Hoopcamp 2010 was an amazing adventure. I got to meet my first and favorite hooping teacher, SaFire (of Hoop City), as well as many other genius hoop stars that I admire, including Brecken, Spiral, Rich Porter, Baxter, and more. Even better, I met loads of new hoopers, put faces to online names, made some new friends, and brought back a few mind-blowing tips and techniques that are already evolving my hooping. Check out more photos from my road trip and Hoopcamp 2010 here!
But the most amazing thing of all was not confined to the four days and three nights of Hoopcamp. I had a rather life-changing realization (and I don't use the term "life-changing" lightly . . . at least, not here) while road-tripping my way across Idaho and Nevada toward San Francisco.
I'm not sure what prompted this realization. I was listening to Australian comedienne and writer A. J. Rochester's audio book, The Lazy Girl's Guide to Losing Weight and Getting Fit, which I really enjoyed until Rochester began getting into lists of what to eat, when, and in what situation, at which point I swapped in an audio book about Montana hauntings. Rochester's main philosophy about life, food, and fitness is that dieting doesn't work. Like Geneen Roth shares in Women Food and God (find my review here), Rochester didn't have any success beating her compulsive overeating until she stopped dieting and started listening to her body and, more importantly, the emotions fueling her disordered eating.
This, I think, is what got my own brain ticking about my eating disorder, my relationship with food, and my body. As I have been whining -- er, blogging about recently, I have hit a major block in my recovery/life happiness that I seem to be unable to overcome through my usual go-to methods of food and exercise tracking, to-do lists, and daily routines. Because I left my full-time job early this year for health reasons, I now have a lot of time on my hands -- too much, in fact. Now that I have no job to distract me from my emotions, from the inadequacies and spots of darkness I find in and around myself. Even worse, when people advise me to do what I really enjoy during this time of unemployment, I discover that I don't know what I really enjoy. I have no passions -- and I wonder if I ever had any. If I did, I have lost and forgotten them. This truth is the hardest of all because it means that, if left to my own devices, things will never get any better.
Somehow during my road trip, however, a thought occurred to me -- or rather, it smacked me over the head. I give the credit of this revelation to God, although you might call it intuition or faith or just an overdose of caffeine. Whatever the source, though, this idea is truly mind-blowing. Here it is:
My life has been a big NO, denying my dreams and emotions in a way that has been getting acted out with food. But . . . God wants my life to be a big YES. In fact, He is the biggest YES of all, and He is waiting to revolutionize my dreary existence, if only I would let him.
Let me clarify. We Americans tend to embrace such philosophies as: "You can be whatever you dream to be," "The sky's the limit," and "You can do it!" I was fed these same lines by my family, teachers, and the media. Encouraging, right? Yes . . . but at the same time that these positive messages were winding their way into my brain, they were accompanied by other messages, messages that told me: "You can be whatever you dream . . . as long as it's not silly or ridiculous," "You can achieve whatever you want . . . as long as it's practical," and "You can do it . . . as long as it's what we expect of you." Over time, these external messages took on my voice, and I started to repeat them to myself. I let these negative messages turn me and my life into a big, depressing NO.
Largely these messages came from my family*. Growing up, I loved horses and dreamed of having an equine career . . . until my parents scoffed at the idea. They also resisted the idea of me moving to Montana. They did not like the idea of me studying writing in college, or the fact that I went to Malaysia on a missions trip in 2008. I know that they probably communicated these things because they wanted me to be financially stable and secure, but in doing so they also squashed some dreams and turned my own thinking very negative.
A week or so before I headed to Hoopcamp, the Best Husband Ever said, "We have to get you on a horse sometime." My immediate response was, "I can't." Of course he asked why, to which I mumbled something about how it was expensive. While that's true, and it's important to be financially responsible, that doesn't mean a life that includes horses in some way is out of the question for me. But because of the external NO that I turned into an internal NO, I didn't even consider the possibility.
Until my road trip epiphany, that is. I realized that just about everything I dream about I automatically say NO to, due to my internal negativity, or fear, or just lack of motivation.
But God is a big YES, and He is trying to turn my life into a big YES, too. The Best Husband Ever is part of that YES, as is hooping, living in Montana, my friends and in-laws, my blog, my church, and my online community.
When most people think of Christianity, they probably think of Jesus, church, rules, and Heaven. But I think God's version of Christianity is to know Jesus and, as a result, experience joy, both in life and whatever follows. I've always seen faith as something to cultivate now so I can hang out with God in Heaven later. But God's YES of Heaven is also a YES for right now.
The people I met at Hoopcamp are living that YES. Most of them probably do not think of themselves as Christians or follow Jesus, but they live with reckless abandon and joy. And . . . they are happy. Maybe they don't have much money in the bank, but they are pursuing their dreams and, in many cases, achieving those dreams. Also, when I say that these folks are "happy" and "pursuing their dreams," that doesn't mean that they're lazy bums sitting around smoking weed. No, these people are successful artists or leaders in their local hooping communities, and they are anything but lazy bums. They are active and tireless in their efforts. In that respect, the Hoopcampers remind me of missionaries, except largely without Jesus. But that's whole other post. . . .
When I got to Hoopcamp, I spent the first day trying my best to figure out what everybody wanted me to be, and then being that person. This has been my mode of being for most of my life and, ass you might imagine, doing this with 250 strangers was frustrating (at best) and impossible -- and it made me miserable. By the time the first night hooping jam rolled around, I was exhausted by my futile efforts and thought, Screw it, and hooped like my crazy self -- and felt happy.
I remained the same way throughout the rest of the retreat -- meaning that I just was myself -- and, while I still experienced fatigue, frustration while learning difficult tricks, and shyness among other emotions, I felt happy. A better phrase would probably "at peace." And I truly believe that I felt this way because I embraced God's YES of the way He made me. I stopped trying to be everyone else (spurred by my own inner NO) and just relaxed into being myself.
Does that make sense? It makes sense to me. But now the obvious questions remain -- what are my God-given YES dreams? What are yours? And how can we make each day a practice in saying YES?
*My parents and other family members, I might add, read this blog -- but I'm not trying to put them down, just being honest. If they helped make my life a big NO, it was probably because their family did the same to them, and so on down the line. I'm not writing this to be hurtful, but to be true to myself and, with any luck, perhaps help and encourage others who are experiencing similar things. My goal in blogging is to share my growth and encourage yours, and sometimes that can be uncomfortable. I hope anyone who feels hurt by this post will forgive me those unintended wounds.