“When you stand and share your story in an empowering way, your story will heal you and your story will heal somebody else.” -Iyanla Vanzant
Well, tomorrow is the big day. It has been an emotional roller coaster this past month putting to paper 30 reasons I am grateful to be turning 30. When I decided to take on this challenge, it was to change the stereotype that it is all downhill once you reach that third decade on this earth. Part of this challenge was to celebrate all of the reasons why I love where I am in my life and why I am so grateful to be done with the stress, uncertainty, and growth that my 20s forced upon me. Sure being in your 20s is great and all…and, yes, you have perfect baby-soft skin, but those awkward transition years aren’t all they are cracked up to be. So, what is with this societal notion that you getting older is something to hide? Getting older means getting wise. And I think that’s pretty fantastic, personally. The other part of this challenge was to remind myself just how lucky I am and how much I have to be grateful for. The past few years have been filled with trials, self-discovery, pain, and fear. They’ve also, of course, been filled with joy, laughter, growth, and love. So often I find my mind listing off the failures more than the successes, but this project brought to light all of the reasons I should be thankful for this 30th rotation around the sun. This countdown forced me to share things about myself that I have never shared before. It made me admit things that I hadn’t quite admitted to myself, let alone the entire electronic world. But, in sharing there is healing and I feel that a weight has been lifted off my chest. The stories and memories that I played over in over in my head have now been processed and set free into the blogosphere, where they will hopefully inspire others to cherish their moments on this earth and learn from their experiences. Time is fleeting. Take a moment, sit down, look back on how you have evolved in this thing called life. The little details we take for granted everyday are often the most beautiful miracles. The struggles we survive through often spark the greatest growth. The moments that take our breath away are often the most life-changing.
What do you have to be grateful for today? I am grateful for each and every one of you. Thank you for supporting me through this journey and letting me share a little piece of my story with you.
2016 was a rough year for me. I suffered illness after illness caused by lack of sleep due to major pain from an internal injury. For months, it hurt to breath, let alone do my two favorite things: singing and yoga. I struggled to continue to teach through the pain. The simplest of tasks was daunting– from washing the dishes to getting dressed, I had to prepare myself to breathe through the inevitable pain. I put a good face on it. Most of my students didn’t know how I was feeling or they only vaguely noticed that my energy and vivaciousness had decreased. I showed up to teach each day and counted the minutes until I could go home and lay on the couch again, too exhausted to move. There was nothing to be done but wait for my body to heal itself… but I’m not very good at being patient. The 8 months it took for me to become myself again felt like a lifetime. There were moments when I was lying on the floor at 3 am with tears streaming down my eyes from the electric shock of pain when I didn’t know how I could carry on with this life. But, slowly my body did heal. What once was debilitating pain turned into minor discomfort and then finally faded away.
While I sincerely hope that I never have to live through such pain again, I can still feel gratitude for this period of my life. I now know true suffering and how difficult it is to function with that kind of pain. I have so much more compassion and understanding for those who suffer from chronic pain or depression. As a chipper optimist growing up, I never understood how someone could live under such a black cloud. I now get it. I lived through it. Thankfully, I survived. And I enter into my 30s the wiser for the trials I have endured.
“Letting go, of course, is a scary enterprise for those of us who believe that the world revolves only because it has a handle on top of it which we personally turn, and that if we were to drop this handle for even a moment, well–that would be the end of the universe. But try dropping it. Watch what happens. Life continues on.” -Elizabeth Gilbert
As I move towards my 30s, I’ve started to learn how to let things go. It has been a slow and arduous process of baby steps, but I’ve begun to process and release the little annoyances, to-do lists, emotions, opinions, criticism, and things which used to haunt me for years and even decades. For the better part of my life, I struggled with perpetual anxiety and fear of failure. I lived my days in a constant struggle of trying to be perfect, trying to get people to like me, and trying to be and do everything. I spent so much of my time worrying about all these things that I never truly lived any of them. I was so worried about being perfect, that I made more mistakes than were necessary. I was so worried about people liking me that I shut down and turned into a wallflower when others were around. I was so worried about doing everything that I did not have the energy to do anything. It was a vicious circle of perfectionism and I was trapped. The problem was, I was spinning my “world handle” so fast that it rocked off its axis. Everything fell apart and I would usually end each day curled up on the floor as tears streamed down my cheeks. The pressure I put on myself was unbearable and, when I couldn’t live up to my own impossible standards, I broke down. But, as my meditation practice became stronger, I started to realize how deeply I yearned for the peace of letting these things go–of releasing the yoke of stress from my shoulders and just letting go of the things that I cannot control. I’m still a work in progress and I continue to fight with my control issues, but I am slowly learning to release the little things so that I can focus on and enjoy the bigger picture. Letting go let me live again.
Today I am grateful for the freedom and ability to travel for pleasure rather than as a requirement. Due to child custody requirements, I was flying cross country solo twice a year starting at the age of 3. The term “unaccompanied minor” used to make me sick to my stomach. I dreaded each plane flight, usually crying during the duration of my travels. For the longest time, “travel” was associated with pain, heartache, nausea, and tears.
As I grew older and started to make decisions for myself, I began to recognize how fun and enlightening travel can be. To immerse yourself in a new culture, new experiences, and new people is such a joy and a privilege. The world seems a lot smaller and a lot more connected when we step outside our own habitual 25 mile radius. I’m excited for this new decade of my life and I can’t wait to see where it takes me.
You never know what you might see when you go somewhere new and turn the world upside down.
As I near my 30th year on this Earth, I remark at how my body has changed over these three decades.
Growing up, I was morbidly obese. I went through a series of diets, all of which seemed to end in me gaining rather than losing weight. My doctors and nutritionists continued to berate me year after year for not “taking care of my body,” but, unfortunately, they did not realize that my difficulties were emotional rather than physically. The amount of emotional stress I was going through, which was exaccerbated by worries about my weight and health, were the cause of my eating problems. I buried my emotions in stomachaches. I hid my feelings underneath butter and bread. When I was upset, rather than throwing a temper tantrum, I would quietly sneak to the kitchen and steal food from the refrigerator. I thought that the pain in my belly would mask the pain in my heart.
When I turned 16, I decided that I was done enduring the taunts of bullies and the endless stream of fat jokes. I was done going to sleep with a lump of heartache in my stomach. I was done hurting myself. I decided it was time for me to ask myself some difficult questions. Did I want to take the easy way out and be unhappy and unhealthy for my entire life, or did I want to fight and struggle to take control of my emotions and my body? It was a definite crossroads moment, but, happily, I made the right decision. I started doing research, I found foods which made me feel light and energetic rather than weighted and achy. I became diligent about going to the gym to read my beloved books rather than sitting at home. I replaced the gallons of soda I drank daily with an endless supply of herbal tea. I figured out what worked for me and stuck with it. Most importantly, I began to develop a healthy self-esteem.
That all sounds well and good, but the difficult truth is that I have been on a constant diet for 14 years now. While my “diet” has become more streamlined by becoming a gluen-free vegan, there will probably always be that little voice in my head weighing if eating a cookie is worth the calories and judging if I did enough cardio for the week. The struggle now is keeping that voice from becoming an unhealthy obsession. It’s a difficult balance to create for those of us who are blessed with eating disorders of any kind. I say blessed, because going through those trials has made me the determined, self-restrained, and focused person I am today. I had to learn at an early age what it was like to reach for a goal that many considered unobtainable–to put in the time, to push yourself to be better, to give up what is easy in favor of what is right.
As I approach my 30th birthday, I hope to continue to love and take care of this body that I’ve been given–imperfections and all… and to maybe let myself eat a few more cookies. Life is too short not to eat a few [gluten-free, vegan] cookies.
The events of the past few weeks have left me shaken and saddened. It seems like every time I catch a glimpse of the news or check social media my breath is taken away by a new tragedy. It has become so difficult to handle that all I want to do is curl up in my bed and hide from the world.
But today I got out of bed, put on my running shoes, and went out into the world. As I ran around my little neighborhood I was struck by the fact that everyone I passed stopped what they were doing to give me a wave and a smile. People driving by, watering their lawns, tending their gardens, playing games on their front porches, riding their bikes, taking out their garbage… they all took a moment to acknowledge my existence. It’s a small gesture, and yet, with each new smile and wave my faith in humanity was slowly restored and pieces of my heart were put back together. I began to realize that people are inherently good, decent, and kind. Though the news and social media may lead us to believe otherwise, there is more good out there in the world than bad. The problem is that goodness whispers while evil screams. So maybe it is time for us to speak up a little louder, love a little more, and spread joy instead of fear. Sometimes all it takes is a smile and a wave to change someone’s day and create a ripple affect across the globe. So consider this post a challenge to pass on the love. Share some kindness and you can change the world.
“‘Making it’ is whatever gives your life balance and happiness.” -Renée Fleming
Everyday I’m learning to accept where I am in my life as a singer, a yogi, and a person. There was a time when I felt I was a failure if I weren’t surviving financially as a vocalist. I believed I was letting people down by not winning competitions or landing roles in auditions. I put so much pressure on myself as a singer that I forgot to enjoy the process of my life. These days, I’m finding a more balanced attitude to singing. I divide my days between teaching yoga, running a large private vocal studio, and continuing self-exploration of my voice. I’ve found as much fulfillment as a teacher passing the art form on to others as I feel performing on a grand stage. Though I don’t get to perform as often as I had once dreamed, I continue to refine my craft and am returning to the pure and simple joy of singing. By finding balance and happiness in my life while still continuing my work as a singer, I feel I am “making it”… even if I never sing at the Met….
#bloomingyogis challenge day 20: #boundsideangle #sideanglepose