Redefining Your Everybody

“But what will everybody think?”

How often has this question stopped you dead in your tracks?

I stayed at a job, in a relationship and in a city far longer than I needed to because of those five simple words. Repeatedly.

The funny thing is that we can usually narrow our “everybody” to about 4-5 people and it usually isn’t even a sampling of people that we find inspiring. Maybe it’s your super judgmental aunt. Or your high school teacher who said you wouldn’t amount to much. One of mine was an old boss at lululemon who told me that I’d never be a successful yoga teacher.

Who wants this crew sitting at the table of your most important, soul affirming decisions?

Not I.

Here are a few ways I started to reclaim my “everybody” and shift the majority of the focus to what I wanted instead:

#1 List your muses.
I have a doc on my phone with a list of people who inspire me. In the yoga space, the recovery space, the coaching space.. But also just good eggs that are up to good shit in the this world. However, just because I look up to them doesn’t mean I’d take their opinion and forget my own. That brings me to number 2.

#2 Know Your “Move a Body” friends.
Brene Brown refers to a “move a body” friend as the friend you could tell absolutely anything and they’d never get judgmental or disgusted. You’d never have to preface anything with “but please don’t tell anyone.” This is a person whose advice you can trust wholeheartedly. I have two of these friends and neither live near me. But I could pick up the phone at 2 am and they'd be on the next flight out. To move the body, of course.

#3 Celebrate What You Love. And What You Don’t.
You can read every single self-help book under the sun. You can do a gazillion chaturangas. But unless you know who you are or what you love, you are going to be stuck in the same ol’ people pleasing, “do-it-for-the-Instagram-likes” cycle over and over again. Take time to celebrate what it is you love. You like that wall bright blue? Paint it. You want to try improv? Sign up. You don’t want to go to that party? Don’t go. If you haven’t already, start the best relationship of your life. The one with yourself.

Life in Airplane Mode

In preparation for a trip to the Northern Lights with Folk Rebellion I began packing my bags. I made a few lists. I bought some legit cold weather shit. And I started to emotionally part ways with my technological counter parts.

Then a few hours later I drove myself to the emergency room with unbelievable pain and a fever of 103.5.

After hours in the ER and multiple rounds of blood work, x-rays and scans it became clear I would not be leaving for Canada or even the hospital for that matter.

I had something weird called sigmoid volvulus. To be frank it's basically where your colon twists in two and yes, it's as painful as it sounds. Rather than adventuring through the snowy wilderness with some of my favorite people I'd instead be bedridden, watching HGTV and talking all about poop.

I felt bad. I felt bad physically. I felt awful that my husband didn't get his long overdue vacation from work. And I mostly felt badly for disappointed my friends who were hosting the retreat and depending on me.

What do I do when I feel things I don't want to feel? I numb out. And my drug of choice is social media. I started scrolling and scrolling and scrolling. The exact thing I was so looking forward to (and was certainly scared about) leaving behind for several days.

I felt more lethargic. I felt sadder. But I made a decision: I put my phone on airplane mode. I read an entire novel in one day. I napped.. a lot. I watched "Tiny Houses." (I fucking love that show.) I went for a walk with my sweet husband and my IV to watch the sun set over downtown from a hospital window. I took a few more deep breaths even if they were full of stale hospital air.

I realized I didn't need to travel all the way to the middle of Canada to experience being unplugged. All I needed to do was make a conscious choice to be more present to this big, messy life I'm so blessed to call mine.

I missed a trip but I got to touch some gratitude deep inside of me that didn't let me get on that plane and have something worse happen.. that I'm surrounded by so much love and support and good people.. that I have a life I really want to show up for.

Peace out blisscrafters. Back on airplane mode.

The Year Everything Changed

A little over a year ago I was offered a few weeks of free coaching by a training institute. I thought, Hell, why not, though in my mind there couldn't be too much they could coach me on right now. Things were good, right? 

This certainty was brought to an excruciating halt in our first session when I was asked the simplest of questions:

What are you excited about?

I was stunned by my own silence. My inability to respond. My throat got tight but I managed some sort of disembodied reply.

When I was younger I used to tear the "bad days" out of my journal. Truly, I did. You know, the day where absolutely everything went wrong - you spilled chocolate milk on your brand new shirt and the guy you had a major crush on started dating someone else and you failed the test you thought you were going to ace. Not earth shattering stuff but in my world, there was no room for it. I only wanted to read back and remember the beautiful stuff. So out those pages went, just torn right from my own account of my life's story.

I'd done as I'd grown older too. But the way I did it was a little bit different. The goal: just keep my shit together until 5 pm. Then I'd pour myself my glass of wine or crack my beer and we were off into "Feeling Land." And because I really wasn't good and making sure I didn't pour myself that third (or fourth, or fifth) glass of wine things came tumbling out of me. Not in the cathartic way where you feel something then sit with it then make a choice. Oh no, how I wish! Instead ugly things that'd I'd been stuffing deep down would either come tumbling out or pouring down my face in tears. It wasn't pretty but it was what I thought "coping" looked like. In fact, this is what I thought life looked like. It became my normal.

Be stellar all day. Be inspiring. Shine. Practice what you preach.
Then lose your shit. 
(Just don't Instagram that part.)

So when I was asked this question of what I was excited about it was the almost start to The Year that Everything Changed. The year when I started listening to my soul stirring and began to move out of my own way. The year I woke up clear eyed and of clear mind. The year I found my voice and I used it. A lot. The year I finally began to the listen to that inner voice that pleaded for me to stop. The year I saw the magic and the "God winks" and reminders all around me of what I was missing; what was right in front of my face.

Guess what happens when you get out of your own way.

Magic happens.

Things you never dreamt possible.

I quit drinking. I was on the cover of Yoga Journal. I taught 5,000 people. I moved to Silver Lake. I chopped my hair off.

It's kind of insane how proud I am of myself. I'm living a completely different life. And I really needed it. I just would've never been able to draw the map. Yet I was led here.

This was the year I finally got to see me.

The Day I Woke Up

Tuesday, November 8th was one of my most proud days.

I donned my "Future is Female" shirt. I went to yoga and I prayed. I high-fived three older ladies in line after I cast my vote for the first female president of the United States Hillary Clinton.

I posted this that morning: I'm voting to ensure this little girl is valued, celebrated and empowered. That her body and her dreams belong to her and her only. And that she knows a woman's place is in the White House. I'm voting to ensure that for each of us. #imwithher #wegohigh

Tuesday was one of my most favorite days, until it wasn't.

On Tuesday I voted for love, while many others, including some family members and old friends, voted for Donald Trump, a man who has used racism, homophobia, xenophobia and hate as a way to become president.

I turned on the radio the next day and heard "Those of us in California woke up today and realized we live in a different country."

I drove to teach my yoga class. The room was filled with choked sobs and a heavy energy. Do you know why? 

Because one student is afraid her children will be bullied because that behavior as a way to gain momentum and votes.
Another is afraid that her marriage to her wife will be eradicated and discriminated against.
Another is afraid her children will be subject to racial slurs.
Another is afraid her best friend and her family will be deported.
Another is terrified that her two black sons will be subject to violence.

During these ten days I haven't had one conversation with someone here in Los Angeles that voted for Trump. I haven't had one conversation with someone who doesn't agree with me.

And this is part of the problem.

I am part of the problem.

I left Iowa when I was twenty-two years old to live in Washington DC and work at a travel magazine. In my neighborhood I was often the minority. I bought my daily groceries at a corner store where the cashier was behind bulletproof glass. 

I moved to Los Angeles where I've lived in a variety of neighborhoods. I've worked with homeless youth, I've taught in drug rehab centers, I myself am in recovery.

Many of my friends are gay. Many of my friends have felt discriminated against. Many have had abortions. 

I voted for love because life isn't black and white. It's messy. It's heartbreaking. It's downright terrifying at times.

When I go home to Iowa, I'm often asked : How could you live there? The traffic, the people, the pollution.

You know why I live here? 

Because I've had the gift of getting to know each of these people. To feel accepted for my shortcomings. For my hurts. For knowing that the only way forward, the only true way is the path of love. And that path is often covered in blood, sweat and tears.

You're pro-life? Well, I'm pro-human. I choose a bear hug over a dollar bill. I choose radical vulnerability over this painful facade. I choose to see a human being and not a statistic. I choose the God that loves all of us, not the white people who believe what you believe.

If you're scared, I'm here.
If you're mad, I'm here.
If you think I'm wrong, I'm here.

We gotta show up. Now. For each other.

What will you do to make a difference? To examine your own part in this?

Tuesday was a really hard day but it also marks the day that I woke up.

These Mountains

I think I was twelve when a hurtful word was hurtled at me from across the hallway and it caught me right in the gut. Up until this point things would hurt momentarily and I let them go.

Kind of like a skinned knee - a moment of surprise, a moment of pain and then back to the adventure at hand.

But this time I held it. I felt it in my shoulders. I felt it in my jaw. I got steely, I contracted and I stayed as still as I could.

This.
This will not hurt me.
Not if I don't move.
Not if I don't breathe.

Not if I don't feel.

So began the long, treacherous road into adolescence where I held tight to this survival tactic, to any semblance of self I could grasp onto. 

Years and years and years of this.

I remember the first time I really, truly stepped onto my yoga mat out of need. I was 22, working a job that didn't fit and living in a body that really didn't fit. I walked into this carpeted little studio in Washington DC. The teacher put on some Bob Marley. And for an hour we rolled around on our mats and simply breathed.

That day and that practice has led me on a long, long journey of making my way home to myself. Of coming back to that little girl that breathed deeply, skinned her knees and just kept exploring. At 33, there are moments when I carry the mountain but there are more moments when I choose to climb it instead.

Love Being Wrong

I love being wrong.

It's taken a very long time to get there but I can honestly say that it feels good to be wrong from time to time.

I was wrong about my high school boyfriend.

I was wrong about my belief that being skinny meant being happy.
And that alcohol would lead me home to myself.

I was wrong that any place or thing or person would fix the aching inside me.
(Apparently it's an inside job.)

I've been wrong about so many people. Just snap judgments.

Just this week I had a conversation that turned into an argument. It left such a bad feeling in me and I felt that I had been wronged. Then yesterday as I was laying on my yoga mat I realized, "It's me."

That meant a phone call. An apology. Some ownership. 
On both behalfs.
What a gift.

Perspective pared with ego is a scary thing. It's a belief with teeth that is willing to take down any unsuspecting passerby. At the root of it all, it's just fear disguised as pride. It can be lethal. Being wrong is humbling. Admitting our human-ness, that sometimes that wrong is the "best" we have to offer.

When I can let go of my grip of being right or getting it "right," I'm able to just be in the game. As Brene Brown says, "If you aren't in the arena also getting your ass kicked, I'm not interested in your feedback."

Boom.

Because fuck guys, I'm in it right now. 

Just yesterday a colleague and I were reflecting on the past year and I said that there's been so much change and there's just no going back. The only way is forward and that's showing up as fully as I can every single day and doing the work. And loving myself when I get it wrong because I am bound to do so.

Try loving up your wrongs. 
Enjoy a more compassionate and spacious perspective in exchange.

The Magic of Grace

My first day of yoga teacher training was more like my first day of elementary school. We got into a circle, we said our names and we found our friends. Or our future friends found us.

I was pretty nervous for the training. I mean I wasn't that good at yoga and I hadn't been doing it that long. Who did I think I was signing up for teacher training? These thoughts paired with too many caffeinated beverages meant sweaty palms, a beet red face and a hummingbird heart.

"Hi, I'm Mary Beth LaRue and I'm very excited to be here," I choked out.

A gorgeous red head across the circle looked me straight in the eyes and loudly declared, "We are going to be friends."

Enter Lindsay Jean Thomson.

Our first friend date was to a Potbelly's down the street from the magazine where I worked in Washington DC. We inhaled two huge ice cream sandwiches (the kind with a whole chocolate chip cookie on either side) and got "related." Soon after that we were cruising around the city on my Vespa, hitting up tons of live music, going to jazz on the mall and drinking a lot of wine. We were both twenty four and the world was our oyster. 

Washington DC had been a tough transition for me. I didn't feel like myself. I missed Iowa. I missed my family. I missed who I was in Iowa and was confused by who I was showing up as in DC. It always seemed like I was playing dress up or faking it and that I'd much rather be in bed with a book or in my favorite coffee shop scribbling in my Moleskine. Lucky for me, Lindsay had the same introverted heart and for once I met someone who "got it." I could speak what I was feeling without being judged. I could belly laugh and know that laugh would be reciprocated. 

Our friendship stayed strong even after Linds moved across the country to San Francisco. I soon followed behind moving to Santa Monica, a few hours south. We didn't see each other a lot but when we did it always an adventure, whether we were exploring, laughing, beer drinking, even a bit of arguing.

And about that arguing. Though we had similar hearts we each had a trait that could pit us against the other. Lindsay is quite stubborn and I'm rather defensive. Are these traits that define us? Absolutely not. But they are certainly things that come out with the ego starts to flare.

We've had many moments over the past ten years that have been tough and most notably the past few years that we've hardly seen one another and hardly talked. We've kept in touch through a text message here or there, a brunch date when she's in town, but things had changed. We'd had a big falling out after my wedding when I didn't plan well and missed her birthday party.  This was really important to Lindsay and I knew that and I let her down. Sure, in the grand scheme of things it's small but at that exact moment we both thought "You want to hurt me and I'm closing off." So we did. And by doing that we lost a few years of memories, laughs and learnings.

A couple of months ago I saw I had a voicemail from Lindsay. I sat that it was more than a minute long and I just knew. I knew in my body in that moment that something wasn't right. I called her back immediately.

This time she was the one to choke out the words: I have breast cancer.

What? How could this even be slightly possible?

She's only 33. She eats organic everything. She doesn't even get a zit. I'm positive she uses organic deodorant. Cancer doesn't run in her family.

I do not understand, God. I really, really don't.

Suddenly it became crystal clear what I had missed out on by letting my ego get in the way the last couple of years. Sometimes grace is a quiet, sweet reminder and other times it's a massive slap in the face.

I wanted to be there for her but I knew that there were other people who loved her a lot and I should let them be there for her as they had been. I called. I wrote notes. I sent gifts. And then I asked if I could come see her.

Just a few days ago I stepped off a plane and once again felt a lot of the same feelings as the day I first met her. Sweaty palms, a bit of a red face and a hummingbird heart.

"Does she want me here? Have I overstepped?"

Then there she was, standing outside the airport, with her arms outstretched, her smile wide.

And just like that, we let each other back in. 

Thank you, thank you, thank you.
 

"I do not at all understand the mystery of grace–only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us." / Anne Lamott


Read about Lindsay's journey here.