Thursday, July 21, 2011

A door closes. A door opens.

I was thinking about my question to Hubs and the Universe...

"You know, life shouldn't be so hard. I know there's an answer, if only I can see it. Why can't I see it?"

I was reading a fab collection of reflections on life and spirituality by Anne Lamott when I came across a little something written by Kathleen Norris, "Prayer is not asking for what you think you want, but asking to be changed in ways you can't imagine."

Love. It.

I can't help thinking back to the day I lost my ipod, otherwise known as The Day My Heart Fell Out of My Body and My World Changed Forever.

Slight exaggeration, but you know. It's strange to have become so reliant on such a small piece of technology. I used it to exercise, escaping into a fun dance-y Glee-like world where my Big Problems didn't exist. (Of course, they were waiting for me when I was done but never mind.) I used it to fall asleep at night, disappearing into familiar audio books, and walking to work in the mornings (and back in the evenings). Any opportunity to escape, I took it. My ipod was my friend and enabler.

Then, it was gone. Poof.

Without it, I started swimming, discovering a beautiful dance between myself and the water, loving the grace of each stroke. I still marvel that feeling of pulling myself across the water. I think how wonderful it feels to move so effortlessly, how elongated and strong my body feels. In fact, I marvel at being so "in" my body. I would never have discovered this without the loss of my old buddy. Escaping into a fantasy world is enticing. Was enticing.

So. No, I haven't answered my own question, but I have found grace in an unexpected place because of an unexpected loss.

Fare thee well, old buddy. And thanks.

Satan is a pilates instructor. I'm sure of it.

And She took corporeal form in Tuesday's pilates class.

Look. Everyone's month of happy, healthy wellness needs an encounter with the Power of Darkness.

How else can you explain what took place on Tuesday? After a grueling 45 minutes of body defying, sweat inducing core work in positions both fantastical and, possibly, Evil, She clapped her hands and announced "Let's end our session with some push ups!" Why lay in child's pose when you can manipulate your jell-o like limbs into push-up position?

Why indeed?

That said, I might go back because of Satan. She was pretty effective. There's nothing like an encounter with the Unholy One to remind you that life is really not that bad.

It could be worse. You could be sentenced to a life of daily pilates classes.

That would be decidedly Not Fun.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Panicking my way to serenity

Is there any other way?

I ask you, who has a near panic attack in a gentle yoga class?

(Yoo-hoo! Me, that's who.)

I actually found it fascinating, and, silver lining, managed to breathe my way through the shallow breathing, rapid heartbeat, and sweats. That's something, right? (It really is something. All I could think of, at the time, is that if I don't get out of this pose immediately, I'm going to run screaming out of class.)

Bo says that we can bring our anxiety and depression into our poses. That our mind is so hard-wired to be either anxious or depressed, for those of us with these chronic conditions, that we can force our body into re-creating these sensations. Pushing ourselves into downward dog, straining into a position. Fascinating.

In this case, I felt so smothered by all the freakin' props--bolster, eye pillow, all four blankets--that I just couldn't relax into the pose. I kept thinking the blanket was moving, the eye pillow was slipping, and the whole delicate operation was in danger of falling apart. From a relaxed recline, I would come tumbling out into a big heap, which brought on performance anxiety and the rapid heart rate and the sweats.

Man, the body is fascinating, huh?

So, here is my takeaway. The simpler the pose, the happier I am. Then again, maybe my takeaway should be an openness to falling ridiculously out of the pose and not caring if it doesn't "look right."

Whatever the case, I'm grateful that my month of health is making me take stock of these things by trying new things. It reminds me of something I just read by Anne Lamont, "When things break up and fences fall over, desperation and powerlessness slink in, which turns out to be good: humility and sweetness often arrive in your garden not long after."

I like it. And I'm starting to see where that may indeed be true.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Process and discovery

After a particularly long day, I said to Hubs, "You know, life shouldn't be so hard. I know there's an answer, if only I can see it. I feel like it's there, just waiting to be discovered. Why can't I see it?"

Bo talks about the process of discovery in her fabulous gem of a book. Inspiration lives in the most unlikely of places. It doesn't come when asked or as a reward for hard work. It pops up--poof!--when the "mind and body are at play."

It's a tough balance. I don't want to be complacent, but fighting so hard to find a path is probably couterproductive.

At the same time, I'm finding myself increasingly able to let go of anxiety and anger. I have no idea if it's the breath work I've been doing, the evening swims, or the restorative yoga. Whatever it is, that, in itself, is pretty glorious.

As for everything else, I'll just be patient and enjoy the journey.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

When the loss of an ipod is not a bad thing

So. Three weeks ago I was in a taxi. The driver had no clue where he was going, and I was late for a meeting. When I finally made it to work, my thoughts were only on being late. I jumped out of the cab, put my purse over my shoulder, and adjusted my ear buds for some musical entertainment to calm my jangled nerves.

Unfortunately, my ipod was gone. The ultimate tip for the worst taxi driver in the world.

This was, in a word, crushing. I had just transitioned to a new laptop and hadn't transferred the music on my ipod to the new system. For one. For two, I had owned this ipod for years. For years. It was a member of the family, a faithful companion during workouts, on transatlantic flights, and drifting off to sleep at night. And I lose it in a DC taxi.


Without the immediate funds to replace it, I knew I had to do without. As I was swimming the other night, I was thinking how weirdly fortuitous it was that I had lost it. (Hmm, yes, I'll go with "weirdly fortuitous.") Most evenings pre-ipod loss, I would do a quick 30 minute workout on the bike or the treadmill, all the while daydreaming and jamming to my tunes. Post-ipod, the thought of working out on either bike or treadmill was just dreary. How boring without the escapist music to entertain me.

Luckily, and again there's that word fortuitously, I was entering my month of mindful living. Without my ipod as my faithful companion, I started swimming. I hadn't done laps in a pool in...Well, I had never done laps in a pool. In fact, the side stroke had become my carefree stroke of choice, and I had all but forgotten the rhythm of a strong forward crawl. (A stroke I had loved and enjoyed as a teen.) Without my trusty ipod companion, I found myself in the pool almost every night, a little hesitant and self-conscious at first. Since I had to concentrate on my breath and re-learn the stroke, there was no room in my mind for daydreaming or escapism. While swimming, I was (and am) very present, in my body and in my breath.

Now, I am an addict. Swimming has become a calm, centering exercise that allows me to be present completely and totally in my body.

If I hadn't had the cab ride from Hell, if I hadn't lost my ipod that fateful day, I might never have come back to swimming and found something so awesome.

Life is weird that way.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Reflections on the little things...

I want to lay a bouquet of flowers at the feet of Bo Forbes and her fantastic book. 1:2 breathing is a sweet, simple miracle, and the restorative yoga poses are truly restorative. She really understands the restless mind. I'm grateful to have found this little gem. Way to go local library!

I'm a BIG fan of Whole Foods' Oatmeal Date Scone but not so much a fan of the price. Killer on the purse strings. I found this recipe and made my first batch this past weekend. Delicious and vegan to boot. I managed to use all of my remaining dates and walnuts. Score and score.

Am thankful to my friend N. for pointing out that not all of life's transitions are easy and that sometimes you have to accept that you are a traveler in your own spiritual wilderness. (Very similar to an idea Bo describes in her book.) I like the idea of being an adventurer in my own personal wilderness (although it would be great to see an end or solution). That said, the breathing and the poses are all helping me stay in the present and not wander off into a minefield of future what-if's and circular anxiety laced thoughts.

In fact. If I had not come to a point in my spiritual wilderness that made me stop, reflect, and DO something, I might never have come to this month of healing, which (so far) has been truly healing.


Saturday, July 09, 2011

The steak shakes

New month, new me is moving merrily along! Unfortunately, in the race to attend an early morning Saturday workshop on ethics (kill-me-now), I consumed a Whole Foods' date oatmeal scone and a cup of coffee and buzzed out on sugar until lunch. There, I had a mediocre and measly cheese sandwich, which didn't do much to kill the sugar buzz or provide my body with much needed protein. So, in the aftermath of the workshop, I raced to Union Station where I had food court sushi. Not so bad for food court sushi, actually. But, once again, it was the dreaded (though deliciously appealing) scent of red meat that almost had me.

I mean, really, what is it about ground meat and cheese that is so sexy to my palate? Whatever it is, I'm virtually powerless in its presence.

I can already tell I'm going to need to ramp up recipe diversity this month to keep my tastebuds happy. Some women pine for chocolate; I pine for raw cow flesh.

So. Diet: check and check. Restorative yoga is still happening before bedtime and I'm digging 1:2 breathing: nasal inhale and exhale, longer on the exhale. Very soothing.

Now, I feel the need to challenge myself with something further. I'd like to take some mind-body classes of the yoga variety. I always mean to and then I virtually always find an excuse not to. And the excuse is usually time. Being a full-time working mom is hard. It is really hard. Emotionally I'm drained at the end of the day, but I still need to cook dinner, put Kiddo to bed, and, yes, workout. And that I do at 8:00.

But if this is truly a month of wellness, it has to be about more than the food I consume. And I think I need to push myself to do something that is really just for me. (And not make excuses why I can't.)

And that will be a hard one. Harder than the steak shakes.

Friday, July 08, 2011


My month of healthy living almost came to a grinding and unexpected halt yesterday. The lure? Ground meat. Greasy, cheesy hamburger. (Note to self: gotta stop blaming hamburgers for life's problems.)

Happily, I persevered, walked past that temptation, and ate a grossly overpriced (and gross) lentil burger and kombucha. (It's a sad day when you can say your kombucha was far tastier than your entree.)

Lacto-pesco-ovo wise, the day was a success. I even practiced my restorative yoga poses and nasal breathing.

Unfortunately, the rest of the day, the day not involving Hubs, Kiddo, or restorative yoga poses, sucked profoundly. Profoundly.

Even deep nasal breathing couldn't save me.

So, this will be my challenge, as I knew it would. How do I stay positive and centered when my tendency is to slip into shallow breathing anxiety laced Hell?

Part of the answer is perseverance. I am committed to not only cleansing my body of red meat but also to remaining faithful to activities that promote mind-body wellness. Like restorative yoga and breathing.

And I need to counter my obsessive negative thoughts with positive ones. Like. My son is adorable and thinks that pirates, though "really bad," are also totally awesome. I don't want to miss that stage.

For my own sanity and, frankly, well-being, I need to stay committed to this month of well-being and persevere through that which sucketh.

Are you with me?

Thursday, July 07, 2011

The lure of escapism

A friend of mine went on a vacation following an emotional train wreck. I know exactly how he feels, as I've done it myself to varying degrees of success. During the most successful of those times, I managed to leave everything behind for the duration of the holiday. I saw new things, had adventures, and came back with a feeling that everything was manageable. My problems seemed very small and I couldn't remember what had bothered me so much in the first place.

And that lasted for, oh, a week. Then the accumulated emotional turmoil came back with a vengeance.

You really can't run away from your problems. This is very true. I think a successful vacation can be a tonic for the short term and, if managed well, it can be a jump start to a healthier life.

It is July 7th, and I, too, just returned from a successful vacation where my problems seem small and manageable. From experience, I know it's up to me to make that feeling last. (And let me just say the thing which is the source of my angst is not my wonderful little family. They are most wonderful indeed.)

So. I'm going to embark on a month-long pursuit of healthiness. Starting now. Details will follow but rest assured it involves lacto/ovo/pesco vegetarianism, as any month-long pursuit of mind-body wellness should. Duh.