One of my favorite parts about taking a year off last year was having access yoga with so many instructors across the country via ClassPass, each who had a unique teaching style to offer. I got to try on all kinds of yoga, whether it was hippie yoga, fitness yoga, chanting yoga, introspective yoga, playful yoga, serious yoga, whatever. I found that sometimes classes are taught sort of like a church service, and some of those messages were so powerful that I still think about the teacher's words and how they apply to life as it continues to evolve.
There's one class in particular that I took on my second day of visiting Austin, TX that really sticks out in my mind among the hundreds of classes that made up what I've been calling my yearlong digital yoga retreat. The theme of the class was love, since it happened to be Valentine's Day, and more specifically, unrequited love. The teacher explained that the idea of unrequited love often has a negative connotation, but that it's actually the purest form of love because it's given freely and without expectation. I think where people get into trouble with love and relationships, both the romantic and non-romantic kinds, is when they expect something in return for the love that they give, as if love is a currency and relationships are transactions. Thinking back on past Valentine's Days, my favorites are the ones where I didn't expect anything at all, and the ones I'd rather forget are the ones where I placed an expectation either on the day itself or on someone I loved to act the way I expected him to.
On that sunny Austin day, the instructor explained his concept on unrequited love by having everyone in the class partner up as he walked Partner A through how to give Partner B a Thai massage. Partner A was happy to learn, assuming that afterward they would switch and Partner B would give Partner A a massage. Instead, the teacher returned to the regular sequencing of the class, explaining that the most sincere way of doing something nice for someone is to do it without expecting that they will do something for you in return. I was Partner A in the scenario and in the moment, I was legit pissed about it.
I was thinking about that class recently and how I've been trying to do a better job of being kind to people and expressing love just for the sake of it, not because I want anything back. Last month, three of my good friends from home, Elise, Kaitlin, and Carly, all had birthdays in the same week, and somehow I forgot all of them until the end of the week when I saw a message pop up on Facebook. I've been so busy trying to build my new life here that I've sort of found myself in a place of limbo, simultaneously complaining about having few close friends nearby compared to my life in Portland and somehow missing an important day for people I truly care about. Moving to LA has been something that I absolutely know needed to happen in order to allow me to make space for new things in my life and to break bad habits and patterns, but sometimes it does seem a little crazy that I'm working so hard to build a new life here when I already had one back in Portland.
What I love about all three of those friends is that they give love without expectation. They're people who will always be significant in my life, but would never hold a grudge over trivial details if that overlooked the things that are actually important. I was catching up with Kaitlin about a week after her birthday and when I started babbling about how sorry I was to miss her birthday, she firmly told me to stop making a big deal out of it and then she promised that in return, she would make sure not to call me on my birthday [I love that girl]. The same thing happened this past weekend when I finally connected with Elise, who basically said 'who caaaares, we're talking right now, aren't we?' The people who matter will always be there, whether life is packaged up in a neat bow or not. If they were the types of friends who only loved me for remembering to call them on their birthdays, those friendships would have crumbled a long time ago anyway. [But still, Carly, I owe you a phone call <3.]