I’ll be the first to admit it. The ability to find a perfectly shorn piece of spandex that actually makes my brain wake up and fire the dusty synapse that says, “Damn, my butt looks GOOD,” is nothing short of a miracle. Said pants are like a Renoir for my ass. A Monet for my derrière. In the well-constructed, perfectly lit stage of a tiny wood laminate dressing room, I’m not really sure if it’s me or my reflection in the slimming mirrors that grabs for my plastic and charges $110 to a credit card as mindlessly as a zombie walking down the street… all in the name of my ego and my behind.
I’m probably the 1,001st person to comment on this week's more-than-odd commentary from the founder of one of the most iconic yoga brands today. To say that his comments are offensive is an understatement, and no, this isn't a blog about how I have decided to stop wearing my pants because of it (yet). But the issue at hand runs a good bit deeper than fabric thinness and concentration of fabric boogers (otherwise known as pilling) post-washing machine.
The pants, he says, fall short not because of their construction, but because of the person wearing them.
And why this unassuming woman’s fault? Because her thighs touch.
Albeit this is a really stupid thing to have slip from your mouth, as we saw last year with the outfall around Abercrombie (and let the record show, that little slip up cost them majorly). Like probably 95% of Americans (I’m making that number up), our thighs might actually touch, no matter how tall or wide we are, even when we’re standing still. God forbid we start actually moving - running, bending, jumping, or any of the other things you can see a modeled in these ads doing - and woah… your perfectionist pantalons wouldn’t know what hit them.
The filmed apology is worth some kudos. However, Mr. Wilson, when you ask me and all the other women viewers to stand by you and help “prove that the culture you have built cannot be chipped away,” I actually feel really sad.
You see, I like your pants just fine, but the culture is the problem. You are, as most businessmen might be, concerned with the bottom line, and even more differentiating between you and me is the simple fact that you are a man, so I do not expect you to understand. But your culture is the one of never quite there. Your culture is like the popular girl on the playground who knew your pants came from Kmart and hers were Calvin Klein. It is the culture of skinny. The culture of perfectionism. The culture of judgment. It is a fortress. It is exhausting.
And, call me crazy, but it has ZERO to do with yoga.
You see, here’s what really happened for me standing in your dressing room, as I prepared to de-virginize my closet with a pair of your pants. In the past, any situation involving looking in the mirror would have given my imagination full-speed ahead permission to trick my eyes, and consequently my self-worth, into warping the image in front of me – ME – into something resembling a stumpy ogre on steroids. The fact that I am 30 years old and just beginning to have a shopping experience that doesn’t end in a shame spiral because of the overwhelming presence of a size-2 gremlin dressed in Prada dancing on my shoulder telling me I’m too big… is ridiculous.
As someone who, like your company, has roots in Perfectionism (with a big P), my overwhelming need to people please, fear of being average (or worse, failure), and belief that I’m never quite there or never quite good enough has starved my potential and at times my body to the point of destruction. It's probably something I'll always struggle with, but, as any good perfectionist would, I pretend that’s not the case. Enough.
It’s taken years to find a chink in my armor, in to which the message that I’m strong, healthy and beautiful as is could even have space and path to sink in. Where did I finally find that crack? Yoga. My mat is my place to pour out my imperfections, define my resiliency, test my limits. It lets me see who I am in every moment more clearly, and choose if that’s who I really want to be. And, as a woman, of course I’d appreciate that I look “good” while I’m at it, thank you very much.
So back to standing in the dressing room. You know what was there? Potential, oddly enough. I felt excitement to move, flow, run and continue pushing this very vulnerable side of me who is still learning to love herself and trust her strength. And that had everything to do with the experiences and places and people I’d engage with through yoga… and nothing to do with whether I'd achieved a thigh gap.
I am NOT saying that I am beyond thinking about my body image - that would be a big fat lie. But the last thing I need is the image of a thigh gap invading the personal space I've worked so hard to create on my yoga mat.
So really, I’d like to suggest that this culture, in fact, does need to be chipped away. Because the chips at this particular culture actually let a little more personality, light and color shine through.
If I could use all of me to change one thing in this world, it would be to shift that part of every woman’s brain that is judging, belittling, stealing her potential away, and telling her that she is not ___________ enough. Without all that, do you know what we’d probably see? A new generation of women pushing their potential and kicking more ass than ever before… Because they knew they couldn’t fail. Because they knew they were enough. Because they knew they were beautiful.
We’d change the world. Could your pants handle that?
That’s the real opportunity here – for you, or for any other clothing brand. Stand up to the test of women who are getting ready to blow the roof off once we realize that we’re done being spoon-fed perfectionism. And if you’re not up to it, I’ll happily take the thigh-touching owner of this plastic card somewhere else.
(And last I checked, me and my lady friends, we make 80% of consumer decisions in America. So there’s that.)
“Ten years ago” hasn’t ever really felt like a long time passing until today, driving in the car. Thinking back, I couldn’t quite remember where I was or what I was doing when I turned 20. With friends? At university? I still don’t have a clue. Without a doubt I felt ready to be 30 – constantly characterized as an “old soul” – and had my sights fixated on working in the Peace Corp or being an intelligence officer with the CIA. (cough, cough)
|Research & Interviewing in Sinthou Malem, Senegal.|
So - The CIA. It’s all about the CIA. I come back to the states 20 lbs. lighter, break up with my boyfriend, graduate from college and am staring in to a future of interviews and waiting periods for security clearance.
While I’m waiting, I go to Colorado. I buy my first car (which I crash into a canyon 6 months later while listening to Dave Matthews) and drive across country to our family cabin. I get a job as a wedding planner across the river. Who knew? I love wedding planning.
I start 23 by calling my mom: “Mom, I’m not coming home.” I withdraw my app from the CIA. I start climbing, and running. I learn to not run on my toes like a ballerina. I love running so much that I run my first full marathon. I teach yoga at a local gym and to the kids climbing team. Life is full. My boyfriend moves to Colorado. I get engaged to youthful enthusiasm.
I turn 24 and spend a cold lonely winter running an entire lodge in the Rockies. I snowshoe to work. I love my job, but am bored to death and need something more. I put in my application to the Peace Corps. Say good-bye “forever” to Colorado. Move to Seattle until I have to leave for Africa. Then a friend comes back early from his term in the Peace Corps, and says, “Don’t do it.” I withdraw my app, and move back to Colorado. Boulder this time. I have a new job. I love it.
I meet a friend, who introduces me to a brother, who introduces me to a boyfriend. His name is Jonny. I’m smitten. A crazy lady in the park tells us we’ll be together forever, and we believe her. We travel the world in a year, move in to our new home while he is away on a climbing trip, and he never comes home. The day he dies I have a dream so vivid of him, I actually think he’s walked in to the house. I still think that’s what happened. His memorial is my 26th birthday.
I spend the holidays at home with my mom and dad. We spend New Year’s labeling the backs of family pictures stuffed in to shoe boxes. A few days later, I hug my dad goodbye and feel so intensely that it’s the last time I’ll ever see him, that I cry the whole way to the airport.
The phone rings at 5am a few mornings later – It’s my mom. “Your dad died.” I’m standing in the living room of my house in the dark and I can’t even cry or feel. By some great universal happening, Matt is in the airport when I go to fly home. He is going to China. We take tequila shots. And then another.
The funeral happens. There’s a military fly over and the family tries to cope with laughter. This grief feels different. I go back to Colorado to be with friends, decide to take life by the [insert descriptor], and get a tattoo. I start scuba diving, turn 27 and go to Mozambique for a month to dive. On the back end of that trip is another Burning Man and a best friend’s wedding – and on a Tuesday I decide to quit my job.
Three days later, I get the opportunity to do development work with a new nonprofit and sail. I leave Colorado, spend Christmas in the London airport eating sushi, fly to Namibia and sail across the Atlantic Ocean to Uruguay. I puke every single day, and sometimes multiple times a day. Once I puked purple. I learn all the constellations in the southern hemisphere, dive off the bow of the boat in golden sunsets and make life-long friends.
I’m staying in an apartment in Buenos Aires when one day a friend messages me and asks “Do you want to learn to fly?” Why yes. Yes, I do. I go to Florida to learn to hang glide and fall in love. One month later and trips to the South Pacific (me) and the Grand Canyon (him) under our belts, we meet up in L.A. to see if we really like each other. We do. Game on.
That was the summer I turned 28. I flew all over the west, learned about the rivers, got way in over my head several times, and blew my previous perception of myself to pieces. (Which is quite fun.) I open my consulting business and move to Baja for the winter to surf and learn to kiteboard. Kiting is a giggly sport. I feel like I’m dancing again. I fall in love with the water and the ocean in a new way.
Back to Montana. Get a new client – all women, so cool. Spend the summer flying, paddling and dancing. Montana grows on me a little more. I turn 29 and my favorite 9-year-old in the world decorates my cake with two entire bowls of rainbow sprinkles. Perfect.
That winter, we head to Baja again, and stepping off the plane, it smells like home immediately. Even the smell of coffee grinding in the morning had me jumping up and down in the kitchen. I spend my days working, kiting, learning Spanish and teaching yoga. I realize how much I miss teaching yoga. Friends come and friends go that winter and too quickly we are back in the states. Seth and I take our first “real” vacation in two years to the Caymans, and I realize how much I want to spend the rest of my life with this man.
The last couple weeks have been a whirlwind of preparation for Seth leaving on his trip to Africa, enjoying Montana summers and spending time with loved ones. We decide on a wedding date, and I think, Wow, you really do never know how things are going to line up.
Two days ago, right on cue, I find my first gray hair. I pluck it of course. Not yet, not yet.
And tomorrow, I turn 30. As the last few hours of my 20s come to a close, I realize that life has HAPPENED is such a big way for me in the last 10 years. Had you asked me then what I’d be doing and where I’d be now, I would have never in a million years guessed that it all would have transpired this way. I feel like I’ve been walking around in a bliss bubble the last couple of days, with awe and thankfulness busting out of every seam. To turn that page with so many loved ones and experiences woven in to who I am, I don’t feel expectation about what the next 10 years have to be like. I just feel like myself. And I think that’s the best thing that came out of my 20s.
FYI: Practicing yoga in the dark is hard.
It’s like that moment in a yoga class, when you’re twisted into some awkward standing balance sequence when your calf is already on FIRE and the teacher calmly suggests, “If you really want a challenge, try closing your eyes.” So you do, and you fall – magnificently – and you half-giggle, half-shrivel inside because while you’re slightly embarrassed, you don’t want everyone to see you taking yourself so seriously.
Yoga in the dark is just like that – over and over again.
Tonight I found myself there. What began as a “bright idea” sunset yoga session quickly ended when the insanity of the pinks and the last bit of golden cloud lining tiptoed in to the next time zone, and I was left standing on my mat in total darkness.
My balance was shot. I literally felt like I was at sea – wind milling my arms to keep balance, digging in to the mat desperately with my toes, but to no avail. To be fair to the experience, it was not so much “yoga,” as a semi-choreographed “experiment in falling and flailing” in the darkness.
It wasn’t exactly what I’d been hoping for. The turn of yet another year just a few days off, and the questions of “Where am I headed?” and “what exactly am I doing with my life?” were playing round and round on my “Questions Sara Prefers to Discuss Over Wine” record. They fired in every synapse in my body, and dripped gooey reflection from my mind. Yoga seemed the best thing available to maybe-hopefully-pretty-please get some answers flowing out of me.
These are some of the darkest days of the year. How ironic that they coincide with a time so deeply entrenched in goal setting and renewal. Goals that are typically of the fixing, improving, and perfecting variety. Goals that are about changing toward a brighter, better ideal… and by the same virtue, goals that are about saying “I am not that,” or “I will no longer do that,” or “I no longer see value in that.” We draw a line in the sand, and we push these pieces of ourselves away – cut them from our fabric of self and leave them chained behind at 11:59pm, December 31st.
But where’s the integrity in that? And is it really that easy? The millions of broken New Year’s resolutions each year tell me maybe not. What happens to our goals when we’re distracted, when we stumble, when we lapse in to the leftover holiday cookies (not that I’m speaking from experience or anything)? We slink backwards in to our darkness… lamenting but justifying the fact that we’ve failed once again.
All this flashes through my head as I pitch sideways out of my lunge. I look around me for something to cure my balance… a teacher to tell me it’s okay to turn the lights on outside, an excuse to back out of this magnificent flailing performance. But that’s the caveat to a home practice – it’s just your mat, the moment, and the voice inside your head that whispers, "Stay."
I get this image in my head of a fortune cookie paper I re-found just earlier today. It has to be about 11 years old now… or older… it lives in a bobby pin box from when I was wearing my hair in a ballet bun years ago. It says:
“For light, go directly to the source of the light, not any reflections.”
So wise, so simple. So TIMELY. On our mats or off, and no matter the time of year, where do we draw from when the lights go out to get through our life’s practice? Let us not walk over to the wall and turn on the light switch, flooding our experience with artificiality. Let us not turn toward over-indulgence to block out discomfort. Let us not fall into metaphor of darkness as something to be avoided, but as something that very truly should be respected as half of our everything: the night to our day, the yin to our yang, the question to our sureness.
Imagine doing ourselves the honor of looking inwardly for this light rather than to outside distractions. We wouldn’t need compliments or approval from others – we already know our true worth. We wouldn’t train our bodies to rely on some super extreme diet – we would already know our beauty. The need to constantly plugged in to everyone and everything would ease – we could already see connectedness.
If we did this moment by moment, the days, then the weeks, then the months would pass in the creation of a new habit… one of turning inward toward the light, and finding the dearest teacher we will every meet: ourselves. A teacher that asks not only that we fall, but asks that we fall INTO the unknown, the scary, the questionable... the darkness.
This New Year, let’s resolve to fall a bit more. To find our light, and find more of it, as we fall with grace in to the darkness – falling with love, and not fear. Falling with grace, not perfection. The dark is not that scary (unless you are, in fact, afraid of the dark... in which case your proven options of success are to 1) find a cape, or 2) put your big girl panties on). Find that little voice inside you that encourages you to leap, dance, tiptoe, or boogie in to the unknown.
So that we can…
Shake it out.
The more we can get to know the darkness, the better we understand it. The more inwardly we know ALL of ourselves, the greater opportunity we have outwardly to expand. What better gift can we give ourselves, and the world?
We all have infinite love, infinite potential and infinite depth - each and every one of us. There's no more critical time than now to fully, deeply acknowledge that. So, here’s my challenge to you:
Go far, go deep.
Take your light there. Grow it.
Discover your full spectrum.
Paint the darkness with it…
After all, the world could really use some brighter colors.
I had the craziest dream last night.
I dream a lot, often and always.
They are typically lucid, colorful, and instinctual.
Sometimes, in the early waking hours after an intense night of dreaming, it’ll take me an hour of tossing and turning, or at least the consumption of an entire French press, to shake out the dreamscape from my lifescape. The dialogue in my head usually goes like this…
I’m sorry to break it to you, but all that time you just spent packing? Well, it didn’t really happen.
Shoot. Do I like Thomas Markham? I don’t think I like him, but he was just so nice to me in my dream. I think I have a crush on him. What am I going to do when I see him in the lunch room today? Shoot, shoot, shoot.
No, you can’t levitate off the ground by inhaling.
No, Dad didn’t really come back for just 24-hours… but yeah, maybe you did actually get to see him last night.
You get the point.
Last night started with a green parrot. Green, as I identified on my handy-dandy bird identification dream card, with a skinny red line marking across the entire upper reach of his wing span… yellow dots to accent, and a bit of faded white between the red and the rest of it’s green body.
I knew the bird was a sign, because I had already dreamed about him earlier… not on some other night, but within the dream I was currently in. A dream within a dream… the bird was like an omen.
Deep in my stomach, I knew I had to take the bird.
The complicated part was that 1) the bird was severely injured, and 2) I was getting ready to leave some country in South America back to the states. In effect, in choosing to keep the bid, I was agreeing to smuggle the thing back in to the states.
I really didn’t want to injure it more. In front of me, the parrot held its left wing to its side delicately, fluttering his right wing for balance. There was red string tied off at his shoulder to keep things stabilized.
Rationality aside, I packed the bird. In my suitcase first for volume and breathing room, and then reconsidered in to the pocket of my carry-on backpack. Enter flash scenes of getting through security, and fear over potentially being caught and forced to separate with the bird.
Then… Home. Safe.
Yet now, scrounging in the depth of the bag I can’t seem to find the bird. I unzip it entirely to lay open, the contents facing the artificial light in my bedroom. Nothing. Then, out from under a book and some papers flitters a tan and green butterfly.
In my head, it’s obviously the parrot. I don’t even stop to think about how strange this is that the bird has morphed life forms. I’m more reassured knowing that the tiny red string is still around its left wing.
I’m so happy he’s still alive. My butterfly. I place him up on a ledge in a little square paper house I’ve made for him, where he’ll be safe.
The next time I come back in the room, I look up in the little paper house. The butterfly’s wings are on the floor… tan, dried and still. The red string is lying there too.
It’s about all I can do to choke back tears. Why? I think. Why would that happen?
Then from inside the little paper house things start to grow. A green fern slowly unfurls and fills the space inside the house, poking its fingers just outside to glow silvery from the light. Looking closer inside, I can see the home has now been filled with things that felt good… soft things, small budding ferns and succulents, and flecks of gemstones.
Just then, from behind one of the leaves, out crawls the body of the butterfly. It moves spritely, with purpose and intent. He’s been busy – cultivating, creating, dreaming.
And only then did it click: his wings hadn’t fallen off, but the butterfly had chosen to let them go.
He looks at me just then, and if butterfly bodies could smile, he did before crawling up to the ceiling and weaving himself in to a cocoon. Silver, glowing with green and blue threads. Cut off from the world at first glance, but transparent enough to see, the butterfly became the glimmer of a secret of something much bigger, and much more beautiful, yet to come.
Now here I sit. Something left to ponder in my waking hours.