"Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think." A.A. Milne

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Raging Hose-beast of Christmas Present

For those who know me personally or who have read this blog, you will know I absolutely preach self care. I cannot stress the importance enough. My husband has an incredibly demanding and time consuming job. We homeschool our children and they both veer towards an empathic nature. I have a very strong personality. The result is I tend to set the emotional tone for both my home and my family. Taking care of my emotional needs is vital for our peace and tranquility.

But as you all know, Christmas is upon us. This year is a bit more fraught with stress for us. My husband is flat out getting his butt handed to him at his job.  He is amazing but the work level is astronomical and he is struggling to not drown. Another addition is my new part time job. It is greatly beneficial to our lives but it also adds just one more thing.

Let's cut to the chase. I have not been eating well. I have skipped far too many yoga practices, meditation sessions, and I need to go for a run so badly I might just take off in my house shoes here in any minute. I woke up this morning with my mind racing and physically shaking. It is just not good at all.

Now I could muddle through and hope for the best. I guess I could also start day drinking. But let me be honest with you, if you lose your mind this time of year in order to make perfect memories for you family then you are most likely perpetrating an epic fail. There is a very good chance your children's memories won't be of a perfect Christmas. Nope, they will probably have precious and endearing memories of mom turning into a hellacious bitch and holidays as something everyone just tried to make it through as unscathed as possible. Probably not the warm remembrances we were going for, right?

So what to do, what to do....

You grab your over-committed, unrealistic expectations by the horns and your wrestle it into submission. But in a loving, peaceful, and zen way, of course.

Seriously though, this is what I do anytime I whirl out of control like this. First STOP. Just stop. Close your eyes and breathe. Take five minutes to meditate. I promise, you really do have five minutes. Clear your mind and then gentle seek to get to the route of your problem. Mine are lack of self care and unrealistic expectations.

We are referring back to the oxygen mask here. You put your oxygen mask on and then your children's and anyone else you claim responsibility. Oh, and remember most people are simply not your responsibility. So I take care of my needs first in this instance.

I need to clear my brain and have a tranquil environment. I grab a piece of paper and brain dump everything I "think" I need to do. Then I clean my home to what makes me happy. For me it is a clean kitchen and clutter picked up. I light candles and turn on chant music of some kind. I have read many articles about chants raising your vibrations. I am not sure how it works but for me it works.

The first thing apparent, normally, is I am not eating well, doing yoga and mediation practice, or working out especially running. It really is funny the things I know with every fiber of my being I need to stay centered and in harmony are the first thing I chuck away. These are the first thing I change back. For me this means probably no junk for Christmas. Yes, I am a total sugar junkie and those seasonal treats are amazing but honestly, sanity and balance feels better than any of them taste. I will flat out cancel other things to run and do yoga. Remember, this is your foundation and it is of the utmost importance.

Once these things are back in alignment it is easy to see what else needs to go. Go over that list of things you are convince you MUST do. None of us like to shirk our commitments but sometimes we must summon up our humility and admit, "I am sorry but I committed to more than I can do at this time." Sometimes it means dropping commitments. Sometimes it means buying something rather than homemade. The truth is those people who love us and really want the best for us will understand even if they are disappointed. If they don't, then maybe it is time to re-evaluate that particular relationship, family or not.

It is so easy to get carried away this time of year. It is so easy to run ourselves ragged. Is it any wonder people fall sick right after the holidays? We refuse to care for ourselves and compromise our immune systems. It just isn't worth it to me.

So today, I am streamlining everything. I am eating well. I have scheduled yoga for this afternoon. I have scheduled a run for tomorrow and a couple of days next week. Those particular appointments with myself are sacrosanct. Only a true emergency will pull me away and nothing involving cookies is an emergency.

I encourage to not lose your focus at this time of year or any time of year. You are not nearly as effective as you think when you do. Simplify and do what is the most important to you and your family and our memories and experiences will be so much the better for it.

May peace and harmony find you my friends and may the warmth and blessings of the holidays be upon you.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Exceeding My Limitations: My Birthday Present To Myself

This year my birthday present is a family lesson and a day of climbing at the local indoor climbing gym. This isn't a surprise to anyone who knows me. I have wanted to do this for some time now. It is a logical adventure for us to embark on at this point. However, it recently became even more important to me.

This past summer I developed vertigo. After a rather large scare and a slew of medical tests, it seems to be the type some women simply develop in their 40's. At first it really affected my life. It was hard to get around and it hit hard. Time has eased the worst of the symptoms and attacks but it has become a permanent resident of my life. It is mine to learn from and deal with each day. Yoga was difficult until I learned to just stop, focus, and let it past. Although it will sometimes still bring me to my knees, over all it isn't too much of a burden.

Until Thanksgiving Weekend at the Trout Lodge.

We love getting away for that weekend and jumping head long into outdoor adventures. We hike, explore, and generally ramble. My daughter went on her first two solo trail rides. She was so proud to sit up there holding the reins of our horse. She was, as she terms it, just so nervacited. I love that girl.

Actually, it was a long weekend of firsts. Logan tried archery for the first time. I tried it for the first time since middle school and discovered I am pretty damn good at it. So that's a new passion to explore. It was also our first time at climbing Pines Beak. It is a 35 foot climbing wall. Both the kids and John did amazingly well. I am mesmerized by the spirit of adventure my children embody. Seriously, it is wonderful to behold their courage and taste to try new things. Well, except food. My husband is a beautiful beast of a man, so no surprise there.

My story was different. I jumped into it ready to go. It is so hard but I was determined. But sometimes determination just isn't enough in a given situation. I barely made it two-thirds of the way up when my new nemesis struck me. Vertigo hit. The world spun while I was over 20 feet in the air. I immediately rappelled down. I was very disappointed first in myself and second in the new normal of my life. It pretty much sucked.

I have thought long and hard in that moment when I gave up. I know now I could have done a few things to hold it at bay or allow it to ease off again. I could have just stayed immobile right there and gave it time to pass. The truth is there was a line waiting to go and I did not feel I had the freedom to employ this. Well, I didn't really think. I reacted. Also, it was really a one try thing. One bite of the apple and then you are done. My limitations defeated me....for that moment.

Because you see, I am not going to be defeated. I am not going to allow vertigo to define my life. It will not decide my limitations. I am going to decide that for myself. I am going to do this again. I have designed a situation set up to help me succeed. We will have a two hour class. I will tell the instructor straight away my challenge so that person will know I may just need to hang out for a few minutes. I will have all day to try and try again. I want to do it once. I want my children to see me doing my level best to overcome this issue. Maybe I will do it again. Maybe I won't. That doesn't really matter. What matters is I have the determination, the focus, and the grit to give my all to reach this goal. Even if I don't, I will know I gave it may all. Isn't that what truly matters in the end?

Exceed your limitations my friends. Do not allow them to define you. Define yourself each and every day.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Real Life Yoga

When my son was born five and a half years ago, life changed. That little man came flying into our lives and the roller coaster that was his first two years of life had a profound impact on our little family. Where my daughter had been so easy, he proved to be a challenge. He was sick and rarely slept. Life was insane and hard.

About six months in I realized I needed to do something or it wasn't going to be pretty. My nerves were shot, my emotions were a wreck, and my overall health was suffering. I had flirted with yoga for well over a decade at that point but it was time to get serious. So I reluctantly drug my mat into the middle of my kitchen and my journey began. I have been asked, how did you do it with a two year old and a six month old? Well, it was hard but each day I unrolled my mat and started again.

Through the past five years during my yoga practice I have been crawled on, screamed at, puked on, and during some cat and cow pose series, ridden like a horsey. My children have attempted some rousing games of "London Bridge" while I held down dog. They have "decorated me to make me more pretty" while I held a precarious half moon pose. I have had to stop five minutes in because little man was just not having it.

My three dogs thought the kids were having too much fun so they joined in as well. Licked faces are common. Stepping back to find a pile of puppies that magically appeared is just not a surprise. Our new kitten now loves to attack my pony tail on any inverted position. It is good times.

I have also had the joy and privileged to guide my children through their first asanas when they wanted to,"do yoga with mommy". My precious old guy pup,now 15, often seeks the peace of my practice and curls up to sleep right beside my mat. Many of my savasanas have been accomplished with a warm, quiet toddler or preschooler draped immobile across my body. "I can hear your heart mommy. It is beautiful.", whispered to me in a reverent tone.

My yoga is my life. I try to live it on and off the mat. The truth is the world is not going to stop. It will not ease up with its demands and distractions as we find our inner peace. No, we must learn to find that inner calm, that equinimity, within the maelstrom of life. My kitchen yoga practice has taught me these lessons well.

There were many days I was frustrated. Could I please just get a few minutes of peace and quiet so I can do this???? How am I supposed to learn with all these distractions??? Well, now I understand the distractions were the lesson. All of these crazy and often hilarious situations has taught me great focus and determination. Learning to laugh at myself and humility were included for free.  It has taught me to get up, unroll my mat, and start my practice fresh each day.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Chaos, Broken, and Foundations for Greater Strength and Growth

The past 5 months have been hard, life changing even. Once again I will warn you the following is pretty chaotic, raw, and even messy but that is what life has been for me so I think that is fitting.

In the past few months I was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm, experienced major upheavals with my closest friends including loss, have been hit with some major financial issues, found out I no longer have a brain aneurysm even though they don't know why (but I am still very grateful), started experiencing perimenopause, and been brought full circle to face some of my greatest fears. It has been a hell of a ride.

The brain aneurysm was huge. It stops you in your tracks and makes you re-evaluate everything in your life. What matters? What is actually important? What will you do with your very short and precious amount of time here? Have I failed at this event called life? Big stuff. Often without any clear answers, just more questions. Then after some major tests....it was gone. They don't know why. The earlier tests showed it was there but the better test now shows nothing. I don't know why. Out of all of the things I have experience this summer, I think I am most at peace with this one. Maybe it was even a miracle. I could live with that.

During this time of medical mayhem and immediately following, I experience some very difficult and very emotional situations with friends incredibly dear to my heart. It was not a good time for me to deal with these issues but they happen when they happen. I won't go any further with this because it is not just my story to tell but needless to say I felt like part of my heart was ripped out of me. It hurt, a lot.

This all brings me to facing my fears. For most of my life I have never felt good enough. Deeply within my soul I have felt I was not living up to my potential and for some reason that failure mattered deeply. I am not actually terribly ambitious. I like living a life of thinking and dreaming. I like living a quiet life and I do not crave, nor do I want, to live a rigorous life of success. Even though it wasn't important to me, I felt the failure. I was failing...someone or something.

Having children changed my life. I am really good at this mother thing. I love running my home and caring for my family.  Homeschooling is something I excel at with ease. It just makes sense to me and I love it. What I do each day really matters. During this time I have branched out and went deeper in yoga and meditation. I started drawing and painting. I discovered for the first time I am an artist and I revel in it! I taught myself to play the recorder and then the piano. My life was very beautiful and fulfilling to me.

This summer has rocked that paradigm. Over a year ago John lost his job. We devastated all of our savings and money put back in order to survive the months before his new job started. We had to buy a second car and incur some additional expenses outside of our budget. Due to a high  deductible, NONE of my tests or doctor visits were paid for this summer. Every, single penny is out of pocket. Both kids and myself where walloped with major dental. Groceries and gas keep climbing. I am sure you understand. You live in this economy too. But what it comes down to is, I need to bring in some money to help the family and this scares the hell out of me.

I do not know if I have the strength and reserves to manage our family, homeschool, work, and keep my depression at bay. I am easily overwhelmed. I want the best for my family. Over the summer I also had my spirituality questioned. That was deeply personal and really cut me. The amalgamation of experiences had given rise to anger, irritation, anxiety, and even some rage. I think I had a band-aid over these emotions ripped away and they all poured forth. There was doubt that I could possibly practice yoga, mediation, and intentional living AND experience these big, ugly emotions. Any other time I would have let these musings roll off of me but this time, well this time was days after I had found out I didn't have a ticking time bomb in my head and my heart was vulnerable. It caused me to really doubt myself.

Now I know a lot of people have it harder than I do. I know there are eleventy frillion cases of people in far worse situations than I am. This is true. But pain is relative and still hurts. It doesn't really matter where you fall on the who has it worse scale, it can still feel devastating.

This brings me to now. In many ways I feel broken. I feel like my soul was stripped of protection and vulnerable then experienced some rather rough handling while in that fragile state. I am at a crossroad of how my life will be shaped from here. I am at the foundations. Yes, there is fear but you know what? There is some excitement as well. Change can be beautiful and terrifying all at the same time. Before we can create, we must often tear down. Am I broken or am I simply stripped bare and metaphysically tore down ready for the creation process? I can tell you I feel real. I feel authentic. I feel as if perspectives and preconceived notions have been at least partially stripped away leaving an open space waiting quietly for the new.

I wonder where this adventure will take me?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

That Moment When Everything Changes

I hope you are good with raw and probably not edited very well because I think that this going to be my style for the foreseeable future.

A few weeks ago I started experiencing vertigo. It was fairly significant at first but soon eased off. Still something felt off. I am not one who goes to doctors very often. I have a high pain tolerance and I just figure things will sort themselves out. Hey I am relatively young and quite healthy so it will all be okay, right? But something was just off so I went.

We went over everything and it was decided I should have an MRI. Just to be on the safe side, you know. No big deal.

Well, long story short. I have a brain aneurysm. I am 42 years old and a vessel could pop in my brain at any moment and it is over. Really changes your perspective on, well everything. This morning I spent time teaching my beautiful 6 year old daughter how to contact 911 and tell them our address and they we have dogs. Of course, we have talk about this but all of sudden the lesson seemed quite pressing.

I just found out today and I am meeting with a neurologist tomorrow. I have no idea what the prognosis will be but whatever it is that is what we have to deal with. There isn't a choice. I don't like that. I find I like my choices very much thank you.

Okay, now the good stuff and my friends there are always good things to be had. I find myself tearing up because of all the beauty in my life. My friends and family have already been offering help and prayers. I am surrounded by love and that is incredible. Then my husband, oh that man, that man. I don't think I say often enough how insanely lucky I am to have him my life. Do you know the Lana Del Ray song "Young and Beautiful"? She has this amazing, heartbreaking voice reminiscent of the torch singers of yesterday. She asks in her song if you will still love me when I am not longer young and beautiful and all I have left is my battered soul. In my relationship with my husband I can answer an unequivocal yes, yes he will still absolutely love me and stand by me no matter what happens. That knowledge leaves me feeling unbelievably secure. It is a comfort that means more to me than I can properly express.

I have been a little sad because I have not had much time for art, the piano, and reading. Now I have time to spend on those pursuits and really indulge in my creativity. I have something new to explore and I am effectively grounded from physical pursuits for the time being. One door closes and another one opens. Hannah and I will have more time for chess and science experiments. Logan and I can paint together and work puzzles. There are bright sides.

My best friend had super scary life threatening cancer. She beat it and her life has been irrevocably changed for the better. There are a multitude of stories like that. I choose to find hope in them. I think so much depends on your attitude. Will you stay positive, open, and loving? Will you see this as an opportunity to learn and grow? Will you take this reminder to cherish life for the precious, fleeting gift that it is?

Yes, yes I will. To all of it, yes I will.

May harmony and peace find you and fill your hearts and lives my friends.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Bootcamp with the Universe As Your Drill Sergeant

The following is raw and unedited. I just needed to get it out and this felt like the right place. 

Lately the universe has been dealing me some body blows. Earlier this spring, I will publicly humiliated by women I didn't even know in a way the reminded me of the humiliation only junior high mean girls can dish out. It hurt. I honestly hadn't done anything and it came out of nowhere. It was, well shocking. Then an important relationship ended on an ugly note. I don't form deep friendships with just anyone. I have the impression the I have been the subject of conversations with many other people. Being picked apart by people I don't even know at the instigation of someone close feels brutal. I feel emotionally violated and hurt.

Then I was floored, literally, by an acute case of vertigo. It was disorienting but not too worrying. But there were some funny signs accompanying it so I went to a doctor. Due to the lasting headaches, the doctor has ordered an MRI. Well, to be accurate, she is now fighting my insurance for one.

I am going to be honest, I am scared. I don't overreact in general but this one hit hard. I know I am already in an emotionally vulnerable state and I am sure that is exacerbating the situation but whatever the cause, I have a pit of fear in my stomach and it sucks big blue monkey butt.

There have been some other things but those are the major ones. It is true I am having strong, negative emotions over this whole thing but it is being balanced out by an equal measure of knowing in my gut this is all happening for a reason. I feel like the universe is tearing me down so I can be built up even stronger.

All of these experiences could very easily cause me to turn into myself and shut out the world. I could allow them to form a hard shell around my heart filled with distrust, fear, and worry. I could allow them to seep into my being and define who I am.

I don't think I am going to do that.Nope, not at all.

Through these not so great experiences I have been learning humility, clarity, truth, and authenticity. I have learned to trust my inner gut and my own judgement of who and what I am. I am also learning it would be better for me to be more open and allow more people in. I know that appears to be incongruous with having my trust betrayed but I actually feel deeply it is the right choice.

So I stand here and I am going to boldly admit I am scared. But I am also strong, loved, and know a bold, fearless heart is within me to rise up and meet all comings with courage and joy.

May harmony find you my friends.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Saying Goodbye and Honoring Lessons

Through a series of events, I have organized a group of women hikers. We meet and take on endurance hikes, 10-15 miles in length. The interest in the group rather surprised me but I am not sure why. I think it actually makes sense. Women crave a sisterhood, being part of a tribe. I think many of us long to come together and be our authentic self. It is easier to accomplish in nature. How you look or who you know or whatever superfluous and superficial characteristics tend to be stripped away around mile 6 if you brought them at all.

I love this group. I come back feeling more connected and refreshed. It brings me full circle. We don't hike in winter as ice is prevalent and dangerous. After a long hiatus, I was excited to for the first one of the season.

At first the weather looked perfect. The long term forecast was for sunny skies in the 60's but slowly temperatures and my spirits started dropping. In the end the forecast was in the 40's. People dropped out. Too Cold. This winter has been hard enough. I get it. I do. I had to go. I was the one who put it together but I wasn't very happy about it.

Then I realized the universe was presenting me with a beautiful opportunity. Just this past week, my daughter and I had been on a hike looking for signs of spring. We had found them. We saw the first two wild flowers of the season rising out of the stark beauty of the barren winterscape. But I had never really said good-bye to winter.

If you read this blog or know me, then you will know this particular winter has been, well pretty horrible for me. I fought hard with despair and depression. It came close to overwhelming me but I pulled through in the end. But looking back, I can see I learned some immensely valuable lessons. I learned how strong I was. I learned what friends I could truly depend on for comfort and much needed strength. I learned it was okay to throw up my hands, hunker down, and just hibernate for a bit releasing myself from expectations and self-imposed responsibilities.

We don't tend to learn the truly important lessons in easy, comfortable situations. Nope, we best learn in the fire. It is within the metaphorical crucible we are truly reborn. For whatever reason, we need hardship and strife to break through to the next level. Winter had been my frigid fire. I have grown exponentially in these months. I think I owed my honor, respect, and a heartfelt and thankful good-bye to this season of my life.

The hike was amazingly beautiful and lifted my spirits higher than I could have imagined.

There is life waiting to burst forth in each of these pictures. It is quiet and patient but it is there. I am thrilled I was granted the opportunity to say good bye and honor the hardships and lessons learned. It was  beautiful and magical way to round out the experience.

May harmony find you.

(PS My friend Laura took these amazing pictures. Thank you so much for giving me permission to use them.)