Meghan Markle wrote an incredible open letter, The Losses We Share, that astutely connected the dots of grief from her miscarriage to the omnipresent grief of our day-to-day existence in 2020. It’s a must read; especially, I would argue, for the men in our lives. I say that ‘cause there seems to be a LOAD of issues that women regularly face and are expected to get over, that are not given their due weight in this mans’ world.
The letter is indeed open, moving and incredibly on point in its relatability. It certainly spoke to me on a personal level, as I too had a miscarriage this 2020; my fourth miscarriage in 3 1/2 years.
My first miscarriage came on while I was teaching a yoga class, something I cherish doing and always enjoy, so it felt like the ultimate betrayal for it to be happening at that time. I returned to teaching the very next day, after being in emerg for most of the night before, because that’s what you do when “something is very common and happens to so many women". Plow through. The second loss happened over the Christmas holidays. I didn’t feel I could get out of all the seasonal obligations I had made, for fear of how I or my husband would be perceived. So I plowed through. The third miscarriage happened when I was shadowing a TV director on a big Netflix show so of course I couldn’t dare take time out for myself from such an unbelievable opportunity. I wanted to be taken seriously so I plowed through. And the fourth miscarriage happened at the start of this crazy year, when I felt those all-too-familiar symptoms come on and the trauma set in. I was already on eggshells from the previous three miscarriages, so I never even allowed myself to feel happy or fortunate about the pregnancy. I even did the awful thing of saying, out loud, that I was a poster child for miscarriages, which of course is mad insanity and F’d up and then I plowed through.
As I write this, I get fired up because four miscarriages is not nothing; and yet I know I’ve never, ever, ever fully processed the heartbreak and grief of it all and like so many others, we just pile on and plow through.
The truth is, advice like “keep on keeping on” and “pull up your boot straps to get ‘er done” is never helpful. And it’s definitely not enough in this collective year of pain.
Many of us have faced uncertainty; some are out of jobs, some are losing their businesses and we’ve all been taken away from family and friends and isolated from amazing communities and places of wellbeing that have kept us sane (like yoga studios). And still we’re being asked to gather stamina to continue forward and plow through. Those very things - our places of wellbeing, our jobs, friends and family - are not just things, they’re our lifelines and heartbeats. They may even be points of identity and pride. So we have good reason to stamp our feet and have a good cry for as long as need be.
And “pivot”? Ah, pivot… It may be an all-too-familiar word and sentiment in this bananas of a year, but what if you’re not done grieving yet? Some people are exhausted and have nothing left to give, let alone pivoting! What are we going to do about that? How are we gonna pick each other up?
I had already started to work on this piece when the dutchess’s open letter came out, so I was relieved and hopeful to see the pendulum of perspective on 2020 taking a different and much needed position; one rooted in empathy and sensitivity. We are fully loaded this year on top of all our individual personal challenges. We are collectively experiencing a perpetual state of grief. We’ve seen and experienced so much this year and it hasn’t been easy so much of the time. Yes, some of it has unearthed some good work and progress. Some of it has lit a fire in us, inspiring life-long commitments to change. Some of it has begun to right some of the many wrongs. But it hasn’t been without its weight, which needs to be acknowledged and processed within each of us.
I bring it back to the mat and our yoga, where I know so much pause, revelation, good work and connection are possible. Are you meeting yourself? Are you getting enough of yourself for yourself?
I recently had a bit of a reprieve from my idle, monotonous Corona state of things. Just a bit of a crack in it all - enough to let some light in. I’ve just returned from Nova Scotia where there are still way less Covid cases. It was being touted as one of the safest places on earth this summer! I wasn’t there for that, although I did enjoy knowing that to be the case. I was on the province’s South Shore, an incredibly beautiful, relatively untouched spot, to shadow a female showrunner and director friend of mine on her new show. The set was oceanside, overlooking epic views and surrounded by the sweet smells of clean, natural air.
No doubt, I was lucky to be there, living a relatively normal existence in a province and town where Covid cases were so low. On my off time, I could go to dinner, shop in stores and enjoy the company of others within my bubble. We even made it to a concert! First one in over a year for me. I felt myself getting verklempt as I took in the performance, knowing that I once took such an experience for granted.
But here’s the thing with Nova Scotia and their approach… They acted as though they had hundreds of thousands of cases; invoking diligent and preventative practices that kept us free to enjoy everyday life as much as possible. After a government imposed two-week quarantine, I could live life in a Corona time without it feeling like Corona all the time.
I signed in with my name and phone number whenever I went to a restaurant and sometimes even at stores, so that I or others could be notified if we had been exposed to the virus. I wore a mask indoors even though cases were low, as a precaution and a gesture of care. I got to shadow a TV director WHILE IN A PANDEMIC and enjoy the company of other likeminded creative types. And the TV show got through shooting eight episodes without a hitch! No cases. Magical!
And that concert I got to attend was also kinda magical because of the necessary precautions they had to take. Instead of selling tickets they sold tables of 8 for groups that had an established bubble, and while at that table you could be mask free unless on the move in the venue. And the venue came up with the coolest idea for seating these tables; after temperature checks, hand sanitizing and answering a very familiar questionnaire, they would seat just ONE table at a time while other tables remained seated. And to make that time-consuming protocol a little less tedious and a lot more fun, management cued the people already seated to explode into a round of applause for every new table being escorted into the venue. Basically a standing ovation, minus the standing. If you’ve never gotten a standing ovation simply for walking into a space, I highly recommend it. In fact, I can’t think of a better way to greet anyone in this 2020 year. It just makes you feel good to receive applause AND to give applause; and it’s actually appropriate given the shit-show we’ve all been through.
As I reflect on my personal losses and their significance in a year with so much loss and paralleled pain, I acknowledge this 2020 to be an unrelenting year of perpetual grief. Yes it is. But it’s been perpetual in its grief with some amazing moments that I might not have recognized in any other year.
The frontline workers that were once just people who worked for minimum wage are now heroes who keep the world running. The beauty of the great outdoors on the heels of being sequestered inside is literally a breath of fresh air. The binge-worthy TV shows that told simple, do-good stories reminded us all that kindness does win (even some Emmys!). The marches, the protests, the discussions, the action, the reading - there has been so much born out of our grief, and no grief gets to out grief the other. It’s all significant, and important to nurture into a healing space. It’s all worthy of a pause but most importantly it warrants a huge round of applause for all of us.
I wanted to write after giving myself some time to process some very painful and current events. I wanted to listen, learn and feel. I wanted to also give myself some time to get angry, disgusted and disheartened. And then I wanted to explore some time to come back to MY roots and MY beliefs of what I know is possible and meant to be for ALL of us not just some of us.
I moved from Toronto to Los Angeles 5 years ago to teach at Modo Yoga La Brea. In my first month, on my way to work, I was stopped by an officer when making a right at a red light. Sirens, lights and all, I was being pulled over. Wait, what? I saw Annie Hall, I know it’s okay to turn right here, why am I being stopped? I pulled over to see a young officer approaching in my sideview mirror. Once at my window (window down) he put his hand on his gun and released the lock to its holster; it made a sound, one that amplified it was ready to go.
He claimed I hadn’t stopped at the red light before turning. I did but I didn’t argue with him. He asked for my license and registration; I tensed up immediately and lost my breath. He had his hand on his gun AND my ID was at the bottom of my very large bag, buried under my yoga clothes. I was afraid to do what he was asking of me while he kept his hand on his gun! I started to tremble, this was visible to him. I told him I was on my way to teach and that my license was in my very large purse with my yoga clothes so it might take a minute for me to dig it out. I told him this through my obvious fear and I don’t scare easily but I was traumatized and had been traumatized long before our encounter, I knew how these stories played out in America. As I went into my purse, I began to cry A LOT, tears flowed out of me, and I could barely keep still because I was trembling. I handed him my license and mentioned it was a Canadian one (I hadn’t got my LA driver’s license yet). That registered with him in some way, though I’m not sure how. While looking me up in his vehicle I called Husband Paul. Through my tears I asked my husband to call Modo to let them know I would be late. My husband was very worried. Once the officer was back at my car, after looking me up, he did nothing to calm me down or reassure me that I wasn’t in any danger, despite seeing my fear. He actually seemed to be getting off on scaring me, even saying, don’t they teach you how to drive in Canada? Our encounter lasted a little while longer and eventually ended with no ticket and him saying, you’re lucky I have to be somewhere. It was terrifying and sadly very sobering, and while driving in LA to this day I never experience ease with cops nearby. Never. My gut is always wrenched and my shoulders are always up. Charles Blow, a fave commentator, writer and activist who writes op-eds for the New York Times, astutely characterized this type of fear and terror as an omnipresent violence and oppression that black and brown people live with every day.
Like so many of you I want to say the right thing about this. I hope to include everyone, offend no one, and not step on anyone’s toes. But in a time of 'safe places', 24 hour news cycles that tell us what’s on trend or what to care about, too many hashtags and statements like ’in our thoughts and prayers’, there really can’t be an easy and safe way through and out of this IF we aren't committed to changing the status quo. It’s gonna be work, it’s gonna mean uncomfortable conversations and painful inward reflection. We need to offer up brave places not necessarily safe places, where we’re willing to examine how we’ve contributed to the inequality and injustice of so many for so long.
We need to risk being unpopular, even with those close to us. We need to confront injustice with more than just protest, and VOTE locally while thinking globally to dismantle the system of laws that allow for where we’re at right now. And we need to - AND THIS IS AN IMPORTANT ONE - always take a stand. That means calling out wrong at ALL times not just in protest times. There is no right time or place for calling out wrong - injustice, inequality, oppression - even at our dinner tables and even among friends and family. There are a ton of teachable moments out there waiting to be seized by us and there has never been a right time for calling out wrong because wrong is wrong ALWAYS.
Everyone’s pretty familiar with Michelle Obama’s convention speech and her line, "when they go low we go high”, BUT what always struck me from that speech was her profound and heartbreaking statement around breaking glass ceilings - "I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves, and I watch my daughters, two beautiful and intelligent black young women, playing with their dogs on the White House lawn.”
Can you imagine waking up in a house that was built by slaves? Did those slaves ever imagine or hope to believe that someone who looked like them might be the head of that household one day? We’ve come a long way for sure but statements like we’ve come a long way worry me, as they suggest the way has been paved and that we’ve come far enough. Yogis, I’m personally tired of holding space for hate speech, hate initiatives, divisiveness and racist and prejudice diatribes disguised as everyday debate or differing points of view. I will not hold a place at my table for that vision of the world that sees the acts and systems of oppression and racism as fodder for debate. There is no longer a place anywhere in the world for bigotry. That house that the Obama’s lived in was built on the backs of slaves and it still hasn’t been paid for and that’s not nothing! We haven’t come far enough.
The truth is, the price of privilege is oppression. If you’re winning and winning big, chances are someone else is losing AND oppression, privilege and racism AND the acts that go along with them are systematic and deeply seated (and seeded) in our history. When a man - an officer - can kill another man in plain sight over the course of 8 minutes and 46 seconds with impunity, that is taught, excused, even upheld and for sure systematic.
Al Sharpton did the eulogy at George Floyd’s memorial the other day. He very astutely contextualized the systematic aspects of racism. His words were not minced and definitely on point and there was one excerpt in particular that struck me as important to share.
"George Floyd’s story has been the story of black folks because ever since 401 years ago, the reason we could never be who we wanted and dreamed to being is you kept your knee on our neck. We were smarter then the underfunded schools you put us in, but you had your knee on our neck. We could run corporations and not hustle in the street, but you had your knee on our neck. We had creative skills, we could do whatever anybody else could do, but we couldn’t get your knee off our neck. What happened to Floyd happens everyday in this country, in education, in health services, and in every area of American life, it’s time for us to stand up in George’s name and say get your knee off our necks! That’s the problem no matter who you are … Michael Jordan won all of these championships, and you kept digging for mess because you got to put a knee on our neck. White housewives would run home to see a black woman on TV named Oprah Winfrey and you messed with her because you just can’t take your knee off our neck. A man comes out of a single parent home, educates himself and rises up and becomes the President of the United States and you ask him for his birth certificate because you can’t take your knee off our neck! The reason why we are marching all over the world is we were like George, we couldn’t breathe, not because there was something wrong with our lungs, but that you wouldn’t take your knee off our neck. We don’t want no favours, just get up off of us and we can be and do whatever we can be."
That’s the system and as many have cited, the system isn’t broken, it was built that way. It needs to be dismantled, and the folks that built the system or even reaped the rewards of it (privilege) need to be a part of breaking it down.
Even I, as a brown woman, am not impervious to that institutionalized racism. After all, I grew up on the same TV and set of messages that have so clearly identified brown and black life as less than. When I was a teen, many years back, I caught myself crossing the street at the sight of a black man walking towards me on the same side of the road. It was a weird knee jerk reaction that I right away noticed but couldn’t identify or name. Over the years that followed I went back to that moment, time and time again, to look inward and identify what was at the base of that reaction. Yes, we all have gut reactions that serve us in our everyday life from time to time BUT I recognized that moment in my life as different and not founded or justified. Rather it was seated in a world view of brown and black people that I and so many grew up on. It made me mad, ashamed and uncomfortable to know this racist reaction in me but there lies the work that so many of us will have to take on in understanding and dismantling systematic racism.
Why are there still confederate statues looming over brown and black people today? What in God’s name are we uplifting OR celebrating?! What is a black person, who’s trying to make their way in the world and know their worth, supposed to make of that?
Why is the US prison system privatized and why is its population - the LARGEST in the world - disproportionately populated with brown and black bodies? What exactly is the value in that - trading one form of slavery in for another?
Why do cops kill people of colour in plain sight, time and time again, and rarely get charged ACCORDINGLY much less go to jail for their actions? How are brown and black people expected to feel safe, valued and free to express their aliveness under those sets of rules?!
It’s been 30 years since that first - caught on tape - Rodney King atrocity. It’s been over three weeks since a self-proclaimed progressive liberal weaponized the race of a bird watcher. It’s been 400 plus years since enslaving black people. It's been, it's been, it's been... How much more do we all need to see and experience?
It’s simply unconscionable to expect and believe that brown and black people have a level opportunity or playing field for living a dignified and prosperous life. It’s tone deaf, cruel and perverse and this belongs to all of us to change. And please know that folks of colour are tired of going it alone, we’ll need help at getting this long overdue APOLOGY in the form of action AND policy; and it will mean examining ourselves, our compliance and our privilege as we stride forward.
I believe in this community of friends and yogis that I’m reaching out to. I know, from our practice together that we are capable of going deep and I hope that George Floyd’s life and horrific, untimely death will not be in vain. I hope.
They say that home is where the heart is, so how's your home? How are you? From my home to yours - my best wishes to you all ❤️ Hope you’re doing well and are in good health. And for those that are healthy, I hope you’re finding some peace in this time and taking advantage of this great pause - however it may be presented to you!
Ironically enough, taking advantage of this pause is often confused with being productive. I say that 'cause I know so many of us are feeling guilty that we’re not doing enough OR getting enough done. You should be writing your masterpiece 'cause Shakespeare did, you should learn another language, skill or whatever! You could write that screenplay or create that “idea”. How ‘bout that podcast? You should, you could, you know you want to… Baloney! Stop that. Truth is there's nothing wrong with simply loving to have time to do absolutely nothing. It's okay to sit, it’s okay to pause and it’s okay not to have a plan. AND if you feel differently and are getting a ton of s*@t done then that’s great too. But if you don’t feel particularly innovative or inspired to do, do, do during this time then cut yourself some slack! Lord knows the world has had its fill of productivity. My two cents.
Many of you are finding comfort and familiarity in making it to your mat; whether through your fave studio online or even with me on Instagram from my IG page. As it turns out, I’m making a move soon. Beginning Sunday May 17th I’ll be moving my LIVE class offerings to YouTube (better platform) - here’s the LINK (schedule on my website and on Instagram) - in case you want to join. For now, the next two weeks, they remain on Instagram LIVE. To that note, practicing yoga should make you feel at home in yourself. Not because it won’t be challenging but because you’ve accepted the challenge and chose to go a little deeper with yourself. Whether with your fave studio or with your fave teacher, I invite you to check out the many offerings online (many free) that can assist you tremendously in meeting your day with a true clean slate! Here's some classes from my YouTube channel Yoga with Simonee:)