Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Savor

April started with one of the most extraordinary weekends - getting away from the city with beautiful women and a beautiful man in the mountains.  A lot is going on this month at work (birthday parties upon birthday parties upon holiday camp...), I'm trying to responsibly train for the Brooklyn Half Marathon next month (i.e. lots of stretching, foam rolling, and icing) and I'm ending the month by flying down to South Carolina to connect with my absolute bliss - being with my sister, her wonderful husband, and her gorgeous children.  (And to finally meet Emma, their saving grace who helps with the kiddos and school!)

Before that happens, and in the midst of all the Karma Kids madness, my best friend in the world is getting married.

I can't even express how excited I am and how anxious I am and how much I want everything to go off completely without a hitch and most importantly, how deeply I just want her to feel as completely and perfectly happy as possible.  I am so excited to see my parents, who are coming up for the event, and some of the best friends a girl could ever hope for who are flying or bus-ing in.

With all of this in mind - work, love, celebrations, travel - I sat at the end of March and decided that my mantra for the month needed to be:

Savor.

As I talked about in the last entry, a monthly mantra can sometimes be a way for me to actively engage in whatever yogic platitude I'm trying to bring into my life.  I think Savor touches on two points - being grateful and being present.  I'm hoping Savor can help me slow down a little bit, and truly enjoy the rare and special time that I get to spend with so many people that I love this month, celebrating so many unique and special once-in-a-lifetime moments.

When I tell myself to "be present," it sometimes triggers a mild little panic of wondering if I'm doing it right.  But to savor something - to savor that glass of wine, to savor a reunion dinner with beautiful friends who just moved home - I know how to do that.

This one is getting married in a few short days, and I can't even handle all the emotions I'm having.  So I'm just going to try to slow down, stay present, be so freaking grateful, and savor all of it.
Ruining her life with love in between her singing our first dance beautifully
and then slaying us with an epic toast.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Focus on the Positive

Happy almost-April!  March just flew by in a fabulous fury of schizophrenic weather, celebrations honoring my beautiful soon-to-be-married best friend, my 3-year-old marriage, my fantastic brother-in-law and his family, and LOTS of playing yoga.

Today I want to write about my monthly-mantra.  Over the last several years, in lieu of a ton of super specific and/or overly lofty New Year's Resolutions, I've instead attached a broader word or phrase to guide me through the year.  It's a really lovely practice that I highly recommend, and I wrote about how 2016's word is Kindness right around the new year.

Each month, though, presents its own plans and challenges and unique adventures, so I wanted to go back to a practice I used to do years ago and create a new mantra or goal(s) for each month - and this year, I wanted to make them a little more practical and actionable rather than just the vague idea of "let go" or "be present" or "practice gratitude."  These lovely phrases have oversaturated the world of yoga and are actually very hard for a lot of us to nail down and do day in and day out.  As any good acting teacher will tell you - be specific.  Play an action.

So my mantra this month - Focus on the Positive.  It's very, very easy to get into the habit of complaining and gossiping, which I freely admit to doing all the time, as most humans do, I think.  By attempting to keep this simple and entirely un-fancy phrase in the forefront of my mind as much as I can, I can help curb whiney thoughts, negative words, and impatient actions.  It's worked pretty well this month, but I found an even more beautiful way of putting that intention into action, thanks to a lovely friend and former co-worker:

"Today, I changed all my "I have to's" into "I get to's" and boy, was it beautiful."

I remember when she first posted that two years ago - the phrase stuck its way into my head for a long time, but I'd since forgotten.

That is simple, actionable, and truly remarkable change-making right there.  Those of us blessed enough to live in the US or another non-third world country where we can have all our basic needs met need this reminder.  Sometimes #firstworldproblems are legitimate sources of pain and struggle, but come one.  We get to commute to work to provide for ourselves.  We get to go to the grocery store to have the most insane amount of choices as to how we are going to nourish ourselves.  We get to spend an hour on the phone with our health insurance...I'm still sort of working on finding the gratitude in that one, but at least it means I have health insurance!

Try this simple, beautiful practice and see if it changes your perspective on the mundanities and challenges of your day.  Thank you, Amanda, for bringing it back to my attention!


PS - check out this lovely, more in-depth post about the "have to" vs. "get to."  It has a Christian bent rather than a yoga one, but it all works!  It also focuses on parenting, which I can only imagine is overwhelmed with "have to's" every day.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Book Report - Better than Before

Finally!  It only took a month but I'm finally ready to blog about one of the best non-fiction books I've read in a long time - Better than Before:  What I learned about making and breaking habits - to sleep more, quit sugar, procrastinate less, and generally build a happier life.  (Yes, that is a hell of a subtitle)


Perfection may be an impossible goal, but habits help us to do better.  Making headway toward a good habit, doing better than before, saves us from facing the end of another year with the mournful wish, once again, that we'd done things differently.
Habit is notorious - and rightly so - for its ability to control our actions, even against our will.  By mindfully choosing our habits, we harness the power of mindlessness as a sweeping force for serenity, energy, and growth."
-Better than Before, paperback page 12-

I've been a fan of Gretchen Rubin's books since 2011, when I read her first book on the subject of happiness, habits, and resolutions, The Happiness Project. It so inspired me that I followed in her prescribed footsteps to do my own happiness project, and I even followed it for quite a long time.

Rubin goes deeper in her latest book to talk about the minute architecture of our daily lives - our habits.  How we form them, how we keep or break them, why we may want to make or break particular habits, how we can strengthen them, and the almost innumerable ways in which we try to get out of doing what's in our own best interest.

As illustrated in the quote above, she highlights how when something is truly habit, we do it without thinking.  It's so deeply ingrained that, theoretically, we are able to exert little to no self control when acting on it.  As a yoga teacher, constantly inundated with the idea of "mindfulness" in day to day conversations, it was amazing and fascinating to discover all of the upsides of "mindlessness!"

Rubin begins by stating that in order to truly have clarity and take control over our life's habits, we first have to identify what our tendency is.  She divides people into four basic categories - Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels, based on their likelihood to respond to particular expectations of life.  Outer expectations would be defined as - meeting work or school deadlines, keeping particular appointments, etc., and inner expectations could be to keep a New Year's Resolution, stop snacking after dinner, quit snoozing, etc.

As she defines the basic tendencies -  (paperback page 16)
Upholders respond readily to both outer expectations and inner expectations
Questioners question all expectations, and will meet an expectation only if they believe it's justified
Obligers respond readily to outer expectations but struggle to meet inner expectations
Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike.

Obviously there's room for fluidity and variables within those definitions, which is why she calls them tendencies.  For instance, based on her more fleshed out descriptions in the book, I am 100% an Upholder...but that doesn't mean I always respond and meet outer/inner expectations perfectly.  (Her chapter on "Loophole spotting" hit close to home with every single sentence - my brain is excellent at figuring out ways to justify breaking healthy habits I want to keep for myself.)

But I do tend to do what I say I will, whether it's expected of me from a friend or my boss or just something I want to do for myself.  Maybe it's related to my deep-seated fear of being in trouble or rule breaking - but that's a deeper exploration for another time.

She also breaks down the "Essential Seven," or seven habits that reoccur most frequently when people sit and make a resolution, or decide to give something up for Lent, or are in some way inspired to improve their lives.  They boil down to:

1. Eat/drink better
2. Exercise
3. Save, spend, earn more money
4. Rest, relax, unplug
5. Stop procrastinating, accomplish more
6. Simplify, clean, and organize living/work space
7. Engage more deeply in relationships (personal and/or with God)
(paraphrased from Better than Before, paperback page 9)

Rubin says you first must know yourself in order to figure out which strategies will help yourself make or break the habits you desire - only then can you make real headway toward improving the above seven areas.  There is no one-size-fits-all approach to life, because if there were, the self-help section at bookstores and libraries wouldn't be the behemoths they are.

Better than Before is broken down into a lot of fairly small, easily digestible, chapters that delve into various strategies and tactics.  Though the chapters are small and easy to read quickly, they are dense - chock full of anecdotal examples and solid research.  There's a reason I felt the need to read this book twice before writing about it, and why I read The Happiness Project and its "sequel," Happier at Home over again almost immediately after finishing them for the first time.  Rubin is a disciplined writer who knows how to make every chapter, page, paragraph, and sentence count.    It's somewhat overwhelming the amount of information she packs into such a small, compulsively readable book.  (Compulsively readable if you're a huge nerd about habits, at least...)

This book is truly for everyone.  Who doesn't have habits they want to cultivate or break?  Who doesn't have areas in their life that are challenging, and are overwhelmed at figuring out where and how to start improving them?  Do you tend to set big lofty goals that are unachievable, and then discouraged when you don't achieve them?  Do you tend to procrastinate everything on your plate until you suffer the inevitable consequences?  Do you tend to put way too much on your plate for other people, and then suffer burnout because you haven't tended to your own needs and desires?

Better than Before offers strategies and solutions for every type of person.  You may find the entire book revelatory, as I did, or you may only find that some of it resonates with you.  (Not surprisingly, the fastidious Rubin is also an Upholder, so even though I don't identify with her on a lot in terms of our preferences and lives, there is a lot in her journey to which I can relate)  This book, despite its subtitle, doesn't dictate any specific habits she believes people should adopt, or tell you that just because the author is happier waking up at 6am and not eating sugar that you should too.  It's up to each individual to decide what they need to be happier - Gretchen Rubin is just doing the work of laying out roadmaps to help us get there.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Micro-Manager

Happy Tuesday!  I wanted to write a quick entry today touching on my completion of my second Whole30 (hooray!), my subsequent control issues, and a concept introduced by who other than Gretchen Rubin, my habits-and-virtue muse.  This could get a little neurotic and ramble-y, so...enjoy.

As of February 1st, I finished my second Whole30 and it was overall a smashing success.  By including eggs this time around I didn't spend quite as much money as last time (where I'd need meat of some kind with every meal), and by teaching myself to make a fabulous roast chicken I saved money and opened the door for all kinds of other yummy treats, like homemade bone broth.

The downside - not having Marc around, being home alone on cold winter nights - it was much, much harder to fight my emotional cravings for chocolate and alcohol.  Especially the weekend of the blizzard!  I tend to eat when I'm bored, and while I relish having alone time, it was just easier to distract myself and keep myself disciplined and motivated when Marc is home - even if he is eating cheese and crackers.  I probably over-did it a little bit on figs and almond butter (my favorite Whole30 "treat") and next time I might ban that from my list of Whole30 approved foods, but overall it went well.

The following week I was very careful about what I re-introduced and when - basically just natural sugars, wine, and dairy - and kept to a mainly Whole30 style of eating.

And then - the weekend.  Drinking with family.  A lack of real food available at the hotel with Marc's parents lead to a reunion with my old and dear friends, Cheetos and M&M's (Cheetos!!!  Nostalgia in a bag).  And then - the SuperBowl!  I bought Whole30-compliant treats only to succumb to the inevitable tortilla chip love-fest that is SuperBowl Sunday.  Between the copious amounts of drinking, the food, and my allergies to the lovely animals owned by our friends who are hosting Marcus, I felt a bit of a wreck waking up yesterday.  And of course, I couldn't quite tell what cause was causing what effect because it all came on like a glorious, delicious tidal wave of sugar and things I'm allergic to.

My usual mental and emotional route would be to wallow in regret and recrimination and frame it as thirty plus days of discipline completely down the drain, but that's just melodramatic and silly.  All I can do is learn from it, notice how I felt and if it was worth it, and move on.

It got me thinking of the concept of a mental or internal Manager as brought up by Gretchen Rubin in her latest book Better than Before.  In my own brain, I'd titled this concept as my "higher self," but it's basically the same thing.  We all have a little voice in our head that's the Responsible One, that knows what's best for us, even when (and especially when) it's not necessarily the most fun or delicious or enjoyable thing.  The Manager knows it would be more responsible to dip the veggies in guac instead of half a bag of the Tostitos.  The Manager knows two glasses of wine will lead to a better night's sleep than four.  The Manager has a responsible plan, and it's up to us whether we as the actual real human will act on the advice of management or on...whatever else.  Call it impulse, call it self destruction in some cases, or just call it lightening the hell up and enjoying yourself.

The Whole30 is not a way of life 365 days a year, and it doesn't purport itself to be.  It's a way to get information on your physical, mental, and emotional relationship with food, and that bleeds over past food into other areas of life as well.  But it does become a habit after 30 days, and it's a precarious thing to suddenly change your habit and move into uncharted territory - what they call "nutritional off-roading."  The hope is that you take the mindfulness that you've cultivated and use it to make purposeful, thoughtful, deliberate choices about what you consume.  That your Manager Self has been strengthened through the past 30 days of killing your sugar addiction and eating healthy, nourishing meals.

This is the type of thing that I over-think about a lot.  I think part of why I can go to such an over-indulgent extreme in SuperBowl party-type situations is because I can be such a tightass in others.  The opposite of a profound truth is usually also true, and we all have contradictions within our personalities.

If we all lived our lives by letting our managers call the shots 100% of the time, we'd all probably be a lot more responsible, healthier, and better-rested.  But dear God, we'd be so bored and boring.

Food is really just a microcosm of so many other choices and challenges in life, and in how we deal with the things that are in control (and so little in life is truly in our control).  Finding that role of the Manager in each of us and deciding how much and how little power to give it is a constant struggle but one that I think is crucial to each person wanting to live better.

Does this resonate with anyone?  Whenever I write about or think about this topic, I always think I'm maybe slightly more insane than the average bear on this.  Maybe I just need to have a drink and relax.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Creative Living (Part One)

Rare night-time blog!  Rare because my desire to do anything at all productive almost always goes down with the sun, which should also explain why this week's blog is basically a link to a video.

This is a Part One because I will inevitably purchase and read (and I'm guessing - love) Elizabeth Gilbert's latest, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear and inevitably write about it.  However, this amazing little gem popped up through the magic of Facebook earlier this week.

There's a 18 minute video of actor and playwright Tracy Letts giving his advice for living a creative life, accompanied by an annotated list of his 10 top pieces of advice.  Because my attention span is as short as I'm guessing most people's is these days, I just read the list at first, but, at Marc's recommendation, I've now watched the video as well, and it's well worth the time.  Just think of it as 6 three-minute cat videos or Hamilton clips or whatever it is you typically waste your time with and it won't seem so big and intimidating.

His first piece of advice, for me, is the best one - Do Nothing.  He's not saying to meditate, just...Do Nothing.  Don't listen to anything.  Don't watch anything.  Don't mess with your phone.  Just. Sit.  Let your mind wander.  As he says, "...pretty soon you'll stop thinking about your problems or your schedule or your failings and your mind will start to wander and you'll start to fantasize.  You will start to daydream."

It's incredible how rarely we do nothing.  I'm honestly hard pressed to find a moment of my day where, if I'm not doing something, I am consuming something.  Podcasts, TV, music, a book, the news.  I can feel that my brain misses that freedom because there are times I'm walking down the street listening to a podcast and I realize I haven't been paying attention to the last five minutes - and then, and only then, do I turn it off and just walk.  I wait for my brain to beg for it and tell me out loud that it needs some free time.

It doesn't have to be a long time.  He advocates a half hour, which I'm ashamed to admit sounds terrifying and impossible to me.  But how glorious for our brains to get that space and that freedom!

Here is the link again, if you didn't click it up above.  If nothing else, give the list a read.  It's fantastic advice for tuning into your creativity - and whether you're an artist or an accountant, our own personal creativity helps all of us lead happier and more successful lives.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Whole30, Take 2

Happy Tuesday!

I had originally planned on doing a book report entry on Gretchen Rubin's Better than Before, but I loved the book so much that I feel like it deserves a second, closer look before I write about it.  It's so densely packed with fantastic, helpful information that it needs a better entry than I could write at the moment, as I'm a bit short on time.

Instead, I'll write about what many people are probably sick of hearing about - my second Whole30!

This is my second Whole30, but my first time doing it with friends who actually live in the city.  That's been a fantastic boost to the overall experience - in addition to sharing recipes and tips and commiserating with my awesome mom, who is doing the Whole30 with Jim, I can do the same with besties who live right here in Queens.

There are way more soups and fewer salads this time around, as opposed to gloriously warm June.  I have more kitchen toys to play with and have roasted and trussed my first few chickens - a delicious way to stretch my Trader Joe's dollars!

My favorite thing about the Whole30 - even more than feeling lighter and having more energy - is the mental affect it has on me.  First, it frees me from the daily mental battles I have with myself when I'm not eating Whole30 of how much and when to eat chocolate, cheese, tortilla chips, wine, and my other vices.  It's a constant battle between my desires and my manager-self and it goes on 24/7 in my head.  Gretchen Rubin actually talks about this - moderators vs. abstainers.  Sadly for me and my sweet tooth, I function much more happily as an abstainer.  More on that in the book report!

Second, it keeps me hyper aware and hyper accountable.  There is no room for cheating or slip-ups if you're committing to the Whole30 as written.  There's no crazy portion control or calorie counting either, but in terms of what you eat - no wiggle-room allowed.  This helps me to notice my near reflexive-like reach to the chip bowl at a party, it helps me to notice that I don't need alcohol to have fun and I don't need dessert after a meal.  So much of people's social identity tends to get wrapped up in what they do and don't consume and the habits therein - it can be scary to go a different way and buck expectation, but it's so freeing.

Tomorrow brings a new Whole30 challenge I have not yet faced - Traveling on the Whole30!  I'll only be gone for a day and a half, but I'm a little nervous about my plans for feeding myself while I'm gone - and my first ever opening night party with Marc without a celebratory drink! (or five!)  Luckily, I have an incredibly supportive husband who is well versed in the Whole30 rules by now, and I'm confident it'll go well.

Today is Day 18 of 30 - more than halfway there!  If you're interested in doing your own Whole30 or just learning more about it, check out http://www.whole30.com

Sunday, January 10, 2016

2016 - The Year of Kindness

Well hello!  Just under the three month mark - yikes!

Upside of a warm Thanksgiving in Jersey
Appropriate that my last pose was at the end of October, considering Halloween always ushers in the period of absolute madness.  Everyone's lives get more rushed and busy around the holidays, but with my family, we also have birthdays and milestones and just...madness.  From my sister's birthday, Marc's and my dating anniversary, to sweet Caleb's birthday, and Thanksgiving all in November, we then move to December for both of our birthdays and Christmas and New Year's.

This cutie pie turned 1 in November!
This year, we added another thrilling milestone to celebrate every December - our third beautiful nephew, my sister's third beautiful baby and second son, and our FOURTH niece/nephew overall (in under 17 months!!!) - Kai Arthur Arel was born on December 2nd, 2015.  He was a whopping 10 lbs and absolutely beautiful, looking like an combination of Jeremy, Jeremy's dad, and my sister.  So in addition to regular holiday travel, I left for South Carolina to meet this big chunk of love the day after my birthday - after nearly a week of celebrating my birthday by welcoming one of my all-time best friends ever from California, the incomparable Katie Parker, to stay with us.

Needless to say, 2015 went out with a bang, a full heart, and so much celebratory food and drink.  I'm so thrilled to say that I'm on Day 9 of my second Whole30 and it's going really well so far.  Marc's not around to be my accountability man this time as he's in Philly, but I have two close friends who are also doing it, which means girl dinner dates!

Zoe's in heaven (we were too)
More than that, I read and just finished this morning another fantastic book by the author of The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin, called Better than Before.  I definitely plan to write a "book report" post about that, so stay tuned if you're an absolute self improvement/habit nerd like I am.  Between the natural New Year's motivation to have good habits, the book, and Whole30, I've been feeling very virtuous and like 2016 has gotten off to a great start.

Every year I also choose a word or a phrase to strive toward or use as an overarching guide for how I want to think or feel or act.  I've been doing this since 2009 (which holy crap is seven years ago now) and some themes stick better than others, but I keep the practice up anyway.  More often than not, it's something geared more toward living happier, living healthier, being more disciplined - but it's always inward focused.  It's always about me.  This makes sense, as most people's New Year's Resolutions are about how they want to live their own lives.

My hair is delicious
I got to thinking, though, that there's a big danger of isolationism (for an introvert like me) or just plain narcissism in relentless attention to self improvement with nothing to balance it out.  So, I settled on a word that benefits me by helping me to treat myself better and be the kind of person I want to be, and more importantly, benefits others at the same time - and that word is Kindness.  Toward others, toward myself; in action or just in thoughts (for instance, not automatically spewing mental impatience and silent insults toward slow walkers...that one will take some serious practice!), I want more kindness.

Lord knows the entire world could use more of it, in its current fraught state, and since the only thing I can control is me - there you go.  There is a tendency for some in my family and in my city to be judgmental, to focus on the negative, and to complain, and that's not the kind of person I want to be.  That's not the example I want to set for my future children - or the kids I work with now, or my niece and nephews.  I believe even though I have that side of my nature, I also have an incurable optimist's nature as well.

Through reading Rubin's book, there were many other words and phrases that leapt out at me that would be great words, but I'm sticking to my guns (so to speak) and trusting that using the idea of Kindness - even if it means one tiny change in how I might think or speak a day - is what I need for this year.

Finally, before I close, I want to say how absolutely beyond grateful I am for sweet baby Kai's health, for my sister and her husband being spectacular parents, and for my mom and Jeremy's parents being such loving parents & grandparents.  I am so deeply, deeply grateful to my husband, his family, and my friends for their support and prayers past week when we had a big scare with Kai's health.  I've never been more frightened in my life than I was this past Wednesday, and never more relieved than I was yesterday.  Life is so precious and ridiculously fragile, and it's too damn short not to be kind.

Sweet Super-Kai, feeling strong.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Reset

When teaching my prenatal yoga classes, I always give the same schpiel when I first bring my class into child's pose.  I let them know they can come to this pose at any time throughout class for any reason if they need a break, even if I don't guide them there; that it's a chance to hit the reset button and come back to their steady breath, their intention, and to completely relax their body; and I say that it's just as important if not more important to learn how to tap into that relaxation and release as it is to master the more physically challenging poses of class.  I talk about that intention - something they are to keep their mind focused on throughout class with the expectation that the mind will 100% wander off and get distracted - and how each child's pose is a chance to come back to it, no matter how far off you veered, without judgement.

In labor, the body gives you a break in between contractions.  The body is designed to give you that rest and release in between the intensity (however maddeningly brief it might be), and if you're already in the habit of taking rest where you can get it - and as best as you can, not worrying about what happened before or about what's coming next - you'll be that much more prepared and present to take whatever comes at you next.

Today I finally started my day with my morning ritual I'd set out for myself that includes Brain Gym exercises (which I could have sworn I'd blogged about before but apparently not, so that'll be a future entry!), meditation, journaling, etc etc.  I traveled down to northern VA for five days earlier this month to visit one of my best friends of all time, her husband, and their gorgeous gorgeous baby boy.  And who wants to meditate when there's a baby to play with?

A few days after I got back, I developed one of those low-grade, nagging change-of-season colds.  I don't know if it was the preschoolers, the weather, or both, but something got me and just had me dragging for a week.  The travel, the cold, the various schedule shakeups - it was all I could do to drag myself out of bed in the morning in time to get to work, let alone meditate.

Now - I'm finally back.  My Tuesdays are finally just for getting chores done in Astoria (and the return of book club tonight!!!) and I got up extra early with Marc, who headed off to Philly before the sunrise for a day of workshopping the exciting new play he'll be working on this winter.

So - finally - ritual.

And it occurred to me while I was meditating for the first time in awhile that my normal reaction would be to worry and feel guilty and feel like the worst yogi ever for letting so much time slip since I had done my own practice, and how hypocritical, etc etc.  But how hypocritical of me to judge myself for being human when I continually tell my students - the mind wanders, we falter, but all we can do is reset without judgement.

Reset without judgement.  

Even if you do it a billion times during your class, your day, your life - you're still building mental strength and receiving benefits.

It also reminded me of one of the funniest quotes I've read in ages - a friend was sharing an article about the silliness of 'food guilt' on Facebook and pulled out this quote that has stayed with me all week:  "Unless you baked that chocolate cake with blood from a murder, there is no need to feel guilty about it."

I think we sometimes use the feeling of guilt as an effort to keep ourselves on track.  At least I know I do.  If I don't have the presence of mind to feel guilty for slipping up on something I care about, what's to keep me on track for next time?  It sort of makes sense except that a) it's unrealistic and b) why give myself negative motivation when I can give myself positive motivation instead?  And also just plain not take myself so seriously?

Meditation, eating well, being patient with people - insert whatever virtue you struggle with here - it makes us feel better.  When we do it, it's good.  When we don't do it - guilt is absolutely pointless.  If it served a purpose, we'd all be perfect.  Instead, just notice how the absence of whatever that virtue you strive for makes you feel and at the earliest opportunity - reset.

Life will knock you off your path with sickness, with a few random curveballs that make your busy week busier, and with just plain lack of motivation.  It's the coming back to your intentions and the ways in which you take care of yourself that matters, not whether you do it every single day perfectly.  Even if you get knocked off and have to get back on track a billion times, it's the coming back that matters.

This has gotten a little unwieldy and rambley and I feel like there's so much more I want to say on this subject, but I'm going to post it anyway in hopes that it at least resonates with someone.  I suppose the point is - less guilt, more love.  And more taking advantage of opportunities to reset ourselves.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Spontaneous Sunday!

For someone who likes schedules and plans and preparation, I can be extremely impulsive.  When I get excited about an idea, I often leap forward full speed ahead without a ton of deep forethought, stubbornly convinced it's a good thing to do.  This is occasionally a huge fault, and occasionally a huge asset.  I'm pretty sure this time it's an asset, but with all of my spontaneous decisions, only time will tell.

My sister and I at the 10K point of our
very first half marathon
Last night (so I guess on Spontaneous Saturday...) I read my first issue of Runner's World in a really long time - probably not since shortly after I got injured after the marathon in January 2014.  My subscription inexplicably ran out and since I couldn't run and felt depressed about it, I didn't renew.  It's an excellent magazine and I forgot how every single time I read it I get a massive burst of inspiration and excitement.  As a result, before I had even read the last page, I had decided to register for and run the NYC Half Marathon in March of 2016.  My big return to distance running was going to be the Brooklyn Half in May, but I counted out the weeks and my rough estimate of my training needs and decided I could do both.

From there, I naturally started thinking about one of the two things currently on my bucket list.  Item #1 - Have a baby.  Not ready for that one yet, and that would've been a weird thing to think of next, so it was obviously Item #2 - Run the NYC Marathon.

As a New York Road Runners member, I can gain entry if I run in 9 races and volunteer for 1 in the 2016 calendar year.  I've thought about it for a loooong time over the years, and my injury put an indefinite hold on my fantasies of crossing that finish line in Central Park after running through all five beautiful boroughs.  I'm feeling strong enough though - and more importantly, much smarter about my body than I was pre-injury - that I think it's time to put a real live actual date and goal out there.

November 5th, 2017.  It's gonna happen.


The next spontaneous thing is slightly less earth shattering...or at least it would be if I were a little less neurotic.

I deleted Facebook off my phone.

Half of those reading this probably wonder why this is a big deal at all, and the other half are probably shuddering in horror.

I'm not deleting my account  - there's no way I could cut myself off from that many baby pictures from all my family and friends and students and clients - but I have so much to read both for doula training, running, yoga, and pleasure, and Facebook absolutely dominates my commute.  More often than not, I stay on it longer than necessary and get sucked down a rabbit hole of political depression and upsetting news stories.  That's not to say I won't follow news or political issues important to me anymore, but I just need to be a better guardian of how much energy I'm putting toward something that isn't giving me a whole lot in return.

So there you go.  Spontaneous Sunday.  Decisions both big and petty - it's all happening.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Hashtag Blessed

Not being of any religious persuasion, I've never really felt compelled to wish someone a "blessed day" or to use the word blessing too often in describing my own life or someone else's situation.  (Also, my mom would look at me like I had 3 heads if she heard me wishing someone a blessed day.  She has a funny thing about it...)

The older I get, though...Between two of my best friends on this planet earth being devout and Christ-like Christians, my deep foray into the "Slumber Party Theology" (to crib a term Elizabeth Gilbert references in Eat, Pray, Love - which I'm falling back in love with, but that's another story) that is being a yogi in this day and time and place, and between my work and my life circumstances taking the direction that it has been taking...damn.  I feel the need to throw myself on the floor in gratitude sometimes for how ever-lovingly blessed I feel.  I feel the word cross my mind and on my lips more and more as the years go by.

Becoming a doula was really daunting, and I put off going down that road for a long time.  It had been on my mind, and my mentor, Juliana, saw it in me and kept predicting that it would happen and urging me to do it.  But it was too much time, I didn't have space for it, it was too scary, too real.  And after the gracious and selfless and phenomenal work of my sister's two birth doulas helping to make A+Z's arrival the once-in-a-lifetime family event that it was for my sister and brother-in-law, after seeing the positive effect that having doula support had on their new family...

I only feel mildly self-conscious in using this term - I felt called to do it.

This past week, I attended my longest birth so far as a doula.  It won't be the longest I ever attend.  It had a lot of factors that made it new and exciting and unique and scary, and because I want my clients to trust my promise of confidentiality I won't go into great details.  I will say that I felt such a deep connection with this couple that it was truly an honor to be there with them.  I loved every minute of it, even the minutes fraught with uncertainty and fear and waiting waiting waiting.  To be a part of their once-in-a-lifetime experience...I can't express my gratitude to have been able to have been a part and to have helped.

Sundays I usually like to have my whole day open so I can do...whatever.  My laundry.  Watch Orange is the New Black until my eyeballs pop out of my head.  Today, I took a class for myself, gave a Thai Yoga Massage, met with a new doula client and her husband, and attended the 3rd birthday party of a wonderful little boy I've known since he was...I don't even know - maybe 3 months old?  My husband finally got to meet the beautiful community of Astoria moms and their kids that I've known through The Giving Tree Yoga Studio and loved for roughly 2.5 years, some of them when their babies were still in the belly.

I mean...damn.

The words "blessed," "grateful," "honored," "humbled" - a lot of them are overused, used for humble-bragging, for compliment-fishing, and because of that they're so often dismissed or used ironically.  Lord knows I love mockery as much as the next guy.  But I find sometimes it makes it difficult to truly express those pure feelings.  Because it's naive?  It makes people uncomfortable?  It makes them roll their eyes and gag a little bit at the saccharine of it all?  It shines a light on an element of their own life that maybe isn't going so great?

For better or for worse - the Internets are here to say.  Good, bad, ugly - it all gets out there these days.  We're the guardians of how much we share and how we share it.  My life isn't perfect and it's not always sunshine and rainbows, but dammit - I just feel really, really, really, really blessed today.  I could not love what I do more.  As one of my heroes, Buddy the Elf would say, "I'm in love, I'm in love, and I don't care who knows it!"

And to make up for all the joy, if it's too much for your modern sensibilities - a great NYTimes article on the use and abuse of #blessed on social media.  Enjoy.