This week I fell on my face doing yoga. Seriously. I was attempting Crow pose. (Here is a great picture of the pose if you haven’t seen it before, https://www.yogajournal.com/practice/3-ways-get-crow-pose) I never and I mean never try to take both feet off the ground during Crow but for some reason, this past Sunday I lifted both feet. I was emboldened by all of the tasks I have been completing in France that have taken more courage than is typically required of me each day. And so I did it. I picked up one toe and then the other. I didn’t even stop to think that I was doing something out of the ordinary, I just gracefully lifted up the second foot. And there I was balancing in Crow for 3 glorious breaths, feeling a great sense of pride at having accomplished something I never do in my yoga practice.
The pride lasted until the floor came rushing up at me. I couldn’t get my hands out in time to catch myself. I tried to roll onto my shoulder as I was falling. I turned my head to the side to avoid landing smack on my nose. But my cheekbone and shoulder sustained the impact. My husband asked up the stairs if I was okay. My son who was sitting on the bed right next to me watching his iPad said nothing. I got angry. I yelled something snarky down at my husband about not all yoga poses being easy. But then I took a breath, I was able to push aside the humiliation at having been caught falling on my face and the anger at having fallen on my face and restarted my yoga practice. I even went right back to Crow pose. This time I was much more aware of my body and my own limitations. In the same moment, I accepted both my limitations and my drive to push just a little harder.
My yoga practice was a metaphor for this past week. As I found balance between respecting my limitations and seeking improvement, I also found balance at work this week. The thoughts inside my head can move so quickly from one extreme to the next. My internal monologue sounded something like this: Why did I select France? It’s Western European after all and therefore much closer to the way of life I know in the United States. I didn’t try very hard to get outside of my comfort zone. Within seconds my internal monologue would switch to: Am I sure I can do this? What if I say something incorrectly and offend someone? What if I sit at the wrong table? Am I allowed to eat at my desk or will they think I am weird? Balancing these extremes of thought can be paralyzing at times but is oddly inspiring in terms of my work productivity.
I haven’t mentioned much about work in the blog yet. The work I am doing in France is very similar to the work I do in the United States. I study the way human diet impacts health. I am particularly interested in how diet may lead to stroke and dementia and how a healthy environment (parks, grocery stores, gyms, etc) around a person’s home may lead to healthier diet. In France, I am comparing data collected in France with that collected in the United States to see if where a person lives influences diet in the same ways in both countries. I am looking to find that balance of how our lifestyles are similar across oceans. And yet at the same time I am mindful of the differences that may drive differences in stroke risk. Prior to falling on my face, I had been far more focused on the differences between our diets in the US and France and not as focused on where we are similar. My yoga failures challenged me to look for both the similarities and differences to find the answers I am seeking.
I came to France for many reasons but one of them was to conduct research in a different setting than mine in Birmingham, AL. As Ben Platt (from the cast recording of Dear Evan Hansen) sings to me on my walk to work "Cause all that it takes is a little reinvention, it’s easy to see if you give it your attention". Well I have been giving it my attention and have definitely been trying to reinvent myself in a more French way. Suddenly, I saw the need for balance in this attitude too. Although I still want to find ways to live more like the French, I also now realize that I have to bring some of my authentic self into this endeavor. Being present in the moment so that I recognize where my authentic self needs to reside while striving to grow and change is almost as challenging as balancing in Crow. And other than pain when I wash my face (even icing it down with frozen broccoli couldn’t stop that), I felt much better this week too. And so now to celebrate a successful and fulfilling week the same way I would in Birmingham. The only difference is that it is cheaper over here and there is a better selection!