“I let myself happen.” – Clarice Lispector
There are moments throughout the day that feel like they call attention to you, and you alone. Whether it be a presentation or job interview, a big talk with a friend, falling in love, the first day of a new class, or even when asked the simplest question at an uncomfortable time, everyone encounters a degree of vulnerability. Rest assured this feeling is one of strength, as it lights a path of telling your story which is essential to not only you, but anyone within earshot. By sharing your story, you create an opportunity for others to feel less alone.
As children, we share our stories without hesitation. When we are upset, we let our parents feel that frustration. We share secrets across the lunch table, moments from our private lives strewn alongside homemade brownies and a sandwich sans crust. At what point does our vulnerability, or the fact that we do not have all the answers, become a weakness?
Now that I am merging into “adulthood,” or whatever that means, I find that I need to remember how beautiful is to be without all the answers. To re-learn the gift of learning. I need to dance in the uncharted waters of the unknown, and feel the puddles splash against bare legs, and know that the experience will provide the answers. Below are the stories of my steps—perhaps they will help you, as well.
At the grocery store, a trip I made with a housemate on his visit for bananas and granola, I waded through the natural beauty section. All the lavender-rosemary soaps in their own elegance could be sculptures, each mirroring generations worth of a garden: Flora held within, if only forever. There’s a reason smell is a strong keepsake. For a moment, I realize I am breathing and thinking. I feel how these plants were planted, watered, and harvested when ready. All that is natural tells when it’s ready.
Next, I peer into a shell on the shelf, an actual mussel shell, a local craftsperson cared to collect its match, pierced a ribbon through to carry the tiny bottle of their oil essence product cleverly named something as generous as an ocean. I wonder where they were in the world to have been offered the gift of renewed marketing. I wonder what distance—from origin to now—the thought has lived, what it has witnessed and passed, and become something else, in this way. The way I interpret it. The way anyone does anything. Some people have the best ideas. While even as I know I can embody an abundance of creativity, I often experience the why-didn’t-I-think-of-that reflection. Some folks search for understanding their entire lives.
Engage With Yourself
As a child, I remember being told to “stay curious” by various adults, as if a warning, as if humans were in control of everything. I remember the first time I remembered being told the possibilities of curiosity. I was at the grocery store, a trip I made with my mother then. At the time, I was learning how to spell and say my name, a feat for anyone I meet, its curves and consonants all close like neighbors. In practice, I shared with whoever my mother, my mountain summit of the morning sun, spoke to. When asked, “What’s your name?” I looked up, responded, and asked, “what’s yours?”
If there’s anything I could say to my child self, it’s this: Always arrive. Or this: Begin anywhere. Appreciate the imperfect, the impractical, what’s curious, follow the mystery. Find meaning in the beauty of it all. Accept what it is, whatever it is, and move forward. Tell your story. Study light. Witness water. Be human.
“Awake, my dear. Be kind to your sleeping heart. Take it out into the vast fields of light, and let it breathe.” — Hafiz
Challenge Your Interpretation
Earlier in the day, I had walked over to the yoga studio a few blocks away from my house to attend a hatha class. It is a joy beyond words—something I’ll never feel less than gratitude for—to be able to roll out of bed, walk over to a quiet room dusted with positive visions, and take a mental nap for an hour. In the ten years of my start-and-stop yoga practice, I had never experienced the euphoric affirmation and empowering force of hatha. I was excited to do something new, and explore the edges of myself within a safe space. Yet at the same time I was equally anxious I was not ready. Where does this feeling come from?
I asked myself, why do I feel vulnerable here, and how can I be open to a new experience?
Throughout the class, I listened closely. It was the first day of school after all. Like an empty glass floating under a faucet, I was definitely ready. If I have the words for it, I have it. The teacher, calm and even, used the names of positions my body has never shaped, and supported each individual in kind, generative words. I listened, witnessed, experienced. There is power in naming that one thing. But know that not knowing what something is called is full of hope and wanting.
I have noticed teachers will begin with a reminder: Know your limits and take child’s pose whenever you need to, whenever you are called to. In a class as gentle as hatha, the whole world feels like an elaborate child’s pose. Reach into a surrendering. As a child might: play, rest, rest, play.
The learning comes from the experience. And this, I’m learning, is enough.
Karen Cygnarowicz is a writer and artist living in Portland, Oregon, where she serves as a production assistant at Modern Macramé. She received her MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Follow her Instagram, and her personal project The Ok Club as she explores what it means to be wildly human.1