Always Be Telling Truth or You Should Only Be Happy.

March 3, 2013

My belief is that when you’re telling the truth, you’re close to God. ~ Anne Lamott

I met my friend Robert Wilder yesterday in the lobby of the Inn Of The Anasazi in Santa Fe, where I had slept the night before. I’d stayed in the hotel room of my friend Katie from L.A., who coincidently, also happened to be in Santa Fe. Her trip had been planned. Mine not so much. Ronan passed away on February 15th and the memorial was chosen for this weekend so I booked my flight just a few days ago.

Robert asked how I knew Katie and I told him that she took my classes but that now we had become close friends.

Robert’s a writer (a fantastic one) and a high school English school teacher. (He calls his students High Schooligans if that gives you an indication of his cool teacher status.) The Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society kind of teacher, the kind you appreciate much later upon looking back at who formed you, at who maybe taught you to really love books and writing and expressing yourself. My “Robert Wilder” was Mrs. Lifshey in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, who I remembering running into when I was getting my hair done for my senior prom. I had been trying on a rhinestone pair of earrings and she’d spotted me as she sat getting her own hair highlighted. She bought me the expensive fake diamond earrings “anonymously” that my mother couldn’t afford at the time. (My mom knew and didn’t keep it anonymous. Obviously.)

Robert and I sat on the leather sofa in the lobby of the Inn of the Anasazi and he asked me Is it hard to be friends with your students? 

Is it hard? Well, first off, I don’t have students. He has students. He is an English teacher to teenagers. I write and teach yoga. I write things that people respond to. (Sometimes.) In no way do I think of them as my students. That feels pretentious  and sort of holy to me. I’d rather think of them as my tribe. Or not-student students.

But yes, it can be hard I suppose. Like being a person in the world can be hard or being a daughter or a wife can be hard. Like how anything you love can be hard.

Here’s why it can be hard with my not-student students: I am afraid to expose myself and have them see that I am a regular person who gets depressed and thinks she looks fat sometimes and drinks too much coffee and wine and doesn’t always walk the talk.

I write about all that (and more) but there is a difference in writing about it and then actually having someone see you in the flesh as the youest you there is.

My belief is that when you are telling the truth, you are close to God. So says Anne Lamott. Yet and still, my paper creates a chasm, a separation. A wall between me and everyone else in the world. There is a distance between the reader and myself even when I am being my most vulnerable and truthful.

There is a little bit of Us and Them when you are standing in front of a class. You are in a glass case and although everyone can hear you no one can really get in. There is a you can’t really see me even though you think you can.

When you are with someone in person over lunch that distance is minimized and then there they are right up in your face, their eyes all over you, their minds making up stories and facts.

Or not.

A couple months ago I went to Atlanta to see my sister and nephews and to lead a workshop. My sister mentioned to me that she had said something to my friend (who had started as a not-student student) something about me always being on my phone.

I was horrified.

I told my sister that she should have not said that to this person. That it made me look bad and that I had an image to uphold. (Ha!) Me always being on my phone suggested that I wasn’t present, that I was full of shit. How dare she say that to someone who takes my classes? She felt bad and said that she thought this person and I were really close friends. We are I said. But still.

But still.

There is no but still.

The distance was zippered up and there was no space between us anymore and it’s true I look at my phone too much. It’s an addiction. I didn’t want that side of me exposed because in my mind it was bad enough I was friends with my not-student student but now they would see all my faults and that I was full of shit and they wouldn’t be my student or my not-student student and possibly not even my friend. (Oh, the stories! The stories!)

I brought it up at the workshop that weekend in Atlanta where my sister and the friend/ not-student student were both in attendance. My belief is that when you’re telling the truth, you’re close to God. I told the story and shared my shame and used it as an example of where I wasn’t living a congruent life. I also used it as a way to express what I felt about there not being a division between me and my not-student students.

They are people. I am people. The same.

I was terrified I would become some sort of fallen icon. As teachers of any kind, we’ve all had people become fixated or obsessed and tell us How Amazing We Are and then one day they get bored or decide you are a Real Life Human Being and you never hear from them again.

I was terrified that someone who sees me as an inspiration would realize I look at my iPhone too much and that I don’t pay enough attention and dismiss me.

My belief is that when you’re telling the truth, you’re close to God.

So yea, Rob I said on the couch there. It is hard sometimes.

But it’s only hard when I make it so. Yes, it is hard for me to be friends with everyone. (I am not special in that truth.) No one can be there for every single person nor should they be. I can’t get back to everyone. I can’t go to everyone’s play or class or band or whatever it may be, but, there are indeed some people that I meet because they take my class or read my writing or come on a retreat and who I know I want to have a glass of wine with. It is incidental to me that we met through my yoga class or my retreat or my blog. Why should I be any better than them or put myself on a pedestal because I teach them how to do a downdog or because they read an essay and feel inspired by something I said?

The only time it’s hard is when someone puts an unrealistic expectation on me or when I try to make everyone happy. I can’t do that. (I’d like to remember more often that I can’t do that. I’d like us all to remember more often that we can’t do that.)

But it’s also not hard I said. The most natural thing for me is connecting with people. When I meet someone that I want to know better it doesn’t matter if I am their “teacher.”

Look, everyone in my life is my teacher. You. You reading this. Everyone. (We should all recognize this more often.)

Look, I do want to do better.

I want to do better than yesterday at least. I want to be more present and not look at my phone so much and to never gossip and all the rest, but the people who learn from me are pretty clear that I am not a guru and I am as down to earth as they come.

Yet I also want to live a congruent life. That is what it really boils down to. My belief is that when you’re telling the truth, you’re close to God.

I tell people to pay attention and notice what fills them with awe and wonder and to write down their five most beautiful things and yet I am not present? It’s not that it’s because I am their teacher and they are my student that I want to be congruent or do better but rather I want to Always Be Telling The Truth.

ABTTT. Always Be Telling The Truth. And if my nose is stuck in my phone texting and I am not looking out the window, well then, I am missing my own five most beautiful things, aren’t I?

If someone takes my class and then we become friends and they decide they no longer want to take my class because the boundary has been crossed or because I curse or don’t do enough of my own yoga practice, well then, so be it. What can I do? They come, they go, they come again and all the while I am here ABTTT or doing my best version of it.

My belief is that when you’re telling the truth, you’re close to God.

The truth is that I can’t be friends with everybody. (Neither can you.) Nor do I want to. (Neither can you. Trust me.) Nor do you want to. So get over it. Not possible.

I can love as best as I can and I can keep teaching and writing but I cannot be friends with every single person who takes my class or reads me. It’s not humanly possible and that’s okay. The people pleasing days are falling away and the days of ABTTT are coming fast and hard.

Today is one year since my beloved Steve Bridges died. I came to Santa Fe on Thursday for Ronan’s memorial. I have been to Santa Fe a few times while Ronan was alive to visit him and his mom Emily Rapp, but this time was the first time I got altitude sickness. My heart woke me on Friday night beating as fast as a heart can beat before it explodes.

I thought I was dying.

I started to have an anxiety attack which may have been triggered by the racing heart or my monkey mind. (Take your pick.) My lips cracked and I was sweating and freezing at the same time which is as awful a combination as milk and soda. I am dying as I crawled through my friend Heather’s cute Santa Fe house in the dark in search of something that might save me. I found coconut water.

I forgot that it was the anniversary of Steve’s death today until his sister texted me It’s one year and then I realized it wasn’t altitude sickness at all. ABTTT. My body remembered as it always does even though my brain might not agree to.

My belief is that when you’re telling the truth, you’re close to God.

I miss him. That’s the truth. And yes, he started as a not-student student. I miss him and not in that way we say to everyone and their mother on Facebook when we haven’t seen them for a week. I miss you I miss you I miss you when we don’t really mean it.

I miss him. And I will never ever see him again. At least not in this lifetime. My body was rejecting the whole weekend. Ronan’s memorial, my husband’s cousin’s funeral Saturday and Steve’s anniversary of death. Too much it said. Too much! Too much my body whimpered.

So what does it matter if someone takes my classes and also eats pancakes with me? It doesn’t. It would matter if I was a vastly different person on paper or in class that I am in “real life’ but I am not. (To a fault I am pretty much the same.)

They are people. I am people. The same.

Most of the people in my life now entered via my yoga classes or my writings. I say Thank God for the not-student students who have turned into beloveds. Thank God I found you.

As I was getting on the plane (you guessed it, I am writing this from the airplane) I saw an old man reading an even older looking book called You Should Only Be Happy.

The book was written by a Jewish man and from what I could gather was a lot about Jewish culture (although you should google it because I could be way off and just making up a story.) I started talking to the man and he was an old Jew from New York  who now lived in Santa Fe. I chuckled as he held my hand. I said So are you part of the Tribe? (an oft asked semi-obnoxious question Jews sometimes ask one another) and he looked at me and said Isn’t everybody?

Isn’t everybody? 

So, is it hard to be friends with my students? Yes and no and everything in between.

Aren’t we all human? Isn’t, as my new airport friend put it, everybody part of the tribe. Isn’t everybody?

You Should Only Be Happy. Always Be Telling The Truth. Stop Looking at Your Phone So Much. Pay Attention. Drink More Water. Honor The Dead. Drink With Loved Ones. Eat Bread Baked By Your Friends. Have More Sex. Read Anne Lamott and Cheryl Strayed. Do Some Yoga.

Look, I could go on and on but then I would be sounding like a teacher. I would be sounding like I knew what the hell I was talking about.

They are people. I am people.

The same.


Dedicated to Steve Bridges and Ronan and Robert Wilder and Emily Rapp and the old man in the airport and Heather and Katie and my sister and anyone else I have ever loved or crossed paths with regardless of how we met. We are the same.


as always by simplereminders.com

as always by simplereminders.com


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  • Reply yogirookie March 3, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    Always beautiful! Thank you for this! That’s why we love you! You’re real. You are addicted to your phone like we all are! That’s you. No one can life a completely congruent life, but we try. You try. So we realize we can try too! Love you Jen! Hugs because sometimes it does get to be too much. And all you need is a hug!

  • Reply ubiquityyoga March 3, 2013 at 7:38 pm

    I can’t comment on the phone part because I don’t have a phone addiction; but everything else.. All I can say is Wow. How very honest. Only thing I can think of beyond that is give your self permission to grieve all those losses and just plain be sad, mad or whatever… That’s a lot to process.


  • Reply barbarapotter March 3, 2013 at 9:04 pm

    So real so true so raw love it

  • Reply Penny March 4, 2013 at 6:21 am

    Thanks again, Chickie! You’re doing fine! <3…I wish there was a hug symbol…is there?

  • Reply Joseph Longo (@joelongophoto) March 4, 2013 at 8:40 am

    Awesome JP, so happy to be a not-student student and friend. Love you!

  • Reply Rachel Pastiloff March 4, 2013 at 8:52 am

    To my exceptional sister, this is my favorite essay you have ever written. I am blessed to be just a regular human walking beside you in life. I too will live in the ABTTT realm with you, you and the tribe! Bravo on this piece.

  • Reply Lindsey Mead (@lemead) March 4, 2013 at 11:20 am

    Oh, so, so, so true and beautiful. I love what you say about everyone being a teacher. I could not agree with that more fiercely. xox

  • Reply Bitch Slap It. | The Manifest-Station March 4, 2013 at 11:39 am

    […] seems to me, based on this email that you feel sort of shitty on the inside so the first thing is ABTTT. As I said in my essay yesterday, Always Be Telling The Truth. I think perhaps the real issue is on […]

  • Reply Jenneen Morrison March 4, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    Truth is I wasn’t planning on reading this whole thing. I saw your FB post and was a little interested to see what else you had to say… And then wow, I love the way you write, I couldn’t stop. So honest /raw/real! Thank you for sharing YOU, your thoughts and feelings and emotions the way that you do!

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