happily, yes!


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The One Thing

Today I am 43, and this is what I do know: The more I open my heart, the better it gets.

It only took me 42 years to figure that one out, but the more I adhere to the principle, the more I get out of it. The return rewards are quick, tangible and delicious. There has been so much good happen in my life in the past year that I can hardly believe it.

It hasn’t been without its hardships, though. The thing is that the more flexible and expansive that I become, the more I don’t fit into my old mold. I suppose that it is life’s little irony that the more you open the less you are able to inhabit the space you once occupied.

I remember an incident that occurred a little over four years ago. I was in the park with a friend, someone that I was very close to and that held a lot of influence over me for a very long period of time. We were talking to someone that we’d just met, sharing dog stories, when this stranger asked what we did for a living. I responded that I was a writer, which I was.  I had spent the previous five years earning money for putting words onto a piece of paper, which technically would qualify me as one. I haven’t been nominated for a Pulitzer, and most of my work was in very small publications, but the fact of the matter is: I wrote and people gave me money to do so.

A few hours later, though, this person that had a lot of influence over me said, “Why did you say you were a writer? You’re not a writer.”

That was one of those comments that crush your spirit, if you let it, and boy, did I let it. I allowed a whole lot of doubt and self-hatred and insecurity and ICK to just creep in there and take over. I froze. I felt all of my dreams and all of my aspirations just slip away. At the time, I had been working on a novel and I was about 150 pages in, which is a lot of writing. It stopped. Not a peep from me since that moment. Not a word despite the fact that other people, one of whom I really trust and who had a great track record of supporting me, told me that it was great. I’ve taken it out and looked at it a few times; I even printed it out once, but then I dropped it and all the pages got mixed up and I just put it away again because, who am I kidding, I’m not a writer.

It seems so unbelievable to me now that I let this person tell me who I was, but I have let a lot of people tell me who I am and who I am not over the years, mostly because I did not know who I was. I had to look outside of myself for the answers, and while I realized that many of them were unreliable, I had nothing to truly measure them against – no personal yardstick of Janet to allow me to define myself.

I was so closed. I was so closed that I couldn’t allow the sunshine in, and all I could do was sit in the darkness, afraid to move, afraid to act, afraid to take a chance doing something that I loved lest someone tell me that I was quixotic for doing so.

It took me four years to reclaim that spot, which was tenuous at best before. I mean, if I had any sense of who I was, I never would have allowed anyone else to tell me who I wasn’t.  But now I do know, and I claim it with conviction: I am Janet. I am a writer; I am a facilitator of healing for others. I am open.

I AM

And being open has brought the most wonderful changes into my life. I am in love, for one. I have returned to school to study something that I am passionate about (versus what I did when I was younger, which was to get a Master’s Degree in something that I liked but that held no long term interest for me), I have started a blog so that I can write, and I have met an abundance of amazing people lately that hold the same interests as me and that support me in everything that I am doing. The more I open my heart, the more I fill up with love. It may be quixotic, but I’m not above chasing windmills these days.  In fact, I kind of like it.

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The Pose of Wisdom

I often used to wonder how I got into this body. It seemed so separate from me. Sometimes, I would float above it and other times, I would hover around it. It truly was a shadow of me and to me for most of my life.

When I was young, I was an athlete. I defined myself that way. What do you do? I am a gymnast and a soccer/volley/base ball player. I am competitive, and I like to win. My body was this thing that propelled me forward and offered me some rewards if I worked hard enough, and it was always a question of whether or not I was enough. In my environment, I was completely judged by what my body could do, and when something didn’t come out the way I needed it too, I resented it. Injuries were inconveniences, and it was nothing to play a soccer game on an ankle that I’d twisted in gymnastics. I was not about to admit, ever, that I was weak. And the irony is that throughout all of this feeling defined by my body, I never actually felt like I was my body. I was never grounded in myself; I never knew myself.

This little war that I played with my body erupted for the worse as a high school student. I began to smoke, drink, take drugs and have sex, not knowing anything about how any of it would affect me, yet drawn to the effect it all had of turning everything off.  I abused my body because I was mad at it, and I gave up dreaming because it was easier to give it up than to come to peace with who I was. I distanced myself from myself, and that was just fine with me.

In my early 30’s, I began to practice yoga.  I enjoyed it because it came pretty easily to me. There was a lot of pleasure in looking around me and seeing that despite the fact that 15 years had passed since I had done my last backbend, I could still do it better than just about anyone there. Yoga was cool, because I could do it well, even though I was completely missing the point.  Despite the fact that I had some amazing teachers, all of that enlightened discourse about not comparing ourselves to others and honoring our bodies was lost on me. Child’s Pose was a sign of weakness; my injuries, which I largely ignored, were frailties that I had difficulty acknowledging. When I did address them, it was because they offered me an excuse as to why I couldn’t do something anymore. When the backbend became too painful to power through, my wrist became my scapegoat.  With all of this going on, I couldn’t stay in the game. Because I still wasn’t in touch with my body, or with me, for that matter, I didn’t stick with it. I’d let it go, and then get back to it for a minute, only to let it go again. It was lovely, but it didn’t fulfill me, because I wasn’t able to fulfill myself.

I finally returned, happily, gratefully and with a different mindset, about nine months ago. While I still wasn’t honoring my body 100%, I was open to the idea of doing so, and at that moment, that was sufficient. One day in class, I listened as my teacher told us that we could move into Child’s Pose whenever we needed. Of course, I didn’t need to. And I wouldn’t have, except that she went on to talk about how Child’s Pose is also called the Pose of Wisdom. Oh, damn! She had me now. This one comment touched a chord deep inside of me that was ready to be struck. I realized that I had been taking it all way too seriously; that I had been taking myself way too seriously. Jesus, Janet! Let it go already!

I am a total proponent of Child’s Pose these days. I love it. And I see the wisdom of the child that teaches us to honor our bodies, to respect them intuitively and to have fun with them. It’s still a struggle some days; I may never be able to completely give up wanting to be the best and to be acknowledged for that, but what I do know is that my body is this amazing vehicle for my spirit in this time that I have here and I am grateful to it for that. I also realize that my spirit is love and joy and laughter, and if my body is a vessel for that, then I ought to have some fun with it. (Oh, the wonderful, not child-like implications of that statement!)

A few weeks ago, I attempted full Mermaid Pose for the first time. On the first side, I totally got it; I mean, I nailed it, which is exactly how I smugly thought of it. I went on to the other side cocky and full of myself, only to fall out of it, over and over. The joy of this was that this repeated falling out of it cracked me up. I laughed at myself for falling, I laughed at myself for my arrogance, and I laughed at myself because it felt good to have a laugh at my own expense. After class, my beautiful teacher came up to me and hugged me, and said, “You have no idea how great it was to see you laugh like that when you fell.” Actually, though, I do; I really, really do.