WANTcast 076: Making Meaning + Leaving A Legacy

WANTcast 076: Making Meaning + Leaving A Legacy

the WANTcast

Ever feel like you don’t have enough time to make your mark? Feel like technology (or maybe just other people) are more in control of your life’s story than you are? In this solo episode, I talk about my latest “a-has” about making meaning and leaving your legacy – and hopefully, it’ll give you some of your own a-ha moments too.

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The Names We Call Ourselves.

The Names We Call Ourselves.

Community Most Popular Posts Motivation + Inspiration WANT Women

Think back on the times your negative self-talk has started to act up. What was it usually trying to tell you? What did it signal?

Teaching yourself a new language, whether it’s Spanish or Self-Respect, is a process. Sometimes it’s as simple as going word by word. Phrase by phrase. And at the end of the day – it’s all just me, telling myself what to believe.

Yoga teacher, artist, and cancer survivor Sarah Girard is a pro at name-calling. Today, she shares with us how her name-calling began, the way her narrative evolved, and how we can each reexamine the most important names there are: the ones we call ourselves.

 

sarah girard


Hi.

I’m Sarah G.

The biblical meaning of Sarah is “Princess.” The American meaning is “Happy.” I’ve got a lot of Sarah-competition out there in the world. Sara(h) been one of the Top 100 baby names for decades, and in my generation alone, my fellow Sara(h)s and I reached Top 10 status.

My friends have always coupled my last name’s initial onto my name. Always. They can’t call me by my first name alone – there are always a few of us around. Partly because of this, I have always had a strong urge to set myself apart, to be unique rather than grouped together with my name-twins.

But as it turns out, I didn’t need to work all that hard to be “different.”

~

When I was two years old, I was diagnosed with a rare form of eye cancer called Retinablastoma. My eye was surgically removed and now I wear a prosthetic. I was so young when this trauma occurred, that I have many memories of growing up in and out of the hospital. And I have even more memories and experiences of how others have responded over the years when I tell them what I have been going through.

There is a darkness to being “different.” We might think (or at least hope) that kids wouldn’t make fun of the sick kid with the prosthetic, and that adults wouldn’t look at her with pity and shame as if she’s a lost pet. But kids are the most brutal about the things that they don’t understand and adults pity the things they wish would never happen to themselves.

Sicko.
Weirdo.
Freak.
Oh what a tragedy!
You poor soul!
How miserable your childhood must’ve been!

Hearing it repetitively over and over for decades makes it really hard not to believe. So I started identifying with their reactions, naming myself with the same rejection and shame that was being reflected to me.

I was a sick, poor soul. A freak. A tragedy. I desperately wanted to fit in, so I tried to disappear in the sea of other girls with my name. If I could just be Another Sarah, I could escape being Me.

I ducked my head down into books to avoid stares and questions. I became committed to over-achieving at school. I got smarter. Way smarter. If I could outwit the bully, then I could overcome the bully.

But the thing about getting smarter is that I started learning who the bully actually was. The bully wasn’t other people, though they contributed to it. It was all the discomfort and rejection inside myself that I had been holding onto like a safety blanket. I wasn’t able to accept the kid inside me who desperately wanted to fit in, and at the same time, would always be different.

The more I learned and processed, the more my perspective shifted. I noticed that I wasn’t the only one hurting herself through negative talk. I started seeing that we were all doing it.

And we need to change it.

We are all hurting.

We have all made mistakes.

We have all hurt someone.

And we are all hopeful and desperate to be seen and accepted.

We are here, belonging to this group called “humanity,” that feels so deeply and craves true connection.

The names we call ourselves matter so much more than the names other people call us. -Sarah Girard Click To Tweet

The great thing is that time moves us along: we graduate, relationships change and our lives evolve. We learn how to adapt, and have the opportunity to learn how to work with our past, not against it. Every now and then I’ll get a sinking feeling in my stomach when I meet someone new and have to tell them about my eye, fearing they’ll call me a freak. But I’ve got this. I can introduce myself with kindness and acceptance, knowing I’m not alone in this.

Let me take a moment to also say that I am extremely thankful to be here and for the expert doctors who saved my life. The cancer never spread to the rest of my body. And I am grateful to my family for always encouraging me to live fully empowered disregarding my handicap as a weakness.

I have stopped calling myself Freak and started taking on other names: Sister, Daughter, Artist, Yogi, Educator. And these are names I love so much. They connect me to my communities, but they also help me stand out on my own.

~

The names we call ourselves matter so much more than the names other people call us. That being said, I do love my given name. Call me by it. I’ll answer.

It’s simple but stands for so much.

Royalty. Happiness. And ALL my story encompasses.

So hello. It’s me. Sarah G.

 

sarah girard


Sarah Girard is a Venice Beach-born, NYC-based yoga and meditation teacher. Being a cancer survivor, artist, and food lover, she incorporates resiliency, courage and humor in her on-going group, corporate, and private classes. Over the past two decades, Sarah has studied with leaders such as Bryan Kest, Annie Carpenter, Maty Ezraty, Leslie Kaminoff, and Nikki Costello, and accumulated over 1000 RYT hours. As the Director of Meditation and Yoga Fundamentals for Culture of Fit, she created corporate wellness programs which are implemented in companies nation-wide. Her writings have been published for Yoga City NYC, Prevention Magazine, Self, and is an ongoing expert consultant for Furthermore. As an educator, she is always learning and celebrates the challenges we greet in our daily lives. Find her on Instagram.


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Losing My Hearing: On Being Human.

Losing My Hearing: On Being Human.

Community Most Popular Posts Motivation + Inspiration WANT Women

As long as I can remember, I’ve gravitated towards accessible role models. I’m not talking the people who are untouchable but put on a “look-how-down-to-earth-I-am-STARS-THEYRE-JUST-LIKE-US” demeanour for their fans. I’ve always been most interested in the women who you can just SENSE are onto something huge even if you don’t know exactly what everything is – who are doing big things because they feel called to do so – who aren’t concerned with the BS of what things look like, but are ALL-IN when it comes to what they FEEL like. Jennifer Pastiloff is one of those people to me.

Jen and I met back in 2011, at a party for a mutual coworker/friend’s birthday. I was the new kid on the block at the job, and I felt awkward and self-conscious about my childish desire to please others – a trait I felt I should have “outgrown by now.” Couple this with my gregariousness-masked introversion and intense preference for one-on-one conversations, and I was close to crawling out of my own skin. Please let them like me, I silently begged. 

I don’t remember much about that night, but I remember meeting Jen and spending almost the entire night talking to her. This, along with our mutual friend’s emphatic demo of his new water filtration system (#fitnessinstructorparties), would be my overarching memory of the evening.

She listened intensely. She spoke assertively. She was pure kindness. I’d found a kindred spirit – a new friend – and I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I had this gut feeling that whatever Jen was up to, she was onto something big.

I soon learned that yes, Jen taught yoga classes at the same company I did…but she had a LOT of other things brewing. Between her writing, her activism, and her community building skills, she became a beacon for me of what’s possible when you own your talents – ALL of them. She was the first one who got me to really check myself and my anxious brain – Katie, is this true, or are you telling yourself a story? – when I casually said over dinner one night that I “knew” someone didn’t like me because *well look at all the evidence* (spoiler, there was very little evidence). She was one of the first people to champion my writing, and the person who told me to get specific yet relatable when it came to getting people on board with what I had to offer to the world. “People need a gateway that they understand; that they already know and relate to. Get them in the door with that, then blow their minds with what you’ve got to give.” She’s been using social media in a smart, supportive, and community-focused way since way before social media became something that should have a “strategy,” and she’s been supporting women and fighting for the rights of marginalized communities since way before others could see her do it.

That, to me, is one of the marks of a true leader: they make a difference whether you know about it or not.

Jen’s debut memoir, On Being Human, is set to release in Spring 2019, and it’s already getting massively well-deserved buzz. Centered around the touchstone stories Jen tells in her popular workshops, On Being Human is the story of how a starved person grew into the exuberant woman she was meant to be all along by battling the demons within and winning. It’s about how years of waitressing taught her to seek out unexpected beauty, how deafness taught her to listen fiercely, how being vulnerable allowed her to find love, and how imperfections can lead to a life full of wild happiness. The world is about to watch her explode. And so, before they do, I wanted to give you all a chance to meet her, so you too can say you knew her “way back when.”

Jen’s laughter is infectious and her personable candor is a breath of fresh air. Her down-to-earth humor gives you the feeling that you’re hanging with a girlfriend, not simply pounding out Warriors and Down-Dogs. No topic is off-limits with Jen, no issue too personal, no joke too irreverent. Her classes, workshops, retreats, and now BOOK all have one common theme: making your life truly happen. She believes that no dream is too small, no goal is unfathomable. As long as you can see it happening – it can happen.

I am honored to share this piece of Jen’s – about deafness, death, remembering, and rebirth – here today. I know you’ll love it.

WANT Jen:

jennifer pastiloff on being human

Losing My Hearing.

The natural history of this archipelago is very remarkable: it seems to be a little world within itself.
—Charles Darwin, “Voyage of The Beagle”

 

After my father died, we left New Jersey with its death and dying and cold winters and fled to Southern California. We were the three of us in a station wagon—my mother, my sister, and I, and it was a simple case of “should we turn left or right?” Which, I’ve come to realize, is the way most of life works.

Door number one: you stay in college, wear turtlenecks, work in a university.

Door number two: you drop out of college, run for three hours a day, wait tables. (And turtlenecks, they’re the devil.)

Turn right: he does drugs “one last time” and dies.

Turn left: and there he is on the sofa in his frayed cutoffs and we never make the trek to California.

So a should-we-turn-left-or-right happens and we choose left instead of right and end up in Santa Monica, where we live next to a man, his two daughters, and their beagle, Darwin, whom they keep locked up in a cage.

Darwin was a mean little dog. But hey, I might be mean too if I was confined all day to a small metal prison inside a dark kitchen. His bark was anxious, filled with accusations. I can see now how lonely he must’ve been in that little box. The kitchen empty, the lights out, and Darwin sitting in his own piss. I’d be angry too.

~

I’m leading a yoga and writing retreat in The Galapagos Islands and no matter where you go, you hear Darwin’s name. Me? I can’t hear well, so I only catch the tail ends of sentences. Bits of words: tortoise, finch, North Seymour Island, sea lion, lava, Darwin this, Darwin that. It’s rumored Darwin rode on the backs of ancient tortoises. A cacophony of noise. Meaningless to my failing ears.

People say I don’t pay attention. You don’t listen. You’re an airhead, they say. I want to wear a sign that says “Don’t make up stories. I just can’t fucking hear,” but that may be too on the nose, so I usually just drop a few steps back until I am away from sound altogether.

It’s exhausting straining to make out what people are saying. I read lips, but that’s also sleep-inducing. Staring so hard at mouths making their O shapes or their various forms of joy or disgust, it can wear a person out. Sometimes I simply stare into space, because really, what else is there to do when you can’t hear and you’re tired of pretending?

I’m alone in a crowd of people, the bearer of silence among noise. Easily confused by the letters C and D and E. I think Tom is John. I hear my name when it isn’t called. Everything starts sounding the same. Everything starts to sound like nothing. I think of bursts of silence as holy things.

The name Darwin is spoken and I see that little dog trying to bark his way out of a cage. My own drifting off from groups is something like that. I bark my way out of a room until I am gone.

~

Our guide, Carlos, tells us to look up when we get to the South Plazas Islands. “There’s a frigatebird,” he says, and points to a bird soaring overhead. “Their bones are hollow and full of air. They don’t have to flap their wings, so it saves them energy.” He tells us that they often attack other birds. “They are mean birds.”

I think of Darwin the beagle and my own conservation of energy. And how subjective a word “mean” is with its latching-on abilities. You can slap that word, with its simple meat sound, onto just about anything. Mean bird, mean dog, mean girl. How it can cover what we don’t understand. A lazy slab of raw judgment.

Frigatebird. I hear “frig it.” Synonymous with “fuck it,” which seems fitting to me. These sky bullies with their reddish throat pouches that look like balloons.

I often make up my own words to get by in the world. I’ll write down what I think someone is saying and Google it later. Usually I’ve gotten it wrong, but Google will guess close enough and show me the right version without any judgment.

My evolution has been backwards—from hearing to not hearing.

When I can no longer hear sounds I will still hear colors. @jenpastiloff Click To Tweet

During my yoga class, I ask everyone what they want to let go of. Judgment, the word “should,” my anger at my family, are among a few of the things written. I ask my students to step outside onto the grass, under the coffee trees here at Semilla Verde. We stand in a circle, eyes closed, out in the rain in the mud of The Galapagos, and it feels like the right thing to do. One woman has tears streaming down her face. A cat walks by and also a giant tortoise. I think about turning left or right.

We stand in the grass in our bare feet and I ask, “Can you feel how connected we all are?” which sounds like some bad yoga teacher cliche. The cat stops in between us, the woman with the tears down her face looks up, and under the canopy of trees I try to memorize colors because when I can no longer hear sounds I will still hear colors.

One of the women on my retreat hands me a note folded into a little triangle. It says: “The truth is I’m in excruciating pain. The truth is I don’t know how to express myself. ” How misunderstood so many of us are—the woman with the the note, Darwin the dog, me with my bad ears.

~

I’ve bought each person a mini Ecuadorian bottle of champagne for Thanksgiving. (You’ve never really seen a star-filled sky until you’ve stood on the balcony of Semilla Verde Lodge in Puerto Ayora, Ecuador.) We go outside and clink to what we’re grateful for.

Our guide Che Che’s excitement at his job. “Hey guys! Look at that, the male sea lion is surfing!” To see someone so passionate about his job. I’m grateful for that. I want to be that,

This beautiful place,

Spending Thanksgiving with people I choose to spend it with for the first time in my life,

Ecuadorian champagne,

the iguanas.

We clink and drink and stare up at the marvel of a sky.

When we come back inside someone turns down the lights. For ambiance. And there I am at the head of the table alone inside all the noise. It’s too dark to lip-read. I’ve lost my only tool so I drift back to New York City in October. I’m at Le Pain Quotidien, having lunch with the poet Michael Tyrell. We’ve been friends a long time. We’ve traveled to China together, we both received a fellowship to study at Bucknell as poets for a summer. We call each other Bubby, and neither remembers why.

I ask him to read a poem so I can record it. “Mike, read something. I’ll record it and post it. People need to know your work.”

The café is loud and I can’t hear most of what he says between my hearing loss and the clanking plates, but I record him anyway on my iPhone. He’s a beautiful poet. He reads a poem called “Falling Stars” because, he says, that was all he had on him.

I’m not sure I

saw anything bright fall, from heaven.

My best friend calls them bad omens,

anyway, falling stars she calls them.

She sees bad things even in the sky, these days—

See those clouds up there, she says,

the government sprays them

to keep us under control.

I have a disease because of them.

There are fibers growing from my skin.

You don’t have to believe me.

I’m used to not being believed.

Last week she said she saw a man

licking a pay phone at the commuter station.

He did it quickly, guiltily—like a shoplifter.

But when he was finished he held his head high,

as if this, by whatever design,

was his lot, and nobody else’s.

As we sit in the dark and people begin spewing their Thanksgiving thank yous, one of the women says, “I’m grateful for the shooting star I just saw,” and I think of Michael’s poem.

I’m useless as the head of the table. The voices make their own little countries, each one its own little word map. Unable to make sense of the words, I close my eyes and decide I must be like the man licking the payphone in Michael’s poem. By whatever design, this is my lot, and nobody else’s.

The first time I acknowledged that my father was gone was Thanksgiving 1983. He had been dead since July 15, but somehow the empty chair at the head of the table that Thanksgiving was the first time I spoke of his absence. “Where is my father?” I asked.

That was the night my mother decided we’d leave New Jersey, our house, bad weather.

I think that perhaps words are overrated. Talking, unnecessary. @jenpastiloff Click To Tweet

Rob, the man who owns the house here in the Galapagos, is a lively Brit who’d gone to Spain to become a dive instructor. He’d somehow ended up owning a coffee farm in the Galapagos, where he now runs a hotel with his Ecuadorian wife and their two small children. He reads my latest work over my shoulder and startles me with his thunderous voice: “Your father sounds like me. Loud and farts a lot.”

I tell him I don’t mind that one bit and that I like loud people.

I do like him. He is about to move to mainland Gyuaquil so his daughter Iona, a dead ringer for Pippi Longstocking, can attend a good school with the kids of the “movers and shakers” of Gyuaquil. He says that he knows Iona will stay Iona, and that what has made her here in the Galapagos—all those morning walks with tortoises—will remain a part of her. I believe him.

I watch Iona pick flowers with the cook’s daughter, an Ecaudorian girl who speaks no English. Each hands me a bouquet of purple flowers yet neither says a word. Purple flowers in-hand, I think that perhaps words are overrated. Talking, unnecessary.

As a volcano erupts and empties its magma chamber, the surrounding rock will collapse into it and leave huge craters in the earth. On Santa Cruz Island, collapsed into the earth, sit Los Gemelos, The Twins, as they are called, two large craters that were once underground magma chambers. Rob’s love of the place is evident. He has taken my group here to explain about natural selection and Darwin, survival of the fittest, volcanoes and moss. I stand as close to him as I can so as not to miss anything.

When I was a child I used to make this weird sound when I concentrated. It was a miserable sound, a godawful droning noise, like one of those old tests that television networks used to broadcast (This is only a test…) For hours at a time, as I colored or read, I would make that sound as if I were alerting the world to something. People made fun of me for it. I forced the sound back into my body and locked it inside of my head.

 

After decades of living in profound denial, I finally accepted that I had severe hearing loss. The audiologist put me in a box, stuck a piece of white paper over his mouth, and asked if I could hear what he was saying with the paper covering his lips. I couldn’t. I understood then that I was going deaf.

Again I thought: words overrated, talking unnecessary.

In a box, locked up like Darwin the dog.

When the doctor said severe hearing loss on top of tinnitus, it occurred to me that the eeeeeeeeeee sound I had made as a child was my way of mimicking what I heard in my head. I was trying to get it out. I was trying to drown it out. Anything to make it stop.

The phrase adapt or die makes sense. I’ve adapted to the constant ringing in my head. When it becomes too much to bear, I adapt by drinking wine. Or by sleeping.

The key to evolution is remembering. @jenpastiloff Click To Tweet

During one of our designated beach days, while we do our best not to accidentally step on the gigantic iguanas all over Tortuga Bay, Rob tells us that some of the kids on the Galapagos Islands don’t know that they live on an island. They have no idea that there is ocean all around them, that there is geography beyond their bodies.

I remember Michael’s poem and the man licking the payphone. This is our lot, I think. Me, the payphone licker, the kids on the island. The frigatebirds. We do what we must to survive.

Snorkeling on Bartolomé Island, I would never know that I am hard of hearing unless I remind myself—and why would I? Why the constant need for reminders? So I just float there for a long time on the surface of the sea, listening to my breath as if through a can. I can turn left or right and it won’t make a difference. My ears, having evolved into something else, are no longer part of my body.

The key to evolution is remembering. The last line of Patrimony, Philip Roth’s memoir about his dying father: “You must not forget anything.” It plays in my head as I snorkel.

Underwater, I remember what causes me pain and how to avoid it. This is our lot, I say to the fish silently.

I remember Darwin the dog and the colors in front of me (aqua blue, tortoise grey, inky green) as if they have already vanished, my memory the only sure confirmation of their existence.

I remember my heart, and I hear it, maybe, probably, for the first time ever.

To preorder On Being Human, click here.
Follow Jen on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, at @NoBullshitMotherhood, and at @GPowerYouAreEnough.
This post originally appeared here. 

A Sense Of Place: On Belonging.

A Sense Of Place: On Belonging.

Community Love Most Popular Posts Motivation + Inspiration Shift Of Power

My first big meltdown when I moved to New York City two years ago wasn’t upon touchdown or our first night in an empty apartment. It wasn’t because someone was rude to me, or I lost my way, or I missed a subway stop or four.

Nope. It was in the gym locker room.

I remember that first week so clearly: the champagne buzz I felt from the newness, the novelty of being able to get anything.you.want.at.all. delivered to your apartment instead of having to lug it home in bags that cut off circulation in your fingertips. The way you could be walking, skipping, singing, sobbing down the street and people accepted you like whatever you were doing was a part of the flow. The waking up early just because we were so excited to experience the morning. I remember so clearly. It was love at first footstep.

And then I lost it. I mean, I knew it was coming at some point – I definitely cried my second night, mostly out of sheer exhaustion – but I didn’t expect that my anticipated feelings of shock, overwhelm, and longing would show their sad faces in the women’s locker room on Greenwich Avenue after I made a corny joke to a stranger thrice my age and she genuinely giggled back.

My gym had been my safe haven in LA, and LA had been my safe haven in my life. Having grown up visiting the City That Never Sleeps on a regular basis but living in the City That Sleeps In Then Goes On A Hike my entire life, I was very familiar with New York but not enveloped in her. It wasn’t just my immediate neighborhood that I felt protected by in LA; it was EVERYTHING. The street signs, the off-ramps. The familiar faces and the predictable reactions. The sunrises, the sunsets, and the days the ocean-fog took over the whole sky so you couldn’t tell when one finished and one began. I knew LA from birth. She WAS me.

I tried my best to recognize this when I lived there, but just like so many things, there is always some little important bit of a-ha that happens when you no longer have that thing you loved. For me, that a-ha came in a locker room when I realized how alone and unfamiliar I felt within my surroundings. How, while I valued anonymity, I also valued (and took for granted) my ability to CHOOSE it.


Humans are pack animals; we’re tribal. We’re not meant to wander the hills alone until we find a mate and then go back off again to raise and let go of our kin. Our brains are hard-wired for connection, and even the most introverted of us need to feel a sense of togetherness to truly thrive. It’s been proven by sciency people who are book-smarter than I am: loneliness leads to depression and is a huge indicator of how long you will live.

I’ve been watching and reading a lot of Brené Brown lately (you should be, too!), especially the interviews and articles surrounding her newest book, Braving The Wilderness. The book is all about belonging, and (no, this isn’t a spoiler) how “fitting in” is actually the exact OPPOSITE of belonging.

When I moved here, I wasn’t looking to fit in – I wasn’t interested in molding myself to fit the shape of someone or something else – but I was struck by how shaken my sense of belonging had become. And moreover, how much I tied my sense of belonging to other people RECEIVING me.

That’s why the older woman laughing at my lame-o offhand comment got me so choked up. That’s why I started to panic as I became new eyes on centuries-old surroundings. I felt unfamiliar. I felt routine-less. And the smallest things like seeing the same parking lot attendant I only thank-you’d and have-a-nice-day’d and gym members I never even spoke to and just silently awkward-nodded to while we grabbed adjacent dumbbells were things I didn’t expect to crave. I thought I was autonomous in LA and above all that neediness, but boy did I have myself fooled. I was dependent on other people to validate my experience.

The last couple years have brought more change to me than I thought possible: two apartments, two neighborhoods, a new job, multiple events, brand new soul-friends, marriage. And as I contemplate where I go from here, as I head closer and closer toward my thirty-second year, which I have ALWAYS felt in my gut holds something major for me (micro- or macro- major, who knows at this point), I think about how my sense of belonging has changed too – or maybe how it hasn’t. I am on the precipice of something big, but for the first time in a while I’m hesitant to take a much-needed step to fall and build my wings on the way down.

Brené says that we belong everywhere when we belong to ourselves. So if I belong everywhere, then why is it that I’m so tied to THIS sense of place? Maybe it’s for the same reason people stay in relationships that are fine but not GREAT, or stay in jobs that earn enough to live but don’t add enough to LIFE. Because I “know” this sense of belonging is secure IF I just do all the right things, and check off all the to-do boxes, and it’s a very external and define-able belonging. Predictability and ease. Mother-effers.

Once you stop trying to fight your emerging identity - which is tough, because trying to fight it can sometimes FEEL like trying to find it - everything is magic. Click To Tweet

When I moved here, I felt placeless. I remember telling my friend Sarra that I felt freaked out by the amount of places I could go where I knew no one and no thing (Soak it in while you can, she said). I belonged to no one and no thing. I was trying to see where I fit, and tried on a lot for size. I don’t think I really knew how to belong to myself yet. That’s the cool thing about New York, though: it FORCES your identity out of you. The people who try to fight the force are the ones who have it hardest in life, but especially life in this city. But once you stop trying to fight your emerging identity – which is tough, because trying to fight it can sometimes FEEL like trying to find it – everything is magic.

I don’t think everyone is able to belong – or rather, find a sense of belonging – in NYC. You’ve got to be a little wild, a little crazy, and very comfortable getting uncomfortable, to even catch the first glimmers of it. That process and this city will kick your ass before you realize that your recovery is a part of your becoming. It will spook you, but your challenge is to never let it SCARE you. You’ve got to be next-level brave to become and belong – everywhere, but especially in this city that could care less whether you walk around anonymously and disconnected or full and enmeshed.

And now, I’ve found my way, and I’ve found my spaces. I have a “place.” Of course, I know that’s just a feeling and an illusion. And I wonder: is my newfound sense of place, coupled with my acute memory of what it’s like to NOT have one, keeping me in a new loop that doesn’t serve me? I think so; maybe. I’ve been here before, so I can recognize when I am here again.

The great thing, though, is that I know that I am my own and no one else’s, and that an external sense of place is fab but an internal one is fabber. If I know I’ll be okay no matter what, and I know I will be mine no matter what, then maybe, just maybe, I can start to take those steps that lead me to places I don’t know yet.


Two years ago I woke up for the first time as an NYC resident. I know it’s only been two years but I honestly can’t imagine waking up anywhere else.

Brené Brown says that true belonging only comes when you belong to yourself and yourself only, everywhere and nowhere.

Living here, I finally feel like I’ve found where I belong.

belonging sense of place katie horwitch

“I wake up every morning and say to myself, ‘Well, I’m still in New York. Thank you, God.” ― Ed Koch


 

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Relearning How To Run.

Relearning How To Run.

Body Most Popular Posts Motivation + Inspiration Shift Of Power

My steps always feel heaviest in the winter. Confined to a treadmill and no wind or road variation to keep my gait a-guessing, I make do with what I have and fall into a sense of comfort doing three miles on a glorified conveyor belt…just enough work to make it work for me. It’s fine. I’m fine. My body is satisfied but my heart works hard to suppress its longing for open air and a pace that’s not made of buttons.

Running has been the only “sport” I ever really excelled in. Too independent for team sports and too scared for risky business, running was what it felt like my body was built to do. Unbridled enthusiasm harnessed, unending determination streamlined. Running long distances as a kid was NOT my jam, but the 100-yard dash? Start the timer and I’m zipping ahead of the crowd.

Each year the running opportunities got harder to find. First I moved to a school that mostly ran as punishment, then I got scared of the treadmill when my cousin was horsing around on my uncle’s NordicTrac and crashed through the wall. Then P.E. became a time you talked to friends instead of letting out your inner competitive streak, then I went to high school and opted for Dance instead of P.E. because that’s what you did if you were a theatre kid. I’ll never forget playing a cast-bonding game of Not It / It (ok, so it was Duck Duck Goose) and chasing one of the senior boys around the circle and him gasping for breath, “Katie Horwitch, you are FAST!!!” Yes, I am. I just don’t have a chance to use it.

And then I went to college and I discovered the escape that was The Gym. How liberating it was, so many people with so many shapes using their bodies in so many ways! The perfect respite from the image-obsessed world of Being Eighteen juxtaposed with the image-obsessed world of taking ballet and jazz every day and having to scrutinize your form in the mirror at 8AM. There was an indoor track and I quickly became enamoured. But dancers can’t run, I was told. Bad for the knees. I learned to use the elliptical and not only stay stationary, but never lift my feet. It’s fine. I’m fine.

Winter reminds me of those years that running felt all but forbidden. I technically have the freedom to move as I choose, but the oppressive gloom and dipping temps cajole me like an assertive mother figure to turn away; you don’t want that, it’s just better that way.

And so I finally come back to it months later, on a day where the weather feels…well, less like inviting, more like permissive. My legs feel heavy under my body as I force them forward beyond the comfort of the treadmills and taxi cabs that December through March make more readily available.

I get where I want to go in the winter…but do I get there the WAY I want to?

Seasonal depression is a thing, for sure, but I also think much of the rut we find ourselves in during the winter has to do with the lifestyle we succomb to regardless of the Earth’s placement on its axis. It’s not that we outright choose to live differently, it’s just that it feels…easier. We bother ourselves with the wrong types of stimuli, we stay on high alert for the stuff that feels trite. It’s not until we step outside the box we’ve built for ourselves, thinking we can so easily bounce from one lifestyle to the next, that we’re repulsed by the way we’ve adapted to our space.

Shit.

It never felt this hard before.

I’ve been wasting time.

I’m so far behind.

It’s not just during the seasonal shifts when I need to relearn how to run. It’s when I’ve been giving so much of myself to everyone else that I forget what it’s like to have QT with my musings on a daily basis. It’s when over and over I say Yes when I’d prefer No, No when I’d prefer Yes, and one or the other when I convince myself that “Let me think about this and get back to you” isn’t a valid response. It’s when I tell myself too many times, it’s when I tell everyone else too many times: I’m fine. It’s fine. I’m fine.

Each time a little more learning, each time a smidgebit new. First the walk, then the jog, then the run. Click To Tweet

As I ran along the river this morning, way slower than I would have preferred, way shorter a distance than I would have liked, frustrated by the struggle but committed to the act, I passed by a small girl kneeling down to tie her shoes by her scooter. Her tiny pink helmet punctured the grey of the sidewalk-horizon meeting the grey of the water-horizon meeting the grey of the cloudy-horizon, like a little flower-bud-blip of brightness poking out from the ground promising sweeter weather right around the corner. I noticed she was watching me.

Who would I have been if I had not had women to watch as they relearned how to run? Maybe I couldn’t see their struggle out loud but I could feel it, because feely people always know. I don’t know that I ever thought I was the only one with dark days and hard times, I just sensed that some of us felt it darker and harder than others. Even if they weren’t talking about it, I knew. They said It’s fine; I’m fine. I knew. Their secrets were safe with me. And they kept putting one foot in front of the other.

And now I know, a rough patch or tough spot or even a drawn-out season of stagnation is not my fault. It’s not a failure, and it’s def not a sign I’m falling behind. It happens to everyone, because life happens to everyone. What matters is the relearning, the way I not only get reacquainted with my abilities but I expand on them. Each time a little more learning, each time a tiny smidgebit fresh and new. First the walk, then the jog, then the run. My steps feel heavy and uncomfortable now, but I know they won’t soon. And I know that if I can get out of my own way and accept that it’s NOT fine and I’m NOT fine, that itself means I’m about to bloom and grow. Because little flower buds either wither in their pod or expand so uncomfortably hard that they burst into the epitome of springtime.


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The Artist Formerly Known As Me: On Living In Flux.

The Artist Formerly Known As Me: On Living In Flux.

Community Love Most Popular Posts Motivation + Inspiration Shift Of Power Work

MY RELATIONSHIP with journaling was very “friends with benefits” for most of my life: oft ignored but always there when I needed it most. Most of the time, I completely ignored my grandmother’s advice to document momentous occasions, as exemplified by the three-line entry about my 13th birthday in my 1999 journal (the third sentence being “I’ll come back to this later”).

Yet when I go back and read my old journals, as sporadically tended to as they were, I realize I honestly have not changed much throughout my lifetime. The slightly crinkled pages are filled with emotion – poetry, questions, lists and pep talks – heart opening and heartbreaking all at once.

And reviews of musicals. So many reviews of musicals.

As young as preschool, we are asked what we want to be when we grow up. We learn to identify with a singular profession: a doctor, a singer, a teacher, a lawyer. With all these abstract feelings floating around in our still-developing brains, we are asked to define ourselves based on our hobbies and what sounds right. As we grow into young adults, we’re encouraged to find extracurricular activities that are assumed to match our professional aspirations of choice. We write yearbook messages under the assumption that there will always be next year. We map out our lives in ten-year-plans and envision our friendships as everlasting.

I grew up listening to tape cassettes of Phantom Of The Opera in my car seat. I taught myself how to play the showstopper from Cats on my tiny Casio keyboard in first grade. When I was about twelve years old, I developed a love affair with shows like Rent and Les Miserables, and for the first time in my life I realized I was not like other kids my age. While my peers were attending the latest boy band and girl group concerts, I was marveling at the thespian greats like Colm Wilkinson and Bernadette Peters.

This, I told myself, was not normal.

And so I hid my love for musical theatre in my journals, and later on online message boards (way before it was considered safe or even socially acceptable to develop internet-based friendships [which is kinda funny, as I now have many dear friends and a bone a fide HUSBAND who I met through the interwebs]). 

I was convinced I’d be winning a Tony by age 27, and that the friends of my childhood who were drifting in all different directions would miraculously come back together one day to work through life together. That my first love and I would get married and do the whole picket-fence thing. I was convinced I knew the length of the path.

And then came the growth and expansion of real life. Things became complicated and convoluted: here I was, someone who had defined herself by these external passions and visions for so long, and they no longer felt right. My interests began to broaden and my friend circle began to expand. I developed passions I never knew of and feelings I’d never accessed, and for the first time I realized I was so much more than I’d ever thought I could be.

It begged the question – was nothing up until now valid? The opened doors of the present were liberating but the loyalty to the past was almost paralyzing.

Moving forward is not a death of who you were – it’s a rebirth of who you are. Click To Tweet

Moving past the visions and dreams created by our former selves can feel like losing a lover. The first time I thought that acting might not be the sole career through which I wanted to give myself to the world, my eyes stayed red for days from crying. The first time I realized I was unclear as to whether I wanted children or not, I had a breakdown. The first time I found a soulmate-friend outside my comfort zone of shared upbringing, I felt like I was cheating on my entire past. At the time, it felt like a breakup. At the time, it felt like a loss.

How strange, as each thing that triggered a sense of loss or wrongdoing was actually a door opening and showing me to my true self. Although, come to think of it, I’ve realized that most people get stuck in that space of confusing actualization for accusation…so maybe the fact that it felt so wrong wasn’t as abnormal as I thought…

Our visions and goals are always in flux. One is not better or worse than the other, they’re just different. Hanging onto past goals and ideas of what we “should” do can screw us up in the long run and put self actualization on standby. Who we are in one season in our lives is neither the end-all-be-all nor invalid. It’s a fragment, a small yet important page in the story of who we are meant to be.

It can feel scary to move forward beyond your former self, but there’s no reason to mourn.

Moving forward is not a death of who you were – it’s a rebirth of who you are.

You are more than that thing your former self aspired towards. You are more than the ideas your ten-year plan expressed, you are more than the connections you made long ago. And yet these are a part of you. Each is a path, an integral part of the roadmap that is your life’s purpose. Who are we to say we know what our journey will look like a decade from now or if we’ll feel the same way we do at this point in time? The important thing is to feel deeply and express authentically during every step of the way.

Had I never wanted to act, I would have never learned to perceive the world around me in such great detail with such empathy. Had I never felt so much passion for something so different than my peers, I would have never known what it is to pour my soul onto a page. Had I never envisioned my life the way I thought it would look by now, I would have never met some of the most influential players in my life’s journey. I am still that same girl who wrote musical theatre reviews in her journal and thought her elementary school buddies would be bridesmaids at her wedding.

And yet here I am, no Tony award in sight, surrounded by friends from all stages of life, connected to my past but fully invested in my present. My bridesmaids represented all stages of my life thus far, not just one. I look toward the future not with a predictive eye but an openness to the expansion I know I will experience. I have not broken up with my past visions, I have let them morph and blossom. I have not buried my former self, I have let her come alive into the now.

We cannot possibly know what our story will look like in ten years – or even two. Our passions might shift, our dreams might change shape. Our circles of friendship might evolve and our opinions of what we want will most certainly move with time.

Yet through each season, each shift, each page turn, there is one thing that’s certain: we will be so much more.

 


WANT Yourself:
Do your current passions and visions match the ones you’ve had throughout your life? Have you ever felt scared to embark on a new path, in fear of abandoning your former self – and if so, how did you learn to embrace the path you’re on? Leave a message in the comments – your story might just be what someone else in our community needs to hear.

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