Here's a photo gallery to celebrate when I first moved from France to the States in Atlanta, Georgia, eleven years ago, and my blog's first anniversary. It's been a ride.
Atlanta is both enchanting and brutal. I have to re-learn everything, while exploring my new existence with my American husband. Every morning I roll out my yoga mat in our living room. The yoga I practice --and that I've learned from my French yoga teacher, Aline Frati-- helps me to dive deep inwards and navigate through the misunderstandings in my relationship, and the hazards of being a new immigrant. Still, I feel I don’t fit. Six months later, I push through the door of a therapist’s office. He listens and says, “Be who you are”. I feel an instant relief in my chest, and keep going.
At a wedding with a theme--The 40's. Feeling isolated in this transition year. John travels for his business a lot. Thank goodness, I pick up a writing gig. I spend most days in my home office. I visit my family of choice--Valerie and Dave in Orlando, FL and Jenny and Larry in Lansing, MI. My friend Carole from Paris comes to visit. I also manage to attend, for the fourth year in a row, Aline's annual week-long yoga retreat, in Southern France. There, I pause and feel. "Teach! You're ready!" claims my yoga teacher.
The "American dream" collapses. John is out of work part of the year. I find a huge writing project--which helps! I spend days in my home office, writing. Feeling isolated and that I have lost track of myself. What about my dream of teaching yoga? I sign up for a yoga teacher training and spend the summer building my (arm) muscles to prepare. In America, I find yoga is about fitness and strength!
I bump into a training in the practice of Gestalt therapy. We're four trainees and Leif Roland, gestalt practitioner and trainer. All of us are foreigners! Over six months, I learn to become aware of what I feel in the present moment, to respect that, and to be fully present for others. That's where I meet Julia De Leon, my soul sister, and Ciprian Stan, who tragically passes away in 2014 from ALS. I want to teach yoga in a "new" way. My intention is to teach the yoga practice I've learnt from Aline Frati, my French yoga teacher, and complement the practice with a time where students can share how they truly feel. I give the "protocol" a name--Yoga for Renewal.
My dad comes to visit me, us. He's astonished by the cars, "they're all brand new!" and Savannah. He's also appalled by the "bad" wine that is served in restaurants. One day, while I drive him to the local fresh market, he says "you have to have killed mother and father to get used to here!" It's a French saying that we use when we refer to someone who is or has accomplished something particularly difficult. I stay silent and think, "yes, it's one way to say what I've experienced."
While working as a freelance writer, I train as a certified yoga therapist. I teach my first-ever Yoga for Renewal group class series in Candler Park Yoga in Atlanta. I am testing, for the first time, the power of the combination of yoga and a healing circle where I encourage students to connect in deep and personal places, all for their personal development. The students' progression over the series tells me the "protocol" works.
My marriage is falling apart and neither of us are aware of it. John and I buy a house in the 'hood in Southwest Atlanta, 11 miles from Atlanta's Northern suburbia where we live--an ocean apart. It's a big, healthy house --4,000 square feet--which needs lots of interior renovation. The first time I step inside to visit it, the solid stone necklace I'm wearing breaks apart, for no reason. I see the stones roll everywhere on the floor... Looking back, it's a sign. The house feels too big. I still say "yes" to the purchase because of a big den that we can convert into a home yoga studio, and to save the marriage.
My friend Randy, a talented astrologer and coach, tells me what he sees in my chart for the coming months. "You are going to go over a big bump. It will be at the scale of an atomic explosion. After this time, you will find your purpose, the real reason why you came here." Randy is right. Within four months, John and I separate, my dad is diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer while I'm diagnosed with a second breast cancer. I move back to France to take care of myself and regroup with my family. Before leaving Atlanta, my friend Julia introduces me to her friends, a group of sensitive, like-minded people who love to connect, help make the world a better place and party.
After my treatments, I return to Atlanta to divorce. Three months later, I'm back in Paris for my dad's funeral. That day, I look at the sunset from my parents' house, just outside of the city. I've looked at dozens of sunsets from their place but that evening is different. The sunset is the most beautiful and intense I've ever seen. Back to Atlanta, I infuse Yoga for Renewal with what I've learnt in the past year--a huge lot.
A trip to Italy, the place of my family roots, changes something that is deeply buried in me, something transmitted from my lineage. While hiking in the mountains, I have the chills and feel I need to deposit, at this spot (photo), the pain my mom and my ancestors have endured on this land, and reclaim the pride of being of Italian descent. The same year, I decide to let go of my writing business to dedicate my time to Yoga for Renewal and build its foundation in Atlanta.
I find my voice with my blog and I walk Yoga for Renewal from the toddler's stage to the young child's stage. It's now clear--what makes me tick is to help people process feeling that have been buried alive through the yoga practice and the healing circle. I start establishing the brand and the protocol in Atlanta with a three-day workshop and a group class series at Vista Yoga. Another group class series is planned at Candler Park Yoga. This is also the year of connectedness, festivals, new friends, new community, dancing and music. The journey to be me continues.