I'm that girl: the one who married her high school sweetheart, the one who had two kids and the white picket fence life. From the outside looking in, things were perfect. Everything was perfect. Except me.
Around the time I was approaching 30, I found myself suddenly feeling unhappy and unfulfilled. I couldn't figure it out. I had everything most women ever wanted: a husband that loved and respected me, two kids, my dream home, two dogs and a cat. Oh, and a well-paid full-time job. How was it possible that I was not happy?
Looking back, it's clear to me that I had been validation from external sources and personal accomplishments as a means to an end. The "end" in sight was happiness -- and yet I didn't feel happy at all.
Instead, I lived my days hoping that someone would say or do the right thing to bring me joy. I expected my husband to fill the void I felt inside. I was constantly reminding him that he needed to validate me by telling me how much he loved me or how beautiful he thought I was. I'm sure it was exhausting for him. Plus, it didn't even make me happy, and it put pressure on our relationship.
But after about six months of badgering my husband with requests to bring me happiness (an impossible thing to request), I experienced a defining moment in my life ...
My husband and I were in our car at a stoplight having the same discussion we had been having almost daily for about six months. But my husband looked me right in the eyes and said, "It's not me, it's you. I have done everything in my power to make you happy. I'll keep doing it everyday until the day I die because I love you that much, but I think it's you. Why are you so unsatisfied?"
My first reaction was anger, but more than anything I wanted to be happy again, to go back to the days where I woke up excited to be living. So I listened with an open heart.
He continued and said that it was something deeper that I needed to figure out and explore. He suggested that I start taking yoga classes, encouraging me to try something that might bring me joy, rather than relying on others or things outside of myself.
So I said yes. I started taking yoga classes.
I look back now and realize that the first time I unrolled my mat on the concrete floor in the community center that it was the first step into truly knowing myself. Reminded to leave my judgements and ego at the door, I learned to tune into myself authentically and with attention. While I had taken a few yoga classes at the gym before, this was different. This time I was there for something more. I was there with an intention. I was there seeking self-care.
I attended weekly yoga classes for months and could feel the shift in my state of being. Surprisingly, on my path to greater happiness, I went through moments of even more darkness. As I looked inward, I started to see that I was carrying unnecessary resentment about not pursuing a fulfilling career, but instead focusing on stability and income. I was resentful for not following my dreams and was taking it out on those I loved the most.
But exploring and admitting reasons for my unhappiness was an essential step. For years my husband told me to quit that job. For years my husband let me know I could be a full-time mom or follow my dreams. For years I ignored what I needed to do for myself in the pursuit of stability, which I now have come to know as spiritual suicide.
It was one evening after yoga class when my whole life changed. My yoga teacher asked me if I had ever considered becoming a yoga teacher. I hadn't until that moment. My journey of unhappiness allowed me to choose my path and my freedom, to discover my dreams, to be happy, and to save my marriage as a result.
Today, I've left behind the corporate grind to teach yoga, to write to women, to educate others about nutrition, and to speak my voice on stage for those seeking contentment themselves.
Yoga is more than just a physical practice on a mat. It's what we take off the mat and into our lives. It's how we show up everyday. Yoga is to yoke or be in union. My thoughts are now in union with my actions. My happiness is in union with self-love. My happiness is no longer derived from external sources.
I was able to save my marriage by choosing to save myself first.
Share in the comments how yoga has enhanced your life. Namaste.
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