I have a very unhealthy relationship with gum. And gum chewing. And people who chew gum. Loudly. So much so that all my friends know to not chew gum around me, unless they want the evil Sally Stare. It’s bad. I mean, really bad. The sound of it makes my skin crawl. Makes my stomach turn. Makes me want to yell and scream and cry all at the same time.

And as you can imagine, this has caused problems my whole life. In movie theaters, lines at Disneyland, fellow students in my classes at school, potential partners, friends. Just chomping away while my upset just grows and grows.

So…I’m somewhat of an enlightened being. And I know that this issue is fully mine. That these evil gum chewers are neither evil, nor trying to make my life miserable on purpose. They’re probably not even aware of what it sounds like (although this thought is resisted…I mean how could you NOT know????). But yet, I react viscerally and strongly each and every time. This is one habit I’ve never been able to kick. Yet.

So yesterday, I decided to take a yoga class at a super fancy and cute yoga studio. I plopped my $20 down, got a mat, and laid in dead man’s pose, relaxing and breathing steadily and calming in preparation for my hour and a half class. And then it happened. From across the room, I heard it. Gum chewing. And I tensed up, sat up straight, shot my eyes open to find the culprit. And much to my disappointment, it was the teacher. THE TEACHER! (for crying out loud). The yoga teacher, chewing her gum so loudly that I could hear it clear from across the room.

Oh no! I think. What am I supposed to do now? I already paid the money. I already drove clear across town. I already blocked out my time and prepared myself for an hour and a half of being uncomfortable. I was P R E P A R E D. For everything. Except this.

And I rolled around the options in my head, and only three came to mind. I could get up right now and leave. I could not do anything and try to get through it, I mean it was yoga class…perhaps this is part of my practice. Or I could say something. Option one was annoying…I was here. I paid to be here. And I wanted to be here. And I didn’t pay $20 to here my yoga teacher chew gum. Option two felt impossible. There would be no way I would pay $20 to be upset for an hour and a half. So…option three it was.

And it scared me. Because I knew it was crazy. She has the right to chew gum. I’m embarrassed by this thing I have. I never know how to bring it up. I know I sound like a crazy person when I’m all like “Hi…I have this weird thing about gum,” and imagine people are all like “so what…get over it.” UGH!!!! Lessons…everywhere.

So I took a deep, open-mouthed breath, I got up, approached Amy and said “so…I’m really embarrassed by this, but I get really distracted by gum chewing, and…”

And before I could finish the sentence she said “oh no worries! I wasn’t going to be chomping away during class, my mouth was just dry right now. I’m going to spit it out before then.” I smiled apologetically, she tossed out her gum, and we began class. Just like that.

And in that moment, I was really proud of myself. For asking for what I needed, even though I was embarrassed (and prepared for her to think I was total a-hole). For standing up for myself and what I felt was right (yoga and gum don’t go together…I wanna be all tranquil and shit). For not giving up and going home just because I was uncomfortable. For approaching it with love. And it reminded me of something else in my life. A big situation that is causing a lot of pain. A lot of discomfort. A lot of needing to stand up for myself and what I think is right.

It’s not always easy to do. Contrarily, it sometimes feels impossible. I’ve given myself anxiety and stomach aches thinking about it. But I did it. I stood up for myself. And I got what I wanted. And I feel great. I didn’t let myself get bullied. I didn’t do what I usually do and try to make something work that simply doesn’t work for me. I stood with my feet firmly on the ground, and this felt good. And different than what I’ve ever done in the past. Things may not end up how I want, but at least I stood up for myself. All I can do is say what I need to say and let the chips fall where they may.

Change is about changing patterns. We can’t keep doing the same thing and expecting different results. If we want different, we have to DO different. We have to BE different. And in yoga class, and in my life right now, I’m learning that more and more.

That was the best yoga class I’d ever been to. I was stronger, stretchy-er, and more relaxed than I’d ever been. And this is one small step in the direction of change.

Next up…get rid of my freaking gum problem already! (anyone have suggestions??)

What needs to be different in your life right now? Where might you need to stand up for yourself? Where can you “do different” or “be different” so that you can have what you want for your life? Leave a comment on the blog and share share share!

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