Two years before I stepped on a yoga mat I had my first, major transformation. At a sushi restaurant, sitting across from my college boyfriend, staring suspiciously at an “Oyster shooter,” a plate of baked muscles and an array of raw fish.
“I don’t eat this stuff.”
I’ve been repeating the phrase since the menus arrived, but he appears impervious to the message.
It’s not going well.
My boyfriend, Rak, is Cambodian. He grew up in the United States because his parents fled a Genocide that ravaged their home country. A bloody, horrific event killed most of their family and friends. Rak’s older was born in the middle of a jungle in Indonesia, while they were all on the run.
Right now he’s unsympathetic to the idea that “I’ll die if I eat ‘this’.”
I love Rak more than I thought I could love anyone, and, at this point, I’m pretty sure we’re in it together for life. I contemplate the worst case scenario and figure everything will be easier if I give in to him, just this once. I’m certain that when, not if, I have a violently-ill-nearly-hospitalized-attract-the-attention-of-the-entire-restaurant-sick-in-bed-for-three-days reaction he’ll relax a little on the hard-line, I’ll go back to ordering from the kids menu, and all will be right in the universe.
Without another word, I swallow the oyster, and, in my next breath, scrape my teeth against the hot, mollusc shell.
Rak doesn’t so much look pleased as a little less annoyed.
I am nothing short of triumphant.
I pause for the nausea, seizures and foaming at the mouth to overshadow my moment of victory.
But minutes, even hours later, I’m totally fine.
That night marked the beginning of the end of 20 years of perceived limitations with food.
Much later, I learned that “how you do anything is how you do everything,” and, as it turns out, my perceived limitations didn’t begin, or end, with food.
I’ve said no and don’t and can’t, a lot in my life.
I’ve clung to narrow definitions and specific sets of rules and done my best to control the outcome, of everything. My tiny world always felt more manageable than the giant one I was avoiding. I stuck to the things I knew and the places I’d been and the hard stuff I was already good at.
And for many years, even after I started practicing yoga, the food thing was my only significant progress.
Then, one night in 2011, my beautiful, loving, inspiring friend Heather was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer, at 52, and I was tired of being afraid.
At first, small acts of bravery like being nice to everyone I encountered and saying “yes” to more invitations to hang out. Like trusting my instincts and taking more risks and then making the commitment to live, every day, with an intention to “make it happen.” Whatever “it” was.
Eventually, bigger and scarier accomplishments, like sharing my stories and writing this blog and finally leaving the country.
Like showing people who I am and telling people what I want and not letting old stories and even older behaviors, get in the way of going after it.
Like being brave, and bold, and without limitations.
Last summer, I landed at the airport in Siem Reap, Cambodia after three weeks of travel, and one, turbulent, sixty-minute flight in a vicious electrical storm. Cambodia is the number one place I wanted to visit, but knew I never would. I try to explain the emotional and spiritual significance of our arrival to Parker. What it means for me to have made it here, to this place I would never see on a trip I would never take on seventeen airplanes I couldn’t fly on.
But he’s been a yes-man, his whole life, and he can’t possibly understand.
Then, while we’re standing at the baggage claim, being oggled by a group of Korean kids with matching t-shirts who think I’m traveling with Justin Bieber, with an intention of practicality but an outcome of profundity, he says:
“That’s the thing about your whole life, Katie. You can’t do anything, until you do it”