Written by Sarah Burwick.
When I sat down to write this blog I first went to check my e-mail. Seeing someone had responded to me through my blogs I was curious as to what I would find. When I opened the letter I was surprised to realize, I knew who it was. Ana my best friend from 8 years ago had found me and wanted to connect.
After finding out it was Ana, I stopped reading, I wanted to reach back into my memory bank and revisit our time together before her words would draw me back to the present moment. I saw us working out at the gym together, our first conversation in the locker room, giggling like school girls over everything, going out dancing and making chocolate chip pancakes at 3am. I saw her console me when my boyfriend broke my heart, me lecturing her about the guys she was seeing that were no good for her, many other countless times of joy and then finally I saw us start to stray.
Ana and I were instant friends from the day we met. There was no doubt it would turn into a great friendship, but Ana and I both had some growing up to do and in order to do this, we would eventually have to go our separate ways. The lessons we needed to learn were just too different. In a brief amount of time we were so supportive and close to one another but when something as big as cancer comes into play, old patterns resurfaced in us both.. Ana's lack of ability to handle tough situations with maturity put a damper on our relationship with my new diagnosis. More than a few times I knew that our friendship was on its way out the door, but at the moment my own patterns of denial needed my immediate attention. I was in a profound denial state leading up to my brain surgery and depression sunk in deep. I felt like I was walking around in a bubble and I could not connect with anyone.
At the hospital for brain surgery Ana was the only one I allowed there except for my immediate family. The last time I saw Ana was there in the ICU in pretty bad shape. Today I wish that wasn't the last image she saw of me.
After surgery Ana was still in her 20's and needed to keep being who she was. I however aged significantly by the time I walked out of those hospital doors. Still in denial in some ways it took me several years to really except my new life. What I did know right away was that I had to keep living. I got right back to school, back to yoga, and started removing what no longer served me in my second life. Unfortunately Ana was one of those things. Although I knew my life needed to change for me to be healthy and happy, I still didnt know how to go about making all the "right" changes. A part of me died when I got my brain tumor diagnoses and I often spent time mourning the loss of my innocence (probably too much time), but the fact is it was gone and I was still here.
Now I have discovered how lucky I am to have learned the following crucial lessons; (1) life is short, do what you love and be happy now and (2) You can not change the world around you or the people in it, you can only change yourself. I could not change Ana into a more supportive friend I could only allow her to go be the person she needed to be and change the way I thought about her and our friendship.
Ana called once or twice after surgery and left messages on my voicemail. I remember listening to the last one when I was waiting for a yoga class to begin. I deleted it and went inside to set up my mat. I missed having a best friend dearly. I felt terribly lonely for a long time but I knew she couldn't give me the kind of friendship I needed and that she needed too. She stopped calling and that was it.
As I read Ana's e-mail today. I didn't for one second get angry about how she was not there for me, but as she apologized for this I felt compassion for her. She has finally come to terms with her issues. I don't know if she is still working to overcome them but from the e-mail it is clear she is definitely making strides. This is what I love to see as a yoga teacher. A person going down their own path and doing the work they need to do to become their authentic self. So to Ana I say "I look back on our memories with a heart full of love. You came into my life to teach me how to not take life so seriously. Like yin and yang, we balanced each other out. You kicking me out of my turtle shell when I was withdrawn and I feeding you discipline whenever I could sneak it in. Although we had to go our separate ways to grow, you were a very important part of my history for that I thank you kindly."
I am glad I have come far enough in my growth so that I was able to respond to Ana in kindness and not react from a place of anger. I see so many people struggle on their mats and I know it has nothing to do with their yoga practice. Emotions such as anger, frustration and fear are just a few that show up on the mat where we can see them for what they really are... just feelings, feelings that are constantly changing and evolving. My practice, my cancer, my life (which have all molded together now) have made me see that at the root of all these emotions is love. This is what keeps me strong and what wakes me up every morning wanting more.
Let your yoga practice seep into your bones and take it with you wherever you go so you won't look back with anger, you won't look forward with fear and you will live one breath at a time in the now.
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