Evolution

Sunday afternoon. It’s the first cool, crisp, sunny day in a long, long time. My neighborhood stretches out before me, the clouds wisping in slight arches, making the world feel circular, make me feel like I’m watching what’s in front of me through a fish-eye lens. Or maybe it’s the strange stirring in my soul that creates the illusion.

My hand is intertwined with my husband’s; we’re taking a quick stroll during a small pocket of free time in what is turning into a busy Sunday, a stroll that started by my husband getting up from the couch and going, “The weather’s nice. Let’s go for a walk.” A man who understands how much I need to be on the move in some way, how tough it is to be cooped up.

The world in front of me feels new. In a way, it is: it’s been a over a month of downpours and thunderstorms and oppressive humidity. This sudden calmness feels like someone switched out the movie, and now I’m witnessing a completely different scene.

“Everything feels so different,” I say, “even from just a year ago.

…but it’s a good different. This is a good evolution.”

Last week, the announcement was made public and official: one of the studios I teach at — in fact, one of the very first studios I ever started teaching for — would be closing down in September. It’s something I knew for a little while — even before I was told the news, I could feel it in the air, an energy that felt a lot like endings, and hearing the news brought more relief in the confirmation than anything else.

My first set of classes after the announcement composed of me holding space for my students — students, some of whom I’ve had for nearly four years –as they processed, me trying to create a sense of grounding, trying to apply yogic principles (embrace impermanence, bare witness to the present and breathe through it), and leaving the studio feeling like I had squeezed out every drop of my soul to make that space — but now it left too much spaciousness within me.

Everything is evolving. Life is creating new turns. Turns that have me turning to my husband and going, “You have my blessing to be the good Christian, but I’m going to leave the room.” Turns that have me turning to myself and going, “I can move past things but still hold people accountable and responsible for their terrible behavior.” Turns that have me turning to Kesha’s “This Is Me”, blasting it in my car: “I’m not scared to be seen / I make no apologies.

Turns that are beautiful and scary and amazing and surreal.  Twists and bends that are not unlike the ones on the trail, the ones that egg me on even when my legs turn to jelly and I’m tripping over roots. I feel like I barely got the words, “I think the universe is creating space for something,” out to a cherished friend before the world rushed in and utilized that very space made.

Everything is evolving.  In a little under a month, I will no longer be spending my Fridays teaching at that particular studio.  I will no longer walk into that building, like I have for the last four years. I still have the original set of keys to the place on my carabiner, and soon the newer set will be useless as well.

I know I keep returning to this aspect of the evolution because it is the one tangible form of this era shift. I can touch the walls that will eventually not be mine to teach under.  I can feel the hardwood floors and the hear the clack of the keyboard as I sign students in.

What isn’t tangible are all the things that either don’t happen anymore, or the new things that have cropped up.  What isn’t tangible is the new set of emotions and experiences and revelations, and the deep understanding that I’ve become like the birds on the Galapagos Islands — evolved and adapted to the point that I’m unrecognizable from my original self. None of that can be put on the calendar like the last day of class.

But these are all positives. Even the tough moments. All of it, and I’m so stupidly lucky to be here — or maybe it wasn’t just luck. Maybe I kicked and clawed and worked like a dog until I was back on dry land. Maybe this time in my life is the reward for sticking with it. Or maybe it’s the calm before another storm hits. Who knows. Either way, I embrace it.

It’ll be three years in September since my father passed. It’s funny, though — the summer before he died hits me harder than the fact that he’s gone (perhaps it’s because, in a way, I had already said my good-byes, long before the spiral down, but that’s for another time).  So much has changed, including how I look back on that time. But, still, some things can blindside me. I heard Katy Perry’s “Wide Awake” while driving home last week and — like that — gone was the fisheye lens, the circular world, replaced with the nostalgic and familiar haze of anxiety and dread, like my emotions were the summer’s blazing heat. Just like that, it might as well have been 2015 again, and I had a moment of de-evolution.

God knows how I tried / Seeing the bright side / I’m not blind anymore

Perhaps the hardest part during that time was how quickly it all evolved. Back then, evolution felt more like mass extinction. Evolution felt more like climate change to the point of catastrophe, to the point of severe storms and the water baking underneath me. I didn’t understand it then, but I look back and understand it now. And the quote from Stephen King always loops back in my head: Birth always looks like death from the inside.

Everything is evolving. Everything is being reborn.

Sunday night. I’m back home late after an evening with a close friend. My husband is awake and on the couch, playing video games. I immediately crawl onto the crouch, grab the blanket I keep in one corner, and use it as a pillow as I lay my head next to him. Was there ever really a time I took this for granted? Was there ever a time I didn’t cherish these little moments? That time feels foreign to me, like it was someone else’s life, and I’m grateful for that feeling.

As I’m grateful for every step in the evolution, grateful that somehow we’ve been able to evolve together — an individuals, as a couple. Maybe now we’re the Darwin bird whose beaks have reshaped and adapted, who have found their way to the top of the food chain through the years.

Everything is evolving, and I will gladly advance as a species.

I am brave / I am bruised / I am who I’m meant to be / This is me

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Forty-Eight

“You always make me so nervous when you hike like that.”

I had some pretty strict rules when I started hiking solo.  I could only hike well-worn, well-known paths, and always south of the Whites.  The rationale there was I’d be less likely to get lost, and, on the off-chance that I did get lost, I wouldn’t be in that much trouble.

It was an objective understanding of my inexperience.  I’d been hiking since I was a child – since I was a baby in a backpack carrier, technically – but I can name a whopping total of two trails that I ever traversed as a child, and never to summit.  Granted, I did those two trails many, many, many times, to the point that the sound of the water over the rocks on the Falling Waters trail is distinct from others, and the sound carries me home like a reverse Siren.

I’d only done a handful of hikes when I lived in Boston as an adult, and only a handful more after moving to Nashua.  And the last thing I needed was to be yet another poor sap who gets lost in the White Mountains and perishes.

But eventually those rules started eroding.  With more experience under my belt, I started going for the more obscure trails, the less-populated trails – but still south of the White Mountains, in case I got lost.  And then it was trails along the southern perimeter of the Whites – again, if I got lost, I could venture south, and be in relative safety.  And then it was trails within the Whites – but only the popular ones, the easy ones, the ones that you make you feel like a runner at the beginning of the race who was put in the wrong pace group and now you’re spending the first few miles weaving around the crowds.

It was only a matter of time before I’d want to start scaling the 4,000-footers – New Hampshire’s notorious set of 48 mountains, ranging (no pun intended) from the relatively moderate to the potentially deadly.

There was a part of me that smirked at the decision.  Hiking, camping, the wonderful outdoors, those were all things from my childhood that I kept sacred.  And my parents had scaled all 48 mountains, joining the 4,000-footer club as a result.

I had spent so much of my life making sure I never repeated the same mistakes they made, and here I was about to follow in their footsteps – almost literally. Continue reading

Prodigal

Sometimes the best way to define something is through the negative.

Sometimes the best way to know what something is, is to know what it isn’t. You can learn every standard definition but sometimes the only way to really understand something is to figure out exactly where the borders are and skim your fingers along the edges.

Sometimes to really know what something is, you have understand what it’s not. It’s something I’ve been using for my own self growth and have been slipping it into my classes as food for thought. Receptivity is not passivity. Neutrality is not pretending your emotions don’t exist. Rewiring is not forced change.

(I wonder how many of my students know that the majority of what I pass on to them are things I had just figured out for myself. The lamp illuminating the next step forward is just an extension of my own arm.) Continue reading

Sideways

Perhaps it’s because I grew up next to the ocean, but it’s always been something I’ve known.

In the event of a riptide, don’t fight it. Don’t try to swim against it. Swim parallel to the shore until you’re out of it, then take a diagonal path back to dry land.

Granted, my hometown is nestled in a cove within a cove — by the time the water came to us, the mighty Atlantic had been tamed into gently lapping ripples. You could get bigger waves a few towns over in Nantasket, but not by much. Continue reading

What’s Next.

“Well, always busy, busy, huh!” she says. I choose to take this as a compliment. “So, what’s next?”

The question feels like a tag-along echo, in some ways.  Acquaintances catching up on the year so far have asked it.  Close friends have asked it.  Family has asked it.  I ask it.  Constantly, I ask it.

What’s next. Continue reading

A New Chapter

It started with a conversation about the shifting winds.  A talk about how this fiscal quarter feels so different than the last — about the things that have already changed or are about to change, the major shifts that could happen as early as this summer.

“It feels like a new chapter,” I remarked.  And thus opened up both the can of worms and the rabbit hole: the concept of a new chapter.

Perhaps it’s the writer side of me: the side that is always trying to find and piece together narratives, even when there isn’t one.  I know I have to be careful with that: it’s the same part of me that seeks out the story like Don Quixote and his windmill giants.  It’s the same side that’ll exhaust my soul in the effort to find the happy ending, even when the ending has no choice but to be ambiguous and unsatisfying.  It’s the same side of me that can attribute personality traits and personal motivations to people when the opposite proves to be true.  The side that will assume things are far deeper than they actually are.

But it’s not just the writer side of me.  Chapters can act like milestones, like moving pieces coming together, like markers to show you just how far you’ve come in the grand scheme of things. Continue reading

Insomnia and Mirrors

And so it is that I’m up at 1 in the morning, writing about mirrors.

These wee hours of morning. For a few weeks now, they’ve been my consistent companion. Whether I find my nights stretching into their territory, or I’m awakened in the middle of the night as if to be reminded of their presence, I find myself here. As a naturally early sleeper, I take pause when this happens. Such a disruption of my circadian rhythm is usually a sign something is afoot, or evolving — or, bare minimum, wants me awake for it.

But, yes, mirrors. Metaphorical mirrors. Perhaps I’ll start small and go from there. Continue reading