6: Dance it Out

I am personally responsible for the choreography of no fewer than five hundred dance routines.

In the early nineties, I was the foremost creative force behind countless memorable productions, set to the iconic music of the “Dirty Dancing” and “Top Gun” soundtracks, showcased at 1633 Gary Way. While my brother was doing all that reading, I was behind the closed door of my parents’ bedroom, planning and executing a series of breathtaking performances for an imaginary audience of critics and friends.

I preferred sound tracks over single-artist albums because of their musical variety. To think what I might have been capable of with access to an ipod. Or Spotify.

I offered my fans an up-tempo jazz performance, followed by a slow, melancholy solo, danced gracefully by a dramatic ballerina. The excitement always climaxed during the show-stopping-rock-anthem-ensemble number, right at the end.

When I felt deep and emotional, I chose “Dirty Dancing,” and focused on my technique. I’d make beautiful, sweeping movements with my arms and big, impressive leaps with my legs. I always imagined sharing my routine with a strong, confident partner. He’d lift me effortlessly to the ceiling and twirl me, with one hand, high above his head. On days where I wanted to go hard, bust it out and kick some ass, I’d throw on Top Gun and spend twenty minutes with “Danger Zone” on repeat. I’d always start off stage and burst through the invisible curtains to the pounding beat of the introduction. It was epic, every time.

Occasionally I’d feel nostalgic,and reflective, and throw on “Beaches” to shake things up.

It’s funny how our behavior patterns change in expression.

It’s funny how  in all other ways, they stay the same.

One of my spiritual teachers, Martha Beck, insists the key to unlocking our adult happiness is re-discovering the activities and experiences that filled us with joy as kids.

Dancing my ass of is that, for me.

It is a no-fail solution to all of my, many, spiritual ailments.

When my best friend and I lived together, we’d unwind on a Friday night. After a long-week of public school atrocities, idiotic district-wide emails and multiple failures to save the world, we’d turn up the volume on my “dance party” playlist, open the door to our apartment, then glide, spin and shake, up and down the second floor.

Once in a while, in the early morning, if our summer camp staff felt sluggish and stale, we’d take them out to the parking lot, open up the doors of my mini cooper and teach a new generation of young people the important lesson of moving bad energy out and away.

During my third year of law school I lived alone in an old apartment with a giant living room. One, entire wall had floor-to-ceiling mirrors. The view from my couch looked like the dance studios I’d grown up in. Three or four times a week, I’d turn down the lights, burn a few candles and play out the lead role in “Flashdance,” the musical.

One time a neighbor knocked on the door to ask me a question about the “parking garage” and, as he was leaving, slipped in, “Is someone singing in there?”

He sounded humiliated for me.

“No,” I lied.

Unphased, and undeterred, I resumed “what a feeeeellinnng,” before the door even clicked shut.

My friend Parker used to complain about the absence of a coffee table, and felt particularly inconvenienced when trying to both watch the Nuggets and consume a meal. I can’t remember whether I ever fessed up to why I needed the extra space.

I knew my career as an attorney was doomed when I couldn’t even shake my hips to Rihanna while cleaning the kitchen sink. I dug out “Hey, Mr. DJ,”  by the Backstreet Boys and “I Want You Back” by NSYNC. I’d manage to press my feet to the floor but didn’t have the energy, or inspiration, to do anything with them after that.

The nail dropped squarely in the coffin the night I couldn’t help myself off my bedroom floor for Whitney Houston’s Greatest Hits.

As a karmic reward for the years of  hard-work and dedication spent honing my craft, I found a job where I can perform a new routine, on a beautifully polished wood-floor, any time I want.

Each time is still just as satisfying as the last.

Damn, it feels good, to dance it out.

5: Magic

The local news can’t stop reporting about El Nino, an alleged, rare, extreme weather pattern that is supposedly responsible for three straight weeks of storms in Northern California.

My soccer team is preparing for our first visit to the association cup championship, the highest level of tournament play in our league. All season, we are unstoppable. Undefeated. No one can touch us.

But heading into the most anticipated, high-stakes weekend of competition in any of our young athletic careers, everyone is worried.

The fields are hopelessly muddy and every night, the forecast is for more and more rain. The altered terrain changes the movement of the ball and the speed of play. The bitter cold and relentless drops of water, in our eyes, and on our backs, make us more vulnerable to mistakes, and aggravates the plague of fatigue.

We are an unconventional powerhouse.

We are not exceptionally fast, or big, or otherwise spectacularly talented. Less than five percent of us will go on to play in college. Most of us maintain straight A’s and juggle a host of other extra-curricular activities. We are swimmers and volleyball players and school and community leaders. As grown-ups, we are career-minded professionals, with high-paying jobs and impressive degrees.

We joke about not having matching warm-up suits or fancy, embroidered bags.

We are full of heart and determination and because our coach believes in our greatness, we work incredibly hard in practice, and never let up during games.

Our chemistry and team work is like nothing I’d ever experienced, and nothing I’ve been a part of since.

When the morning of our first game arrives, it’s still raining. Our parents, who have only ever had to endure an entire weekend of soccer games through November, are faithfully huddled on the sidelines, after the first of the year. They are clad in REI ponchos and squeezed together under four or five umbrellas. Looking on through a blurry sheet of rain, they can barely tell us apart.

Before halftime, we are caked, head-to-toe in mud. It’s the kind of cold outside that makes your fingers tingle and your skin sting. The intense sensation seeps into your bones, lingers, then unexpectedly evaporates as your whole body goes numb. Our legs are burning, constantly. With each stride our feet sink into the deep, unforgiving muck.  The ball is sticky, our shoes are sticky, everything is a sticky, wet, mess.

Each moment is a battle, each play is a battle, each game feels like another war we barely survived.

In the end, we win the whole, damn, thing. The final whistle blows and we are, suddenly, light on our feet. We sprint towards the center line and triumphantly dive, head-first, through a gigantic mud puddle, four games in the making.

We hug and holler and celebrate. We are giddy, and teary-eyed and so, so, proud.

My coach is beaming.

The moment is instantly an eternal memory in my mind

During eight years on the River City Magic, I learned more lessons than, maybe, the rest of my life, combined. I learned about leadership and work ethic.  Straight talk and disappointment. I learn to stand up for myself, stand behind my teammates, and stand back, eventually, when I got out of line.

Where I lacked natural talent, I learned to struggle, and persist, and succeed.

My greatest lesson, though, is in the miracle of our collective achievements. Our three year winning record. Two state championships. More trophies than my parents could find space to store in my childhood bedroom. All of it came in the brilliance of how we operated, together. I used to think someone like John Wooden should write a book about us called “Teamwork over talent.” We were, as they say, so much greater than the sum of our parts.

It’s a mild winter and my adult soccer team is undefeated, for the first time. These days, I play with less fear and more muscle. I play defense, not midfield, now, and do my best to channel my inner Heather Hall. We called her, “the animal.” She was a tough kid from a tough neighborhood and on our team, was the only person we could say that about. She could have easily felt out of place and totally alone and quit after just one season of it.

But she didn’t.

She played every season, and started every game. She shared in our hugs and sleepovers and trips to Hometown buffet.

Because who we were and where we came from never mattered.

All of us, were a lot of things, without each other.

But together, we were Magic.

4: Freak flags and crazy capes

Before I went to law school, I worked as an intervention counselor at a public high school. It was hilarious and heart breaking and endlessly entertaining. My favorite student was an edgy sophomore who reminded me of myself, in college. She was smart and sophisticated and mostly had her act together. She was an outlier in the distribution of my blatant favoritism.

Because I’ve always had a soft spot for a complete mess.

For months, I’d been hearing about a girl with a rolling backpack. She wears a floor-length black cape with white clouds on it.  At the end of each period, as soon as the bell rings, she busts through the classroom door and sprints, at top speed, to her next class.

She’s infamous. A campus legend.

One day I get a referral for a freshman named “Sarah,” I recognize her last name because her older brother is already one of my most-loved disasters.

Promptly at 11:15, a tiny, curly-haired girl in a giant black robe stands in my doorway.

“My teacher says I’m here now,” she tells me, then abruptly takes a seat. She insists I call her “tight” because that’s her name, today.

I ask a few preliminary questions to make sure she’s comfortable, but her demeanor and facial expression is unchanging, so I switch to a direct approach.

“So, tight, do you feel like you’re making friends at school this year?”

“Not really,” she responds casually. “Most people think I’m totally weird,” she continues.”I carry a rolling backpack and I wear this big cape and I sprint from class to class. People just point and laugh about it, they think I’m a freak.”

I’m stammering. Completely caught off guard and unable to handle her pure honesty, her genuine and precise insight.

“Does it bother you that they think you’re a freak?”

“Of course not. This is just who I am. If they don’t get it, they probably wouldn’t be a good friend for me anyway.”

Now, I’m speechless.

She is some sort of adolescent outcast guru. She’s pure wisdom and no ego. The most self-aware person I’ve ever met.

Eventually, I get to know Sarah pretty well. She joins one of my support groups that the pretty, popular girls take to get out of class once a week. One morning  their ring leader plugs in her straightener in the corner of the room. We get to talking about some pretty deep stuff. She gives her well-adjusted, socially appropriate opinion while she carefully styles Sarah’s characteristically unruly hair. She’s calm and focused, like she’s been doing it at a sleepover for the last ten Friday nights. When the bell rings, they all pose for a picture together, then exchange phone numbers and authentic, girl-friendy hugs.

Sarah says “peace out” and darts for the door. She disappears into a sea of teenagers, before the other girls take a single step outside.

Later in the year, Sarah repeatedly gets in trouble with her grandmother for bringing her scary, stuffed doll to school. It has a bloody face and black x where each of the eyes should be. Grandma is concerned the doll is alienating the other students, but Sarah keeps sneaking it in her backpack each morning.

When, at Grandma’s request, I try to intervene, Sarah tells me simply, that she doesn’t get it. “He’s a part of me. I’m not myself without him. I have to be myself, especially at school.”

I want to tell Sarah that she’s a revolutionary. That, especially in high school, her unrelenting adherence to “being herself” is nothing short of extraordinary. That I talk to a hundred kids each week and they’re all trying desperately to be exactly like everyone else. They all wear neon hoodies and skinny jeans and fix their hair the same way. They all walk at the same pace, from place to place.   I want to invite her to my yoga studio where I practice, every night, in a room of sixty grown-ups who are there, at least in part, to learn how to be themselves.

I want her to know she is teaching me a powerful, important lesson, every time she runs through the halls.

I was never a social outcast and have always made friends with ease. I only use a rolling bag at the airport and save my cape collection for special occasions. But when I question whether my eccentricity is holding me back, I need a reminder to celebrate my uniqueness. To silence the voice that wonders whether I’d be happier or better off, if I fit in better with everyone else. If I wore a sexy witch costume instead of a muscly ninja turtle, out on Halloween. If I spent more time with my peers and less time with my mom. If I drank modern, fancy cocktails or listened to hip, indie bands. If I wanted pretty engagement photos, a big wedding and a house I owned in the suburbs with a manicured front lawn.

Maybe I could even land a boyfriend, if I’d just stash the freak flag away, for a while.

But then again, “it’s so important to be myself.”

And anyone who can’t understand why I am the way I am,

“probably isn’t a good friend for me, anyway.”




*I changed “Sarah’s” name, because, well, you never know.

3: “I am enough.” A work in progress

I watched Tina Fey accept an award once by thanking her parents “for giving me disproportionately high self esteem for my looks and talent.”

“Damn, sister” I thought, “preach.”

I am the kid that people are writing all those books and blogs about, lately. The poster child for the “me” generation, a woman in her twenties who sincerely believes I am awesome. Exceptional. Unique.

Destined for greatness.

Entitled to: a fabulous, creative, challenging job where I make loads of money and travel for three months a year; immense personal and global responsibility, a personal voice in local decision-making and a seat in Congress; a book deal, a talk show, and eventually, a movie, of course.

My mom taught me I could be anyone and do anything. No exceptions, no limitations. Begin, excel, master, End.

The first time I heard the phrase “I am enough” in a yoga class, I thought, “Damn right I am.”

“Where’s the work in that?”

Like everything else in my yoga-life, and not like everything else in my other-than-yoga-life, the learning came slowly. With difficulty, and resistance.

At first, I paid attention to the whispers of self-judgment that play on repeat in the back of my mind, each day:I don’t date enough and I don’t eat healthy enough and I don’t brush my hair enough, either. I don’t make enough money and I don’t have enough travel miles, and someone my age should have a bigger retirement account than I do, right now. I haven’t been to Europe and I still hate airplanes and I’ve never driven a car my dad didn’t buy me.

I’m likely the biggest failure among the high achievers in my graduating class.

Then, the bigger stories seeped in: Like straight A’s on all of my report cards or a week of nausea and years of shame as a consequence. Like the experience of feeling paralyzed by even the thought of failure, and playing it safe to avoid messing it up. Like no matter how good I was at everything, for my dad, it was never enough.

Quitting my job as an attorney was a gigantic spiritual leap towards “I am enough.”

Who will I be without the fancy degree and the impressive job and the ability to showcase how brilliant and special I am by casually slipping in what I do for a living? Who will I be when I give up my sophisticated apartment with the granite counters and stainless steel? What will I tell the people who expect more from me, who know I’m better than this?

How will I make it clear to them, to myself, that “I am enough.”

Some days when people ask me what I do for a living I tell them “I used to be an attorney.”

It sounds better than refusing to answer the question.

Other days, I wake up completely satisfied with my income and occupation and relationship status and the contents of my Roth IRA. I beam with pride and love for myself, standing in the truth of what I know is real for me.

I thank my mom for my confidence and swagger, and my yoga practice for “I am enough.”

2: Dog Love

It’s my ninth birthday. I’m in the back seat of our station wagon clutching a fluffy, stuffed dog. I have a collection of them. I’m an anxious kid and they provide comfort and security. I bring at least one of them, everywhere I go.

We pull up to a ranch style house with dark, shaded windows. The front yard is overgrown with trees and bushes. The backyard is big, and the landscaping is limited. It reminds me of the backyard at the house where I’m growing up.

We follow a narrow dirt trail to an enclosed area in the back corner of the yard. There is a pile of black and white and brown and white puppies, climbing all over each other.

I am instantly in love.

Steps away from the pile, there’s one wobbly on her feet, getting the hang of walking, all by herself. Sniffing the ground near a collection of silver bowls, she appears to be frantically looking for food, even though it’s clear, she’s had enough. It’s one of the black and white ones, rounder and squishier than the others.

Two weeks later, we bring her home and name her Sallie. We picked the name on our family trip to Gettysburg, two years earlier. From the front-passenger seat of our rental car, an enthusiastic, middle- aged man points us toward a small monument, with a statue of a tiny dog. He tells us the story of “Sally” the Union army dog. Sally made her away through rows of soldiers and across battlefields, sometimes at the height of conflict. Sally searched out wounded soldiers and stayed with them until help arrived. She was loyal and brave and devoted, even in a war zone.

Our Sallie would prove to be the same way.

My belated, surprise ninth birthday present came not without effort. I dedicated many hours, of many days, over several months, to acting like a dog with my family. My aim was to demonstrate the pleasure and delight of having a dog around the house. I’d wag my tail when my mom entered the room and bark, quietly, to show my affection. I’d nuzzle up next to my brother when he watched TV.

Apparently, I was convincing.

Sallie fit right in. She was smart and eccentric and sensitive, with bursts of hyperactivity and playful madness.
For the next eleven years, she was the glue that held our family together, just barely.

She laid at my feet the night my parents left me in an empty house, during a power outage, so they could rush my brother to the hospital. We watched in horror as my dad carried my brother’s lifeless body down the front porch, then we huddled inside by the only working phone, waiting for the worst call of our lives.

She was five years old then, and I was 14. It was my first awareness of the specialness of dogs and the uniqueness of their relationship to humans. For the first time that night she saved me. And she’d come to the rescue of each of us, many times after that.

Sallie lived through the hell of my brother’s alcoholism and died two months after he finally got sober for good. She survived the screaming and threatening and hysterical crying. She endured moments of insanity and unimaginable conflict. She witnessed the worst of us, and loved us through it, just the same.

She stayed faithfully at our side on the battlefield, waiting for help to arrive.

Sallie was my first dog, and my first love and my first teacher of how it looks and feels to love without condition. She taught all of us how to be loyal, and patient, even when things got hard. She showed us how to forgive and let go. She never let old pain interfere with a new chance to be loving.

Every dog I’ve met since then reminds me of her lessons. Every dog I’ve ever met, shows me how to love.

1: Connection

For thirty days, before my thirtieth birthday, I am sharing thirty lessons from my life.

It is mostly a challenge to myself.

To avoid marinating in the story of “not enough” and “not what I expected,” and, instead, celebrating and appreciating the growth and depth and wisdom of thirty years.

To write every, single, day. Not Just a sentence or an edit of something I’ve already written, but a complete thought, a new idea, an entire blog.

To move into the next decade of my life from a place of abundance and gratitude. Gratitude for everything I already am, for everyone who is someone to me, for the chance, every day, to experience being myself.

Lesson 1: Connection

My older brother was a kid-genius-reading-prodigy. His third grade teacher refused to let him do a book report on “Shogun” because she’d never read it herself. He tore through John Grisham and Tolkien and everything in between. As a second grader, he tried to explain the plot of “Silence of the Lambs” to me during our bike rides to school. At some point, my parents confiscated his copy but I think he had a second one, stashed secretly under his bed.

One time, when we were really little, he read a Time Magazine article about evolution in the front pew at church, on Christmas Eve.

I, on the other hand, hated to read.

I always sensed my parents discomfort with the disparity in behavior between my brother charging through three to eight full-length novels on family road trips and me, sitting next to him, idle in the back seat.

My best friend jokes that my “most over-told” story from childhood is about the “Book It” program sponsored by Pizza Hut, in the early nineties. Each time you read a book, you got a sticker on a special poster at school. When you reached a certain number of books, you got a free personal pizza and drink and a super cool, giant button from Pizza Hut.

For months we ate pizza hut pizza, every Tuesday night. My brother collected a pile of beautiful buttons, and my mom reluctantly paid for my personal pepperoni, every time.

I loved the Babysitter’s Club and occasionally struggled through an American Girl book. But, in my family, Babysitter’s club wasn’t really considered reading, and I preferred to play with my American Girls, not read about them.

It all worked out though. After faking my way to A-pluses in high school English, I picked up reading in college. I have grown-up subscriptions to the Atlantic and the New Yorker. And as if that isn’t impressive enough, I earned a professional degree that required reading approximately 400, mind-numbing pages, per week.

My parents finally seem satisfied that I don’t have a learning disability.

Even as far back as my brother introducing me to Hannibal Lecter, I loved to write. My favorite project at my first elementary school was creating laminated, bound books that I wrote and illustrated myself. I loved storytelling, and using my imagination. Even with the limited vocabulary and still-evolving language and grammer of a first grader, I loved to edit, too. I never shined with so much pride as I did when I brought home a new book I’d “published.” My mom would graciously read all eight pages and thoughtfully give me feedback about my unique, literary gifts.

Beginning in third grade, I regularly kept a journal. I wrote pages and pages of prose for reports on books I barely finished. I dreamed of being famous like Roald Dahl or William Shakespeare, or that french guy who wrote “The Little Prince.”

In college, I started my first blog. It was mostly “feminism in real-life,” reflections on my every-day experiences through the lens of my progressive education. I didn’t share my blog electronically, or personally, even with my closest friends. Sometimes, when I wrote something I really liked, I’d send a link to my mom so she could reflect my feelings of pride and satisfaction. I wrote in a blog because it felt important. The issues and ideas I took on had weight and merit, and I never felt like my illegible handwriting scribbled on the pages of my thirtieth hard-bound notebook were worthy of the cause.

In the years before I went to law school, I wrote on and off. I’d churn out a couple of good blogs while my students were taking the high school exit exam, then fall off the wagon for a month and half.

My mom remained my only reader, and I never considered expanding my audience.

During law school, I briefly tried to be a yoga-blogger, but it quickly got repetitive and stale. I felt uninspired and uninteresting and judgmental of all the people on elephant journal who seemed to write about yoga for a living.

“How do they have so much to write about? Isn’t it pretty much the same lesson, new day?”

Because my third year of law school was easily the most laid-back, fun, spiritually enriching period of my adult-life, I picked up writing again. I gave myself the freedom to write about anything. I let go of narrow expectations. I didn’t have a purpose, or a message, or a theme. I’d sit down at my computer and allow myself to put whatever I was feeling on the page.

I shared my first blog on social media the day my dear friend Heather Redford died. It’s clear to me now that Heather helped me do it. She used her courage, and spirit, and no-nonsense way of revealing life’s most important lessons.  She told me to cut through the fear, and the bullshit, and show myself to the world. At the time though, it felt like an act of survival. The pain was so deep and so raw, and I was so far away from everyone I wanted to be close to, it was the only thing I could think to do to ease the sting.

All sorts of people responded. My local friends and my Sacramento friends and friends I hadn’t seen, or heard from, in years. Expressions of love and sympathy and compassion came pouring through email and text messages from every piece of my life.

My friend Anne told me my blog “hit her like a ton of bricks.”

She could relate, and others said they could, too.

Over the next couple of months, I shared more of my writing. The more I shared, the more people reached out to me. To tell me how much they identified with my feelings and experiences and perspective. I connected with my childhood best friends and my elementary school classmates. Girls I fought with in high school and the older lady friends of my mom. Kids that used to work for me, and alumni bruins I volunteered with, way-back-when. My brother’s wife and his girlfriend from boarding school. My yoga teaching friends, my law school friends, people I never considered friends at all.

They wrote with praise and support and their own stories. They thanked me for my honesty, and courage, and willingness to share. Each time, each of them, in a new way, reminded me, of the same thing.

We are all connected.

Writing, for me, is a practice. Of meeting the world, head-on, as my most authentic self. When I write, I reveal the pieces of myself that, in person, can easily hide behind my sarcastic wit and self-confidence and articulate speech. I’ve written things on this blog that I’ve never even said out loud. To anyone. Not even myself.

And it is those things, always, that people respond to most.

I write because I love to.

I share because connection is the root of a beautiful life.

Body Talk

I first hated my body when I was eight years old. It wasn’t long enough, or strong enough. All I wanted was to be a little more muscular, with broader shoulders, and more powerful legs.

I am small and scrawny and struggling to stay at the top of my age group on my swim team. There’s a girl who keeps setting league records and getting the majority of the coach’s praise. We are the same age, but side by side, I look like her underfed, adopted little sister. There’s my friend Sara, who is already taller than my mom. As soon as we dive in the pool, she’s two body lengths ahead of everyone else. Especially me.

When I’m 13, I resent being short again. I’m angry at my parents for passing on the wrong genes. I watch Tara Crossbattle hit for the U.S. Olympic team and dream of playing volleyball like her some day. I stare across the net during my club games and see girls who are 6 foot 2 and 6 foot 3. In junior high.

I feel hopeless. and frustrated. Like I’ll never be good enough.

In high school, I experience a brief period of body confidence. “Skinny” is suddenly desirable, and highly revered. I still feel like an unworthy athlete, but my friends express envy about how my butt looks in my jeans. A boy, who relies on copying my homework to pass French 1, tells me one morning that, “my boobs are big for my size.”

I take it as a compliment, I think.

At 16, my body changes. There are curves in womanly places and my belly peeks out over the waistband of my pants. For a while, I appreciate feeling sturdier on the soccer field and barely notice the difference in how I look. Eventually, something somebody says, or does, or how I feel, or what’s going on in my life, or a combination of these and so many other things, trigger dissatisfaction.

And I resolve to be “skinny” again.

I stick to eating regular meals and a few, healthy snacks. I get a gym membership and occasionally run outside. My shape is narrower and my muscles are better defined. I observe the connection between my behavior and my body and feel fueled by the power of it.

The importance of my health is quickly overshadowed by the intoxicating sensation of controlling my weight. Suddenly, I feel stability and have leverage in a life that has otherwise been ruled by chaos, for the last three years.

I shrink around the middle and my collarbones are exposed. I can almost squeeze my fingers together when I place my hands on my hips. I run six or eight miles on the bike trail after school. When it’s too cold or too dark, I spend an hour and a half on the treadmill, trotting at my top speed.

I go to birthday parties and dinner dates prepared with an excuse about why I can’t eat. I am poised and believable. I limit myself to a single subway sandwich, then one bowl of cereal, then  just a single protein bar, for the whole day.

When I fall asleep at night I tell myself I’m not hungry, and I salivate thinking about the seven inches of “Kashi GOLEAN” that awaits me in the morning.

“I can make it until then.”

My mom is worried and takes me to the doctor, several times. I smile confidently and answer all of her questions, with lies. “I started running to get in shape for soccer.” “I eat ‘more than a salad’ for dinner.” “I got my period last week.”

At rock bottom I binge on five or six mini powdered donuts while my friends and I are hanging out in my kitchen. I disappear upstairs, turn on the faucet in my mom’s bathroom, and force myself to throw up.

Starving myself felt normal, compared to this.

My downward spiral comes to an unexpected, but life-saving halt when my mom and I watch “Behind the Music: Karen Carpenter.” The same week, I see a picture of myself from the most recent school dance. I look like a skeleton, or a ghost, or a bobble-head.

Like the walking dead.

The eating comes slowly and not without set-backs. I sometimes still stuff down a Luna bar before going out to dinner and claim “I already ate.”

In the twelve years since then, I am not anorexic. I am sometimes a binger, but only a regretter, not a purger, anymore. I stop running in college and find my way to a yoga mat. I feel my body strengthen and watch my arms and abs take shape. The more I can do, and the better I feel, the more gratitude and admiration I have for what my body can do for me. What it’s always done for me.

Yoga helps me learn to nourish my body with healthy, whole foods and be aware of the sensations of being too full or too hungry. My relationship to my body changes.

But it’s never perfect.

I’m still married to a size 26 in my fancy jeans and a J.Crew double zero. I still panic a little when the folds of my tummy look extra juicy when I come into plow pose, at the end of class. I still think “I better stay thin” because I’m almost thirty, and still single, and how I look on a first date still matters, maybe more than anything else.

This is my story, some of it at least. And if you’re a woman, you have a story, or many, about your body, too. You have hated it and loved it and resented it. You’ve starved it and shamed it and celebrated it. You’ve wanted it to look different, or like it used to, or like you know it never will again. You’ve looked at other women and compared theirs, to yours. You’ve wanted to be a size two or squeezed into a size six or desperately prayed for bigger boobs.

I typically don’t like to draw hard lines, but ours is a uniquely female struggle.

When the founder of lululemon tells an interviewer, among other things, that “the pants don’t work for some women’s bodies,” the media, and maybe some of you, react. There are interpretations and misquotations and evaluations. I read one article where Chip Wilson “blames women’s bodies for defective pants.”

The thing is, he’s right. Women all over the world take all shapes and sizes and certainly not all of them are compatible with lululemon pants, size two through twelve. It’s a technical brand and if you’ve ever worn an oversized wet-suit, or too-tight ski boots, you know technical gear needs to be a perfect fit to be effective, and comfortable. And the perfect fit across the spectrum of shapes and features in a woman’s figure is, I would imagine, a logistical impossibility. It’s gotta be.

The other thing is, the man who founded a company that makes pants that look sensational on almost any woman’s body is hardly a villain in our story. Because if we set aside the flashy headline and the cleverly edited soundbytes, he sparks a discussion, I think, is worth having.

About all of the other things that don’t work with every woman’s body.

Like not eating carbs, or only drinking juice or giving up eating altogether. Like muscular arms and chiseled abs and the same waistline you had when you were a teenager. Like not gaining baby weight or not going out in public until you lose it. Like baking in the sun, or in a tanning bed because you like yourself better with “a nice, even glow.” Like judging yourself when you don’t “work-out” or finally feeling worthy when you do. Like looking in the mirror with a scowl, or a fast, deep, exhale, that signals disapproval. Like a wedding diet or a 21-day cleanse. Like every time we push food away and say “I can’t” in front of our daughters. Like when we look at other women and mentally scold them for being whatever thing we don’t want to acknowledge in ourselves.

Like every, single, message, every, single, day, that tells us how we should look and act and feel and express ourselves. How we should dress and shave and raise our kids. How we should be in the world, without taking into account who we are, already.

lululemon isn’t spreading these messages. In my experience, both as a long time consumer and user of the products, and as a new employee of the company, the message is one women actually need to hear.

One of self-empowerment and a purpose-driven life. One of possibility and courage and community and love. One of get out and sweat because it makes you feel good, not because of the pressure related to how you look.

Put these clothes on your perfect body, no matter the shape, and go out and kick some ass in this world.

It’s a message that is already uplifting my experience of being a woman. And a human.

And even if the pants don’t work for every body, the message is a perfect fit.