Part I: “Perfect” (or) Shitty Yoga

For a 6:00 yoga class it usually goes something like this:

  • 5:00pm–talk myself into going and convince myself that I will be happy I went after its over
  • 5:13pm–put on capris and tank top
  • 5:14pm–do downward facing dog and watch as capris roll half-way down my legs
  • 5:15pm–kick off capris and search closet for “yoga pants”
  • 5:15:30pm–make mental note of how no one in yoga classes actually wears yoga pants, in fact, yoga pants have more of a home at Target on a Saturday afternoon than they do in a yoga studio.
  • 5:16pm–Pull on exercise leggings and spin to examine all angles
  • 5:17pm–bend over rear to mirror to see if pants have “LuLu effect” they always do.
  • 5:18pm–pull on Gap Fit capris which always fit well but are typically worn for running and decide it doesn’t matter.
  • 5:18:30pm–decide that combination of fitted capris and tank top is too tight and looks for perfect light yet loose (but not too lose) shirt.
  • 5:19pm–tie up not-my-hair in a ponytail
  • 5:21pm–tie up not-my-hair in a bun
  • 5:23pm–change from not-my-hair option #1 to not-my-hair option #2 and pin it back off my face
  • 5:24-5:32pm: tear apart my entire room looking for “yoga headband” which has elastic and stays in place while absorbing sweat
  • 5:40: after taking 17 unsuitable-for-instagram photos I notice how late it has gotten and I grab my keys and run out the door for class.

imagesI arrive. The room is heated and no matter what the actual temperature is, it is perpetually five degrees too warm and I begin to sweat immediately. I search around the room for a familiar face. There never are any. Svelte bodies stand erect upside down balancing to “warm up”.  I lay down in corpse pose and pull awkwardly at my clothes. Pants up, top down. I wiggle back to re-center myself on my yoga mat and try to bring myself into the room and the moment.

  • 6:00pm–the instructor begins class. Asks us to remember to breathe. Sweat decorates my top lip and I wish silently for a clock anywhere in the studio. I chuckle to myself because if there were a clock it would be fogged over. It’s so fucking hot in this room.
  • 6:27pm–after the 107th downward facing dog and 1,203th chaturanga my shoulders ache and I melt into child’s pose. My sweaty forehead sinks into my mat and I breathe my GODHELPME Ujjayi breath. It has surely been an hour, I think.
  • 6:31pm–my shirt which began as loose and flowy is now soaked with sweat and sticking to my skin. I self-consciously tug at it in between spreading my branches in tree pose and hands to heart.
  • 6:43pm–as we star pose to the side and the sweat drips as though I were wringing myself out I hear it hit my mat and it echoes as though Niagara falls were in the studio. I wonder if the man behind me can hear it too.
  • 6:50pm–spine twist, my body can barely bend this way and I look around the room to see others facing the back wall breathing effortlessly.  I make a mental note to research “yoga for fat people” when I go home.
  • 7:00pm–I taste the sweet relief of fresh cool air on my skin and say goodbye as I wonder if I can text someone to meet me for a late burger and a drink.

Yoga practice, not yoga perfect.

To conclude:
I made a promise to myself after my last class that I would not repeat this song and dance. Despite my account above, I really do love the practice of yoga. But I wanted people to know how incredibly frustrating it can be to get OUT of your head and be where you are. I get hung up on what I look like. What I sound like. What others think of me and think of my practice. But I just do not want to live that tightly anymore. I am in a place where I really am ready to shed the weight and restriction of other people’s opinions (and my own self-judgment). Happy.  That’s all. It doesn’t come from the perfect outfit or the nailing the perfect pose. Happy comes when you can enjoy exactly where you are, and what you look like and know that in those moments how blessed you are to be in them.   Moving forward, that is what I’d like my practice to be about: gratitude. Every inhale grace and every exhale thanks.  Perfection, or this ideal that I have been striving for…it was stifling me. I want to keep it out of my yoga classes and out of my everywhere else too.

Torchbearer’s Creed

There are very few things I love more than my alma mater, and anyone who spends any extensive time with me can attest to that.  From my Tennessee home key, to my “you’ll always be…” necklace, to the orange and white checkered post-it notes that sit on my desk, I am a Tennessee Volunteer through and through. But if I had to choose one thing that stood out among the traditions born on Rocky Top I would solidly choose the Torchbearer’s Creed.

One that beareth a torch shadoweth oneself to give light to others.

I found myself standing with these words on Saturday as I thought of a goal for myself: to be the torch and the torchbearer. When I made the proclamation I was thinking of being fire–owning the power that is within me that, yes, has the potential to destroy but also has the potential to warm and sustain–and also being the giver of light to others.  This brought my life long goal full-circle.  I have always only ever wanted to inspire people. Simple, right? The piece that was missing was the former part, recognizing that in order to give others’ their light, I have to first be the light.

I woke up this morning in a curious predicament. I was wrapped up in my blankets and sheets, quite literally they had formed a cocoon around me and as I came into full consciousness I wondered what on earth had I done in my sleep? I rarely ever move in my sleep, and yet here I had swaddled myself in the night.  My morning ritual is to begin by saying thank you to God and expressing gratitude for anything that comes to mind.  So I began my thanks, and as my feet hit the floor I knew something was different. I felt different.  Now, it would be awfully cliche to suggest that on the night I cocooned myself in my bedding that the next morning I emerged this wonderfully transcendent and enlightened butterfly, and I am not suggesting that.  What I am suggesting is that today and everyday after today will be markedly different than the days that have preceded it.

Last night in hearing the incredible gifts that each of my colleagues, friends, and confidants shared in class was was so therapeutic. One in particular though was in so many ways my story and as he offered how he would go through it all again just to be where he was today with us, that there was and is a divine reason and order for everything.  So when I woke this morning I said thank you to my father. And I thanked him for the hard time that I/we went through between 2007-2009. I thanked him for loving me in the very best way that he knew how.  I forgave myself for making him the villain in so many stories I’ve told and I understood that had it not been what it was, I could not be where I am.  Similarly, in the moments of last night I thanked my weight. It sounds weird to admit. But, had it not been for the sheer volume of my physical body…I remember it was raining on perhaps one of, if not the, darkest days of my life and thinking I could just as easily disappear…and that I would go through with committing to my physical nonexistence if it were not for leaving this ugly body to then be handled and seen by all sorts of people. Its really…honestly its fucked up to think about and it seems so far away in the emotional memory of me, but it was there. I couldn’t die without being beautiful first, and that meant thin. So I thanked my weight because if I had been anything but 334lbs in that moment, I might have done something irreparable.

And then there is right now, the moment where I see the immense value of my life and am very aware of my purpose during my time here. The space where I see what I have to offer and am beginning to find outlets to engage and grow. The place where I recognize the gifts that those around me have to offer and I am inspired by them. I live in a garden with so much potential around me and it is exciting and inspirational and a blessing.

When I consider where I was and where I am, I have this overwhelming feeling of gratitude. It is with absolutely grace that I look over the events in my life and think, my god was it beautiful.  I learned to stand alone when I was left. I learned the gift in living when I most wanted to die. I learned the power of my own voice when I was asked to be quiet. So I suppose this is but a continued portion of my morning ritual, a moment of thanks.

4736433638_c21b813e01_mSince the time of my depression I have not considered my own mortality. I have never thought of what it might be like to not be here anymore, and while I do not fear death it is quite an awesome (in the true sense of the word) state to contemplate. What I smile at is that by spreading my own light, that pieces of me will exist in anyone ignited by my flame. And in that way, we are all infinite…as is by design. What is perhaps the most cool thing about the universe’s way is that it only works if we are a we…we are not an multitude of i’s. That is the only way it works, as a collective; the creed too because it is with the other that I, the torchbearer, find my purpose. And to that I have to say thank you to you, simply for being and in doing so, bringing me into existence.

Likes on Facebook

I was watching Dr. Brene Brown on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday today which in and of itself was like an academic and spiritual explosion, but something in particular stuck out. Brene mentioned how we measure our self worth on menial things such as twitter followers, likes on facebook and that sort of thing. Because we’re always looking for validation in a society of uncertainty–and uncertainty is the ultimate enemy. It is not okay to not know. And so we need someone, anyone, to tell us we’re funny (enough), pretty (enough), influential (enough). Enough enough. In a culture of scarcity, we just want to feel full and we’ll take whatever we can get to fill us…


I thought about what’s ‘enough’ for me. And I drew a sketch. Ego me salivated. If I just got there then…and the mind wanders to love in Paris, kisses in rain, cherry wood offices in the perfect brick home, and my cute little puggle named Charlotte. And then the other part of me says no. Because those things are not off limits to me right now and the only reason they feel that way is because I’ve set them up to be that way.

I believe there is a point where you look at the things that happened in your past and you draw the lines connecting the past to your present. Then, you realize that those things, while they happened, they are no longer happening and while your past may have gotten you to a place but your present choices have kept you there. I’ve arrived in this place.

I wholly admit that I am not very good at gratitude for who I am. What I do for others? Yes. But simply grateful for my own talents, attributes, skills? No. Further, I have worked tremendously hard to maintain a level of distance between myself and others. I do not lean fully into joy. I do not express the depths of pain I feel. I understood the man Brene mentioned who rode the middle…never expecting good and never enjoying it when it came. This alleged “safety”, this neutrality…it is living outside the arena.

What I have decided is that I want to be in the arena. Daring greatly. It means being open to the risk of both joy and failure. It means answering to god and self. It means being clear in my values and my faith. It means showing gratitude at what is.

The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. ~Anaïs Nin

There was another Super Soul Sunday I saw where the metaphor of emotional anorexia was mentioned. Living off crumbs and expecting to feel satiated by it. Settling for scraps in relationships or careers because we need, so desperately, to just be full. Or rather to feel full. And some people die chasing the high that was. I don’t want to die chasing what will inevitably always remain just out of arms reach. I want to live, hands to the heavens full of grace at what I have. I am full. And its time I started living that way.

On my lips

Losing weight is not nor has it ever been about losing weight. After I finished that last post, I got dressed and went on a run/walk around my neighborhood. I listened to the Belle Brigades and went to explore. Down unexplored streets and finding new views; I was looking for the sting in my lungs.

It was an hour later when I was laying on my floor dripping sweat and meditating when the thought came to me, losing weight is not about losing weight. Then I decided it was time to take some financial advice from Suze Orman and get really honest.

When I moved home from Nashville back in 2008, I was at my heaviest and I weighed 324lbs. May I just pause and in this moment reflect on what it is like for me to admit that out loud and to the entire world? I was 324lbs and so incredibly fragile. I was at the edge and incidentally, the furthest I have ever been to feeling powerful. To write that, to know that people many people will read this and know the dirty ugly truth of my life…feels good. Nothing grows in darkness except mushrooms. So I was 324 and once I moved out on my own, started to eat better, feel better and live better…find my stride in life and in my profession…a profession, might I add, that saved my life I got down to 260. When I look at the photos I don’t see it. I don’t see 60lbs gone, it didn’t feel miraculous or monumental or anything even close to that. It felt like I was 260lbs and needed to be half that. I was still not in a place where I could celebrate or even recognize my victories. I was still numb to my self.

All of that came to me in my shower after the run and after the meditation. You know how to physically do this, you have done this before. You know it and there was still a disconnect and I had the thought again, LOSING WEIGHT IS NOT, NOR HAS IT EVER BEEN ABOUT LOSING WEIGHT. I remembered old episodes of Oprah and old thoughts and reflections about how if I kept making losing weight this huge monumental mountain, and if I approached it with the mindset that it was damn near impossible that I was setting myself up for failure. And yet, I didn’t have an alternative. I didn’t know how else to think about it. I could not, having lived the life I have lived with the experiences I have experienced, reframe my view on losing weight.

Until today.

When I made the parallel between what power felt like and the sensation of running, something click for me. This is not about losing weight, or getting fit, or any of those pseudonyms we use for looking attractive to the general public. This was about being intimately connected to my power. I need to feel that connection, I need to step into my power and when I saw how to do it, I had to try. I pushed myself to keep going because the longer I went the more I felt it. And the more I wanted to cry. I was walking up hill and sweat was seeping from the bend in my arm, such an uncomfortable place to sweat, and I saw a license plate that said “Just4Jes” and I started to cry. I started to cry because it was an external manifestation of my exact internal feeling…this was about finding myself, and if I see it in that way then it’s not impossible or even daunting, it’s invigorating and inviting and inspiring and freeing and overwhelming in the best way.

It clicked for me today. And in my moment of honesty with myself and with the world, I felt so beautifully connected. It means very little to reveal numbers or even thoughts because I am not those things. I am. And nothing comes after that, nothing that follows that very compete sentence can hold me captive in shame in judgement in persecution in solitude in bondage in loneliness in silence.

I feel nothing but grace and gratitude right now, for daring to chase it, to try. I am emotional and happy and at peace.

…and the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. –Anaïs Nin


The local time is 10:58pm but it feels much later. Its been a day. I hesitate to call any day I am blessed to have experienced a “bad” day, but it was one where I found myself grasping for the goodness, the gratitude, and the grace.

I had almost arrived to Denver. Our pilot had previously made mention of turbulence we may encounter as we prepared to land but I figured, I fly often enough–I will be okay. I was wrong. We just kept dropping. My body was in panic. I shouldn’t feel that floating rollercoaster feeling on a plane. I looked at the window and saw the mountains and then the plane shook violently. The little Indian woman beside me was starting to fret. We dropped again. I closed my eyes and hot tears fell. I told myself it was fine, just air pockets. Or rough air. Or jet streams. I struggled for some meteorological explanation. But all I felt was the falling.

The mountains were so close. I could see the stream carved valleys and icy caps. Down we fell closer to them. I closed my eyes again. Telling whatever power would listen that I was grateful for this morning having spoken to my mom and my sister. I told them I loved them. At least I did that. And I suppose for those who have never experienced anything like this, I might sound a bit dramatic. But I’d left panic and found peace and in hindsight that’s scarier.

We shook and dropped and shook until we landed, very roughly. I wiped the tears and the man behind me rubbed my back. I just kept saying, “that was not okay.” I cried from the time it started until I was in the shuttle headed to the hotel where there was a debacle with my room.

As I sat in the lobby, growing more and more frustrated by the minute I sang to myself. I longed to play in my hair. My hair. It has always been a sort-of soothing thing for me. I needed some comfort.

I didn’t call my mom, because I did not want to worry her. I knew she would be concerned and I was going to be okay. I was just a little shaken up. When she saw my facebook status dictating an awful mood she knew something was wrong. Lots of people did because I rarely, if ever post negative things. Just not me. She, of course, went into mom mode and wanted to fix it and make it better. I recalled that awful flight and started crying again. It struck me that no matter how old, accomplished, mature, developed we get…sometimes we’re just little helpless beings in need of love, affection, and comfort. When Mo came, she gave me a hug, helped me sort through my hotel woes and I told her, “you should be a mom.” 

After dinner, I was calm. Ready to shower and wash off this day and settle into bed. I laid on the bed unable to locate the anger I felt so strongly only hours before. Instead I found the goodness in problems easily fixed and good friends willing to help fix them. The gratitude in a peer, a friend, a mentor who can laugh and cry with you with such ease, its as if it always was. And the grace…for a life where I am so incredibly loved. Even the problems I have show just how privileged I am.

And so, before bed I say my prayers. For my mother and my sisters. May they always know I love them. For good pilots and safe landings. For loving friends with nurturing hearts. And for the good sense to even in crisis, know there’s something more than this moment. Thanks to the divine, even for my anger.

Chasing Pavements

It was one of those total fluke pictures that made me look pounds lighter than I actually am. It was kind of alarming to see, because I wasn’t looking for it at the time. Much like Cher from Clueless, I like to photograph my outfits in the morning and judge them based on the photo versus the mirror. I am convinced the mirror can lie. So, the picture was taken and I ended up changing the outfit and thought nothing of it until I went to delete the picture today.


Total fluke, right? Anyway it got me to thinking. I sent it to my person and she said Ooh you look skinny! Oddly I winced. I responded, its a fluke! You just saw me. She said “you are not going to be an obese bride.” Seriously, my biggest fear.

I realize that I have a thing. I like for things to appear a certain way. I mean, I like for them to be a certain way too, its not solely about looks…but I prefer put together. I do not think its entirely unhealthy, and I’ve wondered if its about impressing others and to some extent, sure, I guess it is. However, I can say that I feel more at peace when I am in a beautiful space that is intentional and clear. That carries out in nearly everything I do, wardrobe included.

That being said, I looked at this picture and thought about my fear of hills. It was interesting, I’d just written two professors about Avatar: The Last Airbender and so maybe the ideals were fresh on my mind. But I was considering how I met each hill I encounter with trepidation and disdain. That’s the energy I give to earth, and what does that say? What does that do? Throughout my neighborhood there are a few hills and as I’ve considered walking I, of course, consider these hills. I also consider them on campus although I walk up one everyday.

Why do I fear hills? Earth is the opposite of air. It quite literally represents all the things I avoid in life…earth-benders have the most control when their feet are on the ground. We could honestly stop there, I live in the sky in every way. Imagination isnt grounded, its everything but! I can’t relate to this sentiment at.all. Also, earth is solid, enduring, and utilizes neutral jing which requires patience and waiting. Couldn’t be less me. I hate both.

So, I had a talk with myself. I asked if I was going to allow earth to keep me from meeting my goal. I asked if I was going to fear hills or be one. Be one in the sense that I am strong, tall, and immovable.

If you want to move a rock, you have to be like a rock yourself

I have known this before. I have even said this before. I have not, however, felt connected to this before. I’ve not really understood what was meant by being a rock. Or a hill. Or any element of earth. I get it so clearly now, though. Its that kind of clarity that I imagine that limitless pill gave, where things even seemingly unrelated become married and relevant.

I am ready to chase pavements. I am ready to master earth.

post publishing…
I went to upload this post to facebook, as I do every post as of late and I was met with hesitancy. Not at sharing, exactly, I realized a while ago that sharing is powerful and necessary. I was hesitant because I’ve done this before. I’ve made proclamations before and seemed hopeful and yet, remained woefully distant from my fitness goals. So here I was again publishing a post and I was not even sure I believed myself. Major problem.

I am really grateful I caught myself in that thought. Right now, I realize that I am asking myself to believe in the impossible. That is how it feels, to at least some part of me. I have to acknowledge that. I do not, however, have to empower that. I believe in the very best in people and I believe in the very best in myself. So dubious self, I hear you and I respectfully disagree with you. This is not impossible and I intend to prove it.

Living a good life

I was sick and hadn’t eaten so I was feeling weak, yet I was out shopping for storage containers because I had to move the next day. I was feeling resentful towards a very unaccommodating housing office, and doubly so now adding this sickness.  My cohort, classmate, and friend the Col. came to pick me up and take me shopping and after I told her I couldn’t afford dinner she was buying me dinner.

That is why you life a good life… she explained, “So that when you need help, people are more than willing to be there for you.”  I thought earnestly about her words and decided that they were unwittingly the spoon full of sugar that I needed.  I really wish I knew why it is so incredibly difficult for me to accept help. However, I think I better learn to do it graciously because I keep being put in the position of having to do it. Mara joked with me yesterday that I wasn’t just on the struggle bus, I was at the struggle bus stop because I’d missed the three that I needed.  It made me laugh because its so incredibly true.

All summer I had to deal with a lack of funds, since I’ve started my job, payroll has messed up my check, financial aid took away fall aid, I’ve had to spend my last few dollars paying for a place to live (deposits) and moving supplies when really I didn’t want to be moving for another week (after pay day)…not to mention this class that I have been in for the last two weeks. When you add that, plus an unexpected cootie that zaps your energy, steals your appetite, and makes you just plain old uncomfortable you have me over the past two days.  But I couldn’t forget the Colonel’s words.

That is why you live a good life…

I texted a few friends yesterday and told them the situation. Not wanting help, just to vent. I expected the responses that I got, a bunch of “Oh no, it’ll all work outs” which really in a time like yesterday felt trite and kind of just like…the thing you say when you don’t know what to say.  I am not sure what I was looking for in terms of response, especially since I am not the complainer friend. But it wasn’t very comforting to hear. Then  LT…

And I was. I was smiling and in that moment I said to myself, you know–this is going to work out. It always does and it always will. A few minutes later I got an email from financial aid saying I had money on the way. I thought to myself, wow…you really do only need the faith of a mustard seed because that’s about what I was down to, but that’s all it took.

I just thought about my mother. She has this amazing ability to draw people in, and she has not one oz of shame when it comes to asking questions or asking people to share knowledge/give help, etc. I want to be more like her in that way. My mom has voice that is sure of itself. I want more of that. Maybe I will think of her in those moments…the moments when there is opportunity to reach out and yet I stop myself. I will think of her, and her “nothing fails except not trying” attitude. And I think…that IS why you live a good life. So that you can be a blessing to others, but also so that you can receive the blessing when its your time to.  This cyclic life of service.

I just really heard what LT said…”your testimony is going to save someone.” Those are the same words the woman in Target told me after my accident. Not similar, not close to, but verbatim those words and added to never stop sharing. Wow…
If I really believe that in this life I am meant to do that, to save others, then its not just about being okay and talking about it like I do here, its about being open in general…even (and especially) when I am down.  Namely because my story is not solely mine. So many people have been, and will be in the places that I am in. There is a collective learning and understanding that exists if only we are courageous enough to share.  To speak. To ask. 18 hours or so later, but I got it.