courage

Sixty months ago, in November 2010, I started this blog. Most of the impetus came from my frustration at the many crap articles I read online, especially ones about yoga. They all seemed very generic; I was kind of disillusioned that they were published at all.

I decided that if I were that critical of the work of others, I should consider whether I could offer anything better. Writing, after all, was one of the things I loved most as a child. I never took it seriously after a young age. But despite my intentions of not valuing writing, I had accumulated pages and pages of casual ideas and essays.

So, sixty months ago, when I was squarely in my 30s and truly an adult, I decided to return to something that had been so central to my being. I figured I might as well channel more intentional effort into all those unfinished drafts on my hard drive.

SK © 2015

SK © 2015

As a child, I remember frequent commentary that childhood would prepare me for a adulthood. For example: “you need to read as an adult, so you learn to read as a child.” That was rational enough for my child self. There was also a lot of chatter about how people grow up and behave themselves as adults, that “people behave as adults” and “people change when they’re adults.”

I believed that for a long time, simply out of trust of adults. But now that I’m an adult, I see that belief as often inaccurate. Maybe I’m just really, really cynical, but I see a lot of adults who often behave as children, just ones with adult responsibilities. Far too many times to count, I have witnessed “adults” throwing tantrums or behaving badly towards others—yelling at a server in a restaurant, berating a child in a store, degrading a person walking down a street, intimidating a coworker in a meeting. In those moments, the only differences between them and toddlers is that the adults live independently and use more sophisticated vocabulary.

I was bullied a lot as a child, over childish nonsense—like my clothes or my taste in music or my dislike of Jack Kerouac and Ayn Rand. Back then, I most likely rolled my eyes and replied with an insult.

I have been bullied as an adult, yet still over childish nonsense. For example: you want to insult or threaten me (professionally, not violently) due to my writing? Nowadays, I try not to respond, though I can’t claim not to roll my eyes when I don’t have an audience. I would much rather have an adult conversation about the differences I have with people—but I don’t feel motivated to try when they act like toddlers.

So, now that I’m old enough now to have childhood, even early adulthood, firmly in the past, I have started to view the “preparation for adult life skills” part a little differently. Rather than childhood preparing me for the “different” adult I would become, childhood has shown me the tools I would need as an adult, in order to navigate adulthood.

When I was a child, two of the most important things in my life were music and writing. Especially when I endured bullying or discouragement, both of which were frequent. Music and words were the best outlets I had to combat all the emotional trauma I experienced.

At age 9, I remember writing a chapter in what I thought would be a book, which I illustrated myself. I am terrible at drawing. The chapter was very imitative. Objectively, I knew that my work not that impressive. But I was still so proud doing it at all. When I excitedly showed it to an adult, I was told that it was a waste of time. Because I’d never be a writer.

So I shoved the notebook deep into my closet and told myself to stop writing. I thought I needed to be pragmatic—that suppressing my passion for words was very mature. I lacked the courage to keep what I loved. After just a bit more similar discouragement about writing and music, I “wisely” gave up what I loved most—because I was so often told that I was a mediocre musician and I’d never be a writer.

(Both of those things can be true now, for the record. I’m sure some people would consider me a mediocre musician. That’s fine. And I’m obviously not a writer in the best-selling, Stephen King sort of way. Which is also fine. But in my own terms, I am a decent musician and a decent writer. Do those occupations currently pay my rent? No. Does that fact actually matter when I consider how to identify myself? Not really.)

And yet, the darkest, harshest, saddest times of my life were when I was far from music and words. No coincidences. Whether other people appreciate my efforts is, ultimately, unrelated to my need to create music and writing.

What I know now is that my childhood was not training of how to become a different adult. My childhood was training of how to maintain my identity in all the challenges, changes, and responsibilities of adulthood—how to continue being who I truly am. Yes, the more mature version—I don’t want to scream at a server in a restaurant. But not the stifled, “adult” version. I don’t want to deny my lifelong passions simply because they’re not pragmatic, according to some people.

Fortunately, since I began this blog, I have had the boundless support of a college roommate, Susie. She’s commented on nearly every post in the past sixty months. Appropriately, she is a cheerleading coach (among other things). Though I’m not on her squad of elementary school girls, I have benefited tremendously from her enthusiastic support. Outwardly, we are fairly different, yet she has taught me many lessons. I could write multiple posts about her examples of kindness, humility, maturity, grace, and spirit.

I mention her because if you read independent blogs, know that feedback and interaction on the site are highly encouraging—the time you make to comment is greatly appreciated. And if you do anything for public consumption, view, critique, etc, you know the process is all around better with encouragement.

I mean, I was told I couldn’t write a book. But there are PLENTY of terrible books out there. Paris Hilton has one. The Kardashians probably have a shelf’s worth.

But haven’t I done the equivalent here, in the past sixty months? I have enough public content, not to mention all the work sitting on my hard drive, that has yet to be shared. So I can release this illusion that I am incapable of writing a book, should I choose to do so.

Sixty months ago, when I started this blog, I had little going on in my life besides my professional work and my spiritual practice. My intention was to post every month—not the typical blogging schedule. But I approached this writing in the same way I face my spiritual practice: I keep showing up. I thought I could sustain posting monthly, regardless of how busy I was.

I was right, in that sometimes once a month was all I could manage. Sometimes once a month felt like a monumental task. But no matter where I was—Atlanta, the Pacific Northwest, the Nevada desert, central Africa—I kept writing. A couple times, I went to an all-night restaurant to have wifi, in order to post in time. Some posts emerged in a day, others over the course or months or years.

Concurrently, my life changed profoundly. For most of my life, I was very fearful. I never considered myself especially capable or particularly clever. Definitely not visionary or certainly not attractive. I occasionally said yes to opportunities, but mostly I said no, to collaborations, leadership, relationships. I lacked courage to be mySelf.

Starting a yoga practice showed me how much I relied on the security of “no” and avoided the possibility and expansion of “yes.” Since then, I’ve tried to orient myself towards the openness of “yes.”

In the past sixty months, I have said “yes” to possibility and expansion. I became self-employed. I helped start and organize an annual charity event. I managed a Burning Man camp for four years. I facilitate workshops. My band has released three albums and toured the country a few times.

From local outreach about women’s issues to fire conclave at Black Rock City, I kept saying “yes” to vibrant, creative people who were generous enough to collaborate with me and encourage both shared and individual visions.

And I want stay in yes mode. To opportunities with others, of which I have many, fortunately. And to mySelf, to my own visions and ideas, of which I also have many.

This willingness to yes, I’ve found, requires no, in order to respect boundaries and keep things sustainable. And so I’m saying no, in the form of stopping this blog.

I do have other writing opportunities, as well as my own projects which don’t receive enough attention. Projects like teaching yoga from a less consumerist, less commercial perspective and creating dialogue about the larger implications of spiritual practice—that it’s much more than handstand photos to share online. Those sorts of conversations don’t make for flashy memes, but I feel compelled to create them nonetheless. My band has some tours to plan for 2016, in addition to upcoming recordings. I have some fiction which has never received the same efforts that this blog has.

I still need to sleep; I still need a social life with my community. So I need to say no, for the sake of saying yes elsewhere.

Perhaps the stop will be temporary. I have another website with all of my work in one place; perhaps I need to add a blog there.

When I lived in Japan, I learned that 60 is an auspicious age. It marks the point at which you have lived through all the zodiac signs in all the elements. One zodiac sign a year, five elements: 12 x 5 = 60. Since I planned this blog in terms of months, I decided to end it at that age.

“Courage” from Latin “cor,” meaning heart. In French, heart is “coeur.” In Spanish, “corazón.” As I face challenges and triumphs, I want to encounter them from a heart space. Heart forward, heart first.
SK © 2015

Sixty months ago, I started this blog. I don’t know what will happen in the next sixty months. But perhaps I’ll be here again. In the meantime, we can connect via stephaniekohler.com

Ciao, namaste, aloha, shalom.

SK © 2015

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Posted in identity, music, vulnerability | 8 Comments