Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The courage to stop running

Tomorrow I have an interview. It will determine whether or not I am ready to start seeing clients. I think it is a pretty straight-forward interview without bells and whistles and certainly without the fear that comes with sitting in front of complete and total strangers. No, this interview is with my professors. Gearing up towards this stage of school, I feel myself questioning and evaluating everything I have learned about the practice of counseling-- both through the lens of being a student and through the lens of being the client. Since I have sat on the other side for many years, this practice isn't foreign to me and the importance of it certainly isn't lost on me. If it wasn't for counseling my dad would probably still be an addict, my parents would be divorced, and I would still be wondering why I keep beating my head against a wall. Don't get me wrong sometimes I still wonder/beat my head against a wall, but at least I am aware of it now. Through all of the years of being in counseling, I never once considered going back to school to be a counselor. I only started to feel the tug when I began to realize that I was doing myself a great disservice by not because after all, this is something that has profoundly changed and touched my life, so therefore; it would be lost on me if I didn't share it. But what is counseling exactly? What makes it effective? Why is it important? Is it important? And what makes counselors different from each other?

This is something I have been contemplating for awhile now, but more so within the past month as I have been researching theories, techniques, and different avenues of healing trauma. Yeah, I still have no answers, just in case you were wondering.

But, I think it's important for me to tell you that I'm also a yoga teacher. I started practicing when I had already been in three years of counseling and went into teacher training the same year my dad went into rehab, so for me, therapy and yoga go hand-in-hand. It is really hard for me to imagine one without the other because they've pretty much always existed alongside each other.

The first time I stepped onto my yoga mat, I had no idea what to expect. I had always been a runner figuratively and literally. Never did I imagine myself doing yoga.

So there I was, on a black mat, wearing a pink tank top that I had probably had since I was 14. I didn't have the slightest clue what the poses were. To be honest, I didn't even realize that poses were what we were doing. But, even in the midst of not knowing, I could feel myself shift. As I moved through the class it was as if a huge weight was being lifted and for the first time in my life, I felt like I could breathe, really breathe. Not just spit out shallow breaths, but really truly breathe from the deepest part of me all the way up into the most spacious part of me. I remember the teacher walking around the room. I can still remember hearing her voice land on my skin, while simultaneously sinking into my bones, "Don't judge yourself," she said. I could tell she meant it.

It was right then and there, that I finally had the courage to stop running. It was right then and there that my world paused and I was able to begin the process of turning towards myself (my pain, my fear, my joy, my smallness, my bigness), it was then that I began "the work," the deep work of understanding what it means to be human and accepting all the parts of my humanity that I learned to hide and reject with perfectionism.

That's what I did for a long time... I rejected myself with perfectionism. That's my recovery.
I drank perfectionism like a stiff vodka. No water, please, just give it to me straight. And no room for error mother f*cker, I got this.

Sooner rather than later, I couldn't keep up. I was tired. I was stressed. I was imperfect and I was ashamed.

Maybe that's why when I heard the words, "Don't judge yourself," instead of hitting me like a ton of bricks, it softened into me and, I could finally  lay down my heavy armor, take off my running shoes and just be.

This wasn't easy and it didn't come naturally. I had always felt if I wasn't working towards something then how could I prove that I was okay? That I was worthy?

How could I eat my next meal if I didn't run to earn it?
How could I belong if I didn't pay my own way?

As you can see, this perfectionism influenced every part of my life.
I never felt worthy. And I really, really wanted to be loved.

But you know what? It never worked and I would always end up back where I started.

So now, as I sit here and rapidly type this, I can't help but think...
what could I possibly have to give people when I myself still struggle?

Then, I think back... to my yoga teachers, my therapists...
More than anything, these incredible people gave me the space to feel my feelings and the courage to stop running. Whether it was in a therapist's office or on a yoga mat.

Instead of trying to outrun all of my imperfection, what I needed the most, and what my teachers gave me was a place to rest.

No striving, no achieving, no backbending or handstanding.  No medal. Nothing to gain. Nothing to lose.

Nothing to earn.

Just me. My body. My breath.

That is what I hope to offer others.

The courage to stop running and the strength to accept being human.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Still here

Hi, friends! I am not sure how many of you are out there, so maybe I should say hi, friend! Regardless, hello from a rainy morning in Arkansas. All of the trees are turning green and I am pretty sure that if I looked closely enough, I could see the grass doing the same. Winter has officially turned to spring and last weekend, I turned 32. I can't remember exactly when I started this blog. I think it was around the time I was 24 or 25 (no, I was... 23), which seems like a long time ago, but feels like a minute ago. I sit here contemplating what I have actually accomplished in that time span and wonder if I am in relatively the same place. Hmm? I baked bread yesterday. I'm married so I live with a boy full time. I still have the yoga studio I started when I was 27, I am back in school so maybe, I am actually aging in reverse? Oh and this summer, I will be an intern again! WOOHOO, see, I think I am aging in reverse. So, aside from my living situation and getting savvy at sticking to a grocery budget, here I am, THE SAME! Why don't people stop telling us, "well, when you get older... you will become a miraculous unicorn" because, I just don't think that's true, any of it. With that being said, I guess my point is, maybe we have to stop waiting around all the time. Maybe being right where we are at this moment isn't some mere stepping stone; maybe it matters more than we give it credit for and it's actually the moment that counts. Me, sitting here, sipping coffee, hanging with my dogs about to do more school work is where I am now, and while I thought that maybe by now, I would actually be some sort of celebrity journalist or even just have a perfectly organized pantry like I see in the movies, I wouldn't want to miss out on this moment. 

Friday, March 2, 2018

I don't know about you guys but there is so much information out there regarding health that I usually feel more confused than informed. I recently started following "Lee From America" on instagram and as I scroll through her feed with recipes and pictures of matcha tea, I think to myself, this is me in my head when in reality, I am eating Captain Crunch. No joke. Between "toxin-free" and "natural" sometimes, I get completely overwhelmed and decide that eating Captain Crunch and Fruity Pebbles really isn't that bad, while other times I can be found throwing out my shampoos and spending hours walking up and down the Target aisle wondering about Seventh Generation. This is productive right? I keep telling myself that. I guess while I am still doing research and trying to find a happy medium between my Keurig coffee and adaptogens, I will do the best I can... some days it Captain Crunch, some days it's kelp crackers and Seventh Generation. In the meantime, I will keep following Lee. You can find it, here.

I want to be friends with her.

photo via Lee From America

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Love Anyway


This is something I have been thinking about a lot lately. Mostly, due to the fact that I am feeling my own struggle and resistance with it right now. 

This morning when I woke up I got on the scales. Even as I type that I worry about the judgement which probably calls for an entirely different post at a later date

Am I seeing that correctly? I thought as I stared at the numbers. 

Aside from the stress disappearing from the wedding planning, I haven't really changed any habits, but what was once welcomed weight, felt no longer welcomed.

All of the sudden, I could feel myself beginning to spiral. I could feel my thoughts tangling themselves up. If something is wrong with me, I need to go the doctor. If something isn't wrong with me, then what is happening? What am I doing differently? I want to go for a run. I need to run. Maybe I won't eat today. Maybe I will just have water. I didn't eat very much for dinner last night, how could this be happening? What can I do to fix this? Change this? I could feel myself spinning out. Grasping for control, I wanted to run. I wanted to hide. I wanted to leave my body. As I put on my running shoes and headed out the door, my husband stopped me. I told him how I was feeling. He hugged me. He told me he loved me. He tried to talk me out of the hole I was digging myself into, but I continued to head out the door on a mission. I wanted to figure out how to fix this and hide all at the same time. 

As I slowed down and began to walk I started thinking about what my yoga teacher says,"if we look for stability in our ever-changing world we will suffer. We have to connect to that place within us that is not defined by our outside circumstances."
As I thought about this, I closed my eyes. I could feel the wind on my face. I felt the sun on my skin and as silly as it may sound, I thought about how I felt in this moment. If I hadn't gotten on the scale this morning what kind of day would I be having? How would I feel? 

I could feel myself shift as I stepped back. In this moment, I felt happy, healthy, strong and vital. In this moment, I felt grateful for my body. I felt grateful to be able to walk, run and be outside. 

Slowly, my thoughts stopped spinning and as I collected my breath, I could feel myself calming down. This work was actually familiar. It's something I share with others in yoga repeatedly. What I wish for all girls, women, people, in general, is to be free of this feeling because I know it as one that can take a perfectly beautiful day and turn into something bad. 

When we wrap ourselves up into our thoughts this way, it takes us away from our inherent worth. Before we know it, we've just given our sense of self/power over to something that doesn't define us. 

I know all of this because it's really easy to do. I know this feeling. I know the allure of perfection. I've sat in it for years at a time. I've even tried to swim in it, but it doesn't work. It only makes us feel too exhausted for the things that really do matter in life. 

And while it's easy to attach our worth to something outside of ourselves, what's actually hard is to wake up every day and love ourselves anyway. 

But, what happens when we are brave enough to love ourselves anyway?
What happens when we are brave enough to love ourselves no matter how much we weigh?
Or what we look like?
Or how much we've accomplished?
How much money we've made?
How powerful we are?
How many people like us?
What our kids do or don't do?

What happens when we can just be and breathe?
What happens when we choose how we eat, live, love based on how we truly feel rather than how we want to look or want something else to look? Whether it be our bodies, relationships or choices in general...

Can we be brave enough to love ourselves anyway?

Today, I had to work at it. Tomorrow, I'll have to work at it... maybe it will get easier, maybe it won't. This I know for sure though, bravery lies in our ability to be human. It really does because nothing is perfect. 

So we have a choice every day and the choice is can we love ourselves anyway?

This is the work I want to do and would rather do.

I would rather eat my breakfast tacos and enjoy them than let a fucking scale determine if I'm going to eat today. 

What would you rather do? 

Think about it and love yourself anyway.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Brace for Impact

It's been a long time since I've written anything in the evening, but this screen with buttons keeps nagging at me, so here I am. I can't seem to write enough lately. It's almost like I have so much to say, that I can't seem to say anything at all or at least that's how I felt as I was tripping over my words teaching yoga this afternoon. As I mentioned in my previous post, over the weekend, I went to Dallas for a weekend yoga workshop. I had a four-hour drive so to pass the time I played different podcasts, two being from Oprah's Super Soul Sunday with Brene Brown. Yes, I am both a HUGE Oprah and Brene Brown fan. As I passed through the great state of Oklahoma into Texas, Brene was talking about courage, what it means to dare greatly, and vulnerability. One of the things she said keeps playing in my mind and I can't seem to get it out of my head because my yoga teacher also alluded to something similar. She said that one of the things we're most afraid of in life is joy. Oprah had a tone of surprise when Brene mentioned this, but I sat there in my car nodding. I knew exactly what Brene was talking about, much to my own dismay. She went on to say that we worry when things are bad, but we often worry just as much when things are going well. I again found myself nodding my head, thinking, this is my whole life. Why do we do this? We want to try to prepare as much as possible for the other shoe to drop. Brene said that the truth of it is that we are actually terrified of vulnerability. We try to protect ourselves so much from feeling anything. We think if we prepare for the worst that it will somehow cut down on the pain when and if it comes, but all it really does is keep us from our joy. Wow. I could cry that hits me so hard even as I type it. My whole life I feel I've been bracing for impact. I walk a tightrope of holding on while pretending to let go. It keeps me just safe enough. Once I arrived at the workshop, still replaying Brene's words, my yoga teacher made the statement that we are always changing and because of this change we often live in fear because of the unknown. He too said that we fear when things are going really well, and we also fear when things aren't going so well. In this case, what do we do? In yoga we use our breath to stabilize us, not only in postures but in our own heads. Like an anchor, we use our inhales and exhales to keep us present, but why? As Rod Stryker pointed out this weekend, the practice helps us to connect us to that part of ourselves which is constant, unwavering, indestructible, and really even undefinable. This is something I've known. It's a place that's even hard to write or talk about because it's something we feel not something we find. It's this place that we come back to, that we rest in and find solace in so that we can find stability even when our outside world is shifting. It helps us to stay steady so that our outside circumstance doesn't have so much power over us. We often give our job, relationship, successes, failures too much power and because of it, we wrap our identities around things that are constantly changing, so how could we ever find consistent joy? Maybe it's unattainable, but in the practice of yoga some would say that it is attainable. Me, even being a doomsday skeptic would say that it is, but it's challenging. When we can rest in this place, we can step back and not only witness but gain clarity in our lives. When we rest in this place, we are able to find something constant within us which makes the outside world much less powerful.

To relax more, and worry less.

I think joy is worth it.

“To love someone fiercely, to believe in something with your whole heart, to celebrate a fleeting moment in time, to fully engage in a life that doesn’t come with guarantees – these are risks that involve vulnerability and often pain. But, I’m learning that recognizing and leaning into the discomfort of vulnerability teaches us how to live with joy, gratitude, and grace.” 
― Brené BrownThe Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

Monday, September 11, 2017

Past, Present, Future

After a full weekend of yoga in Dallas, it's so nice to be home with nothing but house chores and school on my to-do list for today. I feel like I am moving slowly this morning while the practices we did through the workshop settle into my muscles, bones, and thoughts. A yoga weekend with my teacher means a lot of heart work. Not the muscle heart, but the heart we refer to when talking about how we feel/our emotions. He's not the type of yoga teacher to spew off "yogic phrases." You probably wouldn't ever catch him saying something like, "breathe into your heart," because he doesn't have to. He really allows the practices we do to speak for themselves, and wow, they do. With just a little time to reflect here, I can't help but feel nostalgic and at the same time amazed at the way life unfolds. I started writing this blog after moving out of New York, going backpacking through the Himalayan mountains in India all before ever stepping foot on a yoga mat. I even talk about my first class on this blog. When I moved to Houston from Dallas, I really had no idea where it would lead. I can't help but think everyone must have these connections in their lives. These weird coincidences that nug and remind us that maybe nothing in life is random. We all have our experiences, our memories of the things that have made us happy, broken our hearts, and made us in some way who we are today. Hoping to learn from it all, we look back only so we know how to move forward, more wisely, more consciously, and hopefully more lovingly.

My attention can't help but turn to the date. The remembering done this day is edged in our minds and hearts as we recall where we were, emotions, and feelings. We do this so we learn how to move forward.

My teacher did say over the weekend, "your future is the past, modified by the present."

I'm grateful for this space to reach out, connect, dig into my thoughts a little and let them land here.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Personal Side of Change

My first day back in grad school was yesterday and I will say, you know you're in the right place when you bought one of your required books years ago to read on your own. As much as I feel like I know absolutely nothing when it comes to counseling, I do feel like I'm exactly where I am supposed to be as I hang on every word spoken in class. What is interesting/different about counseling is the perspective it brings to everything else in life. Last night, in my Brief Therapy class we talked about change. Do people really change? Is change possible? What does change look like? Why is change challenging? As we approached all of these questions, I thought about my own relationship with change, especially when looking to change a habit, perception, or incongruent belief. From my experience, change takes time and compassion. My yoga teacher talks about how we are always changing. We are either moving towards ourselves in a positive way or away from ourselves. I said this to the professor last night, along with sharing the fact that my dad is a recovering addict. When it came to changing his addict behavior, I feel like it really came down to acceptance, love, forgiveness, and compassion. It had nothing to do with saying, "okay, tonight I won't drink." In class last night I shared that I feel we have the core of who we are which can be referred to as our spirit, our soul, our essence, and then we have our behavior. In watching my dad journey through and into recovery when he was 57, it felt like instead of removing a behavior, he was simply in the process of remembering who he truly is. He was learning how to come back to himself. I realize and understand that depending on circumstance, the situation is different for everyone. As a family, we had a lot of resources at our fingertips that allowed not only my dad the ability to do some deep work in rehab/in therapy, it allowed all of us as a family too, which I am truly grateful for. By the end of class last night, we were talking about change being truly personal. No matter if it is a change for the better or not, we are often resistant to change based on our own fear. We have strong attachments as humans. We are taught to self-identify in order to be somebody and it doesn't matter what that looks like as long as we do it to belong somewhere. The only way I know to change is to love myself right where I am, to forgive, and to have compassion for the learning that is always taking place. Last night my professor said, "Do the next right thing."

I like that. Do the next right thing.

 Move within, But don't move the way fear makes you move.”-Rumi