on the endless African sky

It’s our first night at Sentrim Lodge, the impeccable tent camp we will call home for our week in Amboseli National Park, about five hours south of Nairobi. We’ve just finished our first of many dinners consisting of kuku (chicken), rice, veggies, chapatti, and potatoes. A bonfire crackles and curves heavenward beneath the endless African sky about 40 yards from the outdoor dining hall. We step out from under the thatched dome roof to take our seats by the fire and look up. And it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before in my life. The sky over the savannah suffers no light pollution. There are no street lights or skyscrapers competing for real estate. All I can see are stars. I’m looking up at a vast canopy of infinite twinkling, and even now the tears return as I think of how incomparably beautiful it is and how tiny I felt underneath it. I remember distinctly thinking, “Do not forget what this looks like. Do not forget this feeling. Whatever else you forget, do not forget this.” And for a moment, my legs stopped moving toward the fire because even they were overcome by the magic of that perfect sky.

And then I heard music. Motteti, the self professed, more than slightly inebriated “Guitar Man” at Sentrim, was playing for us by the fire, and the group was beginning to dance. We danced and sang and circled the bonfire, under the thicket of stars, to the tune of “In the Jungle” for nearly an hour. We laughed until our sides ached, and danced until our legs cramped, and sang until our voices grew raw- partially from the smoke, but mostly because we sang without regard to pitch, with total abandon. After an hour or so, we realized that “In the Jungle” was one of only three songs in Motteti’s repertoire, and we would burst into unstoppable fits of giggling every night that followed, when those chords rang out in the dining hut and Motteti began to sing.

I sat on the back porch of our tent that night, after the lights went out, and watched the stars take their turn dancing until the sound of approaching hyenas hurried me back inside. What struck me then, and has weaved through my every memory of those 19 days in Kenya, is how much beauty exists without my seeing it. Those stars are out every night, even in Nashville, I just can’t always see them. Over here, the light of the stars is edged out by the noisy and pushy radiant energy of urban life. We have high rise apartments, neighborhoods lined with street lights, neon signs, and every manner of artificial light, and the stars don’t put up a fight. They still shine, we’ve just filled the air with so much nonsense that we can’t see them. There is so much beauty right over our heads because, in spite of us, they don’t cease to shine. 

Every day in Kenya, I saw beauty that exists even when my life is so noisy and busy that I can’t see it. I found joy that has existed all along, I just hadn’t stopped checking my social media accounts for long enough to feel it in a while. I savored quiet that is possible anywhere, when I can sit still long enough to hear it. During my time in Kenya, we made space for the good things to become bigger than the bad things. Generosity, abundance, service, laughter, yoga, paint covered fingers, dust caked pants, nature, sky, community, equality, “You first”, “Thank you”, inside jokes, music, Swahili… we intentionally created space to say YES to these things. Saying YES to these naturally meant saying NO to fear, anxiety, stress, “Me first”, guilt, nerves, and all manner of things inauthentic or dishonest. The light that shines when a group of people commit to create that kind of life is possible anywhere, if we open our eyes and really look. It’s just like the stars, you see. The good is always there, shining all around us, if we get to a place where we can see it.

Today, I experience this beauty over coffee with a friend who has also felt the deep Kenya love, a woman I understand a little more after recalling stories from our shared journeys. I feel it in the tears that come, faster now, as I thank God for bringing Julie, Manny, Irene, Billy, Samson, Kenny, Sara, and Dennis into my life. I hear it in the lilting accent of a young Kenyan man in a video I’ve just seen online, that accent taking me back to hours of souls connecting over conversations with my new friends. I smell it in the one pair of shorts that I can’t bring myself to wash- shorts I wore in Kenya that still smell like fire, sky, and earth.

I may not be able to see the sky swimming with stars every night, but I’ll look for the beauty in each moment today, trusting that they’re still shining.

Advertisements

the next step

In the week or so since my post all about the sex, I have read stories on top of stories from you. Stories from men, women, gay, straight, lesbian, virgin, non virgin, married, single, divorced, widowed, young, not so young, leaders in the church, and spouses of leaders in the church confirmed this to me: We are hungry to talk about this. Some of us are fearful, some are fed up, but everyone who emailed, called, texted, or messaged me with your thoughts said “Keep me in the loop. I’m in.”

It’s taken me over a week to follow up on the blog because: I’ve wanted to write back to each of you who reached out to me individually, and that took a minute. And, honestly, I haven’t really known what to follow up with. I have more questions than answers, and hearing your stories helped me see that lots of us feel the same way. I believe that a dialogue is opening up, and I want to keep it going. The questions aren’t just about sex and when we can have it and who we can have it with and how often or how little, although that’s where this all started. Those questions are the ones that come later in the discussion about what we believe about ourselves, who we are in the world, and what we believe about who God is and what He says. Those questions, for many of us, are the first ones. Questions about sex, relationships, marriage, gender, parenting, money, or whatever else can’t even begin to enter the dialogue until we have a better working understanding of how we feel and what we believe about the more foundational stuff. Aside from feeling woefully unqualified to facilitate that discussion, I’ve been waiting for the most effective and appropriate venue to make itself known. Is it a blog? A coffee shop? A living room? A study group? We need a safe, comfortable, and open space, not just physically but spiritually and emotionally, where we can dialogue, read, pray, and listen to one another’s stories. I didn’t know what that place was, but I knew that I couldn’t force it. It would have to be organic. I heard from so many women who feel disconnected from other women, feel judged, pressured, and inadequate. You want to share, you want to listen, but that kind of vulnerability can’t be forced. It has to be nurtured and drawn out in a safe space. And, then…

IF: Gathering is “a fresh, deep, honest space for the next generation of women to wrestle with essential questions that plague their generation.” It’s a conference being held in Austin Texas for the first time this February. Some of my favorite authors and bloggers have come together to create a space where women wrestle with some of the most vulnerable, difficult questions we ask ourselves and dialogue with other women to hear their stories and share our own. I thought about hopping a flight to Austin to check it out, but tickets to attend sold out in 42 minutes. Because the hunger to be part of this dialogue is so intense, they launched IF: Local. IF: Local is a network of gatherings of women around the world who will come together to live stream the event and have their own living room discussions together based on what comes up at the conference and what comes up in their gatherings. There are hundreds of them. I’d like to host one.

If you live in the Nashville area, want to connect in a deep, fresh, honest way with some like minded women, and enjoy delicious snacks, email me (daryn.jackson@gmail.com). The event is a little over 24 hours, and I’ll open my house for the whole thing. It begins at 2pm on Friday, February 7 and the final session ends at 5pm on Saturday, February 8th. Sessions will be live-streamed for the length of the event, and we’ll take all the same breaks they take to eat, talk, write, and sleep. Come for a couple of hours or bring an overnight bag and stay. Take the afternoon off work and treat this like a personal mini-retreat, or come out for dinner and dialogue on Friday night and head home after. Fill up an entire journal or just listen. If we could get two or three or a dozen open hearted women in the same space for this… my heart just about burst open at the thought of it.

Check out the website for IF, read this blog from Jen Hatmaker to learn a little bit more about why I’m personally so excited about it, and think about joining us. The best thing in the world would be if we had more women than I have beds, and we spill over into each other’s homes. I’ll have coffee, tea, goat cheese, jam, bacon wrapped dates, crackers, chocolate, and a ton of blankets. Bring your stories, your questions, and an open mind and heart. Let’s get brave.

D

i said “stairs” but what I really meant was “sex”

I just wrote a sweet, palatable blog about goals and dreams, because goals and dreams are important but mostly because I didn’t want to write about this. I wanted to write about anything but this thing that’s been turning around in my brain and my heart lately.

A friend gave me a book for Christmas, tiny beautiful things:  advice on love and life from Dear Sugar, and now I can’t not write about this thing that is breaking my heart. The book is a collection of letters to Sugar, an online advice columnist who was for years only known as Sugar until she revealed herself to be Cheryl Strayed, an author I really admire and love to read. One of the letters to Sugar was from a young writer searching for the words to put on paper, feeling like she wouldn’t be taken seriously because of her sex. Sugar said, ultimately,

You need to {write}, dear sweet arrogant beautiful crazy talented tortured rising star glowbug. That you’re so bound up about writing tells me that writing is what you’re here to do. And when people are here to do that, they almost always tell us something we need to hear. I want to know what you have inside you. I want to see the contours of your second beating heart. So write… Not like a girl. Not like a boy. Write like a motherfucker.”

And that last line made me weep and also made something inside me rise up like a damn warrior because it has so much to do with what’s been breaking me open, lately. You see, lately, I’ve felt so tremendously let down by what the church has done about women. I grew up 100% all in when it came to church. Every Sunday and Wednesday, every youth camp, private school… the whole deal. What’s more, the older I get, the more I love Jesus. Not in a “WWJD” bracelet kind of way, but in a total adoration of his radical compassion, humility, kindness and way of life kind of way. That man… I love that man. I love how He lived and what He taught, but what His people have done about women, specifically women’s sexuality, tears me wide open.

My mother is a brilliant, kind, tough as nails woman and she is a full time pastor at her church, holding a place for women as she serves on the board and ministers to the people who attend there. I am proud of her and hopeful because of her. She taught a sermon once about the woman who was caught in the act of adultery and brought to Jesus. You can find the story in John 8:1-11. This woman lived in a time when only the woman involved in a sexual act was dragged from the bed into the street to be shamed and punished by the religious men. They dragged her, naked, to stand before Jesus and asked what should be done to her. According to the law of Moses? Death by stoning. This is the famous moment where Jesus stooped down, drew in the dust (What did he write??!), and said that whoever was without sin should cast the first stone. As great as that moment is, what He did next is even better. He waited until everyone left and only the two of them remained to straighten up and look at her. When I have heard this story preached in the past, it was always about his forgiveness of her sin and putting everyone in their place. When my mother taught this story, as only a woman could, it became about that moment when he looked at her. There was no one else there when he finally looked up. While the others leered, stared, and picked up stones, he showed her the respect to look away. All of those mens’ eyes were on her, until they weren’t anymore. When they went away, that is when Jesus met her gaze. Not while others were leering and condemning, but when he could look at her knowing that His eyes were the only ones she saw. I feel certain He wasn’t ogling her, either. I know He looked her straight in the eye, restoring dignity and respect to a moment that had been full of lust and shame just minutes before, and He asked her where her condemners were. He asked her. Just moments before, men shouted judgment at her. They hurled condemnation at her, but Jesus asked a question. In her moment of deepest shame, anger, and vulnerability He asked. When she said they were no longer there, He said “Neither do I condemn you.” He did not say that she was wrong and He was forgiving her anyways. He didn’t say that they were right and He was giving her a free pass. He didn’t patronize or belittle her by asserting his authority and letting her off the hook. He looked her in the eye and said, “Neither do I condemn you.” He never judged or condemned her to begin with.

Oh, sweet Jesus. If only we could see women with those same eyes. Instead we still tell them to be virginal and submissive. We still tell them that if they take a wrong step, they’ll be the ones “caught in the act.” We still tell them that their bodies belong to the men they marry and no one else. We still hold the virgin up as the most pure version of a woman, and make it clear that anything less is dirty and in need of a man’s forgiveness. We still tell women who they are, who they should be, and how they should behave. When they turn out not to be what the religious leaders say they should be, we hurl judgment at them. We tell them it was their fault because they weren’t modest or sweet or strong willed enough. It breaks my heart to see women told their worth, the best part of themselves, the most holy and sacred thing they have to give is sex, and sex only to their husbands. We are so much more than our vaginas, and my heart breaks for the girls who have been set up for shame and guilt by the religious leaders of our day.

Organized religion is fascinated with what it considers sexual sin, particularly that of women. We’re told from our first days in youth group that we should save sex for marriage, how our bodies belong to our future husbands, and that our virginity is the greatest gift we can give a man. Why all the fascination with young girls’ sexuality in the first place? Placing such an emphasis on virginity sexualizes young girls just as much as any video on MTV.  So much about being a young Christian woman revolves around being a virgin, and learning how to be a good Christian girlfriend, and about healthy marriages and how the man is the head of the household.  We’re taught about Jesus and the bride of Christ and how we should feel thankful that a man would one day come for us like Jesus came for the Church, in spite of her flaws and sin. Women, the bride, we’re the dirty ones. It’s the woman that needs rescuing in this paradigm. I get the metaphor. I don’t love it, but I get it. I’m tired of all the assumptions and implications that have been conjured up because of it, though. I’m tired of being told that my worth is directly related to my sexual status, my interactions with men, my relationships with men, and my beliefs about men. And I know this isn’t just a Church issue, it’s everywhere.

We’re taught by church, school, and even the likes of Britney Spears to save ourselves for our husbands, lest we present ourselves as impure. (Remember pre-Justin Britney, marketed as the sexy virgin?) At the same time, we’re told that if we don’t look a certain way- specifically, sexy, skinny, and smooth- we aren’t worth that much. Act like a virgin, look like a slut. For whom? Who benefits from this insane dichotomy? Certainly not girls and women. I haven’t been a “virgin” in a very long time, and I resent the idea that the state of my hymen determines my morality, or lack thereof. I also worry that the generations of young girls being taught to save themselves at all costs, many even pledging their virginity to their fathers, are being set up for shame, frustration, and in many cases where kids are getting married at 19 and 20 so they can have guilt free sex, divorce.

There has to be another way to talk about this. We have got to start talking honestly about sex, and how it’s sometimes incredible and sometimes not. How having sex before marriage doesn’t make a girl dirty, or less, or impure, or damaged. How having an empowered, self-respecting view of sexuality means that some of us will be virgins when we get married and some of us won’t, but that one group isn’t inherently better or more worthy than the other. If we keep telling young girls that their identity and worth is wrapped up in their sexual status, then what are we telling them about their intelligence? Their talents? Their work ethic? Their passions? Their art? Their ability to affect incredible change in the world? The possibilities open to them to be anything in the world they want to be because right now they are more empowered and free than they’ve ever been in history? If we say that being a virgin matters most, we’re going to continue the virgin/slut war and these girls could miss out on the incredible potential they have to be so much more.

I’m interested in an open, messy, compassionate, mercy-filled dialogue about sex and sexuality and feminism and faith where there isn’t one right answer. Where there is room for empathy, nuance, and shades of grey. If I have learned anything about sex since I started having it, it’s that it is anything but black and white. I haven’t myself found a space within The Church to have this dialogue without feeling like the very odd woman out. So, I’m asking you, interwebbers, for your thoughts. If you’re convinced that you’re absolutely right and have this thing all figured out and want to let the rest of us in on the secret, please refrain from commenting. You know that thing in improv comedy where the first rule is that you can’t say “No”? This is like that. Telling everyone “how it is” is exactly like saying “No” in improv. It shuts the whole thing down. What are your questions? Thoughts? Honestly. Submit your comments below, and we’ll have a chat. Or, email me if you want your questions anonymously brought to the discussion for feedback: Daryn.jackson@gmail.com Based on what kind of response this post gets, I’ll write more and we can keep exploring together. Or, maybe I’ll keep writing even if I hear crickets because this is really important to me right now.

I’m interested in looking each other in the eye, like Jesus did, without judgment or condemnation. I hope you’ll join the discussion.

Stairs

Because I am a person who loves lists, goal setting, and making plans, New Years is one of my favorite times of the year. I don’t think it’s futile or a waste of time to make resolutions, I think it’s freakin great. People deciding to make themselves better, save money, learn a language, pick up an instrument, be nicer, eat less crap, drink more water… I love it all. I keep a list of personal and financial goals all year but New Years bring this solidarity, like a victorious fist in the air across the entire world!

I’m watching early episodes of ‘The Office’ today while I get some things done around the house, and I just saw the episode titled ‘The Merger’, when the Scranton and Stamford branches merge and we see Andy Bernard in the Scranton office for the first time. He tells us his plan to take over the office and says “I’m always thinking one step ahead. Like a carpenter… who builds stairs.” One of my favorite Andy quotes, it makes me laugh every single time. Ready for the leap? I also love this thought, from Dr. King, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” New Years is a time when we’re all focused on the staircase, and I think that’s a really good thing. While there are a few things that I’m jaded by, things like watching the news, scrolling through Facebook after a cultural or political scandal, and those God awful commercials about puppy mills, New Years resolution making is not one of those things. I still believe it’s good to reevaluate your life and make a plan to become your best self, even if you know you’ll need a reminder in a few weeks or months. That’s why God invented Lent.

Growing up, practicing yoga, and having entrepreneurial parents who “don’t take no crap off of nobody” (insane amounts of cool points if you can tell me who said that) has taught me that life doesn’t happen on accident. Things don’t “work themselves out”, people work things out. Life doesn’t usually “fall into place”, people first work hard and sometimes get lucky but mostly where they end up is directly related to the amount of passion, effort, and time they spent getting there. So, yeah, I think it’s incredibly beneficial to get intentional about what you hope to get done in your life at the beginning of the year. Setting goals, even if you don’t actively pursue all of them at the same time, sets you in the frame of mind to align your decisions with who you want to be and where you want to go. In my early 20s and every year since, I have set an intention to one day run my own business. Did I know what it would look like? Absolutely not. Did I know how or when or where it would happen? Not a chance. But, my mind and heart were set in that direction so when it happened, although it seemed like the opportunity fell in my lap, it was really the result of years of making choices that prepared me for this. I came back to that intention every year, said yes to some opportunities, said no to others, and now I’m running a yoga studio. Truth? There are more things that I don’t know than things that I do, but there’s a lot of freedom in not knowing what you don’t know. I get to dream really, really big and go after it without the inhibitions that come with the knowledge of “How it’s supposed to be done.” I’m constantly vision casting and planning and dreaming and I’m so glad I don’t have to fight thoughts of exactly how or why it won’t work or didn’t work for someone else. Because, guess what? It’s working. It’s happening right now.

Want to get out of debt? Get healthy? Run a business? Buy a house? Write a book? Learn French? Practice yoga? (I know a guy…) Write it down. Then, write it down again. Next year, write it down again. Keep writing it down and putting it in front of your face and live your life on purpose. Don’t take no crap off of nobody. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Don’t play games or make yourself small so that other people feel less threatened by your big, awesome dreams. Be like a carpenter who builds stairs, and keep taking steps even if you can’t see exactly where they’re headed, yet.

Faith is not complacent; faith is action. You don’t have faith and wait. When you have faith, you move. – Betty Eadie

Your journey has molded you for your greater good, and it was exactly what it needed to be. Don’t think that you’ve lost time. There is no short-cutting to life. It took each and every situation you have encountered to bring you to the now. And now is right on time. – Asha Tyson

The only thing that I see that is distinctly different about me is that I’m not afraid to DIE on a treadmill. You might have more talent than me, you might be smarter than me, but if we get on a treadmill together, there are two things: 1- You’re getting off first. OR 2- I’m gonna die. It’s really that simple.- Will Smith

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”Mark Twain

 

 

 

 

road warrior turned full time yogi

From high school until last month, I have been on the go. With the exception of a year and a half during which I nannied and remained fairly geographically stagnant, I moved around a lot for work and for fun. I worked the Christian conference circuit for years as a sales rep for my father’s former software company, MediaShout. For my first event at a conference in Atlanta, I worked the line “I’m only 12 years old and I can do it! You will be great at this!” The company sent me on my first solo sales gig before I was old enough to drive a car, much less take out a rental. In college, I remember a friend- who might have been more had I been around often enough to let the chemistry happen- tell me he couldn’t keep up with my crazy schedule. In the fall of 2010 I started traveling with Rachel’s Challenge as a seasonal speaker and by 2013 I was on the road full time, year round. I remember exactly where I was when I got the call offering me a full time speaking position. Dream come true. I loved it. LOVED it. I looked forward to hitting the road, as hotels and airports began to feel like living rooms. Road Warrior, worn as a badge of honor, can only be claimed by the few who know what it feels like to arrive at an airport and have no idea where you are. I wear it proudly. This life of travel, speaking, and logging miles was my 5 year plan. Well, you know what they say about plans.

Early in 2013, I sat in the parking lot of a Chipotle somewhere in Ohio in the middle of a blizzard when I received a call from my dad. “How serious are you about this yoga thing?” I laughed and said, “Pretty serious.” I completed my teacher training in 2012, and mom and I daydreamed about how neat it would be if someday we had a place where yoga, community, health, hot tea, and our family could all exist together. It was a fairly undefined dream, but one that came up pretty often. When I completed my teacher training, I had to immediately put in a pin in that part of my life because I was on the road so much. It would be there waiting when I was ready for it. “Well,” dad said, “Make some phone calls. It’s time.” Later that week, we had a location. 2 months later, we were open for business.

Sometimes, really incredible things land in your lap at the most bizarre time. I was finally in a position that paid me to travel and get on stage to tell stories that changed people. The work Rachel’s Challenge does is changing school culture and saving the lives of teenagers all over the country, and I was part of it. On top of doing work that mattered and fulfilled me, I was financially secure. I knew what it felt like to be unsure of how the money for bills would come through, and I wanted to coast. I wanted to enjoy the stability for a while. We brought an incredibly competent team of teachers into Unity Yoga Room, and together mom and I worked with them to get our baby on her feet. I would stay on the road to manage scheduling, staffing, and operations from a distance, mom would take care of the behind the scenes moving parts and all of the details that I couldn’t see, and our team would teach and hold space for this thing we wanted to create. It worked. We created something completely new to our community, and the deeper we moved I realized how much this place meant not only to my family but to the people who were carving a place there for themselves. We had something special. Then, something crazy happened. It got harder and harder for me to leave.

Over the past few years nothing- not buying a home, not looking at engagement rings with the man I thought I’d marry, nothing- tempered my ache to hit the road. She always called me back out… until Unity. For the first time, I didn’t want to leave. For weeks, I couldn’t stand the thought of leaving Rachel’s Challenge. It wasn’t about the security anymore, some of my closest friends are at Rachel’s Challenge. The people who know me best in the world, the friends I have made as an adult, these people are my family now, my fellow road warriors. I couldn’t stomach the idea of leaving and, in fact, wept openly at the thought of it. But, something else was growing and it was getting harder and harder to be away from home. I had a conversation one night in November and asked one of my RC brothers to promise me, through ugly cry tears and irrational fears, that we would still all have each other if our work arrangements ever changed. “I know it’s stupid, but I need to hear you say it,” I cried. With tender compassion and a little tough love, he assured me I was being ridiculous and of course we would. (Thank you, thank you, thank you.) The next day, I got a call saying that Rachel’s Challenge needed to eliminate several full time positions, and mine was one of them. Remember what they say about plans?

That call, had it come just a day earlier, might have sent me into a tailspin of panic. Timing. Not only was I just assured that the relationships I’ve made exist outside of any construct of work, but I knew exactly where I was supposed to be. The decision was made for me. I will still get to do a few events every now and then for Rachel’s Challenge, but most of my time moving forward will be spent creating something special at Unity Yoga Room. In the end, it’s all about the people, anyways.

So, for now, I am spending some much needed time at home. I’m putting a pin in my road warrior badge, because I know it will be waiting for me when it’s time to put it on, again. Now, I know exactly where I am. I get spontaneous coffee with friends. When I get a call that a friend is in the neighborhood and wants to swing by to say hey, I’m around for it. I go to dinner after yoga with hilarious, kind, authentic people. I go to birthday and Christmas parties. Because I’m not on the road, I can do something I haven’t been able to do in a long time- invest in the people around me. Learn from them. Laugh with them. Practice yoga and life with them. I’m not constantly headed the airport anymore, and it’s okay. It’s good, even. The people I met, learned from, and loved at Rachel’s Challenge are still part of my life. What I get to do now is create a space for similar relationships to grow at Unity. It’s sacred work, this business of loving humans. It looks very different for me now, but it is very much the same. When you strip away the architecture, what’s left is the people. The people. And I have some of the very best people.

a reminder for the holidays

This post is from a couple of years ago, but I need the reminder every once in a while. Maybe, as we enter the season of feasting, you do, too.

_____________________________________________

It’s happening. I can feel it. And I’m panicked.

The squishy surplus of my hips is beginning to creep up over the top of my jeans, the dreaded “muffin top” slowly rising. Just a month ago, a Godly and saintly man at church complimented my newfound skinniness and I gratefully relished the recognition after weeks of rigorous hot yoga practice. And now, it’s back. I’ve been on the road, or had company in town, or spent Thanksgiving- well- doing what you do on Thanksgiving, for weeks solid and neglected my consistent practice. And I feel like my body is betraying me. Seriously?! I can’t have just one month of effortless thin? I worked my butt off for weeks and after just over a month with a jam packed schedule, I’m slipping into self criticism again. I’m panicking over how nice I may or may not look in leggings that I don’t even own.

More than my annoyance with my waistline is my annoyance with the chatty, critical, incessant woman in my brain telling me my waistline is a problem. It’s maddening, the voice in my head. It should give me some degree of comfort to know that women in every corner of the world hear the same voice, but that’s just starting to make me angry. When did we allow this voice to get so loud? When did I give this horrible woman in my head permission to tell me just exactly what is wrong with my body?

Your shoulders are too broad.

Your back isn’t defined enough.

Your tummy is too squishy. Seriously. The rest I can live with, but please do something about that tummy.

Your hips. Just… fix them.

Um… excuse me?! Sometimes I think about what I ate in high school and it literally makes me laugh. I remember near daily trips to Taco Bueno for Mexi Dips and Chips and frozen lemonade and never giving the indulgence a second thought. Granted, I worked out every day in high school and had the metabolism of, well, a high schooler. But, still. 

What I miss is not the frequent greasy splurge, but the fact that I once enjoyed food without fretting about calories and fat content. Somewhere in between college and the real world, I gained about fifteen pounds. When I’m thinking clearly, this hardly troubles me at all. Honestly. At nearly 5′ 10″, a fifteen pound buffer (By the way, I should confess that I just accidentally typed “butter” instead of “buffer.” Will someone please sort that out for me?) isn’t terribly discouraging. It’s barely a pantsize difference. It’s when that fifteen becomes more like twenty that things start to get a little hairy. Literally. I shave my legs less when I feel like they aren’t worth showing off. And I’m sick of it.

So I’m speaking up. For all of the women who have ever cursed the person who first used the term “saddlebag” outside of the farm. For all of the women who count calories. For all of the women who try on skinny jeans and feel inadequate because they’re not a size 2. For any woman who has ever thrown up after a perfectly good meal just so it wouldn’t settle on her hips. For the supermodels- yes, the supermodels- who are told every day what they need to tighten, tone, or trim. Because, as brutal as the voice in my head is I cannot imagine what it would feel like hearing it out loud. For the little girl who has a mother who puts her in sexy clothes. She shouldn’t have to worry about how she looks in that outfit that her mother only puts her in because she’s too old for it herself. For the mother who doesn’t feel attractive anymore. For the thirteen year old who can’t keep up with how different her body looks every year. For the gym dweller who runs and lifts and squats because she is terrified of putting on one single extra pound.

THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU.

I put it in caps because I know how loud that voice is. I want to be louder. Your butt is perfect on you. Your hips are perfect for salsa dancing and making babies. Your arms look like those of Roman goddesses. Your legs are strong and graceful. Your feet are so much nicer to look at than those of your hairy boyfriend- who loves your butt, by the way. Your tummy is the center of your strength. It literally holds you up and keeps you alive. Babies grow in there. Your tummy is the most powerful instrument in nature, and it looks exactly the way it is supposed to look. Your face is not off center, or too small, or overwhelmed by your nose or forehead or eyes. It’s exactly right. There is nothing wrong with you.

So, I’m going to eat my pasta. I’m going to walk around my hotel room naked as a jaybird tonight, and I’m not going to avoid the mirrors. Because there is nothing wrong with me.

And, I’m happy to say that the voice in my head just shut up.

Daryn

where i come from

Throughout my twenties I’ve developed a very specific set of crisis management skills, and almost all of them involve some combination of chocolate, wine, and cheese. Going through a breakup? Grab a wedge of nutty, smoky Robusto gouda from Whole foods, a bottle of Mark West Pinot Noir, and chocolate covered anything. For the more serious brands of heartache, simply chocolate covered chocolate will do. Friend lost a job? Assemble a quick assortment of fruit, crackers, hummus, veggies, and brie, grab something mindless from Redbox, and spend a day mentally checked out. Someone else got engaged before you? Pizza and tequila, and a toast to the single life. You learn these things in your twenties, weathering storms alongside your college or, if you’re lucky, childhood girlfriends and you figure out who you are. I know what aisles to hit for these minor tragedies and social upheavals. What I don’t know is what you bring over when one of the most important people in your life, someone you’ve known longer than you haven’t, tells you his mother died. There isn’t an aisle for that. None of us from our close knit group of high school friends imagined we’d need to know how to get through that kind of devastation until long after we all had kids of our own. I have lost grandparents and watched others walk through the loss of close family members but I have no frame of reference for processing the loss of a parent, much less a sudden and tragically unexpected loss. All I know is to get in the car and go.

Last Friday, Tara and I threw some clothes into my car and drove to Dallas to be with Dan as he walked through pain we could not fathom without feeling ill ourselves. When all the words you can think of feel hollow, when no amount of silent tears shed over the phone could possible do any good, you get in the car and you drive. Sometimes, the only way to love on your people is to love on your people. One of the most beautiful things about having friends you have known for over half your life is the amount of effort required to maintain those relationships is far less than what is required of friends you meet later in life. These people know you. They saw you in braces, they were there when you went through puberty and had your first everything, they ate the cookies your mom made after school, they wrote the same papers for class, they grew up in the same world and no matter how far apart you end up, the nuance and idiosyncrasy of home will always be in you in much the same way. There is something sacred about coming from the same place as another person. You get one another on a level that few others can. You know every facial expression and what it means. You know why that joke is funny, because you were there when it started a decade ago on the bus to a basketball game. You know why the current girlfriend or boyfriend is such a Godsend, because you were around for the ones who weren’t. Without saying a word, you just know. This is how it is with Dan, and he would have hopped in the car for any of us had the chips fallen the other way. So, we went.

We met Dan and his sweetheart at a Mexican restaurant near Faryn’s house and we hugged and we cried and, for what felt like the first time since I’d heard the news, I exhaled.  Over the course of that first night back in Dallas, we laughed more than we cried. Because when you’re with the people who know you best, you don’t have to explain what you’re feeling or what you need. We all just know. So, we danced. The boys drank scotch, the girls drank wine, and we all danced. We held each other up and we laughed together like we’ve laughed together all over the world, in every season of our lives, through every heartbreak and happiness. We danced for all we’ve been through so far and all we’ll go through again. We laughed because when you’re with the only people who can begin to imagine the depth of your grief and loss, you don’t have to explain anything. These friendships draw from a deep well of history, love, and understanding unlike any other I’ve ever known.

When we arrived at the funeral home for Mary’s service, I saw teachers from high school who loved us when we were their kids in class. I saw the parents of classmates who opened the doors of their homes to us as far back as I can remember. I saw mutual friends I hadn’t seen since graduation. I saw the people who came from the same place Dan and I came from, who draw from that same well, and it was beautiful to know we all still have each other’s backs. Years have passed, but there they were. There was our English teacher who taught me to love writing. There was the couple who gave me a monogrammed towel for graduation that I still use. There was the “are they or aren’t they” lovebirds who have loved each other as long as Ross and Rachel, the one’s we’ve all been rooting for since the beginning. There they all were, showing up for one of their own, because when you come from the same place that’s just what you do.

I suppose this isn’t really a blog about how sad things happen, but about saying a deep and profound Thank You to the people who showed up for Dan last weekend. I am so thankful to have come from the same place as all of you. No matter where we all end up I’m thankful for your fingerprints on my life, your faces in my memories, and I’m so glad we got to dance together again.

1375986_942745114736_535028042_n

for my mother

One of the most important trips I took for work this year was a fluke. In a cosmically orchestrated turn of events, I ended up driving from a tiny town in Missouri to Tulsa through the wide spot in the road about 7 miles from Miami, Oklahoma (pronounced Miama, lest you give yourself away as someone “not from around here”) where my mother grew up. My mother always told me she grew up in a tiny town, but even the intensely rural areas I’ve traveled for my speaking gig did not prepare me for the single stop light community that is Wyandotte, Oklahoma. If I’d looked away from the road to adjust the volume of the usual “This American Life” podcast keeping me from dozing at the wheel, I would have missed it. But, there it was: A sign for Wyandotte Nation, the outpost where the remaining Wyandotte tribe members who lived on this land long before my mother, meet to discuss whatever community business is on the agenda. I pulled into the parking lot and took a picture of the sign, thinking I would send it to my mother, aunt, and grandmother, as a sort of “Look what I found!” bit of nostalgia and that would be that.

I knew my mother was the head cheerleader at her high school, and I’d heard dozens of stories of she and my aunt riding their bikes around the dirt roads that ran through the undeveloped land around their country home. In that time, she told me, children went out in the morning and explored the rivers, streams, and wide open countryside until suppertime. For a girl who grew up in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas, this always seemed wildly and tantalizingly adventurous to me. The extent of my wilderness exploration growing up was to the creek behind my friend Kris’ house, where some of the neighborhood kids had rigged a rope swing that launched my freckled, bikini clad girlfriends and I into the suspiciously murky water in the blistering Texas summers. Fun, but not exactly sunrise to sunset excursions into Wyandotte Indian land. I was pleasantly surprised, then, on this crisp September afternoon, to know I was driving on the storied dirt roads of my mother’s childhood.

After snapping a quick photo of the Wyandotte Nation sign and applying the most appropriately vintage Instagram filter I could find, I pulled back on the road to head to Tulsa. About a mile down the road, a sign informed me that the town of Wyandotte was to my right. “How far down can it be? She said this place was teeny.” I thought. Click on blinker, turn right. Almost immediately, I came upon a handful of old homes, a tiny post office, a long abandoned gas station with graffiti tagging the parking lot and darkened gas pumps, and then Wyandotte Public Schools. All of them. Right there, sharing a parking lot, football and softball fields, and a couple of picnic tables sat my mother’s elementary, middle, and high schools. I couldn’t believe it. The navigation system that I had spent the past two hours blindly following from Missouri to Tulsa had delivered me straight into the heart of Wyandotte.

I immediately called my mom, who happened to be eating dinner with my aunt and my father at the time, and told her where I was parked. I would later find out from my dad that watching her on the phone with me as I walked around the places that held her childhood memories was like watching her as that high school cheerleader all over again. We talked about football and basketball games as she guided me, by phone, around her campus. I noticed a maintenance worker coming in and out of the building and wandered up to one of the front doors. Could it be open at 5 o’clock on a Friday? The whole town would be out in a few hours for the home football game, but there were only a few stragglers at the picnic tables out front this late in the day. I tried the door. It opened.

I walked into a newer addition of the school, one that hadn’t been around when my mother was, but noticed, hanging on the far wall, poster sized printouts of senior classes dating back to the 30s. I flipped through until I found the class of 1972, and found a picture of a girl who looked a lot like me. There was Deborah Maughan, all green eyes and Farrah Fawcett blonde waves staring back at me. I found her sister, my Aunt Stephanie a couple of pages later with her class of 1974. In that picture I saw a lot of her son, Cooper, and a little of my brother, Alex. The Maughan genes are strong and undeniable, especially in the faces of the women. We share the same round Maughan nose, high cheekbones, and slightly wide set eyes, always looking for an adventure. I spent a solid hour, at least, wandering the halls and the grounds of Wyandotte high school, soaking up a little bit more of my mother, realizing that her suburban Dallas raised daughter graduated from a school about the size of this one, a fact I hadn’t fully considered before.

I still had quite a bit of driving to do, so I took some final videos and pictures of the school and pulled back onto the two lane road headed out of town. I texted my grandmother some of the pictures, as well, and she replied with “Ah, my lovely Okie land. Our house is on hwy 137 just around the curve from Twin Bridges State Park. Between Spring and Neosho rivers.” I knew she was excited about my being in her Okie land, but there was no way I was going to be able to find that house. It would have been incredible cool, but I am severely geographically challenged in my own element and I could not see myself finding two very specific rivers and a small highway in the middle of nowhere, Oklahoma on my own. I headed out of town.

I drove a couple of miles and came upon a bridge: Spring River. Immediately after I crossed over I saw a sign for Highway 137, and cut across the road to make a sharp right and climb the hill leading into the countryside. I called Gammy. “Where did you say your house was? Is it right off highway 137, or back into a neighborhood?” “Oh, no, it’s a little white house right off the highway. You turn right directly into our drive. There’s a carport that your DD and I built, and a white well house in the backyard. We planted trees along the front of the property. They were small then but should be pretty big, by now.” She talked me down the road, over the hill, and straight to little home with the well house out back. “Do you see a gas tank behind the house?” she asked. I did. I pulled into the driveway and stepped out into the yard where my mother played as a girl. I walked around to the front door of the little white house that was now a little brown house, and knocked. No one was home. I walked around the property, on the phone with my Gammy, and she told me stories about all the mischief my mother used to make out there, the misadventures that they had as a family with two young daughters and a lot of land, and how they used to have to climb up a ladder to get into the well because DD had build it out of concrete blocks and left no easy way to get in and out without going up and over. I touched the well house, needing to feel connected to my grandfather who built it with his hands. He passed away two Septembers ago, but I felt him there at that well. As I stood there, Gammy reminded me of the date. It was September 6, DD’s birthday.

I walked out to the line of trees that my grandmother planted decades ago, small and tender then, tall and protective now, and I dug my fingers into the dirt. This was the dirt that made my mother an adventurer, a dreamer, an explorer of the unknown. This was the dirt where my grandparents taught their daughters what it meant to work hard and make something great of their lives. I could see them young and running, barefoot and free, across this dirt for hours as girls who would become strong, ambitious, adventurous women who aren’t afraid to get messy. I wanted to feel it in between my fingers, this dirt that my mother grew up on. I didn’t want to leave.

It’s been almost 2 months since my accidental trip to Wyandotte, and the dirt has long since washed out from underneath my fingernails, but I know that a little bit of that town is still with me. I may have left the line of strong, noble trees in front of the little house that used to be white, but I still get to hug the little girl that sat in the dirt underneath them.

lessons, part 1

I haven’t done a lot of writing lately, primarily because I convinced myself it would seem boastful to write about how spectacularly great things have been lately. People like to commiserate, let’s be honest. We like to read and hear about how tough other people have it, because it makes us feel like maybe we don’t have it so bad, after all. We I like to dole out sympathy because it makes us me feel better about ourselves myself, but we I have a hard time sharing when things are great because it makes us me feel selfish.

Between Jesus and yoga, I’ve come to realize how that mindset sucks the joy out of life, and that it’s important to choose to focus on that which edifies, encourages, and sustains. After all, God has filled my life with smart, kind, honest, gracious, and hilarious friends who challenge themselves and everyone around them to live their best lives. He brought me into a place of leadership and responsibility in my work, and handed me the opportunity to run a business that brings my love of teaching, yoga, and community into one space. He put me back together after some minor physical and major emotional setbacks. He made a way for my best friend and I to do life together in a city that we both adore. He’s guiding me through some life management changes- financial, nutritional, and spiritual- that are coming to define the way I live in the world.  He’s given me what I have come to see as an invaluable gift and opportunity: time. The busy-ness of running the studio and being on the road with RC comes in waves, and in between the waves there lies this beautiful, restful calm. I love it so much, I cancelled my home cable and internet so I’m not tempted to fill it up with shit that doesn’t matter.

Hoarding the good in our lives doesn’t secure it, giving it away does. 2013 has been a year full- I mean, bursting full- of life-giving, joy-birthing, full-face-smile-inducing happiness, and I honestly didn’t think people would enjoy reading about someone else’s bliss. However, not writing about the beauty of the past few months would be stupid because the beauty didn’t come easy, and there are some important lessons I’ve learned along the way that I’d rather not forget. Here are some of the big ones.

Do things that matter. I love what Francis Chan said in Crazy Love:Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” You are spending your life on something. I’m not talking about your career or job, although maybe that’s what comes to mind for you here, but about the conversations, encounters, endeavors, and experiences that you fill your life with every single day. The things you do most often, those are the things with which you will have the most success. What are you doing most often? Do you really want to be a deeply successful Twitter user? A runaway success at complaining about everything and everyone around you? If you let life happen to you rather than living your life on and with purpose, you’ll find yourself remarkably successful at things that don’t matter. Find your gift and use it. Start somewhere. Do something. Keep trying. Fail. Fail again. When you’re using your gifts and doing what you love, even the failures will make you better at the things that matter.

Take care of your body. Seriously. Eat a lot of plants. Drink them, even. This isn’t about an all-or-nothing, cold turkey,  approach to revamping your diet but it is about starting somewhere. About 85-90% of what I eat comes from the dirt or the ocean and I feel more healthy, strong, clear, and balanced than I have at any other point in my life. I stopped eating the things that were causing harm and discomfort to my body, and found freedom rather than feeling restricted. When you cut out the crap and your body has the space to operate the way it was designed to operate, you lose interest in clogging it back up. You only have the one body, folks. Don’t jack it up with processed “foods.” It matters. Want to get sick, fat, and die sooner? By all means, keep up with the weekly Arby’s and CocaCola habit. Want to find health, confidence, and strength? Eat more plants.

Be picky. You don’t have to say “yes” to everyone and everything. Your time, your emotional and mental well being, and your heart aren’t big enough for everyone to get on board. Quality over quantity is a good rule of thumb for: friendships, jeans, lovers, your iPod library, calories, education, hard lessons learned, and wine. I probably missed a few. You get the idea.

If ya ain’t got it, don’t spend it. Debt is self-induced slavery. Period. Living on a credit card is about as stupid as cooking with arsenic and pretending that you’ll be the one person it doesn’t kill. Living outside your means doesn’t make you lavish, it makes you an idiot. I can say that because I did it, and I was an idiot. Pay it off, cut it up, use cash.

Give the benefit of the doubt. There’s probably a good reason for whatever happened, and assuming the worst sucks for everybody involved. Ask questions. Be honest. Don’t make assumptions. Get clarity as soon as possible. Be nice.

Move. I personally believe everyone should practice yoga, but I realize that might be a tad unrealistic. Whatever you do, do something. Get off the couch. The very best thing you can do for long term health is walk for half an hour every day. 30 minutes! We all have 30 minutes. All of us. You will be such a happier version of yourself if you find some way to be active every day, and you’ll be around longer for your kids and the people who love you.

Be humble. Listen more than you speak. Admit when you’re wrong. Tell the truth. Don’t take criticism personally, but learn from it. Margaret Thatcher truly said it best: “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.” Don’t need to be recognized. Do kind things for others and tell no one.

Laugh. Even if you don’t feel like it. The world is full of people who take themselves far too seriously, create drama wherever they go, and expect others to buy into the madness. For the love of God, and I mean that sincerely, don’t.  Find the humor. If you can’t find humor, create it. That’s not to say horrible things won’t happen, but if we can’t laugh when we’re not in the middle of horrible things then how will we ever survive when those things do come?! Choose to laugh.

More to come.

be still

This morning, at 6:18 AM, a warrior lay down her sword, pressed her sweet face to the earth, and went to sleep. After three years of fighting stage four breast cancer, Taira finally found rest. Death comes for us all, but there is little more unnerving than watching it find someone so young. Her sweet children range from five years to a freshman in college. Her husband was her junior high and high school sweetheart. I cannot fathom what it would be like to relearn my life without my mom. I remember thinking when my grandmother passed away suddenly in 2006, the loss would demand that my grandfather learn to do life without the only woman he had ever loved. Taira’s family will walk that path, now. I hate it.

I’m having a hard time falling asleep tonight because I know that, on the other side of town, her family endures their first night without their mom. Rob, Taira’s husband, posted this on Facebook tonight: Braydon just told me how on The Lion king that Simba could talk to his dad after he died. Then he asked, “is the real?” How do you not choke up at a question like that. He wants her to appear and talk to him. Braydon is five years old. How do you tell a five year old that his mom is gone, when I can’t imagine it as a twenty five year old? God bless that baby.

A few states away, just a couple of hours from where I grew up, mothers are going to bed without their babies tonight. The tornado that ripped through Oklahoma took too many little ones from us. I couldn’t watch the news coverage last night. There was just too much heartache. My gut feels ripped open for the families who have lost parts of themselves.

This week is a hard one. There exist no words to take the pain of this kind of week away. Nothing makes it better but time. I play a song during our final rest in some of my yoga classes that brings some sense of peace to me in times where nothing else does. When words fall short, music can be salve for broken souls.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vtp-p7qFI2I

This is all I have, tonight. Go love on your people. Don’t miss your chance.

 

 

%d bloggers like this: