Everyday Goddesses: Carolyn Wheeler

Everyday Goddesses: Carolyn Wheeler

There are few people who are more fun to be around than Carolyn. JMH_160717_188.jpg

I met Carolyn after she did the Just Be Yoga teacher training this past year, and was immediately in love with her spunky personality, unparalleled sense of humor, and ability to find lightness in any situation. A self-described "east coast/ west coast transplant/bounce around-er," Carolyn is originally from Georgia, but a California girl at heart. Her wanderlust is close to her heart, and has become a large part of who she is. Carolyn current lives in West Oakland, and works as a yoga teacher and as a patient care coordinator at a doctor's office.

Sometimes I'm in awe at how I spend my days- I'm always exploring the city, going to San Francisco, taking a day trip to a beach or a lake, going camping, hiking, surfing, doing yoga, or just gardening in my garden." says Carolyn.

Carolyn is most definitely an Everyday Goddess, and I'm excited to be able to share her story here today (as Carolyn says, "I have a lot of story."). Without further ado, here is Carolyn in her own words.

What is your "story"? What led you to become the person you are today?

I have a lot of story, and I'm really grateful for that. It absolutely made me who I am today- and that's something I love.

I feel like the biggest division of my life was in my childhood, after we moved to Maryland. I grew up having a pretty ideal childhood in terms of activities and surroundings. It was very Huckleberry Finn in my few memories from Georgia, and being a kid in a nice suburb of San Francisco is obviously just so ideal.

My childhood was punctured with a lot of trauma in my home life though. I don't have too many memories from being super young, and I think that's a protection thing. Some of my clearest memories from Georgia were watching cartoons in the police station at night, waiting to be sent home while my family duked it out verbally instead of physically with a judge or a cop, or my sister holding me in her room at night while we listened to my family fighting- pretty viciously. There are a few more, and honestly all of them are bad and still traumatic. I'm not even sure if my family knows that that's all I can remember from being under eight.

We moved away from California when I was 12 and it was incredibly hard on me. So far, that had been the best time of my life. My family life still wasn't great, but I had met an incredible group of friends and almost all of them are still in my life and as close as family. I spent the first year in Maryland inside, reading books with my sister. It was better when I started ninth grade and met one of my best friends, whom I'm still best friends with today. She was my rock through high school. I met friends, and some I'm still friends with, but the area we lived in was hard for being that age.

A lot of the connections I made there were bad for me, and thankfully didn't stick. Heroin and painkillers were pretty rampant there, and there was a lot of anger and angst in me and the kids around me. My home life was terrible, and my mom and I started fighting literally tooth and nail. It got really rough, and I became just a total 'bad kid'. I started drinking, smoking weed, staying out late, skipping school, and eventually dropped out of high school in tenth grade. I just didn't care about anything at all. My parents were fighting all the time, and we had something really terrible happen in our family that I clearly still can't say out loud, and it totally broke all of us.

Everyone was angry, everyone was fighting, and then my sister moved out and I was alone with my parents. I hated my dad, I hated my mom, and I fought with both of them physically and emotionally. I let all of my grief at my whole life out in the worst ways possible. My dad moved to California and after a few incredibly tumultuous months of living alone with my mom, I made the choice to leave and live with him. It was probably the hardest choice of my life because I hated them both so much at the time for their actions, and was still too young to realize that they were human and not doing these things to me, and that I was doing just as much to them.

The next few years were a blur. I enrolled back in high school and graduated, barely. I had a few terrible relationships that were bad for me and bad for them. I had a massive drinking problem by the time I was18 and everyone in my life knew. My friends were partying with me, so I don't think they noticed as much. Maybe they did. Everyone else knew I had a serious problem, and I almost ruined my relationship with just about every friend and family member I had. I am beyond grateful that they're still around.
I felt completely out of control and was spiraling pretty fast. So, I controlled the only thing I knew how and stopped eating.
I also started working out, a lot. I'm almost 5'9 and about 145 pounds right now. I lost an extreme amount of weight, and I looked sick. One day I got to the gym too late to work out, and wandered into a yoga class so I could still get some time in at the gym. I remember seeing a woman do some crazy arm balance and realized I wasn't as strong as I wanted to be. I had muscles, and I was skinny, but I knew I wanted to unlock whatever she had to become that strong. I came back the next day and met Malia. After I took her first class, I realized I wasn't strong emotionally, either. In fact, I realized I was barely holding it together. I cried in every single class for at least the first year I took yoga. And I came still drunk or hungover to too many classes to count, but I came back- almost every single day.
It awakened something so deep inside me that was buried under just years and years and years of shit to work through. The more I worked through them and learned about myself, the more I wanted to know. My ego softened and I opened up to any lesson I could get. I realized that when things went wrong, instead of smoking or drinking or fighting with someone to forget about them, I wanted to move through them. I wanted to feel them being worked out. I realized this was the catharsis I had been searching for, for forever. I broke up with my boyfriend at some point in that first year.
I realized I needed to be alone and figure out who I was, because I had never even met myself before, and I realized that I deserved to be that person, and that I wouldn't be treated the way I wanted to, by anyone, until I showed up as my true self. 
I slip up a lot. I do stupid things, and I make bad choices. But I view them as lessons now instead of fuck-ups. And I realize that every time I admit to myself what I did, how it made me feel, and try and learn why I didn't like it and what I'd rather be doing, I'm taking one step closer to who I want to be, and to my authentic self. Now I'm here, I'm having literally the best time of my life. I have an amazing relationship with my friends, I have the best relationship I've ever had with my mom, my dad, and my sisters. I love connecting with people and uplifting them instead of trying to bring them down with me. And I keep on learning more from my mentors, from my family, and from myself.

How has yoga factored into your current lifestyle and sense of self?

Yoga is my current lifestyle. I've taken it off the mat and realize it's every moment of every day. I am more in tune with my body and my emotions and how they relate to each other than I've ever been, and I realize every time I step back, take a breath, and think rationally instead of acting out- I'm living my yoga. Every time I try to figure out who someone is in their soul instead of who they are on the outside, I'm living my yoga. Every time I see myself falling in to habits and take a moment to think back to what happened in my life to start it, and how I can change it and myself for the better, I'm doing yoga. It's my greatest passion and seeps in to every part of my lifestyle.
Just being able to write all of this down and put it out there for people to see- that's my yoga. This takes strength, grace, and wisdom, and that's all yoga.

How do you view strength? How do you view strength in relation to femininity?

My definition of strength has changed so much over the last few years and I'm sure it will change more. Right now, I think the strongest thing anyone can do is to know themselves. We spend so much of our lives hiding from who we are. We let these things that happen start to define us, and bury our true selves deeper and deeper under so many layers. We let our egos control our lives and continue to shut people out. The strongest people I know have stopped, looked at themselves, and asked 'What is happening here? Who am I? How can I work through all of this to find my true self?' It takes an incredible amount of courage. It takes so many tears, so much anger, letting all of these hidden emotions pour out. It takes saying goodbye to the person you've decided you are, and being strong enough to step into the unknown of your self.

We are our own safe havens, and getting to a point where you're saying 'no, this isn't me.' to your own safe place is terrifying. I remember in teacher training, we wrote down 'that shit'. The shit that you are sure just messed your life up. The event or things that happened to send you off your path. And then we stood up in front of almost 30 people and read it out loud. I've never been more scared in my life, and I've never respected anyone more than the people in that room telling me the worst things that have happened to them and how it affected them today. That's strength, and it comes from all of these lessons and yoga.

When I think of strength in relation to femininity, I think of two things- balancing masculinity and femininity within yourself, and being strong for other women. Most people seem to say 'I'm a woman, I should be feminine' or 'I'm a man, I should be masculine.' We all have this beautiful and powerful masculine and feminine strength and wisdom within us. Realizing that without attaching any judgement to it and harnessing both of these strengths for yourself is so powerful. Being strong and supple, firm and graceful- it's beautiful.

I'm really working on being strong for other women though. It's so easy for women to tear each other down. It takes a lot of strength to say 'I am an amazing and beautiful woman and a Goddess, and so is every woman around me.' It's easy to fall into thought patterns of 'Well I might be bad at this, but my butt looks better than hers.' or something like that. I'm so grateful every day to be surrounded by the strongest women I know, and see them as equals because I now have the strength to say I am their equal, and they have the strength to say the same. We all lift each other up so much, especially in my yoga community, and that lets me lift up other women in my life.  

Who is the fearlessly authentic you?

The fearlessly authentic me can see the light and the love in everyone. She can talk about her deepest feelings, share it with other people, and continue to share her story to inspire others to share theirs. She lifts people up and spends time lifting herself up. She quiets her mind so she can listen to what her soul is saying, and she takes that wisdom and light out into the world. And I'm getting closer to her every single day.