I give up

On July 22, 2010 by Eden M. Kennedy

Last weekend I was doing some fairly intensive yoga down in Ojai with some lovely people who don’t scare me at all anymore. About a dozen of us did our yoga practice in a canvas-walled yurt where the morning temperature hovered in the high 80s. We hiked to a swimming hole in 100-degree heat. I think every drop of water I drank over the weekend came straight out my pores. (I may have peed once over the course of three days, but no one can prove my kidneys had anything to do with it.) I ate kale and beets and chocolate mousse, and even though I’d been saving for months to be there with interesting people and do one of the things I love most, come Sunday morning all I wanted to do was lie on my mat and give up.

Give up what? Who knows. Health? Making any effort at all to care about my aging body? I just wanted to stop fighting and let life take over and carry me through whatever came next. Stiffness, decay, total inertia, death. Whatever. Who was I kidding? How was wedging my foot behind my neck going to help?

(You can see where my mind has been lately.)

Here are some more incontestable reasons I thought of, while lying on the floor of that yurt, for giving up ashtanga yoga.

  • I’m old and stiff and it hurts
  • I’m old and I’m goddamned tired
  • Laziness and quitting run in my family
  • Who am I to argue with tradition?
  • What’s yoga ever done for me?
  • These stupid stretch pants cost sixty dollars
  • Sixty dollars!
  • Why didn’t I start doing this when I was 20?
  • Of course I got my period this weekend
  • And I forgot my vitamins
  • I wonder if they still make Geritol?
  • What the hell was that sound?
  • How many times can a car backfire?
  • Wait — is there a firing range nearby?
  • It’s either someone’s doing target practice or a whole lot of people are getting murdered out there
  • Stray bullet, stray bullet, stray bullet, stray bullet
  • Please, God, make it quick and painless
  • zzzzzzzzz

When I got back to the real world, of course, I became completely depressed. I had post-retreat letdown, I think — the way coming back from even a short vacation can throw the hollowness of daily life into sharp relief. I had dreaded going on retreat, my life and routines having such a firm hold on me, but now there was so much more to dread coming back from it!

This is why people drink. I understand that now.

I thought of my mom, the way her hamstrings atrophied, lying there in bed after she broke her ankle and became afraid to walk. My mom gave up. Her heart was so tired and she spent the last years of her life lying in bed, waiting to check out. Is this how she felt? Jesus, why didn’t we get her some Prozac?

The thing was, even though my heart was heavy, after all that yoga my body felt remarkably not-painful and un-stiff. So I had a glimmer of a thought that maybe, despite the utter futility of existence, it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to unabandon a regular yoga practice. So I got up and went to practice Tuesday morning and I got up again today, and when that feeling washed over me, that feeling that I wanted just to fucking GIVE UP, I gave in to it. I gave up! It was the easiest thing in the world to do. What a relief! I give up! Here, take it! Take this shitty feeling, universe, I don’t want it anymore.

Oh, I kept practicing. I kept bending and stretching and breathing into my injured right hip and sweating through my $60 yoga pants, but I kept going and I gave up at the same time. I took a deep breath and I gave up feeling oppressed. I exhaled and gave up hating hard work. I became a fucking Nike ad and I Just Did It. I stood on my head and stopped worrying about being tired the rest of the day, or thinking about anything other than staying upright and counting my breaths. Death can come this afternoon or it can come when I’m 100 years old (or maybe I’ll get cryogenically preserved and wake up in the year 2410 to find my thawed-out head sewn onto the body of a chihuahua — but even that chihuahua body’s going to wear out, and let’s face it, my head is going to look like hell). And, yes, that’s a drag. But what am I going to do, bitch about it for the next fifty-four years? Or am I going to live my life?

Mid-life crises are a tawdry cliche, and being in your forties means different things to different people. But it seems like a common thread that pierces everyone’s heart eventually is when you finally start to grasp the inevitability of your own demise. I’m coming at it a little sideways, frankly; I’m not prepared to face it head on, and maybe no one with a young child at home is. Writing a will that sends your possibly-orphaned child to go live with relatives is one of the more devastating acts of parenthood. It feels absolutely crucial to stick around for the sake of this small, somewhat-helpless, desperately-loved person. (What was it Roseanne Barr said when she had her last child? “Oh, great, another reason to live.”)

I’m just trying to do my best.

Comments

comments

54 Responses to “I give up”

  • i’ve thought of you lately. especially in my pj’s just before bed, on my bedroom floor, attempting to stretch out my lower back that seems determined to harden and well, harden.

    i’ll be 41 next month. my 18 year old daughter just had a baby. both casa’d in our casa. it’s a lot. not bad, but a lot. grandma is having back labor, 6 weeks later.

    whenever i think “yoga” i think of mrs. kennedy. :)

  • I thought of you when I was writing this! xo

  • I absolutely love you. Don’t know you in person, but would hate to lose your voice. Damn getting old is a bitch. I’m years ahead of you and can confirm your every fear. Still, stick around at least I’m gone, I’ll let you know when I’m leaving. Pinky swear!

    Oh and when that little one gets big enough to produce little ones, you’re going to just be goofy over them. Even more than him sometimes.

  • Long time reader coming out of the woodwork to say “thank you” – you are an inspiration! I’m going through a similar sort of crisis (over forty, still childless after too many years of trying – naturally and via adoption -just want to say f*ck it! Constantly feel like “Who will even care once I’m dead and gone?” But you my friend make me realize that I just have to keep living my life – even if it is only for me. Thanks again – you made my day!

  • Duuuuude. I can’t tell you how many times I have wanted to give up. I do what you do. Although I probably wallow in bed for longer periods of time between getting up and going through the motions. Although those have gotten much shorter, thankfully.

    Why? Every single one of my immediate family members has either died, become disabled, or developed a debilitating chronic illness in the last decade. One received a major organ transplant. I have had two (yes, two) strokes.

    The tales of my medical dramas and misfortunes are lengthy. But I’m well enough now to work full time and earn enough to spend too much money as retail therapy this month for all the stress I’m under. I forgot I had a therapist and stopped making appointments. Have to get back to that. Big sigh.

    I keep going. I don’t feel like I have a choice most of the time. I keep reminding myself that stuff will work out –one way or the other– and I don’t have much say in a lot of it. I am trying to design a life that is more flexible and lets me roll with the punches better (eg passive income, work from anywhere, etc.)

    Anyway, thanks for this post.

  • Oh, Eden. This post made me cry.

    I want to be able to do that too – give up and keep going at the same time, to tell the universe to not only take its shitty feeling back, but to stuff it right up its ass. It’s hard though! How’d you do that? And how much yoga will I need to endure before I can get there myself?

  • I was having a semi-similar conversation about this with my mother this afternoon. “When will I reach that point when I stop trying to make everyone else happy, and just focus on my own sanity? My kids need me to be sane more than they need (insert name here) to approve of who I am and what I do.”

    You truly are an inspiration, Mrs. K. I’ve always thought so. (And I’m quite smart when it comes to these things.)

  • love that post. know that feeling. am thinking of Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird” (best book on writing. Ever.) and her passing along the comment from EL Doctorow, that writing is like driving at night with the headlights on: you can’t see very far in front of you, but you can make it all the way home that way. I think life is like that too. What matters is the belief that you can, in fact, get there a little bit at a time, regardless of where your “there” is. (God. that sentence sounds like I’ve been smoking pot for years and years.) Which is all to say: give up, give in, stand on your head, fall over, stand on your head, fall over…just keep loving your kid, loving your attempts at headstands, and you can drive all the way home.

  • Long time reader, first time commenter. There’s a woman in my ashtanga practice who resembles you slightly. Sometimes when she and I happen to be practicing next to each other, I imagine she is you and that makes whatever ridiculous posture I’m straining to achieve more tolerable. Thanks for writing this.

  • Holy reading my mind, Batman! You with the yoga = me with running. And with my 44th birthday looming, and my oldest kid starting high school, and my youngest kid becoming a teenager, and grieving the loss of my “good” grandma which is bringing up all sorts of crap related to the loss a few years ago of my “bad” grandma … I have no idea what my point was but I freaking loved this post. You are not alone, is what I wanted to say, maybe? And neither am I, I guess. But I’m going to keep drinking anyway.

  • Eden, this post made me tear up. And miss my old high school town of Ojai. Before any one of us ever fell in love, I dreamed that my high school friends and I would buy a house with a big garden in Ojai when we were all old and gray. We planned to grow our hair long and enter our twilight years à la Beatrice Wood.

  • This is nearly the same method I have been employing in my thrice weekly workouts with a personal trainer. After 51 years of sitting on my ever increasing back side- I finally got up the courage to go workout, I hate it 2 times out of 3 and argue with myself all the way to the gym. But I go and keep going and now…some of the flab has muscles underneath it and I feel better (but don’t tell anybody ok?) Under it all I am still a cranky fat girl who hates to exercise but I know if I don’t I’ll be a cranky dead girl sooner rather than later.

    Keep going and giving up- it’s working for me.

  • Cycling’s been my game, at lately it has been SO hot, I’m over-heating and I’m tired and I just don’t want to do it anymore because it’s NOT fun and it won’t be cooler for months and months. But I keep doing it so i won’t have to start all over again when it is cooler (and fun again. hopefully.)

    And Carolyn, I’m with you. It sucks when your body won’t make a baby, won’t go fast, and who cares anyway because soon enough you’ll be dead and gone.

  • I loved this. Just, you know, for the record. Nothing profound to add, just that this touched me and made me sit back in my chair and think for a minute about what i am wrestling with by choice, not by necessity. So thanks for that.

  • I feel this so much lately with my body. I feel it even more with people. That last part scares me – I’m afraid of becoming bitter and harshly judgmental and intolerant. I consciously lean into my resistance, lean into some of those thoughts and feelings. I practice and give up, everyday, with people.

  • Wait, they have chocolate mousse at yoga retreats?

    (Sorry, not trying to be flippant… everything else I typed sounded so schmaltzy, I went with sarcastic instead. That’s how you know I love you.)

  • For one, you got to say yurt and be in a yurt and then blog about a yurt. That is pretty much a fucking high point of life right there.

    I am not as hard core, but whenever I want to give up pilates I look at my muscles and realize how strong I am. Not thin, or a size 8 or running 10Ks, but strong. My midlife crisis involved mild worry about the atrophy of my body and severe worry about the atrophy of my mind. I am not sure how to not quit that.

    jenB LIKES this post.

  • If you do consider quitting, why not try something else which is not this hard on your body.
    Have a good weekend :)

  • I once went into a shop straight after a Bikram class. I hate people looking at me straight after Bikram class: I look like an inflamed beetroot. People tend to stare, though, so I have to put up with being looked at.

    The shopkeeper asked where I’d just been. I told him Bikram yoga. Ahhh! he said, that’s why I get red-faced ladies in here. Then he asked; do you enjoy it?

    “I hate it,” I said.

    “Oh!”

    “I hate the studio. I hate the instructor. I hate the other people, all of them, on sight. I hate their grunts and the smell of their nuts and feet. I hate them being in my personal space. I hate the poses, I hate all of it. I want to punch them all.”

    He asked, of course, why I go, and the reason is the feeling at the end of class, when I lie there feeling utterly defeated. Like I’ve been run over by a steamroller and want to cry and laugh and come. I have to hate that yoga class to love it.

    The only bit of my will I’ve written is the bit about who gets my kids. I’m trying to stop smoking, again, and every time I step outside for a smoke I struggle with my need for a cigarette vs. wanting to know my kids in their 30s. I think about that and supervolcanoes a lot these days.

    Anyway. Your go at Scrabble.

  • Thank you. God, I needed that. I need to remember that I can give up without giving up – I hope that makes sense… to give up the crap and just keep doing the good stuff and give up the self-defeat and the worry and the stress and give up on fighting against what I know is the right thing to do. My therapist will be so proud when I tell her this. Now I just need to figure out how to DO it and stop just talking about giving all of that up.

  • I am a lasped ashtangini (once blogged as Yogamum, although that blog is gone now). I think I am coming to terms with the mortality crap as well. I keep thinking, of my life — “Wow, this is really ALL I get — like 40 more years, 50 if I’m lucky.” That thought really sucks. You have convinced me to get on my mat today, even if I just roll it out in the closet and practice for 10 minutes.

  • I am turning 30 in a few months and am going through my own sort of mid-life crisis (tri-life crisis?). Can’t decide whether or not I should have children, don’t want to be in the career I’m in, but don’t know what career I do want to be in. Feel lonely & frustrated by daily monotony a lot.

    This sentence from your post really stuck with me:
    “the way coming back from even a short vacation can throw the hollowness of daily life into sharp relief”.

    I am going on a weeklong vacation with my husband in two weeks and I’m already afraid of the feelings that’ll rush at me when I get home. Once I have a short break from my work and life, I realize how intensely I don’t know what I’m doing nor where I want to be in life. I sometimes wonder if taking vacations is even worth it as it makes coming back to my life so much harder.

    Thank you for writing this. I hate that other people go through the things I go through, but at the same time, it helps to not be alone.

  • I dread post-vacation depression so much that it always makes me not want to go on vacation at all. However, I know that if I don’t take a break, I’m that much closer to snapping, running naked through my office and clotheslining my superiors.

  • Really, isn’t that all any of us can do? Do our best, be the best we can be in that moment. It’s a struggle and I think you are handling it well and with grace.

  • Wait, you had chocolate mousse at the retreat this year?

    Thought of you all warmly this weekend – sounds like the “good things will happen” prediction was right on.

    …because this is the best discussion ever of the surrender that ashtanga seems to cultivate out of the raw stuff of habits and will. It’s disturbing that you make this connection: from surrender to action (instead of a habit of inaction) straight in to surrender to death. I mean, you are right, but I haven’t been able to take it to that second level in a practical way. Thanks for writing so honestly – I love it.

  • Sometimes I lie in bed, fearing I am going to fail and that all this work will go to waste and that it’s because I’m stupid. And I say, yep, I am going to fail, hell I have failed already and wow it sucks. And then I drift off to sleep and wake up and go back at it.

  • You call it giving up, but there is another perspective. I would call it letting go.

    I like the just do it attitude. The inner wrestlings that go on while we force ourselves to do things we hate to do in the interest what’s good for us. Everyone does this, I think, to some degree or another.

    However, I feel compelled to add — even though I suspect Mrs. Kennedy and everyone else here already know this — I am also a firm believer in enjoying the pleasures in life and if that means half a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Peach Cobbler ice cream once in a while, I’m damn well gonna have that and not regret one single moment of the pleasure that gives me… regardless of the size of my ass.

    I also feel very strongly that the size of my ass is an outward reflection of my zest for life. It’s big because of a combination of my geologically paced metabolism and the fact that I consider food one of the great pleasures in life. And I will not apologize or regret that for one single second. And anyone who doesn’t agree can kiss it… which will take some while! *grin*

  • I think I love you.

    And actually, I know that might freak you out a little since you don’t know who the hell I am, even though I’ve read you here for years.

    But still. Exactly what I needed to read today. Awesome.

  • “Take this shitty feeling, universe, I don’t want it anymore.” I want this on a t-shirt.

    I love this post and every single comment. Thank you.

  • I’m going to try giving up more often. It’s been drilled into me to fight fight fight (do not go gentle etc) that it’s like a reflex. You’ve inspired me – as usual ;)

  • Thank you so much for this, Mrs. Kennedy. I’ve been reading your blog since forever, and lost my job yesterday, and just wanted to lie on a mat and pack it in. My plan involved, I think, waiting for the inevitable rise of the oceans to cover Queens so I could live peacefully under the sea. Reading this reminder that I am not alone in this feeling is exactly what I needed.

  • Only you could inspire me to sign up for a yoga class after reading this post. Probably not the effect you intended, but your post reminded me that I too need to take time to breathe. So here I go to breathe, dammit.

  • god i love this post. thanks for making it so i don’t even have to have a thought! you have said them all! and way better than i coulda. and i’m even more tired/older/ready to give up than you <3

  • I love that giving up feeling. I wish I could do it more often when I’m LIVING instead of just when I’m doing hard physical work. It seems like my life would be a lot less fraught if I could just give up sometimes.
    Thanks lady.

  • Thank you thank you thank you. Oh dear, thank you.

  • I am in love with this post. I am trying to give up expecting life to be fun or even bearable. Somehow, that makes it more bearable.

  • If I thought I was doing my best, I would be a much happier person. I feel like I never have time to do my best. Everything…EVERYTHING…is half-assed. Well, except my ass. It is most definitely full-assed.

    • That is a post in itself, slowing down to feel like you’ve really completed something before you move on to the next thing. Not being able to do that is an awful feeling, but feeling like you don’t even know HOW to do that can be crippling.

  • first time reader, first time commenter. sounds like you started that practice in savasana– a sort of fuck-it-all mental savasana–

    who knows, maybe your sweatpants are incognito wisdom carriers.

  • I love the concept of giving up all the bad crap and keeping going with the rest. It’s like achieving inner peace or something. How does one *do* that?!

  • This post was just so spot on. I had to comment again and tell you what a relief it is knowing that I’m not alone in feeling these feelings. Thanks again Eden – your post (and many of the comments) have helped me through another week. Now, who wants to join me for some yoga/tai chi/vigorous walking at my house? My sister flew home last week, the house feels sad and empty; the lonely post vacation blues have set in something terrible!

  • agreed, i’ve come back to this post & comments several times in recent days. my lower back still hurts, but it helps.

  • Oh, how I feel those words. I turned 50 this year, and I have a ten-year-old son, and I can relate to everything from the aches and pains of the body to the “crucial” need to be here for my boy. These days if it’s not my hips it’s my shoulder, something always aches, but I’m doing my best to keep moving.

    I’m an ex-Californian now living in Alaska, and I love to hear of your travel to places I know and love – Ojai for one (oh, and the gum alley in SLO, been there!). We used to leave the fogged-in Ventura coastline for warmer temps and blue skies in Ojai on a regular basis. Sure do miss that hot, dry heat (especially this month when we’ve had the rainiest July since they kept track of such things!).

    Just today I was dreaming of a trip to SB to catch Jason Mraz at the Bowl. Sadly, not gonna happen.

    Loved your post, thanks.

  • That was hyperbole? Or you really, truly, for reals, can put your foot behind your neck? And if it wasn’t hyperbole, however in the world did you manage to achieve that? I am working on flexibility, but–I am so nowhere near that accomplishment.

  • Brilliant, brilliant post. I want to print it, take it with me to the gym (sadly I don’t do yoga), and tape it on the elliptical.

    Right next to a post it note with a quote my husband said to me, not realizing how fucking pissed off it would make me: “you’re built like your mother.”

  • HOLY CRAP I UNDERSTAND.

    I’m 40 and have been having some major, MAJOR midlife crisis issues in the last few weeks. Yesterday the fog cleared a bit due to some good news at work – but what kind of shmuck goes up and down based on external news and other peoples’ attitudes (at work)?

    You really nailed it. Hang in there, many of us are pulling with you.

  • Ah…yoga. The best of times, and yes, the worst of times. Great post. It’s amazing how kids can be such motivators, isn’t it? What would we do without them? Sure, a nice break is a welcome relief for any parent, but when all is said and done, Roseanne Barr spoke the truth. I’ve been meaning to put together a will with my wife, but haven’t done so…until this weekend, when I PROMISE I’ll do it.

  • Wow. This was a wondering and wonderful post. It was so inspiring. I won’t gush but I am glad I read that post.

  • first time reader, first time commenter… I jumped up, the dog flying from my lap and I pointed at the screen saying, “Yes! that! thaaaat!” I loved this post. I will be back – no pressure, just gratitude for your writing.

  • O, lovely. Well, you’ll always be glowingly 18 in my mind, but I hear you. I just bought a 20-year term life insurance policy, for godsake, because my mom is dying and my partner’s transplanted kidney is going and my kid’s two godmoms are relocating, and it’s possible I’ll be the only one left, but what if I’m not? I feel like I am surrounded by evidence of the transience of things. How fragile it all is. At least with yoga you can feel your good lungs taking in air and know that right now, just at that moment, you are still alive.

  • i remember doing bikram yoga when i was 17 and it was the hardest thing i have ever done in my life! and i used to do cross country running and swam for hours a day. yoga is hard.

  • i am reading this on a day when reading something like this is jut what i needed. glad i came by and thank you.

  • I have never written before, but this post really struck a chord. I have been keeping up a steady yoga practice once I turned 40 (over a year ago). I faithfully do vinyasa and hot yoga at least three times a week. Sometimes I just want to give up since I haven’t lost any weight and don’t seem to be improving drastically since I hit a plateau. But, I do have a sense of pride that I have stuck with something, and at this point I know if I give up it will be very hard to get back into it later in life. I see these older women who have obviously been doing yoga for many years and that gives me hope. I like that I am even keeping up with the class and when I can’t do inversions or certain moves, I mentally give myself a little break for being twice the age of some of them. I find I enjoy the classes much more depending on what teacher I have.
    Good luck with your practice!