A few days ago, a friend very sweetly wished me well wishes during this week of powerful memories. I scrambled to figure out the date and what that might mean to me. It took me several seconds to figure out what she was referencing. And then I realized: this week is the anniversary of Hurricane Winston, which occurred when I was vacationing in Fiji. Once that dawned on me, I engaged in more math, trying to calculate how long it had been since the hurricane. I finally landed on three years, which sort of bent my mind. Really, it hasn’t been so long—but it may as well have been another life.
It felt almost as if I was observing myself as this recall occurred, and I was fascinated to find that it stirred up no emotion whatsoever. At this point it feels almost as if it’s all something that happened to another person altogether. As if it’s nothing more than a story I once heard. Which is incredible, really, because I know logically that at one point it seemed so pivotal to my life. Defining, even.
For a long time, I thought that I would write a book about my experience in Fiji. After all, that’s what I do. Unexpectedly finding yourself in the midst of a hurricane that powerful and devastating and then living through the fallout of it is many things. Among those things, if you are a writer, it is a good story arc.
In the days immediately after I arrived home from Fiji, it was almost as if I couldn’t stop writing. There was a sense of urgency as the words poured out of me. I wanted to capture the intensity and detail of both the logistics and emotions of the situation before they dissipated with time and reintegration into normal life. After vomiting out 60,000 words in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, I realized that I needed to wait a while to finish writing in order to process the story more with the perspective of time.
Over the years, I came back to the story again and again. It began to feel like a weight bearing down on me. Like I had been given this incredible story and I was obligated to do something with it. But the truth is, after a while, writing it started to feel like a chore. The entire event was alternately something I couldn’t or didn’t want to connect with. Finally, I accepted the fact that this was not the story I wanted to tell, so I put it away. Despite the fact that I had played a role in it, it wasn’t my story. Only once I came to this conclusion did I feel a sense of relief.
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Last night, as I shifted from one pose to the next in yoga class, it suddenly hit me how much my practice has changed. There was a period in my yoga life where I lived for the peak poses. For the tricky arm balances and inversions that take a while to crack. At some point since having Izzy, that changed. My favorite moments in yoga class are now the small, quiet ones—the transition from one pose to the next; shifting my body in some small way that altogether alters my experience of the pose; the even breaths that keep me powerful and stable as my body builds strength, sometimes shaking in the process.
When I used to think back to those days I spent in Fiji in the wake of Winston, I remembered the peak poses. I remembered the moments that felt especially dramatic or precarious. The moments that were the furthest removed from my day-to-day existence and thus seemed the most extraordinary.
Now, it’s the smaller moments that stand out to me most and that seem the most meaningful. It’s the dinners that were put on the table every night and were infused with a sense of levity and even celebration despite the chaos that surrounded us. It’s looking out the window at the bright blue sky as I washed dishes, acutely aware of the fact that I was alive and life is beautiful.
These were the little breaths that shifted focus and built strength in the wake of extraordinary circumstances.
With the benefit of time and a bit more life experience, I now realize that, for me, Fiji and Winston were not peaks. They were not a defining experience. Instead, they were a moment in time; a transition that helped me practice keeping my breath strong and even as I continued to build strength.