I'm bad at this. Some people might call it "the hustle." Others might say it's simply being a responsible adult— being consistent, meeting deadlines, fulfilling expectations, running a small business. I still have a lot of shame and guilt around letting people down and these days, I feel like I do it constantly. I can barely respond to emails even from friends. I spend hours on my phone or watching TV.
I wasn't always like this. I wrote, produced, and directed my first professional play when I was 20. By the time I was 23, I was a founding member of a theater company that put on five shows a season while I managed the office of a busy architecture firm in New York that built skyscrapers. I was a highly capable and competent person who was detail-oriented, reliable, and responsible. I was also a people pleaser with debilitatingly low self-esteem and that same year, I had my first major panic attack.
These days, through therapy, reading, and my practices of yoga and meditation, I'm learning a lot about why I am the way I am and I'm also learning to have compassion and patience for myself as I heal from trauma. But there are still a lot of days when I wake up and think I'm a loser and a failure and a bad person. And then those thoughts start to churn and spin out of control and I think if I'm such a loser and a f*ck up, why bother writing a new blog post? Why work on my new script or do standup? Nothing I do is going to be good enough and if everyone is going to hate me for letting them down, why bother? I guess whatever thing I am attempting will be like everything else I've tried to do in my life— a total failure. No wonder I'm unmarried, unemployed, and childless. I'm just doomed to have be a miserable, pathetic person and I will never have the life I want.
The details might be different but maybe you talk to yourself like this too. We are often excessively cruel and critical of ourselves in ways we would never be towards anyone else— even someone we disliked. And yet, reflexively, so many of us have these mean monologues going on in our heads all day long. We let that stampeding elephant run wild, destroying everything in its path including our inner peace and self-worth.
That's why I'm on this path to healing and return to yoga and meditation again and again. Healing is not like climbing a mountain or graduating from school— you don't get to check it off the list. The work is never finished, never complete. In that sense, learning self-acceptance and contentment can sometimes feel unsatisfying because the work is never really done. Many of us were raised to do but very few of us were taught to just be. So many of us struggle to be present in our own lives. So when something disappointing or unexpected happens, we go back to punishing and hating ourselves because we believe we brought it on ourselves for being stupid, lazy, ugly, unlovable, etc. and then we start the cycle anew.
So many of you have written me incredibly kind and compassionate messages reassuring me when I have shared about my insecurities and empathizing with my struggles. I am overwhelmed and so grateful to receive them and often don't have the capacity to respond. I spent a lifetime thinking about other people's needs so when people are kind to me, I feel uncomfortable and undeserving. Then I start to spiral or self-sabotage or just avoid dealing with it all together. So if you're wondering why I haven't responded to your email, please don't take it personally. I am always very touched but my bandwidth is extremely low these days as I try to put together the pieces of my life and figure out how I'm going to live it.
I started teaching my free Gentle Yoga for Terrible Times class because I wanted to help the community and bring some inner peace to people who were stressed and burnt out. I did and still wholeheartedly believe that relaxation is a human right and not just a luxury for the fortunate few. I never in my wildest dreams would've imagined that hundreds of people from all over the world would become part of a beautiful community we create and foster every week. I love teaching the class and spending time with you.
All the other stuff that goes along with teaching and maintaining the class is a lot harder for me. I'm not naturally inclined towards business and as someone who struggles with hating myself, self-promotion is mortifying to me. I'm sure another, more enterprising teacher with more energy and capacity for those things would probably have turned a mailing list of over 10,000 people and a class that regularly attracts hundreds of attendees into a sustainable business but I haven't been able to do it. My mission has always been to make the class free so that anyone could take it but bringing in enough money from donations and membership fees to sustain it has been a struggle.
I'm saying all this because two weeks ago, I forgot to push record during the members-only Wednesday yoga class and so there was no recording afterwards. Last week, I couldn't bring myself to write the newsletter or blog post. I was completely frozen and spent the whole week dreading it and feeling guilty and ashamed. I didn't post the recording of this past Saturday's class until very late the next night and yesterday, someone canceled their membership. I have no idea why that person canceled— it could be for reasons that have nothing to do with me— but even if it is about me, I honestly can't blame them if they feel they're not getting their money's worth and at the end of the day, it's not that big of a deal. And yet, I am haunted. My natural reaction is to feel inadequate, scared, and full of self-loathing. I tell myself I messed up and now people are mad at me.
The Buddhist nun and teacher Pema Chödrön talks about how karma is not about reward and punishment. Bad things don't happen to you because you are bad or did something wrong. She believes that whereas before you protected your heart in the past, you are now getting the teachings in the form of life to show you where you can open your heart even further. Perhaps in my past lives but certainly in my current one, I believed I had to be perfect to be loved and accepted. So here I am telling you I have messed up and maybe my karmic journey is about learning that it's okay. I am still worthy of love and acceptance. Even when I f*ck up. I'm trying my best. Thank you for your patience.