Yesterday, Kat’s prompt asked, “What are the stories that limit you?” and “Who would you be without that story?” This is a theme that keeps coming up for me, the ways in which I am writing my own experience, constructing my own reality, and how sometimes what I’m telling myself just isn’t true.
For example, I used to tell myself I wasn’t a “real” writer. Working in the academy fueled that story, a place where only certain genres are “allowed,” where the first question you are asked when you say you are a writer is “where have you published?” and believe me, there’s a list of the “right” places. I used to think a community like this had to grant me membership before I could live the life of a writer, that I’d experience it according to their rulebook. I’ve since learned that’s not the case. For me, writing is a practice, a full-time gig whether I get paid for it or not, whether or not I get published or read. It is who I am. Writing is like oxygen for me, and as far as I know, no one has ever needed to get permission to breathe.
Another place I used to wait for permission is around yoga, specifically teaching. I thought that yoga teachers needed to be Prana models, no body fat and able to do poses like Scorpion with little effort. I saw them as masters of their bodies, and as a dis-ordered eater who spends way too much time inside her own head, I barely had a connection with mine. I bully it, push it past its limits, don’t give it the rest or movement or care it needs, don’t listen. And yet, instead of starting when I was perfect, waiting to earn the right to be “like them,” I went into yoga teacher training as if I were a total beginner, humble and ready to learn, in worse physical shape than I had been in years, and now, at the end, I’m healthier, saner, and more embodied. I am able to teach exactly because I have struggled, suffered.
I’m encountering the same now with Ringo. The story is that I don’t do enough, don’t know what I’m doing, have “ruined” my dogs, that any bad behavior is a direct result of my action or inaction. I compare myself not to others with full, busy lives who are doing their best, but instead I measure myself against expert, experienced dog trainers.
The common thread throughout these stories is I’m not good enough, need to try harder, do more. How I qualify “good” is to measure myself against longtime, skilled practitioners. Writer? I must be like Margaret Atwood. Yoga teacher? I must be Amy Ippoliti. Dog person? I must be Susan Garrett. To measure myself this way means that no matter how hard I work, no matter what my success, I have still failed, fallen short. The story I tell myself is that I need to earn love, earn the right to be here, earn the right to exist and be happy.
Who would I be without this story? I’d be more rested, healthier, more at ease, calm, more content. I’d be able to celebrate my good work, honor my hunger. My experience would be so much better, even as my productivity dropped.
That’s why compassion, along with courage, are vital: they give us the resources to be genuine about where we are, but at the same time to know that we are always in transition, that the only time is now, and that the future is completely unpredictable and open. ~Pema Chödrön
May we all go more gently, be kinder to ourselves, stop making our lives one project after another. May we truly balance our effort with our ease.