in the Berkshires of Massachusetts–to dance.
130 accredited hours later, I was a newly minted Let Your Yoga Dance instructor, something I could barely admit to friends when they asked about my unusual time away from home and family.
During this decade of detours, I earned my 200 hour yoga teaching certification, crafted an online writing journey through the chakras, and frequently returned to the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, where I assist leading presenters.
Now’s a good time to admit that all these detours were an attempt to avoid (and covertly bolster) what was truly calling me–a desire to write–which led to a companion desire–to create as much space around the writing as possible–apart from mothering/partnering/homemaking and earning some semblance of an income. Quite a dance!
But as feared, the more I immersed in writing, the less I desired anything else, until this moment when all my desires have whittled down to one: to finish the book that I began in 2012 while assisting a non-profit that took me to Chile and Japan and brings me annually to the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations—opportunities which I’ve let wither on the vine of an increasingly singular focus.
What has also whittled down, in parallel form, is my income.
While I’m proud of the fact that I’ve been able to increasingly earn in creative and life-giving ways; this is often accompanied by angst around rising household expenses and the fear of not earning/being/doing “enough.”
And yet, after much inner struggle, I came into a place of surrender this summer, softening into my deepening commitment to the book as if it were a daughter, and into the limited income that caring for her affords me.
Out of this clarity came the decision to simplify my income–to two parallel offerings a season–one in writing and one in dance–two wings to support my own journey and that of others.
Ironically, my hard-earned clarity was met by my husband’s who shared that he was ready for me to make more money, three times as much in fact.
We laughed at the synchronicity.
After the laughter, was the nitty-gritty. I zeroed in on the necessity of retiring one role (Motherhood) before landing the next; and so we sat down with the budget and made it work with a commitment to adhering to it more diligently; because after all hadn’t we managed to make ends meet in much leaner times when the kids were little and he was a new teacher.
With this commitment and clarity was met with Autumn’s back-to-school energy, I renewed by daily work on the book, and as a result, I experienced a growing sense of self-trust and possibility, both of which had waned as a result of inner conflict.
Meanwhile, I set to filling my fall sessions, which fortunately are the easiest to fill at this time of year.
After some initial sluggishness, my online writing journey was fully enrolled; while enrollment in the dancing journey stalled; and remained stalled, even as the starting date grew closer and closer; and my anxiety grew larger and larger.
Over the past decade, the dance has become an integral part of my own health, and my commitment and connection to community, not to mention a creative outlet for that part of me who is teacher, crafting music, movement and chakras in a conscious flow.
But faced with an unsustainable enrollment at a time when sustainability was key, I had to make a choice.
Suddenly, the point of the audio book that I ordered over the summer came into sharper focus. In Let Your Life Speak, author Parker Palmer introduces a form of guidance that reveals itself: When way closes.
Was way closing on dance for me? After ten years? Could I let it? Couldn’t I try harder? Certainly I could bring the dance to one of the surrounding towns who had long asked for me to do the same…
I fretted. I gave one last effort. I meditated.
This morning I refunded the enrollments of a small handful of students who were ready to begin the dance this week.
In doing so, I felt a surprising sense of relief and also a predictable measure of unfolding grief, tinged with old essences of embarrassment and shame.
In the meantime, I’ve crunched the numbers, only to discover that even the simplest of jobs will meet what I’ve earned nourishing consciousness with music and movement and writing.
The absurdity of my past efforts on this account is hard to bear in the black and white of a spreadsheet. But not in the light of the matching absurdity of devoting so much time to a book that no one is waiting to read–at least no one with a check to match the years of effort; not to mention the absurdity of laying down so much promise–professional and financial–to surrender my body and life–as home–to two splendid human beings–twenty-three years ago and counting.
What I realize only now, as I write, is that this letting go brings me back to the yogic principle that guided me as I first set out to lead the dance a decade ago: Ishvara Pranidhana.
So overcome was I with self-doubt and recrimination about my capacity to lead, not to mention the insanity of my detour from serious career pursuits, that each night, before the students arrived, I was forced to bow my head on my mat–in full surrender–Ishvara Pranidhana–offering up my failures and successes.
This same surrender is required now.
I could have danced all night, yes, but instead, I’ll return to the classifieds, seeking a fit for an increasingly un-fittable woman who is ready to accept the ease of income, in devotion to the calling that she cannot refuse.