In the midst of winter, I suddenly discovered there was in me an invincible summer. -- Camus
I wish I had some really positive perspective -- a tidy way to wrap it all up -- but the truth is, I don't. This isn't a sob-story, and I'm not feeling sorry for myself -- it's just that this has been the lamest birthday like, ever.
Maybe the reason is b/c I expected a lot from it. Taking a queue from someone I really admire, for the past five years I've used birthdays as an opportunity to reset. It's my time to check in (as many do on New Years) and re-assess where I'm at in life. Additionally, this is the first birthday since I was 25 that I haven't wished I was younger. So coming into it, things were looking up.
Let me backtrack a bit - a big part of my move has been fueled by a desire/need to spend time on my own. I've felt drawn towards this despite the sadness that can sometimes accompany it. For Thanksgiving, I turned down a trip to see my friends in Austin; choosing instead to spend it "stoically" alone. This was before I was 10 woeful hours deep into solitude. Around 4 p.m that I day I realized this sucks it. There are times to be alone, yet *this* holiday season, on the heels of year of huge changes, shouldn't be one of them. So, when the opportunity came up for me to spend my birthday w/ my friend Paige in NYC, I hopped on it. Even better, it was to be a night of AcroYoga and then dinner! Then, in the morning, we'd take the train back to Boston where she'll assist and I'll take another AcroYoga workshop.
It wasn't until after I'd arrived at the airport sopping wet from a mile-long trek to the T stop in driving snow (suddenly a previously "charming" subway has assumed a rather pallid feel) that I found out that my 1:20 flight was delayed until 6:30. Yes I called beforehand and was told it was "on time". No problem, I'll take a train. Booked solid till 8:00.
I got back on the subway, and had a really nice conversation with a man who informed me, as I've been told repeatedly now so I totally get it, that we're in for a really long and treacherous winter. Sometime during my 30 or so minutes spent underground, what had started as driving snow was now full-flegged blizzard. I tried to look for a cab but standing still waiting for an indeterminable amount of time seemed a worse option than walking. At the time. You hear those jokes growing up, "when I was kid I had to walk two miles, uphill, in the snow" but in this case that's what was up. Only this wasn't the oh-look-it's-snowing-let's-make-a-snowman-and-then-have-some-hot-cocoa kind of snow. It's the oh-my-God-I-can't-see-three-inches-in-front-of-me-and-I-think-my-face-is-going-to-freeze-off kind of snow. So there I was, numbly slogging my way back home with suitcase in tow (and by tow I mean I'm surprised I did it without a truck - the snow it accumulated along the way could have built a King Kong-sized ice sculpture). With all my might I tried to turn the situation into a positive, but as the wind changed directions so that now it was hitting me squarely in the face, I lost any motivation to reframe.
After nearly 40 minutes (it's usually a 15-minute walk) I got home. And this is where I've stayed. I started working b/c what else was I going to do? Like an idiot I sold my car and got rid of my TV before moving here. At 6:30 I got an urgent call from a customer and so I spent the next half an hour trying to make sure their problem was resolved, and I guess that's when it all hit.
I don't have a positive spin on this. Today has totally sucked. Every time I've tried to look on the bright side, be grateful, etc, those hollow sentiments have died a quick and fiery death. I guess I don't know which way to go. I'm just lost. And truthfully, I'm enjoying NOT trying to make it better -- not trying to cover up what it is I'm really experiencing at the moment.
Academically I know that change doesn't have to be painful. Supposedly all you have to do is allow for things to happen. Sounds simple enough, right? Mmmm...well I have no clue how I'm resisting anything; I just know that I want to go back, but can't/won't, yet can't see where to go from here. This place I'm at right now is not just out of my comfort zone, it's like being caught in the ocean with just a dinghy and ample supply of water. Yes I'll make it but how? And when?
Changing gears: I taught last night. I received a call from someone who needed a yoga teacher to teach a weekly class to a corporate group at their offices. I was rusty, no doubt. There were 9 people, 7 of whom had taken less than 3 classes ever. Teaching to beginning yoga students is such a rewarding challenge. It's hard while you're doing it, or at least I find it hard, but I love it! Though I know that I taught a mediocre class, fortunately my mediocre is with some merit, and they want me to come back. The best thing I got out of the class is that I am able to look back and see where I was slipping into a mask (people-pleasing) or not being in my body and also what I did well. And I'm holding on to neither.
Tera hopped the pond this weekend in a joint-birthday present to each other. Our birthdays fall w/in a month of each other so rather than trading gifts that both of us would have been three months late on exchanging, we decided to split the cost of a ticket for her to come to Boston.
She arrived just as I was returning home from a really emotional teacher training class. As I met her at the door in near sobs, she greeted me with a huge hug and smile. Honestly, after that class I wanted to retreat inward and fast, so it was a godsend that she came to visit this weekend. We laughed our asses off at things that wouldn't be funny to probably anyone else on this earth, and, beautifully, we challenged each other in ways that were a testament to the twenty years we've known each other.
She may not know this, but her questions have lingered in my thoughts days afterwards, and it's only now that I'm realizing what a mirror she was for me. She also may not know that she *is* courageous -- I have spent years admiring her brave move to a different continent, marrying a really amazing guy, her ability to make friends with anyone, and the confidence with which she carries herself.
She's a remarkable girl, indeed.
One of my best friends, Sonya, and I were discussing recently the perceived perils of meditation. What do you think turns people off from it, I asked. She gave me a laundry list which brought back all the same reasons it took me almost my whole life to develop a regular practice: it's hard to focus, I don't have time, I don't know if I'm doing it right, etc. I can add to that list my memory of thinking it was just plain weird and boring.
So why meditate, anyway? Because it will change your life. There are ample studies substantiating the physiological benefits of meditation (including lower stress levels, decreased occurrences of heart disease and hypertension), and that's pretty cool and all, but what else?
Meditation gives perspective. It develops patience, honesty, intuition, foresight, courage, self-esteem, and eases suffering. Not enough? Well it makes you super cool, too. Seriously. I swear to God there's a correlation to charisma in its ways.
See the thing about meditation is that it shows you the truth. It shows you your path and then it's your choice to go forward. And if you don't, it'll keep showing you. Okay so there's no silver bullet in life, but meditation is hands down one of the most effective tools in stripping away all of the layers and layers of hurt, shame, anger, and fear that we walk around with unknowingly. It's these very things that paralyze us, keep us dating the same kind of person over and over again, keep us hating our bodies, keep us stuck as people pleasers, keep us from being successful, and keep us as road rage drivers. So WHY NOT shed that junk?
1. Because it's hard to focus.
People think that if your mind wanders then you're not doing it, or that it's a waste. But you are doing it. We're human. The mind is going to wander. That's what it does. Eventually, it wanders less, so keep going. The tendency is to throw the baby out w/ the bathwater and chalk the experience up as a failure if we can't stay focused. It doesn't matter! Be patient with it b/c the focus will come. I swear I'm thrilled if I get a minute of space out of ten minutes sitting. So your mind wanders... so what? Just keep coming back to center.
2. Because I don't have time.
I remember being scared when I heard that people went away and meditated for 10 days straight. 10 days?! I can't do anything for 10 days. Much less sit in silence. Then I read stories suggesting meditation for an hour a day and even that seemed unattainable. Meditation is just like exercise though. You don't start out running 26.2 miles your first time on the track when you're 30 lbs overweight and have been smokin' a pack a day for 10 years. One of the techniques that I learned from 40 Days to Personal Revolution was that it's totally cool to start out w/ 5 minutes in the morning, 5 minutes before you go to bed. So you're running late for work and you can't get 5 minutes in? Do it on your lunch break sitting in your car or in the office bathroom. (Is that sacrilege? I can't believe I'm suggesting meditation in a stall.) 5 minutes might seem like eternity your first few times, but stick w/ it for more than just a few days and you'll be amazed at how fast time flies when you're having fun.
3. Because I don't know if I'm doing it right.
Yes, there are hundreds of techniques for meditating. Various hand positions, seating positions, breathing options, open-your-eyes-no-close-your-eyes, etc. It's truly overwhelming if you let it be. I gotta tell ya, I don't even read that shit. *Maybe* I'd be enlightened/actualized/a super bad-ass faster if I employed some of those techniques. But I doubt it. It does help to be sitting up, and yes it helps to move your breath up and down your spine, AND you have to find what works for you. Practically speaking, I avoid reclining b/c I would probably fall asleep. It feels pretty good to me to sit on a pillow or two so that my hips are higher than my knees. What I'm trying to say however, is that no one can tell you how to do it "right". The hardest part is just starting, so don't worry about meditation etiquette -- just keep doing it, even when you don't want to, ESPECIALLY when you don't want to, and the right position, breath work, etc. for you will come.
4. Because it's weird.
It's weird? Whatever. You're weird.
So what do you have to lose except all those habits, traits, compulsions that aren't serving you anyway? As I said, the hardest part is just making it a habit. You will have days that you don't want to. Do it anyway. And those times where you force yourself to do it your thoughts might fight you the entire time and you won't feel like you did anything. Keep doing it anyway. I mean just give it three weeks okay? Just three weeks. You've watched reality TV in one sitting for longer stretches. I can promise you if you do, you'll be super cool.
May I never lose the joy I find in riding the subway! Sitting on the train, I'm always captivated by the strangers who surround me and the fact that each of them has their own story. I make a practice of studying faces; often you can see a person's entire life mapped across the canvas of their countenance. It's funny b/c I ride the lines w/ my iPod turned way up and I am sitting amongst people I've never met before, and yet it's in those moments when I feel very connected with humankind.
My strengths have never included navigational prowess. In fact, when I'm staying at a hotel, I frequently forget how to get from the elevator to my room and back again. It's that bad. So naturally the instructions I printed directing me from the Kenmore T stop to the Avalon were effectively useless to me. I had a lone ticket to see Spoon, a band I've seen roughly 300,000 times, but first I was to meet John, a friend of my friend Phillip's. (Is that grammatically correct? It sounds funny.) I hadn't met John before -- he used to live in Austin -- which is where we both know Phillip from, so I didn't know what he looked like. All I knew is that we were going to meet in front of the Avalon at 7 p.m., grab some coffee, and then I'd go to see Spoon around 9.
Anyways, I'm walking out of the T stop and the directions state to head east which means nothing to me since I can't tell which way I'm facing. So I start walking, and then turn into a grocery store to ask the clerk if he knows where Avalon is. Sure he says, take a left on Brookline and then another left. I found Brookline (it was right in front of me) but to take another left would have put me at Fenway Park, which didn't *seem* right. So I walked right past it, and kept heading down Brookline. Fortunately, at this moment, my friend Hannah, who's from Boston but is in NYC, texted me. I seized the opportunity to call her straight away. Where am I going??? I asked her. She didn't know. (This is sounding pathetically metaphorical, btw.) We talked for a little while longer and I decided to ask a passerby. I put Hannah on hold, turned to this guy walking to my left and asked if he knew where Landsdowne Street was. Are you Vanessa, he asked? It was so strange, I felt stuck for a moment in the humor of it all. So we're walking to get some coffee and I pass the band on the street. I can't count the number of times I've passed the lead singer on an Austin street, so it seemed funny to be 2000-something miles away and feel like I could be on Red River, save for the monstrous stadium in the periphery.
We opted for a light dinner and coffee, and then John decided to go to see the show too. We walked to Avalon around 9 p.m. and as we're approaching the door I hear Spoon playing. It started 45 minutes earlier! Who's ever heard of the headlining act coming on stage at 8:00 on a Thursday?? I guess that's how Boston rolls.
Couple of observations: Spoon is so mature now! I've seen a lot of their shows and I am just so happy w/ how far they've come. Their confidence is remarkable. I found myself wondering about the permanence of their confidence. Is it dependent on success? Is it deep-seated? Will it be there when they're 50? Regardless, they sounded full and energetic, and I even enjoyed one last show. (As much as I love the older albums and much of the new stuff, I don't think I can do one...more...show. Seriously.)
Okay, second: It hit me as they were playing their encore that I never even considered getting something to drink. In July I embarked on a self-imposed one-month moratorium from drinking which turned into nearly three. I broke it when I was at my friend Jake's wedding a few weeks ago. I had three glasses of wine and felt super icky the next day. And then last week at dinner I had almost a glass of wine and was totally loopy... Freak! And that's been it. For so long drinking socially was such a big AND unconscious part of my life that the month-long break I planned seemed like it would never end. As time has passed, and its absence has become my norm, I'm struck by how much my life has changed over the last two months. It's completely different. I'm different.
This time here has been so rich. Not always easy, for sure. Not even mostly easy, actually. Just when I start blowing on my fingernails remarking how great things are, I am knocked down again. I am learning a tremendous amount about self-esteem and the importance of making choices in life before the universe makes them for you. Best of all, I'm enjoying the peace that comes when allowing myself patience with these lessons. As my friend Bob says (and he quotes DaVinci), "I am still learning".