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Homecoming

I am back in my home earlier than some of my neighbors after being evacuated due to the Woolsey fires this past week. By the grace of whoever watches and protects us all, the officer at the roadblock allowed me to pass into the canyon where I live.

I hit a breaking point. I just had to go home and for some strange reason felt the Gods were on my side. However, I wasn’t sure what obstacles I would encounter on my way home or how I would talk myself into passing through. Maybe I’d lie and say I had to get more medication or some other bullshit. I needed a break from it all. I was drooling at the thought of sleeping through the night in complete silence in the woods.

I don’t like to lie nor am I any good at it but sometimes, desperate times call for desperate measures. When I approached the officer blocking the street I needed to enter, I asked if I could get in. He asked where I lived. I paused just a bit too long before I answered. My reply was less than a mile from the truth and I sensed he knew it. He let me pass anyway. I felt terrible for a bit and then utterly relieved. I thanked whatever angels were with me.

As soon as I stepped on my property my shoulders relaxed. My rib cage dropped. And I took a huge exhale. I expressed my gratitude out loud for the officer that let me pass. Gratitude for my home, with all its quirks and little noises and imperfections. For my friend who so graciously took me in with Zeus, my handsome kitty, when many were not as feline friendly.

Now I am somewhat sequestered in my home as I don’t know if I’ll have the same luck getting in and out freely. I’ve spent the day tending to things that haven’t been tended to. Cleaning. Home assignments I had been putting off. Emails that should have been sent days if not weeks ago. I’m nesting. It’s so peaceful here with over half our town gone.

Without little Zeusy around (I left him at my friend’s apartment truly believing the evacuation would be lifted today and I could return to get him), my home is so much cleaner. I am relishing in its lack of paw prints, cat food and litter littering my floor. I needed this. Even for just 24 hours.

But I had some important realizations today as I washed clothes, cleaned floors, emptied closets, and rearranged furniture.

While my house may be a bit dirtier with Zeus traipsing in and out from the great outdoors, my heart is fuller.

No matter how sparkling your floor is or isn’t, however big or small, a home is to be cherished. Honored. Loved. Respected. And nurtured. We all have different ways to do that. It felt good for me to clean, burn sandalwood, organize and rest.

As I unpacked and re-nested I realized, like I do when I move, that I didn’t need much of what I have been harboring in my closet. I started pulling items off their hangers and putting them in a ‘To Donate’ pile. All ready to go to any organization collecting items for victims of the Woolsey fire.

I don’t have a lot. Everything I own fits in a studio apartment and my office and practice studio. I have one closet. One dresser drawers. Yet, as I unpacked I still felt too cluttered. I began emptying. With every shirt or pair of shoes I dumped into the donation pile, I created a little more space for other non- material things to enter my life. Things I’ve been hoping, wishing, and praying for.

We’ve all heard that people are more important than things. But how many of us are truly living by that philosophy? Do we ever stop to think when we buy that fifth pair of shoes (in my case boots) that we are cluttering our life, preventing the things we truly desire from entering? We weigh ourselves down with so much – food, shoes, lip glosses, purses, t-shirts.

When is enough enough? I wondered if our culture’s obsession with consumption – having more in every area of our life – may be contributing to the devastation of our planet. That our singular home – Earth – is suffering as a result of our insistence on overstuffing our individual homes.

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Am I Bi-Polar?

Lately, I’ve been struggling with who I want to be – how I want to represent myself in this world. Sometimes I am the ethereal yogi who floats like a nymph through life. Effortlessly wearing flowers in her hair. Speaking of love and Goddesses as if they were my dear friends who I invite over for tea. Or am I the wild, strong, fuck all, sometimes crazy woman who dances on poles and takes shots of tequila? The woman who is perfectly happy being thrown up against a wall and possibly gagged. Can I be both? Somewhere in between? Is there a happy medium to be found? A fairy – slut sliding scale? Or do I swing from persona to persona like a monkey in the jungle? I suppose the point is to be comfortable inhabiting qualities of both extremes and embracing and celebrating it all. This is tantra. No good. No bad. Not even ugly. All Divine. Intellectually, I understand this. However, most times, it simply makes me feel bi-polar. Like a box of Cracker Jacks. You never know what sweet surprise awaits you at the bottom.

One day I feel demure, subdued and offer simple, quiet, knowing smiles to people. I nod Namaste. This woman wears flowy skirts and mala beads and loves lace and pink and is perfectly willing to let a man support her. After all, her greatest gift is simply to be, allowing her presence to light up everyone she meets. Her favorite word is love. And she floats instead of walks. She longs to live off the land, simply, communing with nature. She smells like essential oils and thrives off green juice and acai bowls.

The next day, I wake up with a different woman altogether. This woman wears red lipstick and eats burgers and dark chocolate and drinks wine and beer. She doesn’t give a shit how much she weighs. She has the urge to writhe and twist wildly and sway her hips in a way that would embarrass most people. She wants a man who will challenge her, be smarter than she is and not put up with her shit. She is strong, but he is stronger. She is fierce, unapologetic, and most times politically incorrect. This woman says fuck a lot and likes to scream and thrash about. She loves power and desires diamonds and a beautiful home. She is not satisfied simply being. She needs to do.

These are two examples. There are at least ten other women waiting in the wings. How easily I fluctuate between all of them scares me. It leads me to believe I’m more than just a little crazy. It also makes it very challenging to create a consistent marketing strategy and it’s why I’ve been struggling to create a new brand for myself. I have no idea who I am most days. Maybe my brand should be Bat Shit Bi-Polar. Or plain old Totally Fucked Up.

I suppose the perfect partner for me would be a man who really doesn’t know what he wants in a woman. With me, he can sample just about every type out there.

Quite frankly, it’s exhausting trying to respond to the needs of a different woman every day. Life would certainly be easier if I could pick just one. Play one role. I would likely have a more consistent career. I’d complete hundreds of projects I’ve conceived over the past fifteen years. It would even make grocery shopping easier. It’s hard when one woman wants mac and cheese and diet soda and the other craves more fiber and greens, sometimes at the same time. Thus, I make daily trips to the store depending on who shows up for meals.

I’m not sure what to do – if anything – to seal the fissures of my shattered personality. Maybe I’ll continue to vacillate until I settle somewhere along the continuum. I’ll delicately dance between each woman with as much grace, grit and authenticity as I can muster on any given day. It certainly keeps life interesting.

There are a few things all of my women have in common.

They want to love and be loved so bad it hurts.
They want to care too much.
They want to feel to the depths of their being.
And every single last one of them wants to be seen.

Banished From Facebook Live

If I’m completely honest, I’m relieved that Facebook blocked me from my live 4:30pm Self Reflection Sunday chat today. Up until 4:27pm, I was prepping dinner, cutting vegetables thinking to myself What the hell am I going to say? I didn’t want to ignore the pink elephant in the room – my recent piece on depression and suicide that I posted yesterday. Some of you may have read it, others maybe not. Regardless, I felt a responsibility to talk about it and quite frankly, I didn’t want to. I didn’t know where the self reflection topic came in. Should we self reflect about depression? That seemed morbid. Self reflect on vulnerability? Brene Brown has cornered that market and done it so, SO well I’d only be regurgitating her wisdom. I’m done reflecting for the time being. I spent days, weeks, months reflecting and I’m tired. I just wanted to BE for a while.

Yet, I took a deep breath and bucked up, grabbed myself a diet cream soda (my version of a glass of wine), put on some pink hued lip balm and sat down, figuring something would come to me. Maybe I’d discuss my not wanting to discuss and that would be okay. Lo and behold, access denied. Relief granted.

Here’s the thing. Clearly, I don’t have a problem being on camera. I enjoy it and seem to be good enough at it. But when it comes to the very personal, vulnerable details of my life, I draw a line where the pen hits the paper. I feel called to use personal story to inspire others and hopefully ignite them to make positive changes for themselves. I love to write. I know that because I can sit here all night, forget to eat and write, write and write. Words pour through my fingertips on to the page whether I’m typing or writing longhand. While it’s not without its challenges, much of the time, writing is effortless for me.

Effortless would not be the word I use to describe my Facebook Live segments. I’ve struggled over what to say, what the right words are. What people might want to hear. I feel somewhat uneasy talking about more serious topics on camera. I did it because someone I respect suggested it, convincing me it’s a great tool to build my audience and I know he’s right. I know video is the way to go to market yourself or your product on social media. And it got me out of my comfort zone. By the third or fourth video, I wasn’t so stressed about it and I did begin to feel more at ease. I’m glad I tried it and grateful for my friend’s direction.

But here’s the thing. I like to write. Not bullet lists, not top ten stories, not how to succeed at something in so many easy steps. No, I get off on detailed, insightful and sometimes lengthy stories and musings. I love the written word. I realize this will not make me the most popular person on Facebook. Frankly, I don’t care anymore. While I may utilize live video if compelled to do so, from here on out, I’ll be divulging whatever wisdom and truth bombs I have via script. It’s my thing. So if you like to read, I’m your gal. (Or maybe listen – I’m strongly considering launching my book via audio files.)

But I understand if it’s not. No hard feelings. It’s why they make chocolate and vanilla ice cream. (Personally, I’m a vanilla ice cream with hot fudge girl. See? Never easy with me.) We all communicate and learn differently. And that’s a beautiful thing.

By the way,  I’m still not sure what the self – reflection question is. How about we self reflect on why we need to self reflect? Or maybe we just give it a break.

Dying To Live

Sitting on the cold, hard, sterile floor, back against the wall of the psychiatric emergency room of Brackenridge Hospital in downtown Austin, I had only one question. How did I get here? I mean, I know how I physically arrived despite being half comatose from a few too many sleeping pills. From what I can remember, paramedics bust into my apartment completely uninvited, entered my bedroom, shook me awake and demanded I answer a few questions. Apparently they didn’t like my answers. From what I can recall, I was lifted from my bed, placed in a wheelchair, awkwardly carried down the stairs of my apartment and transported into a medical vehicle. The next thing I remember, I was in a hospital bed. I should’ve known better to be more specific when I asked the Universe for a man to carry me out of bed in my camisole. Note to self – I would like to be fully conscious when a man sweeps me in his arms and leads me out of, or into, my bed.

They had no right to barge in. No right to dictate I live. It was my life. I should be allowed to decide whether or not it continued. I was pissed. I was hurt. I was sad. And I was still slightly drugged. How had it gotten this far?

Before I could answer that question, I realized I had a more pressing concern. How the hell was I going to get out of this antiseptic, dispassionate, sterile room with fluorescent lights and cold air blowing above me? In my version of hell there are no burning flames and hot searing pitchforks. In my version of hell, I am sitting on a block of ice, naked, forced to drink ice water. I hate the cold. And I most definitely am not a fan of bad lighting. I felt like screaming. I felt like I was, indeed, crazy. At the same time I knew I didn’t belong there.

Truth was, all I wanted was a hug, a warm safe space and someone to tell me I was okay. In one of my most vulnerable moments, I wanted to be assured that my brokenness only meant I was human.

Unfortunately, the psych ward of a hospital is not the place you go for warm and fuzzy or compassion. To those nurses and psychiatric evaluators I was a box to be checked – something to be figured out, a monkey in a cage to be ogled and studied.

So I did what I’ve been doing my whole life – I lied. Have you thought about harming yourself before? No. Do you feel like you want to harm yourself now? No. They danced around the word suicide like a stripper around a pole. There is nothing I despise worse than bullshit and they were full of it.

With the help of a friend who assured them I would spend the night at his home, I convinced those doctors I was not an immediate danger to myself or others and they sent me on my way with an inappropriate dosage of Prozac, unguided as a rudderless ship. I wasn’t so convinced myself, but there was no way I was spending another moment in that joint. It took me about a week to regain any enthusiasm for life or desire to understand what had happened. Once I did, there was no doubt in my mind that this was my proverbial wake up call. I could no longer lie to myself. Despite my best efforts I could no longer ignore depression or continue to ride its turbulent wave. It was difficult to acknowledge that I suffered from depression, especially when many times I couldn’t quite pinpoint why it appeared. I never wanted to use ‘depressed’ as an identifying characteristic like female, or blonde or green eyes. These are obvious traits. Depression is often anything but obvious and not something I was keen to add to my CV. Admitting I was ‘depressed’ made me feel like a victim. I seemed to be able to find solutions to every challenge in my life. Why not this? Yet if I couldn’t call it out or name it, how in the hell would I understand it, much less heal it?

Besides, who was I to bitch and moan? By all outward appearances and societal standards, I lived a successful, happy life. And to a large extent, this was true. My adult years have been full of adventure, traveling when I pleased, seeing places that most only dream of. I’ve toured temples and shrines in India, hiked the highest peaks in Colorado and swam in the seas hugging Africa and Bali. I built a name for myself in the fitness and yoga industries and have appeared on DVDs covers  and in some of the most popular health and wellness magazines. I seemed to have my shit together. I smiled in all my pictures. By all accounts, my life resembled a greatest hits album on Facebook. Thus, I dismissed years of underlying malaise, rationalizing that I simply tolerated and fought through more sadness than the average person. Or that I was sensitive – more susceptible to emotion – mine and other’s.  It seemed even in my happiest moments, depression was always there, lurking just beneath the surface, ready to rear its ugly head and make a mockery of my picture perfect life.

In my earlier years, my demons arose from the conflict between my outer and inner worlds. Despite my successes, I longed to know a world beyond what I could see and measure with my eyes; and one in which my happiness was not predicated on the size of my bank account or my waist. I wrestled between the life I thought I should have and the one I so desperately wanted for the longest time, and there was no resolution. I simply vacillated between the two, doing my best to navigate the murky waters of both, praying for a map to guide me in the right direction.

My prayers were answered when I found my teacher in the Fall of 2011. It seemed I would find exactly what I was seeking under his direction studying yoga, Tantra and meditation. I was a diligent student for the next five years. I attended every training and workshop. I learned techniques that helped me fulfill my deepest spiritual longings while simultaneously teaching me how to navigate the everyday challenges of the material world. I committed myself to yoga, meditation, and self-inquiry practices. I wrote in my journals non-stop. I actually became a seeker of darkness, looking for it in the hidden nooks and crannies of my consciousness so that I could understand it and extricate it from my life. Despite the ebbs and flows of life, I began to feel more stable, more confident. I began to recognize how my habitual thoughts of fear and negativity created a life of discontent and I was committed to changing them. I also began to develop and nurture deep meaningful friendships that would support me in my times of sorrow. All of these things helped me take ownership of my life. I no longer felt like a slave to my emotions and sensed I was moving in a positive direction.

Yet toward the end of 2015, I began to feel a large swell of discontent. My job as the Wellness Director of a resort and spa in Austin, TX was unfulfilling and I was living in a city where I never did quite find my groove. In February of 2016, I quit my job and boarded a one-way flight to India for a sadhana immersion with my teachers, unsure where exactly I would go after that or when I would return. I had no idea what was next and, like anyone with a pulse, I felt fear over leaping into the unknown. But I did know without a shadow of a doubt that I was making the right decision. For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel like I was running away from something, but running towards something.

During my travels throughout Asia, I learned more about myself with every stamp of my passport. I began to get clearer on what I wanted, the woman I wanted to be, and the life I envisioned for myself. I knew I had to write the book that had been brewing inside of me for years. After I returned to the States, I retreated to the mountains of Colorado to do just that. My summer was filled with meaningful work, time in nature, fresh food and visits with family. I was finding balance. I was content and at peace. And I almost convinced myself I had seen the last of sadness sans reason. I felt joy – a deep internal joy that was present regardless of what I did for a living, what I looked like, or whether or not I would ever press into handstand in the middle of the room.

Despite all of my strides forward, depression had been patiently waiting in the wings, ready to make its grand entry and take down the house. One evening I was exhausted from one too many hikes and quite possibly, a lack of adequate oxygen. I had gone for a particularly long stretch staring into a computer screen, isolated from much contact with the outside world. My defenses were down and feelings of anxiety and restlessness began to overshadow the peace I had found in the mountains. I was blowing through much of my savings and worries about what I would do for work and how I would support myself became overwhelming. I feared the risk of switching careers and expressing my truth. All the courage and confidence I seemed to have cultivated during my solo travels disappeared in an instant. It felt safer to crawl back into the shadows then make any attempt to forge ahead into the light….

To read the rest of the essay, please visit YogaPoetica.

One Of Those Days (It’s a Good Thing)

There have been times on this trip, for any number of reasons, when I’ve wanted to run home. To return to the comforts and stability of my life back in the States. Today was not one of them. Today, I delighted in the new and the undiscovered. Today, I wished I wasn’t leaving this town in 36 hours. As I sit here writing, I wish for more time to sit in the cafes I’m just discovering to be my favorites. More days to learn and practice muy thai. More stimulating and engaging conversations with the man I met over lunch. Today, in all its simplicity, was magic.

We all experience these days. We move effortlessly from one task, one errand, one conversation to another. There seems to be little struggle during the activities and engagements of our day. Even stoplights seem to be conspiring in our favor as we float through a series of green lights. We don’t analyze every minutiae of our day and seem to know exactly what to do next, if anything. Our every motion seems to be at the hand of some benevolent force pushing us along. We are, as the saying goes, in flow. Effortless. Easeful. And content and happy to be just where we are.

I recognize these days by the amount of time I’m pulled to my iPhone and computer. In these days my desire to connect with human beings and be completely present overpowers any desire to be tethered to an electronic device. What’s right in front of me is more engaging than what’s out there in the Never-never Land of space.

Today, lessons and simple pleasures abound. It was as if I could’ve written an entire book about the past 14 hours. I wanted to capture every lesson and observation before they escaped from the weak entrapment of my mind. It was if the world was happening around me and I was simply a witness. Needless to say, memories are fleeting and now, I can only recall a few highlights. I trust the ones I need to remember will remain in my mental databanks, and my heart, for as long as I need them.

I’m seeing a pattern in all my travels. I realized I have a bit of resistance to a new place the first day or two. While experiencing new cultures is wonderful, it means a lot of adjusting and maneuvering to attain some semblance of a routine. You know what it feels like to move to a new town? Imagine doing that every week or even every four or five days. It can be a little unsettling to say the least.

In my first 24-48 hours I usually curse my new accommodations for something not being quite right. I have anxiety about everything I should see or do or buy or taste. (Do you know how many bloody temples there are in Asia? Please.) By day two or three, I relax a bit, find my groove, learn the habits of my new microcosm and settle into contentment. I begin to unearth the hidden gems of a new town or city – it’s people, or it’s food, or it’s culture. I forgive any shortcomings and begin to notice the beauty that surrounds me, no matter what it looks like to the naked eye. And just when I’m really feeling love and appreciation grow, I’m rolling up my clothes and packing to jet off to the next destination. If I had a dollar for every I wish I had another two days here. I may not be a rich woman, but I’d certainly have a nice stash of spare change. I vow that I will try to relax into flow from the get go, but usually find myself once again, pissed off about something or other within moments of touch down in a new town. A mere 48 hours later, I am again, in love with the very place I sent into damnation for the rest of time.

One of the observations my new friend and I made was how we seem to always turn towards writing or analyzing our thoughts when times are shitty. My journal is filled with scribbles of discomfort, anxiety, fear, and uncertainty. What does this mean? What lesson can I learn? How do I grow from this? Hell, all you have to do is take a look at my blogs. Many of them originate from pain or suffering. It seems we only ask why when we wish to alter our current situation.

That’s not a bad thing. I always say pain, be it physical, mental or spiritual, is there for a reason. Pain, if we have a desire to end it, can force us to look at our habits and patterns and notice where we have become complacent in our lives. Pain can move us to change, learn, and evolve. Some of us choose to stay in it because it’s what we know. As agonizing as it may be, our pain is comfortable. And it’s preferable to the misery of change.

So it’s a good thing if we observe the times we are sad, angry, anxious, and fearful. It’s healthy to spend time questioning the source of those emotions – especially if they are consistent and pervasive.

But what about chronicling our moments of delight? How often do we write about the awesome day we had? The beautiful sunset we had the privilege to witness. The heartfelt conversation we shared with a dear, far away friend. The laughter shared with a nearby, new friend. The giddy, tummy-turning possibility of new love. The smile we share with a stranger. The five-minute time out dance session in our living room or office. (Nicole Taylor, I’m thinking of you here!) Or the one-hour exhilarating sweat fest at the gym. How about finding a cafe that serves dairy free, coconut ice cream in the middle of nowhere Thailand. WITH chocolate sauce? We may drift into a blissful slumber with a smile on our face. We most certainly will make sure it’s documented on social media. But rarely do we write about it.

I think it’s high time we investigate and honor when we’re happy because honestly, more and more of us seem to be less and less so. When we experience those rare moments of simple pleasure we should understand what brought us to that place of ease and joy. Revel in radiance, for it is temporary, as all things are. Hopefully we don’t have to dig too deep to see that when we change our internal landscape, the outer world begins to look very different. This is what I try to remember before I board my flight tomorrow and when the next stamp bears down on my passport.

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