Here's the truth: I am a closet people pleaser. Like, the worst.
I think I burst out of the womb with an invisible, full body "PLEASE LOVE ME" tattoo.
"I'll do anything, okay?" I begged. "Dress how you want. Talk how you want. Be who you want. Just please, please love me. Please don't leave me."
And so, like a pavlovian dog, I was trained to be exactly who society expected: rewarded when I fit their "good" girl mold, and banished when I did not.
I learned, one reward and punishment at a time, who to be in order to get the love I longed for, and most importantly, what parts of me would never, ever, ever be acceptable here.
You know, like the loud part. The angry part. The chubby part. The emotional part. The intuitive part. The honest part. The sensitive part. The slow part. The insecure part.
And, you guys, I CRUSHED it: pushing my deplorable parts down and down and down with food, fake friends, and the fantasy world of television.
No wonder I barely remember high school.
No wonder I felt half alive.
And although I had many gifts that still managed to peek out of my weighty costume, math was not one of them. Especially geometry.
But since my older sister was a genius and I wanted nothing more than to be exactly like her, I decided to try pretending I was smart, too. Yep, sign me for alllll the smart kids classes... that one there... Honors Geometry?!? SUUUUURE, I can do that, no problemo.
Well, the truth is that I am the rightiest, right brain there ever was. The truth is I had no business being in that room. But the truth was not safe.
And so I spent every 5th period with a smile plastered on my face, pretending to take notes, pretending to understand. Pretending... pretending... pretending, while slowly dying inside.
But, as karma would have it, my first test came back with nothing but the truth: 52% with Please See Me scribbled on top. I had never scored so low in my entire life. Wrapped in shame, I told my parents. Wrapped in shame, I dragged myself into Mr. Engebretsen's room after school one dismal day.
Something about the warmth of his smile, the kindness in his eyes and his occasional laughter told me that maybe, just maybe he was safe. That maybe, just maybe, I could slowly unzip my costume. That maybe, just maybe, I could tell him the truth.
And after he proved himself worthy of this treasure, I did. My dirty little secret bursting like a bullet when I was ready to release it. "Errr, Mr. Engebretsen, ummmm, you see, the REAL problem is that I totally and completely suck at math."
And do you know what he said?
Not, you disgust me.
Not, get out of here you unworthy heathen.
Not even, get your deplorable self down to regular math.
No, do you know what that angel man said?! "No problem. Let's get to work. I specialize in teaching kids how not to suck at math."
I think right there, in that moment, I instantly lost ten pounds. More breath found its way in. My relieved body relaxed. THIS, my friends, is the power of truth-telling.
And so every day, I came to Mr. Engebretsen's room, probably longing for the feeling of safety he exuded even more than his brilliant, relatable instruction.
Protected by his love and support and belief in me, things started to change. I actually, can you believe it, started LIKING math... you know, GETTING it... and SUCCEEDING at it. Fast forward three months and lo and behold I got my first 99%. We were both so incredibly proud of me.
And while Mr. Engebretsen is no longer in his Earthly body, my Soul will forever remember the lesson that he came to teach me: that the truth will set you free, love.
That truth-telling is the impetus of healing.
That magic nearly explodes into the world right along with it.
But in a white-washed world where the prerequisite to the "cool club" is posturing, pedicures, and people pleasing, NO WONDER we hide and vanish and mask our true selves: having fake conversations with fake people while wearing fake costumes and fake faces, secretly, silently soothing ourselves with screens, shopping and sugar.
But I have a dream, that one day this fake world will end.
That one day, every man and woman can embrace their full humanity, their imperfect bodies, and all of their big, beautiful human feelings.
I have a dream that one day we can weep and laugh and truth tell and rest together, without apology.
That we will see and be seen for who we really are, receiving both ourselves and each other with the same tenderness and compassion that Mr. Engebretsen gave my masked and manipulated self.
I have a dream that somewhere out there, a world exists where the innate worth of every single human is nonnegotiable: untouchable by suffocating, superficial measuring sticks.
And on a quiet day, I see this world being birthed into being. Right now, in fact.
On a good day, when I come up for air, I see Her in my weary neighbors walking my streets with no where to go, no masks to wear, and nothing to hide from each other.
This Sunday, I am honored to teach you about the power of truth-telling (or satya) and the practices that have supported me in getting comfortable and clear with my inconvenient truths.
Together, we will attend to your holy human self just as you are, tending to your tender body, opening your neck and shoulders and gently encouraging the throat to release whatever it may be keeping in in order to keep you safe.
I see and honor your journey, however and where ever you are.
Yoga Therapist, Teacher, Speaker, Writer, Mother