Christmas 2017 I started my Hero’s Journey, a project for 365 days.
Episode 5 are a few diary entries from late February-early March.
You can follow The Hero’s Journey on this page and on my Facebook and Twitter.
Sunday 25 February
Do the math
“The greatest teacher failure is.” ~ Yoda
After fifteen years I m ending my efforts to make a living teaching yoga and I am going to supplement it with teaching math. I haven’t figured out the details yet. If I ll go for a full teacher training and diploma or if I ll stick with the basics and only do home schooling/ help kids fix their grades.
Obviously that’s where I m going to start and then I ll just see where I want to take it.
But what already strikes me as, well, almost offensive really, is the respect, wait let’s use capitals THE RESPECT in people’s eyes when I tell them I’m switching vocations from teaching yoga to teaching math. It’s as if I tell them I m going to be a brain surgeon. Or an astronaut. Or if I m becoming a teacher in primary school, way more difficult than in high school because you have the same group of children all day long.
Yes, somebody announcing they’re going to be a primary school teacher would definitely be a situation where I would respond: “Are you sure you want that?”
Which would also be my response if someone told me they were going to start a yoga business in Nijmegen. By now we have so many yoga teachers here, we could start exporting them to India. Which makes trying to make a living teaching yoga in Nijmegen a lot like making plans to start teaching primary school:
You better be DAMN sure.
How much talent, ambition and reserves do you have and are you willing to invest them ALL to make this work?
Because although it’s not impossible to make a living teaching yoga in Nijmegen, nor to teach 30 eight year olds, that stuff will drain you.
But come on: Math?
You think that’s hard?
You think I deserve to be respected because I m going to teach math?
So I ve figured out it’s either one of three things. And probably all three of them.
One, they have struggled with math on high school and uni. They have a fear induced response, and simply wish me the best. So they are afraid that I will struggle with math too.
Two, they think yoga is taught by people without (other) diplomas and without any knowledge which could be remotely useful in society.
Three, and this is for my part absolutely the biggest misconception: they completely overlook that in order to be successful in yoga you have to be a highly ambitious entrepreneur, work at least the same amount of hours on your marketing as on teaching and preparing your classes.
Most teachers don’t do that. They only teach one or two classes a week and have other means of income. The only two entrepreneurs I know who make a living teaching yoga have a company I would never want.
Because that is the good news. I do have the company I want. After a period when my business felt generic, plain, dull, and incidents with students just kept surfacing.
Right now all members are absolutely lovely. We know each other, we like each other, and it’s peaceful and fun because it’s like we’re all friends.
Maybe in a way we are all friends.
I like to think that’s what I built when my two peers were building financially solid yoga businesses.
I respect them for their achievements, and I respect myself for creating a community that I like, and that I wouldn’t change for the world.
But to then, after fifteen years of giving it my ALL and failing at creating a company that can sustain me, think that I am challenging myself with math?!
The challenge was behind me.
And I failed.
Wednesday 28 February
The magical art of fucking things up
I just wrote a message to a friend declaring I ve now fully succumbed to my postpartum “depression” of Max.
Adding: “Although those things always express themselves a little differently with me.”
Postpartum doesn’t refer to birth but to the death of my cat Max, now six weeks ago. And although I did pretty well at first, and was fully capable of seeing how well things had went for him, that he couldn’t have had a better life than the one I gave him, I m now at the point where I realize my life is pretty empty. Not in the sense that I don’t feel energized, or passionate.
But there are two things that are present now, that were a lot less prominent when Max was still alive.
The first is that I ve lost the will to live.
Not in a day to day sense that I walk around without inspiration or think of ending it, but I have definitely made sure my next of kin know that when I drop dead now, to not reanimate me. I honestly feel totally uninspired to come back, probably even with brain damage and try to make my life work, when I m already 45 now FULLY FUNCTIONING not making my own income.
Failing everybody but most of all myself by not achieving any markers that could remotely count as success.
Well not ALL (I used to be pretty good with relationships, although those are being harmed as well, as you will soon understand why and how) but you get the idea. Being brought back to a life that I am already failing at, by any worldly standards, is not something I look forward to. Especially not when fate has just brought me on the side where I will be reunited with Max.
The other thing is that ever since I m grieving I feel I m constantly disappointing people, and I feel ashamed of not functioning. Of losing my temper. Of being triggered.
This is how I imagine people who grieve are: Silent, sobbing, and fragile, nearly ethereal beings. I also think that when people give me permission to grieve, they mean that. That’s is okay if I pledge a few, dramatically timed tears from time to time.
Overwhelmed with sudden emotion.
But that at the same time everybody is counting on my patience, my understanding and my professionalism.
I ve literally had people say to me that I should not feel the need to explain myself, to my students. That I should not BOTHER them with what’s going on. That somehow I should find MOTHERFUCKING SOLACE in functioning like a professional, when I m like.
I can feel I ALREADY disappointed you and guess what?
I m done with it.
Because for weeks on end I am dealing with this overwhelming sense of shame, and disconnect, and an urge to reconnect and make things right, which then only make it worse and now we’re weeks and weeks further along the road and it’s only getting worse. I m at the point where the only activity I can do without having the feeling I disappoint someone is shopping for groceries. And that everything else just leaves me feeling totally dysfunctional. And as if I speak my truth too often when in fact? I m not even SPEAKING my truth.
I m still in “Let’s try to be civil” modus.
When you know what?
I m done being civil.
From now on – and I do mean this – I m going to COLLECT all rejections, silences, and motherfucking judgmental glances that I seem to be magnetically drawing towards me these days.
I m going to make a list of every time I failed someone, thought I failed someone, or had somebody telling me I failed them (or warn me to not fail them) and ESPECIALLY if this was in a passive aggressive way, as if it was in my own interest. I m going to pin it to the wall and say:
“I m making a million dollars every time someone rejects me.”
And even if I don’t I m fine with it. Because the past weeks have been extremely costly, mainly because I just couldn’t function anymore because I spent SO MUCH ENERGY trying to be nice.
And it has cost me so much money.
Let’s see what happens if I just show what’s inside of me, instead of being so ashamed of my rage, of my humanity, my sexuality, my LIFE.
There is a coach I follow, Katrina Ruth and my favorite expression of her is one I need to hear most now:
“You can’t fail at being you.”
Sunday March 4
The Life-a-cide note
I had another break-down.
The combination of me feeling tremendously guilty for not making my own income, and having to receive help from my family, was weighing so heavily on me.
Last year my income through teaching yoga was already insufficient, but I pulled through with help. And also because I had my cat Max to worry about. I couldn’t even think straight about how (in)sustainable my income was.
Career and cat worries do not mix. You can’t have both.
But now that Max is gone, even I agree that I SHOULD be able to make my own money. And not live off the family’s money. And this thought is so urgent that I m basically ready to pull the plug on everything I love doing, everything others value in me and appreciate me for, including my yoga studio, in order to focus on getting my own income and at least be released of the guilt and the shame.
I still might.
But I just got off the phone with a friend, and she gave me such a cool option where I can first explore other options, where I still not make my own money.
But without guilt.
And by being able to continue my activities in all the fields and areas where people appreciate my presence and where I live authentically, and full of joy.
Where the pain of Max’s loss is not overshadowed by the pain of being a total fuck-up. Either because I don’t make money, or because I do have a normal job but without dreams or joy.
She came with a solution where it’s okay to be me, and to keep all the things I love doing.
And even if then worst case scenario I turn 65 and my financial heritage is gone, and I have to live of welfare or accept jobs that suck all the joy out of me, I will have a twenty year old reservoir of happiness filled to the brim, inside of me, to carry me through.
But right now it is time to start filling it.
And not leave it so empty.
Wednesday March 7
Daddy’s “spoiled” little rich girl
I have been private about this. I ve used euphemisms, told half truths, but most of it is secret.
For someone who’s lost her father when both she, and he, were relatively young, and became a writer after, sharing everything from her sex life to other parts most would consider deeply private, my father’s absence must be obvious.
I’ve thought a million times: “When is the day I will tell that story?”
The answer is probably: Never.
But I will share more than I ever have. Because the last couple of days I have been forced to think about my deepest values in regard to the money he left behind for us. Where is the money for? What would he have wanted? And does that even matter?
The past week I spent so much time hating myself for not being able to make my own money (as an entrepreneur), and hating even more the idea of quitting and taking a “real” job – which felt like even more of a failure in a weird way.
Like the moment I accepted to work somewhere for 40 hours, was the moment my life had officially been for nothing. Or maybe it had been for other people, in the case I chose a job with an altruistic side to it. But it had not been for me.
Not to crawl behind my computer, bathing robe still on, and make a Madonna playlist for M Yoga often with a cute column (Dutch) along with it.
It wasn’t to write books.
It wasn’t to teach yoga even, although I could still keep that as a side hustle for one night a week, if I still had energy for that after being drained of all my energy for 40 hours a week.
But most of all after going corporate, or being paid by the hour which was probably more likely, I would be away from home so much that I would not be able to ever be the cat mum I used to be.
My last cat Max died in January, and even I thought I was now ready for a new life. Without cats. Turning point came this weekend. I was stressing over my company now finally having to make money. Or I, now having to make money. I didn’t have the “excuse” of “can’t work outside the house”. I didn’t have the excuse I had to stay in, to take care of Max. I didn’t even have the excuse my company wasn’t working because I was not giving it the proper attention because roughly speaking, since early 2014 I had not been without worry for more than a few months.
And during all that time I had said: “I m so grateful I have the opportunity to give Max, or Willem, the care he needs.”
Now I was without cats. And my company was still failing. And I was getting more and more desperate at the thought of getting to go corporate. But what I didn’t understand was WHY.
But I do now.
First, the obvious. Like I said: going corporate means I have to give up on all activities I now call “work”, I now call “desk time”, I now call “hobby.” Playtime is over.
But there’s more.
The second is the cats. The moment I go corporate I have to give up my dream of becoming a cat mother again. Or at least of being the cat mother I was. The moment I figured this out? Was HUGE.
I realized that I didn’t really see the point in living if I couldn’t even afford cats. Whether financially (like I do now) or time-wise.
My family has supported me (in all and every way, including financially) when I couldn’t take care of myself/ my own money. All those years I was focused on my cats. We had an understanding that the financial support was temporary, and yet the moment I realized that the only thing that was going to ensure enough money was to go for a regular job, and thereby to create a life without possibility of cats?
What is the point in creating such an empty thing?
Ever since I got this, I see that for me there is only ONE strong motivator to work my ass off, and make my company work FROM HOME. With limited hours away. And that reason is that I want the freedom to take care of my cats whenever, and however I want to.
So in the most ideal situation I will now (and hope I will!) restore my income levels made as an independent, so that I don’t even need family money, nor need to think about what my stance is on this, and can simply adopt new fur babies without being dependent on my family.
I think we can all agree this would be by far the best scenario.
Aside from that.
It is really interesting what the status of my financial heritage is. The money my father left us. What is it for? Is it to support me temporarily when my company is going through a tough time? As would be coherent with his line with thinking, when he was still alive. It’s similar to financing my education assuming that I would go make a career from that.
Or is there something more to the money?
Here’s what I would do if I would have it my way: I would use the money to support myself, and sustain what I have.
To run a yoga company that may or may not be successful.
To write books that may or may not sell.
To take care of cats which may or may not get sick.
And I would give these things my full attention and love, and have a lot of fun doing it. And get so much “out” of it. All three things would be deeply rewarding.
Worse case scenario, at some time in the future, I wouldn’t have money anymore, and then I would have to accept any work I can get. But it would be after years and years of soaking up the joy of a life well lived, and doing all the things I value most.
And my new cats would have their mother home with them, watching over them, taking care of them. They would live like little princess and princesses, and we would make yoga videos together and I would make them into little stars.
I would be home with them.
I would understand them.
I would not expect anything back.
I have a friend who once adopted a feral kitten that hid under the bed for six months. She gave it his food there, it had a kitty litter box there, and every time she wanted to step into bed, she risked getting attacked.
She never for one moment thought of taking it back to the animal shelter.
Every time I hear of people who want cats for who they are then not one hundred percent willing to set their lives aside for, or who don’t want cats who don’t make good pets, I know exactly, and I mean EXACTLY, how the cat feels.
An Unexamined Life is Not Worth Living
You can follow this project for 365 days on this page and I ll post all lessons learned along the way on my Facebook and Twitter.
I m still not sure about this. And I have not spoken about this for a very long time. But I have a private mailing list, where I write about what is REALLY going on. Stuff I’ll probably never be able to share publicly. Ever since Max died, I stopped writing them.
It’s probably still too raw. But I feel I might pick it up soon, so make sure you’re subscribed.
Sign up for this private mailing list HERE and make sure you get it.