I've written, and written, and written. Writing and the written word itself was my first love in this world. I spent hours pouring over books and penning my own scribbles. I wrote a short story in fourth grade about a girl named "Robin" who was going into middle school on my parents' slow, old desktop computer in Microsoft Word. Once I got to middle school myself, I wrote in a diary about school-girl crushes and all the awkward wonders of adolescence. Halfway through high school, I started writing about my journey through an eating disorder and into the life of navigating recovery. And since I've gotten to college, I've never stopped writing.
And now, I speak.
When I first listened to Malcolm Gladwell's podcast, Revisionist History, I tried to pin down exactly what it was that made it so wonderful to me. So captivating and engaging. And I realized that Gladwell was pulling his words off of the paper and out of the pages of his book and breathing new life into them, allowing us to hear the emotion and thought behind every word he labors over with a pen.
I realized that I wanted to create my own spoken-word creation. My classes allow me to speak straight from my heart to my students, and that's a connection I've always cherished just as much as any piece I've ever written. And so, this podcast is born; born out of a used microphone I bought off of Amazon last Friday and the first chapter to a book gone unpublished.
This podcast will be me sharing the stories of my heart and of those I love. It will be a way to incorporate different, diverse voices into the singular one I share on this blog. It will be a way to branch out from the firm, yet intentional, boundaries of genre I've established here. It will be a new way to explore my voice.
For now, I leave you with this:
Prologue: The Teaser Trailer
Julie Maxwell's "Stars Align," and "Labyrinth Dreams"
Podington Bear's "Up, Up, Up," and "Pounded Piano"
As an anxious child, books were my saving grace.
I could immerse myself in them, let myself be taken away from my worries and my fears into a world conceived only by thought and print. I spent countless hours reading other people’s stories to escape my own. All that mattered was that I could find a tiny thread of myself in the words, something that spoke to the fearful little girl who felt out of place in the world.
I read to obliterate the constant plague of anxiety I carried with me throughout my adolescence. My constant reading baffled my parents at the best of times, and angered them at the worst of them. But turning to the beauty of the old and worn-out spines of books with the familiar smell of yellowed mustiness allowed me to escape all of that; reading let me hide from a world filled with panic attacks, outbursts, and long nights spent lying awake late into the night.
Eventually, books were not enough to escape that fear. As my life continued to shift and change around me, my pain became harder and harder to force out of focus, and I started turning towards things that offered me a greater sense of control than literary escapism. I went from finding a sense of peace in the lines of my books to drawing a very different kind of lines on my own skin with a razor blade. And when that wasn’t enough to let the anxiety seep out of me, I tried to starve it out with an eating disorder that would completely change the course of my life.
And then I found another story. One that didn’t involve escape, fear, deprivation and pain: Yoga strolled into my life about a year after an eating disorder nearly ended it.
Finding yoga was like finding a book on a shelf that has everything you ever wanted in it. It was challenging enough to keep me engaged, yet accessible enough to feel welcoming. It was beautiful in the way that all good books are: it felt as though every class must have been meticulously planned and choreographed to be this poetic, and yet it never felt forced or overly complicated. Even the language used by my teachers was like poetry in motion; words like elongate, lengthen, deepen, and float felt so much lighter than the darkness I was carrying inside of me.
A masterful yoga class always tells a story, whether that’s the teacher’s intention or not. Like the chapters of a book, a story is slowly revealed as you move and breathe throughout the practice. You find yourself caught up in an experience that feels simultaneously so separate from the outside world, and yet so real and tangible, as you experience it. Like a truly riveting book that grabs you by the gut and drags your eyes across its pages, it carries you up, up, up until the pieces fall into place, and you’re left feeling as though something inside has been shifted forever.
I used to try and weave my life into fairytales. It’s tempting—especially in a world that now revolves around social media and its “highlight reel” effect— to want to make it sound like we all have our shit all figured out. And it takes an even greater effect when you start writing about it publically. My junior year of high school, I started a blog about the classes I taught my first few months as a yoga teacher, with pretty, perfect pictures, and all the blessings that made my life rosy and special. It was lovely. It was quaint. But no one actually read it, let alone connected to it in any meaningful way.
One day after class, after a few months of this, one of my teachers pulled me aside and said, “I like what you’ve been writing, but you need to write about the shit you don’t want to talk about.”
At first, I was angry. A defensive voice in my head started chirping away all the reasons why I was already a great writer and didn’t need her help: who was she to tell me that I wasn’t being authentic in my writing? How would she know what I did or didn’t want to talk about?
Then I realized she was right. I was only sharing the stories where I came out on top; where everything ended with a perfect, catchy solution like, “Drop the ego and just go.” I was sharing only the stuff that allowed me to ignore the the damage I had not dealt with—didn’t know how to even begin to deal with yet. I didn’t write about the stories where I wasn’t yet a better person, where I didn’t have all the answers. And while I thought this was making me seem like an enlightened guru others could look up to, instead, I seemed like someone who had a life so perfect she couldn’t possibly understand what it was like to be you.
After a while I asked myself what exactly it was I didn’t want to write about and why. What was it that I had swallowed so long ago that I was unable to even acknowledge its existence anymore?
When things are all going in the right direction for a while, I tend to forget the things that have gone wrong. I forget that wounds can heal, but scars will stay. I forget that I’m only the person I am at this very moment because of all the things that have tested me. I forget that I’m making things happen because of things that have happened to me.
It’s easier to create a facade of stability and perfection. Believe me, part of me still struggles with the impulse to do so every time I sit down to write about a lesson I had to learn the hard way. And yet, the most beautiful blessings in my life have sprung from sharing the ugliest things I’ve ever faced.
I know what it’s like to carry around pain for so long that it’s easier to numb it out and bury it, rather than to face it. I wrote this book because I want to help you dig out of your darkness and pain, back into the light by sharingtheshit that I don’t want to talk about. Because I believe that by speaking about our own pains, losses, and traumas, we give others permission to face theirs.
That’s what my writings are. It’s my story: the pretty parts and the ugly parts. Like the ebb and flow of a yoga class, with the effort and ease shifting roles throughout. It’s an exploration of what it’s like to climb your way back up from rock bottom, and what it’s like to live in the aftermath of mental illness. It’s a love note to every scar I have painted on my skin, and a permission slip for you to do the same. And in many ways, it’s a return to the love of books that first offered me a reprieve from the pain I felt inside.
By reading my words, you’re intertwining your strength with mine. You’re helping to create a world that supports, and even encourages, creating a safe space for us to lay it all on the table; the good and the bad. You’re supporting me by listening to my story-—one of illness and recovery and relapse and healing—and you’re continuing that support by hopefully finding the strength to share your own once I’m done with mine.
A yoga class unfolds itself to you slowly. Like a dance, it changes pace and rhythm and intensity as it goes on. Parts of this book will be heavy and hard to swallow for some, while others will feel light and effortless, but it is all a part of the process.
And yet, as much as I write, there is something so beautiful about hearing them aloud.
The voice of the author rings through every stroke on a paper, that much we all know to be true. You pick up your favorite book and you hear something clearly and distinctly them in their words.
I have written thousands and thousands of words over a lifetime. I’ve written a book and had it left unread. I’ve written another book and thrown it away. I’ve written an article without fail nearly every week for 2 years. I’ve tortured the paper as much as I’ve brought it to life.
And now, I speak.