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.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Child of the Forest.

Since I can remember, trees have always been my source of strength.

Their roots, like the fingers of a child digging through fresh garden soil in search of slimy, wiggly worms. Their yellow-green leaves cupped like hands ready for communion, an eager palm ready to receive salvation’s greatest promise. Their branches spread wide with little predictability, like the legs of a spider moving meticulously through time and space creating a wild masterpiece against the backdrop of blue sky. The texture of their bark always surprises me, rough and rigid, but never without a story.

Trees are my strength, my bedrock against the storm of life.

I remember leaning against a magnolia tree, turning my white Sunday dress into my mother’s worst nightmare the day I got confirmed for church. The second the camera flashed, I blew an enormous bubble from my one-hour-too-many strawberry flavored gum, and I knew the tree was laughing with me.

I remember the bright, golden-sun yellow tree that leaned over our street in my neighborhood, always protecting, always saying hello to the walkers, the dogs, and especially the children. I was trapped in a love war with that tree. No matter what happened, I couldn’t go a day in fall without staring at her ever-evolving color and smiling.

The year of the tornado was the year we lost that tree.
I will never forget her.

I remember the reckless trees of Baton Rouge with branches like I had never laid eyes on before. My brothers wanted the gumbo, the shrimp, and everything else on those Louisiana trips to see Granny.

All I wanted were the trees.

And the Redwood beauties of my year away in Northern California. I swear they whispered secrets to me on my long and windy runs up those rainy, mossy mountains.

Whispers like,
I love you.”
Come this way.”
You are the child of the forest.”

Trees are my strength, my forever friends.

Always steady, always kind.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Finding my Inner Stillness, or Letting it Find Me.

I’ve been thinking about the beach lately. 

Mainly because I crave it something bad in the winter. During these ice-cold, snowy days in Nashville, I long for the quiet, peaceful afternoons underneath that warm Gulf Coast sun. 

Sand between my toes, sand in my hair, sand on literally everything I own, but I am okay with it. I even find it getting stuck between the pages of my books, in combination with splashes of salt water and the aroma of summer sweat. But I trust that it will simply add to the story and remind me of the sweetness of the beach when I long for it in later seasons.

The beach never changes, but always changes at the same time. It looks different based on the various levels of blues and greens in the ocean, those two powerhouses blending together so vibrantly that, immediately upon first glance, my breath becomes slower, my thoughts are centered. 

Every summer, the beach looks younger, like it hasn't aged a day since the last time I saw it. There I stand at water's edge, impersonating a proud mother, watching its rise and fall like the belly of a baby in his sleep. 

So fluid, so natural.
So slow and steady.

But I know deep down that this elegant, peaceful gem has been around much longer than me and will live as long as the earth requires. She is the mother.  She is the wise old being that is the heartbeat of this world. That steady, constant reminder of who we are and what we are meant to become.

The beach is so quiet sometimes. Yes, this vacation spot is a popular place in the summer season, and oftentimes, there are people everywhere, interrupting my whispered, poetic conversation with the ocean tide. It's like being in a restaurant and locked into that perfect moment of a holy exchange of words with the one you love, when a loud, obnoxious party of ten comes parading in with high heels and bachelorette sashes on. 

WAY too much pink and WAY too much hairspray. 

The night is lost in echoes of tequila shots and "one more for the bride-to-be" barging in and invading your eardrums, when suddenly, even the food tastes like a honky tonk cigarette.


On those unique opportunities where you get the beach to yourself, for just a moment, without the traffic of human toes creeping up behind you and trying to claim the best spot for their 30+ family, 

The beach is so quiet, so kind.

I long for those quiet mornings on the beach. Like a child at recess, the ocean tide tunnels in, roaring for attention and moving constantly. The beautiful ocean blue meets the backdrop of a pale blue sky.  The wind cools my face, making my hair dance in all directions. That wild-free abandon gives life to even the tips of my eyelashes as I find myself laughing at this flirtatious exchange with Mother Nature herself.

The beach is the holy land to my cold and gray winter days. She is the whisper of solitude that keeps me going when my feet feel heavy and my nose seems stuffed up for days on end.

For now, I will have to create my own quiet and holy exchange with the white snow blanket kissing the ground and rooftops outside my window. A quiet, peaceful dream for some, still a party acquaintance with a shy hello and a half-smile for me. I am still learning the sound of the snow, the smell of the cold.

Not my holy land, but my morning
And I am thankful for her greeting this day.