June 14, 2014

My Understanding Of The Human Condition. ~ Michelle Handy

Uttanasana Forward Bend Yoga

I spent every day of my freshman year of high school working out in the fitness center alone.

Pushed by the drill sergeant that was my eating disorder, I found myself wrapped into the numbers rising on each machine. My eyes saw only the red calorie count that dug my grave each day, ignoring the fact that every workout shed another layer of who I was—my passions, personality and purpose.

Those were the Dark Ages.

By age 15, I had already faced three years of a disorder that controlled my every thought, move and moment. But that was just the beginning.

I can still hear the silence that stretched between my labored breaths in that room. Knives that carved loneliness and loss into my bones. Painful. Antagonizing. Isolating.

Enter Bonnie.

Bonnie would work out with me in the fitness center a few times a week. She was the Honors English teacher whose spunk and spirit started to save me from my own mind. But it wasn’t by force-feeding me or pushing me into treatment.

She simply talked.

But most importantly, she listened.

I told her about my life. The mundaneness of working at a hair salon in a small town. She heard how I used to race to work and worry about getting there on time. She heard about the fascinating trips I took abroad and the anticipation of my upcoming study abroad to Switzerland. I told her about my workload and fun facts about my life.

Our conversations filled those silences with laughter and love. She would tell me about her family in Colorado, her life outside the school.

Both of us loved writing so we talked about that. Later during my high school career, she even ended up being my Creative Writing teacher. Bonnie always offered encouragement and highlighted opportunities for growth. I learned that writing could be an outlet for any feeling, any story.

But the most important thing that Bonnie taught me was the human condition. We all love. We all hurt. Everyone.

If life were only filled with happiness, how would we be able to appreciate the warmth of a toasty blanket during a snow storm or the embrace of a bed at night? Bad days can only lead to better ones.

Acclaimed poet Sarah Kay wrote, “Getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air.”

For a 15-year-old struggling with an eating disorder, that lesson hit home. Hard.

I felt like my life was one tragic tale after another—that I wasn’t capable of experiencing happiness, health and healing.

I was wrong.

I also learned about the nostalgia. In a weird way, I missed the familiarity of my troubles.

My Dark Ages slowly became filled with more light, and now I look back and remember. Most of memories are black. Anyone who has struggled with an eating disorder knows the blackness that coats your memories, especially after seven years of starving.

It’s part of the human condition.

So is letting go.

There are many facets of life. Happiness versus contentment. Sadness versus hopelessness. Frustration versus rage. Acceptance of all of these.

My yoga practice was the place where I took our talks and put them into action. I surrendered to vulnerability and felt peace and comfort.

Forward folds are poses that require us to look inward. They’re challenging because they demand honesty.

I like folding into yogic toe lock. The bind reminds me of my struggles. As I look inward, I see who I am now versus who I was then. I let every worry spill from my mind, as a bucket pours out water.

In her renowned TED talk on vulnerability, Brené Brown points out that vulnerability is the cornerstone of all emotions. You can’t only feel the good stuff and get away without the bad stuff.

That’s the human condition.

Now, when I find myself in a rut, I keep telling myself that’s just part of the dance. Like a cha-cha. It’s life so keep calm and carry on. It’ll all be okay. And when happiness sweetens my world, I drink it up because I know it won’t last forever. It’s not meant to. And that’s okay.

It’ll come back. I know it will.


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Apprentice Editor: Cami Krueger/ Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Cristobal Rubio/Pixoto

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Michelle Handy