Monday, June 14, 2010

On the outside, looking ... around.

Every Second Saturday of the month, all the art galleries and many businesses on Main Street stay open late, serving wine and cheese (and tiramisu!) and celebrate new openings. One of me and B's favorite storefronts, School of Jellyfish, was hosting a multimedia presentation/installation/poetry reading/dance performance. I'd met the artist a while back, just hanging out one night outside the shop, and didn't get a very good vibe from her; she seemed like another city person marveling shallowly at the "cuteness" of our town.

So cut to this past Saturday night. When I got to the shop around 7, it was packed with people dressed quite fashionably and air-kissing one another's cheeks. (Those things are, of course, fine, but they rub me the wrong way in certain settings when innumerable other, nameless things are rubbing me the wrong way, too.) I said hi to B (who was volunteering) and got my plastic cup of Prosecco, then wandered toward the back to look over the crowd.

Out of the blue, tears welled in my eyes. Not from the magic of the performance (which was more engaging than I'd expected). No, it was from thoughts of how I don't fit in here, and I don't fit in anywhere, and why, oh why, is it bothering me? I so often feel like I'm just too frumpy, too boring, too vanilla, too soccer mom-style, for anywhere I go. I *so* long to be this fashionable, elegant, interesting, avant-garde-y woman. But I'm just me — which is really ok, most of the time.

The crowd shape-shifted as the artiste introduced her dancer and explained her concepts (check out ekphrasis and kinetochore). Taller-than-me people pushed back to make room, spilling into the space where I'd been standing. I went outside, where I could see the dancer better through the wall of windows on two sides of the building. She was ravishing. Though neither the poetry nor the eventual music were audible outside, I wouldn't have noticed either even if I had been inside. She was that great (and I usually have a hard time watching modern dance). So many people walking by had been headed for the next gallery, only to surprise themselves by stopping in the drizzle, taking in a bit of the performance. Those huge windows really are spectacular. As the rain intensified, I headed back in.

Last week, while writing a long-overdue email (Hi, E!), I spent too many words trying to explain my feelings about where I've lived, how the various places have affected me, and how I am sometimes frustrated by some things about some residents of my little city (some have never left, and hate NYC, and think it has no redeeming qualities, while others have moved up from NYC to the town, and have patronizing attitudes about it, e.g. having a backyard garden is somehow both quaint and exotic). When I lived in the Bay Area, I was so different because of this. When I moved to Utah, I was so outsider because of that.

So it shouldn't have been such a surprise to me, when a little later on Saturday night, after two more cups of wine, it occurred to me that I apparently reinforce this "I don't fit in" feeling. It got me asking: Why am I so invested in identifying as an outsider? So far, I think the answer is that I'm not "invested," really; I just don't know what my niche is (yet).

Except, except, except — at the yoga studio. There, I'm just me. I fold the laundry, sign people in, try to reassure new students that they won't die in the hot room, breathe. Right after class on Saturday, I was goofing around in the studio, trying some arm balances (note to self: bring a dry towel next time; they are much harder when you are sweaty). The teacher, W, was walking past the door to the hot room and saw me, then ran in and did a couple of postures with me! It was fun, a kind of playful challenging...

I guess that around the yoga studio (this one as well as my last one in UT), just about everyone is stripped of the outward affectations that I see as separating us. To be sure, there are women with the swankiest lululemon tops and perfect hair — this is Westchester, after all. But there, I don't feel less-than, or not something enough. It's enough to just show up for a common purpose, a common 90-minute moving meditation, where we attempt to drop our baggage, our drama, at the door, and just sweat out the issues in our tissues (as my old teacher Alex says).

As with so many things I've learned and practiced at the studio, I need to figure out how to internalize this feeling and carry it with me into the real world. It's enough to just show up somewhere, be me, and have a good time. Even if I'm standing in the back, in just a T-shirt and jeans.


  1. This post IS elegant and interesting, so if your writing is a reflection of who you want to be, then you've definitely succeeded :) Thank you for your honest reflections, teeming with bravery and openness. You've eloquently described a feeling that I think rings true to many of us - feeling insecure, feeling like a square in the midst of a sea of circles. But that's only natural; it's only human, and it's something that people sense more frequently than it might seem on the surface. I think the best thing to keep in mind in these situations is that we are often our harshest critics - we screen ourselves with more scrutiny than the others around us. And finally, we are instinctively attracted to positivity - so if you trust yourself and are content with yourself, you will naturally radiate good vibes. And then the people, opportunities, etc, that you truly need - will find their way to you.
    Best wishes!

  2. Oh, lz, I'm humbled and flattered, all rolled into one sometimes-awkward bundle. :) Thank you so much for *your* eloquence.

  3. Hello! I just stumbled upon your blog through Yolk E. :) I'm also practicing bikram yoga at home because I don't have any other choice really due to my location. I'm delighted to discover bikram yogis who also do home practice! :)

    This post resonated how I feel in terms of feeling "not fitting in"... I moved from urban metroplex area like LA to somewhere very different, country-sque, southern culture of Arkansas state. Bikram yoga practice has become a integral help to me in connecting myself to my surroundings. I really enjoy this post. Thanks for your eloquent words and thoughts :)