Just What I Needed to Hear: Irisha’s Mantra

Gene Pelham's photograph for Norman Rockwell's Girl at Mirror.

Sweat was heavy on my back, and my faded t-shirt stuck to my shoulder blades.  I had my arms wrapped protectively around my body, and tears had welled-up in my tightly closed eyes.  I followed directions to repeat what I heard, and I whispered something I hadn’t thought to say since early childhood.

“I am a rare and magnificent gift to the Universe. Behold, and cherish me.”

Unwrapping my arms from my body was almost painful. I couldn’t make eye contact with the other women who all seemed to be smiling and nodding at each other around the gymnasium.  Silent streams betrayed the confusion I felt at saying those simple words out loud.

I had to leave. It was that bad.  I used the YMCA’s towel to mop the tears on my cheeks, and I walked out without looking back.

Later, I felt ridiculous, but peeking out from behind the embarrassment, I also felt a great sense of relief and truth.  I am not a New Agey person.  I made fun of the Stuart Smalley SNL skit with the best of them.  Who needs self-affirmation?  I mean, really.  Talking to yourself in a mirror, my dear? Puh-lease!

Well, two kids and a move away from my adopted city and a beloved career, I guess I did.  In the year since moving from Brooklyn to a (pretty amazing) New Jersey suburb, I had become an unwilling stereotype. At least that’s how I saw it.  I had a house with a yard, two cute kids, a great husband who supported us, and I was doing my half-hearted best to fulfill my new role of homemaker.  The American Dream, right?

I hated it. Really, really hated it.  I felt like I had lost the person I had spent my entire adulthood creating.  All the travel and education and experiences and adventures and past lives I’d lived were gone, trapped in two-dimensional photographs or written onto dead leaves of paper – and then relegated to the back of a dresser drawer.

My anger faced inward, but it often escaped in bursts of snarling at my kids and husband, slamming a cupboard shut far harder than was necessary (a year later, it’s not yet repaired), or picking up a painfully sharp toy from the floor and flinging it across the living room.

So, going to my first Zumba class at the YMCA took me by surprise. When Irisha, the instructor, had us close our eyes (and yes, I peeked at first) after class and repeat her mantra, I sighed and cocked my hip to one side in disdainful acquiescance. But somehow I needed to say those words to myself.  And my tearful reaction allowed me to realize that I was still those things. Me, not my career or geographic location. Me, not my routine or lack of a paycheck. Me, not my post-pregnancy body, more plump than before and riddled with scars.  I was worth beholding and cherishing.

For almost a year I didn’t miss one of those Wednesday classes.  I went for the music, dancing, companionship. But I also went to hear myself say those words at least once a week.  When Irisha stopped teaching Zumba on Wednesday mornings, I made time on Saturday mornings to take her class.  It was healing. It is healing.

And this week, I challenge you to say those words with a sincere intent and an open mind.  As Irisha said in last Saturday’s class, more than two years since I began taking Zumba with her, “May you hear that and believe that every day.”

“I am a rare and magnificent gift to the Universe. Behold, and cherish me.”

  I’m honored to have been a “Lurker’s Favorite” for this post in #YeahWrite54. An amazing writer, Jen Weinberg, chose this post as a winner! Check out her blog, Kvetch Mom, here.

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About That Unique* Weblog

Adjusting to the car culture, dealing with leaving a career I love, and spouting off along the way.
This entry was posted in Excellent Local People, People are Good, random observation, Suburban Life and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

54 Responses to Just What I Needed to Hear: Irisha’s Mantra

  1. Lottie Nevin says:

    I loved reading this. I’ve been to that place too, and I don’t mean the Zumba class. Shared it on my Fbk wall, that’s how much I liked it.

  2. Krisitn,

    This, aside from your post about your Dad, is my favorite. I love the “Stuart Smalley” idea of telling yourself you are worth it out loud. We need to do that often.

  3. Wow. Just wow. Taking steps to fully embrace the real you and be your best self is brave and true. And SNL skits make me giggle too—especially the Stuart Smalley one. Erin

  4. Emily says:

    I’m so glad you decided to post this, Kristin. What a wonderful piece and it resonated with me in so many ways.

    • Thanks, Emily. That’s one of the reasons I did post it – I know I’m not alone in struggling against where life has brought me. It’s about time I admitted the good along with the not-so-great. 🙂

  5. January says:

    I need an Irisha. She’s seems like an amazing woman. Loved this post, loved the idea of giving yourself daily positive out loud affirmation. We need to do that much, much more often. Wonderful post.

  6. christina says:

    oh this is allllll kinds of awesome. as are you! “I am a rare and magnificent gift to the Universe. Behold, and cherish me.” RAWR!!

  7. Anna says:

    Love this. And feel like I should give a big thank you to Irisha for the inspiration she is able to give – following her to the Saturday class is total dedication!

  8. heidi says:

    This is so beautiful. I have tears in my eyes. I can relate to so much of this.
    Beautifully written. I loved this post. Behold, indeed.

  9. I had a similar emotional experience this winter when I started taking Yoga. Maybe there is a body/spirit connection (there’s that new age-y mumbo-jumbo again) that helps us remember who we are. Isn’t it great that we often have people who enter our lives just when we need them?

  10. Ado says:

    Yours is the first Yeah Write post I’ve read and it’s got my vote. (-:
    Also, a few weeks back I’d decided to go to my 1st Zumba class on a Friday but time got away from me and I forgot – you reminded me. Thank you. (-:

  11. Donna B. McNicol [@donnabmcnicol] says:

    Perfection – thank you!

  12. Mayor Gia says:

    Very cool! My coworkers do Zumba, but I just can’t dance.

  13. Ooohhhh…I knew there had to be more to it than dancing around with a bell skirt…..hhhmmmm

  14. Aubrey Anne says:

    Yes. Yes yes yes. Love this!

  15. Kristin, I must say this is one beautiful post which I can relate to. Surely, ‘you are a rare and magnificent gift to the Universe and I cherish you”

  16. Terrific post! It’s funny how people (you and me included) who think of themselves as “anti-new agey” end up being the most touched by these things. I’ve had similar experiences at the end of a yoga class and been surprised by it too.

    • Maybe it’s because we don’t expect it to affect us? And you have to at least be just a little open to it. Have you seen Ratatouille? The scene where the critic eats the meal and zooms back to childhood is a little how I picture moments like these.

  17. sisterhoodofthesensiblemoms says:

    Love! I find I canot lay still and repeat affirming mantras unless I’m paying for it through a yoga class. What is up with that? Ellen

  18. alsfm says:

    Ah crap. I love this. I just quit my job in January. And learning to navigate this new world of SAHM – to 3 year old toddlers and a child with special needs? totally kicking my butt. I’m a little unsure where “i” fit in. Thanks. Awesome post.

  19. TriGirl says:

    You’re right. Zumba is about getting in tune with yourself. I haven’t been in a long time and I used to really enjoy it (it hurts one of my feet)

  20. Great post. I’ve never been a big believer in mantras either, but lately, I’ve found some comfort is the repetition of thoughts I should believe about myself. Irisha sounds amazing. We all need her and her zumba class in our lives.

  21. I’m scared of Zumba, mainly because I have two left feet. But your piece has me thinking maybe I should reconsider.

    • Don’t be afraid! I laugh at myself during almost every class. Of course, these are low-pressure classes I go to. They’re at the YMCA, not at some chic club…check out the video, you’ll see. It’s all love in these classes.

  22. Jenny says:

    Great post 🙂 Never heard of Zumba though… must look it up!

  23. Great post! It’s a sometimes painful, always necessary process to discover who we are after children and such. Not that I have any clue really – just that I can identify. Love the mantra. Think I might have to give it a try.

  24. Mrs. Doc H says:

    A great instructor makes all the difference! I love Zumba and love the way I feel after class. Yet, for some strange reason, I still find it incredibly hard to get in the car and drive to class. Humfffff.

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  26. Rach DonutsMama says:

    Oh I so understand that feeling. Very much so. I’ve struggled to describe how I felt about losing myself, yet finding myself and realizing that I’m already amazing too.

  27. Rachel says:

    I have felt some of those same feelings at the end of a yoga class during the “Namaste” where we bow and say “the divine in me honors the divine in you”. I wish we could go to these classes together…

    • I think that’s very similar, Rachel. In acknowledging other people’s magnificence, we are pushed and forced to recognize that we have it too. It’s often harder to admit and accept isn’t it? And YOU are one heck of a gift to the Universe, my dear. Wonder Woman.

  28. Pingback: The Montclair Farmer’s Market: Chickens and Much More | This Weblog is Unique. Just Like They All Are.

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