When The Speaker Shuts Up

I haven’t written since I ran the Boston marathon.
And I haven’t written since my cousin got married.
I haven’t written since I took a five-day yoga training
or since I decided to make my teaching simpler.
I haven’t written since I got into a new improv troupe.
I haven’t written since I decided to teach English.
I haven’t written since my friend killed himself. He would have been 30 last week.
I haven’t written since my sister and brother-in-law put their house on the market and started applying for jobs in a new city (my city!).
I haven’t written since I got into a relationship I thought would last a long time.
I haven’t written since I ended that relationship.
I haven’t written since I fell off my bike.
I haven’t written since I heard a podcast on explaining death to children
or since I decided to teach yoga for trauma
or since I cried about my dad for the first time in too long.
I haven’t written since I started teaching yoga to a 12-year-old with scoliosis.
I haven’t written since I read about a new scoliosis surgery that doesn’t use rods or fusion
or since I cried about my back for the first time in too long.

I haven’t written in four months
despite there being so much to say.

I want to say I can’t wait for my next marathon.
I want to say congratulations, Will, for marrying one awesome lady.
I want to say I think marriage is weird.
I want to say thank you, Jason, for reminding me how simple yoga is, and for making me so pumped to keep teaching.
I want to say thank you, improv, for reminding me to laugh. And listen.
I want to say I’ll pay more attention.
I want to say Happy Birthday, Chris. I miss you.
I want to say I’m sorry.
I want to say I miss you, Papa.
I miss you a lot.
And I want to say I think of you, Papa, and of you, Mama, whenever I see my 12-year-old student, and we talk about crooked backs and braces and surgery.
I want to say, fuck you, rods and screws and bones that don’t allow my back to bend.
And I want to say thank you, rods and screws and bones for holding me together
even when I’m angry.
I want to say I love you.

I want to say that I’ve learned something – a lot of things – since I last wrote.
I want to say that I have something to show for it.
But instead of a thing to show
instead of a moral
or a lesson
or a thing to say
I’m left just feeling
with very little to say
and very little to do.

What I really want
is to listen.
What I really want
is to watch.
And what I really want
is to be.

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Love Yourself, Then Laugh About It

When I first told my yoga students that I did improv comedy, they were surprised – sort of. “Wait, what?!” said one, then immediately followed it up with, “Actually, never mind. I can see it.” The next week, that same student came up to me before class and said, “Abby! I’m coming to your show tonight!” And while I am usually glad when my friends come to see my shows, my first thought this time was: Oh dear. She’s going to see a whole different side of me – what if I do something offensive on stage?! What if her image of me as a peaceful and loving yoga teacher crumbles and she never returns to my class again?? But of course what I said was: “Oh yay!!” Then I spent the rest of the afternoon wondering why I felt self-conscious about my two worlds merging.

improv kissing TimAs an improvisational comedian, I have had to develop my philosophy of comedy. My philosophy thus far has been simple: make fun of everything, including and especially myself. At the same time I have been cultivating my philosophy of comedy, however, I have also been honing a seemingly opposite philosophy of mindfulness (what some might call a “spiritual philosophy”): love everything, including and especially myself.

For years, I have seen the similarities between improv and yoga, but struggled to explain it. They are both about listening, and about being present. Both are about releasing expectations, accepting offers, and seeing possibilities, rather than obstacles. In Tina Fey’s chapter, Rules of Improvisation That Will Change Your Life and Reduce Bellyfat, she observes: “As an improviser, I always find it jarring when I meet someone in real life whose first answer is no. ‘No, we can’t do that.’ ‘No, that’s not in the budget.’ ‘No, I will not hold your hand for a dollar.’” She asks the reader, “What kind of way is that to live?” To Fey, accepting offers and saying yes is not just a way to perform: it is a way to be. I have a similar reaction as a yoga teacher. I am baffled when I meet people who belittle their skills, habits, and beliefs, or think they are fixed. I get very upset when people say things like: “I’ll never be able to touch my toes,” “I could never run a marathon,” or “I can’t do yoga – I have a bad back.” I want to shake them (lovingly) and shout (kindly), “Just freaking try it!!!!”

There is another important commonality between improv and yoga: both are terrifying. And while the terror is more obvious with improv (there’s a whole audience watching you if you fail), it doesn’t take long to reach that terrifying place in yoga. Over the Improv NYE 12last seven years, I’ve quit two full-time jobs, gone through three major breakups, moved across the country, and tried to make a living teaching yoga, performing improv, and writing. All of these things are and were terrifying, and for all of these things, I blame yoga. And improv. Through yoga, I have grown to understand, appreciate, and love my whole self: physical, mental, and emotional. Through improv, I have learned to listen, laugh, and fail gracefully (as well as publicly). And while I believe I have always known myself, deep down, yoga and improv have encouraged me to exhume my deepest, darkest, and, incidentally, brightest self.

Yoga shakes us up (lovingly), and shouts (kindly): “This is you! Here you are!” While this shaking and shouting may initially throw us off course and create more chaos than we lived with before, it ultimately allows us to reassess the course we’re on, clearing out space to make sense of the mess that was previously stacked Yes-andin a neat pile, behind several doors and walls. Improv does a similar thing: it requires us to observe what is happening right now, and to respond in a way that makes sense. Scenes move forward when characters listen to each other, build upon each other, and give what they have to offer. The best scenes are those where we commit to our characters, where we are not afraid of the dark. It is frightening, invigorating, uncomfortable, and hilarious all at once. If this sounds like a metaphor for life, it is. When we see ourselves clearly, we can love ourselves fully. When we love ourselves fully, we can see others clearly and contribute positively. The darkness that once scared us becomes yet another thing to explore. And thank goodness for our scene partners! They are here to reminds us that whatever we do and whoever we are, we are worth saying yes to.

A Crack in the Sidewalk, or 15 Days Later

“With an intention, there is no failure.” – Me

Good thing I said that, because otherwise, I’d be writing today to say that I’ve failed.

It started last Thursday, when I was pressed for time and decided to run to my yoga class. It was a brilliant idea, I thought, for it would only take slightly longer to run there than it would to bike; I’d turn my prescribed run into transportation, thus saving myself time and keeping up with my marathon training. No sooner had I finished patting myself on the back for this uber-efficient and athletic solution did the sidewalk remind me just how fallible I was.

A mile into the run, I tripped on a crackcracked-sidewalkand fell, leaving my knees bruised and bloodied, and my dignity fractured. As the graceful citizens of Portland continued to walk and cycle past, I lay on the cruel concrete, crying pathetically and wondering what on earth I should do. I didn’t have time to go home and get my bike, the bus wouldn’t get me there in time, and I couldn’t find my car2go card. If I were to make it on time to teach, I had no choice but to keep running.

Four painful miles later, I arrived at the studio, knee puffy and sore. I taught, gingerly, and figured it would heal up in no time. The next morning, when it was still creaky and fat, I began to get nervous. I taught my usual Friday classes, hoping I wasn’t doing more damage, then made the bold decision not to practice yoga that day. In any other month, this would have been no big deal, but this time it meant I would not succeed in my 31 day challenge. To add insult to injury, I forgot to write. I wish I could blame it on a wrist sprain or a bad case of tennis elbow, but no: I just plain forgot.

When Saturday came and the knee was still sore and puffy, my anxiety swelled. I had already skipped one day of yoga, and it was looked like I would have to skip another. Saturday was also the day I was scheduled to do my long run, but that, too, seemed like it wouldn’t happen. Not only was I failing in my yoga quest, and not only had I skipped a day of writing, but my marathon training was unraveling as quickly as a loose-knit scarf at a cat convention. This is why I don’t do ___-day challenges, I cursed, because shit like this happens, and then everything falls apart!

Or maybe that is exactly why I should do such things.

Last summer, I told one of my yoga classes about a fabulous book I was reading: Mindset, by Carol Dweck. The segment I dont unravelreferenced had to do with our perception of, and reaction to, “failure.” Essentially, we often over-react, and turn minor mistakes, hiccups, or snags into spectacular ones. We eat one forbidden cookie, then say, Ah, fuck it! and eat five more; we get a poor night’s sleep, then guzzle enough coffee to give even the steeliest lumberjack an ulcer. But to do this, she says, is akin to getting one flat tire, cursing our luck, then slashing the other three ourselves. Why not just fix the one tire, she asks, and move on?

I still have four and a half months until the marathon, and there are still 15 days left in December. Also, as most yoga teachers know, one doesn’t need to do sun salutations and balancing poses to practice yoga. I can so simple seated poses; better yet, I can simply meditate (and maybe even ice my knee at the same time?!). Since Friday, I’ve been writing every day (again), trying to meditate for at least a few minutes each night before bed (hey, it’s better than nothing), and above all, appreciating my health. At least my spill on the sidewalk wasn’t any worse, and at least I can respect my body enough to take some time off when I need it. Meditation and stillness have always been more difficult for me than yoga asana and movement – so in a strange way, maybe this is the perfect kind of “__-day challenge.” I can’t say I like being laid up, or that I’m glad I fell, but it certainly has given me a lot to write and think about. So Cheers! to finding inspiration in the uncomfortable.

31 Days

Yesterday was a big day. Not only was it the first day of my marathon-(pre)training program, but it was also the first day of my 31-day yoga challenge. For good measure, I offered myself another challenge: write every day for the month of December. I’m proud to say that, two days in, I’m right on track with all of the above.

This is big news for me because, while I’m generally a rather disciplined person, I’ve never much cared for the “___-day 31-Fingerschallenge,” for the same reasons I’ve never cared for cleanses, diets, or strict race training plans: our diet ebbs and flows with our phases, as does our weight, as does our workout schedule, as do most of our habits. To challenge myself to a number of consecutive days of anything gives me sweaty palms and a jumpy heart (and not in the fun way). What if I am super-busy one day and I don’t do yoga like I promised myself I would? What if I’m especially sore and decide not to run on a day I’m scheduled to? What if I forget to write something one day? What if I just really want a piece of chocolate or a bowl of ice cream (not so much a hypothetical as an everyday occurrence)? In simpler terms: what if I fail?

Classic perfectionist talk.

But this month, instead of pooh-poohing the yoga challenge that my friend proposed, instead of casually running and calling it Yoga Matstraining, instead of rationalizing my way out of writing every day, I said, Let’s do this. (Yes, the royal “us”: my ego and me.) Will every yoga practice be enlightening and amazing? Probably not. Will every run make me feel strong and fast? Today’s certainly didn’t. Will everything I write be enriching and wise? Judging by some of my past journal entries, I’ll go ahead and say: hell no. Is that fine? Yes. In fact, it’s fantastic. To be able to do something for the joy of doing it, rather than the sake of achieving a goal is something I need to practice.

In most yoga classes I teach, I invite my students to set an intention at the beginning of class. I then remind them (and in turn, remind myself) that an intention is different from a goal: an intention is something to focus on and feel, rather than something to achieve. With an intention, there is no failure. So instead of waking up each day in December and thinking, “I have to write, I have to run, I have to do yoga,” I shall think: “I get to do (at least!) three things that I love today – how glorious!” The intention, after all, is not to shame myself into doing things that are “good for me.” The intention is joy in doing.

So Cheers! to holding oneself accountable without guilt trips. Cheers! to living one day at a time. And Cheers! to delighting in the practice of doing, rather than the perfection of skills or achievement of goals. Don’t wish me luck; just wish me joy.

Dear Abby

I received a “Dear Abby” in the mail yesterday; it was from me. I had written it on the last day of a yoga retreat I attended with my mother, just five weeks ago, and, like many things I do, I had forgotten about it. As I started reading, however, the feelings I had when I wrote the letter came back to me.

It was the end of a five-day respite from society, a break from my friends and family asking me, “So you’re done with grad school – what next?!” Prior to coming on the retreat, I had decided to move across the country to Portland, OR – big news, considering I had never lived more than an hour outside of Rochester, NY. I had thought this decision was momentous enough, but apparently everyone I spoke with wanted to know more: What would I do there? What if I didn’t get a job? How was I going to get to Portland? Was I sure I wanted to sell my car and most of my belongings? While I had once felt confident in my decision to move, these questions left me shaken. Perhaps I had not thought everything through; perhaps this was one of those ideas that sounded romantic and wonderful in theory, but in reality would leave me feeling foolish and desolate. But throughout the retreat, and especially as I wrote myself this letter, I calmed back down. Was every detail worked out? No. Was I sure that moving felt right? Absolutely.Dear Abby

To a degree, I wrote to myself, I revel in being unsettled – it gives me energy, keeps my looking forward, keeps me from falling asleep (literally and figuratively). But maybe, even in that unsettled state, I can find sure footing, and remember how soothing it can be to stand on the edge, water lapping at my ankles.

Three weeks into my Portland adventure, I have begun to find my footing. I am still what you might call “unsettled” – I spend the majority of my days job-searching, writing and rewriting cover letters and resumes, and asking myself what I want to do with my life. I have applied for Language Arts and Special Education jobs, jobs teaching yoga, am about to apply to AmeriCorps (again), and am considering applying for service jobs. I ask myself each day what my goal is: Do I want to work steadily toward my dream job now (owning and operating a yoga studio that caters to adults, kids, families, and athletes)? Or do I want to secure a steady, full-time income with benefits (through anything but self-employment)? Depending on my mood, my answer varies. And after reading my Dear Abby letter, I think this uncertainty is okay. I may not be settled, but at least I am not stagnant.

on the edgePsychologist Barry Schwartz discusses the idea of “The Paradox of Choice”: when we humans are faced with many options, rather than feel excited, liberated, and empowered, we often feel overwhelmed, paralyzed, and discontent. UrbanDictionary.com discusses a related phenomenon called “FoMo”: the Fear of Missing out, often exacerbated by seeing friends’ social media postings about what great lives they’re leading. And just last week The Telegraph took this concept further with the introduction of “MoMo”: the Mystery of Missing out – you know, when your friends don’t post their status every ten seconds and you’re forced to wonder if their lives are better than yours. With today’s barrage of choices and social media postings, it is easy to feel that we don’t have enough, that our lives aren’t exciting in comparison to someone else’s, that we should have chosen or acted differently. Rather than feel defeated by all this, however, perhaps we can feel exhilarated. The fact that there are so many jobs to have, goals to set, and people to meet is a beautiful thing, so why not take comfort in it? Complete stillness, like absolute zero, exists only in theory; it is the transitions, the restlessness, the uncertainty, that keep us moving.

Pink and Blue

Apparently, when I was three years old, I informed my parents that “Pink is a girl’s color. Blue is for boys.” My parents, recovering hippies that they were, shared a perplexed glance as if to ask each other, Are you responsible for teaching her that genderist smut?! When neither owned up to it, they decided it must have been the evils of society – no matter how careful they were to shroud me from such ideas, societal roles and expectations were just too insidious.

Throughout my childhood, I was reminded of this story several times. To my parents – especially my father – the story seemed a sort of prototype, a representation of all the assumptions and preconceptions that we, as a society, pass down without knowing it. As I grew older, I would encounter many such gender half and halfpreconceptions, several of which would test my confidence: when I was in middle school, I learned that boys don’t like goofy girls; in high school, I learned that girls and boys could be friends without sexual tension (then, in college, I learned they couldn’t); in college, I learned that men don’t like confident women (then, in recent years, I learned they do); and somewhere along the line, I learned that women wear makeup and men don’t. While I have always fancied myself an observant and reflective person, it was not until last June that I truly pondered the absurdity of this last societal myth. If someone had said to me, “Hey! Isn’t it weird that half the population is expected to paint its face, while the other half is expected not to?” I might have acknowledged that yes, that was weird. But no one said it, and I accepted it as a truth.

In most of the animal kingdom, it is the male sex that primps and fluffs, and the female that chooses and chases her mate. In human society, we have somehow reversed this: women are the “fairer sex,” and under no circumstances are we supposed to chase our potential male mates. eHarmony even published an article alerting women to the dangers of, “E-mailing [the man she is interested in], texting him, Facebooking him, sending him a cute card, dropping by his house, in any way attempting to initiate some kind of contact.” Not only have we convinced women to cover up their physical blemishes, we have also trained them to cover up their feelings. What happened to letting the world see us as we are? Are we so afraid of judgment that we need to keep at least one layer between us and everyone else?

What would happen if we accepted each other as readily as we accepted societal norms? be-who-you-areHow would we behave if we did what we knew to be good, instead of what we were told was right? I have wracked my brain to come up with a non-cheesey way to say it, but I can’t, so I’ll just say it, cheese and all: Bare your face, and while you’re at it, bare your soul; speak your truth, and recognize that truth is relative and malleable; don’t worry if you don’t fit society’s idea of you, or even your own idea of you – a person is more than an idea. Perhaps Dr. Seuss said it best: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

Beneath the Surface

I won’t lie – I’m almost disappointed by how easy this year’s edition of Natural Beauty Month has been. Last year, I tormented myself by standing too long in front of mirrors, picking apart my reflection. Last year, I looked longingly at beautiful women, wondering how I compared. Last year, I researched one natural beauty tip after another, ate healthier, slept more – all in the name of cultivating “natural beauty” (read: “natural good looks”). But this year? This year, I have other priorities. Do I still feel strongly that a makeup-free month is a good idea? Totally. Do I still hate the societal expectation that women wear makeup while real men don’t? Absolutely. But am I still consumed by how I look with makeup vs. without? No, sir.

While I am pleased with this new-found confidence in my naked, unadulterated face, it makes writing about my experience more difficult – or at least, less superficial. Whereas last year, my insecurities came rushing to the surface, this year, my attention is deeper.Purchase this image at http://www.stocksy.com/51066 A lot has happened since last June: my boyfriend of three and a half years moved out; a dear friend moved in; I reconnected with friends I hadn’t seen in too long; I went on dates; I finished my masters’ degree; I decided to sell most of my belongings and move across the country with no job awaiting. At 28, I am about to begin a new episode of my life – and instead of “Married… with Children,” this episode is more like “New Girl.”

As I reflect on this month so far, I cannot help but extend my reflection to the year itself. And as I ponder why I am so much more comfortable without makeup this June than last, I must give a nod to my experiences. Even though I am still concerned with what I look like, I have far more faith in who I am. The friends I have made (and will make) and the men I have dated (and will date) do not like me because I have black eyelashes or smooth skin: they like me for me. Of course, I want to be attractive (who doesn’t?), but unless we are looking at a photograph or painting, attractiveness is never purely physical. In a post last June, I wrote that, “looking pretty is not the point of Natural Beauty Month.” At the time, I knew it, but I didn’t fully believe it. This year, I believe it.

Natural Beauty Month: Season 2

Here we are: June 1, 2014. One year ago, I traveled to a giant, muddy field to play in an Ultimate Frisbee tournament; I returned a new woman. Spurred by a conversation one of my teammates and I had about the amount of makeup one of our friends usually wore, I was moved to accept (and advertise) a challenge: go the entire month of June without makeup. If this seems like a rather mundane declaration, know that at the time, it terrified me. I was skittish to look others in the eyes, nervous to leave the house, and unenthused to be the subject of any photographs. I felt vulnerable, exposed, and insecure. After the first week, I regretted having been so vocal about the challenge – if I cheated, everyone would know about it and I would die ashamed. But with each passing week, I heard from more and more people who said Natural Beauty Month made them think about makeup and beauty in a new and different way; this was certainly the case for me. I began to see makeup, not as a part of my morning routine, but as a thing that some people used, a thing that I too could use, but opted not to.

By the end of the month, I had become accustomed to my naked face, a face unobscured by lines and coatings, unblemished by coverup, unmasked by mascara. The thought of putting makeup on was almost scary, as I thought I might forget how secure I had become without it. Since last July, I sank back into the habit of wearing it – but not with anywhere near the frequency or Imagededication. In general, I reserved it for work and fancy occasions. This morning, I awoke to catch a plane to Nashville, to visit a friend and meet her friends. As I collected my toiletries for the trip, I paused to look at my eyeliner, mascara, and eye shadow: they stood comfortably snuggled in their black leather container on the shelf behind the mirror, and there they would stay. I closed the mirrored door, and, rather than feel separation anxiety, I felt a wave of liberation. The people I meet will see me as I am; this makes me happy. When I speak with these people, I will not waste time wondering if they notice how small my eyes look or how short my eyelashes are (for, if they are thinking these things, they are wasting their own time). I will not avert their gaze, or make a stupid face to conceal my natural smile. I will simply look them in the eyes, listen, and be present. Indeed, if eyes are the gateway to the soul, one would hope those gates are not locked or obstructed.

If the idea of Natural Beauty Month intrigues you, I invite you to join. If it frightens you, I urge you. And if there is simply no way you could ever do it ever, I implore you: at least tell your friends. I’ll be standing with you.

 

 

You’ve Heard it Before, I’ll Say it Again: Just Love Yourself Already

While I am usually impressed, even moved, by the writings that Elephant Journal publishes, I must say that Altucher’s (2010) essay, How I lost 30 Pounds through yoga and never saw them again, with embarrassing before picture, gave me pause. Well intentioned and genuine as the author seems, I find the underlying messages of the article inherently flawed: that we should be “embarrassed” by our bodies “before” we make healthy life changes; that lighter is healthier; that yoga is the magic bullet.

I am always skeptical of headlines or articles that proclaim weight-loss as a focal point. The way I see it, weight-loss is either a product of healthy life choices, unhealthy life choices, pregnancy, or a medical problem; since we rarely know which (unless we know the person well), I find it prudent never to bring it up, nor to dwell on it. Despite being an observant person who is fascinated with people’s bodies, I rarely notice when my friends, family, or students lose or gain weight. Perhaps I have trained myself not to notice, because I don’t think it matters–what matters most is the person’s quality of life.

ImageSome of the steps Altucher mentions are benign enough; others are inspiring: “love yourself;” “start cooking;” keep yourself in balance; have patience. Some others are downright dangerous: try a “colonic” to “cleanse” your system (our bodies do this just fine when we eat and excrete, thank you);  “when you are hungry, drink water first” (I prefer to listen to my body, and actually eat when I am actually hungry). And call me crazy, but I don’t see how someone who truly loves herself can simultaneously feel embarrassed by a picture of herself with 30 more pounds. Shouldn’t true self-love triumph over shame?

I do not mean to tear the article or its author apart. If she is happier at 118 pounds than she was at 148, then I am glad for her. I do, however, want those who read the article (and others like it) to ask themselves some very honest questions: Why do we see losing weight as good and gaining weight as bad? Why are we moved to exercise, or to be sedentary? What inspires us to eat healthy food, and what spurs us to binge? When we can answer ourselves honestly, without judging our answers as good or bad, right or wrong, strong or weak, we empower ourselves to harmonize our actions with our feelings.

Living a healthy, balanced, and happy life is a constant experiment. It is not something we can achieve, but rather, something we must continually invent and reinvent. Throughout my life, I have experimented with strict vegetarianism, veganism, not-so-strict vegetarianism, the Paleo diet, running, not-running, yoga, cycling, CrossFit, and fasting. I even experimented with bulimia for a brief time in college—not because I thought it was healthy (I knew it wasn’t), but because I mistook lightness for a sign of health (it’s not). Throughout each of these experiments, I gathered information, tested my hypotheses, made new conjectures, and began the process again. I have learned never to tell others that their choices are wrong, that they should exercise, that they should eat certain foods, that they would be happier if they would just _____. The truth is, none of us knows what makes others happy; we only (sort of) know what works for us. That being said, I will agree with Altucher that loving oneself is a key element to real and lasting happiness. Rather than think of it as “the first step,” however, I prefer to think of it as the most prominent theme.

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A Tribute to The Rods

Sometimes I forget that I had back surgery. Most of the time I’m just used to how my body moves (or doesn’t), but every now and then, someone reminds me with an innocent comment: “Abby, you have amazing posture!” or, “I feel like I have to stand up straighter whenever you’re around,” or sometimes, “You’re a yoga teacher? No wonder you have such perfect posture!” I feel almost guilty when I tell them, “Thank you for noticing, but it’s not the yoga – it’s the rods.”

Eleven years ago this month, my body was permanently altered. I went under anesthesia at Beth Israel North, and when I woke up, I had eleven fewer moveable joints, two new stainless steel rods and 22 ragdoll pinkscrews. My scoliosis had progressed aggressively over the previous five years, and surgery was an attempt to fix it for good. Most days, I am incredibly thankful for this permanent solution; sometimes, however, I feel a pang of regret: what if surgery wasn’t the best option? What if a new, less invasive surgery comes to fruition – will I pity myself for my impatience and antiquated rods? To add to this mental conflict, I have also had several yoga teachers express regret on my behalf when I tell them of my rods: “I wish you had come to see me before you decided on surgery!” one said; “Yoga is a natural way to correct scoliosis,” said another. Every time someone says something like this, I want to respond: Are you f*cking kidding me?! Do you think I didn’t try other solutions? Do you think it was an easy decision, gluing nearly half my vertebrae together and reinforcing them with stainless steel? But every time, in an effort to remain cordial, I smile and say, “Yeah, it was a difficult decision, but it’s too late to change my mind now.”

I am still learning how to reconcile my own view of myself with how others view me – or, more accurately, my perception of how others view me. Usually, I am happy with myself and my decisions, and usually, I focus on how I feel, rather than how I might appear.  But more often than I would like to admit, I look to others to validate my choices, to tell me what a good job I did, or to reinforce an inkling I have – positive, or negative. Sometimes I am so focused on how I come across that I find it hard to accept a compliment (a compliment, that, just moments earlier, I was hoping to receive). Rather than simply say, “thank you,” I find some excuse to diminish my skills, abilities, or even my posture: “Oh, I’m not really that good”; “It’s not the yoga – it’s the rods.”

The truth is, my rods aren’t solely responsible for my excellent posture, nor are my natural talents responsible for any of the good work that I do. It is all a balance of nature and nurture, innate and cultivated, acceptance and seeking. Whenever I am alone – whether I am cooking, doing yoga, scoli x-ray backscoli x-ray sidereading, singing, dancing, or sitting – I am deeply in touch with what I want and need; I accept my body fully for what it can do, and what it can’t, and I appreciate my challenges as much as my talents. With no one around to critique or congratulate me, my successes and failures are my own. Once I step into the world, however, I inevitably begin comparing myself to others: am I smarter, faster, less attractive, more adept, less patient, or just plain different? How much of me is fixed, immobile, permanent, and how much of me can still grow and evolve? When I let others’ assessments of me speak louder than my own, self-doubt creeps in. But when I stop seeking outside opinions, slow down, and listen, not only do I feel more capable of making my own decisions, I feel content with the decisions I have already made.

So, rods and screws in my spine, listen up: I know you’re in there, and I appreciate you. You are part of my body, no longer a collection of foreign objects, but an integral part of my skeleton. Some people may tell you (or me) that you don’t belong, but we cannot doubt our connection. We’re in this together. Happy Anniversary.

half moon pink

(Photo credit to Steve Kraft)