Reading time: 3 minutes
When I was younger, I was pretty flexible. I know most of us can say that - we bent in ways as children that we can’t even imagine now as adults. I was most definitely not the sports oriented kid, though I did enjoy the basketball goal my dad installed above our garage door. And he bought me a bat and glove once. We would pitch and catch and there were times I actually hit a few he tossed. But I was never going to be on a team. I’m much too afraid of things flying at my face ever since I stepped foot in a racquetball court with my older sisters when I was younger. People laugh when I say that, but those echoing sounds of balls bouncing and ricoheting off the walls almost uncontrollably. More than once I found myself backed up into the corner of the bright, white boxed room. Pressing myself into the glass wanting to get out of a room that seemed to grow louder and smaller with each hit. I hated it. But I don’t think anyone ever really knew how much I hated it.
I liked quiet things the most. Books, forts with canopies of greenery because they were in the bushes, riding my bike fast down a street with the sound of wind rushing in my ears and hair, pencil diving into blue pool waters and then bobbing up before diving back under and pushing water behind me as I glided toward the shallow end. Back to flexibility, I remember practicing the splits and sitting with my legs v-ed out in front of me - head and stomach to the floor. I could actually touch my toes back then. And reach past them. It was one of the parts of the Presidential Fitness Test I could actually achieve. Rope climb? Forget it. Pull-ups and the mile? Never. My arms and my endurance have never helped me with anything. Well, maybe endurance. But I think that's a lesson I've haven't fully learned yet. But flexibility? Maybe in ways I never knew.
Stretching and reaching out, past myself. I felt strong. And in a way, it took me outside of myself. Almost like an unfolding of myself that maybe felt like it had been curled up in a ball for whatever reason. The poet Rilke wrote, “I want to unfold. I don’t want to stay folded anywhere, because where I am folded, there I am a lie.” In our child self, there is a part that is our true self. And almost certainly, it gets ripped away somehow. We don’t like to think about it, but it happens. We are sinful humans, learning to love and be good, living amongst others doing the same. Life is wonderful. But also messy and heartbreaking at points. Death, abandonment, divorce, abuse. Pick your turmoil, you have it. And in learning to live, to keep going, you chose something along the way to try and protect your child self. But all it ever did was press you forward, one step in front of another they say. And before we realize it, we don’t even remember being a child. Memories lost. Forgotten. Folded up.
Now, at 31, I feel I’m unfolding for the first time since a child. I’ve started doing yoga in the morning and evenings. Say what you will about the practice, and be assured I’m thinking of no higher power than my God. And the flexibility I felt as a kid, where I felt stronger and outside of myself? It’s coming back. My stomach and head can’t reach the floor, yet. I can’t sit with my legs outstretched and reach past them, yet. But in between the deep breathes and stretches, I’m unfolding. Standing taller a little more each day. Stepping into days that seem to expand and not close in around me. Still stepping forward each new day, yet somehow looking back and the child that once felt far away? She gets a little closer each time I turn around.
NEEDTOBREATHE released a new album this week, Out of Body. One for healing and wonder they say. That it truly is. Here are two songs I can't quit.
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