Photo: ©Anna Guest-Jelley; Art Direction: The Magazine of Yoga™
or How Curvy Yoga Took Off
BY MAGAZINE CONTRIBUTOR ANNA GUEST-JELLEY
I got a voicemail from my dad a couple weeks ago, and it was quintessential him. Very to the point. He always begins the same way: “Anna, it’s your dad.” I like how he lets me know that it’s him, just in case I don’t recognize his voice after nearly 30 years.
You see, I grew up as a total Daddy’s girl. And since my dad traveled Monday through Friday through the vast majority of my childhood, Friday afternoon when he pulled into the driveway was always a big event in our house.
In some ways, it was strange for my sister, mom, and me to readjust to his presence every week (as I’m sure it was for him). But I always looked forward to when he would walk in the house and greet me with a “Hey, Punkin!”
Whenever I think of not getting his voicemails again, I can’t catch my breath. I always thought it was hyperbole when people said that hearing some news knocked the breath out of them.
But now I know it’s quite literal.
When he was 15, my dad lost his dad. With very little money or support, he could have easily become stuck–in his anger and grief, in his hometown, in his dreams.
I’m the kind of person who rolls my eyes when I hear that someone “pulled themselves up by their bootstraps.” I know we’re all too interconnected for that to be completely true, but if anyone is close to it, it’s him.
He’s kinda a nonstop badass. (Okay, he’s totally a badass.)
He managed to graduate well from high school and put himself through college. He wanted to be an English professor, but when he didn’t get a scholarship for graduate school, he got a job instead. At that job, he proceeded to work his way up in over the course of almost 35 years from the lowest-paid, lowest-prestige position to now Vice President of Human Resources.
He and my mom have set an example for my sister and me that we can do whatever we want, not if we put our mind to it, but if we put a ton of elbow grease into it.
None of us is known for under-doing it.
Hence my predicament at the beginning of the year.
One lovely Friday evening this spring, my husband and I had a date night. We had dinner and went to see a movie. I can’t remember which one, but it was a fun romantic comedy, which is one of my (somewhat guilty) pleasures in life.
We’d met for dinner after work, so we’d driven separately. We held hands as we walked to our cars, and I felt delighted and charmed. After I got in my car, I saw I had several missed calls and text messages, so I started working my way through them.
The second voicemail was from my dad. It was hard to understand as his speech was slurred from his blood counts being off, but it went a little something like this: “Anna, it’s your dad. I’m at the hospital and they’re doing some tests. Your mom will call you later. Love you, Dad.” (Yes, he often signs off on his voicemails.)
After that evening, something changed profoundly in my life.
I got mad as hell.
I was furious at cancer and ashamed of myself. My existence had clearly forced my dad to work too hard his whole life, and now this was all the thanks he got–f’ing cancer (which is, of course, completely irrational—but that’s cancer for you. Logic is not its forte). The more I thought about it, the more disgusted I got. I couldn’t believe I’d wasted so much time climbing a career ladder and filling all my spare time with extra work, debating whether or not to answer my parents’ calls on the weekend because I was so busy, and making my relationships and health a distant second (or twentieth) priority. I didn’t care about anything anymore except eking out the little bit of life I had left at the age of 29 (yup, I got that flair for the dramatic from my dad).
“That’s it,” I told my husband. “Operation New Life Plan commences now.”
When I’m excited, I make a bulleted list of things I want to do. When I’m unsure, I make a table of pros and cons. And when I’m scared, I go to a color-coded, multiple spreadsheet kind of place. Excel became my intimate friend as I plotted all the ways I was changing my life for the better–work was out and life was in.
Of course, the first person I wanted to share these new dreams with was my dad. The only problem is that he wasn’t buying it. Shortly after he was diagnosed, we had the “why me?” conversation. His response was “why not me?”
After puzzling through that the last few years, I realized I’d been missing his message all along. I always thought his example of hard work was one of getting ahead no matter what, but I was missing one key element. The thing that cinches it all together.
My dad hasn’t done all he has because he thinks work is the most important thing in the world or he’s some ill-adjusted workaholic. He’s done it because it’s his manifestation of love in the world—for my family, for his colleagues, and for himself.
Working a lot of hours isn’t the point (even if it’s sometimes a byproduct). The point is what makes you come alive. And for my dad, one of those things is his job. I always thought he’d set aside his dreams of being an English professor in order to make a living for his family, but what I see now is that he did something far more profound: he made his dreaming world bigger and, in doing so, created a life of joy.
I decided to go for it and develop my yoga passions. I got Curvy Yoga up and began pouring myself into it. I even had a brief hallucination of opening a yoga studio, which I promptly called my dad about. He has a keen business sense, so he put me through a grueling round of 20(+) questions, including such mind-boggling ones as “How are you going to pay for this?” and “Who is going to come?”
I was a little disappointed by our conversation because a big part of me wanted him to just say “Yes, do it!” But another, more important part of me, wanted his questions so I could think through this decision, which helped me realize it’s not time for me to take that step.
The next morning, he sent me an email:
“Good morning beautiful! Sorry I was somewhat deflating on Sunday. It’s that old ‘love you forever no matter what deal’ coming out.”
Anna Guest-Jelley is an advocate for women’s rights by day, a yoga teacher by night, and a puppies’ mama all the time. She is making her way through life with joy, curves and all. Visit her at her website Curvy Yoga and on Facebook and Twitter.
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.