“I’ve been on this bridge before.”
I realize this while I’m walking the dog, which is when I have some of my best insights. I happen to be crossing a bridge as I have this thought, but I don’t mean the literal bridge. I mean a metaphoric one: the bridge as a metaphor for transitions. Transitions are my work so obviously they fascinate me. But so do bridges. I have pictures of them all over the house. It’s funny because bridges frighten me a little, especially the high ones that you can’t see the other side of. That’s how I feel now: excited and a little bit scared as I think about home schooling my children.
The recognition that I’m on a bridge – that is, in transition – soothes me. It reminds me of the other bridges I’ve crossed after initial resistance. Not only did I cross safely, I crossed into a space better than I could have imagined if I’d been entirely in control. And every time feelings were trustworthy guides.
I think about falling in love with my husband on our first date, marrying him six months later, and the unexpectedly rocky road that was our first two years of marriage. Conventional wisdom might have told me that we’d made a mistake, leapt too quickly. I thought of turning back. But what kept me turning toward him instead was how it felt when I did. When I turned back in my mind – insisted on my way, believed in my righteous indignation – it hurt. My pride was cold comfort. But when I let go of my pride and turned toward him – listened to him, opened myself to seeing things differently – it felt . . . better. Lighter. Good. Resistance hurt. Surrender felt better, and it led to a deeper, more mutually nourishing marriage. Feelings, I learned, were trustworthy guides.
I think about labor and birth. Labor with my first child began gently. But a few hours into it, I felt a strong surge come on, and I got frightened. “Oh, no!” I thought. I braced myself against the surge by tensing my body and holding my breath. When I did that, the feedback from my body was immediate. It hurt! It was then that I remembered the overarching lesson of my HypnoBirthing course: the only way through labor was to surrender to it. So the next time I felt a surge coming, I did not resist it. Instead, I smiled, welcoming it. I let my body go limp. I gave the surge all my breath – long, slow and deep. The difference was night and day. It felt better. It didn’t hurt any more. After initial resistance to crossing the bridge that is labor and birth, I surrendered to it. My feelings were my trustworthy guides.
My teacher Martha Beck talks about the Body Compass as every person’s infallible guide to his or her right life. As it happens, it’s what I used instinctively when I signed up for her course. I was considering a Master’s program in psychology. The idea of doing some kind of counseling work was very attractive. When I thought about actually being in graduate school again, however, I felt heaviness in my body. An image of a dusty skeleton in a cold attic came to mind. Then I remembered Martha, whose columns in O mag I had been devouring for years. I thought, “I’ll bet she trains life coaches.” One lightening fast Google search proved that she did. As I perused her website, my body felt unmistakably warm and tingly. It was saying yes. I signed up immediately and – like marrying my husband and giving birth naturally – it’s one of the best things I ever did.
I wrote last week about my resistance to home schooling my son. Through coaching, I have come to know pain as “an alarm bell” that wakes me up to my own resistance. Once the resistance is noticed, I can question it. Last week I questioned the thought, “I need him to be in school.” After questioning I felt “soft” and so relaxed that I fell asleep. I woke up “light hearted and unafraid.” In other words, I felt better. Good. My body was saying yes.
Since then I have been trying to catch my head up with my body. Am I really up for this? Is our whole family? Is he, really? Looking wider: what are the outcomes for home schooled kids? Let’s see the cautionary tales. What regulations pertain to us? There are many questions, but I notice that no anxiety attaches to any of them. My body feels relaxed. I research with curiosity and look ahead to home schooling with excitement! I may not know how long this bridge is, how high, or where it will take us. But I have been here before and been led to good things. I can trust my feelings.