The Thing

In their vintage, baby-blue cottage in the middle of the sunflower field, the young couple sang, twirled and laughed. Every morning the young man sang her awake, took hold of his wife’s hands and twirled her around singing, “here comes the sun little darling and it’s alright.” Whenever the young couple walked by, no matter where they were, strangers would marvel and stare and whisper to each other, “Are they really that happy. Can anyone be that happy?”

With their happiness, nature would follow. Firefly, Songbird, and Bunny Rabbit took up permanent residency at the cottage and every night the young man would tuck them all in, and then the young couple would laugh themselves to sleep.

One day, however, something else began to follow them along their walks through the sunflower field and into town. They didn’t even notice it at first, as it was good at fitting in. It blended in with the laughter and it cleverly disguised itself as a firefly, a songbird, or a bunny rabbit.

The longer The Thing followed them, however, the less the young couple laughed, the less they twirled, and the less they sang.  The more The Thing followed them, the less Firefly, Songbird, and Bunny Rabbit tagged along for evening walks through the sunflower field. The longer The Thing followed them, the harder it was for it to hide and the more apparent it was that it was not adding to the laughter and the twirling and the singing but in fact, taking it away.

The young couple stopped laughing, twirling and singing. They spent most of their time in silence and if either of them spoke, it was in angry hardened words and hushed darkened tones. He, in his overstuffed emerald green chair, glared over his tortoiseshell spectacles at his wife. She, in her grandmother’s wooden rocking chair, angrily clicked her crochet needles together as the blanket began to take shape. This was not how the young couple used to be, you see, at least, not before The Thing moved in.

Summer faded and winter took up residency. Firefly, Songbird, and Bunny Rabbit stood outside, looking through the young couple’s windows, and mourning the loss of their friends. They had no one to play with anymore and there was no room left for them in the house as The Thing had moved into their room, taken over their beds and hid their toys.

Bunny Rabbit was the saddest because The Thing had taken her most favorite friend. “I just wish it would give me back my kitty,” she said sadly, wiping away a tear with her frozen paw. “She’s so soft and I can’t sleep without her.”

They waited patiently every day for their friends to notice them shivering outside in the cold. “I wouldn’t ask to come in,” tweeted Songbird sadly. “I just keep hoping that the young couple might give us some mittens, hot chocolate or at least give us Bunny Rabbit’s kitty.”

But, The Thing was too big now. It was bigger than the young couple’s house and blocked every window with its darkness. Firefly, Songbird and Bunny Rabbit gave up and went on to start their own traditions together. They fondly remembered back to summers when they used to play with their old friends. Trying to settle into their new routine, they busied themselves with tree decorating and present wrapping. Firefly cheered when the snow started to fall gently outside of their window, remembering the bedtime story the young woman used to tell them about the magic of the first snow.

Back at the young couple’s house, the woman noticed it was snowing and stood by the window to watch in awe as it fell onto the proud-standing sunflowers. She sighed loudly and marveled at how stubborn they were, gripping tightly to the last remnants of summer as the snow tried to force them into hibernation.

Watching her staring out the window, the young man asked her with interest and sarcasm, “What is it about the first snow that you believe to be so magical?”

“It’s simple,” she said in a gentle tone. “Snow comes and takes with it all of the year’s failures and mistakes. It takes all of these things and tucks them in for a long winter’s nap. With Snow, comes forgiveness and a second chance. With Snow comes a chance to start over.”

Noticing the last bit of gold from the last remaining sunflower disappear under the snow, she sadly said goodnight to the sunflower and continued on, “Without fail, Snow falls as if it had not heard or seen a thing, for Snow does not keep a record of wrongs. Snow just forgives and keeps falling.”

Amused by her words, he gave her a half smile and put his newspaper down. Glancing up at the photo on the wall of the young couple with Firefly, Songbird and Bunny Rabbit, he thought to himself, where are those guys? I haven’t seen them in a while.

Still staring out window, she reached and touched the paint chipped panes and noticed the baby-blue paint chips under her nails. Maybe we need to do some sprucing up around here, she thought and then went on, “After Snow’s arrival, the sun always rises and brings with it a sparkle, a sparkle that Snow will hold in its eyes for the rest of winter’s stay. When Snow melts and Spring arrives, the failures and mistakes melt away and chances are, by Spring’s arrival, those failures and mistakes have been forgotten and have been replaced with the lessons Spring has to teach.”

The young man began to weep from the beauty of her words. His tears turned into a small smile and his smile turned into a grin as he began to laugh. He knew how much she hated winter and being cold, but always admired her positive attitude. He didn’t know why, but laughter and the joy came over him like a contagious bug. She began to laugh along with him. This joy was infectious, and the more they laughed the more The Thing shrank. He grabbed her hand and twirled her around the living room, sliding around like children on the maple hardwood floors to the music only they could hear. What they didn’t notice however was that the more they twirled, the more The Thing shrank.

Hearing the familiar melody of “here comes the sun” from outside their window, Firefly, Songbird, and Bunny Rabbit ran as fast as they could toward the house. They could see the light from the Christmas tree through the windows now as The Thing had shrunk, and they danced and sang in the snow outside the living room window in celebration.

Noticing the commotion outside, the young man came out to welcome his old friends, but detected this strange dark shadow in the driveway by the red shed. “Who are you?” he asked it as if he had never seen it before.

The Thing just looked at him with sad eyes, unable to speak. He bent down and wiped off its face with the sleeve of his argyle sweater to uncover someone the couple had met once before many years ago. Looking at his wife, he mouthed, “Is that who I think it is?”

“My name is Ms. Understanding,” she whimpered. “I never meant to cause any harm.  It…it… was just that no one ever took the time to talk to me. No one e,e,e,ever tried to understand me. I showed up one night while you guys were yelling. I didn’t mean anything… honest. Please forgive me?”

Underneath all the dirt was a beautiful girl in a sparkly dress wearing a tiara and red glittery slippers. She began to sing, “here comes the sun little darlin’ and I say it’s alright.” Everyone began to sing along, as she reminded them of the words to the familiar melody the young couple hummed so very long ago.

So my friends, our story ends here. Little Ms. Understanding, the young couple, Firefly, Songbird, Bunny Rabbit all went inside to sit underneath the Christmas tree and watch the snowfall.

“Hey Bunny Rabbit?” Ms. Understanding inquired. “I have something for you. I’ve been keeping her extra safe until you came back. She’s been helping me sleep at night because I’ve been so lonely. She’s the loveliest friend.” And with that, Ms. Understanding handed Bunny Rabbit her kitty companion

“Oh, Thank you!” she exclaimed, holding her soft friend close to her face. “I’ve missed you so much, kitty!”

Singing, twirling and laughing they let Snow do his job of healing and forgiving. The young couple tucked everyone in, showed Little Ms. Understanding to her new sparkly pink bedroom, and the young couple laughed themselves to sleep under the big cozy blanket she had finished crocheting. The next morning, without fail, the sun rose to show them all the new beginning Snow had left them.


We All Deserve to Take Up Space

I was given the honor of having an article I wrote published on Elephant Journal. It took a lot of strength to share this story, but it my experience and words can help someone else out there feel less alone, then my transparency is worth it. Thank you to all of the amazing teachers at YogaSol Alaska for all that you do. You guys are changing lives and words can not express my gratitude. We must never underestimate the power of our words on another person. ‪#‎EDawareness‬ ‪#‎yogaheals‬

I have to admit it: I went kicking and screaming into my first yoga class.

That day I was supposed to go with a friend, and I came up with 12 different excuses as to why I couldn’t. I didn’t have a mat. I wasn’t flexible. My cats might get hungry.

The truth was, I couldn’t stomach the thought of spending an hour in stillness, alone with my thoughts. I didn’t want to spend an hour in front a mirror looking at the unintelligent, unsightly, repulsive girl in its reflection.

But, go I did. I sat in the back corner as far away from the mirror as possible. Completely self-conscience of my body and positive that everyone in that room was staring at the awkward person in the corner, I tried my best to never take my eyes off of the teacher. Silently screaming hateful things at myself, pushing myself to perfection as each pose was presented.

I was silently livid that this was my workout for the day, as my heart rate was not elevated like it was in a realworkout. How was I going to burn off the smoothie I drank today?  

Then came Savasana. I had to lie there on my mat in silence, just me and my thoughts. My critical, unbearable thoughts. There was no running away. I was trapped. Hyperaware of every sound I heard in the room, desperate to open my eyes, my heart started pounding in my chest and my anxiety level rose. I thought for sure that this was it. This was the end. I was going to die in that room.

Tears of panic started rolling down my face as I cried silently in the back corner of the yoga studio. Thoughts spiraled around in my head like a tornado: You’re not good enough to be here. You don’t deserve this. You’re too fat and ugly to do yoga. You’re stupid and broken. Look around you. All of these people are beautiful. You are not enough.

It’s funny what years of trauma will make you believe.

Finally, I heard someone move, and that meant I could get up too. Freedom. Scurrying around to gather up my mat and water bottle, I ran to my car before the tears started again. That was it. I was never going back to that place again.

But, three days later, I went back.

I couldn’t let anyone think I was weak.

I went through this same agonizing process for three months. Inching my way from the back corner to the middle of the room. About six months later, the only space available at the Wednesday night class was the front corner of the room. Right in front of the mirror. There was no way I was going to spend an hour with my thoughts and my body.

Turning around to leave, I realized someone was parked behind my car. Trapped. Again.

Resolved to stay, I unrolled my mat, acknowledged the grotesque reflection in the mirror and closed my eyes. Realizing 10 minutes in that I could not go through the entire class with my eyes closed, I was forced to face my stringy blonde hair, wide cheekbones, broad shoulders, fat thighs, wide hips and rolls on my stomach. That class was excruciating. Again, it was finally time for Savasana. Finally time to close my eyes again. I laid there listing all of the ways I was going to lose 20 pounds. Tomorrow I wont eat. Tomorrow I’m going to run 10 miles. I’ll have to eat in order to run that far, but I’ll throw it up when I get home. Juice. That’s all I’ll eat this week. How many calories is that? Three cups of juice a day? 500 calories? 500 calories a day for one month. That’ll work. Then I’ll be happy. Then I’ll be able to look in the mirror….

My eating disorder’s obsessive thoughts were interrupted by the yoga teacher’s six simple words:

You deserve to take up space.

I had been so focused on staying small and taking up the least amount of space as possible for so long, it never occurred to me that taking up space was a good thing.

Thank yourself for taking this time for you. Love yourself. Set an intention for yourself today. One, if not all, of these phrases were used during every class. I painstakingly started setting an intention for myself at the beginning of every class. At first, it felt so selfish. You don’t deserve love. My religion had taught me that I was a lowly sinner who was nothing unless the powers that be said I was. The powers that be never did say I was. Countless times, I heard religious rhetoric that insisted we “kill our flesh.” I took that to heart. Fifteen years of eating disorders, yo-yo diets, and promises to myself I would inevitably be incapable of fulfilling. We’re told self-love is wrong and that we have to earn worthiness.

Looking back, these “selfish” intentions were what saved my life.

The next day, that space in front of the mirror was open again. But so was the space in the back of the room. I took a deep breath and rolled out my mat in the front row. On purpose. I sat on my mat, made eye contact with myself, and said, You deserve to take up space. You deserve love. You are smart. You are enough. Every time I made eye contact with myself, I resisted the urge to look away in disgust and instead repeated those words: You deserve to take up space. You are enough.

That corner in front of the mirror slowly became a safe place for me. Every day I repeated those words as I made eye contact with my reflection in the mirror. I realized that perhaps I was intelligent and that maybe I was smart enough to verbalize my ideas, beliefs and opinions. Maybe it wasn’t so much my lack of communication skills, but more that that people do not take the time to listen. In that moment, I vowed to be a better listener. I made a conscience choice to be present in my future conversations. Because everyone deserves to be listened to.

Every day is a challenge, but for the first time, I don’t hate myself or look at myself in disgust. For the first time, I see my body as something of strength, and something that survived. This body ice skates under the fireworks and paddleboards in the Alaskan oceans at sunset. This body runs marathons. This body is smart and brave. This body has a beautiful story of survival to share and for the first time, I really do believe I deserve to take up space.

Yoga teachers yield an influential, fervent position that enables them to change lives. This is the power of yoga.

I share this not for accolades, attention or pity, but because had I read someone’s story like this 10 years ago, I might have realized I was not alone, and that might have saved me a great deal of heartache.

Healing is possible. Self-love is possible.

Maybe, just maybe, a little girl out there will read this and say, “If she can do it, so can I.” This is for you, little girl! You’re enough. You’re worthy. You’re a brave, beautiful survivor with a stunning, unique story to tell.