For us, March 15th will always be our “pandemic anniversary.” That was the last day that we held classes before we shut down the heat and closed the doors indefinitely. We made the decision to close on the evening of the 14th – there wasn’t even a question of staying open at that point – but decided to keep our Sunday classes and give our yogis one last hurrah.
At the time, many people still thought that lockdown was only going to last a week or two and then things would go back to normal. I was not one of those people. Privately, I thought there was a solid 50% chance that we would never be able to open again.
Based on the number of small businesses that closed permanently in 2020, my guess wasn’t too far off. But thankfully, we were not one of them.
I have a very specific childhood memory – I might have been 12 years old – of riding in the car with my mom and passing a bad car accident. She said we should remember that it could happen to us, too, and there was an expression for that sentiment: “There but for the grace of God go I.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought of those words over the past year. Every time I read another announcement about a business closing down forever, I think “there but for the grace of God.”
A lot of people are taking a moment today to celebrate how far we’ve come – which makes sense – but I am feeling sad. I’m sad for everyone that didn’t make it this far. I’m sad about all the dreams that were crushed and the lives that were lost and the families that were broken. I’m sad about little losses and big ones. I’m sad because things could have happened differently – better – but they didn’t.
I would be totally remiss if I didn’t also say that I am profoundly grateful – and a little shocked – that we’ve made it this far, through a mixture of tenacity, hard work, and good luck.
We’ve worked hard to build a community of students over the past 6 years, and the community turned back around and supported us when we needed it the most.
We’ve developed a core group of incredibly loyal and hardworking teachers who stuck with us through the ups and downs – and did a LOT of extra work – because they believe so strongly in the value of what we do.
We’ve spent years developing a solid foundation for our business, creating an incredible support system that helped us to navigate the confusing and stressful process of acquiring loans and grants that got us through the toughest parts of the year.
We’ve encountered all kinds of helpful individuals who have assisted us when we needed it – setting up computer equipment, keeping our heating system running, installing video systems, filing paperwork, and more.
We’ve connected with other business owners from near and far, sharing our ideas and our struggles. Half the time we are sharing information, and half the time we are just doing group therapy via text message.
And I suppose I should give myself credit, too – mostly for being too fucking stubborn to quit. For walking the path and putting one foot in front of the other, even when it was very dark and there didn’t seem to be an end to the tunnel.
This isn’t a story about “the power of positive thinking,” because I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all hit some pretty dark spots over the past 12 months. If anything, it’s a story about the single defiant act of getting out of bed every morning even when there’s no obvious reason to keep going. Maybe that’s enough.
I never tried to predict how the story would end, and it’s still too soon to say. But there is clearly a light visible at the end of the tunnel. This Monday morning, one year after closing everything down, I opened up my email like usual and read about several small miracles. Three students separately wrote and apologized for missing class over the weekend – they stayed home because they had just been vaccinated and were experiencing side effects. Two different students wrote letting me know that they had been immunized and were ready to return to yoga again. A year ago, I never could have imagined this morning’s inbox.
Last March, when there was nowhere to go, I spent a lot of time out in the garden. I had planted daffodils and crocuses in the fall before everything went to pieces, and they came up inch by inch. This spring, the same flowers are poking out of the earth again. It comforts me to see that they’ve been here all winter, sleeping, and now they are waking up and finding the light.
I hope things keep getting better. I hope that, in our rush to get “back to normal,” we don’t gloss over the experience of this last year and pretend it never happened. I hope we can take time to care for the ones who were deeply injured and to aid everyone who is still healing. I hope everyone who wants a vaccine can get one soon, and I hope more flowers open tomorrow. I hope everyone feels better, even if it takes a while.
I hope this will turn out to be a beautiful year.
“This year April had a blizzard just to show she did not care
And the new dead leaves, they made the trees look like children with grey hair
But I’ll push myself up through the dirt and shake my petals free
I’m resolved to being born and so resigned to bravery.”
– Dar Williams, “Spring Street”
Our Year in Pictures