First of all, before I get into a practical analysis on my life at the moment, I would just like to make the following claim: Tiffany Hayes is not human. There. I said it. She is clearly a cyborg from another planet who drops 30 points in 20 minutes. I mean, everyone else played well, too. But Tiffany is our secret, alien weapon. Tiffany and I bonded last season over our mutual obsession with Criminal Minds (I blame late night Twitter sessions and episode marathons on A&E), so I’m thinking her insanity yesterday could be investigated by Aaron Hotchner and his knitted brow.
[[Sidebar: I first got into Criminal Minds because my dad said I reminded him of one of the characters on the show. I thought he meant Agent Prentiss, because at the time I had that blunt, black haircut with bangs. Plus, Agent Prentiss is strong, confident, and kind of a badass, so my dream was that he compared me to her. Well…a crazy, zaftig blonde with cats-eye glasses, red lipstick, and troll doll tchotchkes appears on the TV. Dad points. “Her!” Yup. My dad sees Garcia and thinks of me.]]
Okay. Back to the point of this post, which I’m writing under a continuing red velvet cake haze from last night. We celebrated my brother-in-law’s 30th birthday (Happy birthday Todd!). The cake was evil in its deliciousness. You couldn’t keep your fork out of it. At one point, my sister turned the cake towards herself so we couldn’t see it. Todd went to pick it up to package for his coworkers, and immediately burst out laughing. I went to see what caused this outburst. Jenna had practically stabbed the cake to death with her fork, leaving a goughed-out hole. Her sheepish face had us rolling.
Anyway. This post is about courage.
I left New York with a very limited reserve of courage in my arsenal. A lot of things happened over the course of this year to further deplete my reserves. All of it had to do with my own fear. And I will not sugarcoat facts because you, my dear readers, deserve to know what’s been up.
In a nutshell 2010, while still full of pretty wonderful experiences, really sucked. A big one. Just for me. It was great for a lot of other people, but when you’re dealing with a lot of internal emotional issues, it can be hard for you to enjoy anything outside of yourself. I was called selfish numerous times, but I didn’t want to be that way. It just became very difficult to run away from the whirling panic button in my mind that filled me with terror every time I woke up. Was I depressed? Maybe. I had completely restarted my entire life’s path. I oscillated between the world of Euphoria and the world of Delirium and a few side benders into Totally Crazy. There was so much to celebrate this year and I just…felt like I was viewing the world through blurred bifocals.
And then school started. I had a few new things to worry about. Mostly, my grades. With the exception of the year my mom put me on Ritalin, I have never been a straight A student. Ever. Not even when I majored in theater in college and was CONVINCED it was my duty as a human to bring my acting talents to the world at large. We know how that turned out. So to go from the career I thought I was made for to another one where I hadn’t really proved myself was intimidating and challenging. But I worked the system.
On Thursday, I got my first graded grad analysis paper back from my professor. It was the last thing I needed to see my overall midsemester GPA. It was an A-. On the front, he wrote You possess an astute ear.
I looked at it, several times. Then, I looked at my other grades from my other classes. A-. A-. A+.
Straight A’s. For the first time in my life without the benefit of medication, I had a GPA of over 3.5. The last three months of coffee-fueled study sessions, overconsumption of UCONN sandwiches, and mental breakdowns in the car were worth it.
So what else took courage? A simple matter of balancing on my hands.
In some of my yoga classes, teachers like to introduce handstand. I have never participated. In my head, my wrists were too weak, my upper body not strong enough, my abs not flat enough, I’d break every bone in my neck, yada yada yada. Plus, total body inversions freak me out. I can do shoulder stand with the best of them, but a full out handstand scared me to death. Regardless, I would watch my teachers effortlessly flip upside down (while continuing to instruct, no less) and wonder what it felt like. Would it change my body chemistry? Would I get more confidence and inner peace? Would Chris Evans magically show up at my door with his shirt off and a dozen roses? I had no idea.
The other day I took my weekly 90 minute class with my best friend. If you see me out in public, chances are Connie is with me. We’re kind of a matched set; well, as matched as an Italian and Asian can be (which is pretty matched in my opinion. We stole their cuisine unabashedly!). If there is anyone I know outside of the studio who can be called a yogini, it’s her.
We have to practice on different days most of the week, but Tuesdays and Saturdays are the days we work at the studio so we try to practice together. Now, Connie is one tough yogini, but we feel kind of the same way about handstand pose. We usually just giggle and try to do it anyway without falling on our butts. So when our instructor, Anne, invited us to work our way into the pose (against the wall for added support), we looked at each other, shrugged, giggled, and tried to do it anyway, as we normally do. I felt good for at least trying. My instructor told me the previous pose we had done in the practice proved our strength. “You all have the strength. This posture takes courage.” My head nodded but my brain responded with weak arms. Weak wrists. Underfueled. Scaredy-cat. La la la la laaa la.
Then I heard Anne walk over to Connie and ask, “Do you want me to spot you into it?” I immediately snapped my head over to see what Connie would say. I believe I nodded enthusiastically as she said “Yes.” Anne stood behind her, kicked her legs into position, then walked away. My face was pretty similar to the ones kids make on those commercials about Disney World. Jaw on the floor, hands to my face. I was so happy for her. I may have clapped. Not sure.
Then Anne turned and saw my expression.
“You want in?”
Forty thousand reasons to say “NO” popped into my head at one time. I wanted to say no. Every single fiber of my being screamed at me to say no. Everything I’ve experienced in my brain over the course of the last year-every panic attack and crying jag-collapsed in a symphony of clanging discord in front of my eyes. They all said Say No, You Crazy Freak.
And then one little voice at the back of my head piped up. That voice overtook all of the others.
I said yes.
I put my hands and feet into downward facing dog, towards the wall. Anne stood behind me, waiting patiently. I felt the energy of the room go towards me in a positive, crashing wave of support. I closed my eyes, breathed. And I kicked.
I felt a few emotions when Anne locked my legs into position, then stepped away. First, overwhelming panic, because holy shit, I’m upside down. Then, a kind of blank dizziness. Finally, pure joy when I realized I was strong enough to slightly tilt my legs away from the wall, leaving me unsupported and free.
I didn’t hold it for very long. Not even ten seconds, if I were to gauge it. Once my brain caught up to the fact that I was upside down, my arms began to shake and I had to come out of it. Even thinking about it gives me vertigo. But when I came out of it, and flipped my head up, a wave of euphoria came over me unlike any I’d ever known. I’ve never smoked marijuana a day in my life but I knew I was high regardless. Anne said full body inversions can cause a feeling like that. True. But I think it also came from my feeling of accomplishment. I had done what I previously thought impossible. At least for me. And I know for a fact that whenever any teacher invites us to practice handstand, I’ll be there, kicking with the best of them.
This winter, I am applying to the grad program at my school of choice. A few of my teachers have suggested I go on to the level beyond that. After hearing my proposal for a final essay, one of my professors joked it was perfect for a 200 page dissertation but much too broad for an 8 page college-level paper. It got me thinking. A dissertation? Why not? Say yes.
After I obtain my Master’s, I will be going on to earn my PHD. I intend to become a mythologist as well as an author. And hopefully sometime soon, I will be taking yoga teacher training with my best friend and fellow yogini at my side.
I never thought I’d do any of that. Never thought I’d get into handstand, either
It just takes some courage, that’s all. Nothing a little courage can’t fix.
And seriously strong coffee.
With a shot of gingerbread syrup. In the special Starbucks red cup.
Because when everything else fails, happiness is in a Starbucks holiday cup…