Monday, October 6, 2014

Things I Did Today to Put Off Writing

Last week I started a new class at Sarah Lawrence.  I got into the Advanced Novel Writing Workshop at the Writing Institute at Sadie Lou (yay! go me!) and as such I once again have homework.  

Here is the list of things I did today to avoid doing it:

  1.  Three loads of laundry (not exactly fair because the laundry needed to be done)
  2.  One trip to the grocery store (didn't have to be done today, but had to be done)
  3.  Applied for a new A & P card at the grocery store (in my defense, I've been putting this off for months)
  4.  Cleaned out the crafts cabinet (needed index cards for my homework)
  5.  Tested all my pens to see which ones worked (needed to be done sometime)
  6.  Organized the apps on my phone (yeah, I've got nothing)
  7.  Checked facebook a zillion times to see what everyone else was doing (go Pats!)
  8.  Blogged a list

One of my assignments is to sit down and write about my main character's greatest childhood fear.  Piece of cake.  That one I could do with my eyes closed.  But, the other assignment is to begin a "reverse outline."  Writing down a synopsis of the action in each chapter and which characters appear.  Did I mention I'd rather gnaw off my own arm?  Class isn't until Thursday at 6:30.  I might have to go back to the crafts cabinet to make a chart so I know how many of the eight ounce glasses of water I'm supposed to be drinking a day I actually manage to drink before I can sit down to it. (9 is my lucky number)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Yoga teacher, teach yourself

August and September have been pretty difficult for me.  It all started (as my problems often do) with just a little bit of hubris on a hot day.  I have been practicing yoga for more than fifteen years and I have a few tricks. Sometimes I'm pretty proud of them, even though I know that isn't what yoga is.  What I love most thought, is the the full Dancing Warrior series.  It makes me feel strong and centered and just a little bit cool.  I use it as a flow.  I use it as long holds.  I push myself to get as deep into each pose as I can go.  Sometimes further than I should.

"Look how deep I am in this pose.  This is awesome.  This is great.  I rock. I am so good at this. Hmmmmm, that doesn't feel quite right.  Ow!  Was that a popping noise, or did it just feel like one? Damn."

I have since been assured that pushing myself more than I should have didn't cause my plantar fasciitis, but it sure didn't help.  Three days on the couch thinking it was bursitis, elevation and rest, was the exact wrong thing to do.  Gentle stretching is what plantar fasciitis demands.  Trying to wear sandal that were "good" for my feet, like my Birkenstocks, also exactly the wrong thing to do.  Who knew cushy flip flops would be the only shoes I could wear for about six weeks?  Foot supports, shoe inserts and exercise all helped, but the most relief I got was from Magnesium Oil. (thanks Sarah!)  The plantar fasciitis became a manageable part of my life.  But it still hurts.

I guess it was a good thing that most of my usual private lessons cancelled on me (only yoga teachers on Nantucket seem to get much work in August), because I'm not sure hobbling in with a lame foot would have inspired much confidence.  The stiffness from sitting around unable to practice wouldn't have either.  The general mien of being in pain, probably not so great as well.

So the physical stuff wasn't working so well.  Then my beautiful little girl got home from her summer adventure in Alaska and spent just under thirty-six hours with us before heading back to Penn.  (Yes, I bought her everything I could think to in that tiny amount of time.)  less than a day later it was time to get my gorgeous boy (who I'd never been away from for more than 2 weeks before) ready for four months in Spain. (So what if I shop wildly when nervous, he needed all that stuff.)  OK, so the family stuff wasn't so easy and under my control either.

Then, in the middle of my empty nest freak out, my dream job appeared.  It was perfect.  Full time.  Local.  Great pay.  And doing exactly what I loved doing.  I quickly pulled together my resume, and I was beyond thrilled when they called me to come in.  So I shoved my mangled feet into proper shoes, bought a blue linen blazer, and went on my first job interview in 20 years.  I don't think it went as well as I thought it did.  I heard nothing for 2 weeks and then a got a very polite "No, thanks."  So yeah, also out of my control.

The boy was homesick and miserable and far away and there was nothing I could do for him, but worry.  Then one sunny late summer day my lower back just went out.  Completely out of the blue.  I didn't do anything.  Literally I was just sitting there and when I got up, "wham" massive low back pain.  I spent four days in denial, and in horrible pain. Unable to sit at all.  Doing tiny bits of yoga (I did say this post was about yoga) at home, barely being able to do cat/cows.  Child's pose was impossibly painful.  When I finally gave in to the reality that I was really hurt and it was beyond my ability to heal, and called my good friend and massage therapist extraordinaire ,the aforementioned Sarah  she looked at me and said,  "I can help a little, but you really need to go to a physical therapist."

So I completely relinquished control.  I was not going to be able to fix this myself.  And off  I went yesterday, to the world's most amazing physical therapist. (Bless you Doug! You are more miracle worker than PT) He pushed and pulled and prodded and patched me back together and I began feeling almost human immediately.  I ran for for the train!  And I stopped making yelpey noises when I sat down.  Huzzah!  I'm back.  Sorta.  I'm not one hundred percent, but I'm more than eighty. And I get to go off to the Eagles concert without feeling completely like a totally decrepit old bag.

Then this morning rolls along. (And I have finally, after a long and circuitous route, gotten to my point.)  Still this morning, I feel pretty good.  I danced at the Eagles concert last night.  I clapped and yelled and even jumped up and down a bit.  It was more exercise than I've gotten in a month.  And I'm OK.  A little sore, but not terrible.  I begin my modified, gentle stretch it out yoga, slowly.  Everything feels pretty good.  I spend about a half hour stretching out my back as best as I can.  A few twinges here and there, but overall, I feel good.  I can move.   I can even do a Sun Salutation A (no jumping) with no pain.  So of course I decide to try out a bit of Dancing Warrior, not the whole thing, just the starting pose or two.  Just to feel like I'm back to normal.  And no I'm not.  I didn't get past the first Warrior I without my body telling me quite firmly that this was the time for humble, not hubris.  I can move again, but it is going to be a bit longer before I am able to move the way I want to.  And that's OK.  I think that is part of what I needed to learn.  It's OK.  It's gentle movements and holds for as long as it takes.  I'm not in control, and that's OK.  I can listen instead of telling.  I can yin.  I don't have to always yang.  And that is what I needed to be taught.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Glass Houses/Stone Houses/Rocks/Glass

Recently a friend and I were talking (OK, gossiping) about another friend who had just moved from a beautifully done two million dollar house on a great street, to a spectacular four million dollar house on a coveted street. We were talking about her, because she is telling everyone in town that, yeah her house is great and all,  but she absolutely loves the house across from hers, because it's on the water.  We were talking about how ridiculous it is to so blatantly always want the next step up.

It's very easy to look at someone who has so much and yet still wants more and make fun of her a little bit.  It's easy to feel a little superior.  It's easy to say, when is enough enough, when faced with such obvious excess.

But.....aren't I doing the same thing?  My house is small, but it's warm or cool depending on the season, and there is always plenty to eat and drink in it.  It should be enough.  So why should I look at someone else's house, or car, or hips and want what they have instead of what I do.  And if I do that, shouldn't I be made fun of too? (The answer is yes, and please feel free to call me on it when you hear it.)

In yoga the phrase is "stay on your own mat" meaning, think about where you are in your practice, not about what your neighbor is doing.  Live in your body.  Be in your moment.

When the girl-thing was very little, something she did made me say to her, "people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones."  She looked at me, very pensively for a moment and replied, "but Mommy, people who live in stone houses shouldn't throw glass either."

So my thought for the day is, live in your own house and everyone please stop throwing things.


Friday, January 3, 2014

Don't Let the Door Hit You....2013

In a final act of petty vindictiveness, the last thing that happened to me in 2013 was to lose a pearl and diamond ring that once belonged to my mom.  It wasn't hugely valuable, but it was very sentimental, and a nice bit of family lore.  My mom found the ring at a tag sale, misidentified as costume jewelry, and bought it for $1.00.  She cleaned it up, brought it to her jeweler who told her it was real pearl with tiny diamonds set in white gold.  It was proof of how smart she was.

I on the other hand, was using it as a scarf ring and failed to secure it properly after putting my scarf back on, after having to take it off to jump around Sheila's kitchen to Meatloaf's "Paradise By the Dashboard Light."  Proof of how dumb I still am.

2013 wasn't all bad - nothing ever is. Both kids got into the colleges of their dreams.  P and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary.  The four of us are healthy and doing things that interest us and make us happy.  No one is hungry, or cold, without access to food and heat.  But the big impacts of the year were losing people we love.

2013 was about loss. So I suppose losing my mom's ring was the appropriate last act for it.  The first thing that happened to me in 2014 was a long, lovely kiss with P.  I'm holding on to that as the story of this year.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013 - Change is the Only Constant

Thanksgiving comes around again, as it does.  The stress of the holiday season always makes the kick-off a day of moment, but this one seems particularly fraught.  I just turned fifty, and while I don't really feel old, there is nothing about fifty that feels young either.  It's my first Thanksgiving without my dad, and that is tough.  It's also my first Thanksgiving with one home from college and one waiting on acceptances, with his foot halfway out the door, and that is a different kind of tough.  It is a melancholy day.  And it is all I can do to keep from weeping.

People die, kids move out and on, we have each other for such a short while.  It is the way it has to be.  It is the only way it can be.  Life moves on, ever changing and ever the same.  The idea that it is time for me to figure out a third act is terrifying and reassuring at the same time.  I have no idea what I'll do next.  I have a few things to wrap up here in act two, but not many.  I still have to finish the hands-on mom stuff with the boy and the estate stuff with my dad.  But next is coming, whether I agree or not, so I need to get it figured out or get smacked in the head by the curtain coming down. And at the very least I know I'm lucky to have some future in my future.  I'm healthy and sane(ish), so next is mine to write.

Our little family foursome has been so much fun. And I am ever so thankful to have the girl back home, even if for a short time.  But this first visit home also really reinforces that those days are gone.  The silly foursome exists only in memory.  I know new happy experiences will take their own place.  I know we remain a family.  But I also know different is not the same.  Change is the only constant.  And while we live we change, so it's certainly better than the alternative.  But oh how I miss those days.  Just as I know someday I will miss these.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Veil of Time is Thin Today

The veil of time is thin today

All at once, I am, all at once
A little girl in a bunny rabbit suit braving snowflakes on a wintery Massachusetts night,
A teenager, black pointy hat on head, at a party in the woods, crunchy leaves beneath my feet,
A new mom figuring out how to turn white waffle pjs into a Dalmatian suit, sewing felt ears onto a white cotton cap,
A middle-aged woman walking through town in kitten ears, admiring other peoples kids’ window paintings,
And just around the corner, I sense a crone with a basket of candy, a frivolous hat and a joyful heart
The veil of time is thin today.  
All at once, I am, all at once.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Feets of Clay

OK, well if we can posit ahead of time that the only proper response to the question "Do you think you'll keep it off?" (coming from an acquaintance after hearing about your ten pound weight loss in the wake of your dad's illness and death.) Is a stunned silence, followed by a gurgled, "What?"  Then I think I did OK.  Of course I still wake up in the night, months later wishing I had had the wherewithal to have asked the woman, "Did you seriously just say that?"  I'm hoping the shocked look on my face said that for me.

This summer has been filled with tough moments, dealing with the stuff my dad left behind and the family drama that goes along, my little girl running away from home (OK, fine, starting college, semantics, whatever), and the difficult realization while trying to finish my yoga teacher training that many, many fitness people (yes, even the yoga ones) are narcissitic asshats one really doesn't want to spend all that much time around.  The above mentioned acquaintance is in my teacher trainee group and that was her one question to me once I returned to training. 

I love yoga, it makes me feel good in my body and in my head, and I want to teach because I want to help bring that feeling to other people.  But learning to teach has made me see that a lot of what passes for yoga is teachers pretending to teach yoga.  They say all the right words, but they don't believe them.  Or they think they believe them, but their actions prove otherwise.  Worse, some teachers don't even do that, they are so wrapped up in getting to "perfect" they don't remember anything else about the practice.  It becomes about fitness, not yoga. Which is fine, I just think it should be called something else.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not really much of a purist about anything, but I do think if you can do the moves without any true understanding of the head, you are doing gymnastics or dance or some other kind of exercise, but not yoga.  And if you want to do that, great, but then don't pretend to be doing otherwise.  I've observed a number of teachers this summer as part of my training and many would say the right thing, "be on your own mat," "listen to your body," but then do things that countermanded that - pointing out another student's perfect form, pushing people past where was comfortable or sometimes even safe - going for the goal rather than being in the moment. Some were better than others, some made me despair at the state of American yoga practice.

Then in my last observation, I came upon a teacher, a Rye YMCA teacher - not a fancy studio person, but an ordinary teacher-person.  Not young, not old, in good/average shape, but certainly not perfect, nice voice, but not super-commanding, who as I observed her class, exemplified TEACHER to me.  When she complimented people on taking the time to do "their" yoga, she really meant "their" yoga.  She spoke to the beginner and expert on their own terms, didn't compare them and definitely didn't encourage them to compare themselves, subtly or otherwise.  She was at peace, funny, sweet, breathing and celebrating being there at that moment, and was showing everyone in her class how to be the same.

And she gave me hope, that I could be a teacher without being perfect, that I could look around and take what I needed from the people I learned with without having to do things someone else's way (never one of my strong suits), that if I was going to be brave enough to stand in front of a class and be the teacher, it was ok to do it in a way that honored my yoga which is a little about fitness and a lot about feeling good.