Bodies and Voices
BY MAGAZINE COLUMNIST CARYN MIRRIAM-GOLDBERG
With two of my three children now in college, I have much more to worry about than the tuition checks we’re writing for shocking amounts each month. Now that they’ve flown the hatch – sort of, kind of, maybe – I get to worry about anything and everything that may happen to them in the big dangerous and stupid world.
My daughter calls: she is distraught to suddenly realize that it’s a huge mistake to have moved to St. Paul to study singing when she should have stayed in Kansas and worked for a year at a grocery store in a job she hated… or maybe she should have gone to a different school to do East Asian Studies.
My son calls to let me know that he’s going rock climbing with a bunch of buddies and a whole lot of beer somewhere in Southern Arkansas, and he’s pretty sure he can get back in time to do the essential work on his classes so that he can graduate on time in a month, and yes, he does need to figure out what he’s doing after graduation, but he can’t think about that right now.
In each case, I hold the phone, hyperventilating
I remind myself that they tend to call when
A) They need money;
B) Someone just overlooked them/screwed them over/made their life miserable; or
C) They’re deeply depressed, at the bottom of the manic swings that make up the college experience.
In other words, I only get a skewed view of how they are, usually framed in the worst possible scenario.
The student life people found empty beer cans in the dorm room. The roommate watched television, loud, all night long while throwing empty Cheetos bags on the door. The cafeteria served something that made everyone a little sick. The part-time job fell through. The scholarship didn’t happen. The snowstorm hit, and the check never arrived in time.
On my bad days, I freak out with them, taking their burden from them so that after the phone call, they find their way to bright and new moments of elation while I wander around, tired and depressed, not to mention worried. I want to personally drive to their campus and bitch-slap whoever has done them wrong. I transfer money. I worry that the depression might not pass easily, and what if I’ve done the wrong thing in encouraging them to pursue their dreams?
Finding my edge, remembering to breathe
On my better days, I remember to breathe, ask questions instead of doling out advice, walk through scenarios to help them see what they might want to choose, recommend that they take time and listen to their hearts.
In these moments, I realize that helping my children is akin to helping my body ease into new stretches and old ones, breathing into the moment, and accepting that this is my edge at the moment, and I can dwell here with kindness and curiosity. I can simply be still in the dark frenzy of their pain, listen, be a companion for them on this phone call, tell them I trust them to find their own best way while I trust myself to sit, stand and function in my own edge of feeling pain for their pain.
“We trust you,” my husband and I tell my daughter. “We believe in you,” we tell our son.
All of us – young adult children and older adult parents – learning this new yoga: staying yoked while apart, loving while letting go, trusting our own innate core of wisdom.
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.