Thank you ladies, for taking me to school
Before you jump to some base conclusion, the title of this blog refers to the wonderful women of all time but most especially a select few from the recent past and a few more presently. There have been many women who have honored me in this life in sharing wisdom and knowledge. I carry the magic their inspiration bestowed to this day. The first were my mom and sister, each their own strong. Then eventually my girl friends and sistahs (or cystahs) with whom I sacredly confided. There were the women teachers through my education who genuinely motivated and cultivated meaningful shared experiences. Curiosity soon brought me to Toni Morrison, Anne Sexton, and J.K. Rowling who opened my eyes to the craft of voice and storytelling. Later on, and somewhat unexpectedly, there was Guru Karam and Xenia Hennington, and Laura M., the female trainers of my Kundalini yoga certification. More recently, my current therapist, who has helped immensely in processing an immense amount of burnout and past trauma.
And finally, I have found Brene Brown and her books and podcast Unlocking Us. As I’ve mentioned before, I have a deep respect and love for this womens’ very important work in the world and in our own hearts and minds. In an episode from October of this year (2020) of Unlocking Us, Brene Brown interviews a pair of female identical twin doctors, Emily and Amelia Nagoski. I was struck with joy and intrigue from the moment they began to share. Their co-authored book Burnout- The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle explains emotions and the process of emotions in amazing and insightful ways. I had chills, multiplying across my entire intelligence while listening to this conversation.
Just about every system in your body responds to the chemical and electrical cascade activated by emotion.”
They go on to explain emotion plainly. I’ve managed to come up with a definition for myself that I judge captures their understanding as well as my own.
Emotion: an involuntary neurological reflex with a story-like structure (beginning, middle, and end) that engages our entire intelligence (brain, periphery, and beyond).
I , my very being, sings with agreeance when I read this to myself. Dr. Emily and Ameila Nagoski hit the nail on the head with affirmative punctuation.
This definition stands out for me. It codifies my experience of emotion. I’ve always sensed that emotions were strong and that I could feel them with every fiber of my being. Fear is quite powerful and a response that I tend to gravitate to challenge. Yet, heartache, sadness, loneliness. These states have marked economy in terms of corporal experience as well. It is so very gratifying to hear that what I have felt since I have been capable of self-reflection and metacognition is now backed by research- that emotions can and do affect every ounce of us when it comes down to it. It is also measurably validating to come to find that there’s a quality of anonymity to it’s volition- as in, I’m off the hook. “Involuntary” means it’s a feature of my nature and I should accept it, honor and cherish and then move on. I am lifted by this.
And to know that emotions have a structure similar to a story in that there is a distinct beginning, middle, and end. I get a sense of nostalgia just reaching for this idea. And a wave of relief that I discern leads to healing in ways I never expected. Being a product of the age of media, the whimsy Disney castle silhouettes a new framework for my perspective of emotion.
Just like before, they can inform me of a need, and they can inhabit what feels like everything, literally. But, if I so choose, I can gain perspective and grow as I integrate what I behold. Like catching the latest Pixar flick at the movie theater before coronavirus made that idea completely repulsive. Emotions can and do captivate, because they can teach us. I’m ready for more.
I am astounded. I am amazed. So, yes. Thank you from the bottom of my limitless heart. Thank you women for who you are and what you bring. I cherish all that you offer. I stand with you. I hear you and see you.
Thus Spake Maek
Dec. 15, 2020
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Maek lives in Austin, TX and has been teaching yoga since 2011.