I wanted to share this with all of you because I think so many people in their twenties and thirties experience this these days. It’s the new cool thing, especially in the Bay Area, to look within ourselves and find out what’s up. Going to therapy, practicing yoga, journaling, making art, meditating, and other therapeutic activities are good, and I highly encourage you to do things like that, but we have to do it in the right way. Yes, there is a wrong way. There is definitely a damaging way to go about the process of learning about yourself. I hope hearing a little part of my story about this helps you. Or maybe you will look back at a time in your own life where you felt this way and think, oh yeah, I know that one.
Thanks for reading!
Close to my mom’s house, there is a system of trails that weave through the Moraga hills. This is where I go running at least a few times a week when I’m in the Bay Area. I find it easy to check in with myself there. Even if something is just a little off, or if I’ve gone through some very subtle shift, I can see it. I think that’s because no matter how I change, that trail is always the same. It’s like a wall painted with white paint–how if you put something even slightly off-white in front of it, it’s glaringly obvious.
Do you have a place like that? I hope so.
Well actually, the trail isn’t always the same. It changes with the seasons, and pretty dramatically too, despite the mellow weather out here. Right now it’s the epitome of late spring–lots of bunnies, wild turkeys, crickets, frogs, ducks, birds, owls, flies, bees, mosquitoes even–and they’re all making a racket. This is definitely the noisiest season of all. The river even grew fat this year, despite the drought. The blossoms have fallen from the trees and litter the trail. The dirt is packed tight but grows dusty with every passing day. The grasses have almost all turned golden, but some are still clinging on to the last bit of green life.
A few days ago, I ran deep into the hills. On that particular evening, running felt easy and meditative, and there are few better feelings than when running feels easy and meditative. So I was happy. I didn’t even really “think” for the first half hour or so, it was just breathing, just movement. That’s the best.
Then I realized something.
That mindset, that “just breathing, just movement” mindset–that’s what I’ve been chasing. All of these years of climbing and traveling and adventuring–that’s what it is I’m looking for. I’ve become obsessed with it. I’ve wanted it so bad. And I sure have found it, time and time again, but it doesn’t act the way I thought it would. I thought it was this thing that I would find once and then it would stay with me forever. But that’s not how it works, that’s not how anything works. It’s fleeting, it comes in moments. I’ve found this clarity on top of mountains, in rivers, driving my van through the Rockies, under star-dense skies, all over the Sierra, in the Moraga hills. I found it, and then it would start to fade. Sometimes it would last for a few days, sometimes just minutes. But as soon as its glow would start to drain, I would freak out and try to cling to it. Please, don’t leave. Just a little longer, I would beg.
If I haven’t had one of those moments in a while, I get a little crazy. Depressed? Maybe, but not really. Depressed has a hopeless flavor to it, and this isn’t like that. I get ravenous, I get hungry, and I have to GO. Every climber knows exactly what I’m talking about.
I was far out into the hills when I was hit with this–I’ve been exceptionally hard on myself these past few years. I think that’s just called being in your twenties, but I think I took it further than most people. Yoga encourages us to look within ourselves, and I did that, I really really did that, but I went about it in the wrong way. I used the information I gathered from the yoga against myself. Look Georgie, I’d say, see? Look at all these ways you’ve messed up, hurt people, done the wrong thing. Look at all these ways in which you aren’t deserving of love. Not from others, not from yourself. You’re bad, because of that one thing you did, because you’re this way.
Here’s what was going on: I feared that if I treated myself with anything other than “tough love” for my mistakes, I would surely make the same mistakes again. If I wasn’t hard on myself, I wouldn’t learn. If I didn’t feel shame or guilt, I wouldn’t understand that what I did was bad. If I acknowledged my imperfections with love and understanding, well, that was too easy, too nice, and I would never change.
The yoga and soul seeking became a form of self-abuse. This concept has been on my radar for quite a while now, I’ve been aware that it has gone on. But it wasn’t until recently that I really let it sink in.
God, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told my yoga students or friends about the importance of being sweet to yourself. All the while, I was being so hard on myself. I don’t blame myself for it really, I mean, look around–everywhere we see messages that say, “if you’re not perfect, you’re not worthy, and you must change. Oh and here’s a product that will help you do this! Can we have your credit card number?” It took me a while to know and accept that that is actually going on. Even in the yoga/therapy world, which is supposed to help us love ourselves, there are subliminal and some not so subliminal instances of this. Why? Well, it’s sad, but it’s so these industries can make money. It’s manipulative and so, so powerful. Media of all kinds is very good at this–it has to be, otherwise the whole thing would die.
I craved those moments of clarity that climbing would give me so badly because they were the only times when I didn’t punish myself for my apparent imperfections. I thought I had to, I thought that if I didn’t, it was like I was letting myself off the hook and the next thing I know I’d be robbing banks and telling people to fuck off or something. I didn’t trust in the fact that I had any goodness within me at all. No faith. I actually remember the moment when I realized there was an alternative to punishing myself–I was like, wait wait wait, you’re telling me that I can look at my imperfections with love and acceptance? Like, that’s actually an option? I won’t turn bad if I forgive myself? And other people will still love me regardless of how messy I am? Butbutbut, look at everything that yoga has shown me: I’m SO imperfect! What? That’s okay? That’s good? And everyone is imperfect? No way. Wait, hold on–you’re telling me my imperfections are actually interesting? And they are what makes me, me?
This spring, I felt something lift. I feel different. I no longer only feel love for myself when I’m climbing, but quite often. And loving myself hasn’t made me into some lazy, bad person like I thought it would. In fact, I’ve been getting more done, I have so much more energy, I’m more interested in other people and way more inspired, and I’ve been taking really good care of myself. Maybe I was wrong–that feeling I’ve been searching for? Maybe it’s not fleeting. Maybe it is something that I can carry with me. Sure, sometimes I slip back into Nazi Georgie, but I notice it. It’s no longer my standard mode of operating.
More than anything, I realized that there was nothing wrong with me. Like, not even one thing. And there’s nothing wrong with you either. Hah! Who knew?
Enjoy your weekend!