Our younger daughter Kate is an artist and has been doing interesting drawings all of her life. When she was about four she drew a portrait of me that had two flat ovals on either side of my neck. I was amused but also horrified to find out these were my shoulder pads! I had finished my degree and gone to work full time right after she was born, and my professional look, complete with shoulder pads and helmet hair, was her image of Mom.
Much later, the ever-observant Kate pointed out that there was far more than the look of “Shoulder-pad Bettye” that was, thankfully, behind me. For the first fifteen years of my career, I was part of a small consulting firm that wrote organizational histories, mostly for corporate clients. I completely bought into the mindset that people who put in “only” 40 hours a week were not serious about the work. My aggressive driving style was finely honed in a two-hour-plus commute – I cringe to remember it. Eventually I took on a management role along with the book writing, did neither as well as I wanted, and contributed my bit to a dysfunctional organizational culture. I left that job with a bad case of burnout and strong motivation to make some changes in my work and personal life.
There were lots of things to work on in yoga: the painful chronic tightness in my shoulders from stress, bad posture and bad desk ergonomics; the frozen hips from too many hours spent sitting at a desk or in meetings, cars, buses and planes; and the constant jaw clenching, from (I now see) too many truths left unspoken. Releasing those physical tensions and changing the underlying patterns that created them became a project for the rest of my life. Needless to say, it felt good when Kate, home from college, took note of my efforts and re-anointed me “Yoga Bettye.” She still gives me helpful feedback on my style as well.