Blog
My late twenties and early thirties were characterized by a very driven way of being in many of my endeavors. I was driven to be an outstanding mother, wife and athlete. With the support of my husband, I trained many hours for running and swimming races, and triathlons. In the weeks before a race, I was up at four, to the gym for weight lifting, followed by an intensive swim workout at 5:30am for an hour and a half, home by 7:15 so my husband could get to work and I could be with our two toddlers, take them to their many activities I had planned for them, make dinner and go for a six mile run as soon as my husband returned home from work. Many weekends were spent in the ‘saddle’ (on my bike) for six hours followed by a run. (I wasn’t even getting paid to do this!). (Please continue reading at left.) (cont'd...) The stress on my body took its toll. Art was not a part of my life then. I share this with you to paint a picture of strong characteristics that prevailed for me- driven, aggressive, determined and competitive. In time I was in physical pain all the time and it radiated out from my lower back. Because I could not sleep well and continued to push myself, my adrenal glands were not functioning properly (seriously, my mantra was, “I’ll sleep when I die”). On the outside I looked very healthy but inside I was a mess. Looking back I see that I was running away from myself, looking for approval at all costs and was validated by faster times and the ability to finish the races I signed up for. My body’s innate wisdom was trying to put a stop to all of it with considerable pain that over-the-counter pain pills didn’t relieve, but I continued training, completing an Ironman. When my heart started beating irregularly, I got scared. While I didn’t stop running and swimming, I did begin to practice yoga as a way to calm myself. It was at this time art came into my life (Early Work) and I began acupuncture treatment. It was my acupuncturist, Rebecca, who first told me I had excessive Yang energy. Not a bad thing (as neither Yin or Yang is good or bad- each just IS), the abundance of Yang was just simply not serving me any longer. I had tried many forms of physical therapy before I went to see her, but none seemed to work. She tenderly told me, “Alma, be the best mother you can be to yourself.” She said she would help me grow the Yin within. To me she was speaking a foreign language, but maybe it was just the way she was with me, wholly loving and present, that I felt I wanted to come back and learn more. It helped that I felt like I was floating after her treatments too. So began my understanding of Yin and Yang and a process of discovery of myself that has changed my life for the better. As I grew in appreciation for the yin energy within, I began to practice meditation. After seeing Rebecca for a few months, my artwork began to change. One day, in my mind’s eye, I saw the image of a female figure as a tree with roots and a single flowering branch growing from her arm. As I created Reclaiming Yin (quilt), I felt a release of something big inside of me that I can only describe as grief and it would take many years to process and understand it. This series marked a beginning of healing that created space within to allow more than I had been. What about the Yang within me? Well, we each have both at all times, so the Yang didn’t go away, it is still a part of me. I’ve grown to love the Yang aspects of me too. At first I was mad at it (me) for being such a strong force inside me. Then there was blame (more healing), I’ve always been very hard on myself and I’ve had very high expectations of others. Then came the realization that there is no one to blame, only more love to express. My Yang energy serves me differently than Yin. Yang comprises my can-do spirit. All that training instilled discipline. I know when I need to “Dig Deep” (another one of my mantras during races) and get work done, meet a deadline and create energy to make things happen. Yang energy helps me move toward the accomplishment of some of my goals. Today I balance my Yang energy with lots of rest, quiet and reflection- my Yin. The gifts of this never-ending process continue, but in reclaiming the little girl that loved to swing from a tire swing, who appreciated the beauty of the world, I found myself looking back at a painful past and seeing within it, all the potential for creating something beautiful with my life.