Looking back over the trajectory of my life, I see that my childhood has been my anchor and truth has been my beacon.
It never seems to work out the way I had it planned.
When I was 27 I had the root word for truth (sat, in sanskrit) tattooed on my wrist. This was hours before my first book reading, hours before I shared my life story in public for the very first time. My story? My father has a traumatic brain injury. It happened just weeks after I turned 14. Life before that summer was pretty darn easy. In fact, to be honest, I had the kind of childhood you would want any kid to have. Just me, two happy parents, a handful of pets, a boat, and yearly vacations to North Carolina beaches. I was going to grow up to be a National Geographic photographer or maybe a psychologist. After that summer everything changed.
I graduated high school (Mercer HS), partied and studied my way through college (Wittenberg University), and went on to graduate school (New York University) to pursue a career in magazine journalism. Life in New York City (my twenties) was a carnival ride full of ups, down, twists, turns, and quite a good time. I met friends that will last lifetimes, had moments that belong in movies, and stretched myself beyond all my limits. It took me a lot of yoga and nearly a decade to admit that a desk job was not for me. As much as I love outfits (like, love outfits), aesthetics, and really delicious dinners, I was meant to help people heal.
At first the idea seemed so foreign to me. Me? I was so angry with my past and scared of my future. I was unhappy with my job, defeated by my search for a man, and unkind to my body. Living in a city that never stops, I felt stuck. If life was about spinning plates, then all of mine (job, man, body, money, success, family) were shattering down all around me. Yet, on the outside I played cool. I had great friends, great times, and the kind of energy that plows through late nights and into early mornings, fueled on wine and FOMO (fear of missing out). It was then that yoga came back around, a practice that first found me at 13 was now here to unearth all that I pushed down deep (you can read my yoga story here).
Do your practice and all is coming. Or waterski.
I wanted to be happy, but I had to do the work. Work is like waterskiing, which is why I'm extremely thankful that my father threw me over the side of the boat when I was six. Seriously, thank you, John Leyde! My dad spent an entire summer teaching me how to put skis on, hold onto a rope, let the boat do the work, and hang on until I surfaced. Damn. There is nothing like it, and I have been trying to make time for skiing (now on one) ever since. It's my metaphor for life. Do the work. Do the practice. Then all is coming.
I quit magazines. I quit lying to myself, lying about my work ethic, my dreams, and how I felt about myself. I got to know my truth and it was pretty ugly. I was fearful. I made excuses. I covered up how I really felt. I'd created a world around me that didn't exist, a world which made of the nostalgia of the past and the dreams of the future. Very little was in real and present time. My reentry into reality started with yoga teacher training (Sonic Yoga), which began with my physical body and a realization that I had seen it as separate from myself. I had created my own divide, a canyon between my mind and my body that had been widening since 1996. I was healing from trauma, and like all traumas the mind and the body connection had been weakened, maybe severed. I had massive guilt, too. My brain wasn't injured. My husband wasn't different. My life wasn't over. My life was beginning. I had a stack of plates sitting patiently beside me, and when I was ready I could pick them up and start spinning at any time.
First, my body. If I could get to my mat every day, I would move and breathe and stay connected to it. I would learn to love it. I would trust what my body needed, what fueled it, and how it supported me. We would work together. Next, was my heart. It was broken, even a psychic told me so. But I could help others heal by sharing my story, the story of growing up with a father with severe traumatic brain injury. I would write our story and learn to love my father. But writing He Never Liked Cake showed me that I had to learn to love myself and to forgive myself for the anger, the doubt, and the dislike of a dad who is different and a life I didn't plan. It was a return of my confidence (like, sunglass-bathing-photoshoot confidence). Then came my voice. I was able to step to the front and guide others in moving their bodies and feeling good as a yoga teacher (Mala Yoga). I soaked up all I could from the yoga greats in New York City and Brooklyn, gave myself my first year of my 30s to embrace every ounce of life in New York before I moved my new self and my new career back to the three rivers of Pittsburgh.
The 'Burgh was my blank slate. I wrote. I taught. I made new friends. I created a life I'd been dreaming of in a spacious apartment of my own with big windows and natural light, mornings filled with good coffee and NPR, and time to see my family, practice yoga with my dad, root for my home teams, and continue my journey of healing. Writing my second book was a fair bit easier. There were less tears, less wine, and less uncharacteristically anti-social behavior. Move Feel Think was complete, and then there was only one plate left. The man. I met him in a yoga class. I met him after picking up my broken plate and spinning it in a new way. It was new year and an excuse to break habits and face truths, and soon after that I met him. And he was right and that was simple. It always is after you do the work. I still, always will, do the work.
Is my life a piece of cake now? Hardly. My plates fall, and there is still really hard shit to work through, like death and cancer and loss and growing pains. But the difference is...