Things you should know about me:
(1) I am extremely introverted. I hate crowds, calling attention to myself, being in the spotlight, having people look at me, and being loud. I used to be extremely shy and blushed extraordinarily easily. I spent most of my adolescence and early 20s bright shades of red. I used to get so anxious before giving class presentations at my small liberal arts college that I would vomit, lose my voice, or both. I still tremble when I get in front of people, when I speak up for myself or others, when I do things that are uncomfortable or outside of my comfort zone. It’s not just my hands or legs that shake. It’s my whole body.
(2) I hate feeling like I do not have 100% control of my body. I hate shaking. I hate when my feet are not squarely on the ground. I hate heights. I hate being picked up. I hate going upside down.
(3) For two years, I set an intention to be brave – and I was. And then, I realized that “bravery” as a concept had somehow become too small and that I had to risk beyond bravery. I had to take the risk to blossom. And, holy goodness, y’all. My life is changing.
I don’t know why I got the idea in my head that I wanted to be able to do a yoga headstand. I hate going upside down. Generally, my rule of thumb is “if the fear is not something that impacts your life, don’t bother with it.” I can make it through life pretty well without ever needing to go upside down, but for some reason, I decided this was a thing I was going to have to do.
So I worked on it at home. For weeks. It scared the hell out of me. Especially the part when I moved away from the wall and fell over my head and crashed hard and ungracefully- because that happened, more than once. But I kept trying, and what I learned was this:
• If you have to force it, you’re doing it wrong.
• If you’re not breathing, you’re doing it wrong.
The more anxious I got, the more I forced it, the more I didn’t breathe, the more I fell or couldn’t get my legs up over my head. But when I remembered to breathe and just kind of invited the headstand to happen, my body just moved upside down and balanced, like it knew what to do. It righted itself (albeit on my head), and I could breathe again.
As I continued going upside down, this weird thing happened. I went upside down enough times that I wasn’t scared. I did it at home. I did it at yoga. I tried a new pose. I tried it outside. In the living room. In the kitchen. And I realized I wasn’t afraid anymore. I could breathe into and around and through the dramatic shift in perspective, and I wasn’t afraid.
I wasn’t afraid.
Brian Andreas of StoryPeople has a quote that I, apparently, shared two years ago yesterday on Facebook:
“At a certain point, feeling afraid is a bad habit from when you thought being afraid would somehow help. Here’s the thing you should know: it doesn’t. Feel free to stop anytime.”
It’s funny that I shared that two years ago yesterday, because yesterday I — ridiculously introverted, hates being the center of attention, vomits at presentations, used to turn bright red if I laughed or sneezed too loud in public me — organized and participated in a flash mob at the mall about not keeping quiet. I purposely made noise and disrupted people eating lunch. In fact, I asked people to join me in doing so. We had signs. We declared that #blacklivesmatter and #translivesmatter and that we want all people to be safe. We sang that we won’t keep quiet.
Honestly, y’all, I don’t even go to the mall on Saturdays, and I definitely don’t go to the food court where all the people are. This was so far out of my comfort zone.
And my response was predictable: I had dreams the night before about all the ways I could potentially fuck it up. I was pretty sure nobody was going to show up. I felt sure I was going to throw up. And my body shook before, during, and for a little while after.
And I also breathed. And I also just let it happen – all of it: the trembling, the anxiety, the discomfort, the excitement, the out-of-my-comfort zoneness.
If you have to force it, you’re doing it wrong.
If you’re not breathing, you’re doing it wrong.
I knew being afraid wouldn’t help. I was finding the edge. I was inviting the edge. My edge. An edge. A current edge. And this edge? Is nowhere near where my edge used to be.
Lisa Martinovic has a poem called “The Edge is Where I Want to Be.” In it, she writes:
“and there are no disguises here
on the edge, everyone is naked
all bets are off
and the game’s not rigged
the air is clear and brisk
your heart’s pounding
you’re lightheaded and queasy
because everything is initiation
on that sharp unforgiving edge…”
I keep coming back to that line: “Everything is initiation.” On the edge, everything is beginning, is falling into newness, is springing into an action of creation.
On the edge, you’re letting yourself see the world from a new perspective. You’re allowing new realities to exist and come into your consciousness and being. You might hate it, and might think you’re hella stupid for walking up to that goddamn edge. You might want to run with every fiber of your being.
There is so much strength in walking up to that edge. There is so much strength in not running from that edge. There is so much courage in finding that edge – your edge – whatever it is, over and over and over again.
And this process — this finding of the edge — it feels big. It is this overwhelming vastness that is barely containable, that just kind of spills over into your life. The way I found my yoga edge…and found a personal edge…and an activism edge that I keep pushing and expanding, and my edges keep blossoming out and out and out in this frighteningly new way that sometimes makes me chase to catch up with myself. My heart expands and I feel bigger on the inside: I somehow, literally, have more room inside me.
It’s fucking exhausting.
I don’t believe in a God, but do believe in what I’ll call god as a Human Embodied Force of Love And Good, if only because HEF-LAG is a really awkward acronym. However, this vastness and openness and vulnerability and throat-constricting, shaking place of edge-residing feels a lot like the place that god hangs out. In fact, I’d say that this place is one of the places where I have met god most frequently. It might be what keeps me coming back.
Last Easter, author Glennon Doyle Melton wrote a blog post about a question a small child asked her. While teaching Sunday School, a young boy tapped her on the shoulder and asked, “Excuse me. Is God coming?”
Glennon answers by telling him that God is already here, in us, and that we bring God to each other. She tells him, “Ryan, I don’t know how you can know if God is here or not. But here’s what happens to me when I notice that God is with me. My heart starts to feel bigger. It feels like it’s swelling up. It feels like it’s getting so big it might crawl up through my throat…I think this heart swelling is sometimes how God reminds me that God is with me.”
The process of showing up, asking people to show up, wondering if people would show up, being afraid no one would show up, walking to the edge of comfort and discomfort and tipping the scale ever so slightly into fear felt like tapping the universe on the shoulder and asking, “Hey. Hey -pardon me. Sorry to bother you. Is god coming?”
And there, on that edge, where there were no disguises and I felt naked as I stood shaking and lightheaded in the effort and fear of that initiation, god came.
The edge is facing your fear. It is going upside down. It is a Saturday afternoon flash mob. It is not keeping quiet. It is initiation and risking beyond bravery. It is taking the risk to blossom. It is asking about god: is she coming?
It is finding her already here.