Observations on Being Without Power.

 

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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.

 

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The More I Befriend my Writing…

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Today is the 130th day of 2016.

I have written every one of those days.

Some days I have half-assed it, just barely showing up enough to call it writing.

But most days I. Show. Up.

I write. I edit. I revise. I re-imagine scenes to make them deeper, more real. I haul out the words and stories buried in my body, in my psyche, ones that are weighing me down, holding me back.

Today, as I rolled out of a 30-minute meditation, trying to stay in that soft space, I picked up my notebook and pen, watching the pink ink spill across the page and I realized that writing is no longer just something I show up for. It’s not longer just a red “x” I make on my board.

Writing has become my soft place to land everyday—even when what I am writing is hard and jagged.

Writing is no longer (well, more often) this “other” that I battle, compare, belittle and judge.

I have finally befriended my writing and it has befriended me.

It reminds of this:

befriending

And here is the fascinating thing:

The more I befriend my writing, the more I am befriending my body—the more I befriend my whole self.

The more real I am on the page, the more I let it all out, the more compassion I seem to generate for myself and all the parts I used to deem as broken or unacceptable or unlovable.

My youngest daughter (19 years old) recently attended my Poses, Pens + Inner Peace class which combines some writing with yoga. The topic of that “inner mean girl” voice came up. Later at dinner, I asked E.if she experienced that voice.

She shrugged and said, “Nah…my voice petty much says ‘You do you, Girl!'”

As her mom, I loved hearing that.

,As a woman I loved hearing that.

As a writer, I realize that is exactly what my writing says to me:

“You do you, Girl. I got your back.”

 

 

 

Choosing to Embrace Silence.

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Image found via Pinterest.

I’ve never been good at being alone.

Never been comfortable with silence. Which explains why I resisted meditation for so long. Even when one of my favorite writers/teachers highly recommended it for writers, coming just shy of touting it as the magic key, I still refused to sit with myself in silence.

When I first went away to art school, I arrived before my roommate. I had the apartment to myself for almost a week and I didn’t know a soul. I didn’t have a TV. This was well before personal computers, much less iPhones. I didn’t have a stereo. I think I did have a cassette player with earphones. And books. And myself.

Those few days were excruciating. I remember sitting on the couch in view of the apartment across from me where I saw other students, hoping, praying they would notice me, take pity on me and invite me over.

They didn’t.

When I was a young mother, I craved time alone, even if just in the bathroom. When I was lucky enough to get any time to myself, I almost always squandered much of it in front of the TV. Or I’d call family or friends and talk to them. Anything to fill up the silence. Anything to avoid being alone with myself.

Now, my daughters are both away at college. This week my husband is out of town so it just me and the dog and cat. And the silence.

As I sit in my cozy reading/writing nook in the living room I hear the tapping of these keys, the gurgling hum of the washing, the clock ticking over the mantel and the muted thrum of highway traffic. That’s it. No TV or radio or music to fill the silence.

No barriers between me and myself.

I no longer resist silence or being alone. I embrace it.

What changed? Me. I don’t know when exactly it happened but it’s been since I started practicing yoga, since I finished my YTT. Yoga has allowed me to dive deep and figure out who I am, how I feel and to, you know, actually feel those feelings.

I think I was afraid of feeling too much so I avoided being alone, avoided creating space where feelings could surface.

I am no longer uncomfortable being alone. It no longer feels lonely. It wasn’t because I didn’t like myself. I didn’t know myself. And I am not always comfortable with being alone or with silence. Sometimes I still get that feeling of wanting to crawl out of my skin. Of wanting to fill in the gaps of silence that press on me.

The difference now is that I allow myself to feel comfortable with being uncomfortable.

And that is something that has definitely emerged from my yoga practice. I find my edge in poses that aren’t comfortable but I stay there, I breathe, I feel my body, I note my resistance and choose to stay.

Staying there when I want to flee is where the growth happens. It’s like a muscle that I push to its limit and it grows stronger. That space of hanging in past resistance helps in my writing as well.

So, as I find myself sitting in the utter quiet of my home, I note the butterflies in my belly, I note my shallow breath and the urge to turn the TV on. But I don’t.

I choose to embrace the silence.

And in embracing the silence I am embracing myself , exactly who I am in this moment. I wish eighteen-year-old me had known this. But she was young. She didn’t know or appreciate the beauty of all of who she was.

That’s okay. We know now.

 

 

The Necessity of Structure.

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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 Practice of Devotion to all that Lights Me Up.

The Art of Finding the Gifts & Lessons in 2015.

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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!

 

Wednesday Writing Prompt

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Image found on alice-eve-lithium.tumblr.com

 

{Fiction}

She hadn’t been to a park since it happened. Just couldn’t bring herself to be around all those children, all the moms who don’t seem to realize how lucky they are. Lucky? Does that mean she is unlucky? Does luck have anything to do with it? It’s science. She knows that.

People don’t know what to say to her. Even her own husband has no words. She actually finds that comforting. No words are better than some of the words that have been tossed her way like tiny breadcrumbs designs dot lead her out of her grief. Words like God’s will, not meant to be, try again…

Her husband is asleep in their bed now. She envies him that space he has to retreat. She had trouble sleeping toward the end. Her belly so big, so cumbersome but secretly she loved it. She carried that huge belly proudly. They had tried long enough. She wanted to savor every second…even the crappy uncomfortable ones.

But nothing prepared her for that night. That night she just knew something was wrong. Her belly felt so still. Probably sleeping her husband said. Even the nurse tried to reassure her but then came the ultra sound. And the silence. From the machine. From the technician. From her belly.

She’d known. Even as the doctor delivered the news, part of her felt like at least she’d known, like it was some kind of badge of honor, some secret link to her baby.

Now she can’t sleep for other reasons. Her belly is soft and empty, but her mind is hard and jagged. She crawls out of bed each night, slipping gout into the night, walking the neighborhood, a few random lights still on well after midnight, the occasional car passing her, its lights streaming over her for a brief moment before leaving her in the dark again.

Tonight it has snowed. She can handle the park at night. An empty park. layered in snow is even better. The silence is profound, dense against her ears. She feels the cold seep deep into the canals of each ear, almost painful but she welcomes it. A different kind of pain. The snow crunches beneath her boots. She holds one of the chains of the swing in her bare hand, squeezing gently as the cold metal presses into her skin. She sits in the soft layer of snow on the swing and feels the cold permeate the layer of jeans she pulled on over her pajamas. She kicks her feet out in front of her, leaning back, gripping the linked chains with both hands, pumping more and more, gaining speed and height, flinging her head back, eyes wide open as the world flails around her at odd, sweeping, disorienting angles.

 

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.

Day 13 of #WriteYourselfAlive Challenge

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(A short piece based on 3 random photos in my instagram feed)
A jumble of letters lay on your desk. Your baby rests at your feet, smiling and snug in her bouncy seat, just content to gaze up at you. But you break the gaze and it feels like a tiny piece of your heart snagged on the moment. That moment of turning away from her to your desk. From her to yourself.

Your palms press into the smooth wood. Sitting here feels foreign, like you don’t quite fit here anymore. Not like you used to.

Not like when you could stay up until 2 AM because the words were just spilling out of you and who would walk away from that for mere sleep?

But now.

Now sleep is precious. You hoard moments of sleep like a vagrant lost in the depths of the desert hoards drops of water.

Now you gladly trade words for sleep.

No wonder you no longer fit here.

You swipe up a handful of the letters, shaking them in your palm like dice, feeling and hearing the solid yet delicate clink of ceramic edges gently colliding. Maybe if you shake long enough actual words will emerge from the letters.

Maybe a whole story will tumble onto the desk like the elusive Yahtzee you played as a kid.

The misshapen cubes fall out of your hand, landing on the desk, scattering into an incoherent pattern. No story. No words. Just random letters adding up to nothing.

You glance down at your daughter and see her eyes have closed. She is asleep. You know you should follow the rule of new motherhood and sleep when she does. But rolling those dice in your hands has left your palms itchy. That familiar twitching of your blood and cells beneath your skin tugs at you to show up to the page. You remember it doesn’t matter what you write at this point. Just write. Just show up and who knows where you’ll end up.

Maybe in the skin of an old woman sitting on a bench in the grocery store next to the mechanical horse.

Maybe you’ll end up in a memory of your grandma knitting a pair of slippers with pom-poms that bounced off the front of your foot with each step.

Or maybe you’ll end up on a boat with children, gliding through space, parting the stars with the bow, leaving a swath of stardust in its wake.

You never know where you’ll end up unless you show up.

You pick up a pen.

You open a notebook.

You begin.

Shades of Blue

 

Photo: Rose Mendoza via Flickr

Photo: Rose Mendoza via Flickr

I cried three times yesterday.

Yes. Three.

It was one of those days and I am learning to honor them.

The first tears came during yoga. I stayed for three classes. They came during a particularly challenging prana vinyasa. I felt them heating up behind my eyes and just breathed into it. Then they let loose (along with whatever samskara I hap tapped into) while I was in Urdhva Dhanurasana as my amazing teacher adjusted me, holding my shoulders, holding space as my heart spilled open.

The second round came when I realized that both of my girls were leaving for the day to go do fun teenage sister stuff. Which is great. Really. I love that they are so close. I love that they want to spend everyday together before Katie leaves for school in August. But my husband has been out of town for awhile, the girls have been busy with, you know, their lives and stuff and I’ve been home alone.

Some days I am alone and I am just alone. Other times I am alone and I am lonely.

Yesterday I was lonely.

It reminded me of when I was in college, before I had a roommate. We lived in apartments, mixed in with non-students so there wasn’t a dorm feeling at all. No easy way to meet people. I remember positioning myself on the couch in front of the window because I could see into the apartment diagonal from mine that housed some students so I hoped they could see into mine, see me alone in mine, take pity on me and invite me over.

That didn’t happen.

What did happen is that my girls and my “third” daughter came home from their fun sister day and invited me to a game night. WE sat around the dining room table playing Taboo, Bananagrams and Catch Phrase, laughing, talking and I remembered to just breathe it all in, enjoying, savoring every moment.

In Hatha this morning, the theme was “transitions.” That is what I am in the middle of. A huge life transition. Life is full of them, right? At least this is one that I am being eased into instead of forced into. At least I got an extra two years with Katie while she lived at home and took her general credit classes at the local community college. At least my girls and I sincerely like each other and enjoy spemnding time together. At least all those things.

But sometimes, like yesterday, the hole their absence will leave in my daily life almost takes my breath away.

That’s when I have to remember to breathe.

After all, I don’t want to be yanked kicking and screaming through this transition. I also don’t want to set up camp just outside the threshhold of this transition, stagnant and stuck.

I want to move mindfully, perhaps even gracefully through it, into whatever is waiting for me on the other side. Being with these tears, these feelings is part of that process.

The third set of tears came as we held our last mentor meeting online. There was a certain bittersweet quality to the meeting as we realized this particular way of connecting with each week was coming to an end, just as our time as apprentices was coming to a close. We wrote together once last time and everything I had been feeling all day got churned up by the prompt and was splilled out into more tears and a poem:

Blue

So many shades of blue

drizzling behind my eyes,

behind my skin.

Porcelain blue teacups of tears spilling

from my heart

as my girls have one foot out the door

ready to leave.

The loneliness is immense at times and

they haven’t even left yet.

But it’s coming.

In a blink it has come, this time of letting them go.

Wasn’t I just holding them in the soft glow of the nightlight,

gently rocking in the glider as if we were still one?

So, loneliness seeps in on days like today.

But also joy.

Vibrant peacock blue joy

that they are ready.

That they are ready to leave and

shine their own colors into the world,

spilling the rainbows of their awesome selves

out into the lives

they are meant to live.