My Inner Worlds
My body has held a frozen pose for too long. Its beauty neglected, its form stiff and fragile. This morning’s yin practice opened another blossom that has grown through the crack of my mindless being, an unnatural posture that I’ve maintained for what feels like centuries. My analytical accountant identity breaks under the pressure of All I Am. My so-called control has been shattered as I take breaths of new vibrancy, blasting open a vista my eyes don’t yet see. Or if they do see, I can’t comprehend the new landscape they transmit, images blurred into feelings of loss and sorrow.
Who am I? Why am I scared of the unknown hidden inside? Why have I held back for countless heartbeats? When do I fully become who I am?
This process is unrelenting, yet gentle. It takes me one loving step and waits while I catch up to a new space, a new place where I can be all of me. I chose my path, and this freeing won’t stop until one day my true dance reverberates through every part of my beautiful body and soul.
Each month my friends and I meet for a full day of Dungeons and Dragons, a roleplaying adventure game that I’m sure you’ve heard of. They arrive at my house around noon and sometimes don’t leave until 9 pm. It makes for a tiring day, but one filled with tons of fun. Our current group started gaming together in 2012 with Rise of the Runelords, a Pathfinder adventure that took us four years to complete. Last fall we started Skull & Shackles, a pirate escapade on the high seas that has taken us out of our comfort zone.
I first began roleplaying in 2003 or 2004 with a homegrown adventure written by SJ, my current GM (gamemaster). Roleplaying stretched me. In the beginning I was terrified of making a mistake, of letting others see me, of drawing attention to any aspect of myself—you get the picture. Being with loving people who have become dear friends gave me a space to explore possibilities. Why couldn’t I be more outgoing like my selkie character Lyra? The charismatic druid I created and played mirrored aspects of myself that I didn’t feel safe expressing in real life. Over time I learned to relax more, to have fun, and to slowly incorporate the traits I liked in Lyra into my own experiences.
Matt and I moved to the mountains in 2008 and couldn’t realistically participate in tabletop RPG (role-playing games) from a distance. When we returned from our three-year journey into the wilderness, our friends suggested reforming our group to play Rise of the Runelords. Life had felt a little rough for me outside my beloved urban Raleigh-Durham area, and the sorceress I crafted for this adventure helped me learn to embrace my inner power. Elliana was a strong-willed, not-very-wise, magic user who shot lightning bolts from her fingertips. Playing her over the course of four years was illuminating, and with the help of Matt, I learned how to think outside the box. Several times Elliana used magic in an intensely creative and non-destructive way that impressed the heck out of me. Since those ideas came from me, I learned that I can express my creative side in real life and not fear it.
I grieved last summer as we completed the Runelords adventure, knowing Elliana had to retire to her hero afterlife. To help compensate for that loss, SJ allowed me to create my current character Lia as the daughter of Elliana and two other characters from the Runelords game. She is a combination of four different races, but the sorcery used in her birth went haywire, giving me a great roleplaying opportunity for times when Lia feels stress.
It was difficult to shift to this strong physical fighter, who is now also a pirate captain. We’re still learning to play our new roles in Skull & Shackles, but I can see a parallel in Lia’s physical abilities and my new interest in practicing yoga. Playing a pirate captain is stretching me, but our group has decided to be “good” pirates. We don’t prey on the innocent and will only take the life of an enemy when necessary. I look forward to seeing how the next three years will transform Lia and me in our tandem worlds.
A look at Lia's portfolio via the Hero Lab app (shown on an iPad Mini):
Yesterday I took a workshop taught by Billy Batten of Bikram Yoga Wilmington, hosted by Raleigh Yoga Company. I have now been practicing yin yoga for four weeks and continue to love it. Bikram is the next step for me, and I wasn’t sure what to expect from the afternoon’s training. I was the only one there who had never taken a Bikram class. Thinking the workshop was for people like me, a total newbie, I was a bit surprised to see folks there who have decades of experience in this method. I chose to feel special for being the only true beginner out of a room of eighteen yogis.
Billy said Bikram yoga is for the broken, physically or emotionally. I’m doing yoga to help with my spinal pain (see post here), and I can always become more emotionally healthy (see post here). Bikram uses the body to change the body, an empowering tool. He asked us why we come to yoga. If the reason is to look good in our poses, we can lose our motivation. My intent is to relieve the constant pain in my upper neck that gives me headaches and blurs my vision, as well as deepening the connection with my body’s knowledge and understanding. I’ve ignored the body’s quiet song long enough.
After the workshop I moved into the regular yin yoga class, which had more people in attendance than usual. The studio has been open for just over two months, and I’ve been spoiled by classes with only a handful of students. I can sometimes get overwhelmed by a crowded room and will avoid situations where I know there will be a lot of people. But this is yin yoga. I breathed and allowed the energy of everyone there to softly flow within my imagined space. Yin embraces discomfort, and I had an opportunity to be vulnerable inside a packed room. The class felt short, which tells you how good it was—the hour flew by. During an intense hip pose, I finally let go and cried through the pain that’s been in my left hip for some time, hindering my gait during walks. I had a chance two weeks ago to cry it out during Saturday yin, but I didn’t want to sob with a medical doctor on the mat next to me. Yes, I have my unfair prejudices.
In final savasana (“corpse pose”), I allowed the tears to fall and relaxed into the posture. Towards the end of it, I saw in my mind’s eye a circle of concrete blocks beginning to crack, transforming into living flowers. It was a beautiful image, and I feel the flowers are within my strengthening body. They aren’t there yet, but I have a picture to use each time I go to yoga—I’m transforming concrete into beautiful blossoms.
Thank you to Billy for sharing his wisdom, and to Laura and Susan for inviting him into their studio. I’m grateful to be a part of Raleigh Yoga Company’s growing practice.
Twenty-one summers ago I began a meditation practice. It started from an internal schism between my workaholic nature in public accounting and a desire to be healthy. I felt stressed every day and consumed way too much caffeine so I could keep going nonstop. After the busy tax season that year, I found a flyer advertising an Introduction to Meditation course. I signed up and proceeded to learn different variations of meditation over the six-week class, which allowed participants to choose which one they liked best and incorporate that into a daily routine.
Over the next year I meditated regularly. I even bought a special chair for sitting still in comfort. (That first one wound up being not so comfortable, so I invested in an Ekornes chair that I use to this day.) The following spring I took the advanced meditation course, which I don’t recall very well. I just remember that after the final class my instructor, a mental health therapist, talked to me about starting therapy and offered to work with me. I liked her mind-body awareness, and we had already built trust between us in a non-therapy setting. We began the work of diving into Sarah, and I saw her at least once per week for the next two years. If you’re considering therapy, it’s well worth the investment, when/if you find a person you trust with your inner self.
My meditation practice lasted for a few years, and then it waned as other aspects of life took my attention. While I used stillness and silence in my new interests, it wasn’t focused meditation time.
A month ago Matt asked if I’d join him in a seven-week webinar meditation course. Because these are the types of things that we do on our dates, I said sure. Due to a miscommunication between us, I thought Matt personally knew this guy and that he lived locally in Chapel Hill. I expected a white-collar man who looked like a doctor and probably had a soft torso. When I saw the monk on-screen, I dismissed the class based on his appearance and his accent. He is from India, dresses in full orange regalia, and obviously cares for his body. It’s what one would expect of a yogic meditation teacher, so why did I feel skeptical?
The concepts shared by the monk resonated with me. While I had doubt on one side because he didn’t look like I thought he should, I felt the truth of the meditation flow through me. I had a bad headache that evening, which lessened to almost nothing during the mantra-based stillness. I felt peaceful and centered after the hour. In case you’re interested, here’s the link to the recording.
Our homework was to meditate for at least five minutes morning and evening each day—ten minutes total. I’ve done two five-minute sessions instead of the fourteen we were assigned. Week Two begins this evening, so I feel like I have a fresh start on homework. Will I get my gold stars each day? Check back for an update in a few weeks. I might even have a renewed meditation practice by then.
Travel messes with my routine of morning journaling, exercise, and health-conscious eating choices. I loved seeing my dad this past weekend and staying in my sister’s new home, but every family has their own rhythm for how a day plays out. I adjust and go with the flow, but arrive back home tired, weighing more, and ready to get back to my own operating system (I’m an IT geek’s daughter and love to use nerdy words).
This past trip I actually journaled every morning, an unusual travel accomplishment for me. It helps that my sister has a similar routine where she rises before the sun and sits down with her notebook, fountain pen, and coffee. We actually power-walked one morning, giving me an exercise credit in an otherwise sedentary trip. However, I cheated on my refined sugar intake and accidentally ate gluten. I rarely cheat with sugar, but never with that wheat-based substance that hates my GI tract. My lack of consciousness about what I ate appalls me. I’ve felt crappy for two days now and keep telling my depressed thinking that it’s a false low—I’m not really sad, it’s just the sugar spiral that happens every time.
Is publishing this my way of staying accountable? I suppose. I’ve never been able to hide my sugar indiscretions from Matt because mood swings are kinda hard to control. But this is a first putting it out into the cyber world. In the spirit of honesty, I also skipped a scheduled yoga class Monday night. I had intended to go, but felt too dehydrated for the hot room. My first hot yoga session two weeks ago had me sick in bed the next day because I didn’t realize how much hydration sweating for an hour in a 100-degree room required. I’ll get back on the yoga wagon with tonight’s hot yin.
I love my family and enjoy our visits, but I’m glad to be back home and ready to start a new page of living the healthy lifestyle my body craves.
Today I visit my Dad, a man who literally gave me life. If it hadn’t been for him delivering my newborn self into this world, Mom and I might have died in a difficult birth. He and Mom have kept the scissors used to cut my umbilical cord, but I won’t post that gross picture. Instead here is one of Dad, my niece Freya, and me when we gathered together for a few days of treasured quiet.
I enjoy our time together. As the years pass, I see more of Dad in me—analytical, definitely introverted, skilled in math. We chill around the house where he and Mom raised my siblings and me, working on our computers, reading, and talking when we feel like it. Last visit I burned a frozen gluten-free pizza I “treated” Dad to, and he ate it with no complaints. That’s love, huh?
Eleven years ago Waterman, the fine writing instruments company, held a promotion of their new line of Exception pens. I submitted my entry into their “Exceptional Father’s Contest,” where writers had to convince the judges in less than 250 words why their dad was the best. Their plan was to roll out the winners on Father’s Day, but it didn’t happen. When June came and went, I figured this was yet another writing effort that I tried and could shelve. October’s chill arrived and along with it, both Dad and I received an incredible gift: a Waterman Exception Night and Day pen for the larger-handed father and a smaller Exception Slim pen for me. I was ecstatic. One of my friends has turned me into a pen snob, and here we were awarded with the ultimate (in my world) snobby gift. That pen goes with me everywhere in my purse. I actually rarely use it because the refill cost offends my accountant brain, but I love knowing that connection to my dad is next to my cell phone and mirrored powder compact.
To show my respect for an incredible dad, here is the entry I submitted:
My Exceptional Father
Men play a part in bringing a child into this world, but some men are cast to play the leading role. Mom had a long, unpredictable labor without the usual indicators that say, “Leave for the hospital!” A baby ready to breathe her first trapped my expectant parents in their small-town home.
Mom was struggling to give birth as Dad called a neighboring town’s doctor, the only option now that a one-hour drive to the hospital was impossible. The doctor didn’t make housecalls. Instead, an IT geek expert in mainframe computers was about to deliver his first baby. The doctor was kind enough to guide Dad through the process, but no one was prepared when baby got stuck.
There were no heart-monitors, teams of specialists or emergency C-sections. There was Dad, who got on his knees and prayed for mother and child. I popped out almost immediately, a miracle in the dead of that May night.
It was Dad who caught me in his sure and steady hands. It was Dad who cut my umbilical cord before it became popular for men to even be in delivery rooms. It was my exceptional Dad who gave me life thirty-six years ago.
Our bodies are expressive, beautiful, and possess an inner working where we feel little control. From my earliest years I have been sensitive. As a kid I would lose consciousness from the pain of an injury when one of my siblings might only shed tears. Frankly, my body told me a lot of things I was too young to handle, so I learned to shut off communication. It worked…sort of.
My body felt the dismissal. Its feelings went unheard, its knowing unacknowledged. So thirty years ago this summer, we had our biggest fight ever. My teenage self stopped feeding it. What sane person would stay in a relationship where one partner decided the other would get as little as possible? We were head-to-head—me liking the size two jeans after spending my childhood as the chubby girl; my body slowly being destroyed in an attempt to remain functioning.
While I’m intensely stubborn, I get it from an expert. My mom. The anorexia got to a point where she wouldn’t pretend I was still healthy, and her “food is love” weapon battered my self-hate until I finally started eating. The problem didn’t go away. It just got elusive and hid in socially-acceptable dieting and obsession over imperfection.
Fast forward to my early marriage years. Thankfully I couldn’t starve myself after Matt and I spoke our vows and forged a life that was ours. That didn’t stop the self-hatred, but I didn’t see it as such until many years later. I obsessed about my weight and ruined our first vacation as a married couple. I had told myself in the months leading up to our Southwest excursion that I would be happy if I lost two pounds. Well, I didn’t lose the two pounds, mainly because my body didn’t have two pounds to lose. Sure enough, I wasn’t happy. But it was my own self-realized doom that cast a pall on our trip.
My body wanted to be on better speaking terms with me. It’s forgiving like that. Around the same time I experimented with the weight-happiness ratio, it tried to tell me I was in a dangerous situation. I had a (short-lived) job where sexual harassment was the norm in the office environment. I developed unexplained allergies requiring drugs that would knock me out for an entire day. The pattern became work two days, eyes swell so badly I couldn’t see, take mega antihistamines for one day, go back to work for two days, recover with drugs again over the weekend. Repeat on Monday. After a few weeks of that, even I couldn’t ignore the cadence of my body urging me to get the heck out of that place. One of the guys had targeted me as an interest. There had been “bad stuff” that happened to two ladies who worked there, allegedly by this guy (and I believed them). Did I really need my body’s reaction to be as dramatic as it was? Obviously. I’m glad it kept me safe when my rational mind wouldn’t connect the dots.
I’ve grown in gratitude for my body. Each year or two brings new enlightenment. This past winter I noticed I still have waves of self-hate flowing underneath my day-to-day activities and thinking. I’ve gifted my body to a yoga practice focused on yin, hoping it will still speak to me in those soft whispers after all my years of neglect. This is the third week of yoga, and my body has begun allowing me to hear those secrets it carried for us. I’m sorry I’ve made her hold our feelings without my support or love. And I’m grateful to have this chance to reconcile.