Over the weekend, I read some of my book to two trusted friends, both of whom have been in my life for more than a decade. I read to Serena on a beach in Woods Hole, as her small daughter wielded a huge stick that she found. After spending years with my manuscript– drafting and redrafting, checking and changing– it felt refreshing to hear someone else react to it for the first time. The jokes were funny again. Old insights gave new pause. It felt cleansing and clarifying like the ocean swim we took with Serena’s parents, each of the adults taking turns aping for the baby, who giggled most when grandpa spewed water from his mouth like a Roman fountain.
The following day, back in Boston, I pedaled to Cambridge and settled into the comfort of my friend, Coeli’s, presence, as well as her home–she having an uncanny ability to infuse any surroundings with her signature graciousness. We used to huddle in a closet at the Baptiste Power Yoga Institute ten years ago, which was refurbished into a tiny teachers’ hideout, and she’d make it feel like a quaint cafe. Literally, a closet.
The perspective each friend gave was something I won’t soon forget. Serena laughing and riveted for several chapters and wanting to hear more. She’d comment in a soft, lilting, voice tempered by its strength of conviction and sharp wit. Twice I had to quote what she said in my notes; it was such good writing. Meanwhile, Coeli, sat on the floor head cocked thoughtfully to one side, pulling the words in close, getting a better look in her mind and memory, since she was there during the period from which those chapters emerged.
They reminded her of this:
Doing as others told me, I was blind.
Coming when others called, I was lost.
Then I left everyone, myself as well.
Then I found everyone, myself as well.
Which both flattered and shocked me. It’s weird to see your past through someone else’s lens, especially when it’s the part where you lose yourself. When life is filled with “yoga” and devoid of balance. I was broke and brokenhearted, majorly dumped and working tirelessly to make ends meet, even as the Lead Teacher at the busiest yoga studio in the world, at that time. My schedule was so relentless that my vocal chords grew chronically hoarse, and I actually lost the ability to speak at one point (how’s that for symbolic?). I came to the brink of throat surgery, doing a job I loved, at which I was very good, but was being swallowed whole.
So, I had to leave– the job, the yoga industry (briefly), the nearly one hundred students per class, multiple times a day, every day of the week– to find myself. Now, I have everyone, or at least the ones who matter most deeply, like these two. And there’s no mistaking my voice anymore. Getting nearly swallowed has a way of teaching a person to speak up and never get snuffed out again (not for long anyway).
I hoped for helpful book feedback this weekend, and I got that in spades. But I also got life feedback. I was given a gift of seeing myself more clearly– which is the point of yoga, right?
We all lose ourselves. It’s not in spite of this that we succeed; it’s because of it. We must lose then find ourselves, so we can find everything and everyone.