I’m Tatum. I’m a storyteller and I love listening to the stories of others, too. So I’m making a thing of it. In conjunction with my recently announced three-month MOVE SIT WRITE tour, I’m meeting with what I’m calling Actual Humans of Yoga, (AHOY! for short) and asking them to tell me their stories. These stories are about growth, grief, triumph, loss, and pain. In other words, these are human stories. Through them, I hope to show you that your connection to other yogis is not founded in your favorite yoga pose, the color of your skin, your gender, your weight, your age, or your sexual orientation. Instead, it’s your story and how you tell it.
To kick off this series, I’d like to tell my story. This is a story about connection, or rather, disconnection and reconnection to self.
I don’t make eye contact very well. I prefer to stare at people’s mouths. This goes for everyone. From very best friends to loving family members to students in my workshops. When I tell stories, I perform them just to the left of the person I’m talking to. People often look in the same direction to see what’s over there and I have to explain myself. It’s awkward. But I keep on doing it.
iPhones were invented for people like me. I can safely “connect” with people from a distance. By using social media and texting I can bare my soul from behind the glow of a screen and delete or ignore whatever I want.
But here’s the rub: As much as I avoid deep connection, I’m tragically attached to the approval of others. In a super unhealthy way. So when I put myself out there even a little bit and I get feedback that it’s not quite right, my gut drops into my butt.
In yogi terms: my third chakra implodes. The third chakra governs your sense of self, your ego, your self esteem, and your sense of purpose. It’s the same feeling you got when you realized you peed the sleeping bag at your first-ever sleepover birthday party. (That’s never happened to me, or anything, I’ve just heard it’s super terrible.)
It wasn’t until very recently that I fully understood this as a deep disconnection to self. I had one of those days where everything goes from bad to worse. I’ll spare you the details to protect the innocent, but this day came on the tail end of months of anger, resentment, loneliness, depression, and anxiety. Something in me broke that day and it hurt. Real bad.
So instead of going to yoga, I did some casual binge drinking, I cried a lot and ordered enough sushi for delivery that the restaurant gave me enough cutlery for three people. Somewhere between a spicy tuna and a dynamite roll, I realized something: I wasn’t going to get the approval and love from others that I wasn’t prepared to give to myself. By walking around shielding my eyes, performing stories to ghost people and getting my jollies by pretending to be vulnerable online, I was sending a clear message:
I am disconnected to myself and I am scared to reconnect because I’m not sure I have anything worth connecting to.
Human beings are innately intuitive. We can sense when someone isn’t showing up fully for themselves or for us and we do weird things when that happens. In my case, I chose to drink a lot of whiskey and eat large amounts of sushi to numb the pain of disconnection.
Since that numbness isn’t permanent, I decided to try something different: radical reconnection to self.
I quit drinking (30 days sober as I write this!), left my day job, decided to go on tour teaching writing and meditation, and, of course, start this series. By asking people to tell their stories, I have to hold a safe space for them to share openly. This means I have to make eye contact and share my stories with vulnerability. Gulp.
This also means people may say things I don’t like about what I’m doing or how I’m doing it. Double gulp. But it’s going to be up to me to stay connected to myself and know that I’m doing the best I can with the tools I have. That gut-to-butt-third-chakra-rumbly feeling will still be there, but I’ll be able to handle it. And if I mess up, forgiveness is always there waiting for me.
Tatum Fjerstad is professional napper who can’t handle that Justin Timberlake loves another woman. When she’s not imagining what her life would be like with JT, she is mostly a human being teaching other human beings how to be okay with being human. She does this through movement, meditation, and writing. Tatum is here to be helpful, honest, and make you laugh, obvi. To learn more about how she does this, follow her on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, and at tatumfjerstad.com.