“Now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” ~John Steinbeck
My first day in Phoenix driving down Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd. to hot yoga, I see a Hells Angels biker complete with embroidered leather jacket and long hair skating out across the desert skyline.
Something clicks on in me. Woosh. An idea, a feeling, washes through me. This place with the interesting trees that wave and curl like coral from the bottom of the ocean. And this place with the infamous biker gang that moved here from Los Angeles—they sway and ripple at me like a welcome flag in the wind. Welcome to the desert. Welcome to Arizona.
I’ve been in Scottsdale with my mother and father-in-law now for three weeks. Michael is still in Sendai, Japan and will be until the end of May.
So far I’m learning not to invest in anything that makes me feel too faraway from myself. And I’m practicing sustainable boundaries. Lots of sweat. Lots of reading, meditating and human interaction. Lots of home cooked vegan meals and sunset bike rides with Melanie and Joel. Lots of writing with Elsa the yellow lab on the back patio. And lots of leaning in where otherwise I would want to hide in the bedroom.
It’s not easy to decide to do this—to participate in a family or small community. I mean really participate.
I know what it means to live behind a secret—to creep on the outskirts of the group doing just enough to get by with a smile so tight it might pop at the seams. I know what it means to wait for an open space to exhale and just be ourselves. Like some kind of freedom in the distance, getting away from the group used to feel like refuge. I know what that’s like. And it’s exhausting.
I know it’s a popular perspective to view introverts or lone wolves as the ones who struggle with participation. As the individuals who lack interest in supporting a group, but I see far more isolated folks walking in the crowd with a lack of self-acceptance and fear of being seen.
People pleasing and offering an ideal doesn’t serve anyone. When we have to be something other than ourselves, we lose the wholeness and that comes with belonging to a group.
Making a conscious effort to participate and be of benefit in a family is a brave choice. It’s a basic need a lot of us are lacking.
The first thing I’ve noticed about participation is that it does not require a perfect person. It requires an honest one.
Staying with my in-laws is teaching me how to pace myself. I don’t have to “turn it on” and “turn it off” because I’m not trying to be their idea of who I am. I have no interest in being the perfect daughter-in-law. And it’s teaching me to find a sustainable pace as a person. It’s okay to have flaws. It’s okay to see other people’s flaws. We are family. Whatever we love enough we will love even for the imperfections that creep out from the gutter.
I understand this is a unique opportunity to stay in the house my husband grew up in with his parents, his dog, his car and his friends. I know it is. And I’m leaning in completely. He still has 5 weeks left in Sendai, Japan. So right now, I am living in his shoes and finding home through a different lens.
I am far from so many things these days that I don’t want to pretend to be anything else. I don’t want to pull myself into anything other than what I am.
I step to the top of my mat. After three weeks of hot yoga, I am thawing out completely. A small voice beckons from that old and familiar place. It is the slow whistle steaming from an internal kettle. I am waking up fully.
The more I listen to this deep inner wisdom, the more I know how to answer and show up in my life.
There are times where we need to stay down, sit and restore. Then there are these beautiful moments where we get to engage and participate fully. I am not held back or down by anything. People sense that. Animals sense that. And if certain people don’t like it, that’s okay. When I talk about my sobriety, I’m not a charity case. Don’t pity me. I do love a good redemption story. But I’m living in a day by day version of it. Today I just feel like a brave sober woman living her life—which is so much better than perfect.
For more on the sobriety, yoga and travel journey check out my facebook page The OAM, or follow me on Instagram @jacqui.hathaway.