Pura Vida, Month #2

Today, February 18th, marks two months since I stopped, dropped, and rolled out of employment. On December 18th, I finished my last day of work in a hurry and without goodbyes after receiving word that my father’s business had caught fire and burned to the ground. Two days later I loaded my car with as much as I could and left Austin for the last time as a resident. Two weeks later I totaled said car and two weeks after that I said see ya later to New York too. I guess you could say I was shedding some layers, making some space. A lot of people will look at this life and say that I am lucky. And I am, for so many things. I’m lucky that my family didn’t suffer a more tragic loss when the Dairy Supply burned. I’m lucky that no one was hurt when I wrecked my car. I’m lucky for all of the love and support I have received with each decision I make. Most of all, I am lucky to have embraced the many opportunities to learn from my obstacles. Luck did not bring me here, my learning opportunities did.

The five weeks I spent at Rancho Margot were full of learning, internal and otherwise. As a yoga teacher, I had a pretty wonderful routine. My responsibility was the yoga space- creating it, cleaning it, opening it to the guests. I was given all the time and room I needed to practice, meditate, and prepare for public classes with few other duties. When I wasn’t teaching, I was finding new places to hang my hammock to read, journal, and ponder. I taught my first real yin class…and then I taught one every evening, sometimes followed by yoga nidra or meditation. By the time I left, even my vinyasa classes were starting to feel fairly yin-y, a fairly new and welcomed concept for me. Each day started before six in the shala, and each night saw me asleep before nine. My belly seldom saw sugar or meat, and processed foods dropped out of recognition. I often visited with guests, volunteers, and staff to soak up a bit of their story. Days off were spent hiking, riding horses, and adventuring in the jungle. It was lovely and it was quiet and it was simple- exactly what I wanted. Despite all of this perfection, I spent a lot of time feeling lousy.

I want to make it abundantly clear that the experience I have had thus far is unequivocally, deeply positive; Positive in that I have found a deeper understanding of meaningful living; Positive in that I have experienced a wide variety of emotions, including the unattractive ones; Positive in that I have found and lost and found inspiration. It is wildly complex and wonderfully beautiful. So when I say that I was feeling lousy, please don’t assume I wanted it any other way. It is all part of this process of learning, of understanding, of self-discovery. Its so easy to get swept up with the highlights, the story of the girl that quit the rat race to teach yoga in the jungle with her lover. I think it is important to share the less glamorous stories too, because in a lot of ways, a lack of ugliness in our collective story leads to our own increasingly negative feelings about our situation. It’s easy to think that if you do what others do, you’ll feel the as happy as they look. And then when you get there and you feel lousy, you think something is wrong with you. The problem isn’t you, it’s the us, collectively. In refusing to feel the backswing of the pendulum- the ugly, the dark, the negative- we are limiting our ability to feel the contrary- the thrill, the high, the elation- drawing us into a stale and unseasoned existence that we then dull with distraction.

 

Now that I am reflecting on my first good chunk of time out here, it is clear that some of the lousiness I felt stemmed from my own expectations. Out of nothing but naiveté, I assumed that the time and space awarded to me by this expedition would make clear what I was wanting- time to think about life and really just figure it out (in a matter of weeks). I craved the courage other travelers had, with their steadfast commitment to the lifestyle and fearlessness of the future. My expectation was to gain a bit of this simply by doing it too. I forgot that I am still me, and before I can emulate that same courage, confidence, and fearlessness, I need to spend some of the hard, ugly, dark times with myself to uncover my own needs. In my two months of liberation, I’ve boiled those needs down to the following:

  • Food Autonomy. I like to choose my food, cook my food, and I like to decide when and how to eat it. When I am given food, though I am immensely grateful, I feel powerless and a lack of control over a very big part of me.
  • Variable Work. When my days are filled with the exact same activities or a lot of free time, I get lethargic and deeply uninspired. Routine isn’t the problem per se, as long as I have different things to do each day. I have always been this way, but never realized why. I spend a lot of time thinking that my exhaustion was coming from taking too many classes in school or having too many jobs. I am starting to see that this variability actually gives me energy. Now the task is to find the path that benefits from this quality without abusing it.
  • Stimulus. I am a slow mover, and without stimulation, can get stuck in a low place. I enjoy doing things that force me to come out of that low place and get active early on. Once moving, I can keep the fire burning and the upward cycle begins.
  • Learning. I am most stimulated and inspired when I am in the learning process- whether it’s learning about someone, something, or somewhere, I crave it and it feeds me.
  • Alone time…together. I am very sensitive to the needs of others, and will often fall into the patterns described by the martyr archetype by sacrificing my needs to meet theirs, even if (and especially when) their needs are figments of my imagination. Spending time with my guy helps me work through this tendency and cultivate a healthier empathy that protects against emotional burnout. I am forever grateful for his ability to ground this heart- a process I find to be one of the most important qualities we can foster in each other, especially those working in emotionally charged jobs. After five weeks without any real alone time together, I found myself completely burned out and unable to listen empathetically. I was short tempered, irritable, and fiery as hell. Big thanks to my main squeeze for always supporting me, even in that.

As I begin to identify these needs, I feel that I am tending to my seeds of growth and transformation. I can feel a weight lift as I name each one, but also the burden of releasing that blissful ignorance. The biggest learning opportunity of all is the one you take to understand your needs. Now the real work begins. I cannot simply identify my needs and then ignore the situations that come up when I deny myself of them. It is now my responsibility to make sure my needs are met, and to take action when they are not. It is empowering and intimidating, but I intend to continue identifying and working to balance each and every one so that I may be forever cultivating, transforming, and honoring my very best self. Pura Vida, Month #2.

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Here Goes Nothin’

Here Goes Nothin.

 

Gotta love when you hear that! We all know that means something that is very much NOT nothin’ is about to go down. So here’s mine.

2017 has been a year of learning. A year of emotional turmoil. A year of many personal highs and even more societal lows. I can remember this time last year, feeling desperately hopeful that we had hit the bottom and the only way left to go was up.  Haaa. While I could go down that rabbit hole (and I will), I’ll save it because there’s another something that’s not quite nothing a’coming.

Three months ago, I decided it was finally time to quit my day job. It wasn’t because it was a soul-sucking, ass-kissing, culture-squashing corporate job, it was quite the opposite. I was managing and Adult Education program for an amazing nonprofit organization with a fantastically supportive team at my side. However, juggling that plus teaching yoga PLUS trying to dip my newly licensed toes in the Massage Therapy world was too much. “My plate overfloweth” and something had to go, so I took my biggest responsibility (and therefore stressor, and therefore Self Identifier) off the books. I went on vacation and didn’t open my email once. I released myself of the need to put out all the fires. I thought it would be liberating. Exhilarating, even.  I did not expect all of my newly freed time to leave me exhausted under a heavy load of guilt, ego, and loss. Months after the clothes from that trip were put away, I’m still here unpacking what it means to no longer work in the nonprofit world, and even deeper, what it means to feel all of these crazy emotions about no longer working in the nonprofit world. I’ve come a long way, but the first few times people asked the daunting “What do you do?” question, I felt like I needed to give them a resume along with my new job title; as if I needed to explain why I’m more than a Yoga Teacher, or not just a massage therapist. It makes me cringe to admit how much value I inevitably put on my super-cool do-gooder past in nonprofit. Ugh.

“A real sign of progress is knowing that your natural worth does not change depending on what you do” –yung pueblo

I read this quote to myself just about every day. The first time I saw it was long before this big transition, I’ve quit many jobs that didn’t serve me and never looked back. Hell, I’d even coached my friends through leaving their own jobs, preaching this same ideal. This time was just so different, it was my turn for the lesson. I know that there are a lot of reasons why I felt defined by this role- I loved what I did. I believed in our mission, wholeheartedly. I left some of the most amazing coworkers I’ve ever had there. I spent a lot of time defending it to my friends and family who just “didn’t get it.” And then I gave it up for something of which they had even less understanding. Stated bluntly, wherever understanding is missing, respect often is unheard of. I am so happy with the work that I do now, but I know that many people that I love dearly cannot make heads or tails of it, and that’s OK.

The purpose of this post is not to defend the virtue of one industry over the other. Let this serve as a reminder that you are not what you do. That your worth is not defined by your paycheck or the hours you put in to earn it. That only your actions can define the person you are. And most importantly, that it works both ways. Everyone knows an asshat that does charitable work and a saint in a cruel industry. There will always be so much more to the story, and defining ourselves and others by our line of work is unrealistic. Just as working for an undesirable company does not automatically make you bad, long hours at a nonprofit does not automatically make you good.

Now I work at a spa. An expensive one at that. Each time I look at my schedule, there is a big part of me that aches for clients that don’t have “Spa Retreat” in their vocabulary. It’s not on my employer to make that happen*, it’s on me. I need to be the person I think I am and go out there and do the work that I value. After weeks spent chewing on these thoughts and cultivating this acceptance, I am finally out of my own way and re-energized on this path. The timing of this epiphany is impeccable too, because…and drumroll please…I’m moving to Costa Rica next month. More to come on that. Here goes Somethin!

 

*Special note, my spa does a TON as a business to give back in other ways, just sayin