Stories

Stories

I want to tell my story. I want to share who I am, who I’ve been, who I’m becoming with you. I want to take a story that is complex, confusing, heart breaking, crooked, hilarious, strange and have it make sense, to flow, to move you. I want to share the wisdom, the missteps, the inspiration, the people, the places - the world I have seen - what I see.

In my yoga classes, in every one, I have at least one person who is taking a yoga class for the first time, an athletic person, a person with an injury, or many, a person young in years, a person older, a person thinking (or saying out loud) I can’t do this, I don’t want to be here. Someone comes late or leaves early or walks in and asks if this is kickboxing. A person who’s wondering if they are doing it right and one having their own experience completely unrelated to the cueing I am giving. I have the privilege of navigating all of this while I speak, move and read the room, looking for subtle cues and listening to what wants to come through me. I am both in control and completly not it control. I live in the tension between these two places.

I suppose this a very vulnerable place to live. Yet, when I teach, I feel alive. I feel all the insecurities of being human and all the magic of feeling connected to the Bigger Experience. Its joy inducing and terrifying and I love it. I learn, I practice, I try to apply and I have to trust the frustrating process of things happening in their own time. After years of teaching yoga, after years of mothering, what I can say is that perfection isn’t the direction I’m heading. In fact, I am not fully clear - today, what direction I am heading. If I’m improving or not. Or if that even matters anymore. What’s left when self-betterment is taken off the table, but the acceptance of what is. Gratitude for each realization. The strength that comes from vulnerability. And possibly Joy.

The arena

The arena

Prepping for a yoga class.

I can’t say that I have “improved” as a yoga teacher in the past four years. I would say that my practice, both as a student and as a teacher has languished. This is partly to do with my move to the midwest. Partly to do my primary teachers being accessible only online. And partly to do with being a mother. Partly to do with, well .. life.

It takes time to prepare.

There is a class design + the playlist + the thematic weaving + wording + cueing + timing and making space for the inevitable unpredictability of the whole experience.  Despite the visual beauty and order of yoga poses, there is so much happening simultaneously. It’s challenging. There is as much hard work, awareness, cultivating of presence, letting go in the practice of teaching yoga as in the practice itself.

After years of practice, it can get tedious and tiring. Since the average person will forget what happened almost as soon as they walk out the door, it can be tempting to just show up. Rest on the skill set and knowledge. Honestly, for the most part that is all that I have been able or willing to do.

My transition to motherhood, though filled with love, has been of the most challenging experiences of my life. (I write about it here). Motherhood is all consuming. Motherhood is transformational. Motherhood is metamorphic in ways that I could have never foreseen.

I have wanted to hold on to the part of me that is dedicated to perfection through my actions. But, that perfection I once chased is a lie. It’s’ taken me 7 years and gallons of tears to come to terms with this. And to forgive myself for believing in it. I have used perfection as a distraction just to watch it all turn to chaos and madness, awkwardness and frustration.  I have used perfection to keep me separate from reality.

Perfection is a lie. I think we all know that now. (Ok maybe God is perfect, but we have made a mess of what “God” means). I want to unpack this a bit ...

I played volleyball growing up. From seventh grade all the way up to college, I would put in hours upon hours of training and conditioning to play at the level I was playing. I focused on all the effort, trying to prove to myself that it mattered. Spending so much time perfecting, but not really being present to what was happening. I can attribute this behavior to my parents pushing, or culture’s view of me at the time, or the pressure placed on me by my society. But, I internalized it all. It was impressed upon me that I had to do better. Sometimes I rose up, but mostly I only felt worthless and I used betterment as a way to not feel the pain of feeling not good enough. Perfection was a distraction.

In the the netflix documentary Homecoming, venerable Beyonce speaks about this with all the grace and power of a super star. She says, “I feel like I’m just a new woman, in a new chapter of my life, and I’m not even trying to be who I was, it’s so beautiful that children do that to you.” The framing of these words is stunning.

To me, the positive, beautiful, uplifting frameing of these words also speaks to the underlying difficulty of moving from one way of being to another. Few experiences have the power to do this so potently. It is also the most natural thing in the world, But, what a human body goes through to give birth is the stuff of awe. Women, in all manner of speaking open from the inside out. In every area. Everything changes. Not just physically.

I ran the yoga studio with the same dedication, and motivation, as I did playing volleyball. Please note: during this part of the story, I didn’t realize I was doing this. I didn’t realize - fully, consciously, that I was striving for perfection - I thought I was just trying to do better, like always. Do better, make mistakes, learn, etc. Only that I wasn’t doing better, I was making mistakes but not really learning from them. I was creating a rut and the more trying, the deep the rut got, as it does. I began to feel pressure. Especially after birthing a child. In response to all this pressure I began to get irritated, agitated. I began to loose my ground, I began to lose touch with reality. I began to ignore the stress. I began to disassociate from my body so that I could keep up. Relying on effort, striving, will, coffee, bagels, wine to get my through. It wasn’t like before where I could spend the whole days practicing yoga. I had to take care of my baby; be a wife, be a business owner. I had to take care of my body.


Two months after Brendan was born. I began to get very sick. I couldn’t breathe. I wasn’t getting oxygen. My heart wasn’t working well. I don’t remember this time well. I have to look at my medical history to get the details clear - I had the breathing rate of someone in their 80s with emphysema. I, a 35 year old yoga teacher, could not breathe. I feel oxygen tanks, scans, tests, consultations later - cardiomyopathy, a form of heart failure. No big deal. I was given beta blockers which mitigated stress and 6 month later no more cardiomyopathy (it is reversible in some cases, like mine, but not always). That first year of B’s life was detrimental, nearly devastating, to my physical health. My husband lost his job 6 weeks after B was born. The he worked for a acupuncturist as an office assistant during this time. He took the baby while I taught my classes. In 2012 we had a big influx cash as I taught 3 YTTs that year, but we were still supported by the state. Nate came to work for the yoga studio. This influx a cash lowered our state support significantly. As I write this, I feel a tightness in my chest. I feel a deep sense of failure. And, honestly right now a feeling a betrayal. It is no wonder, my transition to motherhood has been so difficult. I was striving to fill a feeling a unworthiness. I was forced into recognition of the word “can’t” in a life dedicated to can. Can, if you work hard. Can, if you focus. Can, if you ask for help. Can, if you do better. Can, if you were better. I could not be better. I couldn’t, and it broke my heart. As I write, I’m struck at the powerlessness of this realization. The want, so desperately, for it to be different, better.

We decided to close the studio. I was in the hospital for most of that week. I had an asthma attack. The fatal kind. But, only part of me died. The cells.

Do you know what imaginal cells are? Imaginal cells are what lay dormant in the cells for say a butterfly. The imaginal cells carry the code for the butterfly’s becoming, but can not be realised until the cells for the caterpilar die. Imaginal cells hold the potential of the future. (more here) http://theviewinside.me/imaginal-cells/

Nate was accepted to residency in Portland and began his career as a hospital chaplain. Pay and insurance. I got pregnant with O. We moved. I stayed home with B and got bigger. We explored. I birthed O and it was the single most satisfying experience of my life. I have the pictures to proove it.

Then came post-partum depression.

I left the hospital before I was ready, Nate when back to work before I was ready. I was in a city, with one car, the support of family and friends far away.

My caterpillar cells were turning to mush. The imaginal cells of my future self were beginning to make their way into clusters.

I believe that I am yet to become a Mama Butterfly. That I’m in the “messy middle” that I have been for way longer than is comfortable. But, here I am choosing courage over comfort. I’m going to keep showing up, I am here, entering the arena.

BTW: go and watch Call to Courage with Brene Brown on netflix

A fundraiser + an existential crisis

A fundraiser + an existential crisis

This whole experience is so much bigger than me.

We will be attending our first fundraiser for the MDA. A bowl-a-thon. [Want to come and raise $: It’s April 27th, details here: http://www.oshkoshmdabowlathon.com/ ] Erik, the man who started this event in 2008 is pretty great and his story reminds me that this whole experience is so much bigger than me.

Since B’s diagnosis almost 2 years ago, I have been all over the place emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually and relationally. It’s been hard you guys. It’s such a conflict to mourn a future, take care of the day to day, make the most of it, find happiness within and make space for all the unpredictable emotions and chaos that follows. The word disorder applies to all.

I think, or rather say out loud “what’s the fucking point” and I feel so sad, such overwhelming sadness. It think is what they call an existential crisis.

Google found this for me when I entered “existential crisis”

“Being-in-the-world is a term that existential psychotherapists use to describe each person's unique, personal way of existing. Being-in-the-world is a state in which you grow and find meaning through your thoughts, actions, and responses to experiences. When you are facing an existential crisis, your being-in-the-world isn't working for you. As you grapple with the existential dilemma you're encountering; you develop a new meaning for yourself and a new way of being. Positively resolving the existential crisis is crucial to your future well-being.”

They say that to resolve and existential crisis, we need to find meaning and if we don’t find meaning then we need to create meaning.

When I’m calmed and focused and the house is clean and the kids are at school and N is at work and Wendell is snoozing at my feet, I remember what B asks of me during his bedtime checkin when I ask him if there is anything I could do better and he says, without fail, Be super duper happy. [btw: I started this check-in question after listening to one of EBs talks on parenting - this practice is a way of empowering my young son so that when he’s older, he will have confidence in his voice to share his thoughts with me honestly.] Be super duper happy. BE SUPER DUPER HAPPY. Being super duper happy in the midst of this experience is downright heroic. To be super duper happy would not only mean doing all the things that will keep me healthy and sane, it would also mean that I would have to accept the realities of B’s disorder. I would have to accept that reality that happiness, being super duper happy is possible no matter the circumstance. I also means that I would have to accept that maybe this idea is crazy. But then all the good ideas are, right. Maybe the meaning of my life is to do crazy things, crazy things to find happiness - not just happiness, but “super duper” happiness.

The word “super-duper” has been in the dictionary since 1938. It means “of the greatest excellence, size, effectiveness or impressiveness.” Harold Kushner says that you don’t become happy by pursuing a life of happiness, you become happy by living a life that means something.

And maybe that is where the existential crisis lies, I can’t figure out how to make my life mean something.

“Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” -Helen Keller

What is my purpose? How do I know its my purpose? What the fuck!

Oh …. I’m starting to get it … I will be super duper happy, not by pursuing happiness (research shows that this pursuit actually leads to depression and loneliness), but by pursuing meaning.

Back to the google search bar …

In Man’s Search for Meaning,” Viktor Frankle suggests three ways for finding meaning in our lives:

  1. By creating a work or doing a deed

  2. By experiencing something or encountering someone

  3. By the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering

Put into my own words:

  1. By creating + taking action

  2. By experience + connection

  3. By experiencing joy wherever I can

You’ll discover it by taking action everyday.


Committed to writing

Committed to writing

I am committed to writing everyday for 30 min and then publishing what I wrote. To you, my writing, like my thinking and speaking, might seem random. I do not think in straight lines, instead there is a constant circulation pulling in and out of this realm and another. For me, writing is way to process and get right with myself and the confusing aspects of my life.

What does “getting right” mean?

It means that I look at my past, the root causes, my current actions, and I heal. I don’t manage the symptoms, I heal. Healing doesn’t look like same as managing systems right? I understand why “managing symptoms” is such a big part of our culture’s medical practice. If symptoms can be managed, sweeping life changes don’t have to be made. If pain isn’t felt, if there are no symptoms I don’t have to look at my current actions, the root causes, my past. And I don’t heal. And here’s the problem: we cannot heal, if we dunnot feel.

We are given so many ways out of feeling. Our whole culture is made up of ways to not feel. Or to feel from a distance.

Yesterday, Notre Dame was on fire. Did you feel that? Did you cry? I will never forget what I felt like to sit in that church. I felt centuries of connection to God, to Nature as the pagans did before the Catholics, on that Holy site. The memories of that feeling flooded me when I saw the fire, and I felt a deep sadness. And then I felt all the ways in which I feel sad .. about everything ..

Feeling from a distance would make it easier. Having no symptoms would make it easier. But, no one said it would be easy.



I didn't know

I didn't know

I am sorry I didn’t know how to feel my feelings.
I am sorry that I waited for you to step up and tested you in ways that weren’t fair. I am sorry that I set you up. I didn’t know. I didn’t know any better and I didn’t know how to feel the pain. So I ignored it, I didn’t even know it was there. I know now. But I didn’t know then. I couldn’t. It showed up in small ways, the pain. In the way I yelled at you and gave voice to it through anger. Anger was the safest feeling. Anger was powerful and anger kept me distanced so that I could make the choices that I did without thinking. I was vulnerable then. When I was offered an alternative to the pain and anger, I took it. I felt that fully. I let that sink in, and I still feel the pleasure of the memories, the excitement, the thrill. But I couldn’t feel the pain. Pain doesn’t relent. Pain resurfaces and pain can’t stay quiet. Anger is pain dressed for battle. Anger is the protector. So I made the choices. I, or rather the subconscious, made choices that were sure to bring that pain up. I lost everything. Everything. I blew up my life before I even knew what happening. I hid behind alternative feelings. I am sorry that I did that, I didn’t know.

Then, I faced that pain. I faced that pain and all the pain since within the boundaries of a yoga mat. I twisted and turned myself inside out to find freedom from pain. I tried to avoid it. I tried to take care of myself. Trying isn’t the way. The way is through surrender. There is no other way. There. is. no. other. way. I had to surrender to the pain if I was going to heal it. I tattooed the word surrender in sanskrit to my forearm as a reminder. And then came more pain. Worse pain. Pain more heartrending. Do you know this kind of pain. You probably do. You’ve been through more than one war. But, like me, you survived. We survived. We all survived.