I realized this weekend that I don't remember my first yoga classes. Around the first time me and Seth broke up I was getting super sick after everything I ate. It started when I put myself on some crack pot diet of only berries and chocolate and cheap champagne for the most part. I also was only eating in bed. I lived in the garage house in Oakland then and had a leopard bed spread and just sprawled awkwardly against the wall with a mandalas and dream catchers and my crucifix and a long kameez that had pictograms of Buddha's life on it cut in two and pinned to the wall and ate blue berries, cranberries and dark chocolate. I wanted to live forever and I'd read that antioxidants are key. I got super sick but couldn't manage to right my life, my diet, or anything. I thought I should just be eating salads but those made me sick too. Nothing felt right in my stomach and every time I ate I got crippling heart burn which sent me to bed doubled over on my side which only made it worse. I meandered down a shady path of self-diagnosis, avoiding identification with chronic things like IBS and focusing on things I thought I could fix - an ulcer maybe. I read posts on acid reflux forums for hours and visited several doctors. They put me on PPI - protein pump inhibitors, super common billion dollar industry pills that damp down the acid production of your stomach, effectively rendering food indigestible, though I didn't know that then. I ate 8-grain raisin cookies and Klondike Bars at work for breakfast and then hunched painfully over my lunch of imitation sausage scrambles and wheat toast with honey, hardly able to stomach anything. I cried and whined and complained and Seth didn't know how to deal with it. I convinced myself I had an ulcer and juiced heads and heads of red cabbage, supposed to be restorative to the lining of the stomach. Finally I decided I had a hiatal hernia, which could be treated by chiropractors, so I went to a chiropractor clinic around the corner from the cafe, Alive Chiropractic, up on Piedmont. Their office was down a long path off the street that was trelliced with jasmine. The smell of cut lillies filled the waiting room. I can't even remember her name but the minute I walked in I felt like I had found someone who would help me. I had had shitty doctors and ok doctors. The one that prescribed me the PPIs was super nice, from the Order of Malta clinic right on Lake Merrit downtown. She had even given me advice about my inability to bottom anymore, but those pills didn't work. But this chiropractor was different. She wasn't skeptical or doubting at all, but she knew that I didn't have a hiatal hernia just by looking at me, and I knew she knew, but I didn't feel silly. The first thing she talked to me about was my relationship. What was going on in my life. What was going on in my life? I had moved across the country at 21 to be with someone 7 years my senior who was in a completely different place than I was emotionally and in their life. I had no idea what I was doing, what I wanted to do, but knew I liked to drink, and liked to perform, and was struggling to crystallize a drag and DJ career for myself and make music (the first song I ever wrote was called "Heartburn") while maintaining a safe focus on his life, his career, not ready or able to invest fully into my own. I wanted to move in with him and nagged him about it constantly. My entire life existed liminally until the days and nights when he would consent to see me. I lived for him and died a little bit every time he made me leave so that he could do his own thing. I didn't understand why he wanted to do anything that didn't involve me. I languished in my huge room with my walk-in closet. Shopped constantly. Formulated complicated style shifts with each season and filled my room with trinkets and music and strange movies and books. I wanted to marry. I wanted to rear children. When we were drunk together I had weasled him down to consent to set goals and dates for things like this based on my good behavior. If things went well he said we could marry in two years. Two years. I repeated it like a mantra, wore it like a talisman, and used it like a weapon against him, guiltily baby-talking him when he was mad at me, "What about two years?" We hadn't even been together 2 years at that point. I was sad. I was angry. I felt jilted. We fought constantly. I had successfully levied all the patterns I'd observed in the way my parents communicate onto our relationship. "You're talking to me like my father talks to my mother!" I'd shriek when he lectured me. "You talk to me like your mom talks to your dad..." he'd mutter derisively, having spent enough time with my parents to know how bitter and snarky my mom spoke to him, the man she's now been with for 36 years. I just didn't know what to do. I missed my community in Kansas City but coming unmoored from them I realized I had never really felt like I belonged anyway, but I felt popular there, and loved, and suddenly I was a Bay Area unknown with a few weird friends - I jammed with Party Effects, played video games with a hot metal bus boy from the cafe and trailed after Seth and his friends. I told him that he was my best friend and meant it.

The chiropractor seemed to see all of this and I don't remember exactly what I said that day but she totally got it. She understood the way he felt powerless to help me having gotten so sick, and burdened by the support I was demanding he give, and she understood how much I was beating myself up about not feeling good.

"What do you want out of your life?" she asked, looking deep into my eyes, this tall, dynamic woman with the physical presence of an athlete and the open face of a healer.

"I want to do drag, walk around on high heels, drink as much as I want and do some drugs and not feel like shit all the time." It was never just my stomach. My back hurt. My knees swelled up. I was tired all the time. My body felt like a toxic burden. I said what I said and meant it. And she looked at me.

"You can do that. You just have to balance it out. You have to take care of yourself."

She suggested I start doing yoga immediately, maybe get into a martial art, and change my diet. I needed warm things to stoke the digestive fire, soups and cooked vegetables, not cold raw salads, and I should probably stop eating gluten, which made most people pretty sick whether they reacted or not. Then she laid me out on her table and did weird things, scary things to my back, that honestly hurt, told me to take an epsom salt bath and come back next week. She said I should probably get an adjustment every week but that it wasn't really going to help if I didn't implement a lot of changes into my life. And, finally, I needed to let myself off the hook. It wasn't my fault that I was feeling bad. And it wasn't Seth's. I was a good person and I was scared and that was ok. I cried in front of her. I needed to hear that so bad.

I started immediately. Gluten was out. Googling around with this I stumbled onto huge swaths of communities that didn't eat gluten. One of which was paleo. Slowly but surely this started to seem like the right idea. All of the successive things I cut out had always made my stomach upset. I was bloated after every meal, would throw up in my mouth or even all the way and had insane gas. Eating had also always made me so tired. I had drank a 12-pack of beer a night for 3 years in Kansas City and towards the end of my time there had suddenly realized that everytime I drank a beer, even my first sip, I would have violent diarrheah, and had slowly replaced that with Andre's extra dry brut and Sutter Home moscato, or just vodka. So I cut the gluten. And I cut the dairy. And I cut the soy. And I slowly cut the beans.

I went back to my second appointment already feeling better, but knowing I couldn't maintain weekly appointments financially, and kind of snuck out of my second visit without making another. I had ordered a beginner's yoga DVD online and started to go through the routines in my bedroom at night. A kindly, middle-aged Southern woman lead me through subtle spine stretches and strengthening postures, but when it got into something like downward dog or sun salutations I freaked out. I wasn't strong enough. It was hard and scary. So I just kept twisting and stretching.

Seth and I broke up, got back together. Things got better for awhile, but old habits die harder than some subtle spine twisting can break, and we finally broke up for good on January 3rd. He said at the time that it was just a break while he figured out what he wanted to do. I held on so hard to the idea of the break. Of getting back together, getting back on track, though he knew, and deep down I did too, that we were done. He came to my house once in that maybe three week period. It was a pretty warm January in Oakland and I put on the shirt I knew he liked the most of mine -  a cropped little long-sleeved tee with blue green and red horizontal stripes. We fooled around and then he left. And somehow I knew.

The main reason he ended things with me was that I was emotionally abusive. I said and did horrible things when I was drunk, letting all of the resentment for not being treated the way I felt I should have been during the day build and build and build and saying nothing until it just spewed out of me like venom when we were out drunk at night. It happened when we weren't drunk but it was the worst when I was drinking. The resentment paired with something that I still fear, something I still don't understand. I have a rage inside of me unlike anything else I've ever experienced from myself. Not like the transcendent sadness and power of drag performance, cousin to but very different from the miasmic depression that ebbs and flows and flutters like wings at my back, not like depression's twin the errant mania that keeps me awake and scratching itches and picking at scabs. There is a deep dark strange pool of anger inside of me that is kind of like the dark place that my best friend from Kansas City Roy goes to when he's drunk, kind of like the cold hard faces of all the kids who picked on me in school, the way they steeled themselves from thinking I was a human being and predatorily struck me down before anything gay or different about me could be deflected at them. It's kind of like that but it's not. It's a lot more like the weird wailing turbine of anger that would send my mom tearing through the house crying hot tears, breaking windows and dishes and screaming that she was quitting the family, she was done with being a mother. It's a lot like the huge roiling swells of anger that would come over my dad and drive him to drag me through the house by a leg or an arm and fling me against my bedroom wall because my room was a mess or I hadn't gotten my shoes on fast enough. We never cleaned the gerbil cages and one Sunday afternoon spent in the back hosing them down ended with him kicking them to pieces. My parents fought constantly. He never hit her like he did me, close, and she hit him I'm pretty sure, but they just screamed and broke things and slammed things and tore through the house that they had to refinance several times as bills piled up, messes accumulated everywhere, shit and piss and detritus from pets we couldn't afford but had begged them for clumped in the corners. My dad was just so so angry. And then he wasn't. It would flip on and off like a switch. The dishwasher was loaded wrong, the house wasn't clean enough for his relatives to see, he was a tyrant. I wrote a chart out on a piece of paper and pinned it to my bedroom wall: "Father's Moods" listing each one with levels and what to do. Past grade 5 and I advised myself in looping cursive to hide in my room and not come out, that his anger was beyond reason. The blow-ups happened a lot on our way to school, and I came up with elaborate lies about why my face was read or why I had been crying. Every interaction stressed me out, everything was horribly embarrassing and humiliating. I couldn't even go to the bathroom at school I absolutely hated it, hated my body, hated the idea of my penis around other penises, was so afraid of the weird burgeoning sex feelings in my stomach that I would cramp up and sit at my desk and shit my pants before I would ever go to the bathroom there. Even at home I would clamp up and hold it until my bladder liked to about to burst rather than leave where I was, some weird control issue about being exactly where I wanted to be and not wanting to lose time using the bathroom? I don't even know. I was so neurotic and so sad. I cried constantly. I had no friends and thought my parents were weird and humiliating and what's worse everyone loved them. My dad is a Gemini/Cancer and he flips the switch like that. He's adored at church where he works, in the neighborhood, at school. He has a huge smile and waves at every stranger - which I found soooo embarrassing - and everyone he touches falls in love, which made it all the worse when he would snap, driving the car with one hand while he reached around to sock me or twist my ankle until I screamed for something I'd said or done. Hours later he would come to me crying, huge genuine tears in his eyes and so much love on his face, hating himself for what he did, and I would flinchingly consent to hugs, cringing and feeling sick inside. Why did I have to be the one to have the power now? Why did I have to say it was okay when I knew it would just happen again? I came to hate apologies. Couldn't we just pretend like it never happened?

At some point my parents realized we couldn’t go on like this. They weren’t happy. My sister - who came into the world wailing like a banshee with a terrible cholic, and developed a host of neuroses from the moment she could talk. She couldn’t stand dogs or loud noises and balloons so horrified her by their threat of popping that she couldn’t be in the room with them. She and my mom fought like animals and my sister developed the habit of screaming, “STUPID FUCKING BITCH!” at the top of her lungs in the backyard to piss my mom off from age 4. Our house was fucking bananas. But still super fun? My parents were really cool and incredibly smart, they exposed us to so much amazing shit and took us on vacations and though we were poor and they constantly decried our financial situation, especially in comparison to their brothers and sisters who were all rich professionals, not like the babies of both families, my mom and dad, who decided to be musicians, we still wanted for nothing. We had toys and clothes and food and my mom cooked dinner every single night and my dad worked from the basement so we always had parents around, and our baby sitter Mrs. Zilner, a zany older Catholic rabble rouser who watched us every night while my mom worked at the airport and my dad taught piano in the basement. I talked to her and she had even witnessed all the things my dad did when he was angry but she always reminded us that he loved us so much, and that in her day every kid got his ass kicked all the time. I wasn’t consoled. But things changed. My mom and dad started seeing Darrel, a family counselor, and my dad learned things to do with his anger. The fighting never stopped, especially as two more thinking feeling screaming beings grew bigger and louder and angrier within the household, but my dad stopped touching me, things got broken less. We saw Darrel as a family and talked about our problems in erudite psychological language. We were smarter than all the other kids my age, we were reminded constantly. Most kids didn’t have it as easy as we did academically and we shouldn’t make them feel bad about that. My parents had me see Darrel when I came out of the closet, just to make sure I was ok - I wasn’t, but I convinced myself that I was for the most part then. I didn’t articulate depression to myself honestly until last year, though now I look back and see how depressed I was throughout my life. My parents and I mostly got along. I gave them hell in high school, and my father and I even had a fist fight my senior year which culminated in me being thrown out of the house for a time. I slept at friends’ houses and worked and went to school and eventually came home with my tail between my legs for a couple months before I moved into my first apartment. We didn’t talk a lot about my childhood. My mom’s continuous mantra was that families that didn’t fight were weird. That’s true. But no family fought like ours. But I didn’t know this then. I just careened from that into a violent love affair with drugs and alcohol and punk and music and Roy and then Seth. I started running at 16 and never looked back, and now here I was abusing the only person I had ever really loved, and he had left me for it.

So I sat down and I decided to change. Ostensibly to get him back, to prove to him that things could be different, but change I would. Right after we broke up I had told Seth straight up that we were going to be friends, we were going to hang out as if nothing was weird and we weren’t going to make things weird for any of our mutual friends. Which for the most part we didn’t. I was sick with jealousy when he started sleeping with a local writer and his boyfriend, and angry that he got Amy and Danny pretty much to himself in the divorce, but the bond I had created with Brande stayed strong, and she talked me through the whole thing so much, that it seemed like I could navigate it. Mark and Liza had split and Mark was sleeping on my bedroom floor, and sometimes in my bed, and I was starting to get really close to Myles, who was such a fun and amazing friend, I felt like I could have this life. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted but I could have it. But I still had to change. 

One night we were at a party at the house the writer and his boyfriend shared. I was one-shoulder stretch jersey dress I’d hacked into a jagged mini, with no underwear, my balls dangling out and smelling up the room, and my calf-length studded fake Cavalli fake leather heel boots. The writer introduced me to two squares as drag luminaries and I went off on a drunken rant about how stupid and lame and boring the drag scene was in San Francisco and sufficiently offended them enough for them to leave. I didn’t care or know what was up. I was in a black out. (Years later I remet this couple - Fauxnique and her husband Marc, and have since been humbled not just by their forgiveness at my young drunk violence but by their respective talents. Fauxnique is one of the most transcendently talented performers I’ve ever seen and her one woman show brought me to my knees. That was a dark moment I had.) I wandered into the writer and his boyfriend’s room, had my friends take a picture of me rubbing my balls on their covers and then stumbled off with my new (or maybe he wasn’t my producer yet?) producer’s ex from college. I blew a bunch of coke and drove us back to my place in Oakland, bent him over my desk chair and fucked him, then sent him home and invited over this dude from Craigslist I’d been talking to - Rodrigo? - a stocky latino skater who drove like an Audio or Focus and was really into house music. I ate a bunch of mushroom chocolate before he got there so by the time he was there I could see cells dividing and we had the strangest most amazing sex before I sent him on his way, too, thinking maybe I would actually date this guy, his dick was small and weird but his touch was so perfect, he made me feel so good. I wandered into the bathroom then and stared in the mirror. And stared. And stared. For a long time. 

I felt I could see through reality. See through everything, not just through to the molecules that weren’t static in solid form but moving constantly, slurrying around the empty space to give the illusion of something real. I could see why I was so angry. I could see where it was coming from, some deep dark cold blue well inside that wanted to rush up and swallow everything, especially when I poured alcohol in it, it frothed and glowed and bubbled like a witch’s cauldron. I looked at it, looked at my ratty fried platinum blonde hair with 3 inches of roots, and looked at my relationship to alcohol, and decided then and there I was going to change it up. No more angry. No more bitter. No more chip on my shoulder. No more walking around as if people should know who I am and treat me like a fucking superstar though I not a single credit to my name but a long CV of drunken drug-fueled comedy routines at parties that had often verged on violent and racist and some sloppy drag numbers. No more. But I wasn’t going to stop drinking. No I was just going to be a fun drunk.

It really honestly worked. Something snapped, or some door closed, or I pushed something so far away, that for the most part, though it came out many times after, I never gave myself quite completely over to the anger as I had before. The scary part is, I haven’t been in a relationship with anyone long enough since to test whether it isn’t still there. It comes in low cold doses to my friends who piss me off, or god forbid someone out in public, but it’s less of a tsunami and more like a laser, like a lightning bolt. It still feels shitty but I at least feel I have some reign on it. So a fun drunk I became. 

Which is why I don’t remember my first classes at Yoga To The People. Or even my first couple of years of classes. This is what i was really trying to get to with this but I got side tracked so I’m just gonna let this lie for awhile. My wrist hurts and my calves are on fire. I start teaching an actual yoga class tomorrow, with senior teacher supervision. I’m incredibly nervous and scared and awed and excited. This practice has changed my life, made my life, and now I get to learn how to do that for other people. I’ll tell you more about that later. Thanks for reading.

Also you may notice with this post I'm shooting with a new camera. An actual camera. I've found it hard to continue to justify the plastic waste production of shooting with disposables, but I do feel like something visually is lost, but maybe something is gained? What do you think? Change is good, right? 

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