Settling back into real life and a routine since the wedding has been challenging. My eating and nutrition have been unrestrained and getting in regular workouts with errands and such just hasn’t happened. I’ve been feeling sluggish and out of shape. It’s amazing at how fast that happens, right? While working out today I felt tired but kept pushing. Despite the fact that today’s effort wasn’t my best display of athleticism, it certainly was the best I had in me in those very moments and that’s what really matters—being the best version of ourselves in the present moment.
My runs felt heavy but I kept pushing. I kept thinking to myself that I did this to myself and I can undo this to myself because I am strong and have the power to do it. Running, rowing, running, rowing. My arms no longer felt attached to my body. I battled to pump my arms while on the treadmill and sometimes I even had to straighten them out and whip them around myself because they were so fatigued from the rower. But I kept going. I was tired; no, I was exhausted but I kept going. And then I looked to my right. The guy next to me was losing steam. Normally, when I am working out for me, I turn off the Fitness Instructor so I can be present for me. But I don’t know, today it felt right and something in his face made me to turn to him and offer him simple words, “C’mon, you’ve got this.” I know all too well that a little encouragement can go a long way when you are down and out, so I figured; why not?
The man didn’t seem to hear me because he didn’t respond. I contemplated saying it again or something else but I didn’t. I redirected my energies to my legs that were seemingly still attached to my body and propelling themselves forward on the treadmill. Finally, the workout ended. The same man I ran next to came up to me after class and said “Thank you, I really needed that.” We chatted briefly and he told me he thought I was ‘so impressive’ and that he couldn’t keep up with my speed. He shared that he was inspired by my hard work and that my kind words in class helped him finish the workout.
Impressive, eh? Someone thought I was impressive?! And here it turns out that in order to be considered impressive all I had to do was be me and show a little compassion.
Go be you today. Go be friggen impressive and look over to a stranger tonight in class [yes, even in yoga] or anywhere, and tell them something nice and encouraging.
There has been so much anticipation, drama, excitement, and PLANNING that has led to this upcoming week. Though my schedule has been crazy with yet another school year coming to a close, teaching my fitness classes, and running around town to finish buying everything that must be purchased; one thing has remained constant: My laser-like commitment and focus on my fitness and journey with my physical-self.
Aside from my soon-to-be husband Greg, fitness is my other love. Well, it’s a love and passion we share together but sweating is my religion. I feel prettiest when I sweat. More specifically, I feel strong, sexy, and liberated when in my Lulu’s, sports bra, and sneaks.
Despite always being considered athletic and having played Lacrosse in college, my battle with the bulge has been never-ending. Recently, while looking through childhood pictures to make the slide show for my wedding, the pain of my childhood resurfaced. Uninvited, emotions about my childhood darkness as ‘a fat kid’, condemned to heinous clothing, and social suicide came flooding back. The bouts of excessive exercise, anorexia, bulimia, laxatives, diet pills, and endless journaling about how much I hated myself remained a deep secret that most (including my parents) had no clue was a battle I was fighting. And while I was waging a war within myself, in spite of my seemingly extroverted and ‘I could give zero fucks what you think of me attitude’; I was terribly insecure in my youth and that self-hatred poured over into adulthood.
I would have to say that until very recently, while I helped bring others up around me in all of my classes, I looked in the mirror in horror at my physical-self. Nothing seemed to work and I mean nothing. I tried it all: Isagenix, My Fit Foods, going gluten free (which I still am but that’s another conversation), The Master Cleanse, cayenne pepper pills, psyllium husk, you name it. Finally, at the urging of my chiropractor and friend Lisa, I caved and tried the Paleo lifestyle [I caved, get it?]. Really, what did I have to lose? [And yet another pun] While my initial results being Paleo weren’t earth shattering, the science had me sold and I felt better in my body so I decided to stick with it. Although I am not strict Paleo, I like to say I am mostly Paleo and fully committed to it and it has been 8 months. So now that I got a handle on my nutrition and found something manageable that worked, it was time to line up my fitness for me. This meant giving up some fitness classes I taught in order to ensure there was time for me. Resistant to Greg’s suggestion to do this at first, I finally decided that I needed to make myself a priority so I scaled back on my classes and got my ass working out for ME.
I’m now about 5 months into my rediscovery of health and wellness for no one other than me and I am down a substantial amount of weight. People have noticed the changes in my body, its performance, and my demeanor. For whatever reason, I just feel better in my skin. But for me the biggest transformation isn’t in my physical-self. Albeit a nice perk, the greatest victory are the thoughts I have when I look in the mirror.
I like what I am seeing. Not only do I like myself, I am truly starting to fall in love myself and not just for the badass woman I am on the inside, but for all of my badassery I rock physically too.
I love my thighs. They are meaty and they are strong. Legs house the largest muscle groups in our bodies and well, that’s apparent in my legs. I can squat like an animal and I have my glutes to thank for that.
My booty. Now considered in style via society’s pop culture my booty has always been one of my best ASSests. It looks great in short, tight dresses, and while my legs and booty make buying jeans a challenge, I wouldn’t trade their strength for anything.
My arms. They lift, they pull, they push, they hold, and they reflect my power. My triceps have elevated my yoga practice by helping me soar in arm balances. My biceps add definition to my arms and hopefully someday will help me in my quest for ‘man arms’.
And finally, I love it all, for without it I wouldn’t have been able to achieve the BEST MILE TIME of my life while in class tonight. One week away from 33 years old, I ran a 7:31 mile. I was aiming for 7:30 and while I am annoyed by the one second that I missed my goal, I know that I am stronger and faster than I imagined. But what is so awesome about goals is once you achieve them, there’s more to work to do be done! I now know that not only can I hit 7:30, but that 7:15, even 7:00 are within my reach because there isn’t anything I cannot do.
So why has it taken me so long to reach what I call greatness? I think it’s because I lacked the discipline to be great. While I have always ‘worked out’ and I am a fitness instructor, yadda yadda, I think I lacked a sort of maturity and mentality to really put me in a place to capture success. Now, 6 days from my 33rd birthday and one week from my wedding, I am in the best mental and physical place I have ever been in my entire life.
What are you waiting for? Get out there, Own Your Awesome, capture your greatness, and unleash that shit on the world and let’s take it over together in The Body Movement—a self-love revolution where we harness our emotional, mental, and physical-selves and love the shit out them. Are you in, or are you in? Yes or yes?!
If you’ve ever taken any type of group fitness class, you will hear instructors spouting dogmatic clichés like: “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you” and “Get comfortable being uncomfortable.” Now, there certainly was a time that though I may have heard someone say this, I did not have the courage to listento them say it. What’s more is, I have also taken too many classes where these phrases are disingenuously talked at participants. For me as an athlete, trainer, yogi, English teacher, and fitness instructor these phrases are personal, deeply personal. I take them seriously, not just in the capacity of offering a kick-ass fitness class to break people down only to build them back up. For me, the concept of challenging myself to catapult towards success in any arena is what fuels me. Motivates me. Shouts to my soul. So when I tell students or participants in any of my classes to get uncomfortable, I mean it because I live it.
I guess to really understand what I mean, it’s important to look at my relationship with my physical-self. My relationship with my physical-self has been [and shall remain] a tumultuous one. Stemming from my early youth I always struggled with my weight. I yo-yo dieted, flitted from one diet pill to another, never really gained any sort of footing with anything other than my interests in softball, lacrosse, and later soccer. Even during my collegiate years while playing lacrosse, I was still unfocused and overweight. I ate poorly and drank, a lot. That said, I lacked the mental capacity to push myself in team runs and workouts, and ultimately I didn’t get much playing time. However my lack of playing time didn’t seem to bother me so much as I felt entitled to playing without really earning it. I felt that I deserved to play. Now looking back, I recognize my need to place blame and my sense of entitlement were a projection of my inadequacies. While I played a college sport, my life really hinged upon my close circle of friends, my job as a hostess at a steak house, and partying. I partied with reckless abandon. I experimented with bleaching my hair blonde [and a bad shade of blonde at that], cutting up my clothes, and wearing every conceivable color of eye shadow one could buy at Sephora (probably all at once, eeekk!). Nightly, the pre-gaming began, music vibrated throughout Grove Street and I looked in the mirror. Not only did I like what I saw gazing back at me—I LOVED IT. That’s right. At a hefty size 12 and only 5’0, tipping the scales at upwards of 160-165 pounds at times, I thought I was the hottest gal in town. Simply put, I owned my awesomefor all of its tubby glory.
But as years wore on, this self-confidence would be squelched by my desire to whittle my waist to fit in and be accepted in the fitness community in Los Angeles. My self-worth became [and sadly in some respects is still] associated with how fit I can become, how much weight I can lose, how much faster I can run, and so on…And then something hit me. I suppose you can say it literally hit me [there’s a pseudo long digression here, but I’m going somewhere…]
In an effort to take on something new in my life, to push myself beyond anything I already know, I have started boxing with my personal trainer. First things first: I know nothing about boxing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Tantalized by the heavy bag hanging in my trainer’s home-gym, I asked her to teach me.
Thus far it has only been a few short weeks. Boxing is sweaty and deliciously frustratingly fun because it’s SO DIFFERENT than anything I’ve ever done. Nothing like yoga, nothing like lifting weights, nothing like indoor cycling–my body feels awkward. My feet are heavy, I forget to protect my face, I’m not turning out enough, I’m still not staying on my toes, and at times I feel like I have no body awareness. My trainer says the same things to me over, and over, and over again. And while the process is slow, I am learning and loving every bit of shaking up what I thought I knew about my body and myself. Breathing new physical strength into my body is what I think it means to really live.
Sweat dripping down my face. I lick my lips and taste the delightfully salty reward for my efforts hitting the bag. I step back, heart racing and reflect:
While I don’t love myself as much as I would like physically, I sure as hell do LOVE the woman I am today. I am fearless. I try new things without hesitation. ‘NO’ has absolutely zero place in my vocabulary. As far as I’m concerned, there isn’t anything I can’t do. So unlike when I was in college and I peer into the mirror and my reflection doesn’t quite love me back yet, I see that this body and mind are pillars of endless strength. And despite my life’s trials, and dark periods filled with negativity, like the Phoenix, I rise again because in my life there is only room for I CAN, I WILL, and I AM.
So the next time you are in my class, or anyone else’s fitness class for that matter: Listen to the person nudging you to push a little harder. Look a litter closer and listen to your authentic-self. Are you really pushing yourself in all arenas of your life? Ask the hard questions and know that you won’t get the answers right away. Relish the process of self-discovery, for something new is waiting up ahead to teach you something about yourself.
Before my cycling class at Equinox tonight, I overheard a young woman talking on her cell phone. She was reaching out to someone for motivation before her workout, as she didn’t want to attend the class for which she came to gym. The girl talked at length about needing to look better than this other girl who had an Audi and so on. I slowed my pre-class ritual and tapped into this young woman, yes, I was pseudo-eavesdropping. I wasn’t interested so much in what she was saying, it was how she was saying it.
I could hear the pain and frustration in this young lady’s voice and I knew it all too well. She was lost. She was seeking something and didn’t know what she was looking for and that’s when I realized that young woman on the phone was not a stranger, she was a reflection of a girl I knew very well and if I knew anything about this girl [ahem, me] she needed someone to extend an olive branch. So naturally when she was off the phone, I interjected with some unsolicited advice to a total stranger, in a locker room, about a situation to which I was not privy.
I learned that, let’s call her AJ, was talking to her father about her ex-girlfriend who used to belittle her appearance with comments like “If you worked out you’d look sooooooo much better” and “If you had lashes you’d look sooooooo much better” and now post break-up, AJ wants to take back some of the power she gave to her ex and prove to herself that she can do anything and be anything she wants on her own accord. AJ, a stunning, lean, blonde with a sweet and unsure smile, has a quiet way about her demeanor. Above all, I could tell instantly that this girl was fragile and needed something or someone strong to rock her world to show her just how powerful she is already. I knew that though she needed something big, she also needed tenderness.
As 5:30pm loomed, and I finished getting dressed, I encouraged her to sign up for my indoor cycling class. Ok, I coerced her but she snagged the last bike available and met me in the cycling room. It was AJ’s first time cycling and she was nervous. I set her up, helped ease her nerves, and introduced her to some of my regulars. AJ was now family.
We rode tonight, and we rode HARD. AJ never quit and she had a huge smile on her face the entire time. During class, I high-fived her, gave her kudos from the instructor podium, and after class she gushed about how much she enjoyed something she ‘never thought she could like’. But really, this isn’t about winning AJ over with my class. It is what she said after class when she quoted Plato, saying that my actions earlier in the locker room reminded her to:
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
My charge in life is not limited to my work as an instructor or educator. I am a humanitarian. There was someone broken, and in need to be seen by someone. I am so glad I looked up from my own shit to see this young woman.
I don’t know if I’ll ever see AJ again. I sure hope I do. But as far as I am concerned, if I were able to ease her pain, even if just for a short time, or leave her feeling empowered and capable of fighting for herself then that’s a massive success.
I encourage you to pause from your own life.
Reach your hand out to someone who may need a little help taking that first step for him or herself.
I can assure you that you will be glad you did and hey, before you know it folks, maybe we can actually live the Pay It Forward Movement just by being there for someone, seeing someone, and letting others into our world.
I have received tremendous feedback from readers in response to the entry (Hello, Darkness my Old Friend) that I shared with you all yesterday. Most readers empathized and thanked me for my honesty as it spoke to them, while others like my family in particular, were terrified. While I recognize that I am a public figure and to many their source of hope and motivation, I think it’s important to note that like everyone else, I experience emotions–and very real ones at that. Despite what sometimes is hard to say or see, I will never censor what I write and share with the world because it goes against the grain, makes people uncomfortable, or exposes the inner not-talked about depths that haunt our souls. With that, I have been inspired to share one of the responses with you all here. Below is something my amazing fiancé Greg wrote and sent to me while I was at work today. Stay tuned for other updates on Hello, Darkness my Old Friend coming at you later…
You know how much I love you, how much I want you to be happy and how much I support you. So here are some quotes to get your mind flowing on happiness and some pictures to remind you about all the good you have in life. Be happy, no matter what the struggle, you have a lot and you have me. Remember what I wrote yesterday. Keep pushing and never give up.
“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”
“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”
― Albert Camus
“They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.”
― Tom Bodett
“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
― Marcel Proust
Here are some photos and why I choose them:
HARDWORK / ACCOMPLISHING SOMETHING YOU PUT YOUR MIND TO:
FIGHT / DON’T QUIT:
COUPLE EXPERIENCES / RACES THAT MAKE YOU HAPPY:
MARRIED COUPLE TO BE:
INSPIRATION / ROLE MODEL:
NEW SCHOOL / LEADER:
FUN TIMES FOR A GOOD CAUSE FOR THOSE LESS FORTUNATE:
A VERY RARE EXPERIENCE:
BEST BIRTHDAY EVER:
THE START OF YOUR FUTURE:
And here is a poem to reflect upon and how I would like you to think everyday. Read it every day:
To be so strong that nothing
can disturb your peace of mind.
To talk health, happiness, and prosperity
to every person you meet.To make all your friends feel
that there is something in them
To look at the sunny side of everything
and make your optimism come true.To think only the best, to work only for the best,
and to expect only the best.
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others
as you are about your own.
To forget the mistakes of the past
and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
To wear a cheerful countenance at all times
and give every living creature you meet a smile.
To give so much time to the improvement of yourself
that you have no time to criticize others.
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear,
and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.
To think well of yourself and to proclaim this fact to the world,
not in loud words but great deeds.
To live in faith that the whole world is on your side
so long as you are true to the best that is in you.
― Christian D. Larson, Your Forces and How to Use Them
I LOVE YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART. YOU ARE MY SOULMATE, SNOWFLAKE.
Now is the time to regain control of my body and my mind. I am firmly making a commitment to actively start to embrace myself and love the outside parts of me the same way I love the bomb-ass insides of me.
To be completely honest, I am at a total loss when it comes to trying to figure out where my inability to be kind and love myself originated. I have spent YEARS trying to identify that once I graduated college, entered the workforce, and became a teacher how I literally become obsessed with being the best. On a level, my extreme perfectionism is what has made me great at what I do and has really catapulted me to success as both an English teacher and fitness instructor. However, my unrelenting standards of myself have led to me this crossroads where I berate myself for my self-perceived shortcomings. My mind is a battleground of hostility raping my thoughts of anything positive.
I hear what students, friends, and loved ones say, “Oh, but you’re so strong and all those races you run!” And to me the translation in my head is:
Strong is the new word for voluptuous. And last I checked, voluptuous implies a negative connotation that we want to believe is disguised as curvy which is simply put: A nice word for chubby, chunky, or unfit.
[See? I told you it was a mess up in that head of mine]
That being said, I embrace the cold hard fact that my outsides do not match my insides and despite this whole “Positive Body Image Movement” I am not happy with myself and I want to change it.
Recently, I hired a personal trainer. Befuddling to imagine that as a trainer and a group fitness instructor that I would hire someone to work me out when I am more then qualified and capable of working myself out. The reality is just that when it comes to taking care of me I am bad at that. I live my life to help catapult others to greatness. Being a teacher and coach IS who I am. But when it comes to me, though I am filled with intense drive, I just cannot find the will to rally for myself. In some respects my fuel for perfection keeps me going but when faced with lifting after teaching a cycling class, I cannot muster the energy to motivate myself. Having someone whom I trust with the care of my fragile ego of my physical-self is paramount in helping me find how to love the outside me. Not surprisingly, finding the right person to empower me was easy since between Greg and I we know and have access to some of LA’s top trainers—yaassssss. I feel so touched, honored, and blessed at the lengths and willingness so many people were willing to extend in working with me. Ultimately, I ended up selecting someone I greatly respect and admire. What’s more is I picked someone I knew would not allow me to trash myself.
My first session was great. It was fun and it was hard. Never inaccessibly hard but the right amount of rehabilitative exercises to strengthen my knee while combining intervals to help me burn fat. And then, while working on the TRX machine it hit me. Right smack in the middle of my workout I had an epiphany.
Not only now, but in recent years when working out I hold back. Don’t get me wrong, in Crossfit I RX (as prescribed without modifications) my workouts and I work hard at anything I tackle but there is this part of myself that keeps something inside, locked up, and reserved. First of all, why do I hold back? What am I afraid of? Why can’t I go just a little longer, a little harder, with a little more weight?
The answer is I am so terrified of failure that I let it paralyze me.
I feel like I have built myself up to the world [and myself] that not being able to do something and do it well means I am a failure.
I shared this thought with my trainer and she seconded the notion that she suffers from the same thoughts. I am glad I shared it because it helped me feel justified but what’s more is by sharing it, it allowed me to finally take control of my fears of failing. Once I said it, and put it out into the universe, I had to own it and there was no looking back. I don’t think that until that precise moment that I even knew I subconsciously held back. It just kind of manifested in that moment so blatantly reflecting my true-honest self back for me to see. So I looked.
I looked without judgment and I committed to myself right then and there to have the resolve to not fear falling short of my own expectations.
I feel like by calling out my fears head on, out loud in the world has already given me strength. It has already made me stronger than I was before.
Tomorrow I have my 2nd training session and for the very first time in a long time, there will be nowhere for me to hide. Just me, some sweat, and unbreakable resolve.
This sure has been one whirlwind of a week! I have so much to say so I am just going to unload it all in a series of posts in no particular order. I think what I would like to address first is my recent news which many of you already know via my various social media outlets.
Finally after years of seeing doctor after doctor and specialist after specialist I was recently diagnosed with PCOS, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. The road to finally get here has been filled with lots of tears of frustration—lots and lots of tears of frustration. With my recent diagnosis there is a sort of vindication as these last two years many doctors treated me like I was crazy. I mean, my blood work wasn’t just normal; it was stellar, reflective of someone who was very fit and committed to eating healthy. One doctor even beamed, “Your blood work reads like a pediatric patient—it’s even better than my kids!” So if the blood coursing through my body tells a story of health then why did my period mysteriously disappear 2.5 years ago to only come back months later but only intermittently?
How is it possible to gain 30 pounds despite committing to programs and lifestyles like Isagenix, vegetarianism, veganism, going gluten free, and [recently] the Paleo lifestyle paired with an intense fitness regimen?
How is it possible that right around my 30th birthday my reproductive system completely shut down and I was no longer ovulating?
No one it seemed could provide me with any answers so I continued to cry, workout harder, restrict more calories, and cry some more.
Finally one day my gynecologist looked me in the face and flatly said, “Arielle, we have no explanation why you’re infertile when you are so healthy. It seems as if your brain isn’t signaling to your ovaries to release the egg…” [Note: I was not trying to get pregnant] Naturally, not having the answer she decided to give me some hormones to induce menstruation which never did happen. But you know what did? All the wonderful side effects of hormone treatment: extreme mood swings and depression. Deep, deep, deep depression. There were times it was so dark in my mind I actually could see myself ending my life. I know it’s hard to imagine someone ‘like me’, a lover of all things in my life filled with such darkness but when the people we trust to take care of us do not understand what we are suffering from, they toss anything and everything at the problem and hope to find a solution. I felt so alone and angry that my body could just turn on me. I had no control over my cycle, my weight, and now my very own thoughts were being robbed and captained by a beast I could not tame. Thankfully, this extreme darkness only represents a brief period of my life during which I called my mother crying:
“I know I always said I didn’t want children…but now that the universe has stripped me of that gift without asking me and I didn’t even get a say in the matter.”
Eventually, I did start to menstruate albeit irregularly but apparently so long as one gets at least 4 periods a year it’s considered safe. Who knew that? Girls! You can be healthy and only menstruate 4x a year! Stop taking your placebo pills now! Whatever. I still don’t buy this bologna. But when you’re in a crowded room screaming and no one turns around, after a while you stop screaming and walk out.
Fast forward two years later and I am teaching fitness in LA. I have done some unimaginably awesome things like shoot a yoga reel, an indoor cycling fitness video, become a brand ambassador for a fitness clothing line, had a 4th knee surgery, and so much more all while I worked out more and harder and only got fatter. My clothes have stopped fitting. The only things I can really wear and experience some sort of comfort in are ironically workout clothes. I suppose the yoga instructor in me should embrace the fact that regardless of my expanding waistline [and knee injury] I was killing Crossfit workouts, running serious distance, and a cycling machine so I should be happy, right?
There is nothing worse than looking at yourself in the mirror, pinching the oozing sides of your stomach, then poking it in an effort to will it back into place. What’s more, there is nothing worse than facing the people of your classes wondering if they’re staring at you wondering how a fat ass like you landed this gig in the first place.
The cycle of self-hatred is vicious and to top it all off, when a doctor tells you that you’re gaining weight because ‘you eat too much’ it really doesn’t help the cause.
I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t just fade away into the masses and leave this thing alone, whatever this “thing” was with my body. All I kept telling myself and imploring doctors:
“I’m a yoga instructor damn it, I know the body. I understand the body. I know mybody and I am telling you something just isn’t right.”
In yet another attempt to get some answers, recently I made a second appointment with my new gynecologist to get some answers. And though I am not sure I am any closer to understanding my body and why it hates me, I did finally get a diagnosis and have started medication.
But the real reason why I am sharing my story is to empower other women. Each day is a struggle to love my physical-self as I can be terribly rigid when it comes to self-acceptance. I genuinely want to take the steps to understand and control my PCOS while learning how to love myself. Since I subscribe to the notion that community can help elevate us all I have started a secret Facebook group for women with endocrine disorders, autoimmune diseases, eating disorders, body dysmorphia, cancer, or depression. Really I wanted to create a place for women looking to understand their inner-selves a little more is welcome. I wanted a sacred space where we share, we heal, and we work towards understanding ourselves just a little better. I wanted a place for women to share their stories without feeling judged and to feel heard. I wanted a place for someone like me to feel less alone and cultivate the tools to learn how to build myself up instead of berating myself for my self-imposed inadequacies.
I created this space for woman to stop surviving and to learn how to thrive.
I have never been one to sit and wallow in self-pity for an extended period of time. Notice how I carefully used the words extended period of time. But with my recent diagnosis I hit the interwebs and have started collecting a group of strong, beautiful, passionate women who are looking to connect. Perhaps it’s our pain that brings us together, but it’s our love and compassion that unites us. After all, my entire life has been about servitude—English teacher, yoga instructor, cycling instructor. I do not know how to do anything else. But what life has taught me is that I can be a victim of circumstance or I can take an active role in all of this and be a victor. I am choosing to stop allowing my exterior to determine my self-worth and how I feel about myself. Though I recognize what an uphill battle that this will be, with the community of women in my new support group I know we can do this together.
Today marked my third 1st day of school in less than a year and 4th school in my 10-year teaching career. I never thought I would be a “school-hopper”. Really I am one of those people who enjoy the routine and structure that comes with the stability of a workplace, and by a workplace I mean one workplace. However, I am also one who needs to be able to enjoy work while feeling happy and invested in a cause greater than myself. So when I made the choice to leave my old school at Helen Bernstein High School, it was bitter sweet because I loved the soccer girls I was coaching, my AP students, and my colleagues. Yet, despite such sources of happiness, I ultimately decided that HBHS wasn’t a place I felt I could grow. With a heavy heart for the team and students I left behind, leaving was not the easy way out. Moving schools mid-year to accept a position at Fairfax High School would definitely be Baptism by Fire as its own host of challenges would arise but it was a risk I had to take.
In the short 7 hours that carve out the school day, I feel like I lived a lifetime! To help put it into perspective, I didn’t receive my classroom keys until 15 minutes before my 1st period class—Wait, where is my classroom?!
Where was the bathroom?
Where do I make copies?
How do I get supplies?
Who is the dean? Wait. Is there a dean?
Is there a refrigerator? Microwave? I need to eat!
Will MSIS (online attendance system) work?
My mind was whirling a million miles a minute with the “where’s” and “what if’s.” Finally, I walked into my room, wrote my name on the board, took a deep breath in and told myself that despite all the unknowns that today presented that I could do it, I would do it, and shit, I had no choice. Tossing all my fears aside, I opened the door to room 211 and greeted my 1st period students.
Overall, in today’s classes we had riveting conversations about the past, the present, the future and how they all connect. We did a little talking, a little writing, and a little more talking. And the crazy thing of it all? When I asked my students to take out a pen and paper…they all had pens and paper!
Amazingly enough, today contained only a few minor hiccups. In particular, one young lady who arrived late to class with a massive attitude. Upon checking in with me she was very unkind despite me wearing my “this-is-my-first-day-of-school-nice-teacher-face”. She very grandly sat down in front and read my name aloud as she read it to herself, then rolled her eyes. My natural instinct was to immediately fire back at this young lady but today something told me not to. Something in me reminded me that I promised myself that Fairfax was my time to work on my PR campaign and soften my approach. Me holding my tongue was not just softening my approach, it was unchartered territory. Her classmates whipped their heads around and with wide eyes, they eagerly awaited my response all while, I still didn’t recognize this young lady’s behavior. Class unfolded and interestingly enough, the same young lady with the attitude is raising her hand, participating and writing furiously on her paper.
I am beyond confused at this point and resolve to stop trying to understand teenagers.
Class ended and she stayed behind. She formally addressed me and apologized for her behavior. SHE APOLOGIZED. Unprovoked. Without me saying anything—I was just gonna let this whole incident go. The young student went on to explain that she had a terrible morning and was angry, ultimately taking it out on me despite her ‘parents raising her better and to always respect her teachers’. She vowed to me that the girl I met at the start of class is not who she is and that she will not let me down.
I AM FLOORED. Never in all the years I have been teaching has this ever happened.
Note to self: Maybe it’s wise I continue to just keep my mouth closed…Yeah, let’s see how long that lasts!
Some other highlights from today included while waiting with Greg to lug my boxes to my classroom a[nother] young lady approached me inquiring if I were Ms. Miller. She introduced herself and let me know how much she is looking forward to moving into my class.
Perplexed, I inquire, “Move into my class?”
Her response, “Yes. Your class. A bunch of my friends have you and they said you seem like a really good teacher and I want to get the best education possible because well, isn’t that why we are in school?!”
She smiled, thanked me, and bounded off with her friend. I look to Greg and say, “God, I am glad you were here for that!”
Looks like my new approach really is working.
But for me it was more than this new approach. It was more like a vindication. Feeling appreciated or maybe I am just in the right place where a gal with purple hair is just understood. Who knows?
And the last bit of goodness I have to share…
While in the hallway, a former student I had at Virgil Middle School FOUR years ago came running down the hall calling my name. She is now a Junior and every bit as lively as she was for the 2 years I had her in 7th and 8th grade. She also came to see me after school to chat. Naturally, eternally the gossip, she gave me the inside scoop on Fairfax but before I left she asked me, “Do you still hang out in your room at nutrition and lunch?”
“Of course I do, that will never change.” I said with a smile.
“Good!” she exclaimed, “I’ll see you tomorrow at nutrition and I’ll bring all my friends!”
And just like that, my day ended.
My Third 1st day in one year ended with something so familiar, yet so new. A familiar face from a classroom past that fondly recalls the comforts and sanctuary I was able to offer but transported to a new time and space filled with endless possibility. I cannot wait to see what tomorrow will bring and what’s more is I hope to continue to inspire you my readers, to never let fear decide your fate.
Life is about the people you meet, and the things you create with them. So get out there and start creating!
We are officially 7 glorious days into the New Year and it’s a perfect time to take personal inventory of the goals and intentions we set forth just a mere week ago. So, how are you doing thus far? I know that some goals will take time to unfold but what about the nitty gritty of it all in disconnecting so you can reconnect to yourself? Have you been kind to yourself? Patient and welcoming of the process? Excited about the potential of the New Year as it unfolds? How have you started chipping away at carving out your life and the path you want to walk? At 7 days into the year, I will let you know how I am doing with my intentions:
I have been taking better care of myself. I suppose it’s easy to do when I am not in the classroom, but I have been taking really good wholesome care of my body. In the last 4 days alone I have taken 2 yoga classes, well kind of 3 but whatever.
The irony and curse of yoga instructors is that we hustle all across town to serve our students and in the madness of it all from creating playlists to cleverly beating LA traffic, our own practice sometimes gets put on hold.I have enjoyed this delightful time with my body. My surgery and knee injury have taught me so much.
First, there is this almost hyper-awareness of everything going on in my body right now. At least when I practice yoga—not right now, I am just sitting on the couch writing this with a grumbling tummy and all I can focus on is eating…Hmmmm, maybe that awareness really has shifted into all arenas after all. Nonetheless, I digress. In my recent dances on the mat everything seems so much more precise. My inhales and exhales deliberate and my movement sacred. It’s a funny thing what limited mobility does to a person, it forces you to slow down and savor whatever movement you do have. What’s more is I had a conversation with one of my Group Fitness Manager’s at Equinox and she said something that really resonated with me. While sharing about coming back from an injury where she broke her foot, she recalled thinking to herself “Ohhhh, that’s how people feel in my class.” And then it struck me—I realized my injuries and coming back from them are what make me human and better what I do because I get it—I see you. I really see you.
One of the greatest gifts that this journey of healing and self-discovery has given me is a new lease on my perspective of compassion and empathy. Not that I didn’t employ such things before while teaching but like you, I break and need to repair myself. Like you, sometimes I am afraid to move my body because of how it will feel. And like you, right now I am not where I want to be.
This is our time to employ a true sense of community as we take 2015 by storm and we heal one another. In class we look to our right, then look to our left and we say “Hi” to whomever next to us. We support one another when we are down and elevate each other by just being present. Showing up and hitting our mat consistently is what continues to connect us to our essential self while allowing us to acquire the tools to help serve those around us. Each an every time I show up to class, I show up to heal myself twofold: physically and to take the tools I learn on the mat and share them with you. Let’s dig in, tap in, and work in as we inner-cise while exercising and employ self-love and kindness.
Recovery is a funny thing. One would think that I would welcome the solace and down time but it’s killing me. I don’t do well without human contact, seriously. Eternally the extrovert, when I am alone for long periods of time it certainly does something nutty to me. Despite needing to occasionally recharge when I am home alone seldom do I listen to music or have the TV on for “company”. I know it surprises people to know that in my home I am shockingly boring. No music. No TV. Silence. Ahhhhhhh. I don’t know about you, but working with kids all day, then sweating to loud music while coaching participants on a mic, or cueing in a yoga class is enough to make a person crave stillness.
My time in stillness has been fruitful. Greg and I have knocked a bunch of wedding business off the list and that has been a tremendous help. That’s a huge feat considering when I start teaching at my new school next week, I will yet again be rendered useless around our house.
I have revitalized my blog. Which according to my goals and intentions for 2015, I plan to continue this momentum. Not only because the more I write, the more people read, then the more followers I’ll gain (though that’s also a great perk of writing often), but writing fills my heart with such a joy. I love to write. Maybe I should clarify; I love to write about my life, my past, my future, my failures, my successes, and my work. Maintaining this blog is more than a blog, it’s my life on display and you know I love that, so gawk away. Coming back to what I was discussing earlier about my recovery, this hasn’t been easy. And no one said it would be easy, seeing as anything and everything worth having in this life requires hard work. But for me, not being able to do things humbles me and represents the road ahead.
At just shy of the 2-week post op, last weekend I took an indoor cycling class taught by my fiancé Greg. Since my cycling classes would start back up again after the holiday schedules, it was important I tested the waters before hoping on to teach. Class was hard. Not because of the class profile but because cycling has never been that hard for me. Since I have little to no power in my right leg, I am relying on my left leg, but I am getting fatigued, so my low back hurts, and then there is the aching in my knee, and the wincing of my face. Ugh. But I didn’t get off that bike. Demoralizing at times in those 50 minutes, I kept willing myself to see it through to the end. Sometimes I stayed in the saddle instead of riding out of the saddle, and other times, I just closed my eyes and rode. Class ended and I was frustrated, so I decided to further test my limits in a Power Yoga class.
Ah, yoga. Nothing in this world feels as good as the victorious celebratory movements of yoga. I remember when I found yoga I fell in love with how yoga made me feel elegant, regal, and above all it made me feel beautiful. This may sound weird to you guys, but despite my limitations such as not being able to fully extend my leg, balance on it, or externally rotate the leg in Warrior II or Triangle, it almost felt like the yoga was magically healing me. I know, you’re laughing but you believe what you believe in, and I believe in my yogic-woo-woo stuff. Look, it doesn’t really matter what I believe in or what you believe in—all that matters is class was something that nourished me when I needed it most. And last I checked, that’s what yoga is: taking what you need when you need it the most permitting us to be selflessly selfish.
I walked away from my morning classes optimistic that I am moving along well while only being only moderately deflated. However, in an effort to be kinder to myself: I did ride 14.3 miles in that cycling class. Sure, my watts (power) were low but I rode for the entire class. And my yoga: I couldn’t move into some poses that aggravated my right leg/knee but I did move into Side Crow and connect to my body by practicing loving kindness. Seems to me by how things are progressing thus far that this journey of recovery will also serve as one of self-discovery as well. See ya out there folks and let’s heal one another.