I’ve never been great at accepting sunk costs.
When I was away for six months – in Bali where I learned to breathe and meditate, then to Bangalore where I became a certified yoga instructor with my one-on-one OG Indian instructor – I wondered how that would translate when I returned to the States.
My teacher Krishna specifically suggested that once I return home, I teach the elderly, or teach those in the corporate environment how to utilize yoga to manage stress. Others suggested I take my certification to an American studio and teach classes there.
But when I returned to the hustle and bustle of my previous profession, I forgot most everything I learned. I stopped teaching. I took yoga classes every once in awhile and time for my own practice at home here and there, but it wasn’t much.
It got me thinking that all that I learned (not to mention the financial investment) was all for nothing. Just another phase come and gone. Not unlike the time I begged my mom for ice skating lessons so I could be like Nancy Kerrigan (quit after one season), or the time I decided I was going to learn to master a sewing machine and become a designer (I didn’t finish one top).
But then came July 6th of this year, and I found myself standing over Daddy, hooked up to machines, tubes and wires flowing from his body, intubated and receiving assisted breathing from a ventilator (essentially a huge tube down his throat to breathe). He began to thrash in pain and confusion as he was coming out of sedation for the first time since they rolled him into that first 12-hour emergency heart procedure: two surgeries and 20 hours ago.
They were taking him out of sedation and easing him off of the ventilator to see if his lungs were strong enough to breathe on his own. This was a big moment for our family. He had been put under for nearly 24 hours for multiple serious surgeries. Would he be the same when he woke? Could he breathe on his own?
My mom, who is the strong, backbone in the family – was exhausted. Drained. Prayed out, cried out. So when she saw him writhing in pain upon his body’s realization of the fresh wounds and trauma it had just overcome, she couldn’t take it. His teeth were clenched so tight, his eyes pressed shut, his eyebrows dragging down every wrinkle in his forehead. And he was confused. He was throwing his arms around and moving about violently, causing his already-extremely fragile heart to beat at a dangerous rate of speed.
The monitors were beeping louder and the nurses were rushing all around us. All Mom could do was cringe in the corner, facing the wall, occasionally peering back only for seconds at a time before quickly turning away. I’d never seen her like that before. She literally could not bear to see him in that kind of pain.
I wanted to scream and my heart could barely take seeing him like this either, but I took a breath. Then I took Daddy’s hand. It was clasped to the hospital bed, tied down firmly at the wrists. But I took it in mine, and caressed his swollen, yellow, cold hands with my own.
Then, really without thinking, I walked him through each breath. Every single inhale and exhale. And with my voice calm and steady, I took him away from that hospital room with me.
To the hills of gold and fields of flowers on our hikes with the pups. I reminded him what the sun felt like, warm on the back of our necks. I took him to the sands of Coronado Beach, the sounds of the breaks roaring in the distance, sending the cool waves into foam beneath our toes.
I brought him home. Surrounding by all the pups, all his three babies under one roof. Mama in the kitchen cooking up a feast.
And I watched the tension leave his face. I watched as he listened – as he acknowledged my directions, as the familiarity of my voice began to register. Tears rolled down my face as I watched my Daddy come back to us.
When he was in rehab months later, still bed ridden, I taught him how to blow his belly up with air, fill his chest, open his heart. I taught him that slow and deep breaths through the nose would revitalize and strengthen his weak lungs, that long exhales would relax not just his body, but his mind. And before long, he was killing the spirometer game.
Yesterday, here at home, nearly six months after his initial surgery, I led a brief mediation with both my dad and my mom. We closed our eyes, emptied our minds, breathed. We gently stretched. We put our palms together at heart center and bowed our heads in gratitude.
I should know by now: nothing is ever for nothing.