Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Camp Life.

These long strips of wooden benches remind me of summer camp in Alabama.

Riverview Camp for Girls.
Camp McDowell.
I was quite the camper.

The Troopers at Skyline met on the basketball court just beside the Dining Hall.
Our club color was green.

Green like the shady, soft grass near the gym, where the boys were dropped off in a yellow school bus for our camp dance.
So much cologne.
Spiky gelled hair.
Pre-teen sweat.
I just tried not to get stuck in the middle of the gym: Every smart girl knew to hang the perimeter.

Our club color was green, like the sun-kissed patch of grass just below the zipline.
The zipline that I almost didn’t go off of at age 7.
My legs dangled off the sturdy wooden platform like wet ropes in the water. 
My belly was bottomless.
My head spun wildly.
I was so scared I couldn’t think. 
But after some very kind and patient coaching from someone up there in that tall tree, I finally inched my way off the ledge, like a baby bird leaving her safe, warm nest for the first time.
And when I climbed down the ladder after the zipline ran its course, my heart still racing, I remember feeling proud of myself, that I could do something hard like that.

I liked to watch the older girls at camp, wanting to be just like them when I grew up.
They wore overalls, no makeup, and high ponytails.
Their voices were hoarse by the end of the week from all the camp cheers.
Veins bulging out of their necks with every word they yelled.
Hands clapping fiercely like there’s no tomorrow.
I learned the first day of camp that the louder you yelled, the more respectable you were.
Cheers were to be taken very seriously at camp, and to shout in reckless abandon meant you were a warrior for your club, your tribe, your people.

Somehow I still feel like that little girl.
Just watching the big girls yell with passion and courage.
They do it so well, so effortlessly, like warriors.
And I still want to be just like them when I grow up.

The camp life has its sneaky little way of revealing hidden truths.
Like, You don’t have to wear makeup to be seen.
Or, You don’t have to be quiet and timid as a female- You can actually be a warrior for your tribe, proud and fearless.
The camp life tells you that you can inch your way off ziplines and say no to sweaty boys who don’t know what they want.

At camp, I felt strong.
I felt free, alive and worthy.
And that little girl is always in me, telling me to go for it- that maybe I will climb down the ladder after all this is over and say,

I’m proud of myself, that I can do something hard like that.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

To Share the Light Like Dinner.

Maybe tomorrow.
Maybe the next day.
Maybe some day soon.

I will tiptoe out of the water and onto the land.
I will no longer be afraid to be seen in the light.
I will wake up and not be afraid of the world.

Maybe, just maybe, I will see that still, small beam of light as my only option in this busy world.
That light- she is soft and smooth in color, easy to the eyes, soft to the touch- like a baby’s cheek at the backside of your finger.
She is quiet, calm, and subtle- like the barely noticeable whisper of the human voice at the top of a song.

That light- she is the sultry, thin mist steaming off the morning water.
A spider web rising off the skin in feathery layer beyond layer.

I have been thinking a lot about light and dark lately.
Two opposites.
They compliment each other so beautifully, though.
Without one, you can’t have the other.

What is my light?
What is my darkness?

It changes by the day, really.

Tonight, quite literally, my light is a lamp.
My darkness is the wilderness outside of a window in Ashland, Tennessee.
A beautiful and reluctant green moth is glued to the window.
Her feet stick like honey to the glass as she watches my every breath and we share the light like dinner.

Some days my light is my creative energy, my yes, that forces me forward when I want to say no.
And my darkness can be my no- keeping me hidden underneath the dark water, keeping me afraid to rise up to my neck and be seen by the light. Exposed and worthy.

Some days my darkness is all the metal outside and the interstate noises and the polluted air.

Sometimes my light and my darkness crash in my dreams.
Like the heavy chunks of metal on the interstates.

Sometimes, just sometimes, I need more light.
More light to my darkness.
To share like dinner with a moth against glass.

Here’s to the light.
Here’s to the quiet kiss of light and darkness.

Here’s to growth.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

High Maintenance Yoga.

“I don’t like the music,” she croaked.

People are so funny about their yoga. 
So many demands, so many opinions. 
And I can't blame them.
I am the exact same way. 

It's like once we know what we like, we want every single class to meet our pretty little laced-up standards- nothing more, nothing less. We create formulas around this stuff and base our teacher/studio score card accordingly. This much stretching, this much talking, this much alignment correction, this much background music played at this particular time and only this kind of music and at this exact volume level. Oh, and I want a cool lavender towel at the end, please. 

Multiply this by 20 and that's a yoga class for you. 
Welcome to teaching yoga in America.

But none of these high standards are said out loud, most of the time. So I couldn't help but laugh a little bit in my head when this woman expressed her yoga rules to me. I don't know, I felt an odd connection to her in a way, because of her honesty about it all. The rules no one else says but everyone thinks in class, especially when they are regulars.

Our expectations are heavy.

And I think there is an underlying fear beneath some of that.
That no one will ever quite please us in the way we want.
That we will never be received in the way we want to be received.
Never fully understood.

What is that?

I think more than anything, it speaks to this deep human need: the need to be heard, seen, and even experienced in all the right ways.

It's an instinctive cry to the deepest canyons of the earth. "SEE ME! I AM HERE. And I DESERVE to be seen." Therefore, I have standards- in how you teach me, look at me, talk to me, notice me, listen to me, and even think about me.

So maybe other teachers might have called this woman high-maintenance, but I understood her. 
And I could relate.

I walked in to the studio room a few minutes before class to check the heat and the status of the room and she was whispering to another student about my teaching practices, to make sure I was the right fit.

"I am picky about my teachers," she smiled back at me when I accidentally walked into their conversation. (But really, they stood right by the door, in the perfect space to be interrupted, so I didn't apologize). 
 “You should be picky about your teacher,” I encouraged her. “That’s how I am when I practice.” 

And I was serious. Sometimes I am too picky about those things. When it really is just yoga and I really am just a human on my mat, seeking authentic connection with my breath.

Even in the simple things, we have such high expectations.

This woman's eyes are a deep hazel brown. Whisker-like wrinkles outline the outside of her eyes, the kind that invite you in with caution, once she liked you, of course. And that took time, I could tell.

I watched the woman lay down her mat with meticulous care, in a protective way, like a mother setting her newborn baby down in her crib. I could tell this woman wanted to trust me. But she hadn't quite figured me out yet, and she didn't know how to, really.

I could feel the questions swirling around her, almost bumping into each other, like bumper cars at the county fair.
Is she safe? 
Is she correct? 
Is she modern?
And at what level?
Where did she get her training? 
And what kind of training?
Is she going to force me to do something I don't want to?
How strict is she?

After class, I spoke with her a bit more and she smiled at me and her eyes smiled too. And I heard an accent in her voice, one that I couldn’t quite name but was drawn to.

"I had to skip some of the postures and lie down, but that's good too, right?" she asked, already knowing the answer, almost testing me, it seemed. But she seemed at ease, more comfortable with me now.

"Yes, definitely," I said back with a bit of caution, but this time, knowing she liked me too, at least a little. And I felt my shoulders sit a little deeper instead of hunching near my ears where they don't belong but where they sneakily climb to when I am uncomfortable. With the same happy eyes, thankful for this closer connection to this beautiful, wise teacher, I affirmed. "Yes, you needed that."

And her smile got bigger, her eyes more glittery.
She left with her shoes in her hand and the light followed her out.

What a sweet woman.
Life's greatest teacher.
My teacher.

Opinions and all.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Growing Pains.

I have lived in Nashville for almost six years now.

Wow, that feels so good.
Scary, yes.
Weird, yes.
But good.

I have been hurt by so many people here.
Helped by so many people here.
Taken care of by people here.
Cut off in traffic by people here.

Little girls at schools all across this fine city have braided my hair and scoffed at my head full of tangles.
I have babysat and tucked kids in to bed at practically every city zip code.
I have voted several times here- once for a mayor who was elected and now comes to my yoga classes on the reg.

My car tires have burned MILES of rubber against these back roads, highways, and interstates.
I have passed the same trees countless times without even realizing it.
I wonder what these trees have noticed about me or my car or my addiction to staying busy.

I have used the Wifi of SO MANY cafes and coffee shops here.
I have said hello and goodbye to so many friends that have moved away.
Seen so many moving trucks in driveways.
Couches and chairs getting stacked together like a puzzle.
I've given hugs and said phrases like, “Safe travels. See you soon”.
Phrases that roll off my tongue from habit, but this time, with a shaky voice and a wrinkle in between my eyebrows.

I have cried with so many here.
Laughed with so many here.
Drunk wine with so many here.

This city has watched me grow up, and I mean that in the most honest, most authentic way possible, and if I said that outloud in the right place at the right time, it would come with a shaky voice and a wrinkle in between my eyebrows.

This city has watched me switch jobs.
It has watched me create traditions and projects and dreams.
It has watched me change addresses four times.
Create a nonprofit.
Become a yogi and a yoga teacher and crave the four corners of my mat like they are my lifeline to sanity.

I came with a college degree.
Now I have a Masters.

I met a boy at a summer camp who is now a man that I love, four and a half years later.
I came with a locked-down faith from a committed Southern girl who attended church every Sunday because that was the “right thing to do”.

I came with a script, y’all.

Little did I know, these beautiful six years would present me with more questions than I even knew were possible.
Little did I know that I would kind of love that, and accept that, and not be afraid of the questions or the doubt, or Lord-behold, the raw, reliable mystery of it all.

I moved here because Denver didn’t work out.
We broke up, I got angry, I escaped and started over as fast as I could so I wouldn’t have to feel anything.

I moved here without a job.
Just ready to get out of Alabama and be a stranger in a new place.

Here’s the thing- I do not hold this city, or any city, to perfection, measuring its every ounce just right, calculating its ingredients of diversity, affordable housing, and career opportunities time and time again, with sweaty hands and a racing heart.

I am growing, and so is this city.
I am making mistakes and cherishing life and getting older, and so is this city.

But somehow, right here, right now, I feel safe.
I feel held by this city and her people and her mistakes.
And that feels good, y’all.

Scary, yes.
Weird, yes. 

But good.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Her Whisper.

From a spare hour I had at a coffee shop…

I am wearing flannel today, so it officially feels like fall. The sky is cloudy and gray and yes, in Nashville, that makes it even more official: Colder weather is coming. I must say, though, this early morning chill at my shoulders is oddly welcoming.

I am ready, I think.

Fall means new beginnings, change, transition. The brigher the leaves turn, the more this is confirmed: Change is coming.

I notice it in my body. My chest feels less stable, less rooted, like hot steam rising from a whistling tea kettle. Thin, almost invisible, but rising just the same. But ya know? I like the feeling, at least every once in a while. 

The feeling of not knowing what's coming next. 
Of not knowing anything, really.
This is always our human state but fall makes it more real, it seems.

Fall is like a tiny whisper of promise delivered with hope, wonder, magic. Her promise carried with the powerful magnetic confidence of a curly-haired three year old with bright eyes and a voice of song, play, and wild imagination.

In the back of her voice, though, you hear it: that slightly mischievous and sneaky, "up-to-something" kind of tone. Like the homemade backdrop of the high school play. You don’t notice it at first but there it is, setting the perfect scene and laughing when the actors forget their lines.

Fall’s whisper, it says,

“Look out, something’s coming. 
Something good. 
Something special. 
It’s waiting for you, just sitting on the curbside of October. 
The bus stop of November, ready to get picked up and swept away. 
Ready to walk among the strangers, blend in with the layered smell of skin, with the promises of tomorrow.

When the trees turn gold and the cool breeze picks up and the leaves crackle underneath your footsteps on the sidewalk, then you will know it's coming.

Something good, something special.
Something just for you.

“Just wait,” she whispers.
Just wait.”

Sunday, September 11, 2016

What is Real?

A piece from Writing Group last spring. I know, a late entry. But maybe it falls on the perfect day, the perfect moment... I believe that.

“What is real?” the rabbit asked the Skin Horse in the attic.

The Skin Horse, in his fatherly, whispery wisdom, explained to the rabbit that to be real is to be loved.

I am that rabbit.
That Skin Horse is my God.

The horse rocks forward and backward on that wooded, creaky, little attic floor with spider webs in the corners and rays of sunlight dancing in.

His voice is like sand: calm, steady, dry. My overly-eager attempt at a tiny taste of his wisdom almost knocks my weight forward. My hips move beyond the balls of my feet, and I inch toward the sun rays. 


My skin horse tells me that I can be real, that I can be loved.
Just the way that I am.

My thoughts run like train tracks.
Loud, fast, and wild. 

Yet my Skin Horse keeps rocking forward and backward.
Steady breathing, steady voice.

What if I am already real? I wonder.
What if I just never knew it to be true?

My shoulders sink in a little, my chin caves in toward my chest.
My train track keeps running. 
Faster and faster, until my heart rate matches my thoughts like a reflection in the mirror.
Loud, fast, and wild.

And then I hear it.
“Just be,” my Skin Horse tells me.
His three whisker-like wrinkles lying beside each eyelid thread out in all different directions, like streams leading into the ocean of his calm, peaceful face.
“Just sit. Accept it. You are real. Your thoughts, your stories, your tragedies, our human existence- all of it, real.”

The attic suddenly becomes a castle of clouds in the sky. 
I am lifted, weightless, calm.

My train has stopped. 
No more shaky fingers.
No more stress or racing thoughts, denying my ability to be loved.

Real is THIS moment, THIS breath.
Real is NOW.