Saturday, August 30, 2008

What is an "Om Gal?"

During the introspective week after the melee that categorizes the holiday season and before the lofty promises of a New Year, I started writing this blog. Looking back, I laugh at my somewhat uncharacteristic foray into the blogosphere, because before penning (err, typing) The World According to Om Gal, I spent very little time surfing the ruminations of other bloggers. I eschewed MySpace and Facebook and figured that YouTube was, as best I could figure, for teenagers or the extremely bored, or teenagers who were extremely bored. A few short months prior to Om Gal's inception, a reporter pal of mine rang from his post in the Globe's newsroom for my opinion on the burgeoning stratosphere of self-published content.

"What do you think about blogs?" my friend inquired.

"Shoddily written and self-important," I quipped sarcastically.

"Seriously! I picture some jamoke in a bathrobe and slippers, toiling away on a computer in his parents' basement."

"Exactly," I affirmed.

This is what we call irony, folks.

I'd like to think my perspective has evolved since then. (Admittedly, I was living in the dark ages). Today, I'm eight months deep into the cultivation of and one month gone to the dark side of Facebook. Meanwhile, the first video clip to appear on the Om Gal "channel" was uploaded to YouTube last week. It's no Battle at Kruger or Boom Goes the Dynamite, but it'll do for a rookie effort. I even have a Twitter account, through which I can alert "followers" when something interesting occurs in my world. (Don't worry; I'll skip the review of what I ate for breakfast in favor of when a post headlines on alongside the likes of Russell Simmons or Deepak Chopra or a master class to benefit a worthy cause is forthcoming).

In terms of being shoddily written or self-important, the former is in the hands of a grammar-obsessed one-time English teacher- that's me. The latter is monitored by the masses- that's you. It's open to interpretation, which is why I invite you to call me on it, if you perceive the content of this blog as being blathering nonsense, aimless self-promotion, or overly sentimental drivel. The raison d'etre for is soulful substance. Do we have a deal, friends?

In all reality, it was an unsubstantiated fear of churning out self-important slop that prompted me to choose the pseudonym "Om Gal," thereby allowing me to write anonymously. Not to mention I enjoy privacy to the point that it borders on reclusive, so putting myself "out there" was, initially, unnerving. (Yup, that's usually me, practicing waaay in the back row of a yoga class, tucked in a corner if I can help it). I figured that by rendering my identity irrelevant, the emphasis of the site would remain squarely focused on its subject matter and the needs of you, the reader. In effect, who I was, what I looked liked, and the details pertaining to my specific life experiences would fall somewhere between secondary and verboten, which is how I preferred it.

Then it dawned on me: How would you know that the "gal" doling out nuggets of yoga and wellness insight wasn't actually a man without yoga experience blogging from his parents basement, no doubt wearing a bathrobe and slippers, gorging himself on a vat of cookie dough and investing in puppy mills? Okay, slight exaggeration, there. Presumably the scope of my yoga knowledge would be evident in the quality of the site's content. Still, I realized that it wasn't prudent to share expert advice if, say, you weren't an expert. So, I slowly outed myself. First, I posted a cagey picture, wherein only my profile was visible in an ad for a yoga apparel line. Then, I included my full name within my profile. Finally, I went on the radio as myself, the creator of a new, tiny corner of the blogosphere, and the jig was officially up. I knew it was the right thing to do because it felt that way- authentic, fun, and obvious.

Everyday, I aim to share a certain perspective, informed by my own personal experience but through the lens of an "Om Gal," mostly because I know that this lens is what unites you, the reader, and me, the writer. Truthfully, we're all om gals and guys searching for ways to integrate our yoga (or other chosen practice of self-discovery) into our lives more fully. This lens is equally available to you as it is to me because there's no limit on enlightenment. If I eek out some clarity from a given moment in time, there's still plenty left over for you. If you attain perfect inner peace, NYC Gal's chances of arriving at the same blissful state are no less probable. The concept of Om Gal is a daily reminder, for me as much as you, that fresh perspectives create new possibilities. Or, as Proust once put it, "The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes."

But what about those of you who are less conceptual and more pragmatic in your thinking? You're quantitative; you want examples, evidence, and indisputable criteria. What qualities characterize an Om Gal, you wonder? Here's a quick anecdote for you . . .

On Saturday, I accompanied my younger brother to one of his favorite Outer Cape beaches for my first surfing lesson. It wasn't a beach day; in fact, it rained en route, but the waves were good, so we minded Mother Nature and pressed on. With only one extra board and wet suit, my beau and I would have to alternate our totally tubular efforts to a.) not get killed and b.) not wildly embarrass my brother in front of the modest gathering of surfer dudes in our immediate vicinity. O.G.'s S.O. took the lead, following Om Bro out to sea and posting a valiant first-time effort. He returned ashore having accomplished both aforementioned goals; he was in one piece, and nobody seemed to notice that he didn't know what he was doing. I was on deck but suddenly not too keen on this "radical" idea anymore. I was freezing just sitting on the beach and, truth be told, slightly terrified by watching the boys wipe out all afternoon. (You might recall that I've been demolished by giant waves before). Plus, the thought of putting on a sopping wet suit and risking my life and pride all at once was too much to bear.

"I think I'll sit this one out," I said.

"C'mon pal, you're here; you might as well try it!" responded my supportive Om Guy.

Protesting all the while, I put on a rash guard (think: fancy, fitted t-shirt) and a wet suit top in lieu of a full wet suit; remember my only hope for circulation in my legs (i.e. a dry suit) was cold and wet from S.O.'s outing.

"Take off some of the bling, will ya?" Om Bro teased, so I shed my multiple bangle and mala bracelets. Then, he was back in the water faster than I could utter another peep. I followed my brother reluctantly; with the first steps into the ocean feeling shockingly cold (even for an ex-lifeguard) and prompted a fair share of expletives. The next few sent aching pain into my ankles. By this point, I was howling in discomfort (so much for sparing anyone any embarrassment). Around the time the freezing water hit my knees and a gust of rainy wind whipped by, I staged my retreat.

"I CAN'T DO ITTTTTTTT! IT'S TOOOOO COLD!" I screamed while running ashore.

Standing at the water's edge, shaking his head, trying not to laugh (too hard), O.G.'s S.O. awaited my cowardly return and said- somehwat smugly- only one thing to get me to march right back in:

"Om Gal would do it."

So, I did. Fueled by the image of a braver version of myself, I became the only gal, in a freezing swath of ocean full of boys; with frozen, bluish legs to contrast their wet suit-clad, warm and toasty ones, even I was shocked at my willingness to overlook comfort in favor of adventure and shirk convention in hopes of inspiration. I forced myself to try something new and scary, and the outcome was exhilarating. The board only nearly decapitated me once, and my feet thawed during the car ride home, a small price to pay for the elation earned. It's always a victory when we stay calm and open in the face of fear (whether by a new and intimidating wave of technology, like blogging and social networking, or an actual wave). For this mini triumph, I am grateful, and, for what it's worth, I am happy that Om Gal made me do it.


Jack said...

Great story Om Gal. And I love the parallel between your becoming a blogger and becoming a surfer - overcoming doubts, fears and pre-conceived notions.

As Jimmy Cliff reminds us in "The Harder They Come": "The harder the battle you see, the sweeter the victory"!

You go Gal!!!


Anonymous said...

awesome post OG. and even better reference to Boom Goes the Dynamite. as much as that kid struggled, you gotta admire the courage!

surf's up!

Allen said...

good going...

Lovely Story...
read it 5 times.. good God m never so much happy and smiling