Where it’s at

Where it’s at…Turns out,  it’s on my mat…A few weeks ago one of my yoga teachers was struggling with a difficult decision and she commented that sometimes “life gets lifey,” and for her, reconnecting her brain and body and getting on her mat is where she most feels revived.  I realized that, while I am very new to the practice of yoga, it’s holding true for me too.  I feel most “right” anymore when I am in the yoga studio.  I think to myself, EVERY time I leave a class, “if I could spend hours a day doing this, I would”  THAT is how good it feels to me; my brain and my body equally, and I feel like if I didn’t have to work I would be there every day, and believe me, there are few places I EVER want to be other than in my house!!  We ALL, no matter our gender, wealth, job, or family, have moments when life gets lifey don’t we?? To my ears, and way of thinking, it was one of the best expressions I might have ever heard…it made me think about how important it is to have a place where you feel GOOD when life gets lifey…

Our teachers often read aloud to us at yoga and I love for a class to begin this way because then, if I find my mind wandering during our 75 minutes together, when I go back to my breath, I also go back to the words that were read, and I like thinking about them and what they might mean to me, or for me, or often, how they might alter the way I interact with others. Recently the text was something about “being” where you want to be; living the life you feel proud of, or glad for, or intend to live.  Perhaps it was about authenticity, as I suppose we all read into the readings because we color the words with our own desires or regrets or understanding. We can only comprehend from where we are.  The teacher asked about, and I’m paraphrasing here, “if you were to die today, were you living the life you wanted to be living” and I realized that there is very little that is not what I want it to be…what an amazing thing to think about during the weeks of a new year and after the weeks of thanks, and giving; this time of a year, Thanksgiving and Christmas and then the fresh start of a new calendar page often feels like a jumble of just this, gratitude and generosity.  I have both in abundance.

I have moved into a zone of womanhood that for most of my adult life seemed unattainable or unavailable, and “having it all” sounds so grandiose and I don’t mean it to be…but the reading at yoga made me think really hard about where I am right now, and honestly it’s where there is really very little that needs to change, and what does need changing is totally within my control.  The things I want to be different in my life are things that I have the power to make different.  I am well aware that this makes me unfairly lucky.  I know two very dear friends who right now WANT things to change NOW, in a BIG way, but the circumstances are that these things can’t change, no matter how much they wish otherwise, there is nothing either of them can do to make that happen…it is a feeling of “guilt” that I have sometimes when I speak to both of these women…that they are utterly exhausted from having to deal with difficult circumstances and here I am going to yoga and feeling healed by crystal bowls, taking granddaughters to dance and cheer, coming and going as I please, just flowing through an unfairly easy mid-life at the moment…How marvelous for me, when so many do not have that luxury…too many people are in situations, many through no fault of their own, that they don’t want to be in and can’t fix…how lucky I feel that I am not, at present, one of them.  It makes me deeply empathetic and so grateful…What an extraordinary place to find oneself at mid life.  I am however, WELL aware that at any moment, on any day, this can change…I might feel free at this hour, in this house, but in a split second things could be very different and very uneasy…which I suppose is yet another reason I feel so lucky to enjoy the lovely moments as they come and go through the days of my life.

When life got lifey in my teens and twenties I used to write, feverishly so, for hours in my journals if I needed to, until my mind felt “right” again.  In my thirties and forties I used to do aerobics and kick boxing, and sometimes punch and kick that bag with the ferociousness of a crazy person until my mind felt “right” again.  Here I am now, starting the years of my 50’s and discovering yoga makes my mind feel “right” again even on days when it doesn’t feel wrong in any way at all! Thinking and breathing are two things that we HAVE to do to stay alive and I feel pretty strongly that if I can find a way to do both of them better, that’s a good thing!!! I honestly did not expect to like yoga at all when I first joined, and I had no idea that there would be days that I was dripping with so much sweat my feet and hands would slip&slide, or that I would be strengthening my core and biceps just as much as I used to doing high impact cardio, or as a dancer or cheerleader when I was young.  I had no idea that the minutes of meditation and stillness would be as beneficial as the movement and flow.  I had no idea what yoga classes involved, or that it would help create such changes in me. 

Our family motto about “tomorrow you could be run over by a pie wagon” is something of a joke, but it turns out, by joking about it, I live it. If I died today I would feel pretty great about how hard I loved the people I love, and how hard I worked for the people who employ me, and how hard I tried to be a good daughter, good mother, and good nana…those roles that I have taken very seriously, I think I have performed them well, and with good intentions…I no longer really ever wish to be better than anybody but the me I was yesterday.  When the yoga teacher asked if we were living the life we intended to live, I felt really good about answering, “yes.”  I feel good about the life I am living.  If today was my last day I would feel like I didn’t need to apologize to anybody, or ask for forgiveness for anything, or suffer with the fullness of deep regrets.  What freedom.  What a gift. What magic.  What a thing to discover; the life you are living is a good life.  The values you’ve thought were important to build your moral compass make you feel like you have been responsible for the goodness in your life.  Reflecting on that, on my mat, breath in-breath out, is magic.

My home has always been something of a sanctuary where I feel most right and most true; when my house gets disrupted or things are not where I want them, or how I want them, I feel it physically…I get a splitting headache and I get anxious when I start to sense that the disorder around me is growing and I don’t feel “good” until I fix it.  This might sound odd but it is perfectly normal for me, but these last two years it turns out that on my back, on my mat, is another place where I truly feel “good” and find that I am totally comfortable, and it’s where I feel like I belong…this is a big deal, to me.  We live in a world where it’s often all want-want-want me-me-me busy-busy-busy…on to the next thing…go-go-go…on the mat, breathing, it’s about nothing but being on the mat, breathing. One can be consumed with worries about TOO MANY things to count, one can be consumed with upsets about TOO MANY things to count, but when one is listening to the Sat Nam mantra there is nothing…It loosely translates into being your own truth, and finding that you are at peace with the life you have created when your teacher asks, “if you were to die today,” is a most splendid place to find yourself as you’ve recently started another trip around the sun and a year has ended and a new one has begun.  “I can’t believe I am this old and having this much joy” is a frequent thought for me.  That’s magic. That’s good medicine. I’ve often been told that I seem to always look on the bright side, so maybe that is part of the equation that makes life hard to solve for some people…silver lining seeking 101 might be a more necessary study for us all!






Have I told you lately that I love you?

She lives next door to me.  I only have to take about 50 steps from my east deck to be at her front door.  I have to go by her house to get out my driveway.  34 years ago this morning she took her first breath of air on this earth and 34 years ago this morning I suddenly cared more about her than anything else…That’s my daughter, the one who made my heart grow in a most delightful way, 34 years ago at 5:04 in the morning. It’s funny to me that we now can go literally for days without seeing each other, or speaking, so close and yet so far…We text often; facts like the little blonde wonder, her youngest, needs to be driven to Tuesday evening tumbling class, and the brilliant brunette, her teenager, needs to be driven to Thursday afternoon dance competition, so we have to communicate information, but that is mostly all it is…She left for work and forgot to close her garage door…will I check her mailbox…She had to leave and the dogs are still out…simple messages of the day-to-day that she sends me, we don’t really have much “big talk” and that’s okay.  It’s part of how life changes over time. She knows I am here to hear her when she needs big talks.  Every time we text or talk about anything I still feel such a rush of love and adoration for her so deep that it’s never been able to be adequately described…

Watching her get married right after high school was one of the saddest experiences of my life, but 13 months later watching her become a mother turned out to be one of the happiest experiences of my life.  Watching her get divorced nine years later broke my heart, but watching her fall in love again to a man who made so many of her dreams come true made my heart for her feel well healed.  Watching her fulfill her dream of becoming a teacher brought back hundreds of happy memories of watching her “play school” for hours and hours of her childhood.  It’s funny, when you love your baby, but your baby is now a 34 year-old mother and wife, you realize that most of your thoughts of her are memories…things that happened once before, as her life is full and busy while she makes her own memories with her daughters, so I become a person on the periphery…still so important I suppose, but on the outside, the outskirts of her life…I became, over these years, more of an observer than a participant in her life, which is normal and part of the cycle.  What makes it perhaps easier for me than it might be for other mothers is that I am next door to her, and with that comes a sense of connection that can’t be denied.  I don’t “miss her” like many other women miss their adult daughters because we are so connected.

Because our lives are busy the action of loving her and her girls has become more significant than the words of loving her and her girls.  I have been thinking a lot this winter about action love and word love.  Like Depeche Mode sings, “words are meaningless and forgettable.”   It becomes more apparent to me as the years go by that the words are seldom, if ever, as important as the actions.  I suppose if it comes down to it, I would do just about anything for my daughter.  I have said ‘no,’ about lots of things lots of times over these 34 years but, “yes” is certainly more of the action love we do around here than not.  I don’t pay as much attention to word ‘love’ like many other people do, perhaps because  I learned over the years that the value of action love is superior to me than the often evidently meaningless “value” of word love.  My actions as a mother and a Nana are love.  My time and attention to their needs is the phrase “I love you” without even saying anything.  When I wake up much earlier than I need to, so that I can take each of her daughters to the bus stop, so that she can get on with her morning uninterrupted, that’s action love.  When I invite her over for game night or sangria, even if I have no information to share, that’s action love.  When I left work early for years to greet little girls off the school bus so that she did not have to leave work early, that was action love.  EVERY thing we do for somebody we love, that we don’t have to do, is showing love in a more profound way than uttering the words of love. The actions of love are far more important and far more meaningful than any words that are ever spoken, at least to me…

When I see her thriving happily I feel like she is everything I have ever done right in my life.  When I see her struggle I feel like I wish I could help more, do more, fix more of what needs adjusting…those feelings are where action love falls short; we can’t always help, do, or fix for those we love, part of growth is having to experience that which makes us uncomfortable and uneasy, AND we all have to suffer those trials and hardships to evolve.  On Christmas afternoon I was nearly brought to tears, just looking around the table and seeing how much love was in the dining room…this small house feels so big when it is filled with laughter and love.  There have been moments over these 34 years, but honestly mostly over these last ten, where I have asked the universe “what’s so special about me that I get THIS life?”  I have felt so lucky, too lucky, that there is so much love in my life when so many have so little.  There is such depth of suffering, and so much untethered sadness all around us, everywhere we look, if we are open to seeing it, and yet my daughter and I get to live next door to each other with an abundance of laughter and love and good feelings that just seems unfair at times, that we get such excess when too many have none.  I have not told her lately that I loved her, BUT perhaps building these two houses on these two lots and helping her with her two children, will turn out to be the greatest action love there ever could have been for me to give, and really, that is beyond all words isn’t it?

The Eagle and The Mouse

Like many people, perhaps I could say most, I have two very different ways of seeing my world…sometimes I am so focused on something so far away that it seems positively comical that I am even “worried” about it, whatever it is.  Other times however I am totally zoning in on the right here-right now, and will not be satisfied until I have an all encompassing handle on the specific situation and have given my full attention to the  immediacy of the issue.  If you want to talk about somebody who is constantly looking for balance, I might very well be your girl…I am sometimes overwhelmed with my thoughts of something so far off, and other times overwhelmed with my thoughts of something that is NOW.  I can’t honestly tell you that I think one is better than the other, or one is healthier for my spirit than the other, but I can tell you that it is true; I flip flop from immediate worries to far off in the future worries and pretty much have the same reaction to both.   Some months ago I was reading Oprah magazine and one of the writers of an article was discussing “…an eagle soaring high can see a mouse miles away, but a mouse can only see what is right in front of him, so when you are scattered, you have to rise into eagle view and look at your whole life and the big picture in order to establish your direction, and then you can drop back to mouse vision and focus on specific tasks at hand that will move you toward your goal…”

My teenage granddaughter struggles with this, mightily.  She gets so hyper focused on “little things” instead of seeing the big picture, however, having been a teenager once, and having also raised one, I know that to her, it is not little things at all, and there is nothing whatsoever I can say to her that will help her understand that things get better as we grow up…to her it’s all huge and challenging and upsetting, there is very little looking ahead for her, it is all the immediacy of the difficulties of hormones, school, dance competition, parents, homework, and being 14.  My daughter too struggles with this at times; so zoomed in on the “little things” and not seeing the long view, and for her with the immediacy of a full time job, two adolescent daughters, two step-sons, two large dogs, a husband, and the complexities of combining two families and two households into one, are all challenges that make her frequently unable to go from mouse vision to eagle vision.  It’s quite clear to me that this is not uncommon, regardless of one’s age or position.

A squirrel works very hard in the summer and fall to save and bury nuts for the winter…I live in the woods and see it every day…they build strong thick nests high in trees and they stock away as much food for the winter as they can…to me they see the big picture and know that if they don’t plan ahead they will perhaps die.  In the summer I am very busy at my job and in the winter I am very slow, and like a squirrel, if I did not plan ahead for February property taxes, car insurance, income tax, & house insurance, all of which are due February 1st every year, I don’t know that I could sleep at night…sure buying new jeans, new shoes, new handbags, new earrings, a facial, highlights, and a massage might be a glorious way to spend a few weekends in September, but if I only had mouse vision when I was busy and making money, come winter, like a careless squirrel who did not use her eagle vision, who played instead of saved, I would be full of worry and regrets and have no nuts!

I can honestly say that at my mid-life age, I am much better at seeing the big picture than I was when I was younger…being grounded and not allowed to go to the movies and not allowed to use the phone on a Saturday would have made me wish I was dead at 15, but at 52, not being able to leave the house and not having any need to use the phone on a Saturday would be such a lovely day!!  My experiences and my difficulties, I hope, have made me better able to understand the worries of others.  My life has gone from unbelievably awful to splendidly lovely and I lived through it all…if you are reading this, yours likely has too.  I am not alone in my memories of a time when life was so much harder, and sadder, and angrier, than my life is now, and like you dear reader, I have survived 100% of my worst days, as one of my yoga teacher often says.

When I say or write that I crave balance at his age, I think it is something like what this therapist asserts; mouse vision is needed at times but eagle vision will get you where you want to be.  I get to go on one vacation a year but I have to save up to pay for it.  I get to take unlimited yoga classes for a year but have to save up to pay for it. I have to look ahead to live the life that feels best to me.  I lived a scary and hard life for a few years that taught me a lot of lessons, all of which continue to shape me, decades later.  This week, back in 1986, was one of the worst weeks of my entire life…I won’t go into details again about how awful it was but I remember too clearly, still, how it felt to sob on the telephone to the electric company that it was cold, the house I rented was poorly insulated and I was twelve days from my due date and pleaded with them not to turn off my electricity because the house had electric baseboard heat, and how it felt to go to my piggy bank, that was the shape of a harlequin, and find that the $40 I had hidden for emergency food had been taken by the man I was married to, for, I can only assume, emergency drugs or beer…it was a terrible January and I had only mouse vision at that time.  I did not see a big picture, I only saw the anxiety of the right that minute…minute after minute…I had no food in the house and was on the edge of having no heat, was stuck with no car and no money, and thinking every hour, what if I went into labor here??  I could not have gathered the strength to have eagle vision of any kind whatsoever those weeks…scary men banging on my door looking for money or drugs or the man I was married to made me constantly on edge…The life I live NOW was unimaginable to the 18 year old me of then…she just wanted to not die, she just wanted to be okay, she just hoped things would be better tomorrow…if only she knew then what she knows now…I suppose that is what the therapist might have meant…a mouse is jumpy and anxious  and an eagle soars with confidence…