I’ve lived the majority of my short life carrying a small but somewhat demanding guilty conscience. The cause is psychosomatic, mind-made. I have this theory that human beings have conquered the art and science of survival for centuries, but something in our biology, in the way we operate wants us to experience the stress involved in successfully surviving each day. Most of us, at least in western civilization, have more than enough food, options for shelter no matter how lavish, clean water and separation from any animal that could maim or kill us. By simply being born in the United States we’re born with privilege and with opportunity. Some are more advantaged than others of course, which is unfortunate and a slight cause for my guilty conscience, but my larger point is most of us do not have to struggle to simply exist and live to see another day. And therefore we’re complacent, bored, uncertain and completely attached to our own bullshit sob stories.
When I say bullshit sob stories so flippantly like that, I’m really referring to mine, which isn’t sad or tragic in any way. First of all, I’m white. The least interesting, most entitled in this and many countries, whether my fellow light-skinned ones want to admit that or not. It’s true. It is what it is. There’s of course nothing wrong with being white, just as being born any other color, it simply perpetuates this need in the human psyche to create our own problems and own identity where they don’t really exist. I was fortunate enough to be born into a loving family who are very understanding and accepting people, of me in particular. The older generations naturally had it more difficult than me growing up, from being born during wars, complicated relationships with their parents and family, having less and needing more (money, space, food, options), and their unique experiences during the decades filled with tumult and uncertainty, more than anything I’ve ever experienced, including the sadness and insanity since 9/11.
The most challenging thing I endured as a child was my parents divorce and all the subsequent crap experienced as a result. They divorced when I was 3. Big whoop. They got along fairly well all throughout my childhood and I actually really enjoyed the personal time I had with my dad when I’d visit. I also had an amazing man marry my mom when I was nearly 5 so I had two loving fathers. I have a younger brother who was only sweet, generous and loving throughout our childhood. Seriously. Hardly ever annoying. Anything that perturbed me was just a result of being a bitchy, selfish older sister, nothing else. I have tremendous relatives all over this country, from my biological parents, to my numerous relatives assigned by law, and on my mom’s side in particular. My grandparents specifically could not be more kind, helpful, hardworking, fun and loving. They were as much my parents as anyone else, especially since they were older and my parents were quite young. My Grandma inspired my deep love and attachment to my Italian heritage. I’m not even close to 100% Italian, but probably because I was born white, middle class, no deformities or illnesses, I needed something interesting to adorn myself to. I love being Italian but I realize now how trivial and limiting it is to define yourself by such measures. As if it really means anything. My curly hair, brown eyes, skin tone, pension for bread, wine, sex and humor may or may not be indicative of my background. I think it’s merely a facet of human existence and my particular taste. My need to feel and project Italiano was more of an attempt to feel interesting and that was easier than actually being interesting.
Being born into young parents who divorced early left me confused and incessantly introspective. I remember being 6, 7, 8, 9 years old lying awake, staring at my ceiling, thinking. Fuck if only Yoga had come into my life then. Something about the uncertainty you feel when your parents split up allowed me to contemplate on the same ambiguity the rest of life carries. Will I wake up tomorrow? What if I wake up blind? Am I good? Am I actually alive? These are true, actual thoughts I had on my sleepless nights. Little did I know then how important doubt is. It keeps you inquisitive, and once you realize your survival and your sight are fairly safe, you can keep asking questions and pondering the answers. But man was I a definitive little shit. There was yes or no, black or white, A’s or every other grade, wins or losses, attractive or invisible, popularity or loneliness, marriage or solitude, intelligent or lazy, interesting or forgettable, and hardly anything decipherable in between. Life had such clearly defined edges then. Nothing was blurred, no one was gray. Everyone was an archetype, a caricature of something else.
My mom is super MILFy, especially when I was a child. She had me at 20. I grew up hearing how hot my mom was and how maybe if I looked like her I’d have a chance with boys I liked. Poor me. Boo. Not really. My mom being hot made me sink deeply into my sense of self as an intellectual, as an independent woman of the ripe age of 10, with ideas and goals of grandeur. Olympic gymnast, first female president, high powered lawyer, man eater. Boy was I way off.
So, born out of a hot woman’s vagina to two good hearts but immature minds, they divorced, and I felt like I was split in two. I was never asked to take sides and so I didn’t, but when you’re made up of the genetic material of two people who no longer choose to be one unit, you feel like a fragmented mess. Oh this must belong to my mom and this is clearly my dad. Nothing is your own. I did not have abuse, poverty, betrayal or neglect to weigh me down, so I burdened myself by what I could. I spent a decent amount of elementary school talking to the guidance counselor about divorce. I remember liking it but feeling no change from it. It was just something else I could attach myself to, something else that gave me character, gave me an edge. I have sadness too! I’m deep and rich in character, see? Do you see me? The desperation in me to prove something to myself and anyone who’d pay attention was so unbelievably ridiculous. Why didn’t anyone tell me that mastering memorization said nothing of who I was and certainly wasn’t reflective of the intelligence I thought I possessed. Neither was being an elite athlete, being skinny or “pretty”, being first in line, or even being president of the class. None of that bullshit matters. I was so disconnected from the goodness I am, the heart and its capacity, that my mediocre head took over and ran the show. I’ll take it from here, it said, let me show people how great I am. Now, I’d rather be good. Greatness is for crafty egos. Goodness is for intelligent hearts.
Since the age of 3 I was drawn to men. I had lots of little boyfriends in elementary school and junior high. High school hit, my ego developed rapidly, and my heart diminished in size, drastically. It was difficult to breathe. I spent a few years following others, popular girls, girls in my neighborhood, girls on sports teams, just trying to fit in, keep friends, maintain the ever interesting status quo. Then I experienced personal and school related challenges from the age of 12-15 and I said fuck this noise. No more giving a shit about fitting in. I’m standing out. People will know how I feel and where I stand from now on. Look out. I still derived my sense of self from my good grades, from being a strong athlete and basically nothing else. What else mattered? Then I began having crushes on unattainable men, teachers, older guys, guys with girlfriends, etc. That made it easy because I never had to really be vulnerable, never had to tamper with the unknown, I could just sit and think how mature I was and how no one got me except these men I couldn’t have. I watched other friends lose themselves completely in silly high school relationships, never to need their friends again. I never wanted to be that dependent, so I was caustically independent, a fucking hermit. The concept of balance clearly didn’t hit me until later. Neither did self-awareness. I made myself available to one guy, one. An idiot. An alcoholic. An unavailable, aloof, sexy, deep voiced, big lipped, lazy twat. I’m sure he’s fine now. I sincerely hope he’s happy. My disgust is with myself, in enjoying the melodrama that was the nothingness of our relationship. I got the monkey off my back, I should’ve just said thanks and waved goodbye to move on quickly to others, but instead I wallowed, I sheltered myself off even more and spent most of my college years lonely, slightly bitter and more engrossed in intellectual pursuits.
I’m approaching a decade since graduating high school. I was so underwhelmed and not inspired by those I went to school with, which I’m sure they echoed in their sentiments toward me, so I have no desire to go to my reunion. However, naturally it’s inspired some reflection. Only recently have I shed my guilty conscience. One I hardly earned. I didn’t even betray, kill or tell major lies. I simply did nothing. Loved no one. Welcomed no one in. I had some wonderful friends and I think they might speak up on my behalf. I wasn’t a total C, but I’d say the light behind my eyes didn’t show up til about 22. And even then I struggled to find my own sense of who I was and where I was going. Everything was easy growing up. I was so beyond fortunate. And the average challenge public schools provided instilled a false sense of confidence because decent grades were easy to come by. I felt a sinking, crushing doubt about myself as a worthy human being. What in the world did I truly have to offer? What was my voice? Sarcastic and clever? Where was the true intelligence and compassion? It left with my parent’s divorce, my sad excuse for a broken heart and with the guilt that I actually had no excuse at all. I was privileged, rewarded everyday for nearly nothing, loved for no reason other than being alive, and connected with opportunities just by virtue of being where I was and knowing those I did. I gave myself a chip on the shoulder and now I was tasked with sanding it down, dusting it off and putting it to work.
I’ll go to grad school, get a master's degree, that’ll prove something. I’ll go to law school. Everyone always said I’m skillfully argumentative and what a great financial living that would provide. I felt guilty for not wanting to do these things I was clearly inclined and primed to do. I wanted to run away, move to some small island and sell pineapple juice, expect nothing of myself and others and just be. Again, balance. One must locate their goodness and then pursue greatness, not the other way around. Goodness is inherent, innate, but it certainly can be covered by dust, muck, resentment and all the clever tricks of the egos trade. Like the sky left invisible by a thick layer of clouds, my goodness and essence was always there, just as with everyone else, I needed some rain to fall, some wind to blow and some sun to shine to have the courage for it to re-emerge. Falling in love with someone naturally good, who’d worked for every single dollar and every single achievement left me feeling more insecure. Why did he love me? Because I was cute, funny, Italian, smart? Hell if I knew. So I ran away with him to Italy, to travel, explore and search for what I’d already found and forgotten.
The pervasive theme and question plaguing my overactive mind was why am I so dissatisfied with who I am when everything I was born with and grew up with was so great? My body worked and my metabolism was good. So on the basic physical level, all was well. I nitpicked, hated my hair, my poo colored eyes, my thick thighs, long toes, small calves and any other number of nonsensical complaints I could render. Nonetheless the smarter side of me knew I was lucky and I was fine and to get the hell over any trivial nonsense. My mind worked fine, probably too well. My heart was largely ignored, my loins were fulfilled, my belly was always full, my arms often embraced in hugs. I was told I could be anything I wanted to be, encouraged to follow my passion, to do what I love, to relax and enjoy, but that made it worse. Agh, freedom to choose? Someone just tell me what to do and who to be and I’ll work to mold myself, I’ll consume myself with that task. I’ll make money and dress sharp and I’ll convince everyone and myself that I’m making something of myself. I never felt I adequately showed gratitude or achievements to make up for all the good that bestowed upon me before I earned it. This was no one’s fault but mine. I just didn’t know how to process out of it. Until I found Yoga.
My pursuit into teaching started as a love for challenging my body and a desire to do something that carried meaning. I see it in myself a few years back when I was a fresh, young teacher trying to encourage others to believe the same shit I was convincing myself to absorb. Yoga makes you deep and teaching Yoga is noble. I see it in many today, you can see when someone is pleased with themselves because it is a mirror to a look you’ve expressed yourself. Companies exploit this, showcase a false sense of sincerity, soul and goodness to pillage the pockets of consumers who want to believe the same thing. This is why I rebel and reject labels. The rush is so phony, the identity is so contrived, the message so disingenuous. I just aim to be comfortable, let the cloth be a small expression of uniqueness but not an identity, not a staunch loyalty, not a showcase of membership with an exclusive club. So through meeting some truly incredible, awe-inspiring people with tremendous goodness and greatness, I felt encouraged to find my own. First I felt terrified, of course, then slowly the clouds started to part and I could see and feel my own sky again, my essence, my goodness. My ego was still there, fighting very hard for survival, keeping me in a cycle of complaint, of discontent, of melodrama and inner turmoil, and why? Guilty conscience. I’m not doing enough. I’ve experienced such little tragedy, had so much good fortune and what have I shown for it? Vicious cycle.
So on my journey back from where I feel my heart belongs, Italy, after a short stop with long lessons and memories in New York City, I settled, for the time being, in Chicago. Finding my voice and place as a teacher and woman here continues to carry challenges, questions, issues. It’s mostly been beautiful. The summer of 2011 I turned 27, my brother moved in with us, a dear friend was in a terrible near-death accident and I embarked on a few travels around the states, both yoga and non-yoga related that shifted my evolution into high gear. After all this time and energy spent in discomfort, in guilt, in confusion, in discontent, I let go. All those damn philosophical books came falling down upon me and somewhere in there my ego began to die. It’s still there, of course. Not sure it ever completely dissolves, but the reminder is healthy and necessary. Instead of putting my mind to task trying so hard to locate my goodness, decipher if I had greatness and figure out where those two paths met; instead, I surrendered. I said fuck it.
I started writing and sharing my words. Not much changed, who I was and how that was expressed was the same. But my decisions weren’t based on the expectations of others, the impossible standards I placed on myself, or this crock pot of fear I’d spent so much energy stirring for most of my life. I began to accept all that frustrated me previously, not liking or following these previously unapproved paths, but respecting that they make work for others and their decisions should have no weight on mine. I enjoyed the things that previously defined me without attachment to them. Who I am in essence is far more important than who I'll ever be on paper.
I got nowhere withholding who I was from others or from sheltering myself from opportunities I deserved to seize. My life was a series of what-ifs that I never learned the answers to. We can’t white knuckle our way through life. Our past can only define us if we allow it, regardless how bad or how good it was, we can be whoever we wish to be now, and each day is an opportunity to improve and wash away the clouds from our skies. I am kind, generous, grateful, funny, loving, smart and hard-working. And I’d be willing to bet most human beings who get in their own way are as well. It’s about finding the courage and intelligence to acknowledge these positive facets, to let go of the mistakes, guilt, bitterness and hesitation and just commit everyday to enjoying all that you are. Life is riddled with flaws, rejection, hurt, despair, tragedy and any concoction of negativity you can conjure up in your imagination. Accepting that the spectrum of experiences in life is bound to affect you throughout the journey will free you from deriving your happiness from it. You are enough already. I am enough. It isn’t about impressing others, staking a claim, being the best or having the most. It’s about feeling grateful to be alive each day, having the guts to stop listening to your conditioned thoughts and instead be aware of the infinite wisdom residing in your heart, and to simply try what you wish to try, go where you wish to go, and living how you wish you live so you can glance back briefly at the end knowing there were no what-ifs that dragged you down and kept you from living your life fully.
It is my intention to feel grateful everyday for the amazing family I was born into, the friends I’ve acquired, the healthy body nature gave me, and to use my mind to better my experience and not diminish my potential. Each day, regardless if the events were good or bad, I’ll always come back to appreciation for my goodness, for the life that I am. Armed with this, I’ll be brave enough to pursue greatness and share this truth with others, so they can better live in their own definitions of happiness, having all been freed from the imprisonment that is fear, guilt and negativity. I am Never Not Hungry, here, now.
Never Not Hungry
Yoga teacher/ Writer
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