When was the last time someone asked you how you were feeling … and really MEANT it??? I mean, think about it. When was the last time someone asked you how you were feeling once you had children?
“Hey, Jess! How’s Jane and Emma?”
That’s pretty much how it goes, right?
When I first walked into Body & Brain in Wyckoff, I didn’t know what to expect. I was running late (as always) and took my shoes off at the door and burst in, a crazy flurry of energy. I immediately became painfully aware that this was a zen space, and as I rattled off the litany of reasons for why I was late (“Couldn’t get the damn dog inside/sick kid/traffic on the highway”), I started to calm in Nancy’s presence as she looked me right in the eyes and said, “So you’re all up here, huh?” <pointing at her head>
HOW DID SHE KNOW THAT?
I shuffled into the open space where class would be held, where six older women were walking in calm laps. One greeted me in a language that I didn’t know, and bowed to me. I felt awkward. I bowed and said "Hellooooo!!” I felt so out of place.
As class began, I wasn’t so sure that this was going to be for me. The women all looked so calm. And so mature. I looked down at myself. See-through stretch pants (because I haven’t had the time/money to buy new ones), a stained hand-me-down tank from my girlfriend, gym socks that I hadn’t put on in years. But it was too late to make a quick exit. Nancy was off to the races, gently tapping herself on the belly with closed fists and motioning to me to join them.
Throughout the class, I kept checking my watch. The women all moved at their own pace, to their own beats, with their eyes closed. I had no idea what I was doing, and my mind was racing. I couldn’t believe that the gentle movements that we were doing could be considered “exercise”, but my body disagreed.
As class drew to a close after roughly 50 minutes of slow and gentle tapping and stretching in ways that I have never moved before, Nancy transitioned us into a reclined position on the floor. She invited us to join her in breathing position #1. I looked around frantically but tried to appear like I knew what I was doing. I copied some of the other women and put my feet up in the air. Nancy approached me with a warm smile, so I knew I must be doing something not right.
First, she instructed me to put my feet on the ground. She arranged me the way that she said was a “modified” version. Then she showed me exactly how to breathe and what to do. Once I was doing it up to her standards, she placed a hand on my shoulder, looked into my eyes, and said, “How are you doing? Are you doing ok?” I caught my breath. I didn’t know. I had no idea if I was doing ok or not. I smiled and nodded, but something inside of me had cracked wide open.
After class, Nancy invited me to sit with her to have some tea. Two women from class joined us, and one talked about her aching neck. Nancy gently massaged her neck and instructed her on what to do between classes to help with the pain. She said that we hold a lot of stress and tension in our necks, and especially when we get hurt that’s the first place we tense up. The woman agreed - she had hurt herself recently and was really struggling not to hurt herself further, and she could feel that tension in her neck. She purchased a wooden pillow and went on her way.
At this point, Nancy turned to me. “So? What did you think? What came up for you?”
I started to try to explain to her how much it meant to me when she asked me how I was doing, and I broke down crying. Hysterically. How do I explain to someone who I’ve only met twice that it’s been 6 years since someone asked how I am doing, without asking about my children? How do I explain that for the first time in 6 years I felt like there was someone in the room who ONLY cared about ME and my experience, without tuning out as soon as I started to speak?
In this world that we live in, we are respectful. Polite. We say “how are you?” but do we mean it? Or are we already moving on with our day? And when someone starts to tell you how they REALLY are after you’ve asked the question, do you feel uncomfortable? Do you start to try to plan an escape route OUT of the convo as quickly as you fell into it??
Here’s what I got out of this experience with Nancy at Body & Brain:
I am my own person, not simply the caretaker for my children
It’s ok to slow down and do something totally different for yourself
TRY EVERYTHING, even if you’re not so sure about it - because it might be EXACTLY what you need.