I knew Bill’s comment stemmed from his own insecurities and not my looks. Still, for weeks after my “Bill Encounter”, I obsessed over issues of “Cosmopolitan” and “Glamour” magazines. I studied make-up tips, hair styles and the latest fashion trends. I attempted to apply a “smokey eye”, I wore incredibly high heels and wore more accessories than most people have in their jewelry boxes. As I was walking through campus, I came across Erik. Erik had been my Resident Advisor the year prior. We had a very flirtatious relationship but it had never gone any further. I felt empowered by my new look and asked if he’d like to get together sometime. He shrugged off the question, changed the topic and went on his way. Later that day, I received an e-mail from him that said, “It was really great seeing you again, Rita. I have really missed your company. But, you seem to have changed. You seem high maintenance now and I’m really looking for a girl who is comfortable with just being herself.”
My obsession with “appearance” started as I entered Junior High. Back then, it was all about my hair and clothes. I would spend hours in the bathroom, with gel, a curling iron and hairspray. All to get my bangs to curl in the perfect way. The perfect wave rather. If you are my age, you know “the wave”. Bangs that look like a surfer could ride them. I would change outfits at least 6 times. My mother rejecting every one of them. So I would sneak an outfit in my backpack and change at school. All so I could look beautiful. Apparently, this was my definition of beauty:
Yup. I’m pretty sure I’m rockin’ a perm AND a vest in that photo. In high school, it was all about my weight. I was constantly on a diet. Comparing myself to other girls. Making fun of the cheerleaders but secretly longing to be one. In college, after the “Bill Encounter”, my focus was all-inclusive. I obsessed over anything that had to do with beauty. After my “Erik Encounter”, I moved to the opposite end of the spectrum.
My beauty concerns have changed multiple times over the years, but one thing remained constant. I wanted to look good, so I could feel good. Google “looking good” and you’ll see countless results saying that to feel good, one must look good. But, there I was…permed hair, curly hair, make up, no make up, flats, heels, skirts, pants…it didn’t seem to matter. To me, I never looked good. I never looked good because there was always a new style, a new trend and I was always behind. And because I didn’t look good, I didn’t feel good.
This 35/35 Project has changed my way of thinking about so many things: activities, how to meet people, how to interact with people and how to approach dating. By moving outside of my comfort zone in all of those areas, I’ve found that I am gaining the courage to be free. And I’m finding that Thucydides’ quote holds true: “The secret to happiness is freedom…” And I can say that I feel happy.
I am no longer wanting to “look good to feel happy”. Rather, it’s because I am happy that I am wanting to look good! I’m wanting my outside to reflect the way that I am feeling on the inside! Beauty isn’t about whether my hair is curly or straight, if I have a smokey eye or not or if I’m carrying around the latest accessory. Beauty is about being fit – physically and mentally. If I don’t respect my mind and my body, who will?
So when Brian asked for me to accompany him to yoga at Tranquil Space in DC for date #16, I eagerly said yes! I went to yoga once, about 12 years ago, and hated it. I attempted it again a few months back but was so humiliated by my inability to perform the poses that I walked out of class. This time, I promised myself that I would approach it with a “childlike wonder.” This made the class fascinating to me! I focused harder. I was in awe of every position, whether or not I was able to hold it myself. Not that I wasn’t still completely humiliated by my inability to hold the poses. I was. A fellow writer, James Altucher, describes this humiliation so eloquently that I’ll let his posts speak for me. You can read about yoga humiliating him here and here. However, I found myself genuinely curious to learn about, and experience, the mind/body connection that my “yogaphile” friends speak of so frequently.
I can say that I was not able to experience this mind/body connection in my first class. But I can see how I will be able to. I walked out of that class feeling physically and mentally strong. And I have no doubt that yoga will help me on my path to becoming the best version of myself that I can be. Yoga is about unity. A union with your self, others and the universe. Yoga requires effort and attention. There will be obstacles but, to work through them, I will have to let down my defenses, not push for a result, see things from others’ point of view and be flexible.
I am happy to say that Brian will be an important part of my “yoga education.” His guidance helped me make the most out of this experience and I hope to continue learning from him. With patience and focus, I will learn to push through my limits! I won’t just stand in a warrior pose. I will be a warrior!
The yoga mat is a good place to turn when talk therapy and antidepressants aren’t enough.