"Breathe," I told myself, "Breathe. You're a yoga teacher for God's sake." Yet I couldn't seem to do the one thing I instruct my students to do 50 times a class. Ten exasperated shakes of the bathroom door nob later, I finally accepted the reality of my predicament: While 32 yogis waited for me in the next room I, their instructor, was helplessly locked in a tiny, windowless bathroom. Some class members ultimately got curious enough to look for me and scrambled to find pieces of wire to pass through the slim gap underneath the door. Nervously and unsuccessfully, I fiddled with each one. "Don't worry I'm going to be OK," I repeatedly assured my students through the door as I tried to mask my panic-filled internal dialogue that, with each failed attempt, screamed a louder "Oh, no I'm SCREWED!!!"
The experience felt strangely similar to the way I was feeling about my life at the time; trapped in a box of expectations that left me feeling stuck and anxious. I was 36 and everything I thought I'd have by then was painfully absent. No 6'2" ethnically mixed mountain man of a husband. No family. Just me and the excruciating tick-tock of my biological clock. While my social and work lives were thriving, it seemed that life was unfairly withholding the one thing I thought I wanted more than anything: to not be single anymore.
I spent the morning of Valentines Day 2012 wallowing on my living room couch lamenting the end of an almost-engagement and string of dating disasters I had endured the year before. Then, through the fog of my tears, came a hint of clarity that, just as I had chosen these men, I could choose to focus on the one person I had lost track of in trying to connect with them: me. I decided to live the life I had.
I got to know my parents better, made more friends and poured myself into my work telling stories about inspiring people. I started working on my first documentary and a book. I went on a series of adventures that reacquainted me with qualities that seemed to have gone missing in my pursuit of the life I was supposed to have. I re-discovered my playfulness at Burning Man, my curiosity on a solo driving tour of southern New Zealand, my courage while learning to surf in India and Bangladesh. Relief came when I stopped worrying so much about biological time and started saving up for a procedure that, last month, allowed me to preserve my fertility by freezing 13 microscopic eggs.
I felt a similar relief that day at the yoga studio when, after 20 minutes of working to MacGuyver my way out, I finally figured out how to patiently slide the door lock out of its stuck place. I walked out to a hallway of clapping students and beamed with pride over my small victory. The experience, along with this past year, have taught me that I indeed have all I need. I am the only one with the ability to spring my own trap from the inside out.
This Valentine's Day, while I can't say that I've gotten much better at romantic relationships or stopping the worried chatter that comes with them, I can hear the whisper of a wiser part of me that seems to have wanted to learn and grow as I have in the last year, more than I have wanted to not be single anymore. I can see that while I have been impatiently waiting on life all this time, perhaps it is life that has been patiently waiting on me. Waiting for me walk out of the confining box of expectations I've had of it and, just like I finally did for my yoga class that day, stand up and lead it.