27
Jul 20

Ok with Not Ok

It’s taken me years to gain acceptance of myself. And acceptance has built for me in pieces. I’ve never been “ok” with my curly hair. As a kid, my parents couldn’t get a comb through it and of course it hurt for them to try, so I screamed and yelled and so, they insisted that I cut it off. I did. As I got older I then carried a trauma around my hair – trauma from it’s being different and then trauma with having it cut. Short, medium, long, it didn’t matter, I just didn’t like my hair. It was not “ok.” I would straighten it and have it shorn almost to my scalp – to remove all trace of curl. I was working around my hair, not with it. It took me until my early 40’s before I gained peace with my hair. Finally I accepted my hair when I was taught to care for it “like a fine piece of cloth.”

And my nose. I’ve struggled with my crooked nose. I have a deviated septum. No one has been able to tell me how nor when it got that way or if I have had it from birth. I even paid a lot of money for a surgery that did not “fix” it. The doctor tried to convince me to get another surgery to really “fix” it. I declined. The only two people who ever said anything about it were me and the daughter of a co-worker who stood well beneath me. She looked up at me, and the way kids do, asked “why is your nose crooked?” Her mother gasped and was about to scold her, but I giggled and told her, playing with the tip of it to bring it back into centerline.

I’ve also struggled with accepting my short muscular build, always wanting the lithe body of a tall dancer. I loved playing sports and did gymnastics as a kid, so my athletic tendencies didn’t help. Instead of backing off the sports, I claimed I was robbed of height because my mother must have smoked, drank and consumed lots of caffeine while pregnant with me, thereby stunting my growth. My rebellion against my body caused a faulty body image that showed up as eating disorders through my teens and early 20’s.

My point is that I may be a certain way and not ok with it, but I’m ok with my reality of who I am without those things. Slowly over time through much seeking, inquiry, talking, reading, meditating, I come closer and closer to acceptance of all of those things that I do not like. I still can’t love those parts, but I have come to be at peace with them. #okwithnotbeingok


24
Jul 20

The Joy? of Meditation

I write this with a smirk on my face. Meditation is not always a joy. In fact, only after a decently long meditation is it remotely close to being joyful. Some days, sitting for meditation is the hardest things to do – like running in a trough of clay.

My daily habit has ebbed and flowed. Most days, after I awaken, I sit right there in the bed and meditate. Some days I have to pee first, so I do. Some days, I don’t want to sit there at all, and I do. Some days, I scour my brain for all of the reasons why I should not sit in meditation, but I do .

It first was apparent to me that I was missing out of something important at my first week-long yoga training in 2010. I noticed a distinctive difference between me and some of the participants. Upon some conversations, I learned that the difference was meditation. Those who were calm and seemingly “aware” meditated regularly – outside of the confines of the program. Upon my re-entry, I began my practice. Slowly and short in time at first, slowly building the muscle to the practice. It took months to get to be sitting for more than 10 minutes.

The practice of meditation is being studied in its ability to overcome pain, anxiety, depression and many other health issues. What I find is not how I feel when I am consistent with my meditation practice, but how I feel when I am not. Without my daily practice, I feel “off” and get angered easily, feel a higher sense of anxiety, dread, depression. My ability to focus seems lacking as well. I can’t say that meditation “cures” anything, but overall I feel more satisfied and downright happier when I meditate.

There is a misconception about meditation which might turn people away from the practice, however. Meditation is meant to suit you and your needs. For starters, just aim for a few minutes. Count your breaths, simply aware of the inhales and the exhales. There will be thoughts and there will be resistance. THIS IS NORMAL. The point is to notice what comes up without following it and letting it distract you. Be kind to yourself instead of getting angry for “not being able to meditate.” Anyone can meditate.

It takes a conscious and willing mind to devote a small part of your day to yourself. What you might find with a daily practice of even just 10 minutes, is improved focus, less distractions in your mind, a renewed sense of calm, better relationships with yourself and others, lowered stress among other things.


22
Jul 20

Connection

Yesterday I was seeking a theme for this weeks’ classes. Through many years of teaching and my own trial and error of what feels best in my body and embodied teaching, speaking and being, I gravitate towards figurative themes instead of literal translations. I like to let my students “do the math” if you will.

I set it up and then I can adapt and flow with it on one day into something that I am seeing and feeling and change it up the next day, but sticking with the general theme. This method works well for my creativity. I never feel constricted nor stuck in a corner. And it puts me on the very edge of discomfort. I never know what we will create together.

I wish the rest of my life were like that. But, bit by bit, I am moving into that (but that is the subject of a whole other thread threatening to hijack this one).

Connection is troublesome for me. I get distracted, in case that is not already obvious. Distracted in an energetic way. A friend of mine called it chasing “shiny new objects.” And so, instead of setting out in one direction, connecting with that thing, intention, goal, I drift, never really making connection with myself. Thereby lacking the ability to build connections – relationships – with others.

Lately it’s been different. After selling the yoga studio and then the massive world-wide shut-downs caused by Covid-19, I’ve been committing to dedicated intentional listening through yoga, meditation and a lot of reading. Through all of this and months later, I finally feel alive again. Terribly alone too.

Alive in a way that I didn’t realize I have been missing. And maybe I never really knew what this life was until now. And alone in the sense of gaining clarity to see through a lot of societal bull. Race relations, political fear-mongering, the accepted regularity of endemic addiction.

I’m excited to know so little about it all. Weird, I know. And thrilled to be making new connections like a baby learning to walk. And I am.


20
Jul 20

Fitting in

Like most kids, all I wanted was to fit in. I grew up the third daughter of three. My siblings always got to do things first. Getting a bike, ears pierced, driving, going to high school. I was left behind.

But it didn’t start with being left alone. Looking back, I was always different. While now, I recognize the quirks and subtle nuances as huge benefits, as a kid, the differences that make me unique were just plain weird.

To the point that, as a baby, my belly was big. Really big (mostly because of significant food allergies that remained undiagnosed until my 30’s). And, because of that, my parents called me “baby buddha.” They still, and I am past half a century, laugh about that nickname.

I had other quirks. I hated wearing tights as a kid. My legs itched so much and I told my parents how much I hated “squeezy things” on my legs. For this, and other quirks, my paternal grandfather, who was a radio and stage actor, would sing this song “Julia, you are peculiar” most every time we’d gather at a family outing.

It was funny, but not to me. The words burned. I grew up not liking myself in so many ways. My hair was curly to the point of downright uncombable, and my nose deviated to the left side of my face due to a crooked septum. My short stature and thick quads due to athletics attracted the name of “tree trunk” and “chilly willy.” I just wanted to be one of the cool kids at junior high and high school. I just wanted to fit in.

So I took the path of controlling what I could. During the first of my high school years, I lost weight. A lot of it. I got down to 100, then 95, then 90 pounds. At 5’4″ in height, I was bony and frail. Only then did I begin to feel comfortable with my being, and yet I was far away from fitting in. The funny thing is, the kidding stopped. No more name calling.

For several years, I struggled with eating disorders. First it was restricting my eating, then it morphed into purging. No one said anything and I still thought I was in control. Still trying to fit in and win friends, I started running when I didn’t make the high school soccer team. I wanted to play soccer because all of the popular girls did. The coach recognized I had never played soccer before but saw I was speedy, so he told me to run track. I did and got into running. It saved me.

I recognized that I couldn’t run well AND restrict my eating. I couldn’t run well AND purge everything that I had in my body. Slowly I stopped those destructive behaviors, but continued running. And through the sport to which I dedicated so much time and practice, I began to get better.

The getting better was easy because I just showed up and through running every day, with nothing under my belt, I just got better. It didn’t take much – just consistency paid off. I kept coming back because I finally felt valued. After every practice that first season, Coach Finch thanked us for coming out. He meant it. It mattered. I mattered. I fit in.

It wasn’t a matter of excelling in something. It wasn’t a matter of winning. It was my showing up that made a difference. Finally I was recognized for WHO I was being and I mattered.


19
Jul 20

On Drinking

One day I just gave it up. For years, I struggled with alcohol use. While not considered a heavy drinker, my use was consistent from my early 20’s until March of 2020. Sunday March 15 was my day 1 on this new path.

It used to be that I would drink, just on the weekends, maybe Friday night and occasionally on Saturday, but by Sunday, I knew that to be sharp for Monday, I needed to abstain. Then I started to dread my job and just didn’t care anymore. I saw people around me treating Friday like a weekly holiday, so Thursday nights became fair drinking territory, because no one else was of much use on those days, so how I showed up wouldn’t matter either. Then in order to get my head right about going to work AND to congratulate myself on another intense long run on Sunday, those nights were in the mix as well.

Drinking came more nights of the week than not n my late 40’s. To relieve stress, to assuage the pernicious loneliness, to ease boredom, to avoid facing the work that really needed to be done. It was hardly to be social, nor to fit in, but more of a way to run away. When I began looking at why I drank, I saw how toxic the habit had become. In fact I drank alone most of the time and set obsessive boundaries on my habit. Never before 5 pm. The words my dad repeated at social family occasions about “the bar opens at 5” playing like an old movie in my head. And just one drink before dinner to help me cook | relax | celebrate | soothe the loneliness | comfort my sadness. Just one drink, but in the about the biggest glass I could find. I knew my Tequila pours were not one ounce, but many and my wine glass held about 3 you’d get served at a bar. But to me, it was still “just one” Because my family drank and my husband drank and it was just accepted and expected to fit in to the norm. Already so picky with food and clothes, hair and exercise, this one thing I could do to fit in.

I lied. To myself and to others about my need for a drink. Owning a yoga studio was an emotional demand that I had not recognized before I opened the doors. I thought the pain I felt in my body was all due to the years of competitive sports and long distance running and that with my age, it would never go away. I couldn’t accept that the aches were due to stress and instead numbed it all away most every night. When I rushed home after teaching, I claimed it was to eat dinner, and yet I knew I’d drift off into a drink before anything else. Masquerading as healthy for so many years, prevented my from showing up as who I really am.

At the time my drinking became more regular, other responsibilities started to fade. I didn’t have to get up early, so I didn’t, sleeping took priority and yet I still awake hazy and tired. It tool me the better part of the day to feel “right” again. Usually in the early afternoon, I’d start craving it and would tell myself that at 5, I could have a drink. I’d do most anything to be home and done with all heavy brain activity by 5.

And then, one day, I wanted to be done with it. I decided to quit once and for all and made it public, telling friends to make me accountable. After about a week, I still craved a drink. After a month, I still craved a drink. I started looking deeper at why I was drinking at all. It wasn’t to drink, but to numb. To soothe and to hide from what was really going on. I started replacing the act of drinking with another activity. Meditation, a walk, a short yoga session. It all helped. What helped the most was talking about it and making my progress known to everyone. Many shunned me and told me not to judge them. Some asked me privately about my journey. I shared more.

What has been the most disturbing to me in my journey is how endemic alcohol is to our society. It’s built in everywhere. I can’t change that, but at least I am aware. I can only change myself and my attitudes and beliefs about myself. It’s hard until it isn’t anymore.