Friday, February 14, 2014

Walk on

          I'm up at 1:15 AM after tossing and turning for nearly two hours.  After an evening of frustration and turmoil over being met with yet another opportunity to experience a lesson I don't really want to tolerate anymore.  But I've come to know that we are met with similar circumstances in our lives over and over again until we embody the change needed to end the cycle...until we learn the inherent message hidden within the experience. 
          Still I find myself struggling with this one...and struggling mightily.
          You see...I'm tired of standing up for myself...alone. 

          I've stood up for others ever since I was little.  When my older sister complained of kids teasing her at the bus stop when she was in kindergarten, I marched my four-year-old self to the corner and swiftly took care of the situation, warning the boys that they'd better never bother her again -- or else.
          When I was a teacher, I stood up for my students when I suspected abuse, when I knew a child was in need of support or services.  I banged the drum hard especially when parents were in denial about their son or daughter's challenges and tried my best to open new doors of awareness and understanding.
          When I moved back from California and discovered I was living five feet from a den of heroin dealers, I stood up for my neighborhood and my own home by reporting them to the police.  By repeatedly seeking help.  By relentlessly and resolutely confronting the situation again and again until all avenues were exhausted. 
          And then, nearly a year later -- nearly hopeless and utterly spent -- I stood up to the property owners until they finally moved them to another home.  Looking back now, I realize I was risking my own life if the dealers ever found out what I was doing (as one of them has been linked to a nation-wide cartel), but I didn't care at the time.
          Then and now, I'd rather stand up and speak up than sit and suffer and stew in my own juices.

          Over the past sixteen years, I've built a small business.  Yoga class by yoga class.  Student by student.  Venue by venue.  I've learned how to set clear boundaries with the financial pieces so that I can be responsible and timely in taking care of my own financial obligations.  It's not been easy.  At first I was worried I'd lose clients.  Then I was worried that I wouldn't have enough money to pay the gas bill.  And if I left a venue that made it nearly impossible to justify my time and effort, I worried about what would come along to fill the gap in my ledger.
          I've learned how to be unambiguous with my policies and to communicate clearly...right up front.  And I've been blessed with students who understand that while their yoga practice is a bonus in their week, it's my bread and butter.  It's the way I've chosen to earn my living.
          And yet, now I've been confronted again with a situation in which I'm at the mercy of someone else's choices, someone else's ever-shifting policies.  In the end, they call the shots and my paycheck will reflect it.  I've stood up for myself with this venue countless times in the past and have once more, but I'm realizing this pattern has repeated itself often and with each cycle, the situation deteriorates even more.  
          So it's time to make a choice.

          I recently watched the movie "Doubt" and was left with a lot of questions.  A host of uncertainties.  But I was stunned that the scene which brought me to unstoppable tears was the heated confrontation between Merle Streep's character and the priest she suspected was abusing students.  She was willing to risk the damnation of her soul and unseen darkness in order to speak up for the children in her charge.  As principal of her school, she was willing to stop at nothing to protect them. 
          Although the film ends with uncertainty, and of course, doubt, I was struck by her fervor and determination to stand up for others in the name of discovering the truth.  I found myself crying tears of frustration, remembering countless moments in my life when I had to be the one to defend myself, often to my own detriment.  I suppose that four-year-old within is keep me up tonight.  Her tears are flooding my eyes.  Her grief is bubbling up, longing for someone to come along and stand up for me.  For someone to stand beside me and help me through this uncomfortable lesson I need to slog through one more time. 
          But in the end, I've realized that through standing up for myself again and again and again, I've developed the strength to know what's true for me.  To leave no doubt that I will hold my integrity, no matter what happens.  I hope that I've learned this lesson well enough to stop the cycle.  To open new doors.  To realize there are infinite possibilities in this world and all I need to do is stand up...and walk on.