Finding My Feet

Finding My Feet

From the center of the room, she barks, “Find your feet!” She instructs us to root, firmly down, and to notice the four corners of our feet.  “Find them!” she commands.  I like her barking.  I appreciate it.  Her barking is the equivalent of a bitch-slapping, and this tough girl who has hand-crafted a protective 12-foot brick wall over a number of years of self-inflicted abuse sometimes finds herself in need of a good bitch-slapping to bring her back down to earth and to knock some of the bricks out of her wall.

So obediently, I listen, and I root down, and I find my feet.  “I found them!”  I want to scream and point to my feet to show teacher I’ve done a good job, but I’m a hot mess and doing so seems inappropriate in a 95 degree heated yoga studio full of 40-some other sweat-dripping aspiring yogis who are, just like me, trying to find their way—as well as their feet.

But what is all this talk about “finding your feet?” I mean, I get it…sorta…like the logical explanation…I get it—root down, stay grounded, know where you are, it’s okay to be exactly where you are yadda yadda yadda.

But have I ever felt my feet? Have I ever really felt them, actually supporting me and providing me with other enlightened yogi stuff like that?


Not by a long shot.

I mean, I can see my feet, but I haven’t necessarily found them.

Basking in the sunlight of a Florida beach, I stood at the very edge of the shore. The temperature rising in my body, I sought the refreshing cooling therapy of the ocean. The once galloping and charging wave that commenced deeper in the ocean—far out from where a non-swimmer like me would venture– now quietly reached the shore and gently tickled at my feet.  The water spiraled around my toes before returning to the ocean and swiftly taking with her, sand from beneath my feet.

An uncomfortable feeling…

Having the sand swept out from underneath you…

And so I changed my position, having lifted my feet and moving to “higher ground” next to me, where the sand had re-leveled itself.

Ahhhh….much better….solid footing again…

Except it wasn’t solid footing at all.  The dissipated wave now returned, spiraling my toes again, and returning to the ocean again, and swiftly, deftly, taking with her, sand from beneath my feet. Again.

And so I’d move to higher ground.  Again.

Anything to avoid that uncomfortable feeling of what remained when the sand had been swept out from underneath me.

I looked down at my toes and took pause. Wait a minute, I thought, what if I just stay? What will happen if I allow the sand to be swept out from under me? What if I DON’T seek higher ground? What will happen if I just stay?

Where had I heard these questions before???

Cue the barking.

What would happen if I just stayed? What would happen if instead of seeking higher ground, I would find my feet? Would I lose balance? Fall over? Be washed into the vast ocean (which is a real and very scary threat to someone who never learned how to swim)?!?

The answer to all of those questions was clear:


Perhaps dangerously throwing caution to the wind, I said to myself well fuck it…let’s see what happens…

I recollected the commands of my insightful and valued yogi instructors…I rooted down…I noticed the four corners of my feet pressing down into the sand, the sand that would leave me as quickly as it had met me…

And I just stayed.

The sand had pulled away from my heels, leaving my feet in an upright, angled position.

An uncomfortable position.

And I stayed.

I weebled and wobbled.

And stayed.

Terribly inflexible, my feet angled this way caused some considerable pain…

Yet I stayed…

What will happen, I wondered, if I just stay here…if I stay here and just deal with the discomfort…if I just deal with the pain….what will happen?

Another dissipated wave came, and it too, swept even more sand out from underneath me, causing even further discomfort and further pain.

And I stayed.

I kept my feet there, but I re-positioned my hips, allowing one side to bear the brunt of my weight, and then shifting it to the other, allowing the other side to bear the similar burden of my bodyweight.

Hmmmm that’s not too bad. I’d discovered that re-positioning my body instead of removing my feet would deliver comfort, a different comfort than if I had removed my feet, but a comfort nevertheless.

Soon another dissipated wave came, over and over—you know the drill by now…but then I looked down at my feet again…

My toes were curling into the sand, gripping at the sand, clinging to it. Instead of trusting my re-positioning, my toes wanted to play anchor. They were gripping so tightly, eventually even cramping because I was hanging on so tight.

As quickly as I noticed my clinging…


I let go.

And guess what?

I didn’t fall over.

Feeling encouraged by my new-found discovery and more confident, I wondered, what will happen if I go another 10 feet further into the ocean? Can I find my feet there, too? Can I stay? Can I find my anchor? Will I be able to root down? Can I allow myself to stop gripping? To stop clinging? Will I allow myself to let go?

Cautiously, I tip-toed further, and the waves grew more rapid and violent, stirring water around my shins this time.

The sand shifted. It came. It went.

And I stayed.

Over and over again, wave after wave,




And the most interesting thing happened after about fifteen minutes of just staying….and allowing for the discomfort…

The sand anchored my feet.  One might say the sand “buried” my feet, but this optimist would suggest that the sand now supported my feet, enveloping my ankles and holding me in such a way that I did not have to shift my weight from one hip to the other; instead, I was held by something greater and more powerful than myself.

I found my feet!

And bricks are being broken, and walls are falling down.


Un-stucking the Rut

Un-stucking the Rut

I never thought I would say this…

But after weight training for almost 30 years, I AM FINISHED.

I hate it.

For those readers who have followed me for quite some time, this is probably shocking news.

Training with weights has been an important part of my life, and it has helped me to reach a number of personal goals.  But recently, I got fed up; disenchanted with what I was doing; and I realized that it was time to move on.

Continue reading “Un-stucking the Rut”

Part Three of Three: Albert Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Daughter

Part Three of Three: Albert Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Daughter

I’ve been seeing someone.

 A psychiatrist.  Or a psychologist. Or therapist.  Or something like that.  I don’t know what she is, actually.   I’ve been seeing someone who’s trying to help me figure out my shit, okay?!? I’ve got some demons that I’m not so proud of, and I’m trying to expose them and learn from them and move forward from them.  

For a long time, I have not recognized these demons that have laid dormant inside of me because in my “past life,” I was too busy being caught up in someone else’s life.  I never really paid much attention to myself because I didn’t even matter to myself.  It was this someone else’s needs that I allowed to matter above my own, all day, every day.  Since that person has been out of my life, I’ve been smacked in the face with some of my own personal crap.  It’s not very comfortable, sometimes, finding out that these things exist inside of me.  But I’m learning to manage them.  I’m learning to identify fears and patterns and recognize that I’m playing old patterns and I’m allowing–sometimes– fear to get in the way of my success– both personally and professionally.

 Currently, I’m working on this nagging fear of not being “good enough.” I’m not a good enough teacher, friend, “plus one”, sister, daughter, cousin, whatever…I’m just not “good enough.”   And so I’ve been reflecting on my life, trying to figure out where this feeling (or false belief) comes from, and trying to have some compassion for myself, and forgiving myself for having these feelings, and even giving myself a bit of a hug and learning that “I’m okay” in spite of– and maybe because of– my past interaction  with life in general.  

This three part series is about some of those discoveries– my earliest memories of not feeling good enough.  This is the conclusion to that series.  Part one can be found here: Mr. Meckis and His Amazing Technicolor Art Projects and part two here: Coach T and His Amazing Technicolor Lady Lions.

Continue reading “Part Three of Three: Albert Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Daughter”

An English-Speaking American White Girl in Punta Cana: Primer Tiempo

imageMy sister and I recently travelled to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. To be honest, initially I wasn’t overly excited to be going there. I embrace new situations and adventures, and I say “yes” to nearly every opportunity, and I did say yes to this too, but I was scared to death. I’d never been out of the country, let alone to a third world country, and I was actually scared. Feeling scared is not completely foreign to me, but this was a new kind of fear– one I wasn’t certain I knew how to handle.

After a long day of connecting flights, we’d finally arrived. We passed through immigration and customs before getting to our final gate where we were greeted by Dominican heat and humidity. The Punta Cana International Airport is mostly outdoors. Its roofs are made of thatch. Although it had some modern conveniences inside, it was becoming more and more abundantly clear that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. And naturally, everyone spoke Spanish. I took a little Spanish in high school, but I certainly didn’t remember much more than hola and bueno. Immediately, I was out of my English-speaking comfort zone as this was something I’d never seen, felt, or experienced. My anxiety continued to rise.

Frantically, I began to text some loved ones back home of my arrival. My efforts proved futile, as I was unable to connect with anyone. The anxiety continued to rise. And I also grew disgusted with myself for my abundant reliance on technology to “feel connected”.

We were on a group trip, so we had plenty of experienced travelers with us, but that didn’t seem to subside the unease that continued to grow in the pit of my stomach. A bus would take us to our resort, and it was during that ride that I began to feel a very heightened sense of my own white, middle class privilege.

The road was long and dark. Dominican locals on mopeds and other travelers accompanied us on the 70 mph speed limit “highway,” but they were few and far between. There were no street lights, traffic lights, or convenience stores along the way. No Starbucks on every other block. There were very few four-wheeled vehicles. There was darkness. And what seemed to be desolation, although of this I could not be certain because it was after 10:00 pm.

And still, in spite of being a part of a group, in spite of having my older sister sitting beside me, I’d never felt so alone and scared at the same time.

Things seemed to improve as our bus rolled up to the gated resort. Palm trees illuminated by twinkle lights lead our way to the grand hall where we would check into our rooms. The check in procedure was antiquated by American standards, as there was no computerized check in, rather our reservations had been tracked on form documents that had been typewritten. Resort personnel filed the paper documents in wooden file cabinets rather than in a nebulous iCloud. Wifi, I was quickly coming to learn, would likely be sketchy.

When we arrived in our room, my anxiety had piqued, and I began to cry. Over and over, I apologized to my sister because I didn’t know why I was crying; in fact, I was laughing at myself through my tears because I couldn’t pinpoint what in the hell was wrong with me. Why was I crying?!? Here I was, on the vacation of a lifetime; a trip I hadn’t even had to pay for; a sunny island where all I’d be asked to do was relax. And that was part of the problem– I don’t know how to relax. I’ve spent most of my life always “on”. What would happen to me if I gave up total control? If I allowed myself to let my hair down and really take in my new environment? If I allowed the discomfort to transform me rather than trap me?

I’d decided on the former. I wanted to transform.

To be continued…

The Purge

Comedian George Carlin had this skit where he comically postulates about the very human and very American condition of collecting stuff. It’s one of my favorites. According to Carlin, we are in a constant state of collecting stuff. For the whole transcript– which is hilarious, I might add– you can go here:

I’m no different than those Carlin criticizes. I have quite the accumulation of stuff: stuff I have from my childhood, stuff I’ve collected in my career, stuff that I don’t know where it came from, all kinds of stuff.

My stuff was suffocating me.

My house is fairly small, and yet I managed to pack it full of stuff, so much that I anticipated the floor joists breaking and perhaps the siding falling off the outside of the house.

But here’s the thing: I don’t need all that stuff. I suppose most of us don’t need all the stuff we cram into our homes, yet we all seem to keep accumulating more and more stuff.

During the last two weeks of summer vacation, I purged the shit out of my house. Every room fell victim to a ruthless inventory. My closet was first. If it didn’t fit or I hadn’t worn it in over a year, it went into the Goodwill pile. For kitchen and other household items, if I hadn’t used it in a year or it was worn out, it got tossed. If an item didn’t serve me, it got tossed. If it was an item that I hadn’t used in a long time, yet was inexpensive enough that I could re-purchase it if I regretted shedding it, tossed.

And then there was the memorabilia. I made some tough decisions there and decided that at the end of the day, the memory of those “events” was all that mattered. They would be forever etched in my head, regardless of any insignificant momento that might’ve been attached to it. So some of that stuff got tossed too.

And for a number of years, I’d saved a bunch of journals and letters that I’d written to Jeff when we were struggling in our marriage. What was I hanging onto them for?!? To remember that painful past? Why?!? That hardly seems useful. But I thought that maybe I could learn something from some of them so as to not make the same mistakes that I’d made in the past. My letters, my own words, caused me some shame and also some enlightenment. There were some things I wrote that I thought “what a bitch!” of myself. Other things, I thought, “I will never do THAT again!” And then I refused to dwell. I read them once, processed what I’d read, vowed to never repeat my mistakes, and then threw them in the garbage. Why hold on to that pain from my past?!? So I let it go.

I don’t consider myself to be a tree hugger or a hippy or a spiritualist or any one particular sort of “weirdo” by societal standards, but I do believe in positive and negative energies. I believe that much of my stuff– the stuff I no longer used, was worn out, no longer served me, it was a reminder of a painful past– was negative energy that I was allowing in my home. And I fully believe that in order to bring more positive into my life, I must release the negative.

So I sent some unused furniture to a local charity. I stuffed my GMC Terrain full of stuff I no longer use. My negative energies that I’d stored in my house for years will likely become positive energies in someone else’s home. Someone out there needs my stuff that I no longer need.  It can serve someone else. It will have value for someone else.

A loaded Terrain, moments before being driven off to the local Goodwill.

And the other stuff that nobody needs? It’s going to the landfill. Probably still not the best place,”earth-wise”, but the right place. For me.

two giant garbage bins filled to the rim, 15-20 garbage bags, and other assirted junk awaits refuse removal.

I can breathe more easily now. I sleep better. The walls in my house don’t feel like they’re caving in on me anymore. I feel like I’m more open to positive experiences in my life. Coz its not “stuff” that brings me joy. It’s the people in my life and the way I share my life with them that brings me joy. I’m ready for more of that. So very ready. Bring it!


Five Simple Strategies: #4 One Small Step

At the beginning of every new year, Americans put tremendous pressure on themselves to set resolutions.  One of the top resolutions is “I’m going to lose weight!”  And we start out in full blast mode, and we get going, and all of the sudden…we fizzle out.


I think it’s because we start “too big.”  The goal of “losing weight’ encompasses so much.  Not only is there exercise to consider, but there’s diet too.  And time management– how am I going to figure out how to get a workout in during the day?  And what gym am I going to join?  Is a gym even right for me?  What will I wear?  What will others think of me?

And if you’re anything like me, you probably start to overthink the answers to all of those questions, and that thinking becomes paralyzing, and you end up doing nothing–fizzling out– because you grow frustrated.

Guess what– you’re normal.

Continue reading “Five Simple Strategies: #4 One Small Step”

"Rush" is a Dirty Four-Lettered Word

Why is it that when I’m trying to get somewhere via car, I’m always stuck behind some person that clearly does not know how to drive?  The speed limit could be 35 and this person will be traveling at the speed of a snail, making 35 mph seem as though it would be warp speed!  And naturally, there is never a passing lane when stuck behind such said person.  There is no way out.  I’m forced to stay behind, cursing and yelling (to myself, apparently, because I’m pretty sure the alleged guilty party cannot hear me) along the way as we travel at this “dumb ass mother fucker who doesn’t know how to drive would you please get the fuck out of the way you stupid fuck?!?”

And I will sometimes tailgate.

So I have aggressive driving issues.

But at least I can admit it.  And that is the first step toward healing, right?!?!

But beyond that tendency to be aggressive, I can’t help but also wonder…

Why am I in such a hurry?
What’s the rush?
Why am I in such a hurry to get from point A to point B?

I guess when you lose someone, you gain an appreciation for living life to the fullest and you learn to appreciate living “in the now”, in the moment.  And you realize that there is no time to waste.  That the time for action is, in fact, “NOW.”  Being behind a slow driver “prevents” me from doing the thing that I want to do NOW.

So this is a double-edged sword.  Because living in the “now” is also a breeding ground for having a lack of patience. And I already lacked that before Jeff died.  Now, it’s even worse.

Dana Linn Bailey

I see evidence of this in my list-making that I talked about last week. When I fail to accomplish all of those listed items, I feel as though I failed myself as well as the day; that I didn’t use my time as wisely as I could have.  I feel badly that I might have to put off some items until the next day.  I stress out that I didn’t get it all done.  I see evidence of that sense of hurriedness and lack of patience in my endeavors in bodybuilding.  I want to look like  Dana Linn Bailey today.  Forget the fact that first of all, she’s inches shorter than I am; that she’s worked on her body for years compared to only the three years that I’ve been involved in this sport; that she is a professional bodybuilder. Somewhere along the line, I lose sight of all of that and just get caught up in not being satisfied with the journey.

And I hate that word– “journey.”  You hear it everywhere.  This is your journey.  Appreciate the journey.  The journey is yours to travel.  Look, Journey was an 80s pop band, one that’s gained recent recognition through shows like Laguna Beach and Glee.  And I liked Journey.  Even have a bunch of their songs on my iPod.

So maybe it’s not so much a “journey” as it is just living one’s life and enjoying the successes and setbacks that lead to eventual growth and opportunity.  It’s quite the juxtaposition, to have learned from grief to “live in the moment,” but then to be in constant search of “the answer” or the satisfaction of scratching items off a list or “the final product.”

But here’s the thing…

There is no “answer.”

What does scratching items off a list really do for oneself anyway?  It’s just some scribbling on a note card of things that I’ve deemed to be so exceptionally relevant and important.

And moreover, the “final product” only exists when you die.  What lies in graveyards across the country and the world are a bunch of “final products.”

And I’m not done yet.  There is no final answer.  The list will never be fully accomplished.  And I am certainly no final product.  And I reckon that neither are you.

Life is a process, a series of trial and error, drafts and revisions…

So what’s your hurry?

Slow down.

Who cares if everything on the list of things to do is not accomplished?  Tomorrow is another day. And if it’s not, still– who cares?  Is everything on that list really time-sensitive?  Or is it just a ridiculous constraint that you place upon yourself?

Pay attention to the trials, the errors.  Don’t shut them down.  Don’t ignore them or brush them under the rug.  Face them– head on!  And as crazy as it might sound, embrace the setbacks as much as you embrace the successes.  Be kind to yourself.  Be patient with yourself.  And also with that slow-ass driver in front of you.

You’ll get to where you need to be. You will get done what needs to get done.  You are not a failure.  You– and your life–  are a work- in- progress.

A beautiful, unique, and wonderful work- in-progress.


Help Wanted!

Ever since Jeff died, I have become a list-maker.  I make lists for what I need to pick up at Walmart, what needs bought at the grocery store, reminders of people and businesses I need to call, and more importantly, lists of things I need to do.  I have found that I’m more forgetful than I used to be, and the lists help in keeping me on track. It’s not unusual to find three or four lists sitting on the kitchen counter, reminding me of the six million things I “need” to get done.

But my lists frustrate me.

Because I can’t seem to get it all done.

I have a tendency to list project after project.  And my expectation is that I get all of those projects done on the day I’ve enlisted their accomplishment.  On today’s list, I was to finish painting my bedroom, prep food, walk Bella, and clean the whole house.

I didn’t get any of it done.

I started the painting, but ran out of daylight and couldn’t finish it up because I couldn’t see.  I ended up re-arranging my entire living room, so I only got that room cleaned up today.  Poor Bella got shunned and I made food as I went along today rather than prepping out a few days’ worth.

I can’t do it all.

I need help.

This– the concept of needing help– became painfully obvious at my last competition and then also when I was trying to cross off “mow the grass” from a recent list.

My friend Amy competed with me at the Pittsburgh show.  Amy has a coach, someone who provides her with a training routine, a diet, help with posing, and other helpful advice.  She’d purchased a spray tan the day of the show and also had her hair and makeup done by someone else.

As I applied coat after coat of tan (I didn’t get a spray tan; I used this stuff that you essentially “paint” your body with), painstakingly applied “glamour” makeup, and fooled around with my hair until I thought it was “stage perfect,” I watched what Amy was doing.

She was practicing her posing.

She was concentrating on what really mattered about that show– posing.

And I had to pay closer attention to just getting ready to be on the stage.  Posing, for me, was something I couldn’t take the luxury of doing because I had to do all the other stuff.

In that moment, of watching her perfect her routine, I was envious.  Envious that she had all that help.  I’d wished that I’d had that kind of help too.

Even in preparing for that show, I did my own training, my own diet, my own posing work, my own creation of a routine.  I did it all.  By myself.

No wonder I was so fucking exhausted.

I didn’t even realize it while I was doing it; I just did it.  I was living a Nike mantra.

And then there are the tasks of running a household:  cleaning it, maintaining it, repairing it.  I’ve done it all.  I’ve learned how to thaw pipes, learned how to hang a new shower head, painted, landscaped.  I’ve continued to maintain my house finances.  I mow the grass.  I clean the bathroom and the kitchen as well as the other rooms.  I clean out the litter boxes.  Pick up the dog crap.  Installed all of the AC window units.  I do the laundry.  The list goes on and on and on…I’ve done ALL of it.

The “someone” I referenced in last week’s post has the ability to have the more mundane tasks in his life taken care of by others that he’s hired.  I had a really hard time wrapping my head around that because I couldn’t understand why you would spend money on things that you could likely do yourself.  If you are capable of running a vacuum, you can clean your own house.  If you know how to operate a lawn mower, you can mow your own yard.

He explained that he’d had a similar problem with having things “done” for him when he was first in the corporate world.  All of these people wanted to do things for him, take care of things for him.  It was uncomfortable at first, he told me.  He resisted.  Until someone pointed out to him that he should allow for those people to do those things because it then frees you up to accomplish goals in other areas in which you are most talented.  So he could concentrate on doing CEO things because other people were taking care of other things that he didn’t have time to do because he was busy being good at being a CEO.

And that’s when the lightbulb went off.

It’s okay to need help.  It’s okay to ask for it, too.  It’s okay to allow others to do things for you.  Doing so frees you up to accomplish goals in other areas in which you are most talented.

Yesterday, I started a new prep for a competition on September 7.  I hired a trainer.  She has provided me with a new training routine as well as a diet.  I don’t have to figure it out by myself this time.

I need the help.  So I asked for it.

And in the past, mowing the grass was something I really enjoyed doing.  Now, it’s just another task I need to cross of my seemingly endless list.  So I hired some “grass guys” to take care of my yard.

I need the help.  So I asked for it.

It is humbling to do so; to admit that I cannot do it all.

I cannot do it all.