January 10, 2015 § 23 Comments


Forget saftey. Live where you fear to live. – Rumi

We have a new crossing guard at school. The old one was very friendly but he was also ambivialent, and I was never quite sure whether it was OK to keep driving or if a bunch of kids was going to jump out into the street in front of my car. This new guard is different. He is emphatic. He steps out into the crosswalk with his sign held high and his hand out. Stop, his entire body says. Yesterday, as he glared out at our line of cars and shepherded the children between sidewalks, I breathed a sigh of relief. I hadn’t realized how vigilant I had to be with the old guard, when it seemed as if no one was really in charge.

Teaching yoga is not natural for me. When I practice and go to someone else’s class, I plant myself solidly in the middle of the room so I am surrounded, anonymous, and invisible. Sitting in the front to teach is a bit terrifying and so far, it hasn’t gotten any easier. I love being told what to do, how to move, and when to breathe, but playing the role of leader is miles out of my comfort zone. “Breathe in,” I say when I teach, and am shocked when I hear people inhale.

On the weekends, when it’s just the boys and me, I sometimes catch myself waiting for the real grownup to arrive and take over. I have moments when I feel just as I did when we took Oliver home from the birth center where he was born. “They’re trusting us with him?” I kept asking Scott, who had the same panicked look on his face.

Lately, the new responsibilities in my life are overwhelming in a way that makes me feel kind of loser-ish. A few months ago, I expressed my leadership concerns to Rolf and he told me we are at our best when we are giving one hundred percent but still feel stretched. And this is how I feel every day: stretched and still falling short.

When Scott came home from Bahrain for three weeks this Christmas, I was so tired I could barely get out of bed for the first two days. I hadn’t realized how exhausted I was, how difficult it is for me to be in charge, whether it’s in the six yoga classes I teach or at home, as the solo parent. And yet, that is precisely my role right now: to be the responsible one. To be a shepherd of sorts, ferrying my crew from one pose to the next, trusting that right action will arise for all of us.

So many of my friends glide into leadership roles seamlessly. One owns her own law firm, another her own business, and on this Marine base, I am surrounded by some of the strongest and most together women I have ever met. It’s been humbling to realize how different I am and that what comes easily to them is elusive to me.

Rolf conned convinced me to help lead his 200 hour yoga teacher training here, on Camp Lejeune, which is he offering free of charge to veterans.  Most of the guys in the training also take my yoga classes, and this has raised the bar even higher for me. The 200 hour training meets once a month and Rolf dials in, appearing on the big TV screen in the yoga studio. But there in the room, I am the one in the front, the one being watched, not just in the training, but daily as I live and teach, succeeding and failing in various degrees. Like a butterfly pinned to a board, I feel exposed, and more than a little bit fragile, my own wings feeling dry and brittle.

And yet, stepping out of my comfort zone to this degree – doing what is so radically uncomfortable – has pushed me to take unusual steps. Knowing that I am being pushed in new directions has brought a new level of accountability to how I sequence my classes and to how I live. It’s so obvious to me now the areas in which I am out of alignment as a teacher, a parent, and as a person. I have had to take charge – and make changes – if not willingly, then by necessity, whether it’s encouraging my children through transitions as Scott leaves again for another five months or ushering students through a yoga class. Most of this is a two-step forward one-step back kind of thing. I feel a measure of success and then I lose patience, my sense of timing, or my nerve.

Breathe in and know you are breathing in, I say, as Rolf taught me to do. And breathe out and know you are breathing out. I am acting “as if” and hoping that some day, who I am now will catch up to who I want to be.




§ 23 Responses to Responsible

  • I love this, am. I act “as if” all the time and am waiting for someone to notice that I don’t actually have any idea what I’m doing. I also routinely say that I’m waiting for the real parents to come home. Oh, yes. I don’t know if it will help or mean anything, but from where I sit you have it ALL together and are a role model for yoga teachers. I am still waiting for the day I can take one of your classes … xoxo

    • Pamela says:

      I hope I didn’t steal your line – I may have:) The real parents indeed!!! Thank you for your faith. Definitely not all together but your comment makes me feel so much better!!!

  • I wish, just for a moment, that you could see yourself as I (as we) see you. I’d like to add a new version to Rolf’s brilliant mantra: Breathe in, and know that you are enough. Breathe out, and know that you are enough. [P.S. I love your humility and vulnerability – it’s a part of what makes you such a gorgeous role model.] xoxo

  • Oh sweetie. I’m beginning to think we all do this. Truly. And what you are is wonderful. XOXO

  • Katrina Kenison says:

    Pam, I wonder if what you describe is universal, but most of us don’t have the courage or eloquence to express it. And yet, in sharing your vulnerability you seem to me incredibly strong and capable. My impulse, always, is to curl up and hide. Loser-Ish. . .oh, how well I know that feeling. And yet you keep stepping out of that mucky, invisible, anonymous place and allowing your light to shine. That is NOT loser-ish, my friend, that is inspiring! And how cool, that you’re helping Rolf!!

    • Pamela says:

      Katrina, I cannot imagine you ever feel loser-ish. But it comforts me greatly that you say you do:) I am not sure if I am helping Rolf … but he is definitely helping me. And it is a lot of fun for sure, as you can imagine. xoxo

  • it seems like we all ‘know’ this feeling, and you capture it with grace, and at a speed i can handle. for me, its the sweep, and the weep and the speed of my ‘ungrace’ that i’m so frequently astonished by… and i’m so glad we all keep getting out of bed and ‘soldiering on. . . (sortof punny, in your case… huh. ?:))

  • It is always a good day for me when one of your blog posts shows up in my in-box. I know I will learn something from your words. And oh how I empathize with the feeling of waiting for the real grown up to show up. I feel this way all the time. Thank you for sharing these thoughts with us. Your boys and your yoga students are so lucky to have you!

    • Pamela says:

      I feel the same about your posts. And it’s a great comfort to know someone I admire might feel a bit like phoning it in sometimes too:) I am excited about your year in reading and what you will create from it.

  • Laura Plumb says:

    You are so amazing. Anyone bringing the acute awareness you bring to life is an advanced Yogi, and fit to teach the strongest and the most together anywhere. You lead by your mindfulness. I am inspired!

  • Scott Cloyd says:

    Hi Sweetie, This is a lovely post.

    I love you more than ever, Scott


  • Lately I go back to Plato, to the concept of leadership as service. This is also in Chinese wisdom, it’s in the Leonard Cohen lyric:

    I met a man who lost his mind
    in some lost place I had to find,
    follow me the wise man said,
    but he walked behind.

    Maybe love is our fearless leader, a shimmering child trickster who constellates in every gathering or connection inspired by the intention to love and which dies in every ego’s attempt to capture it

  • Sheila says:

    You’re not alone. I bet if you asked those people who seem so together, they’d tell you they feel the same way. It’s funny how we all try to act that way when we’re really going crazy on the inside.

  • jessiepbraun says:

    Beautiful as always. I have the same issue with teaching yoga. I always say, “I don’t want to be the queen bee – I’m a worker bee.” I fantasize about mowing lawns for a living. Not own a landscaping business – I just want to mow lawns and that’s it:) But I think leadership takes many forms. And “knowing” you from this blog, my guess is that you create a space for your students that feels safe & accepting. That they can come to class just as they are, perfectly imperfect. Maybe the thing about yourself that you see as flawed is the very thing your students love about you….your vulnerability, your honesty, your keen insight. Your imperfection. Just a thought;) Sorry to be preachy – too much coffee xoxo

  • Amazing, Pamela! I completely understand your feelings, believe me. Throughout the ten years of teaching dance, followed by the year of Yoga, I always felt terrified.

    I haven’t taught Yoga in almost a year now. The cross-country move brought that on, but I must say I’ve enjoyed becoming the student again. Because I taught so much during my twenties and into my thirties, there was so much life happening that it all became overwhelming toward the end of my time in Milwaukee. It’s important to be aware of how we feel and know that we must stretch ourselves, find our edge, but there are times when we need to take a step back.

  • Kathy says:

    I have introduced a couple of my better writing students to your blog. You have a way of taking a life experience, coupling it with vulnerability as well as wisdom, and then creating a beautiful online presence from which readers of any age can relate.
    “Breathe in and know you are breathing in. And breathe out and know you are breathing out.” I love this.

  • I’ve been thinking about you and missing your words so I dropped in to see what you’ve been up to and found this post. It is so difficult to put one’s self out there where all can see. It is hard to be on the hook day in and out for one’s kids knowing that the father and husband you all miss is far away. It is hard to feel discomfort when you look around you and imagine that others have somehow come through it already or do not feel it to the degree you have. On the other hand, your inner strength which I believe must come from your readiness to try and be open and to stretch (literally and metaphorically) is pulsing through this post. Your prose, your thought process, your honesty all shine. I’m glad, as you must be, that you took all this on. How great it is that you say “yes” to all of it. How great it is to collapse for two days and recognize how hard you are working. I think those Marines are so lucky to have you.

  • As many others said above, you showing your vulnerabilities is one of your greatest, shining strengths. You, shining your light inward, learning and gathering, then shining that soft glow onto all of us around you. Gorgeous, as always. xo

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