take off the mask, you beautiful mess.

The Moment
~Margaret Atwood

The moment when, after many years
of hard work and a long voyage
you stand in the centre of your room,
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,
knowing at last how you got there,
and say, I own this,

is the same moment when the trees unloose
their soft arms from around you,
the birds take back their language,
the cliffs fissure and collapse,
the air moves back from you like a wave
and you can’t breathe.

No, they whisper. You own nothing.
You were a visitor, time after time
climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.
We never belonged to you.
You never found us.
It was always the other way round.

Yesterday I was running errands when all of a sudden I was saturated with an overwhelming feeling of anger. I felt uncomfortable in my own skin and irritated by anyone who was in my way. I wanted to be alone. I wanted to be in nature. I wanted the library that I was encapsulated in to disappear and for everyone to shut up. I needed silence. And for some reason, libraries are no longer the sanctuary they used to be…

I usually love going to the library, but at that very moment, I didn’t want to be surrounded by library walls and library books and enthusiastic school children. I was suffocating in my awful mood and feeling too large to be held by four walls. I was pissed at the woman in front of me who was patiently teaching her son how to use the self check out, and I was irritated when one of my books didn’t register on the machine. I wanted to scream at the librarian and push everyone out of my way so I could beeline to the park where the trees were undoubtedly continuing to change colors under a hazy autumn sky. I was missing the show.

The funny thing about these moods is that I notice right away just how irrational and awful they are. But there’s a sense of urgency and intensity that is hard to shake off, let alone rationalize. If I slow down enough and utilize my breath, I can instantly notice the judgments that happen in my mind and the ways I want to lash out at other people who are around. Apparently, I want to make everyone else feel just as crappy as I do. Don’t they know I’ve had a hard day? Don’t they know I’ve had cancer? Don’t they know the world is going to hell in a hand basket and that I’m missing the trees changing in the park?

ahhh, the joys of anger

Brené Brown clarifies in her book Daring Greatly  (which I HIGHLY recommend to anyone wanting an amazingly life changing read on tapping into personal courage and living more authentically and wholeheartedly) that anger is a “secondary emotion, one that only serves as a socially acceptable mask for many of the more difficult underlying emotions we feel” (p. 34). Oh, right. My anger wasn’t really anger after all. It was sadness.

It’s true that my outward frustration was more socially acceptable than me melting down in a puddle of tears, but I felt like one of those monsters in Where the Wild Things Are. I was a beast who could have ripped my books apart and busted through the ceiling. I didn’t seem to have any ability to manage myself in that moment and, in hindsight, I should have listened to my gut in the first place and just bypassed the errands to go directly to the park. But I didn’t have that insight at the time. I just had my crappy mood and my sadness masked as anger (is there a Halloween costume brewing, here?).

I suppose the moral of the story (and I’m reaching, here) is that I need to take more time for myself and to notice when I’m feeling sad. Even if it means losing the books I have on hold at the library or not picking up my beloved coconut creamer at the grocery store. It means not checking my email or twitter or facebook to see if there’s anything I’m missing. Sometimes life is more important that the chores or tasks I have imprinted in my brain- those “shoulds” and “coulds”. And the real connection I long for is the one that doesn’t exist inside or online.

So, my friends, my personal assignment is to become more aware of my own needs in any given moment and to listen to my gut, which happens to be right a good portion of the time. If I need more outside time, I’m going for it. I’m going to (try to) admit my imperfections, even it means looking like a watery mess, and honor that this moment is another opportunity for growth. This is what I love about yoga- it’s all a practice and a journey.

The Yoga Sutras begins with Atha Yoganushasanam, translated as something like “now begins the practice/discourse of yoga”. It all leaves room for improvement. That was then, this is now. The past and the future do not exist. There is only now, and this is my yoga practice.

Daring Greatly- a pledge to live wholeheartedly

taking the wholehearted pledge

My Friday morning yoga book club is currently participating in Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly online read along and we are so freaking on fire and inspired by it. Just reading the preface and intro felt like a much needed kick in the pants to begin living more intentionally and authentically; no more judgment. Well…it’s impossible to let go of judgment altogether, because judgment comes with the human experience…but the idea is to focus less on what others think and more on living wholeheartedly (a huge piece of this book). Brené outlines how to do this so perfectly:

Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.
~Brené Brown (2012, p 10)

Hot fucking damn. That’s exactly what I want more of; courage, vulnerability, and wholeheartedness. So, without sounding like a book report, I offer here my pledge for living more fully and daring greatly (based on the “guideposts” for wholehearted living that Brené offers in the intro):

  • I pledge to be more connected, engaged, and loving in my relationships. The people in my life mean the world to me, and I want to let them know that through my words and actions. I want to tell people why they matter to me, even if I sound like a crazy person.
  • I pledge to take more time for play. Designated time without talk about work, money, or stress. No checking email or social media. No tv. No chores. Opening up to FUN. Stepping into the world and noticing how it feels to just be (insert deep sigh of relief here).
  • I pledge to allow more mess in my life/environment in order to make space for creativity. The laundry and dishes can wait. I have a life to live. Living wholeheartedly and allowing vulnerability means allowing people to see me in my full messy glory. And the more I allow people to see me for who I really am (chaos and messiness included), the more I can be open to deep human connections.
  • I pledge to begin taking more risks and thinking less about what people might think. There’s a lovely fierceness in being bold. I want to do what I feel inspired to do- break into dance in public, sing out loud, practice yoga on a crowded beach, ride my bike through puddles (you get the picture).
  • I pledge to speak my truth, even when it’s scary or leaves me feeling exposed (within reason, of course). This is the whole “speak your truth, even if your voice shakes” principal. My thought is that if my voice is shaking or I’m experiencing fear, I’m closest to my truth. And when I squelch my truth, I’m letting myself down.

All of this, and I haven’t even begun chapter one. Hot damn. I love this book.