24 September 2010

Nice, miserable day.

I like cloudy, rainy days.  I like when it's gray when I awake and gray when I go to sleep.  I like to feel wrapped up in the heaviness that comes with the sky's lowered ceiling.  I like thunder and lightning and strong winds.  I like feeling somewhat trapped in whatever structure I'm inside while a storm rages outside. It's safe and cozy.  It also fits my natural predisposition to brooding.  Some would say I'm a little dark.  I'm ok with that - mostly, because it's true (but, also, because I think it adds to my intrigue).  When it's sunny, I have to acknowledge the vast, unending possibility of happiness.  The sky's limitless and aggravatingly bright, blue canvas taunts me into admitting to my own happiness and limitless potential.  Don't get me wrong: on sunny days when I'm already happy, it's a great combination.  But, on days when it's bright and my personal weather is cloudy, there's an irritated storm front that lingers over my emotions, confusing and making me wish, even more than usual, that it would just rain a little, for the love of god.  It's like a cheerleader has made her way into the drama club in my head; and, though I appreciate the goodwill, I really just want to strangle her.

Today is one of those days.

Trying to escape the gray and enjoy the sunshine generally either makes me cranky or makes me more depressed that I can't enjoy it.  It's a pitiful, unhelpful little cycle.  The one productive part of this futile fight with Mother Nature is that it brings to the forefront all the things that I don't want - not including more of this incessant sunshine, dammit.  I know what it is that I don't want and I convince myself that if those things were gone, maybe I could enjoy the sunshine. I begrudgingly admit, though, that I know that focusing on what you don't want isn't helpful; it only brings more of that into your life.  It's focusing, instead, on what I do want that should allow me to put away my galoshes and rain coat and step into the light.  (That, and probably not focusing so much on weather metaphors.)

So, I'm acquiescing to the sunshine - despite the grumbly gray clouds harumphing their way through my mood today - and making a list of what I do want.  A specific list of all the things that I'm ready for the universe to send my way.  (I refuse to admit that I'm smiling a little because of the last sentence.  You can't prove it.)


1) I want my student loans paid off by the end of the year.
2) I want to teach and live yoga and things related to yoga for my livelihood.
3) I want to have all the money I could need.
4) I want to be and feel healthy and not worry about sickness, disease, or other issues related to my body.
5) I want to travel, frequently, for pleasure.  (And, by the way, if I'm earning a living via yoga, and then travel for "work," that's technically "pleasure," too, since I am doing what I love. It's a twofer.)
6) I want to spend my vast amounts of free-time with my husband and my dogs.
7) I want to pursue artistic endeavors because they make me happy and because we have the means to make experimentation and exploration plausible.
8) I want to live in a city and dwelling that facilitate all these things and contribute to my happiness.

I already feel better.  And, it's looking a little overcast outside!  This day's really looking up.

18 September 2010

Midterm Resolutions

My husband is a touring musician.  And, although I'm terribly proud of him and happy that he does what he loves for a living, when he leaves for tour, I am left to my own devices and I'm not always to be trusted.  My devices of late, however, have been pretty great, so I'm not deteriorating at the rapid pace I usually do.  They are positive, healthy, classically-sustaining devices that include healthy eating, yoga, running, laughing, and sleeping.  These are nice devices, like a refrigerator or a vacuum cleaner.

Why, then, do I feel as though some kind of bus carrying conventioneers going to a health expo has just run me over and instead of taking me to the hospital has instead given me apples and down-dogs to heal my mangled legs?  Because, I still like to incorporate a few nasty little habits even while in the midst of the good ones which, in turn, make the good ones feel as though they're out to get me.  These habits seem to occur only when Tim is away, as he is usually the voice of reason, saving me from myself in countless ways.

My absolute worst habit sans-Tim is falling asleep on the couch.  And, I don't just fall asleep, I stay asleep on the couch.  While these two actions are, generally, mutually implied by each other, I also assume that if someone normal falls asleep on the couch and then awakens to find they have done so, they'll get up and go sleep in their bed.  This is where my rapid departure from normal continues.  Our bed is literally 10 feet from our couch.  We live in an open loft - long on character, short on space.  I sometimes will wake up on the couch - neck cricked, confused and groggy - look directly at the bed, and fall back asleep, painfully and soundly.  I cannot pull myself off what, at this point, can now only be described as the dogs' bed and go to the human bed.  A big, cozy, comfy bed, and I choose to stay on the firm, unyielding couch where the dogs sleep.  I don't know why I avoid beds.  I love them.  And, I love sleeping.  Alas, when Tim is here, I don't have a problem climbing into bed and it's not just the handsome man that's in it, either.  So, why do I avoid the bed when I'm alone?  Sleeping on a couch is never very good sleep, now matter how good the couch.  I wake up exhausted and go on about my day, still excited and happy but a little less coherent.  Ridiculous.

After having run this morning with the dogs and a yoga class immediately after, mentally I feel great.  Accomplished, happy, healthy.  But, physically I feel exhausted.  I can't help but think this might have something to do with my couch-sleep last night.  So, the new resolution in the midst of doing incredibly well with my original intentions is to sleep in my goddamn bed.  Get home, wash face, brush teeth, get in bed.  Do not eat, do not turn on Frasier DVD, do not even sit down on couch.  Get in bed.  And on nights that I'm home early and have made dinner and am actually using the couch for it's intended purpose, I just can't allow myself to lie down.  Which means, some nights I might be headed for sleep around 8pm. I'm ok with that.

Because I'm not ok with feeling like I'm finally doing all that I've ever wanted, shaping my body and mind into something I really like and being too tired to enjoy it.  At some point, it even seems, shockingly, counter-productive.

I need a nap.

14 September 2010


I love ritual.  I always have. I like waking up in the morning, pressing the "on" button for the coffee maker (even if it is Teecino), pouring it into the same mug with the same spoon of cocoa and homemade almond milk, wrapping my hands around the familiar warmth, snuggling into the same corner of the couch, turning the Today show on and ignoring it while I wander around on the internet.  I love the time of year after Halloween when the season inevitably turns and the holidays are suddenly in the air; when I get to watch the same movies that I've watched in these months for 15 years.  During college, I would run along the same route every single night - the same route that my cousin took me on the very first day I moved to town.  I loved the innate feeling that went along with each bend in the road, that my body knew exactly where it was without my brain having to analyze anything.  I ran to the same playlist, night after night, too, so that the same bends and paths had the exact same tempo and message blaring through my ears at the exact same time each and every night.

Though I've run along new paths since then, and lately have quit running altogether (after having been chastised repeatedly for enjoying running by my various yoga teachers), the music that I would listen to then still instigates in me something vastly inspiring whenever I hear it now.  And, while some of the music is probably not the most scholarly or even inspirational, it all served a purpose.  And honestly, does it really matter from where or what you draw inspiration?  A few tracks to illuminate the rest of the conversation:

"Punk Rock Princess" Something Corporate
"Move Along" The All-American Rejects
"Unwritten" Natasha Bedingfield
"Gold Digger" Kanye West
"Beautiful Day" U2
"Breathe Me" Sia
"Hands Open" Snow Patrol
"Mr. Blue Sky" Electric Light Orchestra
"Hollaback Girl" Gwen Stefani
"Sugar, We're Goin' Down" Fall Out Boy

Like I said, some aren't the most inspirational. "Gold Digger," for instance, made me laugh - while running - every time, and that's enough to give it purpose in any runner's playlist.  "Sugar, We're Goin Down" is simply the best tempo to run to ever; it was also the last song of my run, the last three minutes of my 5k, and as it swelled I picked up my pace and sprinted home.  Others, however trite or cliched, still give me chills every time I hear them.  Not because of their philosophical depth or because they astonish me with their wisdom, but because they offer simple advice that is completely, immediately achievable today and in this very moment. When I was running, they served as a reminder that no matter how short of breath I felt, no matter how much my muscles were screaming, no matter how much I wanted the next step to be a walk and not another run, I could do this again tonight, because I'd done it the night before, and the night before that.  These melodies and lyrics helped me persevere and prompted significant change in my body.  As I listen to "Move Along," there's a part after the bridge where the drums break the silence and I can still feel my whole body stiffen with adrenaline, as if I'm bracing myself to keep moving.  They were part of a ritual and an important part, at that.

I've always loved a song's ability to take you back to an exact moment in time.  There are certain choruses I hear that, no matter where I am now, I am immediately trying to find parking outside of the library on a cold, February day; or, I'm dancing, a little buzzed, holding a cigarette, and laughing on the roof with my college roommate on a summer night; or I'm trying to see the road through eyes soaked from hours of tears, unsure of what comes next.  I can feel those moments, immediately transported by the magic that is created when random notes and tempos are mashed together into a song.  But, beyond  that transportation to a specific moment, past the memories, there is an evocation of feelings.  The ability  these songs have to draw upon a stored power from a  memory of what it feels like to be strong and capable in a moment of uncertainty.

I'm certainly not saying I don't feel strong and capable right now - I do!  More capable than at any time I can ever remember.  I'm speaking, instead, of those moments amidst strength and achievements, those little cloudy thoughts between the clear lines, when uncertainty and maybe a little despair creep in, albeit momentarily.  The time between your last exhale and your next inhale when you're not sure if you get to breathe in again.  That tiny little second, that momentary loss of focus when you aren't sure you can keep up in the stellar way you've been moving.  How can I keep going if I've already come this far?  How much do I have left to give?  It's a millisecond; a small, simple amount of time.  It's ample time, though, for doubt and discouragement to find the crack and start seeping in.  Which is why, I think, these simple, messages have come to mean so much to me.  They have provided muscle memory.  Muscle memory beyond the mere physical; it's now emotional.  It's the same way my legs knew when they rounded Memorial Union - without my brain having to tell them or consciously think out loud - that they'd almost carried me to completion, the race was almost over!  And the feeling would wash over my body until my brain caught up and realized its determination.  My body's confidence became a safeguard, sealing that leak with strength in case my mind should fail.

I took two yoga classes yesterday.  At some point during the second class, there was a moment when my shoulders were collapsing.  I was in down-dog and I could feel my courage exhausting with my muscles.  And, from somewhere, deep in all the tissue and ligaments and bones, I could hear, "Reaching for something in the distance, so close you can almost taste it, release your inhibitions!"  And my arms stretched forward, my legs stretched back - they knew they were reaching for something in the distance.  They knew - without my brain's awareness - that I wasn't allowed to give up yet.  (Natasha Bedingfield residing in my muscles is a little creepy - we'll discuss that at a later time.)

In so many spiritual texts, it's all about the mind training the body.  And, while I know my muscles don't actually have any thoughts, that these empowering moments are, indeed, all coming from within my mind, I can't help but feel that this body is also training it's mind.  As my physical body overcomes the challenges set in front of it, my spiritual body is reminded of how far it has also come.  That I'm right in the middle of all sorts of obstacles and changes, but have also already come so far, and will continue to move in that same strength.  My physical muscles are teaching my emotional muscles - on and off my mat - that in that moment between breaths, there can only be certainty that I will keep moving.  It's ritual.  It's completing a task that you've done thousands of times before and finding comfort in the knowledge of that preceding wisdom.  Doubt has no existence as nothing would be accomplished if it were in place of certainty - and so much has been accomplished!  The soundtrack serves as a reminder to what I already know, providing the map back to where I've already been.  And slowly, my soundtrack is becoming internalized.  I'm listening to the songs my own body is singing in these moments and hearing that I'm capable as I prove it to myself over and over and over.

I love ritual.  I love knowing this has happened before and will happen again and I will take the same joy and delight in it that I have before.  I love drawing on the shared emotions between who I was and who I am to find strength and courage to keep evolving who I'll become.