In an effort to connect deeply with herself and the world around her, our favorite recovering people pleaser, Tatum Fjerstad, is embarking on a 3-month journey around the U.S. to teach people to use writing and meditation as a healing process. On the way, she will be sharing stories of triumph, loss, joy, and growth from Actual Humans of Yoga. Or, as we like to call it: #AHOY! Help Tatum along her journey or email her to share your story.
It would be an understatement to say that Marjorie Grevious has seen her fair share of struggle. I met this former-social-worker-gone-seminary-student in 2011 during a mentorship for our yoga teacher training. I was enamored by her kind voice and clear eyes. We’ve shared a passion for disrupting mainstream media’s notion that yoga is for women who look like/live like me (white, thin, straight, young, and flexible) by showing that it is widely practiced and loved by people who look/live like her (black, full-bodied, queer, Christian). I am extremely grateful for her vulnerability in sharing this emotional story.
From a very young age, Marjorie has been the caretaker in her family.
“I was raised to be of help, or of service to my elders and to those in need.”
Like many women her age, no one modeled the importance of self-care or boundaries. If one goes long enough without an understanding of these principles, life can get a little more challenging than it already is.
For Marjorie, her wake-up call came in many different forms, but it wasn’t until she lost someone very important to her that she realized how greatly her lack of self-care had negatively impacted her life.
Over the last decade, Marjorie and her wife, Lisa, supported several family members through difficult times. There was Marjorie’s mother’s breast cancer diagnosis, treatment, and survival. There was helping her brother through his divorce by moving him and his son into their home. When the challenges of single fatherhood caught up with him, Marjorie and Lisa acted as primary parents to his son, for nine years. This young boy went from being expelled in first grade to a member of his school’s student council, safety patrol, and science bowl.
Last year, Marjorie reached a point when family drama was at an all-time high. This work had become so demanding that she found herself at the end of a very frayed rope.
“I was exhausted to my bone marrow,” she says.
In a moment of frustration, anger, and depletion, she gave her nephew back to her brother, which was not a safe environment. This was one of her first attempts in setting boundaries and taking time for herself after a lifetime of doing anything but.
The result, however, was more painful and ultimately more damaging than if she had kept her nephew. The young boy is now in a home where he doesn’t feel safe and his attempts to express his fear have resulted in him being cut off from speaking to Marjorie and Lisa.
“I am realizing that by going deep into myself, care-taking for others, so intensely for so long, has blocked me from seeing myself and my true needs.”
“I gave this brilliant, beautiful, sensitive, big-hearted boy to a man who barely acknowledged his existence before and now has cut him off from all family and the only parents he has ever truly known.”
She was beside herself with regret. She knew she wasn’t accountable for her brother’s choices, but she is haunted by the decision she made to give up her nephew.
“How could I do that? Why did I do that? How do I recover from that?”
The answer is not found in a meme or quote on Facebook. The answer is found by doing the hard but essential work of recognizing and breaking unhealthy patterns while choosing and nurturing a new path.
“After getting lost in all my caretaking efforts, I lost me,” she wrote in an email. “I am realizing that by going deep into myself, care-taking for others, so intensely for so long, has blocked me from seeing myself and my true needs.”
For Marjorie, this work must come with a heaping side of forgiveness and an understanding that mistakes, no matter how serious, are the only way we, as humans, can learn. The lesson may not be clear, initially, and no one can decide this lesson for Marjorie. She must work through this pain, guilt, and regret on her own, with the support of the people who love her.
As for the rest of us, we will sit here and hope that the other side of Marjorie’s lesson contains more self-care, boundaries, and forgiveness. Because every time someone works through his or her pain and comes out the other side softer and more open, the entire community is better for it.
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.