Two weeks ago, I finally turned in the keys to our old studio apartment. Keys I should have turned in weeks ago. We had a month’s worth of a lease overlap and so I held on because…well, because.
Because I have a tough time letting go.
Because I struggle moving on from things that are great.
Because I thought maybe if I could hold on a little longer I could preserve all the goodness that was brought to life in those minimal square feet. As if that goodness was fleeting.
For those new here: my husband, pup and I spent all of 2020 in a 470 sq ft box in the Manhattan sky (aka studio apartment). And then two years before that. I was so skeptical this would work and thought it would be a relationship disaster. But Jeremy insisted, and he’s got a great track record (he’d found our last two apartments before this, both of which I adored), so I figured I’d humor him and stick it out a year.
But joke’s on me, because not only did it become my favorite apartment I’ve ever lived in, but it was the place our relationship has grown/thrived the most. And that’s mostly because it’s where WE have grown/thrived the most.
And I think that by holding onto the keys, I’ve been harboring some fear that maybe we’ll go backwards.
This has shown up in other aspects of my life, too. Avoiding anywhere that requires a substantial subway trip, out of fear I’ll get back into a routine of over-scheduling myself.
What I’ve learned I need to learn, over and over and over again, is that stories don’t end just because a chapter’s been read.
Every event I’m going to be doing for quite some time will be centered, in some way, around creating YOUR New Normal. A New Normal that isn’t just soul-filling, but actually sustainable. Moving forward into it fearlessly, with your fear less than your faith. Where you’re not clinging desperately to what was out of fear of what could be.
There is no “back to normal” because there is no “back to” anything.
It’s all about creating what’s next, and next, and next. As the saying goes, “Anything that’s meant to be yours cannot be taken away.” And also, as the saying goes, “Don’t look back; you’re not going that way.”
As for our apartment? We’ve got 1 year in this new home of ours, then onto (hopefully) a more long-term place to nest. I’m beginning to embrace the idea that all the transformation that’s transpired for me over the last year-plus is now a part of me. My surroundings might change, my days might look different, but what’s mine is mine for keeps.
And, there’s so much good ahead.
I don’t want to spend this next year so busy longing for a chapter I’ve already read that I miss the one unfolding in front of me right now.
And so. Onward✨
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I found something I wrote back in February 2016 the other day that began “I’m not a political person, but…”
I AM a political person. Always have been. We ALL are.
But I knew why I said that.
Never mind that everything after “but…” negated that statement. Claiming I “wasn’t a political person” was me basically opting out of any sort of conversation.
I was afraid of not having all the answers. I was afraid of being called out, or called in (oh the irony). I was afraid of social media backlash. And I was afraid of not being seen as understanding or empathetic.
The change started to happen sometime around summer 2016 (moving to NYC definitely played a part in this) and was really cemented on election night. I’d spent the day so giddily optimistic, walking around (in my white blazer and “H” shirt) with my friend Negin(in her Frida Kahlo as Rosie The Riveter shirt) marveling at the historic day we got to experience together. It felt like the celebration we’d waited our whole lives for.
Around 2am that following morning I began to realize how naive and empty my optimismhad been. It was the realization that only “being political” when it felt convenient or safe to do so served literally no one – not even myself. That by not “being political” when it actually counted, I was in direct conflict with everything I SAID I believed and everything I SAID I was working toward. That “being political” only when I was surrounded by others who were “being political” wasn’t anything more than a feel-good moment for me myself & I.
I look back on that version of myself and I’m embarrassed. But I write all this to say that while it might be easy to look back on how you “once were” and overindulge your embarrassment:
THERE IS NO TIME TO GET CAUGHT UP IN EMBARRASSMENT.
I call my 2016 self in and hold her accountable for all she’s learned. I know she knows when and where she didn’t do enough and where she fucked up. And I know she knows that integrity isn’t just about morals and values – it’s about constantly assessing whether your intentions and impact are in alignment.
She knows that intent is not much if the impact doesn’t align. She knows that “but I meant this to be…” isn’t a valid argument. She knows that if you want something to have a certain effect and it doesn’t, and you’re not willing to change the action to get the intended impact, then it wasn’t ever really about the intention at all.
I now know I’ll never have all the answers – there’s no way I can – and that in no way means I am exempt from speaking up and speaking out where my voice is useful. I now know we’re ALL political whether we “enjoy” talking about politics or not (bc politics isn’t a hobby, it’s a system that affects us all). I now know getting called IN/OUT is an opportunity to learn, grow, and change. I now know empathy needs a backbone and doesn’t excuse one damn thing or give anyone a free pass to be dangerous and destructive.
To be political is a freedom worth fighting for.
I am a political person. I no longer shy away from that.
We all are.
And no matter what happens from here on out: we are not done.
To listen to your body, to really listen, you MUST interact with it first.
Whether you run or box or bike or bridge-pose, you must feel the way your body moves, and navigate it in space, over and over and over again.
You must take a step, then another, then another, then realize you’re walking. You must twist, you must bend, you must use the range of motion biology handed you and if you’re unable to you must simply breathe.
Feel the rise and fall of your chest, over and over. See how far it can expand and how it melts when you push the air out. Feel the wonder that is the jigsaw puzzle of your Personhood.
To listen to your body, to TRULY listen, you must acknowledge its nuance. You must notice the way your joints glide, the way your shoulders tighten, the way you do that thing with your wrists every time you feel anxious. You must listen with your limbs, your lungs, your organs, your nails. You must listen with the things that cannot hear but can work together to decode the tiniest sighs of joy and biggest cries for help and all the other stuff in between.
So no, you can’t learn to listen to your body by THINKING about how the plate you ate made you mentally feel. You can’t learn to listen to your body by THINKING about your perfect form or precise protocols or even by measuring the sweat pools under your gym machine of choice.
Nope – to listen to your body, you must be IN your body first. When we move our muscles, we manage our mindset. When we workout our bodies, we work out our roadblocks.
We ask how to listen. It’s no wonder we’re met with silence.
Because you can’t truly hear your body’s voice without acknowledging where that voice is coming from.
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.
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.
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 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 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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I know, it sounds so precious in the retelling. I’d hug my teachers, my friends, strangers, and of course, the characters at Disneyland.
I am in family photos around the world. I don’t have to see them to know they exist. I would see those characters, the constants in my life, those faces that were unable to change or be anything but Love Incarnate. And I would wrap my arms around them and bury my little three-year-old head in their synthetic fur coat, and in that moment I felt time was paused and I was loved.
Sweet, right? Yeah, until my parents had taken the picture and I still wouldn’t leave their side. I’d stand there next to them on watch, god forbid they hugged another kid, god forbid someone else became their new favorite person – god forbid they forgot about me when I went away.
I am a recovering Stage-Four Clinger. And it’s not just the death-grip hugs I’m talking about. I cling to people, I cling to places. And most of all, I cling to ideas. Attachment, for me at least, is less about the actual thing and more about my relationship to it. Becoming attached to something (or someone) is almost always at least in part becoming attached to the story you’ve written about it in your head.
My clinging isn’t physical, and it’s probably not the kind of clinging anyone else would notice but me. When I cling, I submit to the feeling of scarcity. When I cling, I set the stage for Imposter Syndrome to waltz in and snag the spotlight:
Am I a good enough friend?
Am I too selfish? A pushover?
Am I really good enough, wise enough, strong enough to weather this life I’ve constructed, or have I just made everyone believe I am? Will they find me out?
And so I cling tighter.
I used to think that when you became more self-assured and successful, your Imposter Syndrome just melted away. Or at least melted away quicker than it would if you weren’t so self-assured and successful. Nuh-uh. What I’m starting to learn is that as you become more and more You, you open way more doors and windows for Imposter Syndrome to enter through. Your Imposter Syndrome doesn’t melt away – it amplifies and attacks. The irony is that you’ve got waaay more introspective ammo to battle it than you ever did. It just becomes more of a constantbattle than a sometimes-tiff. It’s wildly empowering and scary as hell.
I feel myself clinging when the story I’ve told myself starts to develop holes in it. And I cling to no-one and nothing tighter than I cling to MYSELF. I worry that I’ve created a mess. That I’ll never be able to live up to the expectations I’ve built up for myself. I’ll never forget when a co-worker once called me “enigmatic.” Who ARE you even, Katie Horwitch? he teased. It was the first time I realized I might not be the person I’d always told myself in my internally self-narrated tale. I’m too introverted and too solitary to be the kind of companion I feel I should be. I’m too much of a team player to be the kind of leader I know I can be. I’m too interested in day-to-day life to seek out the adventures I know are open to me. I’m too private to be public. Too soft to be tough.
Loosening your grip on an idea you’ve built up about a person or a place is tough. Loosening your grip on an idea you’ve built up about YOURSELF, though – well, that’s next-level. You’re YOU, after all. You can’t escape You.
But then again, why would you want to? The more you know about how your story is “supposed” to unfold, the less chance you have at surprise and delight and all those other emotions in-between. Clinging isn’t an act of love. It’s an escape. A redirect. When we cling, we bring in the ships and shut down the lighthouses. We call off the search party and refocus our energy onto taking ourselves captive.
When exciting opportunities come my way – a chance to lead a big event! a friendly-friendship gains soul-status! a YES to that YES I’ve been pursuing for months or even years! – I feel my Stage-Four Clinger coming out and I have to tell her NO. I have to tell her that…as much as it pains me to admit it…that she was not always right. She rarely was, actually. Because she was coming from the wrong place. The place that made me feel like the Always-Second-Best, the Always-Runner-Up, and The Always-In-Search of how I can be BETTER. My inner Stage-Four Clinger wants so desperately for me to Find Myself – but she wants me to do it by following an outdated set of rules I made before I actually started to LIVE.
I still count hugs as one of my love languages, and I still make choices that feel more in service of an imaginary version of Me than the Me I am right now. But I am learning to loosen my grip. I’m learning that my embrace will linger way after I let go, and that I don’t need to be hyper-present to be deeply felt.
Finding yourself isn’t about abiding by a past vision, and finding yourself isn’t about searching for a new you. It’s about coming home to the you that was always there. To cling to a vision of who you should be or could be will never, ever reap the kinds of rewards you’ll get when you honor who you are right now and go from there.
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We’re all equipped with a Through Line; something we’re wonderful at and are meant to give to the world. While some people might suggest mantras or affirmations to learn a new internal language, it’s my FIRM belief that you can’t shift your self-talk without finding your Through Line first.
Learn how to define your Through Line: an important building block when it comes to tackling your negative self-talk. Today on the WANTcast, the #1 tool we’ve got on Women Against Negative Talk: