Monday, February 10, 2014

Vulnerability

Holy shit. What a weekend. What a terrible, horrible, wonderful weekend.

Inhale and exhale, the refrain of the past 5 months of yoga teacher training.

So as indicated in the post below this one, Friday sucked. I was sad and felt picked on. I had a good morning power class though, and then a 2 hour workshop with my favorite teacher. I did handstand and side crow and eight angle pose, which is some Cirque de Soleil-like shit, in my opinion, all things I'd never done before and truly didn't think I was strong enough to do.

I decided to rally. I dug deep in my heart for something personal and touching to share during that night's practice teach. I was nervous but ready and eager. You passed or failed and could stop teaching once you did. When people passed, there was much excitement and jubilation. Everyone was passing. I told myself that THIS would be the night where I would give them what they were looking for, from the heart, and THIS would be the night where I finally got some positive feedback for my hard work.

So I got up. I kept my voice strong but tried to sound less rehearsed as I got people breathing and into the first pose. I created connection by speaking directly to individuals. I got them into the first pose and was leading into my story (that I didn't fully rehearse, so it wouldn't sound rehearsed) and before I could even start, they pointed to my mat and told me to go sit down.

What the fuck? I was baffled.

After others went (and passed, and clapped, and danced, and high fived their team), it was my turn again. I started back up and they stopped me. I asked what it was they were looking for since they had specifically told everyone else what element needed to be added, and they waved me away and told me I had to give up my need to be right. I pointed out that I wanted to pass, though, and needed feedback because I had no idea what was going wrong. They pointed out that I used the word wrong and that I didn't have to be right.

It was incredibly confusing for me.

Then they had me tell the group that I was giving up my need to be right so I did but they said it didn't sound sincere. So I had to do it again. And again. And again. And again. Until I had to walk around from individual to individual and say it to them over and over until they "felt it."

IT TOOK A WHILE.

Then, my favorite teacher, my mentor, the person I say I want to be when I grow up, someone who I consider incredibly intelligent and kind and genuine, got down on one knee (because I was on my knees, trying to convince a classmate that I no longer want to be right...I'm actually laughing a little as I type it, the whole thing is absurd) and looked me in the eyes and firmly asked if I knew I was intimidating.

Me? But I meet new people easily. I am approached so often by strangers in public (for good and for bad.) People smile at me a lot, and I smile back. I have what I feel is a genuine connection to their regular students and feel like I'm one of the people that makes the studio a "safe place" for others. I manage the staff with humor and flexibility and compliments.

To me intimidating is not a good thing to be. It's actually something I wish I were sometimes, I always feel vulnerable and envy those who don't seem that way. But I think intimidating people seem unpleasant and unfriendly, so that's no good.

She was staring at me, so I said that was something to consider. She said, no, really, no one's ever told you that? No. Never. She said something about people being afraid of me and that would make it difficult to do my job. It seriously blew my mind. I told her I did my job well and she said she knows I do. I turned and said the sentence I'd been saying to the last classmate still sitting, thinking that if she stood up I could teach and show them (and myself) that I can do this, whatever it was they were wanting me to do, and they started to clap which was the sign that I was finished...so I never really taught at all.

I was crushed. To the core of my being crushed. I felt like I had spent the last 5 months, however many hours, so many tears, so much struggle, giving up my lie that I was not enough and people did not like me. And then someone whose opinion seemed so important to me told me that my way of being is something that translates to unlikable. And I didn't even get to teach yoga.

I felt like everyone was passing, not just this exercise but the entire program, and I was just finding out on the very last weekend that I failed; not only was my teaching suddenly not going well but I apparently had a personality problem and a lack of self-awareness. I felt like I spent all of this time finding my pieces and gluing myself back together, having only a moment to marvel that I had actually done it fairly seamlessly, just to be dropped again to see if the glue would hold.

And this is not about making her wrong (or me right, believe it or not). If you asked every single person in the room how this went down, their perceptions would vary. She's not the type to make it personal, as odd as that sounds in relation to such a personal revelation, so I am certain this has been her experience with me and it's valid. This story isn't about her at all.

I stayed up all night long thinking of every relationship, every interaction, everything I've shared trying to figure out how I'm intimidating and not authentic. If it was something that made sense to me, I could (albeit unhappily for a minute there) accept it and work on improving but it just made no sense. I only slept for 4 hours. I woke up crying. I got ready crying. I brushed my teeth crying. I got it halfway together enough to get into the building and onto my mat in child's pose, where I spent half of the 90 minute class, with my forehead on my mat trying to figure out which of these people in my community may have felt intimidated by me at some point and wondering if my boss doubted my ability to do my job. It was a heated class and my tears mixed with my sweat and pooled up under me.

I thought about leaving. Forever. A scary person can't do my job at the studio. A scary person can't teach yoga. I got what I came for, and then lost it, and I didn't need the piece of paper. If no one else noticed the happy, friendly confidence I'd been feeling, then did it even happen? If I was still intimidating after all of this, there's probably not a lot of hope.

Yoga was not fun at all anymore.

Our "graduation" was a huge community class that we were all going to co-teach. I was literally sick to my stomach (correct usage of literally here) at the thought of doing it--where on Friday I felt good about my ability to deliver a decent class in front of strangers, now after all of my "practice," I was not even comfortable letting strangers look at me since I had no idea of what they saw since it was so different from how I felt. I had helped plan the graduation party earlier in the week and I quietly decided not to go.

A lot of my classmates checked in with me. A lot of them offered their feedback on what had happened and on me as a person. None of them claimed personal experience of me being intimidating and some seemed as baffled about it as I felt. In these conversations, I realized that these were the type of friends I could expect to be honest with me and that these people genuinely knew me and cared about me and were listening generously and answering as best they could, with answers that weren't always easy to give. I had been feeling like I had made a terrible mistake coming out of my shell and their friendship made me feel like I hadn't.

Students began to file in for the community class. Regular clients who I help when working, people from classes I helped assist, and coworkers of mine all came to support us. When I would thank them for showing up, they would look warmly into my eyes and tell me they wouldn't miss it or they were excited for me or wanted to celebrate with me, all people I had only met over the past few months. I didn't feel very intimidating.

When it was my turn, I got up and did fine. Did I dazzle anyone with serious from the heart inspiration? No, I'm sure I did not. But my voice did not shake, I stood tall, I moved people through the poses with ease, and I felt okay doing it in front of a room full of 70 people after one of the most emotionally unpleasant weekends I've ever had.

I feel good about where I am as a beginning yoga teacher (who still doesn't want to actually teach yoga). My personality will come through when I actually have the opportunity...and a few positive chances to get it "right" won't hurt either (if I ever decide I want to teach, in which case please remind me that I don't want to teach.)

When being called up to get my certificate, one of my teachers announced that I had blown her away with my teaching that day and all four of the teachers hugged me and said nice things and one of them whispered "I love you" and I know she meant it.

My classmates and I all hugged as a group and individually, warm, real hugs. My husband and sons brought me roses. I went to the graduation party and we had dinner and drinks and took pictures and laughed and joked and hugged, and hugged, and hugged some more.

I am not intimidating.

There may be people out in the world who experience that and that's fine--I don't love that, obviously, but I'm not taking that on as being a problem about me or something I need to fix. I'm also not too worried about my authenticity. Maybe I am missing some big lesson or opportunity here but I'm just going to be me--my normal, slightly improved self, and continue celebrating the few times in life I do get it "right" in spite of my insincere promise to give that up.

I'm going to give up trying to interpret what it meant and accept it as true to some degree but not an accurate reflection of how I make others feel or any indicator of my ability to teach a yoga class.

Which I'm not going to do.

But maybe that was the lesson after all. I don't know. It doesn't matter. I'm happy! I'm done! I'm a yoga teacher. The end.


And exhale.

10 comments:

KatiePerk said...

Way to go!

Ashley said...

So awesome! You are only intimidating because you are a strong minded, outspoken, beautiful babe!

Namaste.

Nova said...

You rule! Congratulations!

Cindy * Daisies and Crazies said...

Ashley, I'm confused. That whole thing sounds awful. Was it supposed to be tough love or something? Well you did it. I'm sure your three men are so proud of you! And your shirt cracks me up. xo

Preppy Pink Crocodile said...

You're awesome! I just had no idea becoming a yoga teacher involved so much emotional turmoil. Sort of makes me wonder if doctors and classroom teachers and national government might actually change the world if they had to endure even half of what you just did. I'm crazy pants impressed. Way to go!

KK

Ashley McCann said...

Yes, I think it was tough love and in the moment it was awful. I know they love me, though.

PPC, every time I have to deal with the admin at either of my kids schools, I think they should have had to do this. I've also told the kids I won't pay for college unless they go through yoga teacher training first, regardless of their relationship to yoga.

I don't think becoming a yoga teacher is always like this--my studio prides themselves on being the Harvard of teacher training and our program is run by a former social worker. I felt like the yoga was almost secondary, that it was really about mucking out all of the "bad" stuff.

Amber Oler said...

Congrats! That is so awesome! I can't imagine the sheer terror of doing that so I seriously have respect for you to push yourself so hard. Good job!

Destingirls said...

Wow this yoga thing sounds really hard. I had no idea. I don't think I could do it!

bookstalker said...

When I was going through a really horrible time in my life a few years ago, I sent you, a total stranger, an email in which I asked you a question but also told you about said horrible time. I did not and do not know you and I am soooooo not that person to reach out like that. But I somehow knew that I could. And you wrote me back the kindest email, even though you didn't have to and I probably sounded crazy. Intimidating, my ass. I am sure you will be a wonderful teacher.

Ashley McCann said...

Thank you so much for your comment, Bookstalker! I had a rough weekend (in "real life" this time)and you made me feel so good! Glad I could help and thanks for returning the favor!