lessons from a roach

This morning I entered the kitchen, as I do at the start of every day, to turn on the kettle for warm lemon water. Feeling a crunchy squish beneath my Birkenstock (although I prefer bare feet, I’ve learned to always wear shoes in my group house), a foreboding sensation overcame me. I thought “Oh no!” and glanced down, scraping the demolished cockroach off my sole. The little guy was a goner.

Since moving into this mid-19th century, lovingly disheveled home, the cockroaches, critters, and I have had an unspoken (obviously, bugs can’t talk) pact. I don’t hurt them, and they don’t hurt me. I have become a master at sweeping many a cockroach to freedom. I named the mouse that lives under our oven Gus, and secretly hope that he comes out to play (he’s quite shy) because I not-so-secretly think he’s the cutest little thing ever.

Other people don’t understand. I’ve been told I “don’t want to share my home with cockroaches and mice”, but the way I see it, they are the ones sharing their home with me. Today, I felt genuine sadness about ending the life of Charlie the Roach (I just named him that, RIP Charles). His death also struck a strangely empathic note. Lately, more often than not, I have felt like the cockroach. Just trying to live life, maybe find a nice sunny spot on the floor, and then bam! – squished (unwittingly) by some giant.

Such is the artist’s life I guess? I have zero clue. I’m really only writing about it because last night, during yet another late-night (okay, 8:30 pm) rant of confusion about what I’m even doing here with my housemate, she encouraged me that my experience would make a relatable blog. That and I squished a bug this morning, and the act inspired me.

PS this post is dedicated to Charlie, valiant former resident of Oakwood Terrace.

Last night, I had another nightmare. I’ve been having nightmares of a recurring theme since February. Where I run into my former “boss”, and yet again, she tries to take me down. One time it was stealing my laptop (to delete all my “stories”). Last night, I think she was trying to convince my family and friends to join forces and work for her. I rushed to their defense, warning them in the nick of time to stay away. She would, no doubt, take advantage of them, too.

The thing is, I know that what happened to me, when I went through my personal fairy tale nightmare (literally, I wrote fairy tales as my former job), is seriously no big deal. It was only a few months of my life; I was able to shake it off pretty quick. And I gained valuable life lessons through the experience. But until I let the story play its course, and go through the painstaking resolution of this drama – which, in my case, entails suing my former employer, for the salary she has yet to pay me – it will remain trapped in my subconscious, and I will no doubt keep having bad dreams about it. Ugh. Suing someone else is so not my nature. I mean really, I almost cried after accidentally killing a cockroach. But perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve learned since I jumped off the deep end, leaving the corporate world last fall, is if I don’t stand up for myself, no one else will. I have learned to rely on my gritty core. And keep moving forward.

I never wanted to be a writer. Similarly, I never wanted to teach yoga as a career. When my yoga teachers talked about how hard it is, I actually listened, and so I knew I would teach classes, but not full time. I grinded it out in my office job as a means of survival. But then last fall, it was like life suddenly no longer gave me that option. I now understand that when everything falls into place like that, and seems too good to be true, chances are, it is too good to be true. In fact, it is probably all a veil, lifted to reveal an incredibly challenging, yet necessary, lesson.

I never wanted to be a writer, because I knew it would be hard. Even when I was a kid, I knew it was a long, treacherous, and lonely path, one that I didn’t want to touch with a ten-foot pole. My mom came home one day when I was about seven, with a giant desk she’d bought while antiquing. She claimed her imaginative daughter “needed a writer’s desk”. At first, I loved that desk, then we decided to get rid of it, because it impeded my play space. I decided I would rather play than write. Seven-year-old me had the right idea.

I found out I’m meant to be writing truly by accident. And then as soon as we discovered it (we being my former employer, and me), everything fell apart. She continued to pull me into her slippery slope of a rabbit-hole in which she dwells, messing with my psyche in a twisted way. Ultimately, we parted ways. I emerged from the rabbit hole, exhausted, defeated, and utterly lost. Since then, I have been navigating murky waters, unsure of where to go or what to do but knowing that I need to just keep swimming. To stay above water however I can.

I tell you this story not for sympathy votes or anything like that. I don’t need pity, or anyone to join my “side”. There are no sides here to join. In all honesty, I was probably the only other person who ever truly believed in the fairy tale writing business. Everyone I mentioned it to did not hesitate to speak his or her reservations. Consistently surrounded by doubt, meeting blind (albeit, naively so) faith must have been a shock to the system. And so it goes, the reactionary cycle continues. I discussed this with a good friend who is also a writer. He, too, experienced a strangely twisted experience, his taking him all the way to China, early in his career. Now, he approaches every contract differently. He knows the signs to look out for. I too, now understand how to listen to my intuition, when approaching these situations.

My purpose in writing about this is to speak from the only place I know how, which is right where I am, at this point in time. It’s like yoga – I can’t teach a pose that isn’t in my body. I can only write what I have lived, in the hopes that someone else somewhere has lived something similar and feels just a little bit of a connection through the words that I type.

So if you are where I am – if you’ve ever been taken advantage of, rejected (over and over again), run ragged, and made to feel like your contribution is worth very little (if anything at all), I want you to know, I feel your pain. And I continue to have hope for us. I continue to pray every day that this season of no’s is leading me toward to the one yes that matters. I continue to trust and have faith in the process, exactly as it’s unfolding. That is all I can do.

Last weekend I went to a teacher training, in which we talked about the difference between being a good teacher and being a popular one. Now, I know I am nowhere near being a good teacher. I have only been teaching a couple years; I’m still the definition of a newbie. There are classes I teach every week, to which no one shows up. Or sometimes, the only people who come are my parents. 100% serious. I know that I will never be popular, as a teacher, or in any other sense of the word. Sure, other people like me (at least, I think they do), but I’m far too shy and sensitive to be popular. All I can strive for is to one day be a good teacher. Or, at the very least, to continue trying.

Again, no sympathy needed here. I’d much rather not be popular. Through many a yoga class taught to just my dad, as well as blog posts written solely for my aunts’ eyes (love you guys), I have learned to judge my self worth not by how many other people show up, but by how I show up. Even when nobody comes (or reads), well, at least I put myself out there.

And amid the years of rejection, I have had major, glimmering breakthroughs that continue to carry me through. Like when a student who has come to my yoga class every Sunday for the past year and a half, told me that, because of learning how to deepen the breath, she felt an opening within her back. Being able to guide her through her practice, so that she can teach herself how to have an experience like that, well that, to me, is worth more than a packed room any day. Or the other week, when the three-year-old I babysit started teaching her baby doll (named Helmet…yes, I love the name too) how to do yoga in the backseat of the car. Those moments are pure gold. I will probably never speak to the masses, and I honestly don’t even want to. Because the impact I can have, on an individual basis, to me, means so much more.

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