Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Bohemian heartland

            I was born in Ohio, the home of eight presidents, Neil Armstrong and Thomas Edison.  Toledo, my hometown, is the birthplace of Jamie Farr, Gloria Steinem and a famous actress, also named Katie.  We grow them eclectic here in the heartland. 
            The first half of my life followed the natural order of a young girl born in the Midwest.  On the outside at least, I did what was expected of me.  I graduated from high school, earned a college degree and immediately started teaching.  However, by my thirtieth birthday, I felt a longing for something more wild and free.  Those of us born in 1966, the year of the Fire Horse in Chinese astrology, long for unique adventure and creative stimulation, things not often found at the Mud Hen's Stadium or Tony Packo's Cafe. 
            On a cool November evening in 1996, I went to my first yoga class and discovered a pathway to what I had been truly seeking.  All the outer work (teaching, volunteering and talk therapy) could not compare to the inner work on which I was about to embark.  Yoga opened the door to an inner peace I would never find in my job or relationships or anything else.  It was through tapping into my inner Bohemian, a place which lay silent until I was ready to awaken her, that I was able to become more fully whole and alive.
            Changes were soon afoot.  I donated all of my denim jumpers and turtlenecks; I traded in my Disney character clothing for flowing batiks and scarves.  The gardens surrounding my home went from simple to multi-layered with texture, color and variety galore.  Through learning I possessed many palates from which to choose, I soon left the classroom and became a yoga instructor myself.  For over a decade, it has been a joy to invite others to discover their own unique latent qualities and spark an interest in something engaging and encouraging. 
            And yet, I still struggle to make peace with both sides of my life.  Can those parts of me that thrive in constancy be congruent with those that live spontaneously and constantly want to stretch my edge?  Can my "writer self" live with the part of me that wants financial stability and success?
            Can I truly have it both ways?
            I'm living proof that an unconventional life can also be grounding and fruitful, but don't ask me how I do it.  I couldn't really tell you, other than to say that for the past sixteen years, I've striven to follow my heart and not always my head.  I've held on to my hopes when others would have long gone back to what was familiar and safe.  I've learned how to live with much less and feel that much richer in the process.  Instant gratification has a price, and for me it's often a high one. 

            When I moved into my first apartment, my parents and I picked out a bedroom suit in a huge warehouse near Troy, Ohio.  A dark cherry four poster bed and a heavy chest of drawers moved with me from Troy to Maumee and finally to the home in which I'm now living.  When I left teaching and was struggling to build my yoga business, I was blessed with a lot of time, but not a lot of money.  I sold some of my furniture to pay the utilities and the mortgage, but was never without the comfort of a place to lay my head at night. 
            Along the way, a dear friend donated a lovely living room set of furniture and another one helped me move it to my place.  When I moved to California, it too was sold along with most of my belongings so that I had enough money to make the trip west and start over.  Of course, that never materialized and when I moved back to Toledo, all that was left here was the mattress set, a few tables and an antique secretary.  Over the past five years, I've slowly been able to create a home that reflects my artistic side while keeping things simple and peaceful.   And just this week I finally replaced the twenty-five year old mattress with a brand new one.  It's a delightful experience to sleep on something that has nothing to do with my past; that doesn't contain the energy of all the days gone by which ended with my slumber there.  
           For someone who's perfectly content with thrift shopping and restoring used furniture, I'm surprised by how much I find great satisfaction in my new bedroom.  Still, I imagine that's the Midwesterner in me.  After all, she did let my Bohemian side choose the comforter and headboard.  

My trio of black cats enjoying the comforts of a new bed.