What’s YOUR Story?

This past weekend, I ran my 3rd Ragnar race in less than a year. Let me preface this by saying: I hate running. Yup, I do. As a matter of fact, I do not even remotely like it. So, I can imagine you’re wondering that if I do not like it, than why do I do it. The answer my friends is simple: Because I can.

It doesn’t matter what I run, how fast I run, or how far I run. I run because I can. Despite 3 major knee surgeries and a 4th looming in the very near future, I run because I can. Even carrying a few extra pounds, I run because I can. I run because my body resides within a beautiful vessel of power that allows me to feel the wind in my face, the dirt beneath my feet, and the heavens above. I run because I can. Most of all, I run because until I physically cannot there is something primal within my soul that that just says “GO”.

For me, running is a way of telling the universe and my body “Thank you for the gift of movement.” I see running as a way to pay homage to all those beautiful souls who cannot run. I run because I can.

However, for all the love I have for each and every Ragnar race, the one thing that really hurts my heart is this concept of glorifying the “kills”, also known as the people you pass on the road or trail. In the Ragnar Relay road race the team vans will boast their kill counts on the outside like a badge of honor while others at trail have posters noting runners they pass on the trail. Well, let me tell you a little about me—a person you killed on the trail this weekend:

My name is Arielle Miller and I am a teacher, daughter, sister, friend, and fiancé to an incredible man. I was a college athlete with a bad attitude who found yoga and it saved my life. I love trying new things and pushing myself and that means running even though I don’t really like it [or one may argue that I actually do and I cannot seem to accept it, who knows?].

Running is really hard for me. Aside from the obvious fact that running is difficult period, I also have a knee injury. As a matter of fact, even walking is very painful and I am constantly in a great deal of pain. As a result of my knee injury, over the last year, I have had to take a break from the things I love like Olympic lifting while at Crossfit and running Spartan Races.

Every step I take while running is a carefully calculated movement to preserve my body and keep it safe. But in addition to having to step back from high impact types of exercise, over the course of this year, my personal yoga practice has suffered due to the lack of stability and mobility in the joint. There is nothing worse than being a fitness instructor and losing the ability to use my body in the ways I love to express myself. I have had to fight my frustration and anger and channel my energies differently. For me, I made a choice to be a victor and reclaim my body, rather than wallow in self-pity. I decided that no matter what I have going on physically, emotionally, or mentally that I am going to show up to these races with an open heart. What’s more, not only will I show up, but I will celebrate this body that I have for all of its glory and I am going to run. And I am going to run no matter how hard it is, how painful it is, and how long it may take me. I am going to run because I can.

This person that you killed this weekend…Her name was Arielle and she had a story.

10672109_510662199036229_668663168198533357_nEach and every runner we encounter in our travels has a story to share with the world. If gloating about your kills is your way of writing your tale, than so be it. But ladies and gentleman, in the story I am writing it is not only the greatest athletic comeback in history, but it is one of compassion.

It is my hope that as an athletic community we can continue to elevate and inspire one another to dare to be great through positively means. As Ragnar races and the amateur racing circuit continues to evolve, remember that like you, each and every person there showed up for the same reasons you did: To have fun, grow, and run. Let’s continue to build people up instead of tearing them down for the simple fact that you’re faster than someone. I mean, let’s be real about this—just because you’re faster than someone doesn’t make you better than them in any capacity.

I run.

You run.

And the way I see it, together WE run.

What the best education systems are doing right

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Arielle:

We’ve officially reached an all time low with respects to American education in our society.
First, my school doesn’t have a librarian. And when we did, the library wasn’t open after school.
How can we expect our students to have a focus on literacy and cultivate a passionate love affair with reading if they can’t even get books to read in the first place?!
Better yet, the power of the parent phone call is no longer an effective tool in assisting to get students to change behavior or complete assignments.
I’ve called some parents, I mean MANY parents as many as THREE times since the school year has started and there has been ZERO change in their children’s work habits and homework completion. Things have gotten so bad that I even asked the principal to come in and address my students.
Today, the day after the principal addressed my students, there was NO CHANGE again. Many students STILL didn’t have their materials and/or homework?!?
Yet again, I spent my only free time in the day designed to prepare materials to TEACH, making phone calls to parents AGAIN.
Where is the parenting?
Where is the support for the classroom teacher?
How can I focus on building curriculum, making my own copies for my FOUR preps, modifying assignments for my special education students, grading papers/projects, hanging work to enhance our classroom environment/celebrate student achievement, catch up the new students being switched into my classes every single day, AND play Dean, parent, AND THEN teacher?!
How am I impart content?
When do I get to TEACH?

Looks we should be taking cues from our pals in South Korea and Finland. But HOW do we make these changes together? All too often I see my fellow colleagues breaking school rules themselves, such as lettings kids into their classes after the tardy bell DESPITE being told not to.
Teachers are disenchanted, burned out, angry, and bitter from years of a system that has broken them down with no pay increases, apathetic leaners, defunct and/or nonexistent parenting, budget cuts, pink slips, and so much more. How do we rebuild? How do renew life into a system with no pulse? Where and how does the change begin? Help me help America before it’s too late. Or is it already too late?

Originally posted on ideas.ted.com:

See all articles in the series

In South Korea and Finland, it’s not about finding the “right” school.

Fifty years ago, both South Korea and Finland had terrible education systems. Finland was at risk of becoming the economic stepchild of Europe. South Korea was ravaged by civil war. Yet over the past half century, both South Korea and Finland have turned their schools around — and now both countries are hailed internationally for their extremely high educational outcomes. What can other countries learn from these two successful, but diametrically opposed, educational models? Here’s an overview of what South Korea and Finland are doing right.

The Korean model: Grit and hard, hard, hard work.

For millennia, in some parts of Asia, the only way to climb the socioeconomic ladder and find secure work was to take an examination — in which the proctor was a proxy for the emperor, says Marc Tucker, president and CEO of the National Center on…

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Confronting my Essential Self

After the response I received on Facebook with respects to a status about returning to the classroom to teach for my 10th year [wow when did I get old?!], I decided to elaborate upon it here on my blog.

Two years ago, I walked away from teaching. My fitness career was taking off. I was being offered more classes than I could keep up with and I was just DONE with education.

I was over it all. Over waking up early, grading papers, the self-righteous, the hypocrites, parental atrocities, LAUSD, unrelenting, unfair, and unrealistic legislation, and finally, the disenfranchised youth.  When I left the classroom, I couldn’t get out fast enough. I was checked out. I was burned out, beaten down, and I felt as if I had nothing more to give.

I spent my summer post education hustling to line up as many jobs, classes, and opportunities as possible. Finally, in what seemed like the break of a lifetime, I was approached and hired as the Lead Instructor and General Manager of a brand new cycling studio by a young woman who read my [old] blog. I thought to myself I hit the big time with this gig: salary, eventually paid vacation and sick time and indoor cycling all day, everyday.

I was elated that I was now going to have more autonomy over my life and schedule. I could finally teach classes during the day, sleep later, train all day, stay up later, and really live fitness.

As summer ended and the new school year rolled around, I read my friends posts about their first days. An overwhelming sense of “HAHAHA SUCKEERRSSSSS” came over me. I refused to ‘like’ their statuses because now I was no longer a teacher: I got out. I took a stand. I stuck it to those kids, the school, and the district.

Ugh. Sometimes I am angry at myself for the things I think. Really, what about a little grace and humility?

It didn’t take long for me to dislike working at the cycling studio. Everything about it just wasn’t me. Sure, I have the capacity to manage but is it really me? I was ALWAYS on call: morning, noon, and night. If my boss called, I answered. If she emailed, I replied. I was working tirelessly to build someone else’s business with my unique and innovative ideas while laboring over manuals, scheduling, learning new computer programs, and hiring instructors. I spent my days in stretchy pants as yet another faceless LA cliché writing on a laptop in a Starbucks.

Eventually, as the opening of the cycling studio neared I had to sub out more and more yoga classes. Finally, I was asked to give up my classes at One Down Dog so that I could be more available for the cycling studio. Well, if you know anything about me, you know that One Down Dog is not just some place where I teach yoga. As one of the original instructors who helped open the place, it is my home. One Down Dog is a sanctuary, my family, and happy place. As time unfolded, it seemed that what I wanted this job to be and what it ended up becoming were grossly misaligned to my needs, desires, and heart’s passions. Yet, in the midst of this all, I repeatedly told myself that this is the work I wanted to do, in the industry I wanted to work in, so I kept at it.

I was miserable but I refused to admit that to myself because in my eyes, accepting that I wasn’t happy meant that I had failed at something I had set out to do.

As many of you will agree, in most cases, the grass really isn’t greener. It’s a funny thing how we want what we want, even if we don’t know what it is what we want [that's a mouth full, read it again slowly and think about it]. Everything I thought I once wanted, when I finally got it still seemed as if something was missing. And for one thing, I sure as hell wasn’t any happier than when I was in the classroom.

I learned so much about myself while I was away from the classroom. First, I learned I missed the structure of the day and school year. Yea, that structure I so desperately tried to rebel against? Yup. Turns out I need it and I like it. I missed seeing my students smile when I came to support them at sporting events, musical performances, or took an interest in their personal lives. And to be completely honest, I missed the certainty of my paycheck.

With all these things swirling around in my mind and life in February while out to dinner, Greg suggested I look into teaching again because ‘it’s my life’s work’. I threw a fit, stormed out of the restaurant before our food even arrived and I tried to break up with him. I know, immature. But what you need to understand is I was so paralyzed by my denial and inability to accept that I may have made the wrong choice that I lacked clarity. Besides, I gloated and boastfully poked fun at my friends still teaching about parent conferences, back to school nights, and LAUSD drama. How could I go back to the classroom and not look like a failure?

And then, I just did it. I went out, looked for a job and got one. I mean who am I living this life for anyway? I needed to just get back out there, do me, and not worry or care what the world would think of me going back to the classroom. As fate would have it, I applied to Helen Bernstein High School on a Wednesday afternoon, interviewed Thursday morning and was hired on the spot. I started work the following Monday.

And just like that, I was thrown back into teaching. Head first, I jumped into high school and soaked up the material, the kids, and the culture. From the instant I walked onto campus I felt like I belonged. There is a very real and palpable energy in a school that doesn’t exist anywhere else on the planet. I cannot even put my finger on what it is, but there is something magical about a school campus and in a classroom. Maybe it’s all that possibility of what’s ahead. But those walls, those halls, and those buildings speak to me like nothing I have experienced in my life. I kid you not, when I talk about how I feel about my work and my students, many times I tear up from the emotions surging through my body.

With great risk comes great return.

I firmly believe you MUST take a chance on yourself and life when it calls to you. I do not regret leaving the classroom for a second. Taking time off allowed me to find a renewed sense of passion and faith in the process and my work. And what’s more, leaving the classroom allowed me to get a little closer to myself. I stopped running, hiding, and denying who I really am. After one of my cycling classes, a friend of mine who is a respected yoga instructor said to me:

“In class, you always tell us to stop running from ourselves and to be courageous in confronting our most essential self. So, why are you so afraid? Why are you running away from teaching? Why are you refusing to be your most essential self?”

Needless to say, that conversation took place after my last class at the cycling studio. It was all I needed to give me the confidence to head back with zero doubts. With the support of friends, family, and a loving man by my side I started a teaching assignment in late February 2014. And if you ask me, aside from saying YES to marry Greg, it was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life.

I have found myself again.

I have found a home at Helen Bernstein High School.

And I couldn’t be happier.

Oh, if you’re wondering what I think of myself: Do I think I failed in the fitness industry? Do I feel like I couldn’t hack it? Pffffffff, heeelllllllllll no. I went back to the classroom because I wanted to leave a legacy behind in this world. I wanted to leave this planet a better place than when I came into this world. I wanted to dare myself everyday to leave an indelible mark on this Earth. And I do. I do it all. I teach kids. I teach adults. I make playlists and I grade papers. I still wear stretchy pants to work though I think my principal would prefer I don’t. Whether in fitness or in my classroom, we cry, we laugh, we smile, but above all–we connect.

 

For those of you who missed it, below is the post from my Facebook on August 11, 2014 that inspired this blog entry:

It is the eve before my 10th first day of school as an educator. One year ago, I was not returning to the classroom as I pursued my passions in fitness in yoga and cycling.
As life would have it, at a little more than half way through last school year; I landed back in a classroom at a high school in Hollywood.
For years, I have grappled with being an educator. Despite awards, great successes, and my ability to inspire urban youth to achieve, I ran away from my essential self. Like a coward, I fled and cultivated other strengths and interests–anything to not be a teacher. I spent years ashamed of being an educator, hiding and running from who I really was at my core. When asked what I did for a living my response always was, “I am a fitness instructor.” However, that all changed when I landed at Helen Bernstein High School.
After 8 years in a middle school setting, I now know that I am a high school teacher.
I AM AN ENGLISH TEACHER.
I am an English teacher and I am damn proud of the work I do but most of all, I am honored to serve the most incredible youth in this city.
It took leaving education, a new principal taking a chance on this mysterious girl with purple hair who materialized mid-school year for me to find myself again.
I am an English teacher.

Yes, I love teaching fitness and that is a huge part of my life and who I am. But strip me down and my heart beats for those kids whose lives will be forever altered by being students in my class. There is nothing more valuable in this world than being THAT person to help a young person be the first individual in his/her family to graduate high school or go to college. For many of my students, my classroom is a haven for them to feel safe, nurtured, and pushed beyond what they ever imagined was possible. Together, my students and I are strong and together we can accomplish anything.

I am an English teacher.
I am an English teacher.
I am an English teacher and tomorrow is my first day of school and I can’t wait.

Inner Monologue Of A Spin Class Student

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Arielle:

As an indoor cycling instructor, I know what it’s like to be in class and in the zone. Like any fitness activity one engages in (like running) the inner-dialogue and journey is often hilarious. Seriously, the things I tell myself while running or riding–if someone could record my mind it would make you wonder and laugh at my expense.

This was certainly a funny read, enjoy!

Originally posted on Thought Catalog:

Oh man, why is it so early? Better not look in the mirror. Yep that’s definitely a bad idea. It’s WAY too soon for that. Wait, what is that smell? (*looks down*) Wow, is that coming from my spin shoes? Must address this after class. (*creates new iPhone “note”*). Why is the woman next to me shouting at her friend? It’s 7 a.m. Why is she even making noise? Isn’t the first rule of spin class NO talking? Let’s kick her out. I guess class hasn’t officially begun. Damnit. Can we get this show on the road? Oh crap, there’s a sub today?! Alright, I’m leaving. No, NO. You’re already here. Stay put. This is only an hour of your life. Stop whining. (*takes a sip of black coffee*). Alright, which bike am I? Number 13? Shit I totally forget. Why is this old man looking at me funny? 

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The [not-so memorable] College Years

Monday, July 28, 2014:

I just got back from a trip back home to New York. And when I say just, we didn’t get home until 3:30am after delays and taxiing on the tarmac for what seemed like an eternity.

Greg and I spent some time with our families on Long Island and in upstate New York with his college wrestling buddies and their families. Our time with our families was hurried (as usual) as the purpose and focus of this trip was the venture to Lake George. Oddly enough, growing up in NY I had never visited Lake George. It’s a sleepy little tourist town on a sizeable lake with typical tourist traps like scooter rentals, fishing trips, boat rides, and junk stores that all sell the same crap. The views are breathtaking though. The mountains flank the lake with puffy white clouds that dance atop the greenery hugging the sky. The rolling landscape of upstate New York with its gentle hills and delicate trees will always hold a special place in my heart for the two fondest periods of my childhood/early adult life played out in the Berkshires and Oneonta.

As a young teen into my early twenties, I spent my summers attending and working at Berkshire Hills Emmanuel Camps. I recall the crisp evening air settling upon the lake while the fish jumped playfully as the peace of the evening bid the daytime sky farewell. The air smelled different at this time of day. Time seemed to slow and life was sweeter. To this day, dusk is still my favorite part of each and every day. It never, ever ceases to amaze me as every time I am outside at dusk, without fail I look to the sky, breathe it in, and hold it dear to my heart.

Those same feelings of fondness transferred over during my college years at Oneonta State. Not so much while school was in session, but more so during the summer. See, Oneonta is a college town. It’s very small and located between the state’s capital, Albany and a larger city called Binghamton (where Greg went to college). When school is out for the summer, winter break, holidays, and other assorted college breaks, there is a mass exodus of thousands of people. As the throngs of underage Long Islanders waiting eagerly in line outside the bars with their fake ID’s fade from memory, the pulse of the city changes. No longer are the bars packed wall to wall. Gone are the days of waiting 20 people deep to shout your order to the bartender. Now, one can saddle up next to the bar comfortably sipping a microbrew while chatting with the bartender about how wonderful it would be if ‘things were always like this’.

Oneonta lets out a giant sigh during summer as she can breathe freely now. As someone who spent my college summers in Oneonta working, I too could feel it. Oneonta was alive with energy in the summer. It’s funny, how one would assume that the city would seem to feel more full with all those college kids occupying its every corner but bodies don’t necessary equate to making a place feel more alive or meaningful. For me, summer in Oneonta was a time to reclaim myself.

Though I played lacrosse and had housemates, I was in a weird place in college. As I have mentioned before, I was angry and that spilled over into how I formed and maintained relationships with my teammates and others. Most of my college friends were ‘townies’ or locals that I had met while working at Christopher’s Steak House. As required, we all worked holidays at the restaurant, then went out to celebrate as one another’s stand-in families. We went to each other’s houses and ate and drank. We all stood in the hostess station at the front bitching about the kitchen and life. Christopler’s as we called it (as a result of a misspelling on the key tags for the lodge portion of the restaurant that read Christopler’s instead of Christopher’s), was not just a job for me in college: It was part of my identity and my family. I loved working there and for a long time it was certainly a very happy place for me.

So, when I met Greg and we discovered we were both college athletes at state colleges an hour away from one another, it was very exciting. Naturally, we’d have tons of awesome team stories to swap, friends to meet, and alumni weekends to attend, right?

No.

Well, not for me at least.

It’s hard not to envy Greg’s relationship with his former teammates and life-long friends. They get together once every year and take a vacation with their budding families. They stay in touch and attend each other’s weddings. They share silly tales of college and post-college from when they lived together beyond Binghamton’s borders in Jersey. They embody what I hoped would come from my college team life and experience.

Currently, I am out of college almost 10 years. Aside from Facebook or the random text, I never speak to my college teammates. I have not seen any of them since graduation—so forget about being invited to any of their weddings. I can’t help but admit to feeling a type of sadness in the pit of my stomach when making my guest list. Not one friend from college—not one. What does this say about me? Really.

What does this say about me?

Most, if not all of my friends in attendance at my wedding will be friends I have made and collected in the last 10 years here in Los Angeles. With the exception of a handful of other friends like my high school best friend Elvira, and some others—everyone at my wedding didn’t know me in college. They didn’t know me at my worst, my fattest, and my ugliest both inside and out. And I suppose it’s a good thing they didn’t because then I wouldn’t have anyone to invite to this wedding!

There will be no one to talk about the goal I scored (or didn’t because I mostly rode the bench in college), or about that time in The City, or how awesome our reunion was because no one can speak to these things, as they never happened. And though like I mentioned earlier there is a part of my heart that is greatly saddened by this, there is that part of me that is not. I never felt like I fit in while living in New York, in college, or on my lacrosse team. Something in my veins was burning and I always felt like an outcast, wrong, or unaccepted. Immediately after college I fled New York and came running to Los Angeles.

Like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon, for the first time in my adult life I could breathe again. Those summer dusk nights from my childhood and college summers happen every night for me here in LA. Every single day, I walk out my door and give thanks for this sun, this city, and how she embraces ME—all of me, purple hair and all. Every day I am in awe of the sheer beauty that engulfs this city and it swallows me up. What’s more is over the past 10 years since college, I have met those life-long friends. Some have since moved from the city or are moving like Mali and Breanne, but just because they are no longer physically here doesn’t mean we still do not share something beautiful.

Los Angeles makes me feel whole. With Greg in my life it’s a complete happiness explosion. So at our wedding, no one will be able to speak of the Arielle that once was, but there will be a room filled with the greatest yogi’s, friends, bosses, students, former students, and family who could speak to the Arielle that is here with us today.

If You’re Happy and Love Yourself, Clap Your Hands!?

I’m not counting days anymore, sorry, I can’t. I am not even back at school yet and life is running away with me and I am having a hard time keeping up with this blog. In part I have been so silent because Greg and I are eagerly planning, or attempting to plan our upcoming wedding, which is so much fun and quite the rabbit hole, if you know what I mean. The wedding planning is part of it, but the real reason is it seems that ugly beast that resides within me telling me I am not good enough has seemed to creep to the surface again.

As I neared and completed my 30-Day Cleanse late last week and earlier this week that inspired this blog in the first place, reality set in, and then the anger. Oh, the anger. I will write exclusively about the cleanse, what it was, and my thoughts on it later this week. But in the meantime, I wanted to share my personal struggles with self-acceptance. I am just going to come out and say it:

  • I hate my body.
  • I hate my stomach.
  • I hate my thighs.
  • I hate my arms.
  • I hate my boobs.
  • I just hate it all.

I have spent the last 6 days pretty much sidelined with a recurring knee injury that just so happens to be my millionth ACL tear [yes, I need surgery AGAIN and no, I do not know when]. Despite my knee and its shortcomings, I have tried hard over the last 9-10 months to not let it effect what I do, how I do it, and my workouts. I have run 3 Spartan Races braced. I limped, hobbled, crawled—did whatever I needed to finish because I wasn’t going to miss out on something I love so dearly. I also ran in the SoCal Ragnar Relay. And I continued to teach yoga and cycling, AND even went back to Crossfit after taking a hiatus. My resolve reminded me that I am a fighter and my knee wasn’t going to hold me back. Unlike a fitness class when I remind people that the mind quits before the body, in my case, my body is in full-fledged rebellion mode—yet again.

I have spent the last couple of days in such agony, they even while resting with the leg propped up, I am gritting my teeth and wincing in pain. The warm, dull, radiating pain washes outward from behind my patella (knee cap) is consuming my thoughts and commandeering my emotions, and all I can muster right now is irritable or more irritable.

As I thought it prudent to scale back on Crossfit for the last week, I still cycled and taught all of classes. My decreased physical fitness level left me with plenty of time to berate myself for my body quitting on me [again] and for the self-hatred to build a not just a home but an offensive mansion in my mind.

I’m not a wallower. Well, I was for a long time in my adult life, but in recent years I have consciously worked to remain positive and active in creating the life I wanted for myself rather than succumbing to circumstance. But over the course of the last few days in looking in the mirror at my cellulite riddled thighs and ass and my soft tummy, I became angry and bitter. The “I work so hard” and “I eat right” and “I hate myself” commentary ran on repeat in my head. I have cried and spent hours trying to figure out how I can possibly avoid wearing a bathing suit on the trip Greg and I are taking next week to Lake George.

“Maybe if I were tanner, it’ll conceal my cellulite.”

“Maybe I can just wear my lululemon shorts with a bathing suit top…? Yeah, that may work.”

So, why do I hate myself? Why can’t I accept who I am? Why can’t I love my body for all that it does for me?

Better yet, how does one learn to love his/her body?

Over the past week, in the last two WOD’s at Crossfit (including today’s), I did well. I would be so bold to even say I did very well. Despite my unrelenting standards and ferocious competitiveness, I ran well, worked hard, and posted great times. Why am I so unable to pat myself on my back and celebrate my own victories? You know why? Because nothing is ever good enough and the same even applies to yoga. My knee has made balancing postures really difficult for me. Actually, it’s very painful so I even avoid demonstrating on my right leg (well now you all know, so the jig is up) and my yoga has taken a major hit due to the instability of the joint. Most days, Vinyasa Yoga, my favorite type of yoga tends to put stress on my joint, triggering pain and discomfort. Much of my personal practice has stagnated and all of those amazing grand ideals of being able to tackle more complex poses have left me feeling deflated and worthless. I mean, how can I be expected to participate in the yoga selfie game and flaunt my asana if my body is shutting down as I am marred by injury after injury? I am being slightly sarcastic here, because I hate the vanity aspect of yoga and the fitness world, but if you want to play in the sandbox sometimes you’ve gotta play by someone else’s rules—it’s just the way it is. Sigh.

I think what is so hard for me to digest about this all is that I feel robbed. I do. I feel like the things I love to do have been prematurely plucked from my grasp and dare I say it—undeservingly so. So the anger sets in. I am frustrated with my body not only for it giving up on me, but despite my workouts, and commitment to nutrition—my body never changes. There I said it, and I feel better for being honest and just putting it all out there.

I try to practice kindness to myself and I try to be patient, but beyond that I do not know how to accept myself. Admittedly, I also don’t know how to love myself. I certainly can help others embrace their bodies and celebrate themselves, but why can’t I do the same for myself? Recently, my dear friend Kat shared something with me while I was venting about my frustrations, “Would I let someone say all those things about my best friend?” The obvious answer is best friend or not—I would never allow someone to say the things I say andthink about myself in my presence about another person I know. So, why am I giving myself permission to hate myself?

Hipster Finds Lifestyle Too Expensive, Reverts Back to Mainstream

Arielle:

The lesson to be taken away from all of this: Be yourself and no one else. Own who you are and love who YOU are. The best gift you can give yourself and the world around you is your most essential self. And if the world doesn’t like you–tough. You are you and that is wonderful. Be you. Do you. Own you.

Originally posted on Lettuce Fold:

HipsterASHEVILLE, NC — Derek Loy has been living the hipster lifestyle for the past two years, but after his bank account began to dwindle, he reverted back to mainstream customs.

“I tried my best,” said Loy, “I really did. I was juicing regularly, eating local and organic, and was doing my best to only drink craft beer. Unfortunately, my bank account just couldn’t handle hipster living.”

Loy said the added stress on his bank account caused him to revert back to a more conventional lifestyle, that he enjoyed in his pre-hipster years.

“All the stuff I was doing was great. Kale salads and IPA’s are delicious, but you know what’s also fantastic: cheap stuff. Bud light, frozen chicken and pizza, Coke. Was I saving a lot of money on clothes? Absolutely. I mean, I was buying stuff from thrift stores that homeless people probably wouldn’t wear. And, because I rarely showered…

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Kindness Echoes in Eternity

Days 22 & 23: Monday, June 30, 2014 and Tuesday, July 1, 2014

They say “you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family.” For years, I retreated to my left coast 3,000 miles away from my immediate and extended family and maintained little to no contact with many of my relatives. I can’t really say what happened or what changed that prompted such silence on both ends but I believe it had to do with the distance, miscommunication, and purely a lack of effort on both party’s ends.

With that, despite being raised closely with a handful of my first cousins and having quality relationships with my uncles and aunts, as I entered adulthood I retreated from my family.

I went to college then immediately after I moved to LA. As far as I was concerned, my life on the east coast was so foreign to me I didn’t even know how to be a New Yorker if my existence depended on it.

Let’s rewind a little and let me give you some family background and back-story to bring us all up to speed.

My father has three siblings: His oldest bother Ira, younger sister Stacey, then the youngest of all, Seth. My father is the second born in case you were wondering.

My uncles are both very wealthy and successful businessmen in the accounting and finance worlds. My aunt lives in Florida and has led a life filled with pain and struggle with not much to show for years of working her ass off. That’s not necessarily a bad thing per say, but my Aunt Stacey has a rough go of it and let’s leave it at that. And then there is my family, my father Eric or as my sister and I call him Abba, Abbz, or THE ABBZ (Hebrew for father and no, we are not religious in any capacity–don’t ask). We are as blue collar as it gets. My mother works in New York City for Con Edison at the same employer since she was in her late teens doing the same work every single day of every single year.

My father on the other hand has had a myriad of jobs, businesses, partners, stores, and grand plans. I guess you could say, that he’s had to find his way of sorts. In many ways I resemble my father with respects to our desires to have many different interests and the need to cultivate them all simultaneously. However, despite my father’s initially abrasive nature, he is a passionate and heart governed man. He is a voracious reader, watches documentaries (and the Lifetime Channel, he LOVES rom-coms), gardens, takes care of all the pets with patience, and is the essence of a life-long learner.

My father was the best teacher while my sister Kassi and I were growing up. We were what I would classify as ‘pretend middle class’. Meaning we had a nice enough house, cars, and zip code but we were barely getting by and bought our shoes at Payless. I didn’t get my first pair of Nike sneakers until I was almost 13 years old and they weren’t even the Nike Air model because we couldn’t afford them. But not having quite as much as my peers didn’t really phase my sister and I much, as my parents worked tirelessly to make sure our family unit thrived and that my sister and I never knew of their financial woes. We took winter walks on the beach, had family picnics, went to the nature preserve, watched movies, went to museums, and my favorite memory of all from my childhood: bedtime, when my father would read aloud to my sister and I. Now, this seemingly idyllic childhood definitely didn’t come without a price.

In my youth, I experienced something that I shouldn’t have.

At the risk of sharing too much with the world, I am only going to talk about how events in my childhood affected me and those in my life. Specifically my family. So if I appear vague, it’s not that I do not want to share: I am ready to share my story with the world. I am holding back out of respect for the people I love. Wow. I think they call that maturity and growing up. It sure feels good to be an adult!

For as long as I could remember, I was angry. I was filled with a rage and fire that when unleashed transformed me into a demon. I was violent and biting with my words. I said terrible things to the people closest to me and never apologized. As a teenager with all those hormones coursing through my veins alongside my anger, I was impossible to wrangle. I retreated into art and writing for solace. During my adolescence, I was in and out of therapy–on and off various medications for depression and I also developed an eating disorder. I was an internal mess but to the outside world with my boyfriend, sports, decent grades, positive relationships with my teachers, and great wardrobe, I had it all. In hindsight, I was not asking for help, I was screaming in a room full of people and no one could hear my cries.

I went off to college and got into some trouble with a credit card. Knowing my parents would murder me for being so irresponsible, I called my Uncle Seth to ask him for help. Sure enough, not only did he bail me out but he wouldn’t tell my father either. PHEW!

As the years unfolded and social media exploded, so did my desire to express myself publicly (I guess something’s will never change, huh?). My Uncle Seth, much more conservative than I, home-schooled my cousins, and then sent them to private schools. We didn’t really have much in common as I grew into adulthood other than I was a public school teacher and felt strongly about not home-schooling children AND the private sector. Anyway, one day I posted something on Facebook about lesbians. I mean it was a stupid post but my reaction was even more ridiculous. I deleted and blocked my Uncle Seth and then basically refused to speak to him. Yes, the same man who GAVE me money when I needed it—I just turned my back on him, my cousins, and most of my family. I mean c’mon? They were soooooo difficult and didn’t understand me anyway. I’m an Angeleno and you’re New Yorkers. What do you all know about living life anyway?!

Ugh. Writing this disgusts me. I am ashamed and embarrassed for how I have behaved. So why am I sharing all of this?

I am now 32. It has probably been a little over 10 years since my Uncle Seth and I have really sat down to reconnect—I mean really connect as people. Two years ago we saw each other at my cousin Michael’s wedding, and even though we buried the hatchet and I re-friended him on FB there wasn’t any real resolution.

Prior to my yoga practice and some serious self-discovery, for the greater portion of my life I allowed my rage and anger to define me. I permitted this pollutant to seep into my pores, into my being and unleash a monster. I lacked compassion and the ability to be introspective. The world was out to get me and that was that. Frankly, I let my anger shield my emotions and heart like a mask and I hid behind it–afraid of ever really feeling anything or at the risk of getting hurt.

I never did thank my Uncle Seth for helping me all those years ago. I imagine I said it or maybe called, but he deserves so much more than that. Because right now, my Uncle Seth is trying to re-unifiy us, reconnect us, and mend the holes in all of our hearts. My Uncle Seth is trying to pick up the shattered pieces of our family and put them back together. It just goes to show you that you don’t have to be the oldest or patriarch to fix something —we all have the power to promote healing.

My Uncle and I have spoken on the phone twice in the last week. The first time was to FaceTime so he could show Greg and I his home in Florida as a possible place to have our wedding. My Aunt Amy eagerly and excitedly showed us the features of their beautiful home and made suggestions of how we could set up the reception. Finally, we got down to the nitty gritty family business. As I opened up to my Aunt and Uncle they shared how saddened and hurt they were to learn about some of the things I have endured over years and told me I would never have to suffer like that again. They told me they loved me and that were so proud of all the professional, personal, and emotional successes I have had in my life. My Aunt and Uncle cleared way in their hearts to let me back in and I am so very grateful. I am glad to have them back in my life to learn from, to grow from, and to just be my family.

When you forgive, you in no way change the past – but you sure do change the future.

Bernard Meltzer

Ladies and Gentleman, I am sharing my story with you all to encourage you to reach out to that person in your life. You know that person you’ve been holding hostage for something they did to you. It is time to let them go. Free yourself. Moreover, give them the permission to forgive themselves. For all you know, people sometimes act out of pain, survival mode, or anger. Perhaps that person whom you view as having hurt you or slighted you was really crying for help? More importantly, make space in your heart for love to reside again. Look, I am not going to say that’s going to be easy. What I am saying though, is it will be worth it.

Over the years, as I started to relinquish the iron grip that my anger had over me, great things started to come into my life. I acted better and I felt better too.

The power in healing is when a wound heals, scar tissue is fibrous and dense. It’s tough and hard to break. I am stronger now than I ever was because I let love and light into my heart and I am starting to get my family back.

Thank you Uncle Seth for your unwavering love and kindness.

And oh, thank you for your help all those years back—I never forgot about that and never will.

 

Happy Heart, Happy Life

me kissing greg at ODD Days 20 & 21: Saturday, June 28, 2014 AND Sunday, June 29, 2014:

I am just going to be as cliché and cheesy as possible here:

I am engaged to the man of my dreams!

Yes, that’s right! I am now betrothed to live the rest of my life to one of the best people I know, my Greg.

Greg and I at Jay's BarWords cannot even begin to capture how elated the two of us are to embark upon this adventure together. We are eager to plan (yes, we have already started) and share our special day with friends, family, and the rest of the world.

At the risk of unloading all things saccharine, all of those silly sayings about “The One” are absolutely true. I mean every single darn one of them are dead on.

Greg’s arrival into my life not only marked me finding my beshert which is Yiddish (some say Hebrew—the etymology of the word was a bit unclear, but at least I tried) for destiny or soul mate, but it also marked a major ass-kicking get-my-life-together-for-real. Sigh. You have no idea how taking care of things that I have been avoiding and/or denying has lifted a huge weight off of my shoulders. I feel like a new person-hell, I am. I have a diamond on my finger, oh yeah!

me and greg at ODDOn a serious note, things seem to really fall into place when you have the right partner, the right job, and the right friends. While hiking today with a friend, we talked about friendship and its evolution with time and age. Age does a wonderful thing to friendship. Getting older teaches you how to pick better people to surround yourself with but also teaches you how to realize when you’ve outgrown people. As my yoga practice continues to evolve, so does my ability to become deeply introspective (among other things). With this introspection I have examined my relationships with people and have found that well, I have just out-grown some of the people I care about and there is nothing wrong with that, there isn’t. But like many things in life, friendships sometimes just run their course.

At the proposal on Sunday, June 29, 2014 at One Down Dog I was flooded with hugs, tears, and congratulatory sentiments from the owner of our studio to students, non-yoga friends like my best friend Rachel, but then there were my yoga friends aka instructors.

My yoga friends, my colleagues.

ODD gang after proposal

A few of my friends: Joseph my former student 8 years ago ( was his English teacher), Jessica the owner of One Down Dog, Greg and I, Rachel my BFF, and my dear friend Cara

People who 2 years ago didn’t exist in my life whom are now fixtures, inspiration, confidants, and so much more. At my birthday celebration two weeks ago, I stepped back and looked around. The people who came out to celebrate with me were not the usual people whom I would have pegged for coming (and most likely didn’t even show up). But mostly the people who came to my birthday class and get-together were students from my classes. I paused and took it all in and gave thanks to the universe for sending me such incredible people and community. So, when Greg proposed at my yoga studio and my yoga family; friends, students, and teachers were in attendance. It was just perfect. Heart-meltingly perfect.

Earlier I referred to the stars basically aligning (insert eye roll if you want) when you have the right partner, the right job, and the right friends. This trifecta of sorts is what has catapulted my life into a positive flurry of happiness and boundless successes.

There is no better accessory or form of adornment like Happy. Happy looks good on everybody.

In looking back at my adult life and what has led to me to its current point, it has been a series of bad decisions with a few really good ones. More importantly, it was while I made those bad decisions that I kept an open heart that allowed the love of a great man and friends to find me.

Open your heart and open your mind then let the universe do its work. Trust the process and enjoy the journey.

In the video below (which is Greg proposing to me), I am sharing the ending of many journeys and the beginning of the most important journey of all. I am proud to embark upon the rest of my life with someone worthy of infinite love, respect, and admiration. I love you Greg. Thank you for picking me.

Kindness, the Gift that Keeps on Giving

Day 19: Friday, June 27, 2014:

By now, you may have already heard about the deliberate and selfless act of kindness by actress Amy Adams (If not, you can read a short article here). In summary, upon seeing a man dressed in his military uniform on her flight, she quietly asked to switch seats with the man. Adams was ticketed for first class, and the man she switched seats with was in coach. For so many reasons this story brought such a joy to my heart.

First, I was moved by Adams’ incredible humility in it all. She didn’t ask for thanks or make a spectacle. Adams displayed true grace and character while reaching out to selflessly to show thanks and admiration for another human soul.

Character is defined by what you do when no one is looking

It’s not about doing things to be heralded by the masses and adored by throngs of people. No matter what people say, it’s not. I think for some, they need public affirmations from an endless pool to make them feel worthy. And to a degree I understand why people feel that way. I know and understand that the desire to be loved so publicly stems from insecurities and feeling inadequate. However, the desire or need to be thanked for our acts of kindness diminishes them. You see, life isn’t about doing what’s right or easy when everyone is looking. For those of you whom have taken my fitness classes or been in my class, I speak often about our character.

From what I have observed, people are seeking some sort of validation, or desire to be patted on their backs for ‘doing the right thing’. WHY? Who started this terrible trend of if-you-do-this-then-you-get-something?! This thought process is a pervasive pollutant in our society. Random and in Adams’ case, deliberate, acts of kindness are so few and far between that when they are bestowed upon us, people are hesitant to accept them. We must stop asking, “What do I get out of this?” but rather act in the faith of true service to assist someone else because you want to and because it’s the right thing to do.