I remember this day distinctly. I was 10 years old and I had woken up with a terrible fever and cough. At this age I made it a habit to wake up with my mom who had to be at work at least by 5:30 and this morning wasn’t going to be any different. Of course, when you’re 11 and you have a burning fever and a cough, you can’t really hide it. But I wanted to. I went through all the morning routines, being sure to not let mom touch me and muffling my coughs and when she’d had enough of my 4:45 a.m. charades she said, “Romel, you’re staying home from school today. “What?! I’m staying home? From school? But…my teachers need me there. My…friends (all 5 of them) need me there! I want to be there…I have to learn! At this point I was in tears and I hoped that she would reconsider. She didn’t and at 5 a.m. she walked out the door without me at her side. I was destroyed. I, Romel Antoine, was missing a day of school. I laid in bed trying to fall asleep but I couldn’t help but think about all the cool new things we were supposed to learn that day, all the ‘tank tag’ we would play at recess (sidebar: ask me about tank tag some time…it’ll blow your mind,) the yummy lunch that would undoubtedly happen, just, everything. I jumped out of bed and looked at the clock, 6 a.m. I could make it to school right? I know how to get there? I followed mom every morning, right? Let’s do it.
Breakfast made (pathetic,) showered (painful,) got into my uniform (probably the best part) and I headed out to the main road to take a ‘maxi’ (think mini-van with a colored stripe.) My entire walk to the road was filled with thoughts of my mom – what would she think? would she be mad? would she be proud? And then those thoughts were overtaken by my illusions of bad-assery – I was going to school even though I was sick. (I think this is where my martyr complex was born. Seriously.) My friends would never be able to stay home when they were sick because I was going to show them that it could be done, no matter how sick you were.
I got to school without a hitch, still sick – and by this point I had progressed to sniffles and shivers. I was determined. I was going to school! I went into my class and even though I thought I looked great, my teachers…well, they didn’t. They thought I looked sick. I insisted that I wasn’t, that I was ready to learn and be a good student, and that everything would be okay.
I barely made it through the morning – fever, shivers, sweats, cough, sniffles, now I was in pain. I went to my teacher and I said, “Sir, you were right, I’m sick. Can you tell my mom?” He chuckled at me as if to say ‘Bad-ass no more!” I sulked deeper. 30 minutes later my mom was at school to pick me up – she was in a panic. What I had forgotten was that mom would be home from work before I was home from school so you can imagine her surprise when she got home to find an empty apartment. Not good. She searched the neighborhood, called my friends, she did everything. She sat down to think about her next steps and it was at that moment she got a phone call, “Looking for Romel’s mom? This is her? Romel is very sick at school, can you come get him?”
The ride home was a little much for me to handle because I could tell how proud mom was that I’d mustered up the energy to go to school but she was disappointed that I disobeyed her instructions and that I didn’t leave a note letting her know where I’d gone. She tells this story to this day.
Why is this relevant to my blog posts about Yoga Teacher Training (YTT)?
On Tuesday morning I woke up to slight soreness in my knee. Nothing I hadn’t experienced before. I took a shower, ate breakfast, got dressed, and by the time I sat at the table to get my bag together my pain had progressed to tightness around my knee. No big deal right? 5 minutes later I was limping. “You can make it!” I told myself. I hopped into my car and drove to work – somewhere in the 10 minute commute the pain had become unbearable – I was involuntarily crying. I luckily got a parking spot right outside our office building and pathetically limped 300 ft in 10 minutes. When I got inside the pain was so bad I was starting to develop cold sweats, nothing was good about it. When my boss got to work and saw my state she basically sent me home to go to the doctor – the limp back to my car was the worst yet. Ten minutes to drive back home, 20 minutes to limp to my apartment. This was terrible. I thought about my 10 year old self who was a bad-ass, who would’ve mustered up his strength to show everyone how great he was but in this moment, I felt so weak, alone, and hopeless. The thought of that moment makes me well up as I write this because those are the three feelings I am most fearful of.
I didn’t want anyone to see me this way (yes, I was totally inflicting loneliness on myself,) so I thought that taking a nap would make it all better, that I would wake up and it would just have been a bad morning. Wrong. I laid still for 30 minutes crying silently about the pain that wouldn’t go away and I needed to let someone know how much it hurt. I called my roommate and cried my way through a conversation with her, “Jenny, it just hurts so much! *sob sob sob* Yes, I’m home. I don’t know what to do, I’m in so much pain *wince* *sob*” Then she asked me the question that she knows I’ve been working on for the past year, “How are you feeling about it?” And after some more crying I said “scared, lonely, hopeless. And teacher training is coming up, I’m supposed to be strong!” Her response was instantly soothing, “Let’s figure out what’s wrong first, teacher training will work itself out.” I hung up and called my boss to let her know my status and she insisted I go to urgent care as soon as possible. One of my gracious coworkers came to my home, helped me hobble to her car, and drove me to urgent care. The time I spent at urgent care was a blur due in most part to the pain I was experiencing – apparently they didn’t have anything for pain there. *sigh* After a two hour visit, all I knew was that my knee wasn’t broken but that I could have torn my meniscus, IT band, and/or my ACL. I went home with painkillers, a knee brace, and crutches. Within an hour, I was asleep.
The next day was hard because I would have to let my YTT leaders know about my injury and would have to put the fate of my YTT experience in their hands. I waffled all morning until finally I knew I had to do it, now or never. I know that I was born for this experience, for this journey, to share yoga with as many people as I can – there was nothing that would stop me. Thankfully they agreed to let me start the program. Problem solved, right? No. Because now I’d have to walk into a room of 35 people who’ve seen me practice for the past year, front and center, full of ego, strong, etc. Now I’d be the opposite. At least that’s what I thought. I showed up and immediately felt a sense of humility and gratitude. I get to share this 200 hour experience with people who will love and support me through this experience. It was in that moment that I learned that the physical practice of yoga is only 1/8 of the path – I began to see the rest of the path illuminated.
Journey on, my friends.