This is me breathing

I wasn’t going to write a blog post this week. After the attack in Orlando on Sunday, I couldn’t find the words; nothing seemed appropriate to write about.

I was beside myself to see the world continue to go on after this tragedy. I couldn’t simply carry on with a blog post about confidence or self-love or eating healthy when something like this was happening in the world - in my country. But as the days went by, I realized I did have words, I had a lot of them, they were just all jumbled up along with my feelings and I couldn’t string them together in a coherent way.

So, still, I wasn’t going to write a blog post this week.

I found myself afraid to say anything, for fear of saying the wrong thing. You see, I am straight, and white, and American. My gender is the only thing keeping me from being among the most privileged demographic in the world. And so, when something like this happens to a group I am not part of, I feel it’s not my place to offer my two cents about it. I fear my “silver linings” approach to life sounding trite, my lack of insider perspective sounding ignorant. I fear saying something offensive, politically incorrect, insensitive, and most of all, I fear sounding privileged.

Because the truth is, I will never know what it’s like to be a part of the LGBTQ community. I will never know what it’s like to be a part of the Latino community. And I will never know what it’s like to be a part of the Orlando community during this incredibly trying time. There are already so many experts and people more directly affected making well-informed statements, so who am I to speak out? What the hell do I know?

So I wasn’t going to write a blog post this week. I was going to keep quiet, until I realized that silence is exactly the problem

We cannot let our fears of inadequacy keep us from standing up for the things we believe in. We cannot assume we are powerless. We cannot let our differences keep us from uniting over a common cause, especially when that cause is to love and accept our differences!!

So while I might say the wrong thing, I’m gonna throw my two cents out there.  Because my voice is one tool I have, and this platform - this blog with it’s relatively small following - it matters. You matter. And I love you so much for caring what I have to say.

After a few days of trying to wrangle my words and feelings together, here is my best attempt to coherently share my thoughts in the aftermath of the Orlando shooting:

-Do not be defeated. Yes, this is a huge loss. And yes, we have so far to go towards equality, and gun control. But while this one guy acted out of hate or fear or anger, hundreds (nope, thousands) showed up to give blood to help the surviving victims; even more showed up to provide food and water to the donators as they stood in line for hours. And while he was ONE guy, thousands (maybe millions?) gathered in support, with vigils and rallies ALL OVER THE WORLD. We have a long way to go, but nobody is alone in fighting this fight.

-We cannot act out of fear. It took me years to return to the movie theater after the attack in Colorado. Not this time. I have the incredible opportunity to practice yoga in the middle of Times Square next week. TIMES SQUARE – NEW YORK CITY! I’m not gonna lie, I’m fucking scared – we’ll be like sitting ducks, getting all open and vulnerable in one of the most iconic places on earth. Obv I’m gonna go, because to start skipping out on life is a defeat in and of itself.

-We all have a voice. I don’t care about your gender/race/nationality/age/what you take in your coffee; YOU HAVE A VOICE. I don’t even care if we agree! If you’re reading this, I’m pretty sure you’re in a country that allows you to speak your mind – a right that not everyone has in this world. You’ve got to stand up for what you believe in and let your voice be heard. Risk controversy, risk confrontation, risk being wrong and you just might learn something.

-Love wins. Don’t be a fair-weather lover; love hard, and always. Spreading love is one of the most powerful tools we have. Hug your Grandma a little tighter, tell your bestie how much she means to you, make time for your long-winded uncle, and smile to that stinky homeless guy on the subway; you have no idea how much your love may transform their life, and the ripple effect it can have.

-Practice acceptance. Great, you have a gay best friend, but are you judging the shit out of that person with the thick accent you can barely understand? Or the friend that decided to have four kids when you don’t want any? How bout the one that thinks fanny packs are making a comeback? No matter how big or small our differences, everyone deserves to be accepted for who they are.

-You are allowed to feel everything you are feeling. Please let yourself experience your emotions on a regular basis. Bottling things up and refusing to be who we are is where things get lonely, and dangerous. Find a community to support you and know that there is never a “right” or “wrong” way to feel. If you feel it, it’s right.  If you feel it, it’s you. Be yourself no matter what anyone thinks.

-Practice gratitude. Have you stopped to notice that the sun is a little brighter, the sky a little bluer, the trees a little greener this week? Have you stopped to appreciate your friends and family by your side, the roof over your head, or simply the fact that you are here and safe today? Don’t assume this all comes for free, not everyone is so lucky.

-Show yourself some compassion. You guys, this is big. This is scary. No matter how “close to home” this attack hit for you, it has an impact on you as a human being. I’ve felt completely exhausted, yet had trouble sleeping. My limbs are heavy and all I want to eat is pizza (okay, that last one is kinda normal). While I am a proponent of self-love on an all-the-time basis, it is especially necessary during trying times. Please take care of yourself this week; give yourself a break.

-We must go on. While I was surprised to see how quickly things went back to “business as usual” this week, I know we do need to carry on in the face of tragedy. But, can we choose to carry on in a different way? I’ve written before about my experience with anxiety – how I accepted a certain level of it as “normal” for years before it peaked in panic attacks and I finally decided to make lasting lifestyle changes. I chose to aim for better than I was before the peak; refusing to accept any level of anxiety as “normal.” I had to make changes not for a week, or a year, or until my panic attacks subsided. I adopted a new lifestyle, and carried on. I am the same person, but healthier. So yes, let’s go on, but let’s aim for something better than “business as usual.” Let’s all make these small lifestyle shifts (at the least) to collectively make a more lasting change.

In my yin yoga classes I often talk about how the yoga practice affords us the great opportunity to learn more about ourselves. We are faced with a challenging or uncomfortable position and asked to hold it for a length of time. We want to fidget, to fight the pose, to get angry, to get out, to distract ourselves; our minds wander, our foot itches. By choosing to stay, accept our position, and breathe, we can observe these tendencies, our habitual reactions. And by practicing this on the mat, we can learn to react differently off the mat, too. It hit me today that this is exactly the kind of situation we practice for: an incredibly challenging and uncomfortable position, which we have no choice but to linger in. We can distract ourselves, ignore the issue, misdirect the anger, or choose to stay, and breathe, and observe ourselves free of judgment. So how are you reacting?

I wasn’t going to write a blog post this week. But then I realized: this is me staying in the pose, this is me facing the discomfort, this is me learning to react differently than I have in the past, this is me breathing.