Just don’t kill us

     I am writing this from my bedroom in Chicago. It’s a little after ten in the morning and there is nobody home other than the two dogs and the cat curled up inches from where I am sitting. The laundry is folded. The dishes are put away. The kids are out of the house. The only sounds are the cars rushing by outside my window. I hesitate to admit that I have yet to get dressed. For the first time in forever, I have time to slow down. You would think this would be a welcome indulgence.

     I spent years never having enough time. I raced from my kids to my work to my mat to my home without giving much thought about slowing down. I talked about it a lot. My practice certainly gave me a small taste of stretching time long enough to feel my feet on the ground, only to offer a quick namaste and off to the races again. I know I am not alone. Recently, a friend after he was told to take it easy because of an injury he sustained responded with, “I am not good at resting.” Once I was teaching a class and after asking for any requests a student piped in, “Just don’t kill us.”

     Sigh. When did our practices become another part of our day where we beat ourselves up for not working harder? Doing more? Why do we expect that to produce the greater result?

     Not too long ago I would have killed for time off like I have now. It took a while for my nerves to stop twitching and cowering from the glare of doing nothing. I remember my first silent meditation retreat. I spent the first three days obsessively checking the message board at the front entrance of the retreat center. It made me feel like I was doing something even when my only job was to do nothing, to go nowhere.

     I am no stranger to pushing through pain or discomfort. I question, have I spent all these years using my practice as crisis management? A place to replicate “getting through the tough stuff?” Admittedly this worked for a while. I was good at crisis. I was good at seeing how our struggle is our opportunity.

     But what of being soft? Of lowering the pressure gauge? When did it get more uncomfortable for us not to do so much? How is that we put our hands in front of our hearts and wish for space only to treat our practices like another task to check off of our to-do list? What is all this busy-ness we call living?

     I get up and walk into the silence of my kitchen. The sun changed position in the sky and its rays stream through the window onto the floor. The dogs are smart and impressively fold their bodies in a perfect coil and lay down in what is now the warmest spot in the house. There are less cars passing by and as I stand there feeling strangely out of synch with the world racing around me, it does not go unnoticed that this stillness, this aloneness is probably the most nourishing time of my life.

Six years ago

Six years ago this weekend I sent my son to a wilderness program. I was reminded of the significance of the day when I saw an article in the NY times about a new theater project written by a mother who also sent her son to wilderness around the same time I did. Wow, I thought, her too.

There were a few years this exact date had come and gone without me noticing much. That was the gift of time, always ushering us along. But this year I was in my kitchen in Chicago and looked around as if taking inventory of the exact place I was standing and it was remarkable that none of my life resembled where I was six years ago.I texted my son who is now in college to remind him. He texted back, “What do you think of that?”

It was such a good question.

I suppose my pull to mention the significance of the day was innocent and even celebratory. It didn’t trigger me the way I knew it did my husband who saw value in only forgetting about it. I wondered if my son preferred I not ever bring it up again which is something I have been contemplating since for the last three and a half years I have been writing about it and reliving six years ago.

Last week I saw a film about a man who after suffering a tragedy was compelled to take apart anything in his life that didn’t work. The refrigerator had a constant leak so he took apart the appliance piece by piece until he got to the source. The door creaked too loudly. He unscrewed every hinge and laid them out on the floor until he resolved the origin of the noise. And so on and on. As a yoga teacher I used to scrupulously break down a pose bone by bone, to get at some nagging insight or break through some portal of wisdom about the universe. Except I might not have known that I was intentionally trying to “get” at anything. And now, as I find, when I write I am pulled to disassemble pieces of memory and lay them all out on the page as if I am trying to put the pieces back to some whole.

Some say forgetting is a blessing. Mother’s forget the pain of childbirth so they will be able to choose it again. My husband is happier forgetting the pain of the past. But for me, it is the pains of my past that when held up against the light of today where they no longer hurt anymore.

A quality of listening

I am writing this on my way home from visiting my son in college. It was a last minute trip I made after he called me sounding more stressed than he had been in a long time. He never said, come mom or I need you mom. I imagine at nearly twenty, he might have trouble admitting that. I practiced my best listening skills on the phone with him.  I was silent. I was validating. I said things like, “I am sorry you are having such a tough week, honey.” I kept my impulse at bay to want to fix things for him. I knew that impulse well.

As a parent of a child who is now an adult, it’s a delicate balance knowing when to dole out the tough love and expect him to do things on his own with recognizing that despite his size and stage in life, there will always be moments when he needs me there. I mean, at nearly 46, I still turn to my mom sometimes.

In my attempt to uphold my efforts to cast myself out of the category of helicopter-parenting; I muted hearing what was coming through my son’s mood loud and clear. “You have to go to him,” my husband finally said. Yes, of course.  He needed more than a pep talk over the phone. I needed to be able to distinguish that reality from my theories about what healthy parenting assumes itself to be.

It reminds me of something I read about months ago regarding the work of an acoustic biologist, a woman who spent her life listening to the way elephants communicate with each other amidst great distances. She sat and observed and leaned in to catch hold of a frequency that exists outside of the realm of the human ear. She described it as  a new level of hearing life that involved the whole body.

I spent two days with my son helping him slow down and sift through the relatively expected challenges of his college life. He was in front of me, but had I only listened to what I expected of him or of myself, I would have missed the delicacy of being right there. I would have limited our communication and diminsihed a whole understanding of the big picture. A frequency that exists outside the realm of the human ear.  As I located the openings within our conversations where my guidance or my comfort was possibly needed or not, a quality of patience and presence emerged and so did the eventual arrival of calm and clarity. “I am so happy you came,” my son told me more than once. “I am glad I listened,” I said.

There is a quality of listening that is our most precious offering. A listening that when it is not intercepted by our own agendas and ideals, or skewed by an unwillingness to bend, it takes us to a whole new space of being and delivers us completely whole and available for each other.

To listen in this way is to hear the world as it is not as we think it should be. To listen to each other is a way into hearing  our own selves, and if we are tuned in that way love will be the sound we recognize.

Make yourself deserve more

            My youngest son was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome last year. (Nowadays they call it Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder). Either way, for the past year my husband and I have taken to the books, the internet, doctors, healers, and angels to find the best course of treatment that would serve our son and help him thrive in every possible way. Talk about our children being the gurus.

             I have always been good at trying to find the lessons in my life. From the muckiest muck, I found a way to clear the smudge from my eyes and see that there was something bigger I was being pointed toward within myself. I worked hard at that, not realizing that effort alone had it’s own cost on my system, and in a strange way a kind of delusion that I was in control. With regard to my son, as our children often encourage, it was time for me to learn new ways of communicating, and different ways of spending my time.

             I often look at my move to Chicago as something which held more significance than leaving an old life behind. I got here and had time to look at what in my life needed the most tending. I had the space to contemplate how I can be better with my family, my finances, my time, my health. I had space to listen to where my interests were being pulled. I had time to live the patience I often spoke about.

            This year I have learned more resolve than I ever thought was possible. I could feel that was happening evidenced mostly by how much softer I was responding to certain truths of my life.  A few months ago, I wouldn’t have necesarily admitted that. I was staunch on protecting the power of my victimhood. There was a certain satisfaction in being angry at my life, my husband, the world for me not being where I thought I should be in life. But like all things, that truth shifted for me and I stopped. I was tired of that stance. I was tired of rolling my eyes at every motivational coach speak about what it was like to “not live in your true purpose!”
I was also just tired.

          Meantime, there was my husband on the other side of the kitchen table taking these things from glass bottles. Minerals. Supplements. Super powerful foods. I watched him from my seat at breakfast. He seemed exuberant and lively and sometimes I wanted to strangle him (in a loving way). “Supplements are vital to strengthening your spiritual body,” I have heard him say, and watched him chug ounces of silicia and ocean minerals and nitro oxide and deep purple liquid from clear pouches. I had to admit, he did seem great. Softer. Clear eyed. Loving. Patient. Energized. Happy. “It just helps your healing when you are feeding your body these things it longs for.” 

                He started giving our son these supplements under the guidance of a very special healer. I watched from the side lines and saw that in a weeks time there were behaviors my son demonstrated that had been a struggle his whole life -more eye contact, more social curioisty, more go with the flow. This was enough to make me stop and wonder about my own spiritual body and the layers of connections that were possibly short circuiting due to a lack of replenishment. I thought I replenished. But my fatigue and low level anxiety said otherwise.

               I was never a supplement girl. If I tried in the past, it lasted a week at most. I had yoga and tried to drink more water and eat less sugar. In the wake of my son’s newfound aliveness, and my husband’s undeniable vitality, I have come to make them part of my daily ritual. In fact I have come to love this period in the morning. My coffee sits to the side and I swallow this life food and feel like without any effort at all I am doing the best thing for myself I have done in a long time. And it is so much easier and gentler than some of the yoga classes I sometimes force upon myself.

             With self-care being such a current topic in the field at which I have been a part of for most of my life,  I ask myself how is it that I am applying that level of care? Is it possible that I always thought it couldn’t be that easy? Is it possible I never thought that I could boost the potentcy of what  practices intend to do  simply by strengthening my wiring witin? Could it be that I just needed the right supplementation?

          I have approached some close friends and family about my newfound love of these products which I believe at the heart are pure goodness. Yesterday I received some messages like, “I am so happy for you, but this isn’t for me.”
I got it. I never thought I would be that girl who walked around talking about how a food or a drink changed her life. (I may have talked about how tee shirts could, or poetry). My own skeptism was quickly overided by my body’s messaging.
I slept better. I thought better. I choose better. I am so much better. (Not to mention that I looked better).

        I winced at the my friend’s resistance, a doubting that I recognized. It didn’t matter how much I wanted her to have what I was having. It mattered more that I could hear her as I could hear myself.  I  realize that on this path of healing ourselves, we hear and see and feel what we need to at the exact time we are ready.

 Make it easier on yourself.  It should be. 

 

This is your brain. This is your brain off Facebook (for a week).

       Seven days ago I took myself off Facebook and Instagram. I was sick of myself checking my phone for absolutely no apparent reason a billion times more than anybody needs to check on anything.

       This was after several complaints to my close friend about how bad I felt after I spent time roaming around on my feed. How stuck I felt in my life compared to the innumerable successes and parties and vacations and workouts and yoga poses and adventures that my peripheral social circle of Facebook friends seemed to taut. It’s not that I wasn’t happy for my friends’ new homes or babies or marriages or puppies or haircuts, but there was something about Facebook that dimished my ability to have sympathetic joy. I would log off and would feel more isolated and despairing than was warranted.

      I know I am not alone.

       My close friend has taken herself off social media for this very same reason. She is a stay at home mom of two very young children and finds herself aimlessly roaming her feed (while probably) sitting in a living room strewn with toys and a sink filled with dishes. I asked her once what did she think was underneath the need we have to reach for our phones and check? “Probably escapism” she said.

       It was funny that she said that since during the week of my break, I felt like I was on vacation. Gone was the impulsivity, the low level anxiety, and the subtle malaise that would drift into my belly after a moment of weakness when I would be looking to cause myself trouble like a junkie looking for a fix. Why the urge to look up old friends I don’t speak with anymore? Why the need to scroll through pictures of an old life? “Why would you invite that karma back into your life?” asked my husband who has never had a personal profile page on Facebook.

       My other friend who has a very popular and engaged page equaits her Facebook responsiblity to a kind of stealth mission. “I just move in and out as quickly as possible.”  And still another has told me that she feels bad about herself and her life when she spends more than ten minutes on the thing. And she is a very successful therapist and yoga teacher. It’s like a substance. We know it’s not good for us, but it’s hard to resist whatever weird part of our pyche it is stroking. Sure, there are beautiful things about social media and there are people doing beautiful things and connecting in beautiful ways, absolutely. I am not writing this to round up a global Facebook boycott (nor would I ever delude myself into thinking that I had that kind of influence). There was a time not to long ago, when I didn’t know a thing about how to use Facebook or how or when I would. I had a friend sit with me at my kitchen table and instruct me on the basics. That was maybe five, six years ago.
Somewhere between then and now, my ignorance turned to appreciation turned to probably a low level addiction. It was time for either a Facebook break or a psychotic one.

       In the absence of the time suck of Facebook and Instagam voyerism here’s what I can say:  I feel better being off of it. “You are not missing much,” my ninteen year old son told me. I smiled and thought, true. I was missing a lot a more of life before  thinking that I had to keep up with informing people (what people?) of things that seemed more self-important than important.

       Since imposing these strong boundaries for myself I have had more ideas come to me and more space to cherish that make me go, “ahhhh.”
I have just about finished my first working draft of my memoir.
I have finished three competitive games of Monopoly with my family.
I have cooked three new delicious meals.
I have walked the dogs without putting my head down.
It’s not as if these things would not have happened before my self-declared break.              It’s more about how the life in between these things feels now. Somehow, they have become more precious to me than ever.
Mary Oliver writes, “I know I can walk through the world, along the shore or under the trees, with my mind filled with things of little importance. A condition I can’t really call being alive.”  Pablo Neruda too has written, “If we were not so single-minded about keeping our lives moving and for once could do nothing, perhaps a huge silence might interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves…”

       Today would be the end of my Facebook/Instagram fast but, I will do without it for another month. I will be here living my life in Chicago. Going to the grocery store. Signaling left on the highway. Folding laundry. Walking my dogs. Feeding my cat. Exercising. Practicing. (Hopefully) buying new shoes. Thinking up fun new things to teach. Travelling. Writing in my journal. Reading with my newly purchased readers from Whole Foods. You won’t see selfies or fun hashtags about any of these things but that’s ok. I will do what my practice reminds me to do —  Trust that there is always something greater that keeps us connected.

Wait until the boys are here

       Yesterday I dropped my nineteen year old son off at the airport, wrapped my arms around his no-longer-a-boy- body and said goodbye. Tonight I will do the same with my nearly seventeen year old. He will have his head phones on and his back pack on one shoulder and he will be fine. I never thought I would pine for the days when he used to make of himself a human anvil and attach himself to my lower leg and keep me from dropping him off at Temple pre-school.

       Sixteen years later, my son who stands several inches over me with a cute five-o’clock shadow and broad shoulders and feet that look like they belong to a giant, is now perfectly content to give me a gracious hug and a thank you for a great week and make his way toward the plane that will carry him miles away. Now, I am the one who wants to wrap myself around his leg and wail at the top of my lungs “Don’t leave me!”

       Of course, I won’t do that.

       Instead I will stand there and watch him until I can no longer see him and will try and brace myself for that undeniable pang that rises up within me every time I have to say goodbye to my children now. Somehow the pang reads more significant than ever. I find myself more nostalgic when I watch parents stroll their toddlers around the city or wipe their faces during meals when I seem to have more idle time than I may have ever had in my life.

       A week before they arrived here I must have said a hundred times, “Wait until the boys are here! They will love this!” I said that about the days I spent on the lake, or walking downtown in this new city, or eating the best taco of my life. “Wait until the boys are here!” I would say to my husband and my friends and their younger brother who waited eagerly for them to barrel into the house the way they do. I couldn’t wait to share my days with them.

       And when they arrived their man/boy energy filled our home with a largeness that had less to do with their size and more to do with their charisma and place in their lives. They were funny and animated and were the best company even when I still had to remind them to flush the toilet or pick up their wet towels. My house had that boy-smell and there was never enough food and they slept past eleven and they left their dirty socks everywhere and I was giddy and more alive than I had been at the chance to be their every day mom again. Saying goodbye to them now hurts more because I am also saying goodbye to this role more and more in their lives. I think about my own mom, who is turning 75 and in the twenty plus years she has lived without all of her children under her roof, I wonder if she still gets those same pangs when my brothers and I put on our shoes and pick up our things and walk to her front door. Does it still ache when we hug goodbye and get on with our respective lives, no longer living with parents nor needing them in the ways we used to?

       My sons’ step-mom said something to me years ago. She said, “We raise our children to leave us.” At the time, my children were still young and demanding in the ways young children can be and I remember smiling and saying, “I can’t wait!”  While I am writing this, my son is in his room on the phone. I can hear his deep voice from where I sit. I look at the clock. In two hours I will be dropping him off and saying the goodbye I have been dreading for days. I can already feel the pang. I try to grab onto the feeling of him being in the next room and ward off the sinking feeling I know will possess me when I return home to a much quieter (albeit cleaner) house later tonight. Perhaps to ease this ache which seems to announce itself every time my boys walk in and out of my daily life, I can say with a kind of disbelief, I did that. I played a big part in making it possible for my son to turn around and with an easy going smile on his face say, “See you soon, mom. I love you.”

when the yoga teacher grows up.. and other wonderings.

My mother, in her retirement, has recently graduated Clown College and when she isn’t playing Bridge or researching new clubs to join in her over fifties lifestyle community, she and her clown friends are volunteering at the local assisted living facility and entertaining the elderly.

My mother, who has never in her life not parlayed a passion of hers into some kind of opportunity to market her way to a career, has found her recent love of clowning awakening other possiblities for her. She has always loved to help people – whether that was doling out some trusty relationship advice or mentoring young women in how to write a business plan. It wouldn’t be my mother if I did not spend more than a few phone calls listening to her brainstorm ways her clowning could be a national brand. I try to temper her inner enterpeneur by saying, “Mom, some things we love to do are simply for the joy of it.” She can’t help it. Marketing anything is implicit in her personality.

Career wanderlust runs in my bloodline. Reinvention has always been my mother’s thing. She has gone from travel agent, to marketing executive, to salsa dance studio owner, to self publishing author, to a clown named Rosie. She seemed to me through all this risk taking and shape shifting to always be unafraid, unapologetic and inexhaustiable. (I won’t even mention the time she flirted with living on a farm and breeding Saint Bernards).

Up until recently, I have never questioned my work in the world. I have for the better part of almost twenty years been doing what I love and making a modest but sustainable living from it. I have always been way more focussed on the work I love, more than the stream of income I was producing because of it. It wasn’t a job I was showing up for and leaving at the end of the day. My work was synonymous with my whole life. I lived and breathed (literally) the work I offered and I could not imagine spending more than fifty percent of my days not doing what made me feel that alive.

This is the first time in over a decade I have not owned a yoga studio. It feels both freeing and awkward. I have for the majority of my working years not only known that but been strongly identified as doing that. It was what shaped my routine, the things I choose to study and read, my lifestyle, my entire community with which I surrounded myself in.
With this no longer being the central place from which I conduct my life from I find myself in Chicago asking more and more — so, Tracy what’s next? I know I will always stay close to my teaching roots, as I reailze what I loved most about having a yoga studio is what happened on the yoga mat with my students. I am not surprised that one week into living here I found a place to teach.

Yet, lately, feeling on the precipice of all this change in my personal and professional life, I think of my mother’s path and cannot help but reflect on my own. Not the dog breeding part, but the what do I want to be when I grow up part?

Perhaps there has been a side of me that has never really asked myself this question. My passions have moved me along like a steady current and landed me smack in the middle of opportunity. Getting here did not require brute effort it required a trusting your gut approach. It has not been an easy path, but it had been fulfilling for awhile.
But like everything, that is changing.

With more time on my hands than I have had in years, and being older and slightly more weathered from my own life experiences, I sit here and wonder where I will continue to point this interest arrow of mine.

Next to my bed sits a stack of memoirs from writers whom I love. Joan Didion. Dani Shapiro. Anne Lamott. And another book with the unabashedly embrassing title, You are a Badass (how to stop doubting your greatness and start living an awesome life). The title was compelling enough for me to click purchase on Amazon and be grateful I was not putting that one on the counter for the cashier to eye and judge me for a book called You Are A Badass. While it isn’t my style to open myself to self-help type genres, I did buy the thing and I find myself flipping through the pages.
I appreciate the inventory it asks me to take.
I am not afraid to admit I may be a little stalled in my life for some of the subconscious reasons she so cheerily identifies.
I am happy teaching but I can’t help but feel there’s more of this life, this body I am here to do. That there is some unfinished project that awaits my attention.

For the past two years I have been painstakingly working on a memoir that has nothing to do with yoga.I have found a million reasons to dismiss this as a crazy farfetched idea. It would me more realistic if I chose to breed Saint Bernards.
But like yoga teaching found me, writing this thing has reawakened me.
And like my mother has taught me, I follow my heart no matter how wild and crazy the ride seems to be.
And like teaching has shown me,  we do what we love and that is simply the offering.
The pay check for that?
I can always keep working on that too.

With a little help from a friend

An angel told me on Saturday I was controlling. That I had trouble letting go.When an angel tells you these things you do not get defensive. You pause, the way I did.

“I am?” I asked. It was hard to hear the truth even from the mouth of an angel.
“Passively controlling,” he specified.

I smiled and nodded because that was even more true. I thought about the continuous ways I may have held others back by being too quiet, too non verbally indignant. I thought of the quiet huffs or stamping foot I gave to my husband over the years when he told me he had to go out of town again. I was sorry that I ever sent my husband out of town carrying more baggage than he ever needed to.

Why was it so hard for me to be alone?

“It’s your subconscous,” the angel said. And he moved his hands around as if he were clearing away dust from a windowsill. “You will feel a lot better,” the angel told me. You will perecive things a lot differently.”

Even if I tried to be skepical I couldn’t. I felt more receptive, more open to what I could not understand more than at anytime in my life.  My body knew the way an animal knows that this is where it is safe to sleep. I awkwardly closed and then opened my eyes. I wanted to witness what he was doing but my conditioning told me to close them out of reverence rather than observe the way he went about conversing with the universe who was giving him information about things within myself I had yet to see.

I won’t bother to go into it (the healing) because I am still figuring it out. I am still basking in the blessing of the whole thing and how I ended up sitting with a celestial being at a Hilton in Evanston on Saturday. A Hilton, I know. Not the venue one might expect to sit down with an angel. But then again, why not a Hilton?

I woke up the next day exceedingly lighter. It was that fast. That obvious, at least for me. I felt compelled to savor the blessing. To change my routine. To test out what this week would be like if I chose rest over activity, silence over conversation. If I played Mozart while makiing breakfast. If I let beauty in everywhere.

What wasn’t new was knowing that it is hard to hear the truth about things. Except when you realize the truth is where all the beauty of nature lies you feel more compelled to want to live by it —  That the weight of our lives is not meant to doom us, nor is it consciosuly our fault if we chose to carry our life around with us like it owes us more than it has offered. There are tools to help us lift ourselves out from under what we cannot control. There are guides that teach us to surrender. There are blessings everywhere.  There are a million ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

Reflection: The extraordinary thing that the natural world teaches us is that it is never reluctant to be itself yet isn’t it astonishing that as humans can spend so much of our time relucatant to be who we are?   I believe  we walk around this Earth having some kind of purpoose that is hidden like a secret deep within the sedimentary layers of our subconsious. If we are lucky enough in this lifetime that secret gets dislodged, it gets loosened from the dense ground from which it lay hidden and we get to pluck it from it’s ground and grow it and create it and thrive radiantly because of it. Our own nature, revealed.

I also believe that on the way to growing our life in ways we deserve, we may need help from angels.

In this together

Today my mom is driving on the highway in Florida to be with my father who awaits open heart surgery.
I failed to mention she is wearing a clown costume. The yellow yarn wig, red nose, big shoes, makeup, the whole thing.
My mom is 74 and today she graduated clown school. My dad was supposed to be there clapping and taking pictures but his body had other plans. My mom was laughing and crying on the phone with me. “I will just change in the bathroom at the hospital,” she tells me. What I wouldn’t give to be at reception at the hospital or a nurse attending when my mother walks in as Rosie, the clown.
I cannot for the life of me begin to dig for the metaphors here.
My parents moved to Florida just three weeks after I moved to Chicago. I am forty five years old and this is the first time in my life I have lived a plane ride distance away from them. Given the close nature of our relationship, it felt so fitting that we were adjusting to new cities simultaneously. My mom and I exhanged tales of our acclimation. We both got lost multiple times a day. We both found the makup stores we liked. We both were looking to create new and meaningful work. And though we were at different places, times zones and phases in our lives we were both learning ourselves anew again. I took comfort that despite our distance, we shared such a similiar journey.
When my mom called me on Friday to tell me that my dad was in the hospital because of his heart, I ached over our distance. I could hear the pang of dependency that the two of us have respectively shared throughout both of our lives. We have in many ways lived a life safely protected. For the past few months, in the wake of forging a new life in Chicago and resolute to heal some old wounds, I have been trying to shake off that little girl I recognized in her own voice.
My mom has spent her whole life leaning staunchly on my dad to make her feel safe. And yet paradoxically, my mom has an unyielding sense of adventure. The older I get, the more I recognize how much of my mother lives inside of me. For better and for worse.
“Mom,” I said to her. “You have to be strong now.”
My mom’s vulnerability is what makes her beautiful and what makes her seem so young, so timeless. What must give her the courage to want to be a clown at her age.
“I feel so alone,” she said into the phone.
I thought of my dad’s heart. How it was asking for help. How his heart has loved so broadly, so quietly, so perfectly. It was his turn to lean fully on her. I prayed she would see how capable she was to step into this role. Here we both were, given our respective chances to parlay our discomfort into newfound strength.
Pema Chodron wrote in the opening of her book, When Things Fall Apart, “Don’t go letting life harden your heart.” Ironically, my dad’s heart remains intact and pure. It’s not his heart that has hardened, but the arteries around it. Thank God, it’s all fixable. His flow will return to normal. His heart will continue to strengthen as will my moms’ in different ways.
My mom is awaiting the arrival of her adult children. This is one of the great joys of her life: Her children together. There is nothing that could ever replace being present for the people we love.
I have a one way ticket because whatever I have going on in my life outside of this can wait. As time passes and my dad shifts from surgery to ICU to rehabilitation to home, I will return to Chicago and resume the work of my life. My mom will trust that she can too. My dad’s heart will beat stronger. And we will heal together and apart.

The successful one

     I was once given this sort of advice from someone who I deeply respected in business. He said to me, “Your best revenge, is your success.”
     I knew what he meant. It was a time in my life when my yoga studio which I had co-owned for almost a decade was going through a sad divorce. My partner and I were breaking up. It was brutal. Traumatic. Devastating. On us. On our communities. On our friendships and families. On our business. This advice while well intended seemed to impress upon me that it was only when I surpassed my former partner in business that I will be free of the pain the breakup caused.
     As time passed and transitions have made that point in my life seem more distant and oblique, the regret of how it all went down and choices thereafter still claim its territory within. I have a hard time buying that it has much to do with where I ended up. Letting go I learned is a creative process as much as forgiveness is. It’s two steps forward where I might reach the pinnacle of calm acceptance, and three steps back where I might feel gripped by the burn of having no control over so much.
I repeated my mother’s advice as if it were that easy.  “We cannot look back, we can only move forward and learn from our past.” Of course, the lessons I have learned. Where would I be without them? The lessons I received about my own behaviors, my own shadows, my own weaknesses, they all came rushing forward as if they were begging for my attention. I may not be grateful for everything that happened, but I can be grateful in every moment for these lessons which have shaped me and are defining some of my finest aspirations today. I listen for the ways my present has benefitted from this kind of learning.
It is my body most of all that tells me how over things I really am. I wonder about that on days like today where I feel compelled to write about this or days like yesterday when I was triggered unexpectedly by a conversation I had with a dear loving friend and longtime student. She was filling me in about her life, her yoga practice, and mentioned innocently that my old partner’s classes “are packed.” “It’s so crowded there,” she said. “She is running a good business.”
While I wished to God that my first response was one of beauty, that the accrual of these lessons would have showed up when I told my friend, “Oh, I am happy for her. She deserves that success.” I said the words and wanted to stand by them completely. But, amidst that I could feel in my belly those small tentacles of my own ego catch hold of me and for several breaths in the conversation I felt the uprising of hurt and pain, jealousy and regret. I looked around at where I was in my life and started comparing. I started tragically asking, what if things had gone another way? What if I had done things differently? And the line up of questions that ran completely against the current of reality. Of the present moment. Of accepting what was. Of looking around at my life and embracing exactly where I am. I am starting anew. I am not sure how it will all turn out. I don’t yet know from where my stability will arise. I resisted the self-denigrating side of me that wanted to blurt out, I deserve where I am.  That according to my business advice, I was on the losing side of success.
There is a place within me that is at peace with all the ways my life has been led.  There is also a place within that longs to have a do-over. That wishes I can look back and take with me the centered, older clearer version of myself that sits in my bedroom in Chicago feeling humbled and softer. (Had I known then, what I know now…)  I know I am a better teacher now than I ever was. A better mother. A better friend. Possibly a better business woman. (I would hope).  I wish that my past could somehow know me as I am now becoming.  That I can bump into my old self and carry her along with me rather than chastise her for all the foolish things she did.  She is not a mistake. She is and will be such a huge contribution in me understanding, valuing and creating a life that is successfully lived.