6 till I’m 30

“I feel in every little girl there lives a spirit: a wild pixie, that if let go would run and dance in grassy fields until the end of the world. And when that girl grows up, that pixie hides, but it is always there, peeking out from behind old eyes and reading glasses, laughing, waiting to one day dance again.” -Atticus from To Kill a Mockingbird

As I get older, I’ve realized more and more that I have a vibrant personality. I like color in my life and life in my color. I like to wear tutus and polka dots. I like to be completely ridiculous and dress up to teach Halloween themed yoga classes to my students with thriller kicks and crazy dragons. It’s fun and it’s exhausting but it makes me happy. The older I get, the more I let my inner ridiculousness out. I let that wild pixie in me shine brightly and dance often (usually on a yoga mat). The lovely thing is, the more I show that crazy, exhuberant, silly personality to the world, the more people accept and love me for precisely those things. It’s amazing how when you are authentically yourself you give others permission to be themselves-to step into their own light. So, find your own wild pixie and let her dance.

25 till I’m 30

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will always want to hug a stuffed animal at the end of a very bad day…and that’s ok. It’s just comforting and it makes me feel better, so why not enjoy a little teddy bear cuddle time? I grew up in love with soft, squishy bears. They followed me everywhere-on planes, to the grocery store, to the doctor. Around the age of 10, people started giving me a hard time about always having a stuffed buddy along for the ride. They told me I was too old to carry around a teddy, so I started to leave my bears behind as I began to “grow up.” 

When I headed to college, I couldn’t decide if I would bring a bear with me. I didn’t want to look like child and I worried what others would think, so I ended up leaving my trusty bears at my childhood home. There were so many times when the stress of college life was breaking me down and I just wanted a teddy bear to hug, but I had to appear “cool” and grown up, so all I could hug was a pillow– which is just not the same. 

The thing is, adults can get just as much joy out of stuffed animals as children. Now that I’m nearing my 30th year, I am more comfortable with my love for all things fuzzy. Who cares what other people think? Teddy bears are awesome. 

Recently, Thomas Griep, the amazing pianist and cabaret coach (who I have now turned into a yogi), sent me music for an adorable piece called “Requiem for a Bear” because the storyline made him think of me. The song is a delightful ode to a child’s love for a teddy bear named Mr. Fritz who has finally worn out past the point of repair. I am honored that he cared enough to share this heartwarming piece with me. You can listen to my version of Requiem for a Bear here. I dedicate this song to all those cuddly teddy bears have brought me peace on those no good, very bad days. 

Just a Small Town Girl 

“In a small town, you have to make a decision very early on as to whether you are going to do everything by the book or just go your own way and not care.” -Bjork 

Small towns have their charms. I love stumbling upon friends and students as I walk around the community. I love how everyone smiles at each other, waves hello, and honestly cares about your life when they ask “how are you?” I love that I have a history here and a network of supporters who I can turn to when times get rough. 

However, growing up in a small town community was not the easiest for me. As a child, I didn’t quite fit in. I preferred to dress in crazy colors, sit and read during recess, learn about far away places, write stories, sing at the top of my lungs for no apparent reason, dress in costume just because I felt like it, and I loved and idolized my teachers. None of these things made me a favorite amidst my peers and I spent most of my days separated from the rest of the class. While it was difficult to spend so much of my time alone, I never conformed. I was always true to myself and found pleasure in my own company. I decided to go my own way and not care what anyone else thought. I am grateful every day to that little girl who never tried to be something she wasn’t.

 #detoxyobody challenge day 22: pincha mayurasana/ forearm balance. 

Underneath this fancy dress, my feet are still dirty.

 

  Dress Rehearsals are always a bit nerve-wracking. It is the first chance to sing in the space, the first time working with the orchestra, the first time performing the pieces in front of a crowd, and the first time working with the hall’s audio equipment. That’s a lot of firsts for someone who likes to know exactly what is going to happen at all times. (It’s ok. You can call me a control freak. I’ve made my peace with it.) Throughout my college years, I was always anxious before a dress rehearsal. I felt I had to play the part of the diva and present a façade of perfection and sophistication. I believed that my voice would not be taken seriously if I didn’t look and act like the perfect prima donna. Unfortunately, I’ve never been perfect and I’ve never been very sophisticated.  The wacky, giggly, fun-loving character I am was forced into submission as I tried to be something I wasn’t. The stress of “playing the part” would create so much tension that my performance was always compromised. I’d finish each rehearsal or performance completely exhausted, emotionally drained, and feeling that I had done myself a disservice. I tried to be something I wasn’t and lost myself in the process. 

As I continue down my yogic path, I find I am slowly breaking down that stone wall of deceit. The more I let myself be who I am, the more I bring to my music. I find emotion, musicality, vocal freedom, and the focus necessary to perform at my optimal ability. The less energy I spend on being something I’m not, the more I can channel that saved energy into vocal color and nuance. While I still apply the eyeliner, lipstick, and blush, and wear the fancy dress and heels, under all that decoration, I’m still the same yoga-loving, granola-eating, floor-sitting, and bare-footed me. I let myself smile generously, laugh heartily, express interest in other people, and be grateful for all who cross my path. I might even do a bit of yoga between songs… actually, that’s pretty much a given. The life of a performer is much more gratifying when you stay true to yourself. We spend enough time playing characters on stage, why be someone else after the stage time is over? Be yourself, dirty yogi toes and all.

Pre-performance forward fold. Sometimes you have to kick off your shoes and get your feet dirty. When the world is spinning, when my life becomes overwhelming and I find my mind spinning in circles, I fold in on myself. I let everything settle, feel the ground beneath my toes, and breathe. I find my true self once again, all it takes is a little self-hug. 

The Ugly Ducking

“There is probably no better or more reliable measure of whether a woman has spent time in ugly duckling status at some point or all throughout her life than her inability to digest a sincere compliment. Although it could be a matter of modesty, or could be attributed to shyness- although too many serious wounds are carelessly written off as “nothing but shyness”- more often a compliment is stuttered around about because it sets up an automatic and unpleasant dialogue in the woman’s mind.
If you say how lovely she is, or how beautiful her art is, or compliment anything else her soul took part in, inspired, or suffused, something in her mind says she is undeserving and you, the complimenter, are an idiot for thinking such a thing to begin with. Rather than understand that the beauty of her soul shines through when she is being herself, the woman changes the subject and effectively snatches nourishment away from the soul-self, which thrives on being acknowledged. I must admit, I sometimes find it useful in my practice to delineate the various typologies of personality as cats and hens and ducks and swans and so forth. If warranted, I might ask my client to assume for a moment that she is a swan who does not realize it. Assume also for a moment that she has been brought up by or is currently surrounded by ducks.
There is nothing wrong with ducks, I assure them, or with swans. But ducks are ducks and swans are swans. Sometimes to make the point I have to move to other animal metaphors. I like to use mice. What if you were raised by the mice people? But what if you’re, say, a swan. Swans and mice hate each other’s food for the most part. They each think the other smells funny. They are not interested in spending time together, and if they did, one would be constantly harassing the other.
But what if you, being a swan, had to pretend you were a mouse? What if you had to pretend to be gray and furry and tiny? What you had no long snaky tail to carry in the air on tail-carrying day? What if wherever you went you tried to walk like a mouse, but you waddled instead? What if you tried to talk like a mouse, but insteade out came a honk every time? Wouldn’t you be the most miserable creature in the world?
The answer is an unequivocal yes. So why, if this is all so and too true, do women keep trying to bend and fold themselves into shapes that are not theirs? I must say, from years of clinical observation of this problem, that most of the time it is not because of deep-seated masochism or a malignant dedication to self-destruction or anything of that nature. More often it is because the woman simply doesn’t know any better. She was not taught this in her cultural upbringing.”
― Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

When I read this beautiful prose, I was overwhelmed by the fact that this connects so deeply with singers in general: whether male or female. Recently, one of my delightful little voice students came into her lesson in tears. Her fellow choir singers had been mocking her older, more classically-trained, singing voice. In the age of Glee and the gold standard of the heavily-tensed belt voice, her rich tone, floating high notes, and young operatic quality makes her voice unusual for one so young. Many hugs later, I attempted to explain to her that she was born with a different vocal color and strength which is not worse, not better, just different. Her voice is more suited to classical pieces and the golden age of musical theatre than contemporary pop songs. She is just a swan living amongst the ducks.
As a young high schooler, I went through similar difficulties. I wanted nothing more than to be the next Ella Fitzgerald or Billie Holiday. But, alas, my voice always came out rounded, strong, and open rather than bright and deep. No matter how I tried to falsify my voice, I couldn’t move past my full, operatic soprano sound. It took me years to come to terms with the fact that my voice was best suited to a style of music I didn’t even know existed until college. On my first day at USC, after hearing all of the open, rich, and loud singers around me, I finally found my people. I felt at home. I was no longer the “ugly duckling.”
Just because a voice is different from everyone else’s doesn’t mean that the voice is bad or wrong. Louis Armstrong had one of the strangest voices I have ever heard. He was a complete vocal anomaly: a result of an vocal chord oddity. His voice was different, to say the least. No one can quite replicate his voice (at least not without doing themselves vocal harm), and yet, I love listening to his voice. It’s not pretty; it’s not smooth; but it sure is interesting and so fun to listen to. If Armstrong had hid his voice from the musical world because he didn’t sound like all the other jazz singers out there, we would have never fallen in love with his fascinating voice and many of the jazz standards would have never been performed.
Great things come from those who are strong enough to be themselves, even if that means sticking out from the crowd. Sometimes you just need to find your niche and your fellow swans.

#bestrongin2015 challenge day 18: Titibasana/ firefly pose. There is something so freeing about finally getting your feet off the ground in these arm balances. It feels so liberating: like I can fly, like I can do anything. Like I can laugh my butt off [the ground]. I’ve long ago given up the illusion of being a “serious” yogi. It’s just not me. It’s not my personality. It would be a facade. So, I’ll continues to have a big grin on my face, giggle uncontrollably, and enjoy the ridiculousness of being alive. Life is so much more fun that way. Be yourself. Spread your wings and fly.

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