Cat From The Mat

Mourning Has Broken

And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive.  And you may not even be sure, whether the storm is really over.  But one thing is certain.  When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm is all about.

- Haruki Murakami

My past nine months have been tumultuous.  As the shock of the stormy year begins to wear off, I am left with humble gratitude along with the stirrings of acceptance.  I share this personal information out of my appreciation for my yoga and empathy skills.  When the rubber needs to meet the road, my long-standing  on/off the mat practice has proven to be effective in finding ease.  

In August of 2017, my mother Tish was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a type of lung cancer. It came out of left field, as she was an unlikely candidate.  However, it did explain why she was feeling exhausted for most of the year, not to mention the ten pounds of liquid stored in right her lung, making breathing quite arduous.  After hospital visits, specialist research, and a couple of hurricanes, she had surgery in September to remove the lining of her lung.  

Soon after in October, I was then diagnosed with breast cancer.  While still in disbelief, I had a rapid learning curve to understand my options for treatment.  In receiving guidance from all sorts of women who had already been down this path, I was inducted into a not-so-secret society of strong cancer-surviving women. I had a double mastectomy in November, which was to be followed by months of convalescence.  However, two weeks after my first operation, my mother found out that her cancer had spread and unfortunately went into hospice.  I flew down to my hometown New Orleans (NOLA) to spend time with Tish as we all were trying to wrap our minds around the unbelievable concept of her dying.

The holidays with home hospice were bittersweet.  Normally, we celebrate a clustering of birthdays, my folk’s anniversary, and Christmas, days in a row.  And this year, these normally joyous events were overshadowed by a grim reality.  We luckily had time to discuss funeral plans as well as the chance to truly say goodbye.  After a quick fight with cancer, Tish slipped away on Dec 28, 2017 with her hand in mine.  What a gift to bear witness to such vulnerability.  I had the intimate honor to be present with my mum’s last breath, as she was there for my first at birth. 

Somehow I had the calm capacity to take this emotional rollercoaster ride, amidst the physical limitations of my many new normals. I found a strength and presence to support my mother while processing these unfolding events surprisingly well.  By taking time off from work and rescheduling teachings gigs, I was able to slow down and find that desired balance between self-care and care for others.

In January, we arranged Tish’s memorial service in NOLA, which was a celebration of her love of music, British humor, and her gift of gab.  My second surgery followed in February, after which I finally had some down time to focus on my own recovery.  It’s odd to physically lack sensation in my chest while my aching heart is anything but numb.  

At end of March, we flew to London to memorialize Tish’s life with our UK relatives.  In April, I slowly returned back to work.  In between European gigs and domestic trainings, I found the emotional time and space to clear out my mother’s closet and art studio.  With teary fortitude, I found some peace in the catharsis.  

I share this experience as a fellow human, yoga educator, empathy coach, because my twenty-five years of awareness training prepared me for this particular storm as well as ongoing inclement weather. To hold the space for my dying mother as she struggled to surrender was devastating, profound, and beautiful.  There isn’t a day that goes by when I do not think of Tish or when I do not appreciate my own health.  Asana integrates a strong body, open heart, and flexible mind.  Embodiment might begin to break down, but one’s spirit is the fuel that keeps going.

I am starting to pick up the pieces of my disintegrated foundation and am transforming daily into the latest version of myself.  As I continue to go through the stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance), I am reminded of the need to mourn.  What if mourning is the ability to appreciate what you value in its absence? If so, then the people and pets that we love may go away, but the loving relationship remains. 

Yoga is a practice of relationship and adaptability to change, from which you may learn and grow.  Whether a loss of a loved one, a marriage, a body part, or closing a chapter in your life, death is not easy.   However, endings mark beginnings.   How you choose to participate with loss might determine how you embark upon your next journey.  I am not the same person I was nine months ago, and yet my essence is more powerful and clearer than ever before, with a new Catitude.  As you weather your own storms, I encourage you to not only survive but to thrive. 

Happy Mother's Day month!


Cat From The Mat

May 2018