Friday, February 18, 2011

Birthdays, Life Presents and the Odd Broken Bone

At the beginning of every yoga class, my yoga instructor suggests that we "set our intentions" for our practice.  It's not really the same thing as setting goals --it's more like aiming yourself in a certain direction. I really like the idea of just aiming yourself because it doesn't lock you into the hard-and-fast track of having a goal and going after it with a single purpose. There's value in that, certainly, but if you get too single-minded, you might miss any other little delightful mystery that is revealed. (I usually try to consciously aim for a practice that transcends the confines of my body, with an added little prayer that my pants not fall down.)

I have been thinking a LOT about my intentions in other realms lately because Saturday is my birthday. I will be 46.

I KNOW!  Another whole year gone --whoosh.  I'm in such a good place this year, though, that I'm looking forward to it.  No, seriously.  I mean it. I am really interested to see what this next year holds, especially because I just got the most amazing birthday present.

I've been doing this on-line course based on the book The Gifts of Imperfection by BrenĂ© Brown with my friend R. The course itself has been a little lighter-weight than I hoped it would be, but it's been very useful to keep the subject top-of-mind.  R. and I  have been talking a lot about the baggage we carry and the ways in which perfectionism and shame infiltrate almost every aspect of our lives. How they stop us from connecting with the people we love in an authentic and vulnerable way. Shame and perfectionism stop me doing the things I really want to do because I think I need to be more __(fill in the blank)__ in order to do them.  Thinner, richer, smarter, younger, hipper, deeper... you can exhaust yourself thinking of all the ways you're not perfect and don't measure up and all the reasons why you should just stay home hiding instead of going out and greeting the world in joy.  It's so sad to think of how many of us are carrying around this kind of baggage all day, every day.  Until, at some point, (maybe, say, on the cusp of 46,) we decide we are truly and wonderfully enough just as we are.

Anyway, in the course of our conversation, R asked me where I was on becoming a yoga instructor.  I told her that I had asked my yoga instructor and that he said most people have an established practice of at least a year before they start training to become an instructor, which I think is a sound idea. I'm still such a beginner --I can't even imagine being ready for teacher training even in another eight months, but maybe that's just my "I'm not enough" talking.

We were chatting back and forth about that, and my stupid foot and I was going on and on again about how transformational it has been to be reconnected to my body, after about five years of actively NOT being so.  It's really changed almost every aspect of my life.  I never understood how important it is to be on speaking terms with my body --I always thought that it was enough to be on speaking terms with my mind and heart.

And then R said something that just...well, it may have been the best birthday present I've ever gotten.

She said:

The pain, the deep knowledge of what it feels like to be betrayed by your body, the amount of energy it takes to endure the pain or tune out the pain; all of these things would make you an amazing teacher of yoga. [...] to have someone who can say, "I get it"  is huge!!  Also to hear someone say, "this worked for me" is huge!!  Or even to be greeted at the door and not have the teacher cringe because she/he doesn't know how to teach someone who isn't "normal" is huge!

And there it is, see: my intention for what I'd like to do with, well, maybe the rest of my life
.  (Besides raising and loving my family, and writing, I mean.)  I'd like to help people with disabilities or eating disorders or chronic pain issues or whatever it is that has disconnected them from their bodies. I'd like to help people reconnect with themselves.  If I could even give one person the feeling I have when I am in the midst of a good yoga practice, I will have made the world a better place.

Y'all, that's a pretty big present.

So, as I was making this discovery and getting ready to turn a year older, I was also dealing with some pretty intense foot pain.  I'm not sure what was/is going on but it felt like something bad.  The last time I had a spell like this, I went to my podiatrist and he told me that there was pretty much nothing he could do. THIS time I decided to try something totally new to me: acupuncture.

(I know, I know.  Clearly, the body snatching is almost complete.  The fact that I would even consider something that involved being a pin cushion (I am phobic of needles) boggles the mind.)

Dudes, the acupuncturist was amazing. It wasn't entirely stick-free, but it hurt only a little more than doing nothing, and then, like all of my experiences with Eastern stuff these days, it turned out to have a lot more going on than just some needles on some pressure points. I could FEEL the...whatever it is (energy? blood?) circulating around my body--my hair stood on end when it got there. And then this deep, deep relaxation. I was so relaxed that at the end, he did some manual massage on my FULF (Effed Up Left Foot) and it was AWESOME. I wasn't all tense out of fear that he would hurt me. I am going back next week.

And then I went to the mall to do some clothes shopping and I broke my toe.

(Because I guess I needed further proof that shopping was evil. Only I can break a bone while trying on clothes at Saks.)

I was kind of blissed out after the acupuncturist, which usually means I'm not quite in this world, if that makes sense. I had this big dressing room with one of those concrete round steps in the middle of the three-sided mirror. I guess that's for people to stand on while the tailor pins up their pants for hemming (or for me to practice my American Idol audition--errr. Never mind.) and I just...ran right into it. It didn't move.  It DID break the first joint on my second toe on my left foot --I guess I should be grateful that it's always my left foot that is targeted by these little jokes from the Cosmos.

(Well, maybe not GRATEFUL, exactly. GRATEFUL would probably require a little less usage of the "F" word.)

I was really sad, thinking that this toe thing might stop me from taking yoga when I realized that there it is, see: a chance to start modifying my practice to accommodate a special need. (You have to hand it to whoever is in charge of sending me messages about my life.  S/He's goooood.) So, I'm going to try it when I go to yoga tonight. I'll keep y'all posted.

Tonight is also important because the Smelly Lotion Giveaway is open until midnight if you haven't already entered.  If you don't want lotion but would prefer either yarn or my book, let me know that, too. Feel free to add a "Happy Birthday"--this year, I honestly feel like it's less of a wish and more of an intention!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Mid-Winter Blarg (And A GIVEAWAY --Gasp!)

I am sorry for the radio silence. It's been quite the week.  AND, I've suddenly been beset by the mid-Winter Blarg, as my friend Shirley calls it.

One thing that no one tells you when you move from the South to the North is that, along with eventually getting tired of the snow (people DO tell you about that), there will be a day, usually in February, when the mid-Winter blues set in with such a vengeance that even the World's Most Bouncy Puppy will be unable to make you smile. Well, much. (More about that later.)

I haven't had much positive, good stuff to talk about, either.  Jane (10) has strep throat AGAIN --second time in a month, bookending a truly heinous cold, and spent last night throwing up, which was quite the party, especially since my husband is out of town. My FULF (Effed Up Left Foot) is giving me a very difficult time --the kind of pain that makes me worried that something new has gone wrong.  And the pain shimmer from my foot is eating all of my available bandwidth for, say, staying on top of things.  As evidenced, for example, by the fact that I left one of our cats outside overnight in sub-freezing weather. (Oh my GOODNESS, there was some very foul cat language hurled in my direction when I let him in.)

And you know how there are things that you can take in stride when it's sunny and you're getting a fair amount of time outside, but just bug the ever-loving SPIT out of you when it's gray out and there is old snow everywhere reminding you that spring is still a long way away?  (Okay, maybe that's just me.)  Well, I had to go have blood drawn and, as usual, no one could find my veins so they ended up digging around in both arms and now I look like a heroin addict. Every time I look down at my arms and see the hideous bruises, I get kind of disgusted. I don't think I'd feel like that if I had, say, a little tan.

OR, and this may actually be relevant to today's post, the fact that I found the World's Greatest Smelling lotion--lotion that smells so fabulous that I want to walk around licking my own arm --and have developed some sort of allergy to it.

See this?
Vanilla Chai, baby!
It's my favorite lotion ever.  Not tested on animals, contains no alcohol and y'all, it smells like STARBUCKS!  I am seriously addicted to it. In fact, when I couldn't get it at Whole Foods any longer, I ordered it on-line.  And then, I started to develop this red hot...well, red hot blotchy... condition whenever I used it.  Which I continued to do until it was impossible to deny any longer.  So, I now have two unopened tubes of the best smelling lotion on this planet and I can't use them (sob) so I am giving them away.  Leave me a comment on the blog saying something nice about something, tell me a positive story, spread a little love around and you'll be entered to win a tube of this best smelling lotion ever.  I'll have one of my daughters draw the names out of a hat. I might throw in some yarn and a copy of my book if you are a knitter and if you don't already have a copy of my book.  (If not, maybe I'll send you some snow.  I have a LOT of that to spare.)

There.  A giveaway should be fun and happy, right?

Also, this is what I did today.

For some reason, starting seeds in my AeroGarden thing makes me so happy.  I guess it's partly because it's almost like bringing a little bit of my garden inside.  And maybe it's also that I'm such a mom--it makes me happy to have things growing around me.

Also?  Watching these videos makes me laugh.

No animals were harmed in the making of this blog. No, really, I promise.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Inhaling Wonder, Exhaling Gratitude

I stepped on the scale this morning and I had lost 19 pounds.

I KNOW--that's what *I* said!  What? yeah.  Really. Nineteen pounds.

Actually, I don't think it's that noticeable.  I probably have another 20 to lose so this first twenty isn't so noticeable, maybe.  I barely noticed it myself-- when I stepped on the scale, I was shocked.  I had to weigh myself another six times to make sure there wasn't something defective about the scale or something.

It's weird, because it turns out to not be that important in the grand scheme of things.  I wouldn't even mention it now except that so many people I know and correspond with seem to be struggling with weight loss and I thought maybe someone could benefit from my story.

Except, see... well...


I'm not exactly sure what the story is.

There wasn't a struggle or a big moment where I heard the magic click and started devoting myself to losing weight.  It wasn't New Year's and resolutions and deprivation or any of the other tactics I have tried (and failed) over the past five years or so. I didn't have to call deep on my discipline or beat myself up over eating a cookie.

Actually, I think what happened is that I started losing weight totally as a by-product of developing my passion for yoga, which reconnected me in the most glorious way to myself and my body.

You know, the thing about having been through this really devastating experience of chronic pain and immobility is that there's a disconnect that happened and I didn't notice.  I was so angry and felt so betrayed by my body that I just stopped taking care of it.  Stopped exercising. Stopped caring about how I looked. Stopped being mindful of what I put into my body and how, exactly, I was using food and alcohol to numb that anger. I just went about my life, mindlessly --except for this fairly substantial part of myself devoted to self-loathing.  I didn't question whether or not I was happy or living the life I wanted or even if there was a better way to live. I just kind of...existed, waiting for something to rescue me.

And here's the really big thing: I forgot to love myself.  I forgot to celebrate the things I CAN do, the things about me that make me worthy of love and connection that have nothing to do with what I look like, how much I weigh, or whether or not I can run a sub nine-minute mile. It's taken me almost 46 years to realize this, but you know what?  I'm inherently lovable.  So are you.  We all are.  Regardless of what you DO or the dragons you are slaying or whatever your "Growth Opportunities."  You are worthy of love--just the way you are now.

Stop rolling your eyes.  I see you. It's true --you are inherently worthy of love, just exactly as you are right now at this moment. Without doing a dang thing.  So am I.  It's pretty cool.

Let me tell you something, though: when you're over in the corner sneering at yourself?  It's contagious. We've lived in New York for almost three years and I spent the first two-and-a-half of those so busy telling myself all the reasons why I'm not worthy of friendship and belonging that I hardly put any roots down. Odd thing, that: If you don't think you're worthy of love and connection, you don't find love and connection.

So, then I found this incredible yoga class.  It totally reconnected me to...well...ME. Yoga makes me feel beautiful and strong and has given me an entirely different approach to living my life, which is breathing through things.  Not numbing.  Breathing and waiting. Leaning into the uncertainty and impermanence of life with serenity. I'm probably only successful doing that about 20% of the time and still, it has fundamentally changed me.

It's also changed how the world responds to me.  Suddenly, I'm making friends and connecting with people.  I'm definitely sending out a different sort of vibe because I even got hit on by some stranger at the gym the other day.  That NEVER happens to me.  (And, it made me so nervous I had to go hide in the women's locker room for a few minutes to gather myself.)  I guess, you know, the fact that I was even AT my gym is another indication of things changing.  I've belonged to this gym for about a year and until December, I had only been to it twice.  Now I go on my days off from yoga --I find that lifting weights makes me stronger in my yoga practice.

(Lest you think I've been body snatched, I will tell you that I am still struggling with certain numbing mechanisms.  I'm taking this on-line course with BrenĂ© Brown and there was a suggestion that we examine whether we use FACEBOOK as a means to escape from being still with ourselves and our thoughts. I recognize that I am addicted to Facebook.  I also recognize that I am unwilling to give it up.  And I acknowledge that the suggestion that I curtail my Facebook activity elicited a mental raspberry from me, not to mention an unprintable dismissive phrase. I'll feel bad about that some other time.) (I'm making progress.  I didn't say I was THERE.)

But anyway, I digress.  (Shocking.)

I'm kind of struggling with how to write about this because I feel a little narcissistic putting it down on paper --this idea that you have to love yourself in order to fully love others.  All of yourself, even the parts that you think are flawed.  My yoga instructor, who is not given to blanket statements (he's the kind of guy that, when an entire class is on their left feet and I'm on my right and I say, "Am I on the wrong foot?" he says, "Not wrong.  Just different.") says, unequivocally, "You have to love your body." I've fought against that for a lot of years now because I was just so freaking angry at my body for torpedoing my LIFE.  It turns out that the path to getting my life BACK, though, came through my body.  I think I can say this now and mean it: I love my body with all of its flaws and imperfections.

I'm not saying that you have to be IN love with yourself --that would be all about ego. (The people I have known who seem to be IN love with themselves are usually the people who are the most insecure and broken under that surface.)  I'm saying to love yourself--with kindness and compassion and without any qualifiers.  I know we're socialized with the idea that loving ourselves is selfish.  I don't think it is, though.  I think that being insecure is far more selfish because it fills us up with these feelings of unworthiness and that leaves so little room for loving others.  I think I get that now.

I'm so, so grateful. Seriously, when I stop to think about it, I feel like I am inhaling wonder and exhaling gratitude. I feel so blessed-- it takes my breath away.  Nothing in my life has changed substantially --there are still struggles and there is uncertainty and frustration and some areas of deep sadness. There are times when I want to numb it all away --but I have learned that if I just breathe through it and I find the stillness inside of me, I can also find the wonder and gratitude and strength.

And apparently, lose a little weight. Go figure.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Snow Day Mania

Yes, we had another "Snow" Day today.  Except it's not really because of snow, it's because of ice.  Ice, ice everywhere and not a gin-and-tonic to drink.

School was cancelled. Work was cancelled. Yoga was cancelled.

The cleaners cancelled, at which point I started to lose the will to live.

We got a little bored. A little bitter. A little stir crazy.

So, we started weighing the pets. (Oh, like you didn't do that, too.)

I know what you're thinking. No, I really do. You're wondering if it's ALWAYS this crazy around here and how we can possibly stand the excitement.

We're wondering the same thing, actually.

I guess if it's another snow day tomorrow, we'll weigh the fish.