Okay, I admit it. I’m a redneck. Well, sort of. It’s actually more truthful to say that I’ma redneck by proxy. I am married to a truck driving, beat up hat wearing, off roading, angling, flannel shirt loving, technology hating, backwoods pyromaniac redneck. I had no idea that this was what I was getting into when I fell in love with this guy, but sure enough, I landed waist deep in a puddle of mud (and then proceeded to help push the truck out.) After 13 years, it has started to rub off on me a bit. I like ending a night out by putting the LandCruiser into 4WD and taking it off road, through the fields and trees, into a clearing to look at the stars from the roof rack. I went from turning my nose up at any beer that didn’t come from a microbrewery to proudly tipping up a can (a CAN!!!) of PBR now and then. I made a fire pit from an old laundry dryer drum. I know how to use a winch and a come-along and can catch and clean a fish for dinner. I have a deep abiding love for good iced tea, Waylon Jennings, trolling motors, and lighting things on fire. All of this somewhat surprises me, but the biggest shock of all is my newest love affair: BEARDS.
It’s been a slowly growing obsession, but I think I have about reached full on beard mania. I have wanted my husband to grow a beard for years, but no dice. He’s got some facial hair, for sure, but I want the full on burly lumberjack mountain man beard instead of the highly manicured and maintained shadow. He has resisted strongly. He recently told me that he started growing one while I was in Mexico in February as a surprise, but abandoned that plan before I returned because he didn’t think it looked right, and shaved it off. This was news to me! Once I knew the door was open (or had been open) I started a mission to blast it off it’s hinges. So, one day last week, we were floating in the pool and talking about beards and how much I want him to grow one and how I seem to have always wanted him to grow one and he looks me dead in the eye and said, “Well. I have always wanted you to wear a string bikini!”
Well, shit. That is hitting below the belt!
I am not a tiny 17 year old. I am also not a tiny 36 year old. Wearing a string bikini is not anything that I ever considered a good idea. Hell, even when I was a tiny 17 year old, I never wore a string bikini! They are held together with strings, man! Is he insane? Maybe he is, because he kept talking about this bikini. For days. And I kept talking about the beard. For days. Eventually, it became pretty clear what the only solution to this could possibly be and the deal was made: bikini for a beard. While it’s hotter than hellfire out there right now, it’s not very compassionate of me to ask him to grow a sweater on his face during the summer, nor is it very compassionate of him to ask me to wear a string anything when it starts getting cold, so I wear the dental floss and bandaids now and he starts letting his hair down in September. I even wrote it on the calendar. And then I did the unthinkable: I bought and wore the much feared string bikini.
Hey, a deal is a deal, Jack!
I cringed as I put it on. I nearly passed out when I felt those itty bitty strings trying valiantly to hold it all together in the midst of my freak out. I looked in the mirror and … well, what do you know, I didn’t hate it. I didn’t love it or maybe even like it, mind you, but I didn’t hate it. I took a deep breath, grabbed my bathrobe, and went out to the pool to prove to my husband that I owned up to my end of the deal and now he was on the hook for this beard, by gum! I had intended to just put it on and then change back into my regular two piece, but he said, “Get in the pool. See what it feels like! I think it will be good for your confidence.” So I did. And it was … pretty fantastic, actually. I felt so free! Sun and water were hitting some places that had been hidden by my other suits and the smaller straps (strings) felt lighter on my skin and, well crap, he might just have had a point! While I was completely unnerved by wearing so little, I was somewhat freed by wearing so little! When you have nowhere to hide, it’s pointless to even try. You just have to be yourself because there is nowhere to put anyone else.
I think having a yoga practice is very much like putting on a string bikini. It is awkward at first and is often still awkward after a long time. You are forced to really look at yourself the way you are. You might see or discover or remember things about yourself that are joyous and other things that are scary. You cannot hide from your true self in your yoga practice – it’s all right there in your face. It’s hard and challenging to look at ourselves so openly and to learn to trust that there’s something to all of it. It’s hard to take the bathrobe off and jump into the water, so to speak, but when you do, you find that there is inescapable joy, freedom, delight, acceptance, and even love for yourself to be found. Eventually, you find that it’s glorious to be free from the compulsion to hide and also to stand proudly in your own skin surrounded by your own truth. It feels so good!
I never thought that beards and bikinis would be what led me to finally release the chains that bound me. I also never thought I would be figuring out ways to make a glow in the dark poker table or a floating tiki torch, but that’s just all sort of the point: you never know where your path will lead you or where you will find your inspiration. It comes in crazy forms and in unexpected places. All you have to do is suit up, show up, and be ready to make the deal.