a purple Gaiam yoga mat

It’s just a purple Gaiam yoga mat, nothing special about it aside from the fact that it’s thicker than the Gaiam “original” model, and it has a lovely lavender side to complement the opposite deep purple side that is the typical yoga mat color. This purple Gaiam, slightly thicker, yoga mat stared at me from the offerings in the Target fitness aisle. Somehow, after my Monday night chemical dependency treatment process class, I found myself standing in front of this yoga mat priced at $29.99 with a strange pull to make the irrational purchase. And irrational it was because I was down to less than $200 in the checking account with the bevy of psychiatry appointments I’d had in the past 3 weeks, enough to add up to a car payment on a new fully loaded SUV. But payday was in close sight, and I had no idea why, but I needed this mat, and I needed it that very night. I don’t even recall how or what led me to this aisle, or even this store. My assessment is that the universe said to me, “Girl, you need this …” and so I heeded the directive, and purchased said yoga mat.

I had been staying at Dan’s place for nearly a month when I made that strange trip to Target to get a yoga mat. It started incongruously the day of my birthday party, the last Saturday in September. I went through all the motions at my party, talking to people, making myself not cry, not turn into a pile of goo. But at the end of the night, I said to Dan, “Can I come over?” And he said, “sure, but you need to give me a ride as well because I walked here.” I drove us to his place, and I barely remember putting myself down on the couch. Somehow, the sofa bed was opened, sheets were put on, and a pillow found it’s way under my head. One night became nearly a month.

Doc didn’t want to put me in the hospital because he feared it would do more damage than good. Yet, no one disagreed that I could not be home alone. So, there I was with my ex-boyfriend, on his couch on the eve of his annual gaming convention that he puts on every year. The timing could barely have been worse. Towards the end, I started to remember why we broke up in the first place. His place started to feel like less of a sanctuary, and more of a self-imposed halfway house of sorts.

At Dan’s place I immediately opened up the yoga mat, between the sofa bed and the tv in the living room,  I was met with a most unwelcome chemical smell coming off the mat. Still though, I was undaunted, annoyed, but still undaunted. I had not been to a yoga class in more years than I could even quantify. I couldn’t recall a single thing from yoga class in that moment on that smelly mat. So I just moved. I moved and stretched, and tried will all my might to set an intention and focus on it all the while just moving, moving, moving .. just to do something. I desperately needed a something to do in my life as my job had gone to shit, and, at that moment, I was on medical leave.

I’ve always challenged myself, and I never fully realized, until this experience, that challenging myself is a a big part of who I am, and when I do not have this I am lost. I look back and realize that the best jobs I’ve had forced me out of my comfort zone, and pushed me to do better, and keep reaching outside of myself. Losing this with my job situation falling apart led me to the moment where I needed yoga. I needed something to do, and I needed to challenge myself again. In a way, yoga became my job when my actual job disintegrated in front of me.

Somehow, even with that yoga mat purchase, I did not expect in find myself in an actual yoga class. But, that’s exactly what happened. And so far it’s happened 11 times in 30 days. I’ll keep coming back with my smelly mat.

a grey hoodie and black yoga pants

It is entirely possible to wear a grey hoodie and black yoga pants too many days of the week. Initially, one might not think this is possible. But, after three and a half weeks of not working, such attire has become a uniform of sorts. And uniforms inevitably start to have an unfun feeling to them. The grey hoodie and black yoga pants have become the uniform of absenteeism, illness, and feeling down and out. The grey hoodie and black yoga pants have gone from fun after work/weekend lounge clothes to a uniform I no longer want. I now find myself at a loss when I arrive home in the evening as I am already in my “evening lounge clothes.”

My weekly laundry is now down to one easy load full of yoga pants, t-shirts, and other related exercise and lounge wear along with the usual socks and underwear. Yesterday I had an appointment that required “real clothes” and I had to unearth my favorite black and blue Ralph Lauren dress with a long black flowy jacket. I put on the dress and jacket with the pearl necklace my sister gave me for my birthday years ago, black pantyhose and long black boots. It’s amazing what clothes do to the spirit. Just putting on this outfit restored some of my sense of usefulness.

Shiny orange running shorts and a print t-shirt, soft from repeated washings, with a chihuahua dog on the front that states, “No more stinkin’ tacos!” make up the new evening lounge wear. Given that the temperature outside has started to plummet, there is little chance that this getup can become the new uniform of being down and out.

Who are you?

You peer into the mirror, and you don’t recognize the person looking back at you. You want to ask, “Who the hell are you?” In your mind, you are still that gal with the long beautiful brown hair, nice olive skin and big brown eyes that will pop with just the right make-up. This could be the reason that you’ve held on to your clothes from that other time: the beautiful and flowy brown skirt with intricately embroidered blue flowers tastefully placed on one side of the skirt, and the matching blue keyhole blouse that hugged your figure perfectly. And let’s not forget the long black formal with strategic cut-outs that garnered the attention of all the queens at the LGBT holiday gala. You were so proud to be loved by the queens!

But, that’s not what you see in the mirror before you. Instead, you see a greasy head of brown hair that is in bad need of a hair cut. Your face is far chubbier than your imagination will allow. It stuns you to even look in the mirror. You have this strange impulse to dive into the mirror, in search of the girl you used to know. Surely, if you dig hard enough, you will find her.

In that other time, you could feel the effortless way that your clothes flowed around you as you walked. You knew that every part of your physical being was perfectly intact, and you knew when you walked into a room you could command attention. But, the perfect physical being on the outside was a shell for the internal deceit taking place inside.

You can only run from yourself for so long, eventually it all catches up with you. In essence, that’s how one can go from belle of the ball to looking like a woman on the edge of falling into the abyss of inpatient psychiatric care. You run into people you knew when you were belle of the ball. They pass you by because they do not recognize you. You know when someone passes you by because they want to pretend they don’t know you, when that happens there’s that nanosecond flicker of recognition in their eyes before they look away. But, these people just look past you as if they’ve never met you. Part of you is glad to forgo the humiliation in front of them, though the humiliation is still there inside of you. You know they don’t recognize you because you look incredibly different from that other time, the faraway other time that feels like a fairy tale that happened to someone else.

Somehow, some part of you knows that your current life is a purer one from the previous belle of the ball sham of a life. But, purity does not mean it is easier, or painless. In fact, it seems the more truth you find the more pain there is to sort through. In those moments when the dissociation and PTSD make you feel heavy enough that you can hardly sit up in your chair, you can’t help but wish that you were still in that blissfully ignorant sham of an existence. At least you looked great.