The first time I learned the meaning of the word “purge” I was a student and employee working in the Bursar’s Office at Pace University, New York City campus. It’s right near City Hall Park, at the Manhattan end of the Brooklyn Bridge. We were told first thing in the morning that we would be purging records. I soon came to understand that we were deleting, shredding, throwing away, getting rid of. It often amazes me the things we remember and the things we don’t. This purging, I remember it. After searching each student record diligently for the given date parameters that decided the records fate, with one click of a computer key, I was able to make it disappear. Just like magic. In no time at all, I was really getting in to this idea of purging. Each click of the computer key, freeing me up even more.
Joe Smith, undergraduate, 14 credits, March 1, 1980 – purge. – Janetta Walsh, undergraduate, drop/add, summer session, June 15, 1979 – purge. Alan Vinto, White Plains Campus, late registration fee, February 17, 1981 – purge.
I’ve been suffering with a nasty run of the flu since Monday. Today is day 7, the first day I was able to muster the strength to sit up on my own, keep my spine straight and meditate. I did a lot of resting and sleeping these past 7 days. My body and mind both in the need of healing. At first I was angry. I never get sick. How could this be happening to me? What caused this? It’s foolish I wondered at all for I know my body so well that there is no doubt this illness was stress-induced. Yes, stress. It’ll get you every time. Stress from the disappointments and hurts of family, friends, work, life, sorrows, holidays, personal growth, you name it. I should have known this is where I was heading. Heck, this past election campaign alone has been so full of toxins, internally and externally, how in the world did I think I could ever side-step the inevitable fall to illness?
No matter what I tried to tell my body to do this week, it refused. I cancelled my yoga classes and was held hostage in the reclining chair for 7 days. As my body purged any consideration of movement – I should vacuum the carpet, but I can’t stand up – purge that idea – I should write my blog, but I can’t sit up – purge that idea – my mind followed suit – Maybe I’ll watch the news, but I can’t stomach it – purge that plan – I’ll read a book then, but I can’t focus – purge that plan – I’ll just feel sorry for myself, but I don’t have the energy for pity – purge that plan too.
The year 2016 has been brutally punishing. If it hasn’t left you feeling remorse or concern for others, especially those not like you, good for you. Well, not really. But in any case, just leave me alone to lick my wounds in peace.
The year 2016 has also been filled with loss, a lot if it. Yes, several great artists and entertainers known throughout this large, global planet, but also several loved ones known only to those in their small individual communities, their loss just as massive, if not as famous. Lost too, are false ideas and misrepresented memories that led me to believe some people were something other than what I created them to be. I lost some friends throughout this election year. It’s okay. Purging is good. Purging is necessary. Detox. Cleanse. That’s the ticket. But it’s not losing the friends so much, as it is losing the “ideal” I once had of these friends, that brings the grief. And it’s happened to a lot of people. I’m not alone. The year 2016 pushed a lot of boundaries. I’ve seen friends take some pretty nasty zingers in social media. People place themselves on a pedestal to judge others while wafting in the aroma of their own sweet, shit-scented perfection. We’re all guilty of this to some degree.
But wait, hold on! You’re a yogi, Terri – a person who practices yoga and chooses to follow a yogic lifestyle. Same thing as a Christian following a Christian lifestyle, Jew a Jew lifestyle, atheist an atheist lifestyle, asshole an asshole lifestyle. You get the idea. A no brainer. I teach yoga class, study spiritual texts, meditate, eat healthy, drink green tea, use aromatherapy diffusers, care for the environment. I’m not supposed to say things like “shit-scented perfection” or “asshole.” WTF? I don’t know who made that boxed-in rigid rule, but let’s just purge that baby right here and now. I know a few such smug yogis (or Christians, or Jews, or atheists or assholes) like this. Guess what? They’re full of shit.
As I was writing this blog post, I stepped away from my laptop to make another cup of green tea (you know, the magic yogi tea that cleanses my mouth of filth) and when I returned, my virus protection software warned me that I was “at risk.” Now that brought a good chuckle to this 7 day feverish, coughing, aching, ill being. I’m at risk. No shit! Even the computer knew it was time for some purging. I snuggled my warm cup of tea close to my chest, sat back and let the computer do its viral scan process. Looking up to the beautiful blue sky today, I notice a skein of geese, and I envy the community effort of support in their formation. One bird flies behind and slighter higher than the one in front of it to reduce wind resistance. For a brief moment, I fly with them, free of earthly possessions, the burden of mental turbulence, and the weight of feeling like I carry it all alone.
A flicker of the computer screen lowers my wings to a landing. The scan will take a while so I decide to watch a movie. Billy Elliot. One of my all-time faves. It’s about the life of a coal miner’s son in England. Well, it’s about a lot more than that. If you haven’t seen it. Do. Just do. I marvel at Billy’s passionate heart and his talent. I hold him close to my chest, like my mug of warm tea, when the ignorance of gender and sexual biases try to suppress him. I cheer him on when he is accepted into the Royal Ballet Academy. I cry when he recites a letter, word for word, from memory, that his long deceased mother wrote to him as a small child. And I weep even more when his Mum ends the letter with “Always be yourself.” I watch Billy’s father and brother purge old fear-based notions to reveal their immaculate and profound original love.
If this hasn’t been quite the “let’s start the new year off with a dose of happy, Hallmark sweetness that many expect, sorry to disappoint. Chicken Soup for the Soul awaits you at Wal-Mart. No offense to Chicken Soup. No offense to Wal-Mart. I don’t live in a Hallmark card (you can find that at Wal-Mart too), all star-dust spangly and glittery. I live in a buried treasure chest – filled with jewels, gold trinkets, broken pieces of everything imaginable, rusting to corrosion and sometimes golden gleaming. I have good days, exceptional moments and dark shadows. My heart can instantly break like shards of glass for those who are hurting and yet those same shards have the potential to harm those who are hurtful. I can lose my breath at the simplistic beauty of a silhouetted tree in the midst of a field at dusk or notice the weeping beauty in the sullen way power lines sag from the eaves of dirty shingled row houses along small-town Main Streets. I can fall to miserable weakness in questioning my own character and integrity, knowing there are hungry wolves out there, just waiting, salivating at the mouth, to ferociously pounce upon any personal flaw I may reveal. But I have guts when it comes to fiercely defending the character and integrity of others. I am mouthy, loud, gutsy, glorious, soft, brutally honest, colorful, mindful, grateful, compassionate, opinionated, flawed, awesome. I am a wonder and will be nothing less. My power lies in being the complete authentic me, every single day that I figure it out, every single step of the way. Like Billy’s Mum said, “always be yourself.”
So, what do I expect of myself in 2017? More of the same, I guess. But I’m adding extra color to the palette this year. I’ll also try to give up striving for perfection. I will no longer make excuses for other people’s bad and abusive behavior. I will no longer cover up for other people’s lack of responsibility, or worse, take the blame for it. I will not allow others to manipulate me into thinking my behavior and feelings are irrational or “too sensitive.” I will guard my vulnerabilities a little more from the cruel and dangerous people who tuck them away to use against me at a later time. I will no longer doubt myself. I will always reclaim my reality when someone tries to muddle it with a need for control. I will stand up for my beliefs. I will not cower behind them. I will not roll over into submission so you can rub my belly and say “good doggie.” I will speak. I will share. I will bare. And I will continue to purge here and there as I delicately define the lines , curves, and grooves of my most authentic sculpted self.
Oh, shit! I almost forgot. Happy new year!
Is there anything you will be purging for yours?