Three Things, Issue Forty-Five

ONE: JUNE

It’s the third of June, issue 45. Nearly halfway through 2018. So many words written in just under a year. Far more words than I wrote in the previous three years. But no submissions. Zero.

It was back in January when I published this post and publicly proclaimed that 2018 was going to be my year of submission. I had steeled myself to receive a litany of rejections throughout the year, knowing rejections are inevitable on the path to acceptance in a writer’s world. And yet.

I haven’t submitted a thing. I entered a writing contest and then didn’t win, if that counts. Does that count? I have several essays that are waiting in the wings to be nipped and tucked and embellished into something worthy of submission. I have ideas for two books that are just chomping at the bit to be fleshed out and proposed. And yet.

Writing my Three Things blog has been fantastic for honing the discipline of my craft. It’s made me write, which is exactly what it was intended for. But it takes up a lot of my time and takes me away from focusing on other stuff.

Like submissions. And book proposals. I’ve even been conjuring up ideas for another yoga retreat.

My original intention was to take Three Things out for a full year–52 weeks–and then reduce it down to either twice a month or a once-monthly installment. I still need the discipline of a looming deadline to keep me moving forward, so I’m not throwing in the towel completely. Three Things has become a part of me, one that I would miss and mourn if it died. So, this isn’t goodbye, but I may be scaling it down a bit in the weeks to come. Rest assured, I’m still knee-deep in recipes that I’ll be posting once I’ve got them developed to delicious perfection. Music, too, as we dive into the festivals and concerts and new releases of summer.

My yoga practice has taught me the importance of living life intentionally. It’s so easy to get swept up in the clatter and din of the world and lose focus of the kind of life I’m hoping to build. June is a terrific time to press pause, take inventory and readjust the trajectory of our energy if we’ve drifted off course.

How ’bout you? Does your life GPS need a bit of recalculation?

TWO: TRIGGERS

There’s this thing I do whenever I’m in a big group setting and things are being handed out–it could be papers or pencils or slices of birthday cake at a party–and I’m the only one who didn’t get one. I start to spiral downward. I feel my face get hot as I try to swallow my embarrassment and look blithely around the room in an attempt to masquerade my reaction. It’s usually an innocent oversight, with no personal attack intended. But it doesn’t matter.

Being overlooked and forgotten is a trigger of mine.

I know it stems, in part, from my place in my family of origin. The youngest by far in a family of seven. I cried a lot when I was a little girl, always needing my mother’s attention. Her exasperated sighs and tired eyes and wishing I wasn’t so clingy. My neediness embarrassed her and me. Youngest child, middle child, oldest of the pack–we all carry with us emotional baggage from our youth. And this is just one of mine–I have a whole cast of triggers from life with my violent brother, years of disordered eating, body dysmorphia and compulsive exercise.

What’s yours?

Being forgotten is the trigger of mine that happened to raise its ugly head recently when I was inadvertently left off a group email for an upcoming event. There was no malice intended, no ulterior motive, just simple forgetfulness. I laughed it off at first, but then noticed the familiar sink of my heart and the sharp sting of feeling less than. Unseen. I sat with my sad soup of emotion for a bit, stirred it around and let it simmer. And then I put it in its place and moved on. No one needed to manage my trigger but me.

I belong to a very active Facebook group for fans of a particular podcast and several times a week, someone within the group will post a story with what seems to be a mile of cautionary “trigger warning!” preamble.

Trigger warning: talking about doctor appointments! Trigger warning: lost kittens! Trigger warning: visits with the in-laws! Trigger warning: thunder and lightning! Trigger warning: spiders!

I’m not even kidding. I roll my eyes and scroll on past.

It makes me sad to think we’ve all become so hypersensitive that we look to others to curate a trigger-free world for us. I’d like to believe that we’re self-aware and responsible enough to know and deal with the tough stuff that comes our way. Because it will. Because that’s life. We don’t have control over what anyone else says or does, but we always have control over our reactions.

I can control my reactions. And if I can’t, that’s my issue, not yours.

Expecting trigger warnings for every little thing that holds potential for upsetting someone diminishes the importance of recognizing those who struggle with serious issues of trauma and PTSD. Victims of violent crime, combat veterans, abuse survivors. If my innocuous Facebook post about my dog reminded you of Buster the bulldog from your childhood and propelled you into a tailspin of pent-up grief and mourning, I’m sorry. But your reaction is yours to deal with.

Becoming more self-aware and accountable for our actions and reactions makes everyone’s life a bit easier. And yeah, it takes time and effort, maybe a bit of counseling or therapy. Develop a meditation practice or another mode of self-inquiry. Get quiet and painfully honest with yourself.

Take your finger off the trigger.

THREE: NO APOLOGY NECESSARY

She was a petite woman in my chair-based yoga class, asking where some of the older chairs had disappeared to. We had recently updated our stash of chairs and the shiny, new ones had seats that were at least an inch or two higher. It’s important that the yogis are able to easily place their feet on the floor while seated all the way back in the chair. The woman lowered her voice and whispered, “I’m sorry I’m so short. I’m embarrassed to have to ask.”

“First of all,” I replied, looking her squarely in the eyes, “don’t ever, ever, ever apologize for your body! Secondly, I’ll find you those chairs and finally, you’re not the only one who has asked me about them.” A look of relief washed across her face as she flashed a shy smile and sighed.

Don’t apologize for your body.

I was nearing the end of a first-aid training at a local YMCA when the instructor had us take a break before the final exam. The private, single-use bathroom nearby was occupied, so I stood in the hallway, waiting my turn. Soon, the door swung open and a young woman in her early twenties emerged. She saw me waiting in the hallway and sheepishly gasped, “Oh, sorry!” as she slipped out of the bathroom.

What are you apologizing for? I wanted to ask her. For using the bathroom and making me wait? For taking up space? Or are you apologizing out of habit because this is what you’ve learned to do as a woman?

Don’t apologize for taking up space. Ever. Ever, ever, ever.

My friend was telling me about her trip to Disneyland, grousing about the distracted crowds, faces in phones, everyone so unaware of their bodies in space. I loved how she talked about making herself bigger to withstand the bumper-car-barrage of clueless bodies constantly coming her way. Shoulders back, elbows out, chin high. I loved how she showed her daughter how to do it, too.

How many women do you see striding confidently through a crowd? How many men do you see trying to shrink and become less-than? It’s a man’s world–or at least it has been, historically. I think it’s time we begin to change that up.

For so long, I strived to make myself as small as possible. To take up less space, be less of a bother to anyone. It was as if I walked through my days apologizing for my existence. Oh, sorry I’m herewhoops.

I’m happy to say I don’t do that anymore and neither should you. Take up space. Make some noise. Turn some heads with your loud, infectious laugh. Tell the yoga teacher you’re gonna need a different chair to better fit your remarkable body. Make your way through the weight room at the gym, shoulder-to-shoulder with all the muscle-y, preening men and high school boys and take your rightful place with the barbells and deadlifts.

Apologies are great and necessary for lots of things: stealing, betraying trust, lying, deliberately hurting someone, making a mistake. But your existence, your body and what you need requires no apology at all.

“I ain’t sorry.” ~ Beyoncé

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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