The soundtrack to this post is "Looking Too Closely" by Fink. Put it on. Put it on. Put it on repeat.
There's a piano. I'm always a sucker for piano.
When I started Graduate School in Flagstaff I lost my words. You can imagine how troublesome this was for me, and as my eyes would rapidly search the table I had my elbows on, as if for some sort of answer, I got nothing in return. Throughout all of my schooling I always had a strong voice; not only in writing but in class discussion as well. I don't think this is any surprise to readers that know me in the flesh, as this is something I'm almost known for. I'm honest, I'm open, and sometimes I can push boundaries - sometimes too far, resulting in an immediate flutter back with an apology (but is it really?).
So when I went to participate in class discussion at a freshly 26 years of age I was shocked when I could not. I felt my heart rate accelerate, beads of cold sweat formed on the back of my neck, my blood throbbed through my temples and my tongue felt so big in my mouth that I was certain I must be in anaphylactic shock from whatever I had just eaten. Of course this was not the case. I was having an anxiety attack every time I was trying to speak. For the first time in my life, I was silenced.
I've always been a panicker - ask my mother. Until I was an embarrassingly grown age of 24 I suffered from lilapsophobia (fear of tornadoes). Growing up in the Midwest, tornadoes were (are!) a serious threat, but every time a thunderstorm drummed itself up, I was certain we would all die a horrible death of shrapnel from a tornado ripping apart whatever building I was trying to find shelter in. My mother and I both have reoccurring dreams of me and her and tornadoes. Hers is that we're in a city and she loses me (great) and a tornado comes roaring through the streets (fucking great) and she cannot find me, still, despite her desperate searching and screaming (really fucking great). Mine is that we're standing in the kitchen at her house, the house I grew up in and she still lives in, overlooking the lake. She's doing the dishes (which means just putting them in the dishwasher) and I'm staring at the lake, watching the rain come across. If you have never witnessed such a thing, rain coming across a lake looks like a thick white curtain closing in on the shore, and you can see it envelope you down to the last few feet. It's fascinating, mesmerizing and it's beautiful. In my dream I am watching that, and then see a water spout start to form. 'Water Spout' is the term for a tornado coming across a body of water. I try to get her attention to look at the tornado and see it, and tell her "We need to get to the basement! Now! Mom, we have to go, come ON!" And she's saying "Now, now, just a minute, Kels, just a minute." and I'm laughing as I'm typing this but in my dream this is not a fucking joke. I slap my hand on the countertop and beg for her to look up, and the windows eight windows and two sliding doors that face the lake start to shake violently and sound like exactly how you would think windows shaking in a tornado would shake because somehow I know this and I wake up.
The point of you knowing my reoccurring dream, is that this is the sensation I lived with every time it thunderstorm in Michigan, so I am no stranger to the feeling of anxiety. I am no stranger to thinking that in this moment, this irrational moment, your world as you know it has crashed around you and all logic is out the goddamn door, along with the ability to even recognize that logic. These are times when living in the moment can kill a version of you and bring about one that you do not know.
So when this happened in a class full of 11 people during a discussion of a piece of Literature that I had such very important things to say and yes I agreed but what about _____, I was beside myself. It became such an issue that I sought advice from my professor.
I found a part of my answer in a yoga class. I had taken yoga classes before, and I never cared for them. In fact, I took an entire semester worth of yoga in undergraduate. I understood the practice and appreciated it, but felt as though it wasn't for me.
But in Flagstaff, at the Northern Arizona Yoga Center, I would learn to move slowly, breathe slowly and deeply, focus, control, focus on my control, control my focus and be completely present in that moment. I learned what it felt like to feel the floor fully beneath my feet, to feel like your heart, that muscle, is 'opening'.
Moving to Flagstaff was so very hard for me in every aspect. Adjusting to life at 7,000ft felt impossible and I thought it was ruining running, which was my only outlet. I think I knew my relationship wasn't right, I think we both knew it. I was accepted into Graduate School because I didn't know what else to do with myself, and proving my worth as a student was so important to me. Sarah Eddings helped me through so much of that, and she will never know how important she was and still is. That blonde-hair blue-eyed Texas native would be someone I would turn to when I didn't know what to do, or when I would have to break up with the person I moved across the country with, or when I just wanted to get wasted on a couple bottles of Tempranillo or Pinot Noir. She was the person that came over and sat on my bed and ate cheese and drank wine with me after I put Cohen down. She was there that night, and let herself in, because she knew I couldn't really move. And sometimes I think we make these people pillars in our life and forget the moments that made them so important. I hang on to these moments. I go back and live in these moments, because I can't live without them.
Yoga helped me slow down. It helped me learn to breathe, and to find control in my breathing, and ultimately, over my life. As I gained control over my breathing, running got easier. And when running gets easier, or better, or finally back to normal, life gets easier, or better, or finally back to normal. When I presented my final paper in that class in December of that semester, I cried hot tears of anxiety in the restroom before class started. When I stared at the Times New Roman 12 point font and tried to read it, words were blurred and I forgot my entire thesis. I forgot my entire point. I forgot my purpose and my reason for Graduate School and I forgot my worth. But as I took a three-part shaky breath in, I started to read aloud, and owned every word. I took an entire breath in and out after every sentence. I told myself that what I had to say was worthy of being heard. I told myself that, despite living my unknown, I had something to say. And I was saying it.
And it sucked. And it was hard. And I cried after. And I wondered if I got my point across. And I wondered if I made sense. And I wondered if everyone hated it. And I wondered if everyone thought I was stupid. I wondered if I was validating myself to myself. I wondered if I'd ever feel confident again.
I still have these feelings. When I'm not consistently running, I have them all of the time. When I'm putting in the miles and allowing my brain to be quiet, I have them less.
When I came back to Denver, and since that day I came back to Denver, I've felt rushed. I feel like I have an interrobang slamming against my skull and radiating through my brain, as if my head is a pinball machine that doesn't stop. I've turned back to yoga to help me remind myself to slow the fuck down. To stay, to appreciate the moment, especially the still moment.
28 years is so young. To stop and think that a grey sky can be beautiful is fine. To spend a half hour having a dance party in your underwear instead of bidding on freelance jobs is fine. To build a training plan instead of a curriculum is fine. To high-five with the toe of your Guide Tennies instead of a rushed 'goodbye' is important. To stand with your fingertips in your chalk bag and think seven more times about a move on a climb is fine. To lay and let your ripped muscles heal for a couple of hours is okay. To spend twenty extra minutes in bed in the morning light should be encouraged. Taking the time to laugh before explaining why you're laughing is important. A phone call with your sister is more important than trying to be 'productive' in an hour.
There are so many moments that people miss - that I miss - from focusing on the forward. I put a lot of emphasis on moving forward, on wondering what is next, what will be important and how things will work out for me. Sometimes you have to just stop.
You have. To just. Stop.
Photo credit: Giselle Fernandez
You're allowed to miss moments. I miss this one.