I’ve wanted to write a New Year, 2019, post all January. I want to talk about what I am pledging to do with my time this year, and I want to find out what you have set as your goals or resolutions for 2019. I am realizing that there are many reasons that folks don’t subscribe to the January goal setting frenzy, but I think that because it’s my birthday month I feel additionally on-board with the resolution setting set.
If you abhor resolutions that center around an arbitrary date of the year you may consider this post alternatively titled “Lessons from Dedicating 30 Days to Yoga.” You see, I began this year with many intentions– like bringing more peace and patience into my life, and renewing my commitment to not buying new things. For reference, that didn’t really work out for me as a year-long endeavor. Mostly because I came to the project grossly underprepared to support myself. More on that later.
But this year, I am still evaluating and cornering my spending habits, I’m still seeking to be a parent that speaks more peace to my children, and I’m still trying to be a human that is more patient with her fellow humans at large– in the classroom, on the road, at the grocery store, on the news, and on and on.
Instead of putting immense pressure on myself to be all that I wanted to be on January 1, I decided that I would first engage in a yoga practice that lasts the entire month of January. This was one of the best moves I’ve made in terms of beginning a New Year, and I hope I’ll remember how cleansing, enlightening, grounding, and opening this journey has been.
One of these personal revelations is a two-part story with yet another alternative post title: “The difference between being hard on yourself and kind to yourself (even honest with yourself) is not that you need to stop being too easy on yourself.”
Allow me to explain. Four nights ago I was doing Adriene’s (Yoga with Adriene) Dedicate 30 Day Yoga Journey. Nearing the end of her practice we were lying in a final Shavasana. The practice had been about sweetness and Adrienne was saying, “Sometimes it’s not only about WHAT we do but HOW we do it. Consider that.” Now this is an idea that I subscribe to. We should all think about what we are doing. Why we are doing it, how we are doing it are keys to the ‘what’. Adriene went on, “Are you more in the habit of being hard on yourself or can you get more in the habit…”
My video stopped streaming at this exact moment. And I was left trying to figure out what Adriene was going to say next. The truth is that when I finished her statement the only thing that I could come up with was, “Or are you in habit of being too easy on yourself. Do you need to push yourself harder?” In other words, do you cut yourself a break too often, are you lazy, apathetic, flawed? And on and on and on with the self-denigrating comments. I was ready to get on the wagon and stone myself for being a push over. Why didn’t I see that this was the same thing as being TOO HARD ON MYSELF?
My video eventually reloaded and Adriene said, “Are you more in the habit of being hard on yourself, or can you get more in the habit of finding practices that help you, get you, in the habit of being sweet to yourself. EVEN WHEN YOU MESS UP.”
Stunned silence from my mat.
Can you be kind to yourself? Even when you mess up? Can you? Can I?
This brings me to my next story. Hang with me here. There was once a girl who couldn’t spell. That girl was me, I’m still that girl. And I don’t know when I began to believe or it was pointed out to me that I could not spell. (I hope at this point you are already seeing the irony of this reality as I am an English teacher. An English teacher who can’t spell.) Apparently, not even being a school Spelling Bee champion served to solve this self-image notion.
But this not-being-able-to-spell thing has been something that has haunted me for my entire life. Not just academically, but not being able to spell became something of a self-forecast for all of my failings, all the stuff I couldn’t do. It became a sign that I wasn’t cut out for success.
Well from this girl– me– came a sweet little boy– P. As it turns out, he showed some of the same phonetic unawareness that his mom had/has. That mom– me– told this little boy– my son– that he “could not spell.” Just like that, “You can’t spell.” Just like I had been told.
Now I tried to forecast some solutions to this problem by explaining that he could memorize words and thereby overcome his failing. “We can’t spell.” I kept telling him, like we were rowing this boat called “Can’t Spell” together. Fast forward to Parent-Teacher-Student conferences 2019.
As we concluded our meeting, my son’s sweet teacher asked if I had any questions for her and I felt that this would be a great time to bring up the spelling thing. I explained, “I can’t spell. And I’m worried that this might be the case for my son. It appears that he doesn’t have phonetic awareness.”
His teacher stoped me in my tracks and said, “Oh! That sounds just like me! Your son can spell, he just needs to practice with different variations of each phonemic pairing. It wasn’t until I was a teacher that I realized there were certain vowels and sounds that were patterned through language. But you know what? (She turns to my son.) For every one of these patterns there are times when the rules apply and there are times when the English language breaks those rules! You CAN spell!” She declared with certainty.
Just like that. “YOU CAN SPELL!” With all of the vigor and certainty of a seasoned educator who knows that as she bolsters students to believe in themselves they will fulfill those prophecies and SPELL.
I was stunned into silence again. Here I had been telling myself (for years) that I couldn’t spell. I had been telling my son that he couldn’t spell. I had been practicing this can’t over and over and over. My son’s teacher continued, “The wonderful thing about spelling is that you do need to memorize how to spell words. Once you can recognize different patterns like ‘r’ controlled vowels– er, ur, ir, or– then you can begin to memorize which words use which patterns.”
I nearly fell off my chair. More than that, I was ashamed for telling my boy that he couldn’t, that he didn’t, that he wasn’t able to. Nothing better than strapping yourself to your failings and then just clinging to them! In that moment I remembered my yoga, the moment that I was so certain that my instructor was going to tell me that perhaps if yoga wasn’t working for me or working a change on or in me I was being too easy on myself.
I realized that I am constantly falling into this belief that if I will just push harder, do more, press into my present with more resolve, then– and only then– will I come out conqueror. But in those moments, on that mat and in that classroom, I realized that I need to be a whole lot kinder to myself and to those around me.
You, my beautiful friend, thank you for reading this post. I’m learning, slowly and steadily, to pass on the power of believing in yourself to my kids and to my deeper self. You, me, we all need to be more kind to ourselves. Happy 2019!