Fear Factors

As I shook a little pink Himalayan salt into my apple cider vinegar water yesterday morning I realized that I was actually feeling scared…“scared of going to a yoga class?” asked the pretty reasonable part of my brain…“YES! Quite!” answered the anxiety ridden portion of my amygdala. It is no secret to anyone who actually knows me that joining yoga after my 50th birthday has been one of the best things I have ever done for myself, but I generally take classes that are sort of slow and flow-y and stretch-y, but yesterday I had signed up for one called HOT POWER and I was nervous.

My body’s ability to sense even a half of degree of temperature change is fascinating science really, I literally can walk into my house and in less than a minute feel that my boyfriend has adjusted the thermostat, AND there I was, shaking some salt into my ice water with the advance knowledge that I was shortly going to walk into a room full of people that has the thermostat set to 90 degrees and then do power yoga. I was a little bit scared that I would not be able to keep up, and frankly was a lot of bit scared that I might faint!!!

Now, to be clear, I work outside quite a bit all summer…I have left landscaping jobs where my shorts are soaked as wet as a bathing suit, but that is just part of my job that is expected on a hot sunny day, but to purposefully, on my day off, go to a yoga studio knowing that I am going to be dripping with sweat had me thinking that perhaps I had recently lost a few marbles…However, I have been to this particular studio before, and when I have been in the foyer waiting for my “happy hips” class to begin, the kind of class that is slow and stretchy and mellow I suppose I could write, I have watched as the HOT POWER class ended, how every single person who poured out of the room was smiling, sweat pouring into all of their eyeballs and flinging off of their bodies, very wet with sweat from their heads to their toes, but smiling, wide smiles and joyful faces, every time I was there to witness the exit from the class, and so I often asked myself, how scary could it be if everybody leaves there smiling?? …but still I resisted trying something new…scared I would fall on my face doing some kind of balance pose on sweaty feet, scared I would fall on my face because my sweaty foot slipped, scared that because I would be “new,” everybody would notice if I could not do something they could do…fears, all of them silly, but fears nonetheless.

…AND so on Saturday morning when some people are still asleep, I was shaking pink salt into my Yeti with a slightly shaking hand preparing to do something that scared me. I have read quotes over the years that are supposed to be inspiring that say things like “do one thing a day that scares you” but they never inspire me, and instead make me quite rather appreciate my relatively boring life with very few experiences, activities, or events that could be described as frightening in any way whatsoever!! But, yesterday, I chose to do one thing that scared me…AND you know what?? it was FABULOUS!!! The girl to my left was half my size with the most toned arms I have ever seen, and the lady in front of me was able to bend and move her body like a baker twisting a hot Philly pretzel, and I still felt fabulous…I did not feel “less than” because I was not as limber, or feel “bad” because I have weight to lose, I felt so good because I was doing something new, for myself.

I don’t know if I have ever sweated quite so much in 75 minutes and I am 100% certain that my yoga mat has never been so wet, and my glasses were slipping off my face and the sweat was soaking through my headband and stinging my eyes, but I did not stop, I worked very hard to keep up with the teacher’s calls and I did not quit. My sports bra broke 15 minutes into class and still I kept on going, I was at that moment more “afraid” of stopping my momentum than I was of untamed titties! She called out what to do and I did it. She reminded us to come back to our breath and I did it. She said to do a standing split and then lift our arm and twist and I just did everything I was told and the enthusiasm I felt was odd and exciting, to be so hot and so sweaty, but so on fire!!! I felt like the best version of myself for those 75 minutes …AND if there is a real thing as a “runner’s high” which I have read about but never experienced, I got it, doing hot power yoga on a Saturday morning!! I drove home feeling a buzz, a zing, a pulse like a high I never had…it was euphoric. I liked the experience so much that I am going to do it again next week, and I am pretty sure the week after, and quite possibly, unless it’s a Saturday I have to work, from that day forward, forever, till death do us part. I suppose I might still feel a little hesitant and worried that I can’t keep up with the “regulars” if she starts calling out tricks, but it will be totally worth it, to feel again like I felt after class was over…no fear, no worries, just POWER. I felt strong, I felt confident, I felt fearless. “that’s hot!” and I think I got hooked after one dose!

Dig deep

The depths of disappointment can be bottomless if you don’t catch yourself from falling…dig deep, dive into that which brings you peace and joy…this is what I was thinking yesterday morning as I was watering the planters on my decks…people and news are terrible and if we let ourselves pay too much attention too often to the terrible people and the terrible news it’s easy to find yourself thinking terrible thoughts. Let’s all agree on this, thinking terrible thoughts makes you feel terrible and makes it easy to think that life is terrible. To be fair, for some it is very VERY shitty, but I would venture to guess that there is always something to be glad for or some good to be found, if you make the effort to look.

I am totally aware that some people are depressed, they have a medical condition that means even if things look good to us, looking in, for them everything is heavy…I am all about positivity and light, I mean, I try, day after day after day, to find, and focus on, that which is lovely, but I know that mindset of optimism and high hopes is hard for some people to achieve. I also know that for a person suffering from depression, no matter how feverishly they shovel, they can never dig deep enough to get to the good stuff. I still try to share my light, even with those who keep getting sucked back into the dark.

My life has been very dark, very many times. If I knew how I managed to get “out” I could probably write a self-help book and finally be successful!!! BUT, the truth is, I really don’t know what I did or how I did it… that despite the really hard, very bad periods of my life, I kept thinking “things can only get better” and then things got better…It is certainly obvious that life can’t be terrific and happy and perfect and easy ALL THE TIME, but by that point it can’t be SAD, SCARY, and STINKY all the time. Up and down, in and out, high and low, light and dark…that seems perfectly normal to me, but I understand, and with deep sympathy, that for a person who suffers often from low feelings, it can feel like grim is the new normal, and that makes my heart hurt for those people because grim does not feel very good.

I know people who have been treated terribly by those they loved or trusted, I know people who have been betrayed, I know people who have been hurt in ways I can’t even imagine, and for some of them they have found comfort in food, in alcohol, in drugs, in therapy, in cutting, but I also have know some who have found comfort in music, running, yoga, dance, meditation, singing…THERE is always a way out, even if we don’t see it clearly. I find so much joy from organizing and cleaning things, crocheting baby blankets, reading, watching bees and butterflies in the yard, listening to music, really simple things make me feel really happy. If could bottle the feelings I had yesterday morning, watching the hummingbird moths and butterflies on the butterfly bush and watching the bees on the lavender, and seeing how plump the figs are getting, I would share it with the world, but I have no way to share the joy other to write that you have to at least try to find it. I walked outside to water the planters yesterday and made the choice to wander around the yard before it got too hot, and just take notice of all that was fabulous, all that made me smile, I LOOKED ON PURPOSE for the good, made a choice to find the light. Dig deep, with any kind of shovel you can find, and find a way out of the disappointment. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

Hurry Up! …oh, no wait…slow down, please…

How many times, over my years as the Nana-Next-Door, did I exasperatedly say, likely in a raised voice, “hurry up” or “get your shoes on” or “I told you to get your coat” or any of these sorts of expressions that parents and grandparents utter in the days of the years that make a life…but today, no, today is different… I feel sorry for rushing, sorry for often being in a hurry, or annoyed or fussing over time, and a clock…back then, did it really matter if we were late for the pre-school drop off?? I did then, I do now, work for myself, there was no time clock for me to punch, there was no boss waiting for me to open the doors, if we were late for pre-school drop off and then I was late to drop off the little one to my mom and dad’s house after, back in those days, before I then went to work, who really cared?? What did it really matter?? NOW it’s too late…all of my rushing and worry and hurry, what was it good for?? Today I think, slow down please, and I am sorry for rushing you when I rushed you because now I want you to slow down for me, but you are all revved up with a whole world in front of you…

Today the girl I call SWEET-Ti is 17 years old. SO many songs about 17…Young and Sweet only seventeen and a dancing queen, just like a white winged dove on the edge of seventeen, and the way she looks is way beyond compare, and seriously, whatever you do, don’t listen to the one by Winger, ‘She’s only 17’ or you will want to lock your child (or grandchild) in the attic, and Janis Ian’s song “Seventeen” will break your heart… Julie Andrews had it right, ‘Eager young lads and rogues and cads will offer you food and wine’ …oh, it’s both a happy and weary day for me today. I can still remember so clearly, driving down to North Carolina after work on a Thursday in later spring, or maybe early summer of 2005 to paint the nursery where this baby was going to sleep, and as I got onto I95 north that Sunday, after a weekend of painting and baby’s-bedroom preparations, late in the afternoon, as the sun began to move around to my driver’s side window, tears flowing until I got to Virginia…I just could not even believe that this baby was going to be living in North Carolina and I was going to be here in south Jersey…How would I be able to live with a grandbaby 8 hours away??!!

AND so, I took a month off of work, in July no less, my only busy time of year, to go tend to things when she was born…I wanted to help my daughter fall into motherhood, and I figured it would help her young marriage, to not have the stress, sleeplessness, and worries and exhaustion that newborn infants bring, but mostly I wanted to bond with that baby. The way I saw it was this; if I am the one who gives her her night time feedings and talks to her in the dark on the sofa, and puts her in soft fresh clothes, & eases her discomfort and soothes her tummy burps, then she will know who I am, even if she only sees me a couple times a year…this was my train of thought, to help with her first four weeks of life so that somehow her body and her brain would KNOW me for all of her life. I remember thinking that once she was a few months old I would have my daughter call me and I would read out loud to the baby over the phone at bedtime, reading after bath and before bed was a ritual I had with my daughter until she was practically in middle school and something that mattered, still matters to me, and I thought that I would be fine with reading over the phone to her for all of my life. Little did I know that three years later I would be her next door neighbor! Then I never could have even dreamed of this amazing experience, to be a Nana-Next-Door, oh!!! how many nights, over how many years, I walked a few hundred feet down the driveway to read to her at bedtime…truly one of the greatest joys of my adult life!

She gets her driver’s license tomorrow, and I will be, for the most part, just a person in her periphery. I understand this, this is part of the plan, the role I played was to help my daughter raise her daughters, that was why we built our houses next door to each other, and so I knew the day was coming that she would be off on her own, but it still feels heavy in my heart. I suppose much of my “job” is done, again. We have talked about very important things, and deeply discussed the often uncomfortable discussions and have as open a narrative as one could wish for with a young woman in today’s world, so there’s that. We don’t like much of the same music, but we do like a lot of the same food, and we both love lying in the sun and the beach, and a good yoga session, and she has recently, after a long break, fallen back in love with reading…so we have much in common and I hope that lasts for all of my years left on this earth.

Her eyes are still the same chestnut brown as they were at birth, and she has that same caramel skin, and her snaggle tooth that was so precious as a toddler, grew into a perfect smile, with the help of a local and well loved orthodontist, and when I look at her face I still see the face I used to see in the dark, with the moon shimmering through the sheers on the windows, as we sat on the sofa in the wee hours, for those four weeks, figuring each other out…the face is the same, just matured now I guess, changed but not, that face I could not stop gazing upon for hours and hours and hours during her first month here on earth… It’s a little bit funny, when I think of that first month knowing her, I was in no rush whatsoever to do anything…all I did was dote on her needs and delight in her existence.

I was in no hurry to have her fall asleep, or eat, or get bathed, or burp, or poop, or whatever kinds of things you want an infant to get on with, so you can get on with your day, or get back to bed and try to get some sleep, when you are the mother…no, when you are the Nana of a newborn you really have plenty of time…all the time in the world…and I suppose I am regretting all the times I rushed her during the last many years, but will try now, today at least, to be present in today and I’ll focus my attention to the first 31 days she existed when I gave her every second of my time, and every ounce of my energy, and every beat of my heart. She was my whole world for a whole month, and even though I am not all that important to her now, I think it is still deep within her, that knowledge of knowing how deeply I loved her and still love her. Sometimes when she looks at me, and is not rolling her eyes, or bothered by my old fashioned comments, I feel like she remembers our bonding hours all those years ago, like it’s deep within the cells of who she is, our time together became a part of who she is…All the times I rushed her to hurry up, I just did not realize I guess, that the time I would wish her to slow down would be here so quickly…

Weak week

Today is the “anniversary” of one of the worst days of my life. Three weeks after I graduated high school, on a soft flannel blanket atop a cold steel table, I was told that I was about three weeks “more along” than I thought, because although I got the monthly biological evidence over three cycles that everything was functioning normally and was fine…nothing was fine. I got myself unraveled from the paper gown and got dressed and the kind lady with the kind eyes at the front desk handed me back my $400 and I waited out front on the curb for three hours because my girlfriend was told at 9 o’clock, when she dropped me off, to come back for me at two…she was at the mall, cell phones had not yet been invented, and so for three hours on a hot curb on a hot July afternoon on Route 9 in New Jersey I vacillated between whether or not I should just walk into the busy four lanes of traffic or something else. I did not really have a “something else” but I also had never been one of those suicidal tendencies types of teens. I had not had anything to eat or drink since 6 pm the night before, and to write that I was feeling about as low as a teenage girl, with her whole life ahead of her, and with dreams bigger than her brain could hold, could feel, is quite the understatement.

This July day is 37 years away from that July day, but the feelings that I have about the day are exactly the same. It was one of the worst weeks of my entire life because when you are imagining the life you are going to create for yourself when you finally are “an adult,” and in one afternoon all of your dreams you had for yourself are quashed by a biological mishap, there is very little to happily remember. If you have never wanted an abortion, or never had one, you might have a very specific opinion about them, but that is all they are, your opinion, and your opinion should not have ANYTHING to do with some other female body. I have never had lung cancer, I have never had lupus, I have never had a broken leg, and my opinion on how to treat lung cancer, lupus, and leg bones should have NOTHING to do with your lung cancer, your lupus, or your leg, and in fact, the CORRECT THING FOR ME TO THINK ABOUT THINGS THAT HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH ME, is that I want your lung cancer, your lupus, and your leg bones to be treated with the kind of medical care that you desire and that will be BEST FOR YOU. See, my feelings about things which have nothing to do with my own body, are that I want what is best for you and your body. I have no business thinking that my opinions about what is going on inside of your vessel has anything whatsoever to do with me, you see, I hope you or your loved ones get the care that they wish for…see how that works?? My opinions about chemotherapy and radiation, immunosuppressants, and bone resetting should have no weight, whatsoever, about your care…and yet millions of people think that their opinion about clusters of cells, dividing inside the uteruses of females across the country, is their business. My anger, my fear, and my rage, FRAGE as it is now called, over these last days is valid.

When I say and when I write that I love my daughter with all of my heart, that is not a lie. When I write and when I say that I did not want a baby, or to be pregnant, or to be a mother, that is the truth. I did not ever imagine “my baby” with the kinds of “feel good” feelings most expectant mothers have, until literally the first seconds that she arrived on this earth in human form and I heard my sister say, “it’s a girl.” THAT moment is when I decided that I could find a way to be happy with the situation I was in and wanted to be a mother to that baby. THAT moment was my own. If I had said at that moment, no, I don’t want to be a mother to this baby, and asked that it be put up for adoption, THAT moment would have been my own. AND if I had had the biological clues that I ought to take a pregnancy test three weeks sooner than I did, and gotten a girlfriend to take me to the abortion clinic three weeks earlier than I did, THAT would have been my choice too. MINE. Your opinion about it lacks merit, BUT LOOK AT WHAT HAS HAPPENED…because of the opinions of others, tens of thousands of women and girls are scrambling to find care, far from where they live, in many cases hundreds of miles away, because in one day the opinions of some wiped out the options of many. There is nothing kind or caring about it in any way, the cruelty of it is unforgivable.

July 9, 1985 was a summer day that, as far as I know, most of my friends were having fun in the sun at the shore, with their whole lives ahead of them. That week of July was the weakest I had ever felt before and perhaps since…I felt completely defeated by biology and by my body. I hold anger still, nearly 40 years later, that that doctor wouldn’t help me that day. Yes I love my daughter and yes I did the best I could and yes I made the best of a bad situation, but that does not erase my anger and the constant gnawing in my mind of what my life might had been had I not been married, a mother, and divorced all before my 20th birthday. EVERY single thing I had wished about my future, EVERY single thing I had imagined and dreamed about my adult life, was erased, POOF! GONE! Bye-Bye DREAMS!…in one afternoon. I will hug my grown up 36 year-old daughter today, because I do love her, and it is true, had that doctor helped me that July day 37 years ago, she would not be here on this earth, but I would have been a different person too, and the anger has eaten away little bites at a time at me for all of these years, what might I have expected of myself and expected life to be like, if I was not expecting a baby at 17…I imagine a totally different life for myself every day, but also every day I try to make the best of the life I have. This is the truth of who I am, however, it is my own. AND it is partly why a RIGHT TO CHOOSE is so important to me…there is nothing just or fair or compassionate about taking away a choice. Unless you are in fact pregnant and do not want to be it should be no business of any other person but you and the doctor who will help you. The cruelty of this court, which disgusts me, to limit bodily autonomy has literally made me sick…I don’t even have a uterus anymore, but I am sick for all of the little girls and women who live in states where their choices in the matter are gone…I am horrified and I am angry and I wish I could find a way to channel my anger in a way that is not making me sick, but I am working on that…

WHY do some people think that their opinion about a woman’s choice to have an abortion, or to maintain a pregnancy, or a girl’s option to clean out her tiny uterus from the poison of a rapist, or worse, a trusted family member, is any of their business?? I think to myself, unless you have ever had a weak week of your own, get off of your high horse and shut your mouth. Your opinions have caused an event that, as of now, has, or could completely, ruined the lives of thousands of girls and women in your own country, the country that you so boldly claim your patriotism and love and wave your flags for, and so dearly want your guns to protect, well step off, back up, and mind your own business. We have work to do…

Costs, Worths, and Values

What something costs and what we are willing to pay is directly related to what it’s worth to us, how we rate its value I guess you could say. I guess this is rather true both literally and figuratively as I once read a quote that said something like, “if it costs you your peace of mind then the price is too high” and I know that has nothing to do with dollars and cents…I suppose what I mean is that for some people having a luxury car with a monthly lease payment that costs a lot is “worth it,” because they value the prestige of driving a fancy vehicle or they really like all those bells and whistles, whereas somebody else might want a far less costly vehicle that they own outright after four years because the fancy/luxury factor is not worth it to that person who values practicality. Certainly both vehicles deliver each person from PointA to PointB, and their costs are not at all the same, but their worth IS the same to each person, because as I see it, as individuals, we all have a very different opinion about value.

When I built my small house I considered how much it costs to heat and cool a larger space, and the difference in what my materials costs were for things like lumber, sheetrock, plywood, nails, etc., well it all adds up for more square footage, and to me it was not worth the added expense to have a bigger home, whereas lots of people desire huge houses, often with rooms they don’t even use, or fully furnish, and to them the cost to heat and cool empty space is worth it to have a big house, it is something that they value. This is not to imply that one is better than the other in any way, it’s just totally subjective, worth and value, how we each justify all of the costs that make up living a life, how we determine what we will and won’t pay, and why, that you simply can’t really compare any scenarios at all.

How much something costs and what we feel it’s worth to us is as unique as our finger prints. For example my new yoga mat was recently delivered, and it COST so much more than any of my other mats that I already own, and so much more than the ones that they sell at Target or Dicks, but to me it was WORTH every penny because it is purple, with rainbow stripes and a mandala & personalized RSTAR!!! I value the joy that it brought me more than the practicality of just using the mats I already own. Also, I could very well do yoga for free, on my television with YouTube, but for me, the cost of a monthly membership to be in the studio, and the friendships I have made, and the ways that different teachers bring out different parts of me, and different classes make different parts of me stronger and longer, is worth the price. I value the experience…every single dollar that has anything to do with my yoga practice is worth it to me.

I think cost is what we pay for something and worth is the value we get from it. These might be totally wrong definitions, and I am not looking them up for clarification, but it’s something I think about a lot. Like my favorite chair; from the time I was a little girl I knew I wanted an authentic HermanMiller Eames chair and ottoman and it is the first piece of furniture I bought during construction, before I even moved in to this house I had ordered it, and to some, spending that kind of money on a chair and ottoman would be positively ridiculous, outlandish even, but to me the cost was worth every penny. EVERYthing has a price and EVERYthing has a value and it is up to each of us to make those choices every day as to the relationship between cost and worth. There are some silly little things too, for example I do not buy ‘no name brand’ aluminum foil. I have, in the past, tried lesser priced brands and I hate them, so I only buy Reynolds. I like Italian canned tuna packed in oil, which costs a lot more than the big brand cans, but I don’t care because for the number of times I eat canned tuna over a year, the cost of the kind I like best is worth it to me. Some people spend a lot of money every week on bottled water, but I have a well and I love my tap water and I never buy bottled water. Some people buy Advil and I buy the no name brand and the headache is eased as quickly for one quarter the price. EVERY day we make these kinds of cost-worth-value expressions and EVERY one is different for EVERY person.

This expression is not only applicable to material, tangible items…relationships have a cost and worth and value as well. I come from a deeply conservative family whose ideas and beliefs and thoughts on current events in general, and some people in the news in particular, are not in any sort of alignment or agreement with mine at all, in any way whatsoever. It literally makes my head ache (thank goodness for my UpandUp brand of ibuprofen) that we are so disconnected. We are on totally opposite sides of just about all the things. The divide between me and my family is mind-blowingly painful for me. The cost to me is too great to deal with any of it…it is not worth it, to me, to harm the relationships I have with my family, and so I do not talk about REALLY DEEPLY IMPORTANT issues, with any of them if I can help it. It is a very difficult part of my adult life, to feel such an insurmountable split between myself and my family, BUT it’s my reality, AND I have so many great friends and good acquaintances that I do not ever feel lonely or alone. I make the experience of having friends, and keeping friends, and cultivating those relationships, a VERY important part of my world, because I value, deeply, those interactions where I enjoy like-minded and open-minded people, and we connect on so many levels and we talk about really big things, and when we disagree it is discussed with sound reason, and facts and backed by reputable sources, so when I am wrong I admit it, and when my friends are wrong they admit it, and we move forward, both of us growing in knowledge. It’s meaningful discourse and makes me remember how much I loved being in college. Cultivating these great friendships keeps me sane when I don’t have family with whom I can talk about that which matters to me.

I keep my family in one part of my brain and my friends in another. I value the relationships I have with my family and so the cost to discuss most current events, most of the time, is simply not something I am willing to pay. I accept them as they are, and I accept that that is often incompatible with my growth and that’s okay…they in turn have to accept me where I am too… For as conservative as they are, it has a very much “Free to be you and me vibe” doesn’t it?? They taught me to work hard and not be in debt, they taught me how to keep house and build one, they have been the bank of mom and dad with low interest loans for all of my adult life, they helped me raise my child, they are generous and loving, and because they are a good family and good to me, I do not let divisive things divide us.

Cost and worth is a relationship that goes beyond cars or yoga mats or cans of tuna, it’s something we must reevaluate every day. Every day we make a choice. I choose to love my family and accept that the way that they think about most things is not at all the way that I think about most things and we all just have to accept it if we are going to choose to stay a loving family & I choose to buy aluminum foil that costs twice as much as other brands and pain medication that costs 1/4 of the name brands…choices choices choices…I go through the maths every day and every equation is different but it equals peace of mind and to me that is, at this time of my life, what I value the most.