Wednesday, July 25, 2012

what we give up to grow (up)

Tonight I spent a solitary evening pushing a mop, washing and folding stranger's towels, and wiping dust off windowsills. This simple work, two hours total every Wednesday for the unforeseeable future, gives me the ability to take unlimited yoga & pilates classes at a small studio a few miles from my house. The work itself felt meditative and relaxing. Alone in the studio, with the lights dimmed, folding towels for tomorrow's patrons of the studio, quiet except for the cars passing outside, I felt at peace.

It's funny, I've talked about giving up my metaphorical ugly robes to find the good ones, but when I started this project I didn't envision some of the choices I've ended up making. I guess that's the fun part. Tonight I did something I had envisioned though: I traded skills. What was surprising is that it could be something so simple: really it was just my time and willingness to do some unglamorous, but not difficult, tasks. But by giving of my time and energies, I gain something very tangible in return: yoga. Which is something I've recently identified as a possibly really healthy addition to my life; something worth making time and pausing for. A worthy investment.

I guess that was one part I didn't envision: what it was I would want to trade for, and how simple it would be to get it.

I also didn't envision what I'd have to give up in order to gain.

In this particular instance, I decided to stop playing kickball on the team I've co-captained for the last three years: spring, summer, and fall seasons x 3 years x every Wednesday evening = a lot of kickball. I guess to be honest, on some egotistical level I also felt important on the team, and needed by my peers. So I stayed on the team longer than I wanted, and with negative influences and relationships around me, in order to not disappoint others or let down anyone. (Forget about disappointing myself: I was worried about the team.) So last week I decided to give it all up - at least for the time being or until it feels right to welcome it back into my life - in order to do some better self-care.

So that became a part of it too: walking out of something familiar, into something foreign.

This year I am learning how much this happens, how often this is necessary. In some ways it feels like I am shedding my old skin...

Is that what I mean though? Or do I mean that I am finding what skin I want to live in; I'm being a little more willing to risk trying out different versions of myself to get at who I want to be? It's about acceptance, yes, but also risk. It's about seeing while change is constant, it's more exciting to be the executor of some of our changes. I want to try new things and be more fully human because it's a choice I've made. I want to be happy and centered and caring for myself deeply - by choice.

And a big part of self care is reframing how I think about being alone. What activities can I take part in by myself that are energizing, life-giving, and nourishing, rather than depleting? At a retreat a few weekends ago, though surrounded by people, I discovered the possibility that yoga and pilates could be one life-affirming activity that is as good solo as it is in a group. Certainly caring for my body and my health is a huge part of the many activities I find joy in on my own - including cooking, gardening, going for walks, and reading outside. (Okay, that last one was a stretch...)

So tonight I discovered not just what I can give up, but what I can give, in order to receive the things I need. It's a small step, but a step towards more fully understanding myself and my place in this world. No (wo)man is an island, but sometimes to get back to the others, we first need to get back to our self.

Or at least that's my theory. I'll let you know how it all shakes out.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Hello: Permission to Be

I had a very happy weekend where I was able to put everything away (symbolically) and remember/rediscover what's really important.

Here are some thoughts I am going to try to keep with me through this summer, through the stresses of work, through the ups & downs of friendships and relationships, through this crazy thing called life:

I can be grateful without needing to fill in the "why" or "what" I am grateful for. I can just say: "I am grateful."

I can try new things, even if they scare me. Fear is not stronger than courage.

My house is work in progress and there is no pressure to get it all done right this moment.

Same goes for the garden. (Peace be with you bunny rabbits.)

Deep breathing has the power to heal. Stepping away from stress, even for a moment, can cleanse. Do these things often.

Fear of pain or difficulty is no reason to not push myself further.

When feeling uninspired, go outside and run or scream or move or laugh or dance until you fall down exhausted. Repeat.

I am exactly where I need to be.

I am enough.

I was many things. I am many things. I will be many things in the course of my life.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

hello: guess who!

I have done so many notable things in the last few weeks, it's truly hard to know where to start.

I bought my first pair of hybrid spandex-"booty shorts" so that when I bike in a dress and flash people, it's just a touch less inappropriate. (I am questioning if this was the right place to start this list of "notables.")

I also discovered what is my new favorite salad recipe and have been telling everyone I know about this delicious creation. (Second time I've mentioned it in this blog, in fact.) The dressing alone is worth making again and again and putting on anything and everything. If my housemate hadn't been sitting nearby, I would have been tempted attempted to drink it like a savory smoothie.

My garden is finally starting to take off and I am finally starting to let go of the fact that a large portion of it continues to be bunny food. Let's be real: for me it's not as much about the harvest as it is about the experience of growing things. This week's notable crop: raspberries. (Also: bunnies don't give a sh** about raspberries.)

I went to a department store where I had what some might consider an "intimate moment" with Deb in "Intimate Apparel." I had been wearing the wrong bra size!! Now my girls are much more comfortable in the correct bra size and I have "getting felt up by a senior citizen" crossed off my bucket list.

Last week I stood very close to Amy Sedaris at an event and realized she is my spirit animal and her humor is perfect. I just love people who see the world through a very quirky, very honest lens. I am trying to figure out if snorting-laughter at a work event - where I'm technically "working" - is unprofessional. Oh well.

I continue to slowly read Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. Slowly because it's so good I want to make it last. Slowly because it's the perfect book about summer to read on a very hot summer night, on my front porch swing with a glass of lemonade, sweating bullets because it's 95 degrees at 8pm. If that sounds unpleasant, you misunderstood me. Reading it like this actually has added - or transported me to - the world of the book. The introduction, written by the author himself, in the "grand master edition" is one of the most beautiful pieces of honest reflection I have ever read. An excerpt:

What you have here in this book then is a gathering of dandelions from all those years. The wine metaphor which appears again and again in these pages is wonderfully apt. I was gathering images all of my life, storing them away, and forgetting them. Somehow I had to send myself back, with words as catalysts, to open the memories out and see what they had to offer.
So from the age of twenty-four to thirty-six hardly a day passed when I didn't stroll myself across a recollection of my grandparents' northern Illinois grass, hoping to come across some old half-burnt firecracker, a rusted toy, or a fragment of a letter written to myself in some young year hoping to contact the older person I became to remind him of his past, his life, his people, his joys, and his drenching sorrows.

I mean, come on now. Beautiful. 

Moving on from writing-so-beautiful-it-makes-me-come-alive, here's something mundane: I just made my first ever jello salad for an Independence Day party. Red-white-and-blue(berry) to be specific.

Speaking of Independence Day, I also made good on one of my promises to myself and, not to under emphasize this moment, one of the motivations behind this blog. I got a very new, very cute, very versatile, mint-green.....

Hello ugly robe. Independence day symbolic activities are my favorite!