Last week I attended my first kettlebell class which was challenging but otherwise uneventful. Afterwards, however, I was struck by waves of anxiety and sadness. It was a good class, but I felt haunted.
I was a chubby kid, more interested in music and reading than kicking a ball or running with friends. I don’t remember being particularly teased, but I do remember believing that boys would like me more if I could lose a few pounds. By high school I had thinned out and had mastered the art of selective eating. There were cigarettes, alcohol, drugs and parties. When the scale said I had the body I’d dreamed of, it wasn’t enough.
In my 20s I was so riddled with anxiety that I knew I needed an outlet. Yoga was my attempt to escape my deepening dysfunction as both movement and mind-quieting were necessary. I was battle-worn and my refuge was the studio.
My yoga practice has become very strong. I lunge and squat and stand with solid legs upon my mat but still, when I slip on tight jeans my heart sinks. Having never known what a strong body feels like, I’m reminded of a chubby one and old feelings resurface.
We cling to our creation myths, many of which are destructive and regressive. We knit these hair shirts from our pain, and unwittingly decide that we must wear them even though they scratch and causes us pain. I’m finding courage to take it off.
I did the only thing I could think of to feel better about what had made me feel so bad—I went back. That’s the thing about ghost stories; when you stop telling them to yourself, you can sit unafraid of the dark and notice instead the beauty of the stars.