Tag Archives: yoga

It Begins to be Over

6 Mar

IMG_6506Go like clockwork, day in, day out, and you erase the ill tendencies. Days and days, or maybe just seven, was all it took to end. Forget what you told yourself was your permanent condition and abide by the logic that you can’t really miss someone who was never there. Yes, a week ago you fell under the spell again, but look what seven days of real grounding can do.

You are getting everything you want. And that is terrifying. But you can’t keep thwarting it, keep breaking your own heart to prevent some unknown retribution for true happiness. You can actually be this person, this good person. You did, after all, do all the work, and if doing so brought this happiness, then you can stop worrying about getting hit by a bus. The good is under your control, and this bad, this imagined end result that will be done to you, that is old damage demanding attention. Only your little kid self was yelled at and shamed for being golden. Now you can let yourself be that, through and through.

 

Let Yourself Be That

30 Dec

IMG_1982

I apparently make it a habit to rarely be at home, and this year was no exception. Some months, I was only in my own bed four nights out of the calendar 30 or 31 for which I pay precious, precious Brooklyn rent. I don’t regret living (actually, just leave it there: I don’t regret living, full stop) in the many different experiments I put myself through this year. I let myself live in the mountains of Utah and on the beach in Southern California, I tried roaming free in Alabama shortly after returning home from Assen. I was in crummy places like Washington, DC and Baltimore, and I took up temporary residence in my childhood hometown of Minneapolis. There was time in Amsterdam and Barcelona (actually, three trips to Barcelona) and France. And there was more, much more. So much more that I’d have to consult my trusty Moleskine calendar to track it.

Oh! What a natural segue. Moleskine calendar, you say? Well, that must be precious, and since its rear pocket carries the folded poems you must carry with you at all times, you never let it out of your sight, of course.

Of course.

Except for the day in October when I actually lived my worst, most persistent recurring nightmare. I’m talking about the dream that I’m sure I’ve written about here, the one where I endlessly pack my bags and never, ever go to the airport. Or if I’m at the airport, I somehow never get to my gate, whilst losing articles that tumble from my over-filled bags.

The dream v. life metaphors are obvious, but the point is, I never make a flight in my dreams. But in real life, I’ve never missed a flight. Until October 8th, 2015. (Dramatic chord!)

I was in Minneapolis, and I was at the peak of my self-loathing for a terrible habit that was only getting worse as I aged. I was becoming one of those people who begin to pack for a trip at the precise time when they should actually be going to the airport. This was not my dream self, mind you. This was the awake version of the girl who had just arisen from her slumber packing session and was at present dawdling through the newspaper, some coffee, room service breakfast, some lying around and moping… you get the drift.

So, I loathed this girl. But I took her rumpled self down the escalator of the fancy modernist hotel where I’d indulged in an extra night because my friends’ daughter had taken ill and I was already at this conference anyway, so Overburdened Charge Card picked it up. Like I said, I loathed this irresponsible, hapless person that had taken over while my restless soul wandered elsewhere, trying to find itself.

Ahem. My hotel was 15 minutes away from the airport, which helped but also hindered me, because I abused that fact. I glanced at the free airport shuttle, filled with hapless tourists lugging those gigantic bags that only tourists carry, and checked the time. No, I had to take my own transportation, direct to my own concourse, with no stops for Sally Six Bags along the way. I summoned an Uber, smug that I was such a fancy traveler girl that I had to get a car while a van was still being loaded with more girth-testing bags and people beside me. And then I opened my Delta app to check the time of my flight.

To my horror, I saw what I’ve never seen before in my life. It said, “Information is no longer available for this flight.” Which prompted me to wonder, why, wait, what time does it leave?

It left five minutes ago.

You thought it left an hour from now, because for the first time in your life, you let your Calendar app store the flight info, and that app pretended we were on East Coast time, and we are, in fact, in the Central time zone.

A very, very quiet little thunderstorm began in my brain as I smiled at the driver who opened a door in front of me. I was living my recurring nightmare. Well, let’s see what it’s meant to teach me, I told myself in an attempt to soothe the very recently Zoloft-deprived brain in my skull.

The details of what lengths the universe went to in order to demonstrate how far I’d fallen are actually, seriously, too painful to relate here. Let’s just say I cried in the airport, in a ridiculously overpriced Uber Black Car that took me away from the airport so I could kill six hours elsewhere, at a random diner that only took cash, at a shitty bar possessing the only ATM for miles and it was out of money, on the sidewalk in front of the bar, in the stunningly proximate office of my friend’s husband, and then in a Tumi luggage store at the airport, where I let a luggage therapist try to piece me back together again in the form of needlessly overpriced bags that are nowhere near the quality of those made by my own brother. (Sigh.)

I finally did arrive home, with lots of that “kindness of strangers” stuff cheering me along the way, but little did I know that somewhere in all of that Tumi shuffling, another very small thunderstorm was erupting, and it would be two months before it was over.

I’d left my Moleskine calendar, filled with more personal details than anyone should ever put on paper, in one of the many overwrought pockets in one of the many overpriced Tumi bags in a store 1500 miles away from my home.

I didn’t realize this until I’d turned my apartment upside-down and inside-out every night for two weeks. (Sheesh, I look back on this now with true horror at how low I was a the time. You should have seen the wreck my living room was then. Unrecognizable!)

Finally, dust settling on piles of unsettled detritus all around me, I told Unrequited about my lost calendar drama one night while we planned our trip to Spain. His clenched cowboy voice rumbled across cellular transmitters from Utah: “Well. Maybe it was something that you had to let go.”

Gulp.

It’s like he knew that one of the poems in that calendar was the Irish blessing I’d read to try to convince him to love me way back in 1972 (translation, 2011). Ughhhhh… okay, yeah, I should let it go. I get it!

But the universe had other ideas. The night before our flight to Barcelona, I received a phone call from Ohio. Someone, some very lovely one, had found my calendar in a bag they’d bought in the Minneapolis airport! And in the most charming phone call I’ve ever experienced, that someone’s husband cheerily told me how yes, he’d found the poems in the back pocket when he was looking for any means of identification in the calendar. This was the one time I hadn’t written my contact information in the front of a Moleskine notebook and promised a reward of fresh-baked cookies to anyone who found it. The ONE time. Fortunately, he’d found a receipt from my tailor (whuh huh huh, I use a tailor).

Anyway. Profound gratitude pulsed my heart and filled my soul. He was going to mail the calendar back to me, and it would be waiting when I came home from Europe. I promised to send him his rightful reward of freshly baked chocolate sea-salt cookies.

“I’m not one to refuse freshly baked anything,” he said.

Except, when I came home from more Unrequited adventures with Unrequited, the calendar wasn’t there. It was not there in my mailbox, nor there on my doorstep, nor in the hands of any of my kind neighbors. It was clearly in the hands of nefarious agents of the internet-posting world where they were surely going to scan the trembly drivel on my calendar pages and share them with readers of “Found” magazine or whatever it was called. I was going to be a laughingstock. A meme. An animated .gif.

More letting go. Letttttting go. Apparently I was never meant to have this calendar again. I get it. I get it!

But do I get it? Do I have any idea why I let this completely implausible fantasy persist? No, because if I did, I would let it be the beautiful idea that it actually is—and that is, if I let go of trying to control every step that anyone makes toward my heart, someone will actually walk right up to it and embrace me (see previously mentioned Lao Tzu mantra).

Here’s what it’s all about. You see, there’s a meditation that I rarely let myself indulge in doing. It’s effect is blissfully powerful, and it leaves me feeling exactly as I did when I was a giddy little girl who still thought she could do anything in the world, because her golden, pure heart loved everyone, so why wouldn’t that love be reflected back toward her?

The meditation is called “Follow a Desire into Fulfillment.” And people, it’s a magic spell. At the end of its very short ten minutes, when you’re so elated you think you might float away, the very lovely Sally Kempton says, in the kindest, most sincere imperative ever: “Let yourself be that.”

Except she says it with all the right pauses between the words. “Let yourself (pause) be (longer pause, just a slight bit of extra emphasis ahead) that.”

If we could all let the controlled steps of the calendar go, let the missteps of lost love go, and be unafraid to follow the true desire of our hearts (ironically, that’s what the Irish Blessing that I carry is all about), we could let ourselves be that. And I reckon we’d be pretty elated.

By the way, the calendar came to me two months after I lost it, and one month after it was returned-to-sender to the kind people in Ohio. I sent them their well-deserved chocolate sea-salt cookies and I hope those confections made their Christmas as lovely as their kindness made mine. 

 

Do Whatever You Want

29 Dec

IMG_1983

It was the best kind of double-take. One that I certainly didn’t orchestrate, because I was playing invisible on tonight’s urban hike. It was finally cold enough to wear hat and scarf and gloves, so I was nestled into a woolen cocoon, winding my way around and through the rotary at Grand Army Plaza with a private glee at having used almost all the criss-crosswalks on my round-trip.

Brooklyn was mine, it was all lit up above and dark below, and the statues hovering above Prospect Park were luminescent cutouts against a dusk that only I raised my eyes toward. Everyone else was looking phoneward. Except the runners, moving smugly in spandex robotron packs, but I couldn’t begrudge them their mutual glee at finally being able to use our winter gear. Finally!

Hidden under my hat too were earphones, which completed my little private universe with a delectable new Michael Mayer mix from Köln. I’d rather expeditiously obtained my fancy new NYC ID card from the library, which will now enable me free access to sooooo many city institutions, and I was carrying a parcel of actual photographic prints picked up from the drug store. Photos! On paper. Picked up after work, in the manner of regular people with jobs.

The total effect of all this fast-walking list-ticking was jubilance. I felt my spine doing that thing they’re always talking about in yoga, “lifting upward away from the pelvis,” and I guess my open heart was more conspicuous than I realized, because by the time I reached the main commercial street near my apartment, I noticed a repetition of actions I haven’t marked in quite some time. Handsome souls were actually lifting their faces from their phones, and looking in my direction. I automatically assumed they were watching for the bus, or trying to ascertain where their beautiful girlfriend was, so I just kept bounding along. But then I saw one handsome actually crane his neck to maintain his view after I passed a large tree.

Well, I’ll be darned. All that stuff that my craniosacral massage therapist and everyone intelligent in the world says is true. When you feel good, you look good. I’ll probably go back to shrugging my shoulders up around my wish to be invisible tomorrow. BUT tonight I was as bright as those statues, because just like them, I assumed no one was looking up at me.

Overwintering Your Heart

24 Dec

IMG_1556All summer long, I watched my fuchsia plant react to sunlight and heat the way I do, shriveling up and running for the shade. Except the poor fuchsia couldn’t run. It doesn’t “have agency,” to put it the way I heard someone on the radio describe the imbuing of inanimate objects or ideas with motility.

There wasn’t much I could do for the fuchsia’s placement, given the limitations of my south-facing, 50-square-foot (extremely wobbly) deck. But because I was working at home this summer, I provided the fuchsia with agency. I went outside several times a day and picked up its planter and moved it to the rotating pockets of shade cast by the slotted railing throughout the day. It wasn’t enough, though, because it was just too hot for the poor thing. (Next year I will finally get a canvas sail shade!)

So my fuchsia went dormant. Summer dormant. And when the autumn came, I repotted it with a plan to bring it indoors for overwintering in my building’s basement. Everyone online says fuchsia’s have to be the basement, because the house is too warm to let the plant know it’s winter. But honestly, I hate the idea of putting the plant in this building’s particularly grim basement, so I put off the move until the first frost.

…Which never, never came in this El Niño winter. It’s 70 degrees Fahrenheit outside right now. So, since September the fuchsia has remained where I left it outside. I peeked at it every morning, just to see how it was doing, wondering how dormant versus dead it was. Then, a few weeks ago, right around the time my Christmas cactus was in full, vibrant bloom indoors, I noticed bright, new pink bulbs forming at the end of the fuchsia’s healthiest branch. It was loving life, getting ready to bloom again.

I know I should be horrified, I know I should feel bad that the plant is confused in our weird climate pattern. But I am so happy to see that it’s living, and it actually obviously just needed me to leave it alone for a while cooler temperatures so it would recuperate.

Meanwhile, the plants I brought in for the winter, my kitchen herbs, have died. I researched this move, too, but fearing a sudden drop in temperature during a two-week trip abroad that I was taking in November, I skipped the step of repotting outdoors and letting the plants adjust to the new confines outside before dragging them inside. Well, that was a mistake.

And this mistake was something I was lamenting this morning while I did yoga in the presence of a withering rosemary plant on the window sill. I’d moved it inside, then closer to the heater when the window got drafty and cold, then again closer to the window for more sunlight when it was warmer, trying to help it weather the ups and downs of temperature fluctuations, and yet there it was, regretfully having to make its exit because it preferred to roam free outdoors. The soil was wrong, the pot was wrong, the depth was wrong, the poor plant, which never really got established this summer outdoors, was now overwatered, over-coddled and overcome.

So I googled “saving a rosemary plant brought indoors for overwintering” and found a helpful website that basically told me I did it all wrong (but in a very polite fashion), and I frowned. To lose a plant life is not something that happens often in this apartment. I am the plant rescuer! I am a hero! How could I accept this defeat?

Then I saw a helpful and very relevant quote in a column next to the overwintering article:

A garden is always a series of losses set against a few triumphs, like life itself.
—May Sarton

And I exhaled. Okay. Yeahhh… even though a plant loss feels far more severe than discovering that a skirt no longer fits (even immobile, plants are alive, of course), I guess it’s something that happens, even to the best gardener.

I was sort of not really accepting this truth, promising myself and the universe that I’d have all the right overwintering materials and practices in place next year (this is only my second year of having a real garden), when some more fortuitous words leapt into my frame of vision.

It was my new mantra, one I’ve written about on this site previously, but not one I was ready to actually live out until my return from Spain and France a month ago:

“Stop leaving, and you will arrive. Stop searching, and you will see. Stop running away, and you will be found.” 
—Lao Tzu

I moved the plants around frantically, just like I move myself around frantically, but they only really flourished when I could let them rest in one place. Given the right conditions and a little time to take root, plants are pretty resilient.

Already, only one month into my new practice of not flying away from New York the minute I get antsy or a little to close to getting what I want at work, I can tell that I’m getting stronger, and new work ideas are arriving. If I want all my big career moves to happen, I have to stop moving. If I want to enjoy all that I have, I need to stop looking elsewhere. And if I want to be discovered as the whole person that I can be when I just sit still and let myself be whole, then I need to stop running to the airport. Constantly. Although I’ll definitely enjoy my Delta Gold status next year!

 

May the One You Long for Long for You

19 Jan

paperThere are three poems I carry with me, sometimes as a little bundle of folded pages worn at the seams, sometimes just one important piece at a time. I am a girl of many handbags and totes, and so each day I must reassemble which items travel with me, and even when I keep my load light, I pack at least one poem. I can always feel the carefully selected verbal talisman there, leaning against my hip through canvas or jostling around with too many glasses cases in pockets of suede.

It used to be just one poem I always carried, and so I memorized it. It’s a very long poem, too. But I know it. Still the pages are smooth as river stones now, so I carry it like some might wear a tattoo. I know it, but I need it outside myself, too.

Another joined the ranks last summer when I was riding the subway very, very late one night and sharing thoughts with a stranger about a poem displayed in one of those “Poetry in Motion” public service ads. I turned to him as I dangled from a handrail and said before he could take off his beat-laden headphones, “Do you know anything about orchids?” When headphones rested on hoodie and he asked me to repeat myself, he nodded no. But we had a very lovely talk about what could be known about orchids and what we needed to learn. We agreed to seek out more on the subject matter when we got home. “Google it!” he said, as I disembarked. I hope he googled it, too.

In between the ancient relic of a poem that I memorized and the relatively new one that came from beneath the streets is the most important poem ever. It is an Irish Blessing that one of my dearest yoga teachers read aloud in class four years ago. I almost didn’t make it to that class, I was tired and whiny, but like the most intrepid of yogis, I made the effort to drive to the farthest studio that was in my orbit in Utah. It turned out I was the only one who would show up that night, and it was fortunate, because I needed to unburden my heart, give voice to a big truth I’d reduced to a little trembling trifle.

My teacher and I, we were (and are) both the sort who find meaning in incidentals, coincidences, serendipity, happenstance and several other words for magic. We talked while we waited for no one else to eventually arrive, and then when she opened her bookmarked page and began to read the text she’d selected for that evening’s class, she actually began to cry, instantly. I didn’t panic, as it was not abnormal for me to witness. I tend to be in a lot of amazingly emotional exchanges with relative strangers. I’m like the Hallmark card commercial guru. Have thirty seconds to start weeping about your neglectful father? Here, have a Kleenex-brand tissue.

The poem, the Irish Blessing, is by this guy John O’Donohue (legit Irish name, check). I purposely have never looked in to who he is or what era he lives in, but I’m fairly certain he’s probably a contemporary living Irish Blessing writer, because his subject matter is a superior blend of eastern and western philosophy.

“Blessed be the longing that brought you here,” the first line says to the weary yogi who traveled from at least 15 miles north. Alright, so that made me cry, too. And the rest of it was so amazing that I copied down her yoga-abbreviated version of the text by hand on a piece of paper before I left the yoga studio that night. It was evidently so mystical an experience that I didn’t even try to google it then and there… how odd…

Anyway, the next day, I called Unrequited and was kinda like super demanding and said we had to have dinner before I left town on a two-week trip the next day. He agreed to meet me after work, and I folded up my pocket poem and carried it with me to the restaurant. Then, after the appropriate amount of small-talk, I tucked the folded paper under the edge of my plate and declared that I had something to say.

I was afraid to say it, of course, so I read the poem first:

Blessed be the longing that brought you here
And quickens your soul with wonder.

May you have the courage to listen to the voice of desire
That disturbs you when you have settled for something safe.

May you have the wisdom to enter generously into your own unease
To discover the new direction your longing wants you to take.

May the forms of your belonging–in love, creativity, and friendship–
Be equal to the grandeur and the call of your soul.

May the one you long for long for you.

May your dreams gradually reveal the destination of your desire.

May a secret Providence guide your thought and nurture your feeling.

May your mind inhabit your life with the sureness with which your body inhabits the world.

May your heart never be haunted by ghost structures of old damage.

May you come to accept your longing as divine urgency.

***

That’s pretty good, right? I finished reading, folded paper, and put it back under the edge of my plate. Then I told Unrequited that I had cleared a huge place in my heart for him, and it was a permanent place. And now that place also included his two sons. “I hold you all in my heart, I always have since I have known you, and I always will. I felt this way since the moment we met, and it’s always been there, and it will always be there, so nothing will change.”

His jaw was actually dropped when I was silent. His eyes were wide and his gaze was upward at nothing. Then he started to smile in slow-motion (just like in a Hallmark movie!), and he said, “That is the most beautiful thing anyone has ever said to me. Thank you.”

Of course nothing came of it then, otherwise he wouldn’t be called Unrequited, right? But for all you devoted Bunky fans out there, waiting for the best happy-romance-movie-ending ever, Unrequited and I spoke yesterday and he said he’s coming to visit me in New York.

I can hear at least one of you grumbling (WriterHero), but dude, let a girl have some poetry now and then. I’ll see Unrequited in two weeks anyway, when I get my hair done in Utah. But then he’s coming here. For me. FOR ME. And the quaint village of New York City.

Stay With Me

1 Nov

nature's gold

Nothing Gold Can Stay
by Robert Frost

Nature’s first green is gold, 
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower:
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay. 

***

When the radio news voice says that “bad weather” is expected this weekend, and that “today is beautiful, but tomorrow it’s going to rain,” I grumble. There isn’t bad weather, there’s only weather, I insist. All weather is good, every day is beautiful, just dress for the present conditions. A good trench coat, cute rain boots, and a bright-colored umbrella make me giddy. I love to feel prepared, ready to face anything and come out unruffled.

As it turns out, that strength and resilience is what causes my life-crunching headaches. Multiple doctors, a MRI, and a neurologist appointment later, I learned that what I suffer from are “let-down headaches.” Trust me, I could run with that name forever—let down? Let me tell you about let downs. But scientifically, it’s an extension of migraine that is triggered by prolonged periods of stress followed by sudden relaxation. The stress hormones dissipate and leave my brain reeling, screaming in pain. Where is the cortisol! Load me up, A-type personality girl! Find me a thrill!

Sigh.

And get this: migraine sufferers, or “migrainers” as we are cheerily referred to in the lame “How to Live with Migraine” magazine my neurologist gave me, have a distinct personality. They’re over-achievers who love routine and stability, they have a tremendous empathy that makes them an emotional sponge that absorbs all the suffering, angst, or happiness around them—oh, and they tend to be the ones who relocate to help a dying loved one.

Bunky Huron: Migrainer.

When I moved to Texas to help my mother in her final year, my poor head reacted poorly. Every time I arrived at her apartment and sunk into the sofa in front of the Hallmark channel, I could feel the pain creep to my temples. My mother and I discussed potential causes quite often, as I have been a headache sufferer my entire life, and I used to write science reports on them as early as middle school. I even did a science fair project on headaches.

So I was the scientist, and my mother was the nurse. She remained calm and steady as my earliest pre-teen migraines made the left side of my body go numb and deadened my tongue so I couldn’t speak. My memories of her constant care are so clear. She’d get a cool, wet wash cloth for my head and gently hover near me while I writhed on the sofa. I’d try to tell her through tongue-numb speech that I knew it was a symptom of the vascular lightning storm in my brain, and I knew it would subside, but I was secretly scared i was going dumb and would lose my power to speak entirely.

My mother’s eyes showed concern, but not panic. The constant presence of her love was my tether to the real world while my viewpoint grew hazy with eyesight-blinding migraine “aura.” I’m still so amazed that she didn’t panic. She was as much a worrier as I was, but as a mother, she was effortlessly steady. She knew my strength and resilience, she knew I was generally a really healthy kid, and above all, she knew that if she sat there calmly with me, I might believe that there was hope for normal life again.

I look back now and realize that I did the same for her when she was sick in the hospital. I stayed calm, I acted as though everything was normal, and I tried to set a tone of steady routine in our lives. But my headaches persisted, and I really thought they were brought on by the stress of being a caretaker. I’d blame her openly, saying that the grocery list gave me a headache, and coming to her house gave me a headache.

Now, my poor, scientific heart knows that those were let-down headaches, and I was in pain because I’d relaxed in her care. While she cooked me dinner, and brought me snacks and drinks as I lounged on the sofa, I returned to a softness I hadn’t felt since I was a child. There was no one who cared for me on a daily basis, except my mother. And the disappearance of that steadiness, that supportive force of her love after she died, is wracking my brain with pain.

“You’re someone who functions valiantly under stress, and then you collapse when it subsides,” my neurologist intones. The reason I’d had a headache for two months straight was no doubt the release of grief, the exodus of physical pain from my poor, fragile corporeal person.

Mom, you didn’t give me headaches. You gave me relief, and my body gave me headaches. I miss you so much it actually hurts.

I am slowly getting better, thanks to craniosacral massage and a new awareness on how to mitigate stress in my life. Apparently, “migrainers” have to actually fake a little bit of stress after a long period of stress, so they can avoid the sharp withdrawal of hormones. So this morning I actually told myself I had so much to do today, such a busy Saturday, so much work to do!

Feeling the ache creep to back of my skull to accompaniment of the relaxing sounds of rain pouring down on my deck outside, I did some semi-intense yoga to make sure I was stressed. Hey, hey, gentle fall into relaxation. Not sudden. Gentle.

After yoga, in savasana, I let my jaw go slack, and suddenly pictured my mother’s own slack expression after she died. These are the images we keep in our mind forever. I started sobbing and said out loud, “I saw the last light in your eyes. I was the witness.”

I, always alone, alone, was the witness. No wonder I’m stressed. And as I sobbed, I said, “Your love was golden.” And as my mother’s favorite poet, Robert Frost said, “Nothing gold can stay.”

Live Without Her

3 Aug

loveI used to write about heartbreak before I knew what it was. Now I have the prize of champion heart-wrench.

My mother left this earth on June 3, 2014, and until the very last moment, I saw in her blue eyes the most absolute, pure love. I’d questioned the authenticity of that love throughout her long illness, my simple, confused corporeal form firing flight signals in response to pain. My neurons found error in the connection between immense suffering from grief and the person who loved me most in the world.

In the end, love, that biological and spiritual combination of attachment, was unquestionably my mother’s life purpose. She always said she’d only ever really wanted to have children, and my brother and I were her greatest achievement, but I cast doubt from behind the guise of my own ambitions. No one lives for children, I scoffed. But I will tell you now with absolute certainty that mothers and fathers operate on a different frequency of need and provision. They live for you. They lived for you. And now I live in honor of her love.

Unable to speak on the last day, she held me in a gasping gaze of perfect human and soul dependence on surviving for me. I expressed my profound gratitude for every moment she gave me. “All the best parts of me came from you. I’ll use those parts every day and think of you, you’re a permanent part of me. I love you so much and I feel how much you love me. We are going to miss you. But you can rest now if you need to, we’re ready to be strong and know you loved us.”

We had to let each other go. I left the room, and so did she.

No one tells you about the immediate disconnect you feel when a parent leaves the earth. You actually become untethered, and are floating, adrift in a life structure built before your loss. The sensation is a mix of fragility and clarity. Untended by the one, single soul who watched out for you since the moment you came into existence, you suddenly realize with perfect sensitivity the ways in which to nurture yourself through every moment. A transfer of care occurs, and you feel that you owe it to the best human you ever knew to make the most of the life you were given.

Summer really did break and awake me this year. I’ve been lost, I’ve been hopeless, I have found love, I finally got over the animal need to boost serotonin through starch consumption (well, kind of)… and now, just this morning, I feel like I emerged from a cocoon. Grief still holds me, and I will always, always cherish the moments of wrenching sadness that clutch my heart and remind me of my mom’s placid and perfect dedication. But maybe I can take some new steps now. I will not let her disappear.

Something I want to tell you, that I don’t think we say enough when we talk about the death of a parent, is that when they cease to exist physically, you suddenly feel a new sense of very strong support from within yourself. A true yogi in every sense, I feel as though my mother is lifting my heart, boosting it up in my chest. She did it from the first second in which I came to be, and now with all the interference of this messy human life gone, I can feel a new, steadfast strength that she instills in me. I will not let her down. I will love and give endlessly as she did, and I will work to find the support and fulfillment that she wanted for me.

I love you, Mom. Thank you.

Providential Bee

17 Apr

“To your ass. Still in tact.” (Pause, sip of espresso.) “Now we know it’s not full of air. Otherwise it would be deflated now.”

I had to hold the coffee in my mouth and clench lips hard against a laugh. I let my eyes show my immense approval of his sudden and sharp wit.

My ass deserved a toast after this weekend. So much beach and hiking alternating with prolonged sitting in various modes of transportation. I’d finished a vigorous and scenically invigorating hike with a good amount of clamorous forest calls declaring the muscular protestations of my posterior. “I need to stretch my glutes!” There should be a PBS program featuring my outdoor prowess and appreciation.

That crisis averted with a bit o’ yoga, the final insult to my hindquarters came indoors. I was sitting down to a delicious breakfast prepared by my gallant male companion in the charming and sunny South Providence kitchen of my soul friend. All was well. I was smiling.

Sitting elegantly upon a craftily appointed seat cushion atop a kitchen chair, a needle pain returned against my downward motion. It was sharp and immediate, shaking me from the sunny breakfast reverie but not causing me to give up my demure guise for the Gallant Gentleman’s benefit. I delivered a restrained shriek in a delicate note I’d never before emitted in distress. Leaping part-way up and prodding the errant cushion with my hand, I declared with more faux ease, “I sat on something!”

Standing up further upon gaining no conclusions or evidence of a misplaced pin or needle, I felt another distinct jab on my corporeal being. “Oh! And I’m still sitting on it. It’s still…”

Lifting dress to investigate further, I saw a yellow and black garden drone climbing upward along a backdrop of my black tights. She was departing my derriere en route to my hip.

“It’s a bee!!!!!” I shrieked exactly like a Minnesotan dainty girl. (In the early phases of dating it’s best to pretend you’re always quite cute, even when suffering pain and humiliation. It’s a good way to insure you’ll receive chivalrous attention.)

My Gallant Gentleman whipped around from the stove, brows raised in alarm but countenance otherwise calm. Seeing me freeze with dress aloft and bee gamely exposed for removal, he grabbed a butter knife and dismissed the threat while I harmoniously added a bit of horror into my squeals.

From the bedroom leapt my Soul Friend, to whom Gallant Gentleman said in accented English as he hurled the winged beast floorward, “I’m sorry, I have to keel eit.”

Oh, humble hero. How you are tormented by your duty.

Reluctant assent was given by lovely Soul Friend, and the bee was dispensed with under tip of butter blade. The Gallant Gentleman’s eyes lifted to me, my form still frozen with stings shocking. He requested an ice pack from my friend and gently suggested I sit down.

Calm was restored, ice applied, and it was discovered that I had two stings from one bee, but no stinger remained as evidence. The buzzy lady was pretty resilient.

Later, perched on high chairs in a cafe, preparing for our train journey home, the espresso toast made to the perseverance and strength of my weary ass, the Gallant Gentlemen initiated a Socratic dialogue.

“That bee paid with its life to tell you something,” he said, grinning that cheek-tucking half-smile he does when he’s chagrined or feigning a serious air, as he was now. His accent pushed extra emphasis onto unfamiliar syllables as he partially feigned an American pop soothsayer tone. “Bee messenger. You better listen, girl!”

Then, continuing the philosophical dialogue, he parsed the definition of Providence, the city where these stinging events transpired. We were in a place where extra meaning hid behind every apparent triviality. We paused a moment, giving the selfless bee some respect, and concluded that her message was clear. “Get off your sorry ass and do what you say you’re gonna do.”

That’s what I said, and of course it’s true. But the bee also told me that I am never alone with pain or fear. As Pema Chodron says in her tonglen meditation practice recording, we must constantly remind ourselves, “Other people feel this.”

Even if I didn’t contrive to make my bee-sting fear more palatable, I’m sure that my friends would have leapt to my rescue. Other people feel this. Don’t hide your hurt.

Zen My Valentine

15 Feb

sunAges and ages ago, in one of my less-developed lower forms of self, I was sitting on a pure, white sofa, reading a book by candlelight while wind and rain whipped down from the sky onto the streets of Amsterdam far below the penthouse where I was staying. (Did I mention that I was sipping Champagne? At what point do you think I should actually be writing a “whiny blog”?)

Ahem, anyway, I was feeling quite cozy after an exhausting business trip. My host listened to my depressing litany of romantic rejections and epiphanies (not much has changed there) and handed me a book, which I rejected immediately upon sight. It was called Zen and the Art of Falling in Love. I didn’t need that book. I knew everything.

Then my host went to sleep in a depression-induced haze and I was left in the living room to either consume mountains of cheese or exercise a bit of self-improvement. I chose the latter. Cracking open the book, I prepared myself for laughter.

Exposition being what it is, you can probably guess that I was actually quite moved by the contents of said book, and should probably have them tattooed along my forearms lest I forget the important lessons it imparted. Fortunately, there was one very easy take-away that I have clutched close to my heart ever since I read it. It was some lines of ancient zen poetry, one of Eshin’s greatest hits:

When you become you
Zen becomes zen
When you become you
The whole world falls in love

If you know me at all by know, you will know how desperately I crave the love and validation of the entire world, and appear to sincerely ingratiate myself to every creature on the planet all day, every day. This works well, and everyone from my shoe repair person to my best friend can be assured of my true devotion. (Although, yikes, truth be told, I haven’t found my new shoe repair outpost in NYC yet! Might have to go back to my old Brooklyn neighborhood from 2004… #devotion.)

Digressions aside, I want to assert that the weepy girl who sat perched on that sofa, lost in the dark about love for herself and the world, has been replaced by sunny, unsinkable me. Why? Because I became me, clicked into the larger zen scheme of things by being true to myself, and then cast a spell on the whole world. Now I get smiles even on the subway.

Every day since I moved back to New York, at least one person tells me, “That’ll wear off. Wait til you live here a while.” But what I need to say to them, after I kneecap them, is that my very favorite life-long New York friends have always been congenial, open, generous, chivalrous, kind, and self-aware. And guess what? They’re happy.

So, ye doubters, this is my question for you. Are you really sick of this city and all the humanity within it, or would you be sick of humanity anywhere you went? And would the source of that ailment in fact be your own private misery and pain? Anger comes from wounds, and if you can’t look at yourself and see where you were broken and what truly causes your ire, you are not you, zen is not zen, and the whole world ain’t gonna fall in love.

So now I’ve got that down cold. And I found many kindred spirits at the Brooklyn Zen Center last night. I celebrated Valentine’s Day with a bunch of sweet and funny zenners. It was the perfect place for me to witness zen becoming zen. The room was full of people fully inhabiting their true selves. Subsequently, our conversations moved naturally from the start. Arriving previous to the friend who had invited me, I walked up to a man who was opening the locked front door, and declared myself to him as another zen guest. Then, walking into the beautiful loft space, I poured myself a cup of tea and smiled at a group of conversing people and said, “Hello, I’m new, can you tell?”

One very sweet woman smiled back directly and said, “Me too!” We covered all the important topics (Pride and Prejudice, and how the BBC version is the ONLY version, and how neither of us will ever see the Keira Knightly abomination), and by the end of the night, this delightful person circled back around and asked for my phone number. We’re going to have tea.

Right. All that said, every little positive flash card flipped with its tidy definition, I ask you: if the whole world has already fallen in love, then… did I actually miss my match? Because I seem to be convincing every person EXCEPT eligible romantic candidates for the title role of significant other. Maybe I’m too zen, or too in love, or too everything I’m always too, but I think really, if I was being honest with my little quavering heart, I would have to admit that I still have to convince some members of my internal committee that part of “you becoming you” is to actually LIKE you.

So I made a Valentine’s Day resolution. Let’s run away together, me.

Elevation Training

4 Apr

train“You look so carefree, I almost didn’t recognize you.”

I opened the car door and climbed up awkwardly onto the too-high truck passenger seat. Salt Lake Rambling Adventure Writer friend was picking me up for lunch one day last August. I was home for a week to pack up all of my things and then get back to Texas just as fast I could.

Carefree. For one month I had been staying in a tiny carriage house behind a historic home in Fort Worth, shuttling myself between hospitals, yoga studios, and fancy grocery stores. My mother was very, very sick. She is very, very sick. But I was and am happier than I’ve ever been, because I was and am living with a purpose. My aim is to stay strong and well for my mother, to be her advocate and somewhat of a curmudgeonly chauffeur and grocery-getter.

Despite the exhaustion that now can crowd the features of my face so it looks like I’m squinting my way back to sleep, Adventure Writer was damn right. I felt progressively more carefree with each rotation of the four wheels on my car as I drove myself out of the high-mountain desert and placed myself on the southern plains almost ten months ago. And now, now friends, I am going to test the strength of that carefree, and return to Salt Lake City for my first visit since our breakup.

I am ready to see the city that challenged me and made me better while simultaneously suffocating me and editing out all my best New Yorker bits. Or so I always said.

 

At our sunny, summer lunch that day, Adventure Writer elaborated on his theory of my advanced levity. “Utah was your most conflicted relationship,” he began, outlining some of the finer points of how I never intended to be there, expended a great deal of energy regretting that I lived there, and yet as a result of some bizarre need to prove everyone wrong, hoped to flourish there and gamely trying to reinvent myself for social approval in that natural wonderland of oppressive misogynistic culture.

As one might guess, things didn’t work out too well for me in the dating world of SLC. But I did manage to foster profoundly important friendships that continue to support me right up to this very minute.

Then came the deus ex machina. My slice of pepperoni pizza was yanked from my hands by a force of nature beyond my control when Adventure Writer stated the most important truth ever: “The rejection you felt was actually coming from yourself.”

Blame the city all you want, but that carefree wasn’t going to show up until you found a reason to love yourself. And that I most certainly did, when I decided to once again move for love, taking myself to Texas for my mother. So that’s done. Now I am going back to that mountain town to claim the love that waited for me all along. It’s a good thing he was patient.

☽ Of Wildest Heart

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