I recently read The Wisdom of Yoga: A Seeker’s Guide to Extraordinary Living by Stephen Cope for my book club. This was my second time to read it. I read it once before when we first moved to California about six and a half years ago. That was a pivotal time in my life as I moved away from practicing law and politics and began to move more towards my current role as a mom and a maker of home coziness. As I read it again and discussed it last night with the book club parts of it keep going round in my head as I think more and more about them and how they apply to me and my life.
The one thing that really sticks out to me is the story the author tells of the quest for the firebird and how:
“our unconsicious ideals cause us to sacrifice our true lives to a beautiful chimera, a haunting dream, a compelling
illusion. Imagine a bird hunter on the loose in a magnificent rain forest, searching for the mythical Yellow-Crested Firebird. The hunter is relentless in his search for this bird, a mythic bird that, unfortunately, exists only in pictures, and in our own supercharged imaginations.”
For as long as I can remember I wanted to have a successful career. When I was younger, I wanted that career to be in politics or law. I felt that there was something inside me that was wonderful and that I could save the world just a bit with it. I went to law school, hated it, but endured it anyway because I thought it would give me a leg up in the political world. After law school, I worked on the Kerry campaign and then moved to DC. I knew only a handful of people when I arrived, but I networked and managed to keep myself mostly employed for the three and a half years I was there. But every job ended and I just couldn’t seem to excel in whatever I was doing. There was always something tripping me up. It didn’t seem to matter how hard I worked or what I did, it was wrong. I was miserable. I kept hitting my head against a wall, but I would pick myself up and keep trying and trying.
While I was in DC, I also met someone else, Alex. He supported me through my many job searches emotionally and paid all the rent when I couldn’t pay my share. Then he got a wonderful opportunity: move to California and work for Google. He wasn’t sure he wanted to go, to leave his family and his friends, but I knew it was what he needed and we went. I left my law job happily assuming that I would take the bar in California and eventually start practicing again.
Before I took the bar that first time, I had a unique opportunity, several months to do whatever I wanted. I was a bit nervous about what to do with all that free time and worried that I would become bored and lonely. I didn’t really though. I took the chance to do more yoga, to run more, to learn to garden, to cook ridiculously, and generally do things that made Alex and my life nice. It turned out I was good at these activities and I felt happy in them.
Then I entered a phase of almost a year where I studied for and took the California bar twice. It was horrendous. In the end I failed it both times just barely. It messed with my self-esteem terribly and I felt embarrassed that I couldn’t pass it. However, it also gave me some freedom, I didn’t have to continue along the same path that I had in DC because I couldn’t. I had to do something else. So I got a retail job at Lucy and sold yoga clothes for a year. It was retail, it wasn’t always fun, but it wasn’t horrible either. The upside was that I had a great closet full of yoga clothes! During that time, I got pregnant with Walter and standing on your feet all day does not work with being pregnant so I quit and became a mother.
While I was pregnant, I did my 200 hour yoga teacher training. After Walter was born, I started teaching a class of mom and baby yoga and then I started teaching just a vinyasa flow class. I taught that class all the way up til the week before Ella was born. I enjoyed teaching it and delighted in watching my students progress in their practice. However, yet again, it was not meant to be and I lost the class during my maternity leave with Ella because my subs numbers were better than mine. So it got me thinking about me and me working again and wondering why I keep trying to do it. Then I read this book and realized it was my yellow crested firebird. I have this wonderful idea of what it would be like to have a successful career and how it would make me feel. However, it just doesn’t match my reality of what working looks like for me. While I am spending all this time and energy chasing after my firebird, I am missing what is right in front of me. What I am actually quite good at doing. I am good at running our household. I like to cook and I like to feed people. It warms me. I like to make our house a home.
So now I think my challenge is to let go my quest for my firebird and realize what is right in front of me that is quite lovely. I also need to mourn my ideal of career and let it go as it no longer serves me. Please let the universe grant me the ability to do this!