The questions were swirling.
As I loaded my luggage, I flashed back to when I was four and my mother left me at daycare for the first time. I was traumatized. My mother had dared to send me into a room of strange little children. Friday morning, as I was hugging my husband goodbye, I felt like I was heading to daycare, only this time I was 43-years old, I was driving and paying for it myself.
It had been eight years since my last yoga retreat. It was an entirely different person ago. Would Terry version 4.3 be able to handle this?
To act out even further, I stopped at Taco Bell for a burrito and a Dr. Pepper. Just the way to kick-off my healthy, heart-opening weekend. Eating crap in an act of complete defiance. Terry version 3.3 would have bought a pack of cigarettes, so I considered this progress.
There was no traffic. The music blaring from the radio was puncturing my armor. Country music can do that like no other music can. I started to relax. I credit part of this to the Dr. Pepper, which I have always believed has medicinal properties hidden in those 23, probably completely unnatural flavors.
The music played on. It was as if God was playing DJ on The Highway at Sirius XM, carefully building a playlist in an effort to reach my taco-bell-eating-dr-pepper-drinking-why-the-hell-am-i- doing-this-soul.
I’m a tough nut to crack in the God department. We’ve had a lifelong love-hate relationship, but somehow I always realize if He was not around I would have no one to discuss all of the things no one else in my life wants to listen to — most especially me. I know some people call God the Universe or even like to think of Him as Her, and I say, whatever works for you — but for me, there is something comforting about a grandfatherly-type fellow with white hair and a long beard, sitting on a heavenly throne.
Depending on the conversation, I fluctuate between that and someone who looks just like George Burns.
My sunroof was open. Rain or no rain, I always love the sunroof open when I can see the ocean. The ocean was now in view.
Kenny Chesney was singing El Cerrito Place — it was blaring through the speakers. I found myself singing louder with each verse, as rain poured though the sunroof.
Someone said they might have seen you, where the ocean meets the land
So I’ve been out here all night lookin’ for your footprints in the sand
Did you hear the ocean singing, baby did you sing along
While you danced out in the water, to some ol’ forgotten song
Were you even here at all?
I’ve been lookin’ for you, baby. I’ve been lookin’ for you baby. I’ve been lookin’ for you baby all night long …
Tears were streaming down my cheeks by the end of the song. It’s an absolutely beautiful song, but it was more than that. As the final note of El Cerrito Place played out, I heard a song inside my own head.
The tears multiply and become sobs. My grandmother was in the car. Perhaps she was only in my mind, but the song and the voice was so distinct it was as if she was there.
I suddenly remembered I was supposed to bring something for the altar at the yoga retreat. I had planned to bring something that reminded me of her. I forgot. Or perhaps I just did not want to remember.
I miss her every single day, often to the point of intense sobbing, usually in the shower. No one in my young life was more awesome to me than my Mawmaw (except possibly Donny Osmond in third grade), and I always knew she thought I was equally as fantastic. Every kid should be made to feel that absolutely perfect.
I never realized until Mawmaw was physically gone how large the hole in my heart had grown in her absence from my life while she was still here on earth. I hope she knows how important she was to me, with the way it all ended for her, I will never be certain. I know that is part of what makes remembering so painful. But on Friday, in the car, my spunky Mawmaw was singing her favorite made up song and I silenced the radio long enough to sing along with her. Out loud, with the sunroof open, as the drizzle settled on my steering wheel.
I arrived at El Capitan Canyon at exactly 3:00.
After releasing so much in the car on the drive up, I was feeling slightly more open to the weekend. Actually, I was feeling a lot more open, but still scared to death. As long as I did not have to talk about THAT. Let’s keep THAT in the box. Locked.
I was scheduled to share the cabin with Tatyana (someone I did know) and two women I did not. I was the first one in our cabin and I had two glorious hours of alone time, reading and taking it all in. I could not have asked for a better transition.
Our first yoga class was at 5:00. We started with a writing exercise. All I could think was, “Thank God we are not sharing in a circle.”
The list filled three columns. I had so many people to be grateful for, so why was I still feeling so incredibly sorry for myself? I hate weakness. I hate whining. I was feeling like a weak-willed whiner. It’s no way to start a weekend like this.
In my first down dog the tears started to roll. I knew there was no way I was going to get through this weekend without facing THAT, but not tonight. Not now.
The tears subsided and turned into sweat. I was slightly pissed off at my inability to fool myself.
The pulse of THAT grew stronger.
After dinner, Tatyana and I finally met our other cabin mates, Marsha and Laura. They were great. Easy. We all sat around the cabin, drinking wine and talking. I was able to hold back sharing anything at first, but Marsha and Laura were talking about their children.
No, I don’t have any. I can’t have any of my own. My eggs are too old. Ironically, I’ve never felt physically better or stronger, despite the fact that I drank a Dr. Pepper this afternoon. This is one reason I am quite certain God is a man, a woman never would have made us like this.
My hiding ended when someone asked me directly about THAT.
“Do you have children?”
I spoke softly on the bottom bunk bed. I have been trying naturally and via IVF. No success. Our next step is donor eggs. I choked up and nothing came out. Just tears.
Will they ever stop?
When I talk about THAT, my soul feels as barren as my womb. I feel empty. I feel incomplete. I feel like a bad wife. A washed up celebrity from the 70’s. A woman who needs to be returned. Expired. My husband does not put this on me, I do. I feel uncertain of what the hell I am doing here if not to pass a part of myself on. What is the fucking point? How did this happen? There has never been a problem I could not solve until now. How did an only child who wanted Eight is Enough (I used to name all eight of them) get to be 43 years old and childless?
These are the never-ending questions running through my mind.
This is why God and I have a love hate relationship.
Sleep was welcome. Anything to escape all of THAT.
We woke up at 7:00am on Saturday for breakfast. Yoga was from 9:30-11:30. I hit the mat again. Feeling stronger. No tears. As long as I did not have to look anyone in the eye and speak, I could get through it.
When class ended, we were getting ready to head to lunch and someone asks if we can introduce ourselves. I think to myself, “Please, God, no. Just let me eat lunch. Let me wallow in my own crap. No sharing.”
God is George Burns. He is laughing. I am sitting in a circle. Petrified.
As the circle opens up I hear very little, except every time someone mentions THAT. Children. The word is mocking me. When it’s my turn, I introduce myself. I talk about where I take yoga. I say it’s been a really horrible year, I am trying to be grateful and I start to cry. I pass the Kleenex box. I could get nothing else out.
I could feel it stuck between my shoulder blades, right behind my heart. Burning.
My heart. My broken heart.
Tatyana hugs me and whispers, “You will be a Mom. I know it.” In that moment, I am grateful.
After lunch all I could do was sleep until it was time for breath work at 3:30. Breath work. Am I breathing? I keep asking myself.
Before we start the breath work there is more sharing. At this point, I am just going with the flow. A sweet young woman named Hayley comes and sits on my mat. Without realizing it, I am sharing again. It turns out her step-mother had infertility issues in her early 40’s — but she ended up getting all the way to 50 without a child. She had recently started a foundation to help women in this situation to adopt older children.
My eyes glaze over when I hear this. Will I be one of those women? I want to ask about the foundation, but I can’t. I am not there yet. I am not ready to give up, despite the hopelessness I feel inside.
I retreat unable to accept the possibility that I will not carry a child. I am processing the idea of donor eggs right now, but when I hear about this foundation, I think — what if I am childless at 50?
I lie down and start breathing.
This goes on for a long time. I am dizzy. I am crying. The pain behind my heart is burning. I have to stop and lift my neck, trying to release it.
The instructor asks us to think about our own personal symbol. Mine was a Tiger. Mawmaw always called me Tige, short for Tigeroo.
Today I was not thinking of Terry the tiger cub, but Terry the Mama Tiger.
As the breath is pulsing through my body, warming my hands, my toes, and yes, even my heart … For the first time since this journey began, the THAT starts to scatter.
I was not childless. I was not barren.
These few moments of allowing myself to open to the possibility starts to fill the hole in my heart.
I kept flashing back to this video I saw on YouTube of a real Mama Tiger taking care of baby piglets as fiercely as if they were her own. If a Mama Tiger can take care of an entirely different species as if they were hers then I can fully open my heart to donor eggs.
Not as a last resort, not as the end of the line, not as the result of a failure — but as a gift from God via a selfless young woman. A mitzvah.
After breath work we had Yin Yoga with Ellen. Ellen was the reason I was on this retreat at all, really. Ending the day with her class was good for me. I felt open, vulnerable and safe.
The burning behind my heart was dissipating. Was I finally letting go?
Sometimes people come into your life at just the right moment. Ironically, she came into my life because of Chaz. I love how the world works sometimes. As craptastic as 2012 had been, I can’t imagine it had I not had Ellen guiding me through it on the mat.
The evening ended with a Thanksgiving dinner in the rain. I was so incredibly grateful for the rain. I felt cleansed. Scrubbed clean, ready to finish the year unafraid to talk about THAT.
Sunday morning was the final yoga class of the weekend. I held nothing back. I was just so incredibly grateful. It was a great feeling to have four days before Thanksgiving.
I drive home full of gratitude. I was glad I dropped myself off at that daycare full of strangers. I was ready to see my husband, feeling much lighter than when I left on Friday.
My sunroof was open while blaring The Highway. I am singing Kid Rock, Tim McGraw, Sugarland, Kenny Chesney, George Strait and so many more at the top of my lungs for 115 miles. This is something I can only do alone in the car, my husband would rather poke out his own eyes than listen to Kenny Chesney or Sugarland. I would rather poke out my own eyes than listen to sports on the radio. We generally compromise on a good mix of 70s and 80s with some Sinatra and Willie thrown in for good measure. It works for us.
In that moment I was grateful to have my own time, with my own music.
Throughout the weekend, Chaz had asked us to take a video diary of our experience. I tried, but it was too scary.
So I write.
A little of this, a lot of THAT.
As I was driving away from El Capitan Canyon, I looked to my left and there was Hayley. Our eyes met and she made a curve over her own belly to symbolize pregnancy and mouthed, “good luck.”
I was really grateful and for the first time in a long time, I felt open to any and all possibilities.
The Mama Tiger was ready to receive her cubs, however George Burns wants to manifest them.