Observations on Being Without Power.

 

467a7ad4d1bdc223fa13e7b2b6b4ed68

Image found via Pinterest.

Our state recently experienced an historic power outage due to winds of up to 60 miles per hour. My house was without power for over 72 hours. Here are a few things I observed.

Of course there is the initial annoyance. No power (and no generator) meant no lights, no heat, no water, no refrigerator. At first, it wasn’t that bad. It almost felt like a reprieve from normal life. But soon, it got old. I went to the bookstore for the afternoon to get warm and charge my phone and laptop. That night, my husband and I drank some wine and played a few games of Cribbage by candlelight. Sweet, fun and a little romantic. But waking up to a really cold house the next morning, the reprieve glow had worn off. I went to the gym to work out and take a shower. My daughter and I tried to find a place to get warm and charge our phones but every place was full. So, we got food to go and went to the yoga studio where I teach. No classes in the middle of the day so we had it to ourselves: warmth, wifi, outlets to charge. All in all, a pretty nice afternoon especially since I wrote over 2000 words on my current WIP.

That night we stayed in hotel where my husband had a business meeting. Perfect timing. Enjoyed a warm bed and a hot tub. Woke up to news that the power was back. Yay! On my way home, my daughter called to say the power was NOT back on. Boo!

I began to notice how easily swayed my mood was by things completely out of my control. I found myself getting incredibly irritated when the DTE app hadn’t updated the repair status and that irritation began to spill out all over the place. It made me wonder how often I let my mood be influenced by things out of my control. How often did I let irritations pile up and feed off each other until I was just miserable to be around for myself and others?

Each time I walked into a room, I hit the light switch. Every. Single. time. It made me realize how ingrained our habits are. It made me wonder what else I do just out of habit, basically on auto-pilot?

As the irritation began to build I realized that I was just waiting to get the power back. Just waiting. Filling time until everything was back to normal That’s what drinking the wine was about the first night. Let’s make this a little less uncomfortable and make the time pass a little easier. I wonder how often I did that, bypassing what was uncomfortable, waiting for things to happen that I want to happen.

As offers to use friends’ refrigerators or freezers to save our food, or their house for warmth or an invitation to sleep in their spare room came in, I found how awkward I felt when offered such gifts. I have no problem at all offering such gifts to others, but receiving is not easy for me. Even when it was my best friend in the whole world. She had me come down to her home for the day where she made me a fresh salad, had bought my favorite tea and crackers. I said, “My gosh you are spoiling me.” She said with a lot of passion that somebody should spoil me, that I deserve it. That I take care of everyone else all the time and the sometimes I needed to be taken care of myself. I heard the words, and I tried to receive them with an open heart but I could feel myself closing up against them. How often do I refuse to ask for help or feel guilty when accepting it?

Finally, being powerless felt like a huge, neon metaphor for how I’ve felt since the election. Certain things are just out of my control no matter how many calls I make, marches I attend, petitions I sign, meetings I go to, postcards I send.

So, with so many things out of my control, what is within my control? Always my response. Always. I chose to get irritated by the power being out. I chose to check the app twenty-five times a days, hoping to see an update. I chose to drink several large glasses of wine to escape the situation in front of me. But I also chose to seek out warmth. To continue my meditation practice even if just for two minutes. I chose to continue showing up to my current WIP, making progress despite what was going around me. Chose to notice when it felt uncomfortable accepting offers of help. I chose to accept the help anyway, learning to get comfortable with it.

Now that the lights are back on, I hope to stay aware of what is in my power, and what is not. To stay awake to my habits instead of sleepwalking through my days. To be grateful for help when it is offered and brave enough to ask when I need it, believing that I am deserving of it. To be grateful for all that I have that I blindly take for granted as I easily flip on a light switch to light up a room or turn on the faucet to receive water or open the refrigerator full of fresh food.

Just like Dorothy, the power is always within us.

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Image found via Pinterest.

 

#AMonthofFaves2016~ These are a Few of my Favorite Things

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things #AMonthofFaves2016 – eg. to eat, drink, wear, smell, see, do, enjoy, best thing I bought, most used gift received etc, favorite concert, outdoor activity, place visited, most squee worthy moment of the year, biggest change.

So…2016. It’s been called the dumpster fire of years. With good reason. And it’s easy to settle into a permanent state of angst but forward momentum is needed. In that spirit, I am reviving my blog by participating in this challenge that I saw via Andi of Estella’s Revenge.

Favorite home improvement: My writing space! We (and by “we,” I mean my husband and my best friend), ripped up the cat-pee smelling carpet and laid this beautiful dark wood laminate. I got a couple of new, comfortable chairs, displayed the old typewriter my husband got for my birthday and it feels like a whole new space. So much energy and potential. I just breathe easier the minute I step across the threshold.

my-writing-space

Favorite squee worthy moment of the year: My BFF since we were 14 moved to the area! We haven’t lived in the same state in over 20 years. Now, she’s only 30 minutes away. We hang out on random weeknights and have dinner together, go the movies, yoga, the park. She loves to play and go do fun things which will be great for me when my default is to just hibernate.

Favorite item of clothing: This fun, comfortable cardigan from Dry Goods. It is so me!

sweater

Favorite new TV show: “This Is Us.” The characters are so rich, the unique structure enriches the stories and it is just real. I cry almost every week, so it basically replaced “Parenthood.”

This Is Us - Season 1

Favorite drink: Mimosas because we only have them on special occasions like Thanksgiving and Christmas morning and that means my girls are home! Win/win!

mimosas

Favorite thing I bought: This super cute, super versatile skirt from “The Happy Woman” in Sutton’s bay. The snaps allow it be any size you need it to be. The waistband and skirt are both reversible so it has 4 different looks. Plus it comes with a little purse that is perfect for my phone. Looks great with black tights and boots.I just love it!

skirt

Favorite book I read this year: “The Chronology of Water.” Hands down. It changed what I believe writing can be, what it can do. Read my reflection here.

chronology-of-water

Favorite meme:‘Nuff said.

fave-meme

The Art of Belonging.

you-belongjpg

You belong.

Those two words are plastered all over the gym I recently joined. I see them on every piece of equipment. They swim up at me through a haze of sweat and heavy breath as I push through the cardio cycle of the treadmill or elliptical or bike. I know it’s a marketing ploy. It’s their hook. Everybody is welcome there, not just lunks.

But still.

There’s something about those two little words that tug at me.

You belong.

Doesn’t the root of most unhappiness come down to a feeling of not belonging? We feel different. Outside. Other. And we try to hide the shame of being different behind wine, cigarettes, food shopping, social media, drugs, TV. Whatever will momentarily numb the discomfort of not belonging.

You belong.

I do?

It’s a question the whispers at the edge of my consciousness, tinged with hope rather than disdain.

I belong.

My yoga practice helps me feel like I belong in my body.

Meditation helps me feel I belong in this moment, just as I am.

Writing helps me feel I belong to the world within and around me as I struggle with words and stories that reveal what I care most about at any given moment.

So, as I climb imaginary hills and bike imaginary distances, I appreciate seeing the words “You belong” gazing up at me, a simple yet powerful reminder that I belong in this body, in this moment, with heart thumping and sweat dripping, breathing hard and fast in this one body that belongs to me and me to it.

 

You Belong ~ Kim Haas

You belong in this skin with its freckles and lines and scars.

You belong in this body—the body you are in now, not when you are ten pounds lighter or the one from ten years ago but this body right now in all its glorious imperfect beauty.

You belong in this life with the family you were born into whether it is fractured or whole, nurturing or absent. You chose them for a reason, so you belong.

You belong wherever you stand at any given moment on this earth.

You belong to this family of humans, all desperate to belong, to find their place out in the world when the real belonging takes place deep inside each of us.

You belong to the Universe of stardust and moonlight.

To the ebb and flow of the tides.

To brother crow and sister snake.

You don’t have to prove you belong. The fact that you are here is the proof.

You, dear one, belong here, now, just as you are.

 

The Constellation of Cousins.

rich rene and me

Cousins.

Of the same family, yet not.

Cousins are like separate constellations within the same universe.

cousins christmas

My cousin, Richie, is part of his own constellation now. He died on Thursday.

I consider him my closest cousin. We were a year apart. We grew up together, spending holidays and summers together. He was like a big brother to me—teasing me, teaching me to stand up for myself. We leg wrestled. We fought. We played. We hung out. We grew up, grew apart.

My family moved away when I was 12, but Richie and I reconnected when I was 18 or 19. He was in the Navy and got stationed in Philadelphia where I was going to art school. We started hanging out, getting to know each other again. He’d tell me about his friends but if they showed any interest in me, he’d get all big brother protective, telling them to leave his cousin alone. I remember he found graham crackers in my apartment and wasn’t surprised. He said that I had always loved them. I was touched that he remembered this small thing about me and it hit me that I missed having somebody around who had known me for so long.

After Philly, we lost touch. The occasional phone call, the family reunion here and there. I saw him twice in the last year. Once was happy and the other so sad. He came to my home for my daughter’s grad party. Then I went to his son’s funeral.

Milestones in two lives that had intertwined yet went their separate ways.

He is gone, yet not. Just as he remembered I liked graham crackers, I remember things about him like how he loved to cook. His wife, children, sisters, parents, cousins, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles and friends—all of us who knew him will remember him. And will make sure that his sweet, sweet grandchildren know who he was.

Good-bye, cousin. May you find peace in this new constellation you are part of.

Richie

The Necessity of Structure.

dress forms

Image found via Pinterest.

I just played with my first haiku since high school.

As part of the Write Yourself Alive challenge, I am trying to do the prompts that, well, challenge me.

Poetry challenges me.

Structured poetry challenges me even more.

But here’s what I learned. Or, maybe, it’s something I remembered.

Structure is essential to creativity.

It seems counterintuitive, I know. Creativity is free flowing,exactly the opposite of structured.

But nothing gets done without a structure.

All those pages I have filled over the years would have just stayed pages of free-writing, or practice unless I came up with a structure to contain them whether it was a story, novel, essay, blog post or even just a Facebook post.

We need to structure our time or nothing gets written or created. Nothing gets finished. Nothing gets submitted or shared with the world.

My yoga mat is a type of structure. My practice is a container for my attention. I have this one hour on my mat to connect with my body, my mind, with this moment. Without the structure of a practice I would completely lose that connection.

A recipe is a structure for a meal.

The tools you choose to create are the structure for the next piece or art whether its paper, scissors and glue or paint and canvas.

A pattern gives structure to a dress, otherwise it stays a lump of material.

Goals give structure to our dreams otherwise they stay dreams.

Where do you need more structure in your life? Feel free to share in the comments!

Oh, and here’s the Haiku Series I wrote:

Just Us

The days of just us
in our own little cocoon
of freedom and love.

Then fertility
crept in with charts and hormones
leaving us afloat.

Let go of that dream.
Immersed myself in college
then the line appears.

And two became three.
Three easily became four
Perfect square of love.

Small and big moments
Wove us together as one
Fights, fun, tears and joys.

Then college takes one
Creating a triangle
Leaving a true gap.

Then the other leaves.
Two there and two here alone.
Learning to embrace

The silence and space.
Standing face to face once more
Just the two of us.

The Art of Finding the Gifts & Lessons in 2015.

2015 hilights

I thought 2015 would end up being a sad, rather empty year.

It was the first year of our empty nest. It was the year of paying for two kids in college. It was the year a back injury took several months to heal.

Imagine my surprise when I looked back and found that 2015 was anything but sad and empty.

It was the year of many gifts and lessons.

A dear friend and I took our daughters to Siesta Key for their senior year spring break. We rented a house right on the beach where we barbequed, read and I did yoga on the gorgeous patio. We walked into town, ate delicious meals, swam in the ocean, walked on the beach.

We moved both of our girls up to school—one into an apartment, one into a dorm. They both finished with very good GPA’s, are in the same sorority and seem to be thriving which is the greatest gift of all as a parent.

We (and by we, I mean my awesome husband) turned one of the bedrooms into my yoga room. I have to admit, I was afraid that after all that work, I’d use it the first week then it would fall off my radar. Not the case at all. I am in there daily, if not more. I can’t express how grateful I am to have this space of my own to practice yoga, meditation and just stay connected with my energy, my thoughts, feelings… with my self.

I was gifted with a new circle of amazing women friends who share the same passions as me. One night our adventure ended up being going to yoga then to a bookstore. Yoga and books! Two of my favorite things! I knew that I had found my tribe. This has actually been a huge gift for me. It is hard to make true friendships when not in school or in an office or when the kids are grown. Truly grateful!

I never thought I’d put hurting my low back on a list of gifts from this year but it has been. I’ve learned and gained so much! I’ve learned to let go of perfection. The house can be clean enough. I can take longer to do tasks whereas before I’d just power through to get them done. I’ve become a better yoga teacher—more connected to my students as I watch them more carefully now, giving very specific cues. I’ve learned to ask for help—not an easy thing for me to do. I always have this fear of being seen as a burden. No longer. When your husband needs to help you pull up your pants, you pretty much get over that fear.

This year I rebirthed an old writing group. The three of us are a perfect fit and are committed to showing up once a month, committed to supporting and cheering each other on. This was another thing on my list of intentions and here it is, in reality. So grateful.

This is the year I made some serious progress on my YA novel. In this last month, I’ve recommitted to my blog, to posting regularly and I am connecting new people, which I love!

This is the year I really came into my own as a yoga teacher. I still have much to learn and much that I want to learn but I feel a confidence and connection that I hadn’t before. I love my students. I love that I can have even the smallest, briefest impact on their day. I love when they connect with a quote or poem I read. I love when a theme speaks to them. I love when they leave a class feeling better than when they arrived—more present, more open, more grounded, softer, stronger—whatever it is. It is an honor to teach and share this path with my students, fellow teachers and peers.

This is the year that I took some tiny steps toward loving my body as it is. Not if I lose 5, 10 or 20 pounds. But right now, as it is in all its glorious and beautiful imperfections. When I look back on my life do I want to see all the things I didn’t do or wear or eat just because I was afraid of how I looked? Uh, there answer is hell no.

I also took tiny steps in the direction of letting go of expectations. How people behave is a reflection of them, not me. However, how I respond is a reflection of me, and the kind of person I want to be. That I can control. The other…not so much.

This is the year that I learned that my husband and I are not only still deeply in love but, more importantly, we really like each other. The first empty nest year can be tricky. Once the distraction of kids and all of their logistics is gone, it’s just the two of you. We found that we enjoy just the two of us. We have time to pursue our own interests and time for each other. Win/win!

Maybe it’s all in my perception. Maybe I’m looking at the past year with rose-colored glasses. Because, yeah, there have been some sad, hard, crappy parts. But, if I can put it all in perspective and find the good in it, find the lessons in it all, grow from it all (even a little bit) then I’ll take it. I’ll take it all.

How about you? What was your 2015 like? I’d love to hear!

 

The Art of Wabi-Sabi.

gold lotus om

One of the challenges of the holidays can be the added pressure of striving for perfection: finding the perfect gift, decorating the perfect tree, cooking the perfect meal, throwing the perfect party.

Today, on this Winter Solstice, is an ideal time to release the idea of perfection. Perfect according to who, anyway? How will you know when you’ve reached perfection? The truth is, you never will. That little voice in your head? That’s its job, so it’s never going to allow you to find perfection since that means it would be irrelevant.

Allow yourself to release the heavy burden of perfection for the lightness of wabi-sabi: a way of living that focuses on finding beauty within the imperfections of life and accepting peacefully the natural cycle of growth and decay.

The other day my husband and I were putting the finishing touch on my yoga room—a gold wall decal of an om symbol within a lotus flower. It’s about three feet by two feet so it was a little unruly to work with, trying to get it centered without it sticking too much to the wall, then getting it to stick enough to peel off the backing but leave the gold on the wall.

We encountered tiny air bubbles along the way. My husband dutifully and gently attended to each one, trying to make the surface perfectly smooth. The foil and wall did not cooperate.

wabi-sabi

Finally, I said to just leave it as is—air bubbles and all. They aren’t all that noticeable and when I do notice them they remind me of all the hard work and love he put into creating this sanctuary for me.

In that moment I practiced wabi-sabi and found the beauty beneath the supposed imperfection.

In that moment I released the heaviness of perfection and welcomed in light, joy and peace of the beauty before me.

What can you release? What can you welcome in?

Embrace the Holy Moment

The gold clings to the

softly mottled blue wall

Shimmering, majestic.

Small pockets of air arise

Marring the surface,

Disrupting the flow.

Pressing gently,

attempting to feather

the air out and away.

Searching for a perfectly smooth

Sheen of gold

But they stubbornly return,

again and again.

Finally I surrender,

Instead of erasing them,

I choose to embrace

the beauty of these

So-called imperfections.

Pursuing perfection is fruitless

It leeches joy from the moment.

How much easier life becomes

when we no longer judge the

usefulness and beauty of something

based on such shallow, unknowable standards.

How much easier to

embrace the holy beauty of

The imperfect,

The impermanent,

The incomplete.

How much easier to

embrace the holy beauty

of each moment

As it is.

How much easier to

embrace the holy beauty

of yourself

Just as you are.

The Practice of Slowing Down.

Tortoise

Image: Chad Sparkes / Flickr

I wish I had found yoga (or it had found me) back when my daughters were little. I think it may have slowed down time a bit. Kept me present once in a while instead of moving mindlessly from task to task, need to need—always looking ahead to the next phase, the next step.

The thing about time is that we think it is much less fluid than it actually is. We think it is fixed purely in increments of hours, days, weeks, months, years, etc…

Time is actually much more elastic than the structure we, as humans, have imposed on it. And it all depends on our awareness. If we are always looking ahead to the next thing on our to-do list (for the day or for life), life seems to fly past us in a blur. That’s how my daughters’ childhood was to me—a fast blur of time. It seemed like I blinked and it was over. Now they are both in college.

The holidays are also apt to pass in a flurry of activity. Our days and weeks are packed with things to do: buy presents, wrap, bake, parties to attend, decorations to set up. If we aren’t careful, the season is over before we know it and we didn’t even enjoy it.

I may not have been fortunate enough to have yoga twenty-two years ago, but I have it now. The practice of showing up to my mat no matter how busy a day is allows me to slow down my body, slow down my breath, slow down my mind.

The more I practice on my mat, the more I am able to carry that mindfulness off the mat and into my life.

It’s like a superpower—slowing down and being present actually slows down time.

I know that the less time I believe I have for yoga, the more I need it. The more I practice, the more time I seem to have. Funny how that works…

Explore your own ability to stretch time by just being fully present to what is happening within and around you.

Next time you are in line at the store take a moment to check in with your body. How does it feel? How do the clothes feel against your skin? The floor beneath your feet?

Stuck in traffic? Notice your breath. Is it shallow or deep? Warm or cool? Does your chest expand with the inhale? How about the low belly? Try to elongate the inhale and exhale, making them equal of length.

If you are baking a batch of cookies, take your time to notice what the ingredients looks like, how they smell, how they feel in your hands. And, of course, how they taste!

Savor the moments this holiday (and everyday) by allowing yourself the luxury of slowing down and just being present to what is.

And here’s a lovely reminder by Danna Faulds:

Walk Slowly

It only takes a reminder to breathe, 

a moment to be still, and just like that, 

something in me settles, softens, makes 

space for imperfection. The harsh voice

 of judgment drops to a whisper and I 

remember again that life isn’t a relay

 race; that we will all cross the finish 

line; that waking up to life is what we 

were born for. As many times as I

 forget, catch myself charging forward

 without even knowing where I’m going, 

that many times I can make the choice

 to stop, to breathe, and be, and walk

 slowly into the mystery.

-Danna Faulds

Source: Walk Slowly: A Poem http://blog.freepeople.com/2014/11/walk-slowly-poem/#ixzz3uKdGgyHc

 

Celebrating the White Space of Motherhood.

Celebrating Motherhood

Three months into our empty nest and I am feeling the emptiness.

I’m surprised that I never noticed how similar those two words sound.

Empty nest.

Emptiness.

Our house feels empty.

My days feel emptier.

The girls came home from college last weekend with a bunch of friends. I fell gratefully into my mom role—preparing a delicious homemade dinner for them including an apple crisp; making a big breakfast in the morning with a fresh fruit salad; taking them shopping for clothes, shoes and food.

(Read the rest of the piece here.)

What I loved about writing this is that I wasn’t even aware of what I was thinking or feeling until I wrote my way into it.

The Shame of Pain.

Image. Sarah via Flickr

Image: Sarah via Flickr

I was going to start this post with this sentence:

I hurt my back.

But that feels like I am blaming myself. Which I was when it first happened 15 days ago. How could I have let this happen? What did I do wrong? How stupid of me.

I didn’t tell many people. When I realized that I hadn’t posted about this at all on social media, I had to ask myself why.

The answer?

At first it was that I was embarrassed. Here I am, a yoga teacher, and something happened to my back going into shoulder stand. But as I dug deeper, it felt more like shame. Shame that I had let this happen. Shame that I was bedridden. Shame that I was letting my students down. My fellow teachers down. Shame that I felt I was letting my family down by not being able to care for them.

Brené Brown says that guilt is I did something bad. Shame is that I AM bad.

Big difference.

Shame is slimy. And heavy. And I couldn’t understand why it was slithering around me now. So, I dug deeper. After all, being in bed gives one much time to ponder.

I have been a stay-at-home mom for almost 22 years. Over the years I’ve brought in varying amounts of money through writing, teaching writing, teaching yoga and graphic design. Since it’s always been extra money, I realized that I place much of my “value” on being able to take care of my family, take care of the house, take care of all the logistics of our daily lives.

Being unable to do my normal routine left me feeling like my value was suffering. Ridiculous, I know. Truly, my logical, conscious brain knows that. But I’m dealing with that sneaky subconscious part of my brain.

And I am dealing with it. Confronting its lies, the stories it weaves all designed to make me feel small and less than.

I’ve been using this time to write in my journal, meditate, practice self-Reiki and EFT and I am churning up a lot of stuff, stuff I will continue to post about as I process it all.

For now, I know that I am not to blame for what happened. That it doesn’t make me less than. I didn’t cause the pain. I am experiencing the pain. It happened for a reason. It’s got me doing some deep inner work.

I feel like I am peeling back and shedding layers and layers of crap.

I feel light.

I feel aligned.

I feel present to it all:

      The pain.

      The moment.

      My feelings.

      My life.