I want to dedicate this to all the people in my life who have struggled with their mental health and/or addiction. Radical embodiment is a courageous endeavor. Many people in my life have lost their lives at their own hands because life can be so so painful, that the next escape after addiction itself is to end the suffering. The number of people I went to high school with who have lost their lives to drug and alcohol related deaths either through suicide, homicide or accidental overdose is an absolute tragedy. I think it is abnormal compared to what the average person experiences.
I feel privileged and blessed that I came through some of those same dark times with my body, my mind and the sheer will to find a better way. Since I have been given this opportunity at living a better life, I am committed to running with the opportunity that many others weren't able to grasp. Life. This is why I feel like radical embodiment and self-love is the only option...
I went to a yoga teacher training in Italy this June. It was a training in a style of yoga called Katonah. (If you haven't heard of it, I'd recommend checking out their website www.katonahyoga.com.) The title of the book for the training is Radical Acts of Embodiment by Dages Juvelier Keates. Honestly, the title in itself sparked curiosity and wonder in me. Hmm...radical acts of embodiment. What does it mean?
See, I've been on a journey, a quest to love myself for several years now and it continues to change and morph all the time. It endlessly unravels new and unexpected layers at each turn. Embodiment seems like a more common term these days and the idea of self-love is getting a lot of attention as well. There's all sorts of radical things happening lately with the "Me Too" movement, it's also more common to see trans people out than it used to be, Lizzo is blowing up the world of female empowerment. It's a big time of embracing the feminine energy, speaking up and speaking out!
A short background as to why I would choose to do this work. It is a choice that I made 6 years ago and continue to make. It's a contract with myself that I renew daily. In 2013, after being married for almost 10 years, our relationship ended. As for where my work was needed at this point in my life that's more where I'm headed at least in this post.
For my whole life I had been putting other's needs in front of my own and getting upset because they weren't putting my needs in front of theirs. I made endless sacrifices in my life that pulled on who I was and what I believed in. I made these sacrifices so I could "fit in", "be liked" and "earn love". I was too scared of being abandoned or alone. If I stood up for myself, I would risk the consequences so I did a lot of smiling and nodding like a polite woman should do until I no longer knew myself. In general I cried a lot and was feeling torn inside. I didn't trust or respect myself a whole lot and had low self-esteem. I had a civil war happening between what I wanted and what I thought I should do or who I thought I should be.
Even though our minds can lie to us, our bodies don't lie and mine was clearly telling me to check myself. I didn't put it all together then, but I've gone through periods of pretty awful anxiety which, in the past, I covered with drugs, alcohol, food, etc. My body has tried to tell me many things over the years and I didn't trust myself enough to listen, so the only thing I knew to do was numb out the pain and keep smiling.
After being married for close to 10 years and going through 4 very difficult years at the end, one day I came home, after a weekend away with my girlfriend, and my spouse said to me, "I don't know if I want to stay in our marriage." I thought to myself, "you don't know?!?!" I felt like I had sacrificed so much to try and make things work over the past 4 years and now, it didn't matter anyways. I abandoned myself in order to be loved and it wasn't enough.
My world was crushed and I felt like I lost absolutely everything we had built in the last 12 years together. Aside from this series of events, this wasn't what started my life of disassociation from myself. I kind of divorced myself at the age of 11 after my grandma passed away. I didn't know how to cope with the loss except through a long laundry list of teenage, after school special kind of self-destruction. By the time I got myself into a long term relationship at age 21, I already had habits of disassociation, but didn't really know the depth of my grief, bad habits, codependent behaviors and how they all fit together. I was someone who had experienced trauma and it was still unresolved many years later with additional trauma thrown on top.
So, fast forward to getting divorced, the end of a long and significant chapter in life... Once Nat moved out I didn't know who I was or what I wanted. I didn't know what I wanted for dinner or what I wanted to do. Because I had made so many sacrifices to stay in my marriage, I no longer knew who I was. I was like a shell of myself. I remember thinking pretty well right away that I would need to figure out how to love myself before I would be able to love anyone in a romantic relationship in a healthy way again.
So, I started on this journey. The hardest journey of all...self love. I think it's so difficult because there's no cookie cutter form to follow. I could read all the self help books, get advice from everyone, but it is a personal journey and even if I read the books, I would still have to put the steps into action otherwise I still wouldn't get anywhere. No one else can decide what's right for each of us. It's so personal, we are custom made based on our personal preferences.
It's the universe yelling at me through a megaphone or sometimes through an attractive Mexican man (different story). It's me not listening, so the universe gives me a hard shove. Sometimes it's like being thrown out of a bar forcefully by a large bouncer because I refused to quit dancing on the furniture at a Lizzo concert and landing on my hands and face on pavement in the winter.
The call to do the work never comes gently because otherwise no one would do it. No one wakes up one day and thinks my life is great, I'm going to make some big changes and look at all my deepest, darkest shit and sort through it for awhile... No way.
I have had several instances in the last 6 or so years where I have been invited to take the journey. I know...it seems like once you're on you should be on. But there were still things to hang onto that needed to be let go of. When I was hesitant to make a decision, the universe helped me and made a decision for me. Not only in the case of my marriage ending, but also my job of 14 years ending, other relationships not working, etc. I am persistent, so I don't back down easy. It's the advocate in me...
There are several themes that come to me when I look at this radical embodiment process. I think they're maybe common themes.
After accepting the invitation to do the work, along the way I picked up what I call distractions and unavailables. These distractions and unavailables are sometimes friends, sometimes relationship hopefuls. Really they were like shiny things distracting me off my path. Things and people who were needed along the way, but more like wanderers who weren't meant to stay. I just didn't understand this at the time, so I tried to keep them. Again, the universe is more powerful and won.
Being a recovering people pleaser with plenty of experience in some really dark and undesirable situations, I can keep myself safe and deal with things that many people wouldn't entertain. I have put up with a lot of shit in life, so when I decided to stop putting up with garbage, my meter of assertiveness and how I perceive this new skill was amped up to "I'm 99% sure I'm coming off as extremely rude." I learned I have to be assertive and sometimes very blunt in order to make it out there in the world The whole world isn't friendly and it's not my fault nor my problem, but I'm no longer taking that on with a smile and a hidden cringe.
In other words as, the world doesn't care what happens to me, but I do. What am I taking and leaving because my bags are too heavy. Quit shopping at second hand stores with personal relationships. I don't shop for clothes at second hand stores, so quit putting up with second hand behaviors...
I've learned to turn off the red flags over the years. If I had them on with the volume turned up, I would not have had the life I did for most of my teens and 20's. Those years and the things I experienced served their purpose and trained me to be the person I am today, so there's that. At that time I was surviving and now I want to live bigger.
Saying yes and radical embodiment means living bigger, not just surviving.
There are plenty of times I have thought something was not quite right and I ignored it, only later to think...wait...is that really happening? Mostly because I can't comprehend how sometimes people can be so unreliable, untrustworthy, manipulative and downright awful to others. It's not about them though, people will be how they are no matter what I do. The lesson is about me seeing the red flags and deciding to pass go or not.
I like to consider myself a risk taker, but many times I take risks like running full force at closed doors. Throwing my heart at walls. I am a risk taker with my personal relationships. My ninja skills don't serve me in running at closed doors or throwing my heart at walls. It's gross, messy and I never win...but there might be a day when I do, so that's why I kept trying. I'm working on the surrender and laying down my arms and coming to a much gentler place where my ninja is quiet and sneaky.
I think, another part of radical embodiment is learning that, like a ven diagram, there's you, me and we. It's building healthy relationship boundaries. I do me, you do you and if it happens, then there's an intersection of we. I never dive fully into your circle and lose myself and you never lose yourself in my ocean.
The ninja is quick to notice the red flags and either stop or proceed with caution and if the red flags continue, to quickly, quietly and unapologetically go. Done. No explanation needed.
The real work.
My ego is a child screaming in the aisles of Target. So annoying...
Loving without attachment. The internal struggle to love and let go. People are not objects to be bought or kept.
This is where my therapist left me the last time I saw her a month or so ago. This is my work, she says, as she reminds me that I choose this work and I can also choose not to do the work. I'm really in too far to not do the work. The alternative smells of codependency, too many tequila shots and regrets. Enough to suck the life out of me if I even think about it too long.
There are people who come into our lives who are wanderers. They are passing through for only a short time. I have the tendency to want to take in the hitch hikers and give them a home. But they are not available to stay.
This doesn't mean that I don't enjoy every bit of time I spend with them, but when it's time to move, don't sit in the middle of the bridge wondering what to do. Get out of the way. Something else is waiting. I still struggle to grasp this concept, but it's getting better. I can love and appreciate the time I spend with someone, but there's always a part of me that wants to hold on.
Buddha taught that attachment causes suffering. I agree and I think there's an art to gracefully engaging in this practice. I practice letting go, by purging things from my home and living more minimally. Through this process of letting go, I free up space for new possibility. I know that once whatever it is, is gone and I put it out of my mind that there are very few things which I regret purging. Mostly I don't even know they're gone. Learning what the important things in life are and what brings me closer to my highest self, and kindly letting go of the rest.
Drop the distractions and unavailables, lay down your arms and come home to yourself!
I have an opinion and a voice that matters. I know what I want in life and have the means to get where I want to go. I can spot red flags and use my ninja skills to get out when it's time.
For myself and others. Life is hard and we all go through hard times. If someone isn't treating me right, maybe they're going through a hard time too, but I don't always have to stick around for it. Whatever I'm doing, I ask "am I doing this out of love of out of fear?"
Be both. Strong and sensitive. Fall apart and come back together. Allowing both to exist. I get to mediate the polarities of my being.
Body, mind, child, beautiful, bad ass, woman. It's complicated and messy, but all can co-exist when I stop resisting, blocking and putting taboos on pieces of myself. My body and my experience. I decide the meaning in it all and no one else defines this. "You're too this or not enough of that" only exists if I keep that narrative going. If I change the internal dialogue to what my best friend would say instead of what my inner critic would say, it's much nicer to be with myself.
My happiness is worth it. I want to go to the gym, create art, sleep in a comfy bed, flowers, healthy food, nice trips, etc. I'm not waiting for someone else to give me permission.
Sober. My shit still exists without booze, drugs, food and social media to numb it out. When the cloud dissolves and I'm standing there and can see myself in the mirror, I still have to do the work. I thought my anxiety would go away when I quit drinking. I have likely always had some anxiety, I think most people do because life always brings things that we don't completely know how to deal with right away. What's not normal, is a society that pretends this isn't at least somewhat normal. I've been sober for over a year now and I still deal with anxiety. It's okay though because I know that I can deal with the real things in life and I'm learning to manage the internal dialogue which can be my best cheerleader or my worst critic.
I wish there was a magic fix it, but there will always be work and this is really unpopular in our society today. I do get to decide to practice or not. There is power in having agency in my life no matter what I decide. I choose to see how I can look into my life, be aware in my body and be a decent person who cares for others. I love hearing people's stories and I truly believe that letting out the shame and guilt we experience gives it light so it holds less power. I'm not alone. You're not alone. We aren't alone.
Might as well grow, learn and experience all the things while I'm here for a short time. From Florida, to Mexico, to Bali, to Mexico to Italy to Mexico...seeing the world...finding myself...learning how it is to belong everywhere and nowhere. How to truly belong to myself. What it means to have home as a place that exists within my body instead of a physical location.
I meet people along the way and carry compassion in my heart knowing that most people want the same things in life. We all want to be loved, to be safe, have nourishing food and a purpose in our life. Humanity transcends language, culture, age, ability, sexuality, gender, skin color.
Radical acts of embodiment. Feeling all the feels. The brilliant happiness, the grace, the effort, the darkness... And having the courage and desire to keep going and feeling the way through it all.
Nothing lasts forever. Sometimes that is a blessing and sometimes a disappointment.