Last weekend, I slept in a room full of strangers. I spent two nights in a hostel in a cozy house that reminded me of New England, the kind of house I still find charming. Tall and narrow with little rooms and wood floors.
I attended my first weekend of yoga teacher training, and I was nervous and exhilarated. I didn’t know anyone, and prior to starting I’d hoped to lose more weight and be in better shape. By the time I arrived at the hostel and checked in, I was so excited to be alone in a quaint, charming town alone that I forgot to feel disappointed about anything at all.
After I made my bed because I knew I’d be back late, and I chatted with another guest, a guy with big brown eyes who looked impossibly young and thick haired who said he could eight run miles in near zero- degree weather. Then I walked around town with my plum colored yoga mat slung over my shoulder before I went to the yoga studio. I walked by a hippie store that sold rocks, and there was a big homemade sign in the window that said seekers of the truth were welcomed.
Somehow, I felt like that little sign was something I was meant to see. I walked by it several times throughout the weekend.
Once I arrived at the yoga studio, I was relieved that my classmates were warm and friendly, and of all shapes, sizes and ages. The yoga instructor reminded me of a brunette version of Sarah Jessica Parker except prettier and with muscles.
I have so much to learn, and my first weekend of an eight-month program is just the beginning of I don’t know what. I need to learn bones and muscles. I need to learn about the art of inner listening, the Sanskrit names for poses, and how to make the palms of my hands stronger. I can already feel myself changing. I can already feel my own hand reaching towards my own heart.
As I walked around on my breaks from class, I remembered how essential it is to me to have time and space to meander and think. I haven’t given that to myself in a long, long time. I remembered how you can walk around the corner of a sidewalk and be completely caught off guard by something beautiful. On a cool, overcast morning, I was startled by a perfect crow standing in the middle of a sidewalk, and I gave it the food I had in my hands.
I have so much to learn about what yoga is. I have so much to learn about who I am. One question I have written in the front of my yoga notebook is “How do I love and give attention to what I’m avoiding?” I don’t know yet, but I look forward to finding out. May we all learn to break away from being comfortable. May we all learn to love what we’re avoiding.
Just as sure as shards of glass will turn into something smooth if you throw them into the sea, I have been in the depths so long that I’m emerging as something different. A fundamental part of me is shifting.
I’m starting to realize that I have value whether I give or not. Giving and making a positive difference in the world is still important to me. Being a good mom, which means making all kinds of emotional and financial sacrifices, is important to me. But I am coming to the radical realization that I have worth whether I give or not.
If I’m lying on my couch reading a magazine for fun giving nothing to the world, I still matter.
I don’t have to give to everyone who needs something. This is a huge shift in my thinking. For example, if there are people who need to talk about themselves for two hours non-stop without a breath, I do not have to listen. If there is someone who sings badly who needs someone, anyone to perform for, I don’t have to be the audience. It’s okay if I feel pity for people, but I don’t have to let them bleed me dry.
If there are people who interrupt me in conversation, or who talk over me when I say something, it’s not a que for me to keep listening because they have needs. It’s a que for me to ask myself what I’m getting out of it and whether or not I want to stay. Life guards at public pools get time to swim for fun. If professional givers like members of the clergy and doctors can get time off to watch a football game or play a game of cards, I can have time off from giving too.
If I don’t give myself my own attention, I’ll be worn out and resentful and unable to give anything at all. Next week, I begin my yoga teacher training, and I can’t wait. I’ll have hours to focus on my own body and time to focus on something that matters to me.
I give myself permission to walk away from things and people that deplete me. This doesn’t mean that I’ll never lend a sympathetic ear to someone I care about. It just means that my own needs are a factor in the equation of life, and that I can choose not to give and still have worth and value. May we all remember that we don’t have to give to everybody who asks. May we all remember that one of the most beautiful things we can give to ourselves is our own ear.
Yesterday, I decided to throw my underwear away. Not every pair, just a pair where the elastic had started to wear out. Normally, I wear my socks and underwear until they are shreds because I think, nobody is going to see this but me. It doesn’t matter. What I've realized is that kind of thinking like that is another way of saying that I don’t matter.
There was time when it would have been humiliating to be in an accident. I could have been on the side of the road in tattered underwear and socks with holes.
I’m tired of thinking that I don’t matter. I’m tired of saying or thinking it’s just me. In becoming more aware of my thoughts, I realize in how many ways I think this throughout the day. When my kids aren’t home, I tend to eat popcorn, popsicles, or a yam for dinner. I will cook them a real dinner, but if it’s “just me,” I’ll eat whatever and eat it quickly like I don’t even deserve the time to sit down.
I’m not sure exactly when or why I started to put myself last, but I know that I started doing it long before I had kids, and I’ve had enough. It’s old. I’m tired of it. The good news is that I’m changing for the better. I’m doing more and more things just for me. I’m going out of my way for myself. I’m listening to the needs and wants of my body more.
I’m still a work in progress, but I’m living my life differently. I’m going to be a yoga teacher because I want to. Doing yoga makes me feel good inside my body. I’m letting myself go to sleep when I’m tired rather than forcing myself to stay awake because I think I should be doing something productive. I’m wearing my good perfume on ordinary days, and most days I take a few extra minutes to put make-up on because it makes me feel pretty.
I have a lot of work to do and more progress to make, but here’s to throwing out underwear that doesn’t fit. Here’s to us listening to ourselves more. May we all remember that if we value ourselves, the world will not end. In fact, I’m convinced that valuing ourselves is how we make the world better.
I hope my blog inspires you to believe in yourself more and feel less alone in the world. I, for one, am inspired by the imperfections of others who continue to rise up again and again despite life's challenges. May we find ways to inspire and support each other.