Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Self care for the resistance

I was going to write much more about this, but it's one of those days where I honestly just don't have a lot to give.  Just posting feels like enough.  I fully admit that I am feeling beat down by all of the horrifying news that has been coming out.  Even if you put everything policy related aside, it's the attitude toward the press, purging the state department, firing the acting attorney general, and complete mismanagement and gag orders of government agencies that are really making it hard to sleep at night.

Luckily, we have helpful folks like this lady to help remind us to calm down and not operate in panic mode 24/7.  No one can survive that way - and no one can be useful that way.  Check out her article on medium.com here.

I promise next week I'll write with more perspective and elegance about how to find and embrace the good during these crazy times.  Today, I need to get away from the screen to not go crazy myself.


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Book Report: Plan B (and its extreme timeliness)

Well, hello there on a Sunday!  My designated day of the week to post is Tuesday, and more often than not I'm dragging myself kicking and screaming to the computer, either feeling like I have nothing to say or that I have so much to say that there's no way I could even start.

After a week like this, well...it's definitely the latter.

Other blogging challenges for me lately have been political.  I make no secret that I'm a liberal (also, I'm a yoga teacher living in New York City - it doesn't take a genius to figure that one out) but in the past I usually tried to avoid anything too political on this blog.  I have plenty of conservative family and friends who I love and I don't like the idea of alienating anyone.

What's happening now in our country, though, is way beyond politics.  It's not about liberal or conservative, it's about decency and respect for the truth, about keeping with our core American values.

Again, as a yogi it should shock no one that I gravitated toward the calm, measured, thoughtful, educated candidate who practices meditation as opposed to the one who can't name a particular group of people without putting the othering "the" in front of them (i.e. "the" blacks, "the" gays, "the" Mexicans), and who has said, "Show me someone without an ego, and I'll show you a loser."

Even her slogan of "Stronger Together" is all about the true essence of what yoga is - connection, yoking together, all things being one.  Hell, it's our country's national motto - e pluribus unum.  Out of many, one.  So I strive to be inclusive rather than divisive, and at the same time feel a profound patriotic duty not to remain silent when the stakes are this high.

So where does this book come in?

In our fearless leader's absence, the fabulous ladies' book club I've been a part of for years has been left in my care.  At my friend Laura's insistence, and given the struggles we have to look forward to, I chose for our next book Traveling Mercies, by Anne Lamott.  It's a memoir about her improbable conversion to Christianity after being raised by fiercely atheist/agnostic parents and friends in California during the 60's and 70's.  I'm not a Christian, but Laura and Lisa (aforementioned fearless leader of our club) are, and I always love talking faith and spirituality with them.  They always inspire me.

In anticipation of loving Lamott (I already loved her memoir on writing, Bird by Bird) I stocked up on her stuff before heading to Costa Rica.  I wound up leaving Traveling Mercies with my wonderful mother-in-law, as it's right up her alley.  She is also a devout Christian, and while she doesn't share Lamott's poltiics (or mine, for that matter), she also grew up in California around the same time and found a lot to relate to.

So after devouring Traveling Mercies, I moved right along to Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith.  It was written years after Traveling Mercies in the early throes of the Bush administration's tragic decision to go to war in Iraq.  It was so striking to find Lamott having such similar anxieties and feelings of writhing, angry powerlessness as I feel now.  It felt comforting to know she survived it - although I think we all agree we are in a wildly different league than with Bush.  At least he has class.

Although portions of Plan B would probably not be the most enjoyable read for a conservative - Lamott pulls zero punches with how she feels - it's not all politically focused.  Again, it's mostly a spiritual memoir about her faith, and she also talks a lot about being a mother, a friend, coping with her contentious relationship with her mother and her mother's Alzheimer's, and surviving life's challenges and tragedies.

Much of her books are collections of essays that Lamott has written for publications like Salon.  Happily, I can share with you in entirety one of my favorite essays of hers that had the most resonance.  This sentence in particular struck a chord in my heart, "I felt addicted to the energy of scorning my president.  I thought that if people like me stopped hating him, it would mean that he had won."  And thus follows an essay about one of the single hardest challenges of my life - the notion of forgiveness.

Later, she goes on to say:

Driving home, I tried to hold on to what I'd heard that day: that loving your enemies was nonnegotiable.  It meant trying to respect them, it meant identifying with their humanity and weakness.  It didn't mean unconditional acceptance of their crazy behavior.  They were still accountable for the atrocities they'd perpetrated, as you were accountable for yours.  But you worked at doing better, at loving them, for the profoundest spiritual reason:  You were trying not to make things worse. 


It touches on an element that I've struggled with a lot all election season.  To be passionate without going crazy.  To be informed without becoming obsessed.  To have some peace in your heart, even if the news makes you despair.  It's like the old quote, often attributed to the Buddha - "Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of hurting another person - you are the one who gets burned."

The entire essay is really worth a read:  "Loving Bush, Day 2."  And just go ahead and order the book, which is seriously worth it:  Plan B:  Further Thoughts on Faith

---

Yesterday was exhilarating.  The women's march in literally all 7 continents did my heart so much good.  To feel so connected, to feel so one, with so many people was heartening.

But it hasn't fundamentally changed anything - not yet, at least.  The work that is yet to be done is less fun, and much harder.  We still have a President who sends his press secretary to dispute accurate reporting on the size of his inauguration crowd instead of actual life and death issues facing this country.  In attempting to protect his ego, he puts us all at risk.

Yet even though I'm not a Christian, and even though I am sure as hell not a Trump supporter, and even though I don't pray with much regularity or structure or faith that I'm actually being heard - I'm going to pray for this President.  I have never prayed regularly for a President before, not even Obama.  He did just fine without my help.

But I will be praying every. single. day. that whatever forces or Gods are out there help him to keep us safe.  Help him to keep him off his goddamn Twitter.  Help him to see truth and seek truth to the best of his ability, even if it's not that great.  I will be praying that he listen to the better angels of his nature - and he must have some, he is still a human being.  I will be praying that he grows a semblance of thick skin, that he can ignore inevitable criticism and get to work.  I will pray his attention span grows.  I will pray every single day.

And I will donate, and I will call, and I will write letters, and I will march when there are marches, and I will do everything in my power to stop him from destroying this country that I love.  We are the popular vote.  We are not going away.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Whole 30 Round 4 / New Year's Round 2

So, tragically, we had to return to the US after a magical time in Costa Rica.  It was extraordinary beyond any description - we cried having to say goodbye, and have already made plans to return March 2018 to celebrate our 5 year wedding anniversary.

Every morning - with the exception of the morning we had surf lessons (so fun!!) - I did my very own yoga practice outside in an observation deck my father-in-law had built outside, just above the house.  Like the house itself, it has both a jungle view and an ocean view.  No guidance, no teacher but me.  No music, no soundtrack but nature.  I can't adequately describe how special and moving it was, each and every day, so I'll just the pictures speak a thousand words.

 It was so special getting to share my in-laws dream house with them and spending so much time together.  We were incredibly sad to part, but so grateful to them in knowing that this home is in our family forever.

Coming back, I wasted no time - Sunday was Day 1 of my 4th round of Whole30.  It's definitely the most whiplash-like I've ever done it, in the sense that the day before was full of non Whole30 foods and spent largely in the air, rather than in the kitchen prepping and cooking.
But having done it a few times gives me the advantage of having a predictable few simple, easy meals I can easily whip up.  My mom is joining me too, which always makes it easier and more fun!

So while I'm mourning the end of both vacation and the Obama administration, it feels like a second crack at New Year's.  A second crack at that feeling of fresh-start, of getting ourselves grounded.  Reaffirming resolutions, immediately taking drastic steps to improve my health on as many fronts as I can, and settling back in to our home sweet home feels really good.  Almost as good as the Costa Rican sun, but I'll still take it!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Adios for now...

Sitting down to write this, I'm 100% distracted by wondering if I remembered to do everything on the eve of our first vacation in two years.  Did I tie up all the loose ends at work?  Did I pack everything?  Prepare everything?

I'm in a fairly scattered place to be writing a blog, is what I'm saying.

2016 decided not to leave without throwing in a few parting shots so very typical of the year.  I came down with a New Year's cold (feels like my 407th since November) and jammed the bejesus out of my right big toe, in a repeat of a minor injury (that I never got treated because I am so foolish sometimes) I got about three years ago.  It doesn't quite want to straighten on its own and while I can move it through a full range of motion, I can't do that without pain.

So, sigh.

Small potatoes, and immediate challenges to my sunny 2017 attitude.  I am 100% someone who buys into the magic of The New Year and resolutions and intentions and all of that.  So two things that are sure to set me off to all of my super unattractive and super un-yogic traits of being angry and sad and frustrated and self-pitying - being sick and being injured.  Check and check.

Luckily, my word for 2017 - Light.

Lighten up.  Spread light.  All the myriad of ways you can think of it.  I want more light.

There is a lot of darkness to come in 2017, and I want to fight against it without becoming a part of it.

Luckily, I'm about to go to Costa Rica - where I can soak up light by the absolute barrel-ful.

So I'll expound and pontificate on that more when I get back - hopefully with a clean bill of health, a fully functioning right toe, a fully healed and pain free left plantar fascia and heel, and a tan - but for now, I leave you with one of the most beautiful songs that make me think of my 2017 intention.  You should all listen to it.  Track 10, the last track of this totally lovely album by Leo Sidran.