I’m tired and unhappy when I arrive but one of my students is waiting for me; I feel better when I see her.  While I’m checking in my class, another student I haven’t seen in months appears at the doorway.  Delighted, I come out from behind the desk to hug her.  While I check her in, she tells me she’s been off heroin for four days.  I regard her as though she just told me her toe hurts, except that I stop what I’m doing and make eye contact.

“Hey, that sounds really awful.  I’m glad you’re here; how can I support you?”

She tells me days 3 and 4 are the worst but she doesn’t feel so bad right now.  She’d just gotten back from rehab and found some stuff–I hear that she’s cursing herself for it.  I tell her I understand she’s probably frustrated and that it’s all right that she made a mistake, that I also fuck things up all the time.  She says she’s feeling weak, that she’ll probably have to sit a bunch of stuff out.  I tell her if she wants to lay around the whole class I’ll still be happy she’s with us.

I move around class in my usual, predictable way–but I pay attention for signs that she’s distressed, overwhelmed or in pain.  When she takes child’s pose during sun salutations I make sure to verbally validate that as one of several options.  When I get to her I kneel next to her mat and make myself very small.  I get eye contact and see that she’s flushed.

“Is it getting hot for you here?  I can block the sun if you like.”

I adjust the blinds while continuing to cue and then check back in.  “Does it help more if I adjust you today or leave you alone?”  She asks me to please adjust her and drops to child’s pose again.

I cue the rest of my class while applying gentle pressure to her hips and lower back.  I don’t have it in me to do Reiki on her, but I close my eyes and breathe a silent intention for her healing and recovery.

I sing to them at the end; Sanskrit chants for the removal of obstacles, for abundance, for peace.

In the evening I get a call from a nearby friend who’s stuck at a meeting.  Could I stay with her sleeping child for twenty minutes so her mom can get what she needs to spend the night?  I put on some clothes and drive over.  No sooner have I settled on the couch with the cat when I hear a tiny voice from upstairs; “Grandma?”

I call out to her as I move through the house, explaining who I am and why I’m there instead.  I’ve met this child a few times but she doesn’t know me well and I’m concerned she’ll be frightened to find herself alone with me late at night.  She peers down from the top of the stairs, saying she can’t sleep and she’s bored.  I ask what I can do to help her and offer a few suggestions when she isn’t sure.  She wants me to sit and talk with her.

She leads me into her bedroom and climbs into bed.  I ask if she’d like me to sit on the edge of the bed, we talk a little, and I notice a book of Shel Silverstein poems sitting on her bookshelf.  She giggles telling me about a poem she likes, and soon she is reading me poem after poem from the book.  I’m charmed by this reversal and grateful to be let into her world, relieved that she feels secure with me.

When she tells me she thinks she’s ready for bed I leave her to sleep and go back to the cat waiting for me on the couch.  She trills softly as I stroke her back and moves to settle against my leg.

I have a text from a newer friend; “I’ll fill you in.  I get this vibe that I can tell you anything.  I don’t know why.”

“People tend to tell me things,” I respond.  “I’m a mess, but I’m also very trustworthy.”

It’s true; people trust me to love and care for them, to keep their confidences.  People tell me things preceded by “I’ve never told anyone this, but….”  Other people trust me; if I could only learn again to trust myself.

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