May 2013 archive

Puzzles or True Friendship

In the waiting room of the clinic where poisonous radiation is shot directly into my best friend’s cancer everyday, there is always a table with an unfinished puzzle on top, begging for attention. As patients come in, they work on the puzzle while they wait their turn under the big, angry laser. And when each puzzle is finished, it’s framed and hung with the hundreds of others already lining the walls.
Sure, it’s a good waiting room pastime. It’s also a metaphor. A puzzle is just a cardboard picture chopped up, exploded into lots of little pieces, and then put back together. Cancer is the cardboard, radiation is the explosion, and once again, with help, we put the cells back together in an order more conducive to life.

It’s a metaphor for a lot of things, really. We all know what it feels like, the explosion. The feeling of being chopped into hundreds of little pieces and fearing we’ll never get the whole thing back together the way it’s meant to be. Sometimes, in the end, we’re able to right the ship on our own. But most of the time, we need a hand. And as I examined the true meaning of friendship today, knowing that my friend is in a fight for her life, we talked about what a friend can and should be.

The answer was sort of blissfully simple: A true friend is a person who can help you put all the pieces of the puzzle back together without looking at the front of the box.

Friends know what we need. It doesn’t always mean they can solve the problem. But they can show up when life explodes. Truth be told, it’s the TRUE friends who just show up. That’s the most important part. They walk in and see the mess and they just start cleaning, no explanation necessary. This physically happened to me once. I’d just found out the LOVE of my life who I was DEFINITELY marrying had in fact cheated on me with the one person I hoped and prayed it wouldn’t be. I called my friend from my dorm room, blathering and hysterical, zero sentences and even fewer recognizable words. She raced to my side, and you know what she did? She cleaned my room while I cried on the bed. No encouraging words to me or hurling insults at him. Silent, and quite spirited, cleaning. Then, she ordered me a pizza. She couldn’t fix the hurt, and she couldn’t murder the boy, so she just showed up. It was one of the greatest acts of true friendship I’ve ever experienced.

Brene Brown talks about the fact that acknowledging, simply picking up the phone, can be all a friendship needs to survive. Whether it’s cancer, a divorce, a death, a lost job, or a lost hope, the phone call, the knowing that someone has your back…it’s better than anything. It’s the someone who knows our pieces, and knows where they go, and who can do it without the starting pistol sounding or the green light. And you don’t need to know the person for a long time in order for them to know your puzzle. Some people we meet and we know it from day one, where all the pieces go. That’s true of my friend. We immediately recognized each other’s puzzles, and when tragedy struck, we got to work.

I will continue to show up for her, pick up her pieces, and probably order her pizza. And hold her hair when she pukes it back up. (That’s also required, in true friendship.)

Sometimes friends also slime you the SECOND someone takes the shot so it looks like you're actually just posing for a slime.

Sometimes friends also slime you the SECOND someone takes the shot so it looks like you’re actually just posing for a slime.

Young Me/Old Me

I had a weird day yesterday. I woke up feeling displaced and nebulous. Instead of working from home or the office, I drove up to Starbucks and worked for a little while. Once I realized I hadn’t eaten yet, it was already lunch time. I left Starbucks, with no direction, and then I got a text message. “I don’t know where to go. I’m sitting in your driveway.”
My closest friend in Jacksonville sold her house yesterday because she is moving away. She will be temporarily living in her family’s home about an hour away until she has a home in her new state. Yesterday, her child with his grandparents, her husband at work, she just drove. No kids. No responsibilities. Not even a home.
I pulled in to the driveway where she sat in her car and I invited her out with a wave. We reclined and stared at each other on the front porch until she said, “I hope this doesn’t all blow up in my face.”
“I know,” I said, completely unreassuringly. “Aren’t the 30s weird? Like we’ve done all the things we’re supposed to do, gone to school and gotten jobs and started families, and at any moment it could all explode. We could all go back to square one. And it wouldn’t be that bad.”
“There’s something that feels really good right now about having no attachments,” she said. “I mean, I cancelled all my bills except for my cell phone. It’s like college.”
Then I considered offering her a glass of wine, but seeing as how it was only 2 o’clock in the afternoon, I didn’t (mostly because I know she would have accepted and a glass would have turned into a bottle and then I would have to call the school to tell them I couldn’t get Abe because I was drunk. And they frown upon that.)

Remember being fearless with barely any responsibility? Why does growing up come with responsibility, the kind we prescribe to ourselves, and that murders our fearlessness?! Sure, Abe is a responsibility I chose and I LOVE that responsibility. (Most days. Well, there are days…) But truth be told, I don’t need a house or new cars or a gym membership. I got along fine without any of that stuff in my 20s. In fact, I seemed to be pretty happy with far less baggage (literally and figuratively).

My friend Jason recently posted a blog about himself when he was young. He described Young Jason: “Young Me played ball until he couldn’t even see the rim.  Young Me also had a back story for all his toys.  Young Me had a spaceship made out of a bush that grew next to two oak trees and had half of a cinder block for the commander’s chair.  Young Me didn’t care what others thought.  Young Me rocked.”

erinbabyWhat did your Young Me do that your Old Me doesn’t?

Young Me decorated the pages of my journals with paint and crayons.
Young Me laughed the loudest and didn’t care.
Young Me tossed out unsolicited opinions. 
Young Me watched movies alone.
Young Me went jogging any old time, not concerned about when the last time I went jogging.
Young Me painted my favorite quotes on my walls.
Young Me hugged everyone.
Young Me danced without drinking first. 
Young Me climbed trees. 

My Young Me rocked, too. I could probably stand to be a little more like my Young Me. Let go of whatever inhibitions or secret voices are telling me “I’m too old for that,” and just do it. I probably won’t start by going jogging, because that sounds horrible, but I might watch a movie alone tonight.

Throwing the Refrigerator

“Abe, come over here, please.”

Pause.

“Abe? Come here, please.”

Zero response.

“Abraham. Please come right here.”

“What mommy?”

“Come here, please.”

“What mommy?”

“Abraham. Come here please.”

“Noooo. Why noooot?”

“Abraham, come here before I start counting.”

Aaaand he arrived in the kitchen so I could give him the food and water he needs to SURVIVE. Isn’t that kind of him to allow me to keep him alive?
Today was one of those days when my child didn’t do anything wrong. He didn’t throw a tantrum in public or hit me or refuse to clean up after himself. He was just a two-year-old with selective hearing and a general apathy for responding to me when I tried to do things for him.

“Abe, are you hungry?”

“No.”

“Do you want a snack?”

“Yes.”

“Ok. What can I get you? Some strawberries? Blueberries? Banana?”

“No.”

“What do you want for a snack, Abe?”

Silence.

“Abe? Child who is 10 feet from me? What would you like for a snack?”

Silence.

“I’m just talking to myself in the kitchen about snacks and feeding you and THIS IS HOW MOMS GO CRAZY AND START POPPING PILLS AND DRINKING WINE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY.”

Silence.

“Blueberries it is.”

It’s what my mom calls “throwing the refrigerator out the window” days. The days when you realize if you don’t count to ten, go for a walk, practice deep breathing, or drink something with alcohol in it, you might throw the refrigerator out the window. It was not a bad day, zero catastrophes. Not a stain on a couch, not even a door left open for the Florida air conditioning to escape. Just the same, invisible experience over and over again, wondering if I was talking to myself or if possibly my son might also, in fact, be in the same room (he was).

“Abe, do you want to go for a walk?”

“I’m playin’ trains!”

“Yes, I know. I mean after that. When you’re finished. Do you want to go for a walk?”

“I’m playin’ trains!”

“Right. I got that. Want to go for a walk later?”

“I want cake.”

“No. That wasn’t one of the options. Do you want to go for a walk?”

“I’m playin’ trains.”

“Yes I KNOW THAT, ABE. WHEN YOU’RE DONE DO YOU WANT TO WALK OR WOULD YOU PREFER CONTINUE HAVING THIS CONVERSATION UNTIL IT’S DARK OUTSIDE?”

Guess what he said? “I’m playin’ trains.”

Now, these taking up many days  in the life of a mom, it’s no wonder vicodin was so popular in the 60s. And why few people understand what’s so maddening about being a mother. Most days there are no major, life-altering meltdowns or trips to the ER. No, most days are fine. It’s just that some days are just a long and windy road full of being completely ignored or actively agitated. We’re tired for no visible reason by the end of the day when our husbands come home and ask, “What’d you do all day?” or “Why are you so tired, what happened?!”
“Nothing happened except for me keeping another person alive for this, the 967th consecutive day, while he paid little to no attention to my requests, offers, or questions. Nothin’ happened.” Men have a hard time understanding this.pony pictures

But today, Abe made my point for me.

“Hi, Abe!”

“No, Daddy! Get out!”

“Um, no. I live here.”

“GO GET IN YOUR CAR DADDY.”

“Do you want a hug?”

“NO!”

“Do you want a snack?”

“NO!”

“Do you want me to play trains with you?”

“NO!”

“Well, what do you want?”

“I want a pony.”

Check. Mate.

Oak Trees and Molars

After an entire weekend spent outside, basking in perfect Florida days, I found myself completely overtaken by the blood-sucking, life-stealing, headache-inducing pollen that is EVERYWHERE in this God-forsaken state. I have not had an allergy attack in about 3 years and I forgot how much I hate all that is pollenating life.
I took an allergy pill before bed last night because they knock me out and make me so woozy that I’d likely put the iron in the fridge and my tennis shoes on the same shelf as the good china. (Just kidding. I don’t have good china.) I figured if I could sleep through the worst of the allergy pill side effects then I could go on the have a perfectly lovely Memorial Day.
The first hour of Memorial Day was great, until about 1:15am. My son began to cry and moan and then cry some more. “What’s wrong with him?” I asked my husband who was staring at the video monitor in his sleep.
“I don’t know,” he mumbled.
“I’ll bet it’s his bottom left molar. I thought I saw it swollen yesterday.” This is a mom thing. A father would never flip the switch in his brain to “on” that allowed him to notice things like a bottom left molar being swollen. A father would assume the child need something to eat and feed him meatloaf in the middle of the night. “I’ll go get him some motrin,” I said.
“No, it’s okay. I’ll go,” my husband responded. For a minute, I let him begin to lift himself out of the bed until I played out the entire scene, recognizing that it would soon result in him walking back into the bedroom 28 seconds after I’d returned to sleep to ask where the motrin is and how we give it to him and where we keep the water.
“No. I’ll go.” I stood up and bolted to the door so he couldn’t argue with me. As I did, I heard my son shout, “I need some waaaaateeeeer.” Seconds later, my husband followed me into the kitchen and started looking for Abe’s sippy cup in the microwave. “Dave. I heard him. I’ll get it.” He wandered away back to bed.
In the dark, I poured a teaspoon of motrin in a little plastic measuring cup and then sucked it up into a syringe while filling a sippy cup with water, spilling neither. By the time I made it upstairs, Abe was moaning, “I waaaanna feel beeeeeetteeeeeer, Moooommmmmyyy.” It was the saddest thing I’ve ever heard in my life. I gave him some motrin and water right in his crib and told him he would feel better soon. Thankfully, he did.

This morning, major allergy pill hangover. The day before involving swimming and a lot of grilled steak, Abe slept in until almost 9:30 and so did I. But I still made my way through the day in a total haze, asking the same questions over and over again like, “Did you mow the lawn?” 15 minutes after I stood outside watching my husband do it. I asked my mom to email me her grocery list, which makes zero sense. I cleaned out the entire garage and I don’t remember doing it, but it looks great. All the while, I fed and cared for my 2-year-old, who whined and cried and pitched fits because his little mouth hurt so much that he couldn’t express anything but discomfort. Had we a giant ball pit in the living room, the two of us would have rolled around, moaning and complaining for the entire day, occasional pitching balls out of the pit at passersby.

And then tonight, when Abe wanted to blow bubbles outside at dusk when children aren’t allowed outside in Florida (because of the mosquitoes), I expected the mother of all meltdowns. I waited for it to hit and I accepted that I would spend the next 10-15 minutes empathizing with my traumatized son after I told him no. But the meltdown never came. Instead, he looked at me and said, “Mommy? What if daddy got the blower and blew all the ‘squitoes away?”

So first I melted into a small pile of mom, more in love with my son than ever in this beautiful moment of 2-year-old problem solving. Then I explained to him that I didn’t think that would stop the mosquitoes from biting us, which is when he said this: “How about Daddy gets the lawnmower and mows the mosquitoes so that Abe can go outside?!” This idea seemed better than the first one…to Abe. I explain that the mosquitoes can fly and would probably fly away from the lawn mower.
“Can you fly, Abe?” my husband asked.
“No, Daddy! I cannot fly.”
“Will you be able to fly someday?” he asked.
“Yes. Someday, Daddy.”

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Selfie.

So I guess my point is this: Even after the most difficult and trying times with Abe, I see this little spirit in him that makes what I’m doing the most rewarding experience, the most incredibly satisfying feat I’ve ever attempted. His ideas, his laughter, his moments of pure brilliance fill my soul to the brim and make me think I might just overflow, spilling happy soul all over the hardwood floors. In an allergy pill-haze while competing with lower right molars for the perfect Memorial day, I realized I am the most grateful I have ever been.

And I just sneezed. Effing oak trees.

Just a Miracle

13600431-red-wine-bottleThe first thing you need to know: A friend of mine lamented over, of all things, a boy today. She complained about how she couldn’t get him out of her head and how every time she thought she was “over him,” she just kept going back for more punishment. More of the same. I listened to her for a little while and then, having just read Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love, I asked her, “Since you can’t get over it yourself, why don’t you just ask for a miracle?” She paused and thought about it.
“I guess I could, couldn’t I? Probably better than what I’m doing now…”

The second thing you need to know: Eleanor Roosevelt said to do something that scares you everyday. Well, I definitely don’t do that everyday. Most days I’m like everyone else, doing the routine that feels comfortable. But today, I forced myself to go try a new workout at a new gym. It’s called FightFit, similar to CrossFit but more about boxing and martial arts. Anyone who recalls my short but upsetting stint with CrossFit knows that listening to people tell me what to do, especially when it hurts, is not really a skill in my wheelhouse. Needless to say trying FightFit was a stretch, but I needed a break from yoga.
I walked in to a big room with smooshy black floors and walls lined with huge, black punching bags. Oh, and I was the ONLY PERSON IN THE CLASS. Worst. Nightmare. The coach, a forty-something woman, was nice but sort of in a hurry or not really all there, I couldn’t tell which. She showed me how to pick boxing gloves and got out a mat for me. I had no idea what any of it was for. Then she told me to put on the gloves and “strike” a punching bag. This made no sense to me, as all I could think about was playing Mortal Kombat and kicking the bag with my toe to make it blow up. She showed me a few times that “strike” really just means “punch a bunch of times,” so I did. I looked like a gangly 13-year-old girl and I had no control over where my strikes hit the bag. “Great!” she said. Further conformation that she wasn’t really there.
Finally, it was time to get down to brass tax. Another gentleman walked in just as we were about to get started and did all the things that indicated to me he knew what he was doing. She told us we would be doing strikes, kettle bell swings (sort of like weighted squats), smash balls (throwing a weighted ball to the floor, squatting to catch it, and then standing back up), push ups, and sit ups all in a round robin-style timed exercise: each one for two minutes, then for 90 seconds, then for 60 seconds, then for 45 seconds. Have you ever done push ups for 2 minutes followed by more push ups for 90 seconds, 60 seconds, and then another 45 seconds? Mean either, but I have laid on a dirty blue mat and cried in the middle of a FightFit class.
When all was said and done, I grabbed my keys and headed for the door when the guy who came in late to class said, “Hey. You did great today.”
“Ha! Thanks,” I said, “but I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.”
“That’s ok! When I first started, I couldn’t get through three punches without stopping to breathe.”
I looked at him. He didn’t look overweight or even like anyone who had ever been overweight. He looked like an average 30-year-old guy with big blue eyes and a teacher’s smile.
“Were you overweight then?” I asked.
“Well, yeah a little. But I had just survived a brain tumor when I started FightFit.”
I set my keys down on the counter. “Really? Did you have surgery?”
“No,” he said, “I had a miracle.” We both paused because here comes the third thing you need to know: “I had a tumor the size of a golf ball in my brain. I went to 8 different doctors, all over the country, and I couldn’t get a consensus on whether or not I should have brain surgery to remove it. I was having 18 seizures a day, I had a stroke, and I’d lost the feeling in the left side of my body. Finally, the last doctor I saw told me he didn’t feel right cutting out a part of my brain because I was so young. So, I decided if it was my time to die, I was going to go. I surrendered my life and put it all in God’s hands and told him that I accepted whatever he had in store for me, I wasn’t scared. Six months later I went back for another scan and no one could find any trace of the seizures, the stroke, or the tumor. Now, plenty of people try to explain it away with scientific theories that don’t really apply to me, and I listen. But I know what it was. It was a miracle.”
All I could think to say as I smiled through my skin was, “I love miracles.”

And I do. And I think they can happen any day. I don’t think you have to believe in one particular god or follow one kind of faith to experience a miracle. Call it whatever you want: a happy coincidence, a phenomenon, a big surprise…it doesn’t matter. Anything is possible. So I called my friend with the boy problems and told her the story. We both laughed in awe of the man who looked like the worst of his problems was a low tank of gas in his car. Finally, I said, “If a miracle can do that, I’m pretty sure a miracle can solve your boy problem, too.”
“I’ll bet it can. That, and a nice glass of wine.”

I mean, after all…wine is a miracle unto itself.

The PMS

After spending a majority of my life without any signs or symptoms of The PMS, the past 2 years have been, well, interesting. Having polycystic ovarian syndrome meant that I never had anything remotely resembling a cycle, nor could I use the excuse that I had cramps or was feeling moody because “Aunt Flow was visiting,” because she never made the trip.

So, if you’re a guy and you want to stop reading now it’s fine. Or if you want to keep reading and pretend like you didn’t read this, I won’t tell.

Now, after having Abe and following the advice of a holistic nutritionist, I’m a real girl. With real hormones. And real mood swings. For the first year I was pretty overjoyed everytime I felt any of it, the way I’d imagine I would have felt in my teens if shit went down the way it should have. I would celebrate every month because Look! It happened again! I felt angry at women who didn’t appreciate that they had real bodies that worked all their lives. But I get it. Having a real body that works is a blessing, but it’s also an unpredictable roller coaster ride that, if you didn’t even buy a TICKET for the roller coaster, seems a complete waste of screams and nausea.

I don’t experience moodiness. It’s usually just one mood: angry. I get angry with the dogs, angry with the plants, angry with the mail schedule. This past week I got so angry with the stupid steamer basket that I threw it across the floor of the kitchen. I immediately picked up my phone and played my favorite game, one-click Amazon.com shopping, and furiously bought a new steamer basket. When my husband texted to see if I wanted a coffee, I texted back, “No and I just bought a new steamer basket because I threw this one across the fucking kitchen.”

IMG_6922

I don’t experience the chocolate cravings women used to tell me about. I don’t crave potato chips or wine or cheese. No, when I have The PMS, I crave spaghetti. Giant, heaping bowls of long, spindly noodles topped with a thick, red ragu, all covered in crushed red pepper. If there are fist-sized meatballs involved, even better. If I’ve got The PMS and you tell me we’re going to Olive Garden, I will probably make out with you. A single suggestion of Carrabba’s, Maggiano’s, hell, I’ll take Cheesecake Factory, and we can talk whatever repayment you want. So long as I get to twirl my way to bite after bite of tangy, spicy happiness…

Last night as I lay on the couch with my dog and husband watching nothing because Newsroom doesn’t come back until June, I moaned and complained about still being hungry after the healthy version of shrimp fried rice I cooked up for supper let me down. Having wept for a solid 20 minutes earlier in the day over Zach Sobiech’s passing from cancer and the short documentary on his life, My Last Days, I was finished with the emotional unrest part of The PMS for the day. I just wanted to eat. And I wanted spaghetti.

“What do you want?” my husband asked.

“I want spaghetti. A giant plate of spaghetti,” my mouth watered as I said it.

“I think we have some of your sauce. Do you want me to make you a plate?”

“NO I DON’T WANT YOU TO MAKE ME A PLATE. I’LL GET FAT.”

“You’re not going to get fat over one plate of spaghetti,” he snarked.

“Well, I don’t want any.”

“I’m going to make myself a snack. I’ll make it if you want it,” he said, getting up from the couch, already knowing what I really wanted.

“I don’t care. You choose. I probably shouldn’t.”

And, in a bolt of Best-Husband-Ever Lightening, appeared a heaping bowl of the most divine spaghetti I have ever eaten. I savored every single bite until I reached the bottom of the bowl and then, I licked it.

By the way, the new steamer basket came in the mail today.

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Extremes

There are these two extremes I’ve noticed existing in my life via other people. They’re not the only two, but two nevertheless: extremely positive and extremely negative. There’s always a middle of the road person, but because the extremes are just that, extreme, I notice them more.

tumblr_mcea0ez04z1r15k6ko1_500Seeing the extremely negative person day in and day out is exhausting. It’s everyday, all day, only seeing the bad and not understanding why these terrible circumstances keep attracting into your life. It’s the person you know who is always miserable, always looking at the unfortunate angle of life, who just makes you want to blow a fog horn in their face when they deny there might be an alternative. It’s the person in your Facebook feed who posts, “I can’t remember the last time I had a day this bad,” and you want to respond with, “Look at your last 12 status updates…”
I’ve never been an incredibly negative person. I’m usually looking on the bright side or trying to help other people see the bright side. Some attempts are more fruitful than others and at a certain point, I have to yell, “Uncle,” because I can’t be in charge of making you happy. I can’t cut off my nose to spite my face.
On the other hand, I’m not extremely positive. Not to a point of inaccessibility. Just as quickly as you can think of the person you know who is always negative, you can think of the person who is so teeth-grindingly positive you want to throw bologna at their face for the satisfying slap sound and subsequent humiliation you hope they feel when it sticks. But they don’t feel humiliated. They chuckle, raise their shoulders up in sync with their eyebrows, and remark, “Ce la vie!” And then you throw yourself into a shelf of books.
I believe that people CAN be so happy that little to nothing bothers them. I also believe these people have reached a level of enlightenment that doesn’t include updating their Facebook status with why they’re happy and, “How you can, too!” every 45 minutes. Just as you don’t have to tell me how many degrees you have to prove you’re intelligent if you REALLY are, you don’t have to tell me how happy you are to prove you’re happy if you REALLY are. You can just be happy and share it where applicable, no ego involved. And I don’t mean applicable like apps, Instagram and Twitter. I mean applicable to those you encounter in life say, in the grocery store or in traffic. I remember the older gentleman who said, “Excuse me, beautiful young lady,” in the gluten-free aisle on Sunday far better than I remember the 700 affirmations a day someone emails, tweets, or updates. I remember the way I felt after he said that silly little phrase for hours, and how I smiled my way through the rest of my shopping trip because a guy who could be my grandpa shared a little drop of joy with me for nothing in return other than moving my shopping cart a few inches to the left.

So as I am writing my book and asking myself lately what I want this blog to be, my answer is this: I want it to be honest. I want to fairly offer the image of a life that is authentic, some days extremely positive, some days extremely negative, but always striving to grow. I want to be a truthful enough voice that you can remember it later in a way that inspires you to share your drops of joy and also your moments of sorrow honestly. (And somehow I have to accomplish all of this while still being funny…Yeesh.) But most of all, I have to continue doing it because I like it, not because I worry what the reaction will be. And I do still worry about what the reactions will be. (I mean, my mom, my husband, my Auntie Donna, they all read this.)  But I’ll never be able to label it an “extremely positive” or “extremely pessimistic” blog. I’ll only be able to say, “It’s honest.”

This Is Where We Keep The… (a two-fer)

This is where we keep the salad spinner AND the small pot lid. The salad spinner remains on the floor in front of the cabinet and the small pot lid is often hidden within, causing frustration and aggravation among the parents.

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Other things we keep in the salad spinner: spatulas, old banans, cereal, and popsicles.

Go Easy

anything-everything-quotesEight weeks. Eight loooong weeks of everyone living here, visiting here, needing me here…and it ends today. There are no plans inside of The Cohen Abode for the entire weekend, and I plan to kick off the nothingness by doing snow angels on the living room rug for three to four hours.

One thing I kept up with during the madness, though not always at 6:30am, was my reading and writing. I did yoga, though some weeks only once, and cooked meals a few nights a week. I kept up with my promises to myself way better than I ever have before, and that makes me feel like stringing up ribbons all over the house and running through them, arms in the air, Rocky-style. Definitely not all the promises all the time, but a few of them some of the time. It’s a step.

 

I took a pre-natal yoga class when I was about 9 weeks pregnant. I swore to myself I would be one of those moms who took yoga all through the pregnancy to stay healthy and do right by my baby. Zen Mom, that’s me. I walked in and most of the women knew each other, as it is with any small section of Jacksonville, FL: all the moms already know each other and, frankly, they aren’t interested in adding another mom to the group. But the teacher seemed very welcoming, so I didn’t immediately turn and waddle the other way.
The class in its entirety was basically stretching and a few simple poses. I didn’t feel like I got a workout, nor did I feel anymore Zen-like. I pretty much felt like I paid $15 to tell someone I went to a yoga class. And the very end of the class, though, the teacher ethereally gathered us into a circle at the center of the room and asked us all to hold hands. If there’s one thing I don’t care for in yoga class, it’s touching people. If it’s another thing I don’t care for in life, it’s holding hands with people I don’t know. The long-haired, dread-locked teacher then sat with us and told us we were going to chant something in SanSkrit, which as I recalled was a font in Word so I immediately didn’t understand the directions. She chanted the chant once and the class repeated. Fine. We’ll repeat the SanSkrit and then I’ll be on my way. 

I sat, cross-legged and with good posture, closed my eyes as instructed, and repeated the chant three times. At the end of the third chant, I trailed off into a smile feeling good about having participated. We all said it, and as silly as it made me feel, I was a part of it.
As soon as I opened my eyes, I realized we were still doing it. I was the only one with my eyes open watching everyone chant the stupid thing again. I closed them back up.
It was around the seventh repetition of the chant that I opened my eyes again because Oh. Really? We’re still doing this?
I continued chanting, intermittently opening and closing my eyes to determine if I was in fact the only person in the room who couldn’t believe we were about to say this thing for the twentieth time. At one point I actually rolled my eyes as I closed them back up because come oooon. We get it. STOP.
Around the fiftieth time, they did stop. They stopped chatting and everyone naturally settled into the smile that settled into back at chant number 3. I had no idea what just happened. I probably resembled some sort of deer, or perhaps one of those people who just got a whiff of the fact that they were on Candid Camera. I was waiting for it…waiting for the big reveal where everyone cracks up because JOKE’S ON ME!
Nope. Everyone basked in the after-chant glow and gentle rolled up their yoga mats. I did the same, although I did it while suspiciously eyeing everyone and telepathically asking, “Was that for real? Did you know this was going to be happening? Weird, right?” No one answered, or even looked at me, so I just walked to my car and never went back. Zen Mom Fail.

 

Since that experience, I’ve learned that not every promise I make to myself I have to keep. At least, I don’t have to keep it in it’s original form. I still love yoga, but I go to a different studio now with people who don’t ask me to touch or chant. I promised myself for years I wouldn’t eat refined sugar or gluten anymore. You know what? Sometimes I cheat. It’s rare, and it’s usually worth it. I promised myself I would get up every morning at 6:30am and write. Some mornings, though, the alarm goes off and I think it would be smarter for me to get the extra hour of sleep. So I do it. Even worse, sometimes I turn my alarm off the night before knowing that it’s more important I grab the extra zzz’s than to have the think time.
It seems every time I make myself a hard and fast promise, I never keep it and then I feel like I let myself down. But when I re-write the promise, like this: “I promise that I will do my best to make it to one yoga class each week, knowing that some weeks it just won’t be possible…” I leave myself much more room to succeed and, therefore, feel like less of a lazy jerk. And you know, no one ever judges the promises I make to myself. Most people don’t even know about them, but of those who do no one has ever said, “Really? Your promise is to try and make it to one yoga class? That’s weak.” They’re usually just impressed I even set a goal to begin with.
Go easy on yourself. Set a goal that gives you a chance to succeed, taking into consideration the fact that you’re a parent or a spouse or a hard-working adult who devotes time and energy to a million different people and things everyday. Keep your promises, but go easy.

Red. Lacey. Undies.

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After posting this today, I decided it might require some explanation.

Traveling for business and then dueling with Stomach Flu 2013 left me without my yoga class for over a week. In my world, this essentially means starting over from square one with my muscles. And when I arrived for class, it actually meant starting over at a new studio.
I walked in the front door and was surprised to see the space next to my yoga studio under construction and a giant chalkboard that read, “Pardon our dust during our TRANSFORMATION!” I dropped off my stuff in the teeny tiny cubby near the door, and as I approached the front desk to check in, the man standing behind the counter was new. The sign behind his head had the name of a yoga studio I didn’t recognize.
“Hi!” he said.
“Hi, there. Where are we right now?”
“Oh! We’re expanding! And we’ve renamed the practice. And I’m a new teacher!”
“Alrighty. Well. Can I still take yoga here?”
“HA! You sure can!”
I was laughing inside, I’m sure.
I’m not a fan of change at my yoga studio unless it’s to change the order of poses, and even then I’d prefer just do the same damn thing every time so I never look like an idiot.
The new guy was big. Big shoulders, big arms, big neck, big head. He seemed nothing but lovely. Just new. As I walked into the side of the yoga studio I was used to, I sighed to myself realizing the shelves were in a different place and the water cooler was no longer there on the ONE DAY I forgot my water bottle. I stood, noticing that even my spot in the corner of the room was taken by some woman I’d never seen before. I would have to sit in the middle, near people who I might touch. I don’t care for touching people during yoga.
I laid out my Earth-green mat and got a yoga block from the stack (no longer stacked in the front of the room, but now in the back) and retrieved the delicious tea-tree oil spray available for all yogis to use on their mats prior to practicing. I sprayed down my mat and wiped it with my neatly folded purple yoga towel. I’d washed my yoga towel over the weekend along with everything else in my house that could possibly harbor Stomach Flu 2013 germs. I was starting to feel centered. At least my stuff was clean and this part of my routine was the same.
I sat down in the middle of my mat and grabbed my yoga towel to spread it out. Unfolding it with purpose, I made it to the third fold when I saw them, stuck to the yoga towel, in the middle of yoga class where people could see me.
Bright. Red. Lacey. Underwear.

Let’s back up. I own one pair of bright red lacey underwear. They were given to me by a dear friend at my bridal shower in California 6 years ago. She followed tradition and bought me something from my registry, an adorable kitchen apron from Crate and Barrel. But with it, and in the spirit of bridal showers, she included a bright and red and lacey pair of underwear with a note – “To be worn together.” I imagined myself, a hot housewife wearing nothing but that apron and those undies in the kitchen one day when my husband arrived home from a long day at the office.

Now. Did that ever happen? No. No that never happened because this is real life. And while I had many beautiful pairs of lacey underwear 6 years ago, gone are the days of giving a crap what I look like under my clothes. But this one, sexy little pair are my favorite, and they made it through the high rate of turnover my underwear drawer has seen since wedding body. And now, they were here with me. In yoga class.

I immediately felt flushed and hot. I quickly folded the towel back up. My normal self might announce this little blunder, put it out there and own it. But the room was quiet. People were meditating. Or sleeping. Whatever. I had to figure a way to get these back to my car, which was parked a quarter of a mile away. Hm. Not going to happen without drawing major attention to myself. I did not bring a purse or a bag; just flip flops and my keys which were back in the teeny tiny lobby cubby. The lobby. Where people are standing around and chatting. Near the cubbies.

I could hear the new instructor in the lobby saying, “Well, we’re about to get started!” so I had to act fast. I picked up my towel and carried it to the cubby, thinking I might just shove the whole thing in there. I re-thought that halfway to the cubby. This is hot yoga. The sweat pours and my yoga mat becomes a Slip’n’Slide if I don’t have my towel.
As I approached the cubby, I leaned down and pretended to look inside. At that moment, everyone in the lobby decided to stop and see what I was looking at inside of MY cubby where MY things were. I pretended to put my towel inside, hoping they would be satisfied that that’s all I was doing, but even after getting it most of the way in people were still looking. What’s so freaking interesting!? Look away, people! Namaste! 
I finally made a clutch decision and grabbed the undies from inside of the towel while both my hands and the towel were mostly inside of the cubby and I shoved the undies under my flip flops. And if you didn’t know what I was doing, you would probably just think I was taking the drugs I hid in my yoga towel out and shoving them into my shoes. It was that inconspicuous.

Luckily, no one asked what I was doing and eventually stopped staring at me. I gently pulled my yoga towel back out of the teeny tiny cubby and walked with purpose back to my yoga mat in the studio past the, “Pardon our dust during our TRANSFORMATION!!” sign. I chuckled all the way to my mat.

 

 

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