Speak Your Truth

 “No, it’s fine.” 

I could hear the words coming out of my mouth, a common refrain, contradictory in grammar as well as what I really meant by it. Yet, there it was, over and over again, in what sounded uncannily like my voice. To the boyfriend who broke his promises. No, it’s fine. To the family member who wanted everything to just be okay, when it clearly wasn’t. No, it’s fine. To the friend who simply stopped showing up, until she needed something. No, it’s fine.

It was like the chorus of a song that kept repeating, on a radio station whose channel I didn’t know how to change. No, it’s fine, it’s fine, it’s fiiiiiiiiiine.

It was actually kind of easy to utter this phrase. To put what I imagined other people needed before what I needed. To be someone I thought people wanted instead of what was true to me. It was so important that I was seen as “good”. Good girlfriend, good student, good daughter, good sister, good friend, good employee, good everything to everyone.

I’m not sure when it started, this burying of myself to accommodate others. When I was a kid, I was often the outspoken—okay, bossy—one. When I was in high school, I was so singularly focused on becoming an opera singer that I did what was right for me and to further that goal, even if it meant not being cool, or not having boyfriends. I knew, and expressed, what I wanted. 

But somewhere along the way, there was a shift. Perhaps it was subtle at first, so that I didn’t even notice it. Maybe it became more prominent as people began responding. What I do know is that once I felt the acceptance that came along with pleasing people, it was difficult to stop. It became a snowball rolling down a mountain, gathering size and speed until it was bigger than I was, until it completely enveloped me, until it–and I–was was unable to stop.

When you say “No, it’s fine” often enough, you almost start to believe it.

It became second nature. I wasn’t even aware of doing it until someone I didn’t know, someone I only met via phone, pointed it out to me. Her point, in doing so, was that I could never be truly happy unless I was putting myself first. And to put myself first, I needed to start speaking the truth.

We’re never really told that we’re supposed to put ourselves before others. Quite the opposite actually. Selflessness is preached, and giving more is expected. Kindness above all, of course. Why did it take thirty-five years for someone to tell me that it’s okay—no, it’s crucial—to put myself and my well-being first? That is doesn’t mean I’m selfish, or unkind. And why did the idea of doing it create such an intense panic in me?

What if I started expressing my truth, and people didn’t like it? What if they didn’t like me? 

The doubt plagued me, and paralyzed me initially. I almost let myself off the hook: the boyfriend is long gone, along with the friend who wasn’t there for me and easily faded out of my life, so I didn’t need to confront them with my feelings. But my family wasn’t going anywhere. They would need to be the test cases for my honesty, even if it still scared me.  

And then I got into my car one morning, after struggling through yet another night with my fears about speaking up, and the Sara Bareilles song “Brave” was queued up on my iPod. This time, it was a song worth repeating:

And since your history of silence 

Won’t do you any good.

Did you think it would?

Let your words be anything but empty.

Why don’t you tell them the truth?

Say what you wanna say,

And let the words fall out, honestly.

I wanna see you be brave.

And I knew: it was time.

So I tried it. The first conversation was most difficult. There were tears, and bewilderment, and anger, and defensiveness. And a few times, I almost fell back on my previous refrain, that old familiar chorus: No, it’s fine. But really, it wasn’t fine, and being able to finally say it out loud felt like lifting a giant rock from my shoulders. Speaking my truth didn’t change the facts of the situation. It didn’t change the outcome of events. But it changed me. And ultimately, that’s all I can really change anyway. Ultimately, that will be enough.

Change takes time. Speaking up requires determination. Being honest takes courage. But, at the end of the day, our truth is all we have.

Use your voice. Speak your truth. And in Sara’s words, “I wanna see you be brave.”

xx,

Katie

Finding My Religion

Every Sunday morning, when I’m at home in Los Angeles, I get up by 8:00 and travel 13 miles to Manhattan Beach to participate in my favorite weekly yoga class with Jennifer Pastiloff. There are closer classes, sure, and ones that don’t leave me cursing the alarm clock, but I always return to this one. It’s the class we lovingly refer to as “yoga church”. I don’t know who coined the term, and I never gave too much thought to it previously, beyond knowing that I usually enter class a little tired, sometimes a little cranky as well, and always emerge renewed, grateful and at peace.

While traveling to Dallas for business, my dear friend and hostess for the weekend, Cherry, invited me to join her at her “yoga church” here in Dallas; her words, not mine. I didn’t know anyone else felt this way about a yoga class, but I readily agreed, trusting my Bali sister’s opinion that this experience would be special. When two other yogi friends of mine also raved about the teacher, Janie Montague, nothing could have kept me away.

I settled in at 9:00am on my borrowed mat, anticipation building, and looked down to see there was writing scribbled across the top: Open To Grace. What an inspiring message to start your Sunday service. What a beautiful mantra for life.

As we began to flow through the sun salutations and heart-opening asanas, my eyes kept returning, almost as if magnetized, to the writing on my mat. Open to Grace.

Janie nimbly guided us through poses as life lessons, reminding us to trust, to give thanks, to be kind, to love. But it was towards the end of the class that she really sunk the hook into me, with a moment so perfect and so serendipitous that it gutted me.

“Reach one hand to the ground, and one hand to grace, and realize that what is exactly in between is you, the combination of both.”

These are the moments, though small, that change your life.

I grew up going to church sporadically, mostly on holidays or as part of the requirements for a sacrament. I dutifully attended CCD classes on Tuesday or Wednesday evenings through eighth grade, because that’s just what you did. When I was in high school, I sang in the church choir, the closest I ever came to being a devout Catholic, attending church every Sunday to sing the Word of the Lord. If I’m being honest, it was always more about the music for me than the message. The music WAS the message. I came home humming the melodies rather than spreading the Word.

At no point do I remember having an epiphany about myself, or about humanity, or about life, while I was at mass. I enjoyed the ritual, I exalted in the songs, but when I stopped going to services regularly, I forgot to miss them.

Then I discovered yoga, and our so-called “yoga church”, which inspires me to spread the message all day long. Which has left an imprint on my heart that I could never forget to miss.

Nowhere am I more in tune with myself, with who I am and who I want to be. Nowhere am I more in tune with other people, hearing their collective breath, the inhaling and the exhaling, and feeling their heartbeats echoing in my own. Nowhere am I more in tune with the Universe, both hearing and understanding the lessons it is presenting me. Trust, gratitude, kindness.

My religion is yoga.

My religion is grace.

My religion is love.

Namaste.

PS-Please consider donating to a wonderful event that both Cherry and Janie are actively participating in…One Love Dallas will benefit Off The Mat, Into The World ‘s Legacy Project in India, an organization that works to rescue, rehabilitate and empower those affected by the sex trafficking industry. A great cause supported by great people! You can find more info and donate here.

Open To Grace

Open To Grace

xx,

Katie

Follow Your Excitement

I looked up from my seat in row seven when I heard the gruff, “Excuse me.”  I started to get up so my seatmate could pass by me to get to his seat, but he just pushed past me without making eye contact. My heart sank a bit about having to be in such close proximity to this seemingly rude man for the next six hours—until I saw his fingers gripping the armrest and knew that I wasn’t next to a rude man, but a very nervous flyer.

He hadn’t flown in five years, he explained, but he couldn’t pass up this trip. He was flying cross-country for a work project that he took specifically because it would bring him to New Jersey, where he would be able to visit the largest model railroad in the world. His passion was toy trains, and he was invited to come to New Jersey to visit this railroad and repair some remote control problem that only he knew how to fix. I remarked that he was very dedicated to this group, arranging this extensive trip, especially with his aversion to flying. He looked me in the eye, paused so that I leaned in, expectant, and told me:

“You have to follow your excitement.”

And it hit me, in that way that the thing you need to hear always does, like a ton of bricks. Follow your excitement.

For over ten years, I lived in New York City, arguably one of the most exciting cities in the world. Theater, bars, art, shopping, restaurants…all mere steps from my front door. Yet when I describe my time in New York, “exciting” is never one of the words I use.  My associations with New York are much different.

Hard

Chaotic

Intense

Draining

Overwhelming

Never once have I used the word exciting, because for me, the word didn’t fit.

I knew within a year of living in Manhattan that it wasn’t the right place for me. I was living by myself for the first time in a brownstone studio on the Upper West Side, working in my first sales job, determined to take the publishing industry by storm and live the perfect, glamorous urban life I had imagined for myself. I understood that I didn’t hold this city in the same regard as most of my friends, but I figured this would eventually change. Eventually, I would surely discover what made this place and this life so exciting.

Instead, it continued to elude me.

So I ignored my own instincts and took cues from my friends, who seemed to easily find excitement in New York. I went to the newest, best restaurants with my foodie friends and pretended to be thrilled by culinary concoctions I did not understand and could not pronounce. I went shopping with my fashionista friends, buying clothing I couldn’t afford and collecting designer accessories like some people collect stamps. I happy-houred and pub-crawled and wine-tasted with my nightlife-loving friends, feigning interest in the late nights and the crazy stories they produced, pretending I belonged.

I ended up completely broke, and totally broken down. Following others’ excitement left me with $20,000 of debt and an empty place in my soul that no amount of exotic sushi or expensive Chanel or VIP parties could fill.

I chased happiness, running after it like I would run after a cab in a rainstorm, wishing desperately that I could catch it. But of course I never could. It always escaped me.

How can you discover excitement when you’ve forgotten what excites you?

You start to listen. You start to pay attention. You start to trust yourself.

Things began to change when I finally acknowledged that I was not happy in New York, and that it was unlikely that I ever would be. When the right opportunity finally arose, I leapt on it without hesitation and moved across the country to Los Angeles. It felt right, immediately, in a way that New York never did. Slowly, gradually, I started discovering the things that truly excited me. Yoga, reading on the beach, outdoor concerts, sunsets over the ocean, writing. This time, I didn’t follow my friends into hikes I didn’t enjoy, or force myself to eat avocado on everything like so many Angelenos. This time, I tried new things, listened to my gut about what made me happy, and tossed the rest.

And I get it now. I found my excitement. I found my happiness.

It doesn’t mean that everything in my life is perfect now, or that I don’t have bad days still. It’s not, and I absolutely do. It’s still real life, though some of the incredible ocean view pictures might suggest otherwise, with all of its crazy ups and downs. But there is a level of contentedness that never existed for me in New York. Every single day that I wake up in Santa Monica, regardless of my mood, or the often-thick summer marine layer, or anything else going on in my life, I am excited and happy to live here. I am where I am meant to be.

Following my excitement simply meant listening to, and following, my heart. Following my heart meant finding real happiness.

Sunset: Hermosa Beach

Sunset: Hermosa Beach ; This IS real life.

 

xx,

Katie

 

Confession: I Thought It Mattered

I thought it mattered.

 

I thought it mattered if I was thin.
If I was beautiful.
If I was tall.
If I was unblemished.
If I was manicured.
If I was highlighted.
If I was perfect.

One day I learned that it didn’t matter. And I was happy.

But, I forgot, as we sometimes do.

 

Once more, I thought it mattered.

I thought it mattered if I was right.
If I was the fastest.
If I was the strongest.
If I was the smartest.
If I was the first.
If I was the best.
If I was perfect.

Another day arrived, and I remembered that it didn’t matter. And I was happy again.

But, still, I forgot.

 

Yet again, I thought it mattered.

I thought it mattered if people thought I was thin.
If they thought I was beautiful.
If they thought I was smart.
If they thought I was strong.
If they thought I was worthwhile.
If they thought I was lovable.

If they thought I was perfect.

This time, this time I didn’t believe it though. This time I knew, the way I knew the sun rises in the East, and June follows May, and one plus one equals two. I knew that it didn’t matter.

The only thing that mattered was that I lived in truth. My truth. Spoken, felt, shared, lived. Truth.

I will continue to forget, but I will also always remember. And in those moments of recollection, those moments of clarity, those moments of truth…there will be happiness.

 

 

xx,
Katie