Do I Need to Take Out a Billboard?

When the Universe wants to tell me something, it practically takes out a billboard.

Right now, there’s a flashing, Vegas-style “SURRENDER” billboard front and center in my psychic landscape. Which, incidentally, is a desert-scape. Even though I’ve never, not once, been to the desert.

I’ve been fighting a lot lately.

It’s exhausting.

I’ve been waging this intense internal war against outside factors I may or may not be able to change. This isn’t foreign territory to me. I’m kind of a control freak by nature. But I’ve gotten better, these past 11 years, at letting go.

It’s progress not perfection up in here.

But the past few days, I’ve just been mad. I’m mad at the pandemic. Mad at the landlord for the shop. Mad at myself for being mad.

By yesterday, I’d worked myself up into a frenzy (for about the third time this week. And it was only Tuesday). And I just wanted to sit in my own anger and self-righteousness.

So, I didn’t meditate. Didn’t do yoga. Didn’t run.

Because all those things would’ve helped. And I didn’t want help.

I was mad as hell, and I intended to stay that way.

And so I did.

Which sucked.

Then chose to engage with someone who always sets me off–always makes me feel less-than, like I’m competing to prove I’m smart enough and capable enough to be taken seriously by them.

Which is the stupidest thing ever.

But I fall into this trap every. time. I. engage. with. this. human.

By the time I was done with that conversation, I just wanted to come home, give away all my belongings, and paint all the rooms white.

And that’s what psychic surrender looks like for me, by the way: clean slate. All the rooms white. And spare. Open and airy.

So, I took a little scooter ride. Came home and did some yoga. And just let that shit go.

I talked to some friends last night–honestly, with no pretense. Admitted I was struggling. Which, you know, feels a little like defeat. I want to be all Zen. And I was the antithesis of Zen yesterday.

But so it goes.

And then, this morning, the Yoga Camp mantra was I Surrender.

Okay, Universe. I hear you.

When I first encountered the idea of surrender, I confused it with weakness, with giving up.

But surrender is about accepting what is. I have to stop fighting and take stock of the situation, so I can move forward with sure footing. Surrender is rest and peace in the middle of a complete an utter shitstorm of life being life.

And, for me, surrender is believing that the Universe has only my best interest at heart.

Only good, even when I don’t get my way.

Only good, even when things look dire.

Only good.

I surrender.

Impermanence, Presence, and Peanut Butter & Jelly

I’m on Day 16 of a 30 Day (online) Yoga Camp.

This isn’t the first time I’ve committed to a daily yoga practice. I think the longest I did was 90 days or so. Every time I commit to sustained daily practice, I learn something new. Yoga tends to meet you where you are. Which is why I like it so much. It’s a moving spiritual practice–and I find that I’m constantly applying what I learn on the mat in my everyday, walkabout life.

Today, I was thinking about presence & impermanence. Simultaneously. Because I was running. Running which is like meditation for me. If mediation involved 1001 creative ways to say fuck.

Today’s run was kicking my ass for no discernible reason. At about 1K, I seriously considered laying down on the sidewalk for a quick nap. But I kept on. Because I persevere like that. Anyway, at about 4K, I’m feeling better. Perky even. But now I’m trying to decide how far I want to go. A 5K? 4 miles? (I like to switch up my systems of measurement whenever possible. You know, just to keep things interesting).

I’m trying to decide on a goal distance. But I’m also focused on staying present. Just being where my feet are. But presently, I’m running up a hill. And that hill feels pretty steep. Then my thoughts start wandering to the idea of running more than 3.12 miles. And that makes me tired just thinking about it. So, I pull myself to the present again, but presently I’m still running up that damn hill.

But then I think … impermanence. I mean, this hill isn’t going to last forever. This moment isn’t going to last beyond, well, this moment.

And then my mind melts because I’m both present and impermanent. But my feet are still moving. And so I settle deeper into this moment, not striving or pushing. Just being and letting my feet move me forward.

And then I remember that the Yoga Camp mantra for today is “I enjoy.” And I think what my present impermanent self is going to enjoy most is the brief walk home after this 5K.

Which was true. I always relish the afterglow of a run. It’s pretty spectacular.

But the walk also gave me some time to contemplate why I’m so disconnected from my own energy. I felt that way all weekend really. This vague sense of malaise. Unsettled.

It could’ve been the full moon.

But I was looking for something I could exert a little more control over. The moon tends to be pretty intractable. So I settled on food. And my mindfulness–or complete lack thereof–around food.

I’ve never been a particularly mindful eater. And if I get too hungry–watch your appendages. Nobody is safe. I’ll grab whatever is there & eat WAY too much of it. I seriously got AFTER some trail mix yesterday, in an unfortunate combination of slightly hungry, bored, and grumpy as hell. But y’all, I showed that trail mix who’s BOSS. Yup.

But for real, I’m a speed eater. Even when I’m eating a Little Debbie (there are SO many Little Debbies consumed in this house, and we make zero apologies for our behavior), I throw it back like it’s a race.

So, as I enjoyed my walk home (being both present & impermanent), I decided the goal for this week is to a) drink enough water so I know when I’m hungry and when I’m not, b) to eat more fresh fruits & veggies, c) to only eat when I’m hungry & until I’m full, and d) to be present while I’m eating. Which is going to have to involve more chewing than hoovering, I suppose.

And because I like to start on my goals right away (Virgo. Over-achiever), I had a handful of raspberries for a snack after my shower. I chewed each one individually. I noticed the tartness of one, the sweetness of another. And, for real, those things feel hella weird in your mouth. Not mushy, but not firm either. And you can FEEL each individual little bump on the raspberry on your tongue.

Each berry was dutifully contemplated and enjoyed. Very zen.

But y’all, I’m about to starve over here.

If you need me, I’ll be mindfully consuming a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (there’s fruit in jelly, y’all. That’s a fact).

Simple Wisdom

Just be where you’re at, right now.

I know this doesn’t sound particularly deep. But it’s 100% my mantra for today.

I am an all or nothing kind of girl. I don’t half-ass too much. Which can be good.

Or not.

Because, sometimes, that all-in-ness can translate into not paying attention to where I am right now. I make everything a referendum on my personality, my worthiness, my potential. Which means there’s little room to respond to current conditions–whatever those may be.

This idea of just being where I’m at right now popped up in yoga this morning (thanks, Adriene!). It helped me work through the fact that I was way bendier one one side than the other today (I like to be symmetrical, thankyouverymuch). A small thing, sure. But just being able to sense what my body needs, and to not see my current state as a limitation (or even a triumph) but just to let it be… it feels kind of revolutionary.

I’m a Virgo. We rarely just let things be.

The reminder to just be where I’m at also came in handy on my run–when my ankle went all janky and my joints literally felt like they were unhinged. Why? Who the hell knows? But it looked something like this:

Typically, I’d get all up in my feels (and WAY into my head) about what would happen if my ankle got pulled out of alignment because my hips were too tight and then my foot got all janky and I couldn’t to to the chiropractor because COVID and then my leg got so off-balance and tight and out of whack that I couldn’t run and then I’d be all mentally out of balance and sad and not nice and then maybe no one would like me anymore.

Right.

And that started to happen. It did. But then I remembered: just be where you’re at, right now. So, instead of that shitshow of a mental spiral, I just kind of shrugged.

My body feels a little weird, right now. So right now, I’m going to take it easy. Because that’s what I need. Not forever. Maybe not even tomorrow. Right now.

Instead of making myself miserable trying to power through this morning’s run at optimal speed, I slowed it down. And suddenly I realized there was a breeze. And that it was cool out–instead of hella swampy like it has been the past few days. I chose to be fully present in the moment–and the moment was beautiful, even if it wasn’t the run I’d planned out.

Just be where you’re at, right now.

Just be.

But Is It SPIRITUAL Enough?

Since I started writing every weekday, my meditation practice has gotten bumped.

Which, you know, is about the worst idea ever.

But I’ve got this idea that all the “for me” things have to be done before 8 a.m.* Except running. Which I’m willing to fit in whenever–because I need people to like me, and running facilitates that. More than you might imagine.

In an effort to restart my spiritual practice, I decided I want to incorporate yoga as a moving meditation before I do sitting meditation. Because more is better, right? Really, it’s not even about more though. It’s about focus. My mind flits off in a zillion directions during meditation (totally normal. But annoying), and yoga is a way to focus that energy before I sit.

I decided I needed a more “spiritual” at home yoga practice. So, I set off in search of one (via YouTube because pandemic). And I landed on Ashtanga yoga, which felt 100% unfamiliar and super-spiritual for some reason. I fired up the video and began.

This seems like a good time to mention that I’ve been doing Yoga with Adriene for something like 6 years. Her motto: find what feels good. She’s goofy and pretty much exudes lovingkindness, even though a screen. She doesn’t take herself too seriously (I’m a Virgo. By nature, I take myself WAY too seriously), and she insists (gently) on self-love and coming to the mat just as you are.

I’m not this cute when I do yoga, no matter how spiritual it is. But, you know, GOALS.

So, I start this other yoga, the unfamiliar, not-Adriene one that I have deemed “spiritual.” And I immediately hate it. The instructor is kind of just barking out poses, which I’m trying to jam myself into. Because, even though she’s saying to listen to my body, I don’t believe her. Everything about her demeanor indicates that I am a grave disappointment if I can’t do these strange poses–some of which I’ve never seen in my life. I realize that I am projecting on this woman, but I swear she readily facilitated that projection.

I’m on minute 44, feeling less spiritual than ever, when Jane comes Kramering into the room.

“Your aren’t doing Yoga with Adriene?!?” she asks, clearly baffled by my disloyalty and, at the same time, skeptical of this rather austere woman who has replaced Adriene on the screen.

“I can do different things sometimes,” I mutter, disgruntled by both the interruption and the challenge to my new “spiritual” yoga practice. I send her back out from whence she came, still muttering internally.

I flop back down on the mat and look at this severe woman staring back at me.

What am I even doing?

Everything in the room feels weighed down. And lacking in joy. Which makes me wonder why I always think that truly spiritual things have to be so heavy. And hard.

Doing yoga with Adriene is light and airy, full of love and acceptance and the things I try to center in my life. It feels good to invite her (via a screen) into my space. And I trust her. I value her guidance and her insight and her focus on compassion and love.

Why do I think that isn’t spiritual enough?

I grabbed my laptop, climbed up onto my bed, and nestled into the pillows. I sifted through entries until I found the perfect 30 day yoga camp–with Adriene.

Because light and love are spiritual, too.

And the fact that my 9 year old has more intuitive sense than I do? Well, I’m just gonna take that as a sign I’m raising her right (that is what it means, isn’t it?!?).

*I wrote this post after 8 a.m. & the world still seems to be spinning. Amazing.

Normal-Shmormal

Meeting with a new therapist is a bit like going on a first date–exciting, full of potential but hella unnerving. I’ve always been hell-bent on impressing my therapists with my great insight and wisdom. Which can make for an awkward therapist first-date.

Typically, I wait until I’m dangling on the precipice of a dramatic, jagged emotional abyss before I make a therapy appointment. I always think–against all odds–I can get all bootstrappy and handle it (whatever it is) on my own.

This particular time, just over a decade ago, it was infertility, crippling anxiety, and the sheer terror of navigating the full human range of emotions totally sober. So, you know, at least I was bringing a lot of material to work with.

I like to be prepared.

But even then, with all pressure and pain making it difficult to even breathe, I spent the first therapy session trying to convince the new therapist that I was completely normal.

How do I know about my unconscious master-plan to convince her of my expert level normalcy? Because she told me. Gently. She was a soft-talker. A careful question asker. I thought her overly-conciliatory tone and her constant encouraging affirmations were going to drive me bananas. Instead, they gave me a soft place to land.

She saved me from myself.

And she started by unravelling this whole “normal” bit.

From the time I was 8 years old, I’d been convinced that I was a complete weirdo freak. And that no one would love me if they really knew me. And, also, that I was completely irredeemable.

This made for a super-fun inner voice. The life of the party, really.

But this woman patiently listened and pulled at threads that seemed like they were attached to a different psychic sweater entirely, and yet… by the end… that restricting, suffocating sweater of “normalcy” lay destroyed at my feet.

It was like magic. But it wasn’t. It was hard work that her unwavering kindness and belief that I deserved better–even when I didn’t agree with her–made possible.

She pops into my mind sometimes when I’m doing yoga.

It’s okay if that seems weird. I’m not really caught up on the normal thing anymore.

And it always happens when I’m doing a heart-opening pose.

Yoga has been part of my path on and off since the darkest days of my active alcoholism. It was my toe-hold for the long, winding journey of pulling myself out of that hell. Those first yoga poses I learned allowed me to reconnect spirit to body, after a 6 month blackout (those 6 months really are totally lost to me, except for fragments here and there. And those fragments, honestly, I’d rather forget).

What finally pushed me into making that first, awkward therapy appointment with Dr. Soft-Talker was a heart-opening pose. I was doing yoga alone in a room, eyes glued to a video (I hadn’t quite tamped down my perfectionistic tendencies at that point. Progress not perfection, y’all). The soothing, rhythmic voice moved me into a pose that pushed my chest forward. Show the world your heart, he suggested from the screen of my laptop.

HELL no.

I physically couldn’t do it. I could not push my chest forward. I could not show anyone anything. Because there was so much ugliness, so much I hated inside. The fear was absolutely breath-snatching.

I sat down and cried at the sheer hopelessness of it all.

I found myself in the therapist’s office just a little while later. Being awkward. Totally avoid showing her my heart at all costs. She found it anyway. She was pretty damn good at her job.

And now, when I do heart-opening poses, which are some of my favorites, I can feel the love (for myself, humanity, the universe) open me to all the magic and beauty and tenderness in the world. And I feel such deep gratitude to this woman who believed that normal was bullshit and that I deserved more.

It’s been a process. Just like getting sober, healing and living a big, beautiful authentic life is a journey. Sometimes I’m good at it. Sometimes not so much. But I hang on to the lessons I’ve learned along the way. I build on them. And I keep trying.

New day. New try.

Namaste, y’all.

Meeting My Appropriate Edge

I can force things. Or I can chill the hell out, listen, and learn something. Lately, I’m opting more for the latter.

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This is me after I had “met my appropriate edge” on a run.

It was serious business (obviously).

Well, truthfully, the whole idea of meeting my appropriate edge IS kind of a BFD to me. And it’s become a touchstone of sorts as I move through the world.

In January, I did Yoga with Adriene 22 out of 31 days (which for a recovering perfectionist like me seems… fine, I guess. But, truly, part of me just wants to be like: Dude, you couldn’t have bucked up and done those extra 9 days?!?). Look, I’m just going to go ahead and admit that I’m a little taken with the whole Yoga with Adriene scene. I like a yogi who can say the kind of random, absurd things that run through my head OUT LOUD on a YouTube channel with millions of subscribers. She totally has convos with her dog while leading a yoga practice. She makes me laugh. And reminds me to be kind to myself. And that I don’t need to be perfect. I just need to acknowledge where I am right now, today, in this moment.

Anyway, she’s constantly saying  “meet your appropriate edge.” Which just bounces around in my head, even off the mat. It’s kind of brilliant. I mean, if she just told me to meet my edge, well, I’d have to take that as a challenge. Even though I know it’s not meant to be. But my appropriate edge changes from day to day. It allows for softening when I’m injured or feeling vulnerable and for pushing when I’m feeling vibrant, energetic, and ready for forward momentum.

Telling me to meet my appropriate edge implies an inherent trust that I know what that edge is. That I can trust myself.

This whole foot debacle has taught me a lot–about my body and myself. And, no, I didn’t ask to learn any of it. I’d rather have been running consistently, instead of in fits & starts. But, no one asked me before the Universe threw me this “learning opportunity.” So I’m making the best of it (and making a list of things to remember):

  1. 43 requires more care & maintenance of my body than 33 did. I can’t ignore the tightness in my hips and assume it will go away. It won’t. I can’t jet off for a run without stretching. I’ll really regret it later.
  2. Everything is connected, in running and in life. My foot pain? Caused by my hips. For real.
  3. Yoga, stretching, and listening to my body will keep me healthy and running.
  4. Stubbornness is over-rated.
  5. The negative, self-sacrificial messages I internalized about self-care as a kid were some bullshit. And they’ve got to go. To care for the people around me like I want to, I must care for myself. The two are inextricably linked.

Which means that, while I run, I’ve got to pay attention to what my body is saying. Of course, it always cusses on the hills (so do I. Like, for real, if you’re offended by cussing, EARMUFFS when I run by).

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On the day of the serious-meeting-my-edge picture, I was relatively pain free until about 2 miles in. Then I could feel the muscles in my foot begin to tighten. By 2.25 miles, it hurt. Bad. Typically, I would’ve just pushed through. I would’ve been all grit and suffering and like-hell-I’m-gonna-quit-before-I-get-to-3-miles. But, this time, I just stopped. And there was some bizarrely glorious freedom in just letting myself be. 

I’m more trustworthy than I used to be. That’s what the idea of meeting my appropriate edge reminds me. I have intuition & insight–but I have to listen to myself, to my body, to my heart to access them.

In order to lead the BIG, joyous, fulfilling life that I want, I have to trust myself.

Meeting my appropriate edge that one day lead me to two more runs this week where my appropriate edge looked a lot more like this:

That feels like a pretty big win these days.

 

Namaste, y’all.

I started a 31 day yoga practice. It’s going nothing at all like I expected.

I’ve always been kind of flummoxed about how to shift my spiritual practice from it’s designated quiet, morning time out into my larger life. Because Lord knows I need some peace in the chaos of an average day. But–and this was the case until very recently–all the connectivity to my inner peace & the greater love of the Universe had gone all to shit by about 2pm.

And that felt BAD. It feels kinda defeating (and a little whiplash inducing) to be all namaste in the morning and all look-at-me-again-and-I’ll-cut-you in the afternoon. But my centering and balance seemed to wear off. I mean, is that even a thing?!?

When I got into A Course in Miracles, the daily lessons helped. Because you don’t get to just read them in the morning, dwell on them a bit, and let them go. You have to keep reviewing them at multiple points throughout the day. It’s like they want the ideas to stick or something.

Now, ideally, I was supposed to find a quiet time to reflect by myself with my eyes closed. But the book did make it clear that I should use whatever time I could find. I discovered that trying to find a quiet minute meant that it would never happen. So, I started meditating on the lesson wherever I was, amid whatever was going on, with my eyes open. In the car? Yep. Walking the dog? Yep. Staring at (but not seeing) my computer screen? Yep. To be sure, this kind of come-as-you-are meditation doesn’t always allow me to feel the deep & abiding presence of the Universe. But I am also not losing my proverbial shit by 2pm anymore. And I am more grounded and connected to the world around me.

Part of my January commitment to myself was doing yoga daily for 31 days. When I made this commitment, I imagined a still, quiet practice centered on my breath, on connecting with the divine, on bliss…

Yeah.

Not once in the past week have I experienced an uninterrupted practice. It’s like Jane has a sixth sense. As soon as I get on the mat, she has some question that she will spontaneously combust if she doesn’t ask me. Or she just wants to look at me. Or she wants to be near me, so suddenly she’s standing 1mm from me in mountain pose.

So, I did what the past 10 years of sobriety have taught me so well: I dropped all my expectations. And I invited Jane to grab a mat and join me.

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Doing yoga next to Jane is the equivalent of doing yoga next to a squirrel with a meth problem. I’m in downward dog. She’s laying on her back with her feet straight up in the air. I’m in boat pose, and she’s in tree pose next to me. It’s nutty.

But I’ve learned to tune into her presence (which is all love and light) and tune out her antics (which are real, real extra). I’m beginning to cherish the time we spend side by side on our mats, even though it certainly wasn’t what I envisioned for my January yoga practice.

But when were sitting cross-legged, breathing deeply, and she reaches over to hold my hand… that’s all the connection to the Universe I could possibly ask for.