Andi—Off the Mat

Andi’s email to me is entitled “Support, Insight, and Catharsis” and in the body she tells me that she has a hard time getting out of her head when it comes to her relationship with her fiancé Rob. Her head is a place of insecurity, of seeking perfection in herself and sabotaging her own happiness. I know what she’s talking about. It’s a place that I probably visit quite often in my own head.

The relationship that Andi now has with Rob is not one that came easily. It was full of fits and starts and a few misunderstandings. The two of them began as friends and after a year of this friendship, Andi decided that she was in love and when she professed this love to Rob, he shot her down. They became friends again. And then friends with benefits. And then they were nothing at all after an incident in which Rob really hurts Andi’s feelings.

Years later, Andi and Rob reconnected after he reached out to her and expressed his desire to see her again. They stayed up all night talking on that first night back in each other’s presence. They eventually became a couple. And then engaged. Rob is Andi’s first committed relationship; but all along she had a feeling that he was the one for her.

But now Andi is in front of me crying as she tells me that some days she feels like she will never be ‘enough’ for Rob. And the list she gives me is long. Perhaps she is not smart enough or philosophical enough. Her cooking skills make her feel incompetent.

“I get scared because I think he’ll get bored and see that I’m not what he wanted to invest in,” says Andi.

“How does he respond when you bring that up?” I ask her.

“He tells me ‘I wish I could see the you that I see.’”, she says.

I ask her if she realizes how beautiful that is…to have a partner that is soft enough to receive this offering of vulnerability and strong enough to respond lovingly. I think about how I’ve never had this sort of partner in my life. But then I think about how I’ve never given a partner the chance to be that person. Have I had these thoughts that I’m not enough and that one day the man I’m with will wise up and see that I’m not that great? Oh hell yeah. Have I ever actually expressed this to a partner? Oh hell no.

I don’t know if it’s so much of me being scared to admit my perceived weaknesses, or if it has more to do with my lack of delegation skills. That’s right. Maybe I make up some of my weaknesses but this one is spot on. I’m very much a “if you want something done right, do it yourself” type person. I suppose it stems from a need to control the outcome, or a lack of trust in others; most likely it’s a combination of the two.

I can easily see how the inability to delegate has made my life more difficult when it comes to my school and work life. But I’ve never paused to consider how it might be affecting my love life. When I’m in my head, when I’m insecure and scared and worried, I keep it to myself. I went for a long time without a partner and I’ve lived my whole life as an only child. I’ve learned to take care of myself. I yearn for a partner who wants to help me carry some of this weight. But have I ever allowed one to do so?

As Andi had outlined the course of her relationship with Rob, she briefly mentioned the possibility that maybe the fact that he ended their friendship so abruptly all those years ago made her insecure. I ask her if she is holding on to that part of their history and she says that she thinks that she has let it go.

“It’s an issue from the past and I’ve put it to bed,” says Andi. And then she pauses and the two of us sit in silence for a bit. “Maybe I needed to hear myself say it’s put to bed. If it ends, it ends. People grow apart and I think that knowing we’ve grown apart once, I guess it could happen again.”

“From the outside it looks like you have a great love story,” I say. “But you’re already writing the ending. You’re creating a self-fulfilling prophecy so that if he leaves, you get to be right—you’re not enough. You’re the only thing that’s standing in the way of this relationship.”

I can see the ‘aha’ moment light up from behind Andi’s tear-filled eyes and, sure enough, she tells me that hearing me say ‘you have control over you’ stuns her. I tell her that she is fortunate. So many things could stand in the way of a relationship’s success (addiction, infidelity, etc.) that she would have no control over. But in this case, she can do something about it. Andi tells me that she doesn’t know how to do it. I tell her she doesn’t know how to do it…yet.

The addition of this small word has been a game changer for me, personally. If I tack those three little letters on to the end of a thought that I have about things I can’t do or things I don’t know how to do, then those three little letters add hope. I don’t know how to have a healthy relationship…yet. I can’t seem to figure out how to be in a relationship with a man without giving up a part of myself…yet. I haven’t met a man who allows me safety in the folds of vulnerability…yet.

And it’s here where I meet up with all of my self-fulfilling prophecies. By me saying that I don’t know how to fall in love without losing myself, I create a situation in which I don’t even allow myself the possibility of doing so. If I say that I can’t find a partner who will allow me to exist in the full realm of myself, I will continue to pair myself up with those who don’t give me the chance. And if I say that love just simply doesn’t work for me, I write a thousand sad endings, over and over.

When Andi and I part ways after our interview, I give her a big hug and in that embrace, she feels a little lighter. I spent more time talking in this interview than I have in previous ones. In front of me was a woman who needed a little grounding and centering, a woman who needed someone to provide an outsider’s perspective of things. I gave her that; and in my advice, I also gave myself a little shift and a new viewpoint from which to observe my own issues.

The two-way flow of energy that happens during these interviews is starting to become so apparent. And I don’t think I ever doubted that would be the case; because it’s something that happens every time I teach a yoga class. There are times when I feel like I have absolutely nothing to give to a class full of students—I’m in a bad place in my head and my energy is bouncing around wildly in my soul. But because a job is a job and I can’t call in crazy, I show up. And I teach. And without fail, I leave the class feeling a little more at peace than I had before. It’s not that I passed on my bad juju to the others in the class; it’s simply that, in guiding others to find a little space and healing, I managed to find my own along the way.

During my time with Andi, I had suggested that she try yoga. I told her about all of the goodness in my life that I had received from the practice. I told her it was a practice that allowed me to accept where I was in the present moment…because in that moment, without past bullshit or future stresses, everything is simply enough. I told her that it was a practice that taught me that I didn’t have to look like anyone else in the room.   Heck, I didn’t even have to look like the person that I was on the previous day. I just had to show up and accept who I was in that slice of time. I told her that the more I practiced these things on the mat, the more naturally that they came to me off the mat.

I’m still working on all of this stuff. And that’s why we call yoga a practice. Our stories fall apart and then weave them back together again. But I think that this project is finally allowing me to clearly see the role that I am playing in all of my own endings. And when I think to myself ‘but I don’t know how to write anything but endings’, I’ll just whisper to myself those three little letters. Yet.

One response to “Andi—Off the Mat”

  1. Peg O'Connor says:

    Lovely, Ashley. Very inspiring. 💝

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