Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
It is New Year’s Day, 2018, and I open a dusty journal last used exactly two years earlier. The last entry is dated January 1, 2016.
I start to read.
I’ve branded different sections: Love. Work. Health. Under each, I’ve listed the hopes and desires for that part of my life. My eyes flutter over my words. The dreams I have under “love” are the most honest I’d ever asked for (more on this later). My desires for work are punctuated with sky-high expectations. Nothing specifically wrong with that, but I notice that much of what I had hoped to accomplish that year was outside my control, and I’ve since worked hard to untangle success and happiness. My health, thankfully, was back on track.
I’ve opened this journal to do a similar exercise, but before I put pen to paper, I can’t help but flash back to 2016. My brain rolls through the timeline of everything I’ve experienced in the last two years. Everything that has led me here, to this place where I feel like the most real version of me. We’ll get back to this—love and realness—but first a little background.
Figuring out what all the yoga had really been about for me
I was just a kid when I started yoga. My experimental practice evolved into full devotion by the end of college. Every afternoon, you could find me sun saluting in the Ashtanga room—and then after teaching classes in the morning and before teaching clients in the evening. I was madly in love with my mentor, Maty Ezraty. I was a junkie for the practice. I got my high from tackling a pose that most people wouldn’t even attempt, from sweat pouring from my body for two hours straight, from the gentle yet firm hand giving me discipline and purpose.
I wasn’t addicted to yoga. I was addicted to the sense of belonging. But, like most young people, I couldn’t see that truth at the time. So I threw myself so deeply into the practice that I eventually burned out, experienced multiple injuries, and after years of trying to keep up my practice and full-time travel schedule—I fell apart. My passion for the practice was gone, and aside from the dynamic moments of connection with my students, I felt numb. I had worked so hard to get to this place, and all I heard was the sound of nothing and my own mind asking, what on earth do we do next?
So I altered my path. Instead of marching down the well-trodden path of yogic success, I scrapped the blueprint and started fresh. I took a break from my practice to nurture a wounded shoulder, explored the tangential roads that yoga had led me to, and came back feeling more connected to my voice and who I am as a teacher.
Figuring out what relationships had really been about for me
My story of love is quite parallel. I was a young woman who desperately wanted to be loved. And because of that, I found myself caught in a pattern: meet handsome person who showed me kindness, fall madly in love, paint perfect future together, then quickly watch my (projected) dreams crumble. Rinse and repeat. Each time, I was surviving off the leftover breadcrumbs of affection.
Then, after one particularly bad cycle, I met a man who was the complete opposite of anyone I’d dated. He seemed to adore me, and I was eager to feel safe. He checked few of the boxes I had traditionally looked for in a partner, but I convinced myself this was genius. After all, the partners I’d chosen before had failed me. He was completely different, but that was good. I told myself I had finally matured, evolved, and now understood what a real relationship looked like. Love and marriage isn’t a fairy tale—it’s a union between two adults who want to share a foundation. All the other stuff I had always dreamed about wasn’t real. So I let go of my belief in that kind of magic, convinced I was emotionally evolving.
Truth is, the passion wasn’t there. But, hey, that’s not real, right? And who has passion after the first year of dating, anyway? Our dreams and visions couldn’t have been any more different, but he was the yang to my yin, and I told myself we didn’t need to share the exact same value system. That first year of marriage, I kept repeating a phrase I’d often heard: “Well, they do say the first year of marriage is the hardest, so…”
Even thinking back on it now, I wonder how I had gotten to that place—where I had lost my way, lost my fire, and lost all the stories and magic that I held so dear my entire life.
See also Kathryn Budig’s Heart-Is-Full Flow
Figuring out how to get back to the real me
The realization that I wasn’t happy hit me a mere year into the marriage after meeting someone who totally flipped my world upside-down. This person made me take a long, hard look at myself and the relationship I had grown numb in. I honestly hadn’t known it all along.
When I woke up to it, it felt like breaking through the surface to take my first deep breath in a long time. How could I have been so blind, caused so much pain, endured so much pain, then, ultimately…failed. I had failed. I had settled. And the marriage wasn’t working.
Growing up, I loved the story of Snow White. I loved the concept that true love’s kiss could pull someone back from even the deepest depths of despair. But I had buried that story. And I wanted it back. So I closed my eyes and let myself fall off that precipice. And when I landed, I didn’t fall into pieces—I fell into me.
I filed for divorce.
I experienced the most challenging year of my life while simultaneously falling in love in a way I had only dreamed was possible.
And this is where yoga comes in. Yoga has resuscitated me, again and again. I have broken my physical body only to recover through mindful diligence. I have lost my passion only to step back and reassess what truly matters to me. I have let go of what I projected other people wanted to see in me to discover what I wanted from and for myself.
I allowed myself to choose what felt right without fear of the response.
I close my journal freshly inscribed with my newest intentions and take a sip of my coffee, pondering what I want to write next. How can I share my story and use storytelling to fulfill my intentions for 2018? I look at the amazing woman sitting next to me, doing the same, and smile.
Don’t miss what Kathryn does this year. Check out her podcast, Free Cookies, co-hosted with Kate Fagan. Visit www.kathrynbudig.com for her travel schedule and check out her newest program fusing recipes and yoga from Yogaglo.com this March.