Saturday, May 2, 2015

Au Naturel

(No, this post is not about nudity.  Sorry.)

I've had sensitive skin forever and a day.  I still have eczema, though it's less severe than when I was a child, thank god, and growing up I suffered from a tremendous amount of allergies.  A few years ago, when I started falling into the yoga scene and learning what organic meant, I started to get interested in a more natural approach to my skin care, cosmetics, and housecleaning.  This essentially led to me spending an insane amount of money on boutique organic brands of all manner of products, and then years later realizing I couldn't afford it and then going to back to good ol' reliable Dove and Clorox.

Although I knew there was an alternative to that, I think it was a healthy combination of intimidation and laziness that kept me from exploring it - homemade!

Yes, I know DIY is so five-years-ago.  (Or maybe ten)  But sometimes I'm slow to catch on.

My older sister paved the way for me when she started exploring homemade recipes for lotion and household cleaning products a few years ago.  This makes sense, especially considering she used to be a chef so she has no fear of trying a new recipe, whatever it might be for.  With the arrival of the babies, she became even more concerned about the quality of ingredients she uses in essentially everything in her house.

Sadly, I think what finally tipped me over the edge to trying it was money related!  It has to be cheaper to buy your own and make your own stuff then to keep paying $15 every time you need more lotion, right?

Using the power of Google to find good recipes, the power of Amazon.com to buy ingredients in bulk, and essential oils, which I'm also starting to dip my toes into, I have finally, after years of curiosity, jumped on board and have made my first homemade beauty products.  Hooray for me!

I'm excited to see the effects of cleansing my face with the mix of castor and sunflower oil (with a tiny bit of tea tree, Vitamin E, and jojoba), skipping moisturizer, and my homemade lotion on my perpetually dry, pesky skin.  It's super easy and fun to make, and pretty easy to correct if you feel like you've screwed up.

Below is a recipe my sister used that we've both adapted with extra touches here and there from the blog WellnessMama - she calls it her Luxurious Homemade Lotion Recipe.  You can find the full post and more from her here.

Ingredients
  • ½ cup almond or olive oil (can infuse with herbs first if desired)
  • ¼ cup coconut oil
  • ¼ cup beeswax
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon Vitamin E oil
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons Shea Butter or Cocoa Butter
  • Optional: Essential Oils, Vanilla Extract or other natural extracts to suit your preference
Instructions
  1. Combine ingredients in a pint sized or larger glass jar. I have a mason jar that I keep just for making lotions and lotion bars, or you can even reuse a glass jar from pickles, olives or other foods.
  2. Fill a medium saucepan with a couple inches of water and place over medium heat.
  3. Put a lid on the jar loosely and place in the pan with the water.
  4. As the water heats, the ingredients in the jar will start to melt. Shake or stir occasionally to incorporate. When all ingredients are completely melted, pour into whatever jar or tin you will use for storage. Small mason jars (8 ounce) are great for this. It will not pump well in a lotion pump!
  5. Use as you would regular lotion. This has a longer shelf life than some homemade lotion recipes since all ingredients are already shelf stable and not water is added. Use within 6 months for best moisturizing benefits.
Notes
A little goes a long way! This lotion is incredibly nourishing and is also great for diaper rash on baby, for eczema and for preventing stretch marks!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Shoutout (aka - five years!)

I've been mulling over and over in my head what to write about in the four weeks since I've last written.  Actually - make that the last two weeks since I got back from being Annie the Nanny to my sister's twins for a week.  Prior to that, those two chubby faces were all that was on my mind!

My last entry was all about slowly easing back into my own yoga practiced.  That hasn't stopped by any means, and I'm very grateful for it.  My busy schedule doesn't always allow for classes, but when it does I've been much more proactive about where and how I spend my time, and it's really been helping me.

Blogging on the other hand...I've just felt flat-out uninspired lately.  I'm not sure exactly what the reason is or how to climb out of it.  I think part of it has to do with the fact that I have just felt over saturated in general - inundated via my lovely Facebook friends with endless articles that might catch my fancy on yoga, on pregnancy, on parenthood, on health, on fitness, on eating, on relationships - you name it.  We are more in the information age than ever before, and sometimes I think I just have article fatigue.  So maybe I feel weird contributing yet more noise to this over saturated little world of blogs and online articles.  Maybe I'm just waiting until I feel like I have something truly awesome to say.

However - today is the five-year anniversary of my start to this ol' thing, and for most of those five years I have been super devoted to writing once a week, every damn week.  Even on the weeks it was a bit of a cheat - just posting a link to a YouTube video, for instance, or another post written by someone else.

It feels like I should write in the ol' girl on our five year anniversary.  So with that in mind, here is what I wrote in my first entry.  Is it narcissistic to think that it's cute?  It's kind of cute.  Anyway - enjoy!


Greetings, Blogverse!  I am officially joining the ranks of the millions, billions, and/or zillions of self published and self proclaimed gurus of the Internets.  Who am I to do this, you ask?

Well, I'm Annie Foster, first of all.  Most of you reading this probably know me but if not - hello! I'm starting this little ol' yoga blog for various reasons.  I'm a southern girl who moved up to the Big City from beautiful Virginia this past September.  I had no idea how dramatically and positively it would change my life.

I've practiced yoga for about 7 years total.  It started as an off-and-on thing for when I had access to a gym or did a yoga tape (remember tapes?).  I started practicing more consistently during my senior year at beautiful Christopher Newport University, and after graduating in 2007 my practice really began to deepen.  I thought about becoming a teacher, but lack of confidence, scheduling challenges, or lack of money always made it seem impossible. After I decided to finally take the plunge and move to New York, it was clear there would be no better time (or place!) in my life to finally sign up for a training program.

I chose Sonic Yoga in Hell’s Kitchen for my 200-hour training, and it was the best thing I have ever done for myself.  The teachers there are phenomenal, and the program is life changing.

Since the program ended in December, I’ve striven to continue what I view as just the beginning of a lifelong journey in not just teaching yoga but becoming a better student of yoga.  My teachers referred to the 200 hour training as “yoga nursery school.”  Having graduated and subsequently been thrown into the big world of articles, books, classes, styles, workshops, not to mention more clothes, accessories, and various merchandise than anyone could possibly wrap their brains around, I’ve been yearning for some kind of outlet to help me make sense of this big yoga universe I’ve plunged into.

Hence: blog.

As my career as a full time yoga teacher starts taking its first steps and leaps I hope to make this blog an extension of everything I learn through both study and experience.  I plan to share thoughts on books I’ve read, concepts I’ve learned, and start a conversation with all the lovely souls who are kind enough to read it.

The past couple of weeks have been full of first steps for me as a teacher.  I subbed my first studio class and secured my first regular studio class, both at Creative Vibrations.  I'll be teaching there Mondays at 5:00pm and I'm very excited.  I also taught my first private client (or the first private client who wasn't already my friend, I should say!) last week.  I'm nearly finished collaborating with the excellent Billy Griffin to launch my yoga website.  I have my first exposure to the amazing world of Thai Yoga Massage via the Integral Yoga Instituteand will soon have my first 5-day intensive there to become certified.  Lots of stuff is happening and I hope this can be a place where I share all that I learn through my study and practice yoga!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Starting Home

I've been distant lately, not just from the blog but from so much of what it represents in terms of my connection to a spiritual practice, a physical practice, my health - all that beautiful stuff I started this blog to explore and blather on about.

Since last January, after the marathon led to my hamstring, my foot, then my hamstring again being injured, I've been slowly retreating further and further from running, yoga, and any other type of physical activity.  I didn't want to in the least, but I found I had to.  It's been very frustrating, and I've written a lot about it.  I started the amazing journey with my physical therapist back in late September to try to get me all fixed, and while I'm not 100%, I'm so much better.  I haven't done much running aside from some glorious barefoot 5-minutes-at-a-time sessions back in October and November - before the polar vortex came to stay - but those little sessions were amazing and so different from what I'd been used to and so hard.

I've missed the mood and energy boost from working out just as much as the physical effects, and I recently discovered yet another thing I missed about being active - the extra willpower.  I've always had an emotional and contentious relationship with food, and varying degrees of inactivity brought me back to that full swing.

Even after making big strides in physical therapy, I still almost never took a yoga class for myself in these past almost six months.  Either I was afraid of aggravating my hamstring further (after months of recklessly pushing myself last spring and early summer, I'm done taking chances) or just felt like I was too damn busy and the last thing I needed after a full day of teaching was to spend more time in downdog.

And yet.

I remember talking to a beautiful yoga teacher who is, sadly for me but wonderfully for her, moving to Colorado soon after getting married this weekend (which, if I may say, is a pretty awesome weekend to get married) awhile ago about this.  She mentioned that she was taking a class with a teacher we both loved later that day, after just having told me she'd already taught some ridiculously high number of classes already (kids and grown-ups).  When I asked how on earth she could possibly manage to do more yoga after all of that, she just responded very matter-of-factly that she needed to keep time for her own practice too.

That little exchange has come back to me every so often, and it's been a little bug in my ear more and more lately as I've emerged from a truly insane February and the city emerges from a truly brutal winter.

Yesterday, I practiced at Astoria's lovely Yoga Agora with my absolute best friend in the world first thing in the morning.  And just this evening, I practiced at one of my beautiful home studios, The Giving Tree Yoga Studio right down the street for a delicious 90 minute, half flow-half restorative class.

The amount of mental and emotional weight I can feel having melted out of myself is pretty amazing after just those two classes in two days.  Even today, after teaching 5 kids classes in the morning and one adult private in the evening, I am so happy I dragged myself back out into the wind from my warm apartment to take a class.  All of that plus the beautiful feeling of not being physically spent, exactly, but just knowing that I did work for myself.

When I'm teaching, I'm either playing or demonstrating.  I think I've forgotten what a massive difference there is between that and taking - even if I were to take a class of the exact same sequence that I may have taught.  It sounds obvious to be writing it out, but I never quite realized it.  When I'm practicing, it's my breath, I set my pace, I make modifications if I need to, I let myself be led and cared for by a teacher.  Not only that, I get inspired as a teacher to steal whatever wonderful things I'm doing or hearing to bring back to my students.  I can get stuck in ruts from time to time and I can't believe I forgot how necessary it is to shake things up.

So there we go.  I practiced, and I've revisited this neglected, dusty old blog.  Slowly but surely I'm getting back to a place where I'm carving out time for my physical practice, which always puts me on a road to being happier and saner.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Saucha: Next to Godliness

February was a whirlwind.  The first half felt like nonstop teaching, and the second half felt like nonstop struggling to teach nonstop while losing my voice and being on call for my first doula client.  Now that my voice is back, a beautiful baby girl was born last week (in one of the most unbelievably awe-inspiring moments I've ever experienced!)  and I'm more grounded, I feel like I'm coming up for air, and I'm overjoyed to find that it's finally March...despite the layer of snow and ice currently dropping on the ground.

Despite the snow, when I hear "March," my brain says, "SPRING!"  Now that I've had a day off where I've felt up to doing more than laying on the couch binge-watching The Mindy Project and recouping my energy, I've been indulging in one of my favorite nerdy housewife-y things - Spring Cleaning.  It made me smile, knowing this was my plan for today, to get the March newsletter for my wonderful neighborhood yoga studio, The Giving Tree, and see that their theme for the month is, "Fresh Start."  It's exactly what it feels like - and it's usually how I feel at the start of every March.  (And September.  And January.  And a little bit June)

I always feel happier in a cleaner home, and man alive did this place need it.  Gretchen Rubin, the author of The Happiness Project, which I mention a lot on here, identified cleaning/purging as the first thing she needed to do to start her project.  In her chapter on it, she found it interesting that there's very little research on link to happiness/stress levels and clutter!  She does a tremendous amount of research in her book about all manner of things, so it was fascinating - considering our pop culture's obsession with things like Hoarders - that there isn't much "official" information about that.

Yogically speaking, the first niyama, or observance, is saucha - purity or cleanliness.  Literally, clean body, spirit.  Energetically speaking, a place for everything and everything in its place.  Everyday - brushing our teeth, showering, even making the bed.  Some yogis go further with practices like neti potting, oil pulling, and use of particular oils on the skin.

There are all kinds of deep thoughts and analyses I could throw into this entry about saucha - the interesting quotes from Patanjali's Yoga Sutras (where yamas/niyamas are first mentioned and discussed) that imply our body can never be clean and is in fact something to be considered "disgusting."  I could talk about parallels to certain religions and other implications of purity, and impurity...but that's for another day.

For me, today - it's much more on the simpler (and yes, metaphorical) side.  Deep cleaning the oven, clearing off the (embarrassing amount of) dust off of my counters and bookshelves, cleaning the bathroom - unbelievably simple stuff that just gets thrown to the wayside when things get busy.  It's unbelievable how grounding and inspiring dealing with it can be.  I joke with my boss that I need one day off a week to "do my laundry," but it really is the truth!  To be a good "housewife" it takes at least a whole damn day...and there always seems to be more that you can do.  Adding to that facing and getting our finances in order, which is never fun at the time but always feels (somewhat) good to be done with - icing on the incredibly nerdy, boring, grown-up cake.

The mundanity of these accomplishments, though, don't seem to lessen the quiet joy they bring me.  We may still be in the "lion" phase of March, but my love of spring cleaning is warming my spirit up already.  Who knows - with this solid foundation, I might be able to blog about more yoga-y elements of yoga soon.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

"Lent" for the Yogi

Holy moly - how on planet earth has it been a month since I've written?  I have no other excuse to offer but that most ubiquitous and obnoxious of NYC reasons - I've been crazybusy.  (Is that exclusive to NYC or does pretty much everyone everywhere blame things on that?)

I want to just write a brief entry - sort of about Lent, and sort of not.  I'm not Catholic, or even Christian, but I'm a sucker for anything resembling a resolution, or a finite amount of time in which to try something, give something up, or better yourself.  I certainly don't want to offend anyone who is devout and takes their practice seriously - I am not trying to trivialize your religious practice by any means, merely taking inspiration from it as I go on my own continuing journey.

A few years ago, I started my year off - literally starting January 1st - with a 40-day meditation with my mala beads, chanting the same thing each and every day.  It was pretty fabulous and grounding and I learned a lot.  It wasn't related to Lent, I just wanted to give the practice a go.

I typically don't do anything for Lent (again - not Catholic), but I do remember when I was interning in Sarasota, over 6 years ago now, that I decided to add something to my life for 40 days instead of the traditional practice of giving something up.  I added what I called a "devotional practice."  Every morning for a minimum of 20 minutes, I'd meditate and then do at least one other thing - either practice yoga, write, or go for a run.  It was really phenomenal, and if memory serves I think I managed to make it happen every single day.

This year, I have one thing I want to add and one thing I want to give up - sort of in line with my Inward/Onward theme of this year.

Inward - Adding:
-Devotional practice, just like back in good ol' Sarasota.  Minimum 20 minutes every day.  Meditation is mandatory!  Adding along writing, yoga, or my (also mandatory) physical therapy exercises.  Eventually I'm hoping I can add running to the list!

Onward - Subtracting:
-Complaining!  Not necessarily being a robot who never utters a declarative sentence stating unpleasant things ("It is -10 degrees out today.") or a holier-than-thou beatific martyr, but I don't want to get caught in the very easy cycle of whining, continually directing my energy toward negativity, and most importantly, having the complaining ease myself into a pattern of worrying.  I am a mega-worrier, and I think there's a big link between that and complaining.

The "no complaining" thing has been on my mind for a long time, and it reminded me a little bit of this article, which wasn't focused on complaining or general negativity so much as it was more about gossip or unkind words.  Also a valuable thing to examine further in your own life and habits!

For my perspective, not being tied into the dogma of religion, the 40 days is a bit of a trivial number for me.  There are experts who say it takes 21 or 28 or 100 days to build a habit, and plenty who throw 40 around as being significant either because of the religious/historical significance it holds or because a research study suggested people kept good habits after that amount of time.

Regardless of the length of time or the reason, I'm always in favor of a little more self-study (svadhyaya in yoga-speak) and self-improvement.  Whether you're observing Lent or not, I hope the next 40 days are good ones...and the best part is, by the time it's done, we'll finally be seeing the glorious light of SPRING!

Not that I'm complaining about the winter.  But...it is very cold outside.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Updated & Improved YoginiAnnie.com

Hello hello, kind readers of my blog!

Today is my only day (and it's really a half day) at home to get myself situated before the hubs and I head down south to Costa Rica for a week (!!!).  In between following up on doula to-do's, cleaning the apartment, watching the videos and doing the homework my physical therapist has assigned me, juicing, following up on bills, and making sure we aren't broke - I have a very exciting announcement!

After nearly five years, I finally got my website updated!  My wonderful friend Billy Griffin built this site for me back in March of 2010, and then we both took forever and a day to get it to the point where I could update it myself.  He put me in touch with a fantastic web guy, Kyle Walters who helped me get it to where it is right now.

To get an idea of how badly this website needed updating - I had never even heard of kids yoga, let alone Karma Kids, back in March of 2010.  I had taken only one introductory course of Thai Yoga Massage.  I had just barely gotten my 200 hour!  And I probably had never heard the word doula before.  So, yes - it needed a little sprucing up!

Now here it is, in all its glory.  Enjoy, and THANK YOU, Billy Griffin and Kyle Walters!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Inward & Onward!

Happy 2015!  As I and every other person who writes a blog on earth am wont to do in early January, I want to write just a little bit about my resolution/word/phrase for 2015.

I'm a huge New Year's nerd - the countdown to midnight, the black eyed peas for dinner New Year's Day, and the reflection.  Oh, the endless reflection and journaling and yoga-ing!  It's one of my favorite holidays by far.  Thanksgiving and Christmas are so much about being around loved ones and traveling to see family and celebrating with them, which is priceless and which I wouldn't trade for the world.  But for a reflective introvert, New Year's Day is a damn close second.

I tend to overdo resolutions, and like everyone else in the world, tend to see certain resolutions pop up again and again and again, year after year.  After awhile, it gets a little disheartening, but I love New Year's and resolutions way too much to become jaded and just give it up.  Instead, I've changed my tactic a little bit in recent years.

Instead of just one word as I've done in some years past (because that would be too simple), I felt compelled to choose two - Inward and Onward.  The idea of using these words as a guidepost for the year means that instead of seeing one concrete resolution as a success or failure - with a start and end-point - is that I can use them as a mantra throughout my days and when things get hard to help guide my everyday thought patterns and decision-making.

Housed within Inward
-More Being, Less Doing
-Less screen time (specifically - less time per day on the Book of Faces)
-Make the time when things are busy for things that will really nourish me, as tempting as reality cooking shows may be.  Writing, meditating, practicing, reading, etc.
and much, much more that I will spare you

Housed within Onward (inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert)
-Worry is futile - move on
-Take responsibility for the energy I bring into a room
-The oh so familiar and frequent regret after an over-indulgent meal or night at a bar or whatever it might be.  Enjoy it for what it was, learn from it - onward.
and much, much more that I will spare you


How do you do New Year's?  A word?  A phrase/motto?  A list of detailed resolutions, goals, and deadlines for said resolutions goals?  Or do you just say screw it and reach for another bottle of champagne?

The world could use a more peaceful year ahead which is what I ultimately wish for myself and all of you.  Happy 2015!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Ready to Run (Almost)

I want to mention something I've been meaning to write about since September - I'm not sure why it's taken me this long!

Starting in September, I started seeing an amazing physical therapist, referred to me by my incredible mentor.  I've been sidelined all year long post-marathon - first the scary hamstring pain before the marathon back in January, then the foot injury after the marathon, and then just as my foot was healed and I went to start running again...the hamstring pain came back.  I'd run, feel pain, then rest for a week or two (or four).  Then start again, the pain would come again.  Then gradually it became a part of my every day life, spread to my hip and glute, and would get worse after teaching classes.  I sought out a sports medicine doctor who ordered an MRI which showed me nothing at all (except a much emptier bank account).

So although I dearly wish it hadn't taken me from January til September to finally get to a physical therapist about this, I'm there now!  It took me a nine months to get to this point so I know I can't expect results right away, but the amount of help Fabricio, my PT, has given me in these three months since I've been seeing him is astronomical.  We even went on a few runs together, and I went on a few on my own.  We've held off the running because a) he wants me to be barefoot to help my foot strike and to improve my stride and it's freezing cold and b) after over-doing it on some of our strengthening exercises some of the pain was coming back.

I'm back to feeling great again, though, and I'm sure Santa will give me the means to get a Fabricio-approved running shoe and I'm so excited to keep going on my journey back to running in January.

I've gotten really despondent about this throughout the year.  Running, even more than yoga, is my primary stress reliever and mood booster when it comes to physical activity.  (I obviously love yoga, but I have a hard time keeping myself from analyzing the teacher and sequence!)  I was even experiencing pain after taking yoga classes so those were out too.  I also didn't want to wallow because so many people I knew this year were going through much worse physical trials than me.  I've been more sedentary and I know it's had an effect on my overall mood and health this year, which has been really hard.

What I've been learning through my PT work, though, has been so instrumental and changing the way I sit, stand, teach, practice, run, and do random functional activities throughout the day.  For my birthday, Fabricio gave me a book called Ready to Run by Dr. Kelly Starrett which has clearly been influencing the work we've been doing to get me back to running.  It's fascinating and so much of what it says has me saying, "Duh! Why have I not always been doing this?"  It talks so much about how much of injury prevention is in our own hands.  We have to get to know our own body mechanics, mobility, range of motion, limitations we can work on, sit less, use good posture, and perform daily maintenance on our bodies.

I can't recommend this book enough and I'm not even finished with it yet.  It's packed with exercises, mobility tests, foam roll/pressure point ball exercises for self massage and fascia release, and great information.  Whether you'd define yourself as an athlete, a yogi, or neither, this book is a must read!  Treat yourself to Ready to Run and you'll be so inspired to take better care of yourself in 2015.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Now is now

Although I have a couple of massages planned today, and I just spent several days not working due to the lovely Thanksgiving holiday, today feels like my first day off in awhile.  I think it's because I'm at home.  I'm at home, I'm alone, and as usual, I have a giant to-do list of things I want to accomplish, some of which I feel like I've been trying to accomplish for months now.

Something that wasn't on the list but that I just "accomplished" as I tried out a new oatmeal recipe - I finally finished rereading Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin.  I started re-reading this book in September, when Marc and I had just gotten back from seeing the babies and we were still very new to our beautiful new apartment.  I thought I'd follow along with the book, dedicating my own resolutions and changes and goals, making our home the happiest, most organized home EVER.  Of course, work and life got in the way, and my massive plan was put off.  But I still very much enjoy her writing and the entire concept of her Happiness Projects.  (In fact, I wrote a book report - I should start doing those again - on her first book, back in September of 2011)

Reading as I was cooking/eating this morning, I realized I had nearly unintentionally finished the book.  As one might expect, the last passage is particularly interesting and struck a chord with me - something that Marc and I had been talking about just this past weekend.

The notion of "being present" is so very challenging for so many of us because we tend to be focusing on either the past and the future, and most people tend more toward one than the other.  I am much more of a future-oriented person.  I have a pathological tendency toward planning.  Planning, daydreaming, anticipating, worrying - and I've lately gotten into a lovely habit of preparing for and imagining entire arguments or debates with people before they've even happened.  And of course - they might never happen.

In the last passage of her book, Rubin discusses the notion, one of her personal Splendid Truths, of, "Now is now."  She explains:

"One of the persistent follies of human nature is to imagine true happiness is just out of reach.  The "arrival fallacy" describes our tendency to believe that once we arrive at a particular destination, then we'll be happy. People generally expect the future will be slightly happier than the past; in one study, when asked where they thought they'd be in ten years, 95% of people expected their lives would be better in the future than in the past, and people already satisfied with their lives believed they'd be even more satisfied."

I can very much relate to that, as I think a lot of people can.  Regardless of how you'd describe your current state of happiness, there's so often with people a feeling of "Once I've accomplished this" or "Once I'm making this amount of money," or fill in the blank - then we can rest and bask in the glow of our happy present.

Rubin mentions a couple of times the idea of nostalgia, and pining for the "good old days," when in fact at some point, we will look back on right now with that nostalgia of it being the "good old days."  It makes me think of high school and college, which I so desperately loved, and being baffled by my friends who were so deeply anxious to graduate and get the hell out.  I, on the other hand, had to be dragged kicking and screaming across the graduation stage so badly did I want to stay in my comfort zone with my friends.  I had a strong sense that I'd look back and pine for those days, and I wanted them to last as long as I could.

Luckily, I can confidently say that as much as I loved those years, they were not the pinnacle of my life.  The happiest day of my life, still, as cliche as it might sound - was my wedding day.  And the reason for it is because - it was the most consistently present day of my life.  It was a day that had been so incredibly anticipated, with excitement but also a lot of angst and family drama surrounding it, that once it arrived I truly enjoyed every single moment of it.  And I didn't want to rush time, either - excited as I was to see Marc and for the getting-married part, I loved everything leading up to it as much as during and after.

Like high school and college, I don't want or expect my wedding day to be the pinnacle of my life.  I should hope I still have several decades of living to go beyond that one day, and how depressing would it be if it were all downhill from there?  But the biggest reason for why that day has been the best, outside of the friends, family, new husband, dress, cake, dancing, etc - it was because I was 100% immersed in every moment as it was happening.  I've had days where I've come close to that level of presence, but nothing's equalled it just yet.

I don't think life has one particular meaning, but for me, I live by the philosophy that, "The purpose of life is to enjoy every moment."  As Gretchen Rubin puts it, "Now is now."  If what's happening in this moment is good, bad, painful, joyful - it's still what's happening now, and it's meant to be felt and experienced to the fullest.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Forgiveness & Closure. And questions.

There's been a lot of change this year.  I write about it almost every week.  A lot of birth, growth, new beginnings, endings, sickness, brushes with death, and recently for me, ending a relationship.  (Not Marc!)

An ongoing family drama lasting almost two years now has come to a pretty firm conclusion the last two days.  The details beyond that are private and not really important, but it's obviously got me asking all kinds of questions and wondering about all kinds of things.

What is closure?  How do you forgive someone?  What do those words and concepts even mean?

Over the past several years, I think the concept of forgiveness has changed in our culture from something involved in repairing a relationship with a person to being much more focused on doing it for yourself - a way to free yourself of past hurt.  There's the simpler level of having a fight with someone, forgiving them, and truly being able to move forward with that relationship.  That is a bit more cut and dry and easy to understand (though not necessarily easy to do!)

Easier said than done, dude.
That idea of forgiveness as being more "for yourself" is especially helpful, I imagine, if the person you're trying to forgive has passed away or is just no longer in your life.  It's not about them validating you or forgiving you in return - it's about you.  Or you also read about extraordinary people who have forgiven the murderer of a friend or family member, talking about a need to free themselves from living a life of bitterness and resentment.  It makes sense, and sounds amazing.  It also sounds deceptively easy - but of course there's no way it can be easy!  Can it?  I suppose it's different for everyone.  The quote on the right I think typifies this type of thinking about forgiveness and working to let go of anger, however justified.

Closure is an even more open-ended concept to try to get my brain around.  What gives something the power of being "closure?"  How can you measure it?  What does it feel like?  If we're talking about something on a relationship level, you're dealing with at least two parties - what if one has closure and one doesn't?

I know these are really abstract questions.  I think they're abstract mainly because I tend to be more literal and more tactile.  It's probably why I've been more drawn to a spiritual practice that has such a physical component as opposed to a more traditional religion.

I realized last night, talking this through with Marc, that I've never been able to "achieve" forgiveness with anything beyond the most basic kind of working something out with a friend and moving forward in that relationship.  I haven't been able to get to a point where I've just decided to forgive something I'd categorize as major in my life.  Part of why I haven't is because I don't know what it feels like.  I don't know what it means.  It almost certainly doesn't take away feelings of sadness and anger and a feeling of being wronged or hurt.  If it's "for me," what does that mean?

It's the same feeling of uncertainty that comes up when I address the question of God.  I'm an agnostic because while I don't believe in God, I also know that I don't know for sure that there isn't a God.  I just don't know, and I don't feel I can presume to commit fully to one side of the spectrum or the other.

Relating that to the concepts of forgiveness and closure, I know that they aren't magic buttons you can press to make anger and sadness go away.  So what are they?  What does it mean?  What does it take to get there?  How can forgiveness set you free if the pain is still there?  And am I just being too damn literal about all this?

Any and all ideas are welcome.