Friday, September 16, 2016
I was so very surprised to see the comment from "Dave" singled out as an NYT Pick. The replies give me life. Hallelujah and amen.
Had a persistent thought yesterday: I need to write. Probably deserving of a new blog space, but this is the one I have for now. So here we go.
Thursday, April 9, 2015
“You can do anything for 10 seconds.”
Those words popped into my head as I stood in the ICU waiting room, waiting for a doctor to come tell me how my husband’s emergency surgery had gone. I had first heard those words in my first-ever yoga class, six weeks earlier. The surgery went OK, but that was only the first surreal, terrifying moment in what would become a month of them. Those words became my mantra over the next four weeks, while he was in the hospital. Over the next couple of years, while he was recovering. Over the year it took me - once he was back to “normal,” whatever that means - to leave.
I had seen the yoga studio, Bikram Yoga Sandy, a million times. It shared a parking lot with my preferred Dairy Queen in the canyon suburbs of Salt Lake City. In a ridiculous last-minute attempt to “tone” right before my September 2004 wedding, I signed up for a 10-day introductory offer. I went to classes on nine of the days. I fell in love with the studio, and the owners, and yoga itself right away. Then I went out of town to get married, and five weeks later my husband got in a car accident that killed his three closest friends and nearly killed him.
We were 1,000 miles from my family and 2,000 from his. My friends, though awesome, couldn’t help to the degree that I needed with his brain injury. And his friends were dead. It was an isolating time, despite the outstanding medical resources we had, as we worked through his physical and emotional recovery. After a few months, I e-mailed the yoga studio’s owners to let them know how “you can do anything for 10 seconds” got me through some of the worst months of my life. I was able to go back to the studio, off and on, for a while. On Memorial Day, my apartment’s water heater broke, and I really needed a shower before going back to work on Tuesday. There was only one class that day, and it was packed. But the energy of everyone in the room was electric and supportive. I was hooked.
I started going to class five or six days a week. A work-study opportunity came up, and I traded computer work for unlimited classes. The yoga studio became a safe place, where I could go and just feel whatever came up. “You have to feel it to heal it!” was only one of the cheesy-cliché-but-true sayings I heard often. So, I felt it. And over a year or so, I started to heal. The teachers there and fellow students were an amazing source of support and friendship.
More importantly, though, hot yoga taught me that I could look at myself, perceived flaws and all, in the mirror on a daily basis and be OK with the person looking back at me. If I could stay calm in a ridiculously hot room with sweat coming out of every pore, I could stay calm in most other situations. Even as broken as I was when I began yoga, I knew that practicing could heal me. So the second I knew I couldn’t stay with my husband (he had recovered by then), I also knew leaving would break me open again… but I knew yoga would be there to heal me again.
And little by little, it did. I started a home practice when I moved to New York, working nights at a newspaper in White Plains. I started writing a yoga-focused blog, and connected with other writing yogis from Malaysia to London. I occasionally visited a Bikram studio in Westchester, but the class times didn’t mesh well with my weird schedule. Once I started working “normal” hours in Manhattan, I tried a few Yoga to the People classes after work but hated getting home so late. After a random weekend class at the Yorktown studio, the owner mentioned she needed a work-study person to clean, work the desk, and handle new students. I committed to two days a week, and did that for a year (then another year paid). It was great to have the dedicated time and space for practicing, but the atmosphere could be awful. The owner treated many of the teachers poorly. When she screamed at me for suggesting YttP to a Brooklyn-based college student, I knew it was time to move on…
I don’t remember how I stumbled on the 38th Street Yoga to the People studio a year later. I had gone to others, but this one was in the right direction, between my office and Grand Central. (Always thinking of those trains!) It felt like a secret, like only people who really wanted to be there climbed four flights of stairs to this kind-of shabby, shower-free, occasionally smelly, noisy-as-hell studio (with occasional music from the vinyasa classes below, ugh) for the Fire Sequence classes. The instructors were some of the best teachers I’d had - I mean, over the years I had practiced in more than a few studios in a few states. These teachers were kind, of course, but also really knowledgeable about anatomy and philosophy in equal measures in a way that seemed actively discouraged at other Bikram-based studios. The teachers - Alena, Talia, Brian, James, Aubrey, Kristen, Molly, Ben, Mara and others - were so generous in spirit, which really struck me.
I liked that place so much, I even kept going once the 90-minute hot classes were discontinued... And then I learned to love vinyasa. It was - it still is! - hard as hell, but my hips feel brand-new and my arms feel a little bit stronger after every class. (And then the next day, they feel like they’ll fall off.) It’s been fun to try to figure out this whole new world of asana. And - who knew? The music can be an awesome component of class. The teacher’s playlist might include Fugazi, or the Pixies, and it helps draw me out of my head and back into class every time.
Sometime between Yorktown and 38th Street, I found NP Rock Yoga. I don’t know if I’d been Googling “‘hot yoga Hudson Valley” for the hundredth time, or if my boyfriend’s friends at the climbing gym had mentioned the studio. I came once, and loved a super-mellow class with Maggie. I came back a year later, and fell in love all over again with a studio, practice, and teachers. Between constraints on finances and time (living 40 minutes away), I’ve never made it here as much as I’d like. But as I stood in class on New Year’s Day a few months ago, I was thinking about intentions, guiding principles for the year ahead.
Two concepts surfaced: The first was to be open to new opportunities that might arise. The second was to really devote myself to those things I chose to spend time and energy on. It was no coincidence, then, that when I heard about a job in my field less than a mile from my house, I busted my ass to earn it. I started in late February, and even though there have been serious trade-offs (a little bit of money, a lot of Thai restaurants), the relative ease with which I move through most days now has been so, so worth it. By ditching the commute to Manhattan, hours have opened up to me. But so has a ton of mental energy. I have literally giggled in awe, while eating lunch in my backyard with my dogs. On a Tuesday. In the snow.
Back in October 2013, after a suggestion and encouragement by a teacher (Talia), I began the application process for an NYC YttP weekend hot yoga training. I couldn’t work out the finances, but even if I had been able to, the idea of commuting to the city seven days a week was really daunting. It’s OK that it didn’t work out then. Maybe it will never feel like the “perfect” time, but this time, enough of the pieces feel like they’re in place. I worked out the financial investment, I’m excited about the time investment, and honestly I’m a little terrified about the emotional investment… But not in a bad way.
I’m so, so grateful for the teachers and friends I’ve met along the my yoga journey. But I’m absolutely blown away by how much gratitude I have for this system that helps me get back to me. Every class, without fail, I learn something. Whether I worked on my wonky hips or my wonky heart, I’m grateful I showed up. It would be an amazing privilege to help other people heal themselves, too!
Monday, October 15, 2012
Seriously, I am the only person I know who's read this "best baseball book ever" and not liked it. I just, ummm, didn't get it. But don't let that stop you from reading it. Maybe i'll try it again in a few years. For now, the reminder that "Suffering is what brings us toward happiness" was all I needed from this book.
Bikram (the man) says pretty much the same thing, several times over the course of the recorded class that I occasionally practice with at home. (He also hammers it in his books, particularly the newer, orange one.) For all of the disenchanting stuff that I hear about the man, he seems fine in the class. If you haven't listened to the CD class, I highly recommend it. It's available at iTunes, and probably your studio.
Thursday, October 11, 2012
Tuesday, October 9, 2012
I posted. You commented. I cried with gratitude. You gave me Internet hugs. I don't feel so crazy and/or alone anymore.
Today I skipped out on work for a little while, despite the busy-ness, for some time with Lala, visiting from Toronto. We ate pizza and a "banh mi hot dog" in drizzle in front of the Flatiron Building and it was awesome. Her bright yellow scarf has lingered in my mind - a ray of sunshine, a beacon of brighter things to come.
On the train home now and saw some leaves turning across the river, on the Palisades... A week ago that would have made me weepy. Tonight I smiled at the colors.
It's gonna be okay. It's already okay.
Friday, October 5, 2012
(I couldn't realistically make this a footnote on that last post, right? I mean, it was painfully long already.)
I want to be clear that there are plenty of things that I am or have been actively working to make better.
At the same time, it feels good to get all of that shit out of my head and onto "paper." It's been percolating much longer than I'd like to admit. Honestly, I already feel lighter. Happy Friday, y'all.
Here I go again, starting another post with every intention of finishing it. I feel like there's a long story or confession to tell here and I don't know how to do it other than however this turns out... But if I wait for this to be perfectly edited, I won't post it at all.
The truth is, I think I'm depressed. I've never felt this way before. No professional has ever declared, "You are depressed." I'm not crying all the time or anything. Most of the time I operate basically fine, in terms of immediate tasks and life interactions.
But since shortly after I started this job, I've been falling out of touch with friends and family, and not doing much of the things I love. There are reasons for this.
• My commute hours: I'm away from home essentially from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays. Riding the train is rarely a positive experience, with chatting day-trippers, seat-sharers who are oblivious to the mores of personal space (the seat delineations are color-coded, for goodness' sake), and people bustling up the aisles whacking me in the shoulder or head with oversized bags. The slightly later, non-express train is much more mellow when it arrives at my station (no guarantees for riders at later stops), but I can't get to work by 9 (I'm there by 9:15, though) if I take it. Same is true for the ride home. This would seem to be a good time to catch up with friends via phone, but convention holds that talking on the phone on rush-hour trains is rude. I could stand between cars and call, but no one would be able to hear me. Try as I might—by reading, listening to lovely meditation podcasts, listening to new, interesting music, trying to nap—I have yet to find a way to make the train ride restorative. Last night I was lucky enough to have a river-side window seat, and I took some pictures of the incredible stormy skies on the river. That was nice, and I'm pleased with some of the pictures, but it was definitely a one-off. Believe me, I am grateful for that moment.
• My actual work hours: When I worked nights at the newspaper, I could (and did, lots) hike on Mount Beacon with Leo and do yoga at home and cook complicated things and complete extensive chores and blog in the big-ass chunk of DAY I had before leaving for work at 4 p.m. When I got home, I'd take out my contacts, brush my teeth, and go to bed. Done. Now, I try to cram a little bit of everything into the space between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. It doesn't help that I am a horrible multitasker, and exhausted when I get home. Home is fabulous, but is also so much boyfriendbarkingdogbarkingotherdogcatwhohatesmedustyeverythingpilesoflaundryanddishes. Weekends are a little better, but it feels like there is just so much to do. I am not one of those people who glories in being a "busy person": "They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence." This is not me! This could not be further from me! Gardening is a choice, yes, but it is directly a food source (a big deal, with the paucity of funds for comparable [kickass] produce).
• My actual work: My job is deeply difficult right now. Not my actual duties, but the situation. I feel stuck in this because of financial obligations. Also, my boyfriend and co-mortgage holder was laid off a month ago. Some people are bold enough to "take the leap" and jump into the unknown and trust that things will work out. That is awesome, for those people. I have evaluated situations in the past where that has worked out for me. Right now, I am not comfortable doing that. Debt is a bitch, kids. (Too bad I had to go and move cross-country a few times, and have medical problems, and get divorced. My first credit card purchase in 2002 was a pair of glasses. I still have them, and they are just strong enough to keep me from running into sharp corners early in the morning or late at night at home.) (Also, my 850-square-foot home's monthly mortgage is less than apartment rent would be, and I get tax deductions! And a yard where I grow food!)
• My former work: Working at the yoga studio was hard, physically. It entailed being away from home from 6:45 a.m. to after 11 p.m. on Thursdays, and 7 a.m. to 4 or 5 p.m. on Sundays. Yes, I loved taking classes for free, and yes, it was even greater after I started getting paid for the deep cleaning I did. I took pride in it and I appreciated the extra cash. But the hours were killing me. And more physical work after class was killing me. I'm glad I stopped at the end of March, it was absolutely the right decision, but I need need need the yoga. It has never been more clear. (The money would be nice, too.)
• My intertwined senses of compassion and duty: The political climate and local and national events have really taken a toll on me. "The personal is political," the '60s feminist line goes. And while I believe in taking a step back and re-orienting oneself if news events get to be a downer—I am all for temporarily sticking one's head in the sand if that helps—I also believe in the importance of activism and strength in numbers. So this summer, amid all of the sexual-trauma triggers, I felt like I had to be strong and stand up with other women. Talking about and processing trauma, "legitimate" or otherwise, is hard work.
• Health problems: Something that is personal and painful, that doesn't have ribbons and stand mixers and to-go coffee cup lids. That is unresolved. That is expensive.
Also, the Angels had a kind of rollercoaster season and missed the playoffs. (I'm just being honest here.)
Some people will see all of the above as time, money, silly excuses for being down. I've been hard enough on myself to see them that way, too. But I'm the one living them, and taken en masse, I believe they amount to more than the sum of their parts. There is no way to quantify the expenditure of psychic/mental/emotional energy.
Attention span? What's that? The lack of it is the main reason I haven't blogged, or replied to emails. Lord knows how long this post will take to write as I jump among writing and staring blankly at work stuff. (ETA: I did end up getting a few work things done in the six hours I've been writing.) It's one reason I have tapped into Twitter with such force over the past year. The briefest, ADD-est of interactions on there with friends, many inside the computer and some outside of it, allow me to feel like a functioning, valuable, connected person. Thanks to the incredible Twitter yoga community (mostly Bikramites), I did the first two weeks of a September 30-day yoga challenge. I was inspired to commit to an October one, too, but it's off to a rough start.
So yesterday, on the train home, I found myself in almost-panicky tears, scared that I will always feel this sad and stuck. I am dreading winter's pending arrival and with it, only ever being home in the dark. I couldn't shake the dread.
This is of course almost silly, because I have lived in places with "real winter" for more than 13 years now. This logic is how I know that something is actually wrong. My muscle pain (irrespective of activity) and skin/nerve pain have amped up in the past few months. But alllllllll of those stressors, less B's layoff, have been ongoing, for probably a year, more for some.
The difference? The main, obvious, glaring, flashing-neon-sign difference? Yoga. This feeling, this withdrawal has amped up since the late spring. Yoga does not solve my problems. But practicing yoga helps me deal with them. It helps me detach from them, in a healthy way: Distance and perspective are what I need most when I am feeling down in it.
Earlier today, a Bikram yogini-teacher-friend tweeted something that instantly brought everything back into focus for me: "Learn to listen to your body. Focus on the feeling. The mind is a trickster but the body never lies." My head feels like a swamp that is the backdrop to a rave right now — why on earth would I trust that? My body is telling me that no, I don't have it all under control. Her next tweet contained the solution: "People who experience FLOW on a regular basis are happier than those who don't." So, as always, the solution is get back to the mat and allow that flow.
It will come at the expense of sleep, whether I practice in the early morning or late at night. But it will be worth it. Two of the toughest, saddest moments in my life happened in October. By re-committing to my yoga practice, I hope to enter November a little brighter.
(Dear god, how did you read this far?)