This month’s student of the month is Brooke Jackson. This month, we’re doing something a little different. Instead of our tradition Q&A format, Brooke wrote a little piece for us. It’s beautiful and we think you’ll really love this one. Thank you, Brooke!
Brooke: I am a 45 year old white woman, the principal of a NYC public high school, the mother of teenage twins–a boy and a girl–and “partner of the year” to my dear husband, Randy! I love my family; I love my life; I love Inwood! Also, I am, like all the supermoms, stretched, stressed, and tired. I worry a lot because I have so many wonderful things to protect. I am a caretaker–of my students, my children, and many people, young and old along life’s way. While the details of my journey are particular (some unbelievable!), the general themes are familiar: achievement-oriented, hard-working, multi-tasking, highly-capable, anticipating every need and taking care of everything and everyone except myself.
Up until about 10 years ago, I don’t think the concept of self-care ever really penetrated beyond the intellectual. I understood it as something I “should do”. I tried to finds ways to be good to myself, but I never made a sincere mind-shift: I matter! I love myself! I can, everyday, choose to give to myself. I struggled: what do joy and pleasure look like without the underbelly of a food or Chardonnay hangover? Seriously! Until recently, I could not answer the question of what self-care, self-love, self-joy really looks and feels like–especially when it is distinct from my parents, husband, and precious children. What do you want for you, Brooke? How would you choose to spend a day alone with no responsibilities? These questions made me anxious. I needed more than a candle in the bath or a good book.
My husband Randy and I moved to Inwood 17 years ago. We love our building, the parks, our friends and neighbors. Ty and Frida were born 2 years later. With my double-stroller, I met a lot of nice people in the playground. When Frida and Ty started school and activities in the neighborhood–Riverside Learn and Play, Marble Hill Nursery School, p.s. 178, Muscota new School, The Y, and Bread and Yoga–we all made some of our closest friends.
Frida Jackson and Ananda Liveright (Marcella’s beautiful daughter!) fell in love at age 8 doing handstands in the rose garden at the church on Cummings Street adjacent to our home. As Frida and Ananda grew and developed their friendship into what is now one of the most admirable (young) adult relationships I have witnessed up close, I got to know and love Marcella. We all got more connected with the studio and with each other’s families. Bread and Yoga became our community center where we hosted birthday parties, and even a Passover Seder. Ty and Frida took classes–art, cooking, sewing, yoga. Randy took yoga classes. Every year I signed up for the New Year’s day class with music and a potluck brunch. Throughout the class I did not breathe. I did not find flow. I spent the class talking to myself about how this was the year I would stick with yoga.
My girlfriend Jenn is so funny and so much fun to be with. We fell into a routine. I am not exactly how it happened, but it was light–not heavy as exercise and wellness had felt in the past. We run, grab a coffee, head to yoga. We laugh a lot–about our children, husbands, our bodies, our relationship to food and fitness. The whole thing is very forgiving. The Saturday flow of the farmers market (with granny cart), open run, Choc coffee with warm almond milk, Shawna’s 10:00 vinyasa class…is mine. It is me in happiness.
Bread and Yoga is wonderful because every teacher is beautiful and powerful and different. I love every class I take and benefit from the diversity of instruction.
Shawna is my special teacher. She is the one who cracked me open and got me unstuck. I am a special-needs case and somehow, Shawna sensed that I needed an extra mighty dose of loving-kindness. Shawna, your outpouring of reassurance and your consistent reminders to find ease allowed me to, for the first time, work with my body, rather than against it. This pivot has changed me for good. I love you!
I took the risk of attending the fall yoga retreat this past Indigenous People’s Day weekend. My friend, Seana, from the days our children were in day care, coached each other into courage and signed up! Hiking with Meghan, meeting new yogis, building a perfect fire together (perfect and whole because it was!), eating Marcella’s food of love was all beautiful. Biggest breakthroughs: deepening my practice, and actually letting go of the details of daily life back home for three days!
I have a great group of girlfriends in Inwood. I love that Marcella, Jenn, Seana, Karen, Alison, Courtney, on any day I may see you at a yoga class. And we may rush off to separately do errands after. Or we may go to the bar. It’s all perfect.
What makes me happy? My work, my children, my husband, my friends, a good run, a good book.
And also always, I need to move, breathe, find flow, and forgiveness.
Wow, thank you Brooke. That was so beautiful. <3