How I Spend my Days.

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I have written something every day for the last 1,222 days.

I have meditated every day for the last 311 days.

Why to I keep track of these activities? It started as  a way to motivate myself to do the things I ket saying I wanted to do but somehow kept putting off doing. Taking a cue from Jerry Seinfeld, I created a yearly chart on a dry erase board and marked an “X” in each box every day I wrote. Seeing that chain of x’s created enough momentum that I didn’t want to break the chain.

Same with meditation. I use an app that keeps track of my sessions. It’s so encouraging and empowering to see the days add up.

As the days add up, I notice a shift. A shift in how I relate to myself, to the world, to my writing, to my thoughts.

As the days add up, I realize I am no longer longing to live the life I want to live, I am actually living it. As Annie Dillard says:

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Seeking vs. Being.

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I am a seeker.

Sometimes that’s a good thing as I seek to heal and grow, to write and publish, to connect and teach.

Sometimes it’s not so good as I forget to live my life in the moment instead of always seeking to improve it.

As I get ready to embark on this 16-day European adventure with my daughters, I have been wondering what my intention is in taking this trip. It’s a way to spend time with my daughters before they venture out in to their own lives with their own families. It’s a way to push my homebody-self out of my comfort zone. It’s a way to connect with a broader world.

But I know myself. I have always had this habit of waiting for the next thing. The next season, the next year, the next milestone waiting for me. I remember being at Greenfield Village as a kid and I just wanted to get to the next exhibit, then I just wanted to get home, rarely allowing myself to be in the moment.

My yoga practice has taught me how to be in the moment, and how to notice when I have yanked myself out of it. I learn to be present with my breath, with the depth of a pose, with my thoughts or with the emotions that rise up while I am on my mat. My practice on the mat has become the same off the mat: learning to meet myself where I am and life where it is now.

So, part of my intention with this trip is to balance the seeking with the being. I want to be in the moment whether the moment is a delayed flight or a stunning sunset, getting lost in a foreign city or sipping a delicious glass of wine, traveling from country to country or sitting on the beach.

I want to embrace it all instead of wishing and waiting for the next thing.

I want to be in each moment rather than seeking the next one.

 

Books Read in March.

March books

“The Water Cure” a novel by Sophie MacKintosh

Once we had a father, but our father dies without us noticing.

I could not put this book down. The feminist dystopian novel, mesmerizing and chilling is told through such exquisite writing. The mood is dreams-like but the three sisters, Grace, Lia and Sky are living a disturbing reality of their father’s creation. They live on an isolated island designed to protect them from the outside world where masculinity is literally toxic to women or is the island designed to keep them trapped there? 

Their father, King, the patriarch and protector, goes to get supplies and doesn’t return. Their mother steps in to fill the void. Soon, their supposedly idyllic world is invaded when two strange men and a boy wash up on shore. King is the only men the girls have ever known. They are intrigued, repelled, angered and confused by their presence. 

It’s a thorough exploration of the different worlds that men and women inhabit, the power of female desire and what happens when they clash.

I especially loved the structure of the book, how certain chapters are told in the plural second person through the eyes of Grace, Lia and Sky as if they are one entity. The language MacKintosh uses is beautiful and so many sentences just made me gasp in admiration.

A passage I love:

Llews puts the lid of the piano down without comment, pushes the stool back. There is a fluidity to his movements, despite his size, that tells me he has never had to justify his existence, has never had to fold himself into a hidden thing, and I wonder what that must be like, to know that your body is irreproachable.

“The Art of Hearing Heartbeats” a novel by Jn-Philipp Sendker

The old man’s eyes struck me first.

I love when a friend recommends a book outside of my usual genre. This one sat on my shelf for a long time. I do have quite the TBR stack. When I was returning another book she had given me I decided I may as well give this one back, feeling bad that I’d had it for so long without reading it. But then I glanced at the first few pages and decided to just put my other books aside and read it.Good decision. It is a lovely story that follows Julia to Burma on a quest to discover what happened to her father. It is part mystery, but mostly it is a story of love and connection and the human spirit. 

It’s good to step outside your reading comfort zone. In fact, I think it is essential and will try to so more often.

A line I loved:

This girl moved  with a grace Su Kyi had never before seen. As if her oddly formed feet had given her a different, heightened sense of her limbs and movements.

“The Fifth Risk” by Michael Lewis

Chris Christie noticed a piece in the New York Times—that’s how it all started.

Lewis is a genius at going behind the scenes of what could appear to be boring topics and making them fascinating. This book takes a deep dive into the heart of government. Not just the sexy stories that get all the media attention but the nuts and bolts and people who run the many departments that make up our government.

What inspired me was the dedication that the people who work in the government exhibit. They are there to serve, regardless of party. As Obama’s term came to a close, all the different departments prepared detailed binders of information that the next administration could use. They didn’t have to agree with the policies but the information would be helpful as they transitioned from one administration to the next. What happened instead is…well, is the point of this book. It’s a book every American should read just to understand how our government works. And how it doesn’t work. It’s a book that should be discussed within the media so that we can all see how our government is being broken from the inside.

Some lines that stood out:

“…fifth risk: the risk a society runs when it falls into the habit of responding to long-term risks with short-term solutions.” 

“If your ambition is to maximize short-term gain without regard to the long-term cost, you are better off not knowing the cost. If you want to preserve your personal immunity to the hard problems, it’s better never to really understand those problems. There is an upside to ignorance, and a downside to knowledge. Knowledge makes life messier. It makes it a bit more difficult for a person who wishes to shrink the world to a worldview.” 

“My biggest concern is the misuse of science to support policies.” 

“Broken Things” a YA novel by Lauren Oliver

Five years ago, when I had just turned thirteen, I killed my best friend.

How can you not read on from that first line? Weaving together then and now with pieces of a novel they became obsessed with called, “The Way Into Lovelorn,” we learn about the summer that everything changed for three barely teenage girls. It felt like it might have been inspired by the Slender Man story but if it was, Oliver took it in her own original direction. I had a hard time putting it down as I kept turning the pages to see how it all fit together.

A line I loved:

Words would be less frightening if you could swallow them again, chew them and digest them into nothingness.

“A Happier Hour” a memoir by Rebecca Weller

A blaze of sunlight snuck its way through a gap in the blinds, drilling directly into my eyelids, punishing me.

 I started this in the late afternoon and stayed up until 1:30 in the morning to finish it.

Though I am not writing much about this myself, I am currently exploring not drinking for 60 days. I’m attempting to redefine my relationship to drinking. Reading her story was fascinating. While I don’t drink as much, I could absolutely relate to the amount  of energy expended around drinking. How much? Should I or shouldn’t I? What’s one ore glass? And on and on.

Being able to read her story made me feel less alone. Isn’t that what all reading does? She inspired me to stay the course, to create a toolkit, to be as honest with myself as she was with the world in writing this book in the first place. 

It reminded me yet again of the power of sharing our stories, how we can lift each other up, support and inspire each other when we are authentically ourselves.

A line I could relate to: 

Waking up without a hangover—or heart full of regret—felt utterly delicious, and the thought of not having to deal with another one for three whole months was sublime.

“Era of Ignition- Coming of Age in a Time f Rage and Revolution” by Amber Tamblyn

On the bar in front of me, a tea candle meekly flickered at the end of its wick as I sat next to my husband and wondered how I was going to tell him what I had to tell him.

Back before the 2018 mid-terms, I put out a call to women who lived near me to read Rebecca Traister’s new book, “Good and Mad.” I had a huge response. Women were angry. Women were fired up and wanted to be around other women who felt the same way. Then the mid-terms came and went and a new wave of progressive women came into office and there was hope again. And that hope quelled some of the anger. I tried to put a meeting on the calendar but only one person could make it so I put it off. And we haven’t rescheduled it since then.

Reading Tamblyn’s book now reminds of all the work we still have to do. That we don’t have the luxury of feeling relief that things might be beginning to turn around. That we have the responsibility to stay engaged, to stay angry, to stay fired up and let that energy move into action.

She does an amazing job of weaving her personal story with the larger narrative of feminism and inter-sectionality. She is using her voice and her platform to inform us, to motivate us, to support those who don’t have her kind of reach and voice and power. 

A necessary read for this time of rage and revolution. 

A line that resonated:

“But if ignorance can be a learned behavior, then so too can illumination, and it is within each of us to teach someone willing to grow, and to put our defenses down and receive the same gift in return.”

And you must read the letter she wrote to her daughter.

Taking Care of Me: It’s not just a hashtag.

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I have chosen to take a yoga teaching sabbatical over the month of May. My youngest daughter graduates from college in the beginning of the month then we leave for our 16-day European adventure four days later then my niece graduates from high school at the end of the month.

I thought about just getting subs for the days I needed but then this idea of having a month off from teaching began to percolate.

At first, I brushed it away. All my usual fear-based thoughts clawed their way to the surface:

You can’t afford that.

Why should you get to take a whole month off?

Who do you think you are?

I am quite familiar with this chorus. It’s the Chorus of Unworthiness. All these voices that pop up to remind me that I am not worthy of money or time or attention or love or (fill in the blank). We all have these voices. They are often labeled the Inner Critic, Inner Judge, Inner Bitch, Inner Mean Girl.

Luckily, I am also quite familiar with recognizing these voices when they appear. Recognizing them as stories and seeing through them. See past them and into the fear behind them and into the truth that lies beyond the words. 

Twenty years ago. I studied with Natalie Goldberg for a week. She spoke about resistance. Resistance to writing, to meditating. She said that resistance is the Guardian at the Gate. Every time we stand up to it and get past it to write or meditate (or whatever it is that we are resisting) we gain power. We prove our mettle. We prove how much this matters to us. 

I see this Chorus of Unworthiness in the same way. Each time I stand up to them, each time I do the thing they don’t want me to do, say the thing they don’t want me to say, dream the dream they think is too audacious, I prove my mettle. I embrace my worthiness.

So, I am standing up to those voices yet again and claiming the month of May as my own. 

It will be a month of adventure and milestones. 

A month of being a student rather than teacher. 

It will be a month of exquisite self-care. The sabbatical itself is an act of exquisite self-care. I’ve given a workshop on self-care and often talk about it in my classes. Now, I am walking my walking.

I am taking care of me because I am worth it. Because I, as much as anyone, deserve my own love and affection. And taking care of me is not just a hashtag—it’s a way of life.

A Work-in-Progress.

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This blog is having an identity crisis.

I had changed it to focus on writing at the beginning of the year then promptly lost interest. Not in writing, but in only writing about writing.

While writing is a huge part of my life, it’s not all of my life. And all of my life actually feeds into my writing. I began considering starting another blog for yoga then it reminded me of “The Golden Notebook” by Doris Lessing and I didn’t want to fragment my life like that.

So, here I am. Another incarnation of this space. I want to gather all the pieces of myself here and offer them as a way to connect with my readers. I’m not totally sure what that will look like yet but I am trying to figure it out.

In the meantime, I am totally okay with being a work -in-progress, here, on my mat, on the page and in my life.