Yin Yoga and Toy Story


Gracie, Jack and Barb getting ready to watch Toy Story
Gracie Jack and Me, ready to watch Toy Story yet again! This picture was talken just hours after that Yin Yoga class you will be reading about!

I took a yin yoga class this week. It is the very kind of yoga that makes my skin crawl. Very slow, very deliberate, very quiet. I can feel trapped enough in my body on an uphill 8 mile run, during a 30 minute chipper WOD in CrossFit or jumping out of an airplane, so participating willfully in this class is a tad mind boggling.

The responses to my Facebook status, announcing to the world where I was, illustrate this concept beautifully.

A plethora of exclamation points, questions marks and some small bits of advice. I have been going to HotHouseNH Yoga and Pilates since the beginning of January. I, like the rest of the world, made a list of “New Year’s Resolutions”. I qualified them by saying I would just do them just for today, which lets one off the “for every day from now on hook” while at the same time, holds them accountable for the “everyday you wake up it is today” hook. Either way the understanding is that you will do these things every day. I have gone to a yoga class of some sort three times a week for the nine weeks it has been 2023.

This was my first experience with Yin Yoga.

Physically, it was exactly what I needed. The CrossFit Open has wreaked havoc on my joints. (Muscles, bones and hair follicles as well to be completely honest.) Mentally it is also exactly what I needed. I am told by all who know me that I need to slow down. There is nothing fast about Yin Yoga. So, slow it was. Spiritually, it is now clear to me that this is something I will need more than once. (It is also clear that I could not have handled this class on January 3rd.)

There are people out there saying “I told you so”.

The yoga studio is across the street from the cemetery. Molly has lived there (physically anyway) since May 11th, 2016. I say hi to her on the way to yoga and on the way home. Sometimes I drive home through the cemetery and sit with her for a bit. Our visits vary depending on my state of well-being. I almost always cry.

I always plead with her to come back.

There are many people who try to talk me out of feeling this way. In my recently completed grief educator certification class, the most consistent thing we learned was to be with people where they are in their grief journey. No one experiences grief exactly the same way, therefore we have no business telling people how they should feel. This is hard for some people. There are those who just have to tell others what to do. I am not one of them.

Now back to Molly.

In my pleading with her to come back, I know full well that this is an impossibility. Her body, in that box, will never be alive again. But I ask anyway. What happens here is that suddenly there will be signs, and coincidences and God winks that bring her to mind. These are easier to see when one is slow. In my fast-paced world filled with meaningful distractions I am quite sure I miss most of them.

Let’s talk about Jack.

Jack loves Toy Story. Woody and Buzz are his go to celebrity crushes right now. I have watched at least one of the four Toy Story movies daily for months. They are actually not all that difficult to watch, or listen to, or try to ignore. Each one has a message. Each message meaningful to children, whose lives are filled with toys. There is Toy Story where Woody is jealous of Buzz. They come together after a series of challenges to see that they are equally important to not only to Andy, but to one another. They look outside themselves. This movie is all about how these characters feel about themselves and getting back to Andy.

Toy Story 2 builds upon this concept of self-awareness and shows the characters how they interact not only each other but with their owners as well. They are able to use their heartbreaks to guide their next steps. New toys Jesse and Bullseye join the group because they are invited by Woody and Buzz rather than thrust upon them. Their mission remains to return to Andy.

Toy Story 3 now introduces the passage of time and how Andy is now a grown boy, 18 and going off to college, while the toys remain exactly the same. As the story unfolds the characters must rally together, overcome differences and work together to, once again, return to Andy. They will be living in his attic now rather than in his bedroom. The toys are still strongly attached to Andy, and in some ways he to them. While their mission remained returning to Andy, Woody sees that the time has come for them to move on. We meet Bonnie.

Toy Story 4 has the toys going on a road trip with Bonnie in a camper. Although Bonnie is just five years old, her growth is a piece of the story. Moving on in your journey. Accepting change and growth. Realizing that things can not actually stay the same forever. We Gabby Gabby who aches for an owner and Woody reconciles with Little Bo Peep. In a long talk with Forky, a toy made from trash, Woody realizes he still holds on to his life with Andy.

What does all of this have to do with Molly and Jack?

There is a line in Toy Story 4 that brought chills to my spine. It happens during the long walk as Woody shares his life story with Forky. He gets to the end and there is some silence. It is clear Woody does not know what is next. At this moment Forky says “ok, so… purpose fulfilled”.

I know, I know, this is a very common phrase. It is also the motto for Molly’s Foundation. In the many times I have watched this movie I always wait for this line. I watched it when I came home from Yin Yoga. I actually missed the line but was very drawn in to the change going on in the dynamic of the toys. Little Bo Peep was living a life free from the yearning of a child’s love. Woody and Bo had a romantic connection through-out all of the movies.

This is about Woody stepping back, letting the other toys continue along as they desire, and deciding to spend his life at a “carny” with Bo. It showed a version of Bo that had grown from her lampshade look to more of a Rosie the Riveter persona. It was Woody stepping back from controlling the destiny of his family of toys and following his heart.

I cried. Just silent tears there on the couch. But fairly good sobs later on in bed. Molly and Gracie had not yet been born when Toy Story made it’s debut. Toy Story 2 preceded their arrival as well. We all watched Toy Story 3 together. I cried at the end, there in the theater with Molly and Gracie. Watching those movies is nostalgic and sad.

Toy Story 4 was difficult for me to commit to watching. It arrived after Molly died.

It felt like I was forgetting her. Doing this thing with out her that I had done with her when she was alive. Gracie and I decided not to go see it when it was released in 2019. She watched it with a friend but never told me about Woody’s conversation and Forky uttering of Molly’s slogan. She didn’t want me to be sad.

The movie is all about moving on, or along as I like to describe it. Remembering all that you once had and did. Crying about it sometimes, laughing sometimes as well. Knowing that the gut punches of grief will arrive forever. Not only do the people move along, but those plastic toys do too. Using toys to illustrate this growth is genius, especially when your loss is a child.

Each of the first three Toy Story movies evoke memories of a certain time in the life of Molly and Gracie. Toy Story 4 evokes realizations and forward journeys. It puts a knot in my stomach and makes me sad. I also attach it to Molly herself. Her way of letting me know that she is still here, just not in the same way. That we can see one another if we sit long enough. That we don’t need Mrs. Potato head’s eye under the bed to see what is happening to those we are no longer with.

I am finishing this just hours after the Yin class and the watching of Toy Story 4. I am crying as I type. It is February 27th today. Tomorrow is the 7-year mark of Molly’s first failed attempt at getting a doctor to believe something was wrong with her. February 28th begins the slow but inevitable slide to May 7th. I am reminded of Toy Story 3 when the toys are sliding down the garbage chute toward the incinerator that will destroy them. They are saved by the claw.

There is no claw that can pull me (and Molly and Gracie and Kenny) off of this slide. I am challenged to look at the claw differently and what being saved from the reality of her death might look like. She is dead after all and her body no longer mine to snuggle. That reality defied the claw. But I hang there above the fire learning that I can move along and be ok somehow, here in this physical world.

And Molly? She is traveling to infinity and beyond.

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