I love the feel of my body stretching. When I used to workout regularly, my favorite part of the workout was always the stretches I would do to cool down at the end of my workout. There is something about the feel of the my muscles being challenged to stretch just to the point of resistance (but not beyond) that is wonderfully calming and soothing for me. I love the combination of muscle tension and gentle easing into the stretch that is produced. I think that is part of why I have such a love of yoga and why it is such a spiritually centering practice for me.
I also love the pleasure that comes from stretching my mind to understand new concepts, make new connections between ideas, discover new possibilities, and learn new things. The delight of a new idea or a new concept is so joyful it can make me want to sing and dance. These moments can make the whole world seem shiny and new.
However, I am not nearly so fond of stretching on an emotional level—of pushing beyond my fears into scary (to me) territory. This is rather unfortunate since I seem to have rather more fear than the average person, so I am constantly faced with the decision to either stretch emotionally by venturing to do the things that scare me or live a constricted life with my fears as the bars to my prison. There are times when pushing through my fear to do what I need to do brings a kind of exhilaration when the task is done; other times, all I feel is the fear.
Today has been a day filled to the brim with stretching. Unfortunately, it’s all been stretching of the emotional kind. All of things I’ve done have been ordinary tasks, like writing a cover letter to apply for a job, that I suspect most people manage to do all the time without this kind of heart-racing fear.
And yet, any comparison to anyone else’s experience is actually irrelevant. These were hard, challenging, fear-inducing tasks for me. With each one of them, I acknowledged the fear, welcomed it in instead of trying to deny it, made space for it in my experience so I could see what it had to teach me, then looked the fear in the eye and did what I needed to do anyway.
I feel no exhilaration at the end of this day of stretching; I’m just tired. But I’m also proud of myself for pushing through the fear, even if my emotions have not yet caught up with that sense of pride.
The days and weeks ahead are going to require an awful lot of pushing through fear as I undergo this next round of life changes. I suspect I am going to be spending a lot of time negotiating with my inner monsters to find ways to keep moving. But the more days I have like today where I manage to do the things that scare me and survive the doing, the smaller my fears will become and the more skilled I will grow at this emotional stretching.
I can’t imagine I will ever find it as joy-filled as I do the physical and mental stretching that I love, but perhaps I can at least learn to befriend it enough to make this much less painful over time.