Growing up in Alberta was tough in the winters. Not being a skier, there was really not a lot of purpose for me to be around snow except to shovel it. So although my husband made a lot of money at his job there, we decided to leave and settle on Vancouver Island - our version of paradise. We were happy to take a drop in pay if it meant spending more time together as a family.
Within a year of moving, my son got sick. It became necessary to pull him out of school, quit my job, and help nurse him back to health. The struggles he went through would be enormous for a grown up, but he was just an 8 year old boy. He doesn’t feel comfortable with me sharing his story. After all, It’s not mine to tell. But I can say that he’s a champion and the strongest person I know - I’m not sure I would have got through the scary places he had to pull himself out of. He did it with grace, strength and his usual sense of humour. A sick child will bring any parent to their knees. Thankfully, my close family members and my yoga practice picked me up and dusted me off.
To say the least, it was the most challenging time of our lives. Clearly it was scary seeing my son suffer through his illness. We didn't have time to make friends here before he got sick so there wasn't a lot of local support. I know I was a basket case, but I can’t imagine just how broken I would’ve been had I not had yoga to turn to. Just deep diaphragmatic breaths was all I could manage some days. For sure that was a factor in why I didn’t fly off the handle or crumble entirely. It kept me calm enough to find the right health care providers that could diagnose my son and help him recover...we fired a lot of them. But I could only focus on my son during that time. I wasn’t aware back then, how yoga could have brought my husband and I closer during this time of crisis. How the breath practice and poses could have helped him too, as he agonizingly watched our son struggle. Had I known then how yoga could heal relationships, my husband and I wouldn’t have drifted into zombified roommates passing in the hall. We could have been a more united front. It felt wrong, at the time though, almost selfish to focus on our marriage. I was so single minded in my search for a diagnosis, I spent every spare minute scouring the internet for answers to my sons health problems and read books that might tell us why this was happening. It was a huge challenge to hold a family together while maneuvering this strange labyrinth in a place we thought would be our sanctuary.
But when we had the right people in place, he was diagnosed and started to recover. It was a slow process, but eventually he was healthy enough to back to school. I began the task of building my teaching practice to start earning money to pay down our debt. Without my pay and the money we spent on medicine, tests that weren’t covered by health care, therapies and alternative treatments, each month we got further and further behind the eight ball. A debt that we're just now slowly creeping out of.
Once our son was fine and we assessed our finances, we were left with this marriage that felt like a dying fish flapping around the bottom of a boat. What do we do with it? Was a question we both asked. It occurred to me that yoga is the act of uniting, and I had been absent from my marriage for so long. It was time to move towards my husband, towards healing, and give our son a shot at happiness he deserved after going through his own personal hell. I’d love to say it was easy, but it wasn’t. Being gripped in fear for so long. my thinking was out of whack. In yoga we call these thoughts ‘Samskaras’. The more we have a thought, the more it becomes embedded in our mind and even in our physical body. Thoughts become habits and body holds habits that become our posture. Stretching the body opens the mind and brings clarity and freshness to situations. Like seeing them through a new set of glasses.
My friends in the yoga community began to really help me too. Over time I took Marma Treatments from Kim Mosiuk, a local Ayurveda Yoga Teacher from Koi Yoga Studio. Marma is a gentle treatment that releases or redistributes prana (energy) that has been stuck in the body, or provides prana to the body if it’s needed. This was very useful in helping me let go of fear and recognize how abundant, and rich, and full my life is. It helped me open my heart to my husband again. I saw him with compassion and recognized just how courageous he had been during our whole ordeal. Even though yoga means to unite, sometimes it feels like RE-uniting.
So, looking back at our time here in “paradise”, stats would indicate that after moving to the island our finances, health and marital bliss dropped to an all-time low. But you know, that’s where the magic happens...when you bottom-out completely. Down in the pit all mucky and sad, hurt and exhausted. That’s where yoga matters most. It can be your personal Red Cross. It kept me as healthy as I could be, so I could be strong mentally and physically for my son. Had I continued my usual power yoga classes during that time, I would have been a puddle of uselessness. I could only manage restorative poses, but they nurtured me and I shared them with my son from time to time when he could do them. And as we trudged our way through this medical maze, my son got stronger, our marriage got stronger (because my husband is a saint), and stats indicate we're a family on the upswing now. Despite the rough start here on the Island, we're a closer, happier family because of the struggles we’ve overcome. To some it might even appear that we are still struggling, considering our financial situation is not ideal. Some days it still seems insurmountable, but you can't put a price tag on the health of your child. He's happier and emotionally stronger than he's ever been..we all are.
For now, I'm cool with 5 year old sweaters that feel like a hug and 10 year old jeans altered to look like they're somewhat newer. Financial challenges are really a cake walk after watching your kid suffer. And I get to maneuver this challenge with my brilliant husband who is teaching me (and our happy, healthy son!) about being more responsible consumers. We may not have a fortune in money, but we are very, very fortunate.
Washington Irving said “There is, in every true womans’ heart, a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity, but which kindles up and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity.” He was wrong, though. It’s in every strong man, and in every 8 year olds heart too.