BatYoga

Usually, my fantastical yoga scenarios are purely a defense mechanism.  I’d embarrassed myself and I would use humor as a way to process the mortifying experience.  But sometimes they come from incredibly random places — and the same part of my mind that will take an embarrassing moment and run with it will take that random spark and go on a full-out sprint.

Case in point: this picture.

11156113_10153197457850280_2363156520756865843_n

Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.  Well, that’s a bit awkward: I’m a yoga instructor, but I’d really like to be Batman.  What would happen if I got rid of the leggings, the tank tops, the bare feet, and decided to don the Batsuit instead?

Or — or! — even better: What if Batman himself lead a yoga class?

*Cue Wayne’s World doo-lee-du-doo, doo-lee-du-doo, doo-lee-du-doo.*

The room is dark.  Cave-like, one would say.  A startlingly composed British man in a suit & tie checks you in for class just outside of the studio, offering to hold onto your jacket and bag while you attend class.  You unroll your mat and patiently wait for the teacher to arrive.

Suddenly, the windows to your left fill with light.  You, alongside the other students rush over.  Outside stands Commissioner Gordon, turning on the Batsignal.  Or we say: the Ohm signal.

Before you can get back to your mat, a dark figure rushes in — a blur of black whipping through as the Bat Symbol suddenly comes alight through strategically-placed salt lamps positioned around the room.  Everyone can’t help but remark on the entrance as they’re slowly making their way back to their mats.

“SILENCE!” he yells in his gravelly voice. “Because…with silence…one finds…clarity.”

Everyone takes a seat, including Batman, who does a strategic 360-degree twirl in order to find his easy seated pose.

“We will start the class…with some…chanting,” he says, his cape draping over his knees in his half-lotus position.

“Ooooohhhhhhhhmmmmmmy God my parents are deeaaaaaaad…”

He stops, looks around, and clears his throat.

“I mean.  Let’s try that again,” he says.

“Ooooooooooooorphan… Nooooooooo parentssssssss…”

He lets out a sigh and goes, “All right.  It is time to begin class.  Make sure you have all of your props handy.  Grappling hooks, Batarangs, Kryptonite ring…”

As class starts, Robin attempts to come into the room and give everyone hands-on adjustments and assists.  It quickly becomes apparent that he adds absolutely nothing to the class and, within minutes, he leaves the room, mumbling something about Joseph Gordon-Levitt ruining it for the rest of them.

(Spoiler alert for those who haven’t seen The Dark Knight Rises.)

“Listen to your body,” Batman reminds in his low, cadenced voice. “Do not go into the pose just because I am doing it.  Remember that I am a symbol.  A symbol representing something far greater than an individual man.  Also, I’m not the one wearing hockey pads.  This Batsuit lets me do some seriously awesome stuff.”

“We are here to cleanse the mind of what doesn’t serve it,” Batman explains as he demonstrates Warrior 2. “Much like I am here to cleanse the city of its corruption.”

As the class attempts an arm balance, with many of the students tumbling out of the pose and onto their mats, Batman stands over the class and says, “A wise man once said: ‘Why do we fall?  So that we can learn to pick ourselves back up.’ Also, this is giving you great upper body strength.”

Someone in the room attempts ujjayi breath.  Before the person can even let out the constricted exhale, Batman shouts, “BANE?  BANE!  ARE YOU IN THIS ROOM?  ANSWER ME!”

As you are getting into your final resting pose, Batman slowly turns off the salt lamps that create the bat symbol.  He sighs, stating solemnly, “This is the savasana Gotham deserves, but not the savasana Gotham needs right now.”

The only way you know class is over because Alfred comes in and turns on the florescent lighting.  Batman is no where to be found.  Outside in the lobby, Robin attempts to sell you coconut water.

A Year Out and the 365 Project

365-slogan2

I have been on a blogginating roll over the last few weeks.  Between this little page and my yoga page and the various websites I write for, I’ve been posting something practically every day.  Part of me saw this rapid-fire writing and went, “Is someone missing her 365 challenge?”

In 2013, I decided to do a 365 Project.  Typically, it’s something for photographers: take and post a picture every day for a year.  But I decided to put a writer’s spin on it: write every day — every single day — for 365 days.  It didn’t have to be good — it didn’t even have to be coherent — but it did have to be every day.

I started it barely a month after quitting a field that I had sworn up and down was my calling.  I started it when my tai chi instructor — who had been pressuring me to start teaching for months — gave me a chance to finally teach and I was still such a burnt out shell that I didn’t even know if I could handle teaching a few classes a week.  I started it when, once again, life was flipped upside down: only two years after getting married, moving to New Hampshire, and changing jobs (all within the span of a month), I was now moving further up north, moving into my first house, and moving in as jobless former teacher (also all within the span of a month).

I don’t know what I’m more proud of: the fact that I actually *completed* the damn challenge or the fact that I had captured some pretty transformative 365 days.  It captured my move, my days with yoga teacher training, my misadventures, my passive-aggressive barbs at someone I still harbored a gnarly grudge against (a grudge I’ve thankfully dropped somewhere along the line).  I wrote guardedly, I wrote vulnerably, I wrote just to get the damn post done that day.  I wrote poetically and pragmatically and grammatically-incorrectly.  But I did it.  From August 2013 to August 2014.

Now I’m going over some of the entries, reading over what was going through my mind.  Reading over everything I documented, the opinion entries that would eventually turn into Thought Catalog (the website that started all of my internet writing) pieces, the entries that made it sound like I finally and seriously had my shit together.

Some entries make me smile, some make me shake my head, others make me ache.  And some just hurt for the sheer fact that life is no longer like whatever it was that I wrote about.

Life has been a gigantic retrospective in some ways as of late.  I guess that’s what you do when you’re petrified of the future — when that fear fluctuates between the adrenaline-fueled rush before skydiving and the impending dread of potentially falling off a cliff.

It’s what you do when you feel like you haven’t had a moment to settle into whatever new version of “you” is for longer than a minute before something knocks you over, turns you around, makes you reconsider what defines you.  When life has had you on the spin cycle for so long, you honestly don’t know what it’s like to have both feet on the ground.  So you anchor yourself on nostalgia.  You anchor yourself on the past, because the present is shaky and the future is wildly unpredictable.

bluecirclemain-header3

And that’s what you do — when you’re in a perpetual cartwheel, you reference back.  Here’s a time when one hand was planted on the ground.  Here’s a time when there were two.  Here’s a time when technically I was defying gravity and everything was off the ground.  Here’s a rare moment when both feet were planted and it looks like I had been standing still the entire time.

And that’s part of the reason why I write.  I don’t just write to get blog hits (although it does feed my ego, can’t even pretend there).  I don’t just write because, without it, I’d probably burn up and burn out.  I write to document those moments.  Feet on ground.  Feet in air.  Body technically parallel with the earth.  Because change is constant.  If you’re lucky, you can get a false sense that you are on a safe and predictable path.  But that’s really all it is: a false sense.  We’re all a phone call, a car crash, a pink slip, a diagnosis, a chance meeting away from going wildly off course.

I write because the present might be shaky, but it’s really all I have.  This moment, this emotion, these words.  This breath.  And it will transform, evolve, bleed into newer moments.  Moments of extreme change.  Moments of stagnancy.  Moments where time speeds by and moments where every second is agony.  Moments that we could drive ourselves mad trying to predict or anticipate.

But that’s it: moments.  I originally did a 365-day writing challenge to force myself to be a bolder writer, to write with more abandon and less reserve.  But the real takeaway was that I captured 365 moments of all shapes, sizes, and varieties.

11169483_1464557690503679_1259417828214564968_n

Now I am almost a full year out from the project.  I’m toeing into August of 2015, knowing full well that life is nothing like what it was when I was toeing into August of 2014.  It is very easy for me to look back on some of the posts — to look back on any writing that I do — and go, “This is the shittiest, most melodramatic thing I have ever written.”  It’s very easy to take the times where I was the most open & vulnerable in my writing and feel extremely exposed, making me wish I kept all of this in a private journal that no one else could read.

But that’s also life: we look back on the emotionally intense times and can’t help but feel shitty, melodramatic, perhaps a little too exposed for our comfort.  It makes us wish we could keep it all private, bottled away so no one else would have to read into just all the dark and complicated ways we tick.  We don’t like admitting even to ourselves that we deviate from the cool & collected ideal society would like us to be.

We don’t like admitting that we can’t take back or recreate moments.  We don’t like admitting that we can’t predict the future moments.  And so perhaps a huge reason I write is because it’s all a reminder — a reminder I constantly need reminding of — that these moments make up one seriously incredible story, and it’s okay if certain chapters veer left, if certain passages are hard to read, if there are plot twists and cliffhangers.  These are the moments you have to embrace.  Because, no matter what, eventually that story ends.  Not just the chapter.  Not just the passage.  The whole story eventually ends.  Eventually there will be no more moments.

And so I continue to cartwheel.  I continue to document that cartwheel, doing my best to not forget that the part where, in order to cartwheel, I have to throw my hands up in the air, trust my own abilities, and be okay with getting dizzy.

(For those curious about my 365 Blog Project, you can follow the link here.  I really can’t recommend the activity enough to any and all aspiring writers — even if your 365 Blog Project is more like a 30-Day Blog Project.)

Running Downhill

I’ve been a runner in some fashion since I was 15.  I’ve learned countless strategies as a sprinter, as a casual jogger, as a mid-distance runner.  There’s always a new technique, a slightly different way of moving your legs or your arms or your torso.

Unless you’re a sprinter or only run indoors, you will eventually encounter hills.  Running uphill is no fun, but there’s this misconception that running downhill is somehow a runner’s delight.  That could not be further from the truth.  While a gentle slope down is a nice change of pace, running down a hill can actually be harder than running up.  Improperly running downhill can lead to all sorts of injuries, including shin splints and twisted ankles and torqued knees.  And, even if it doesn’t injure you, it can exhaust you as much as running uphill.

There’s a strategy to counteract that. You strike the ground in a slightly different manner — you let yourself go flat-footed.  You lift your knees a little higher, let your leg movement be a little slower, and let your gait be a little longer.  But the biggest thing is to make sure you lean forward, not back.  The natural inclination is to lean with the incline, to fight the forward momentum.

When your main job involves teaching something physical and seemingly unrelated to real world — and when your main job within that job is to show the overlap, the metaphor, the skillset you are creating during these seemingly irrelevant activities — of course you can’t help but see the metaphor.  I think about it every time I run down a literal hill, when I go through the checklist of ways I should change my pace, my way of running, in order to accommodate the change in elevation.  I think about that checklist and how much it applies to life.

Because you’re going to hit those downhill runs.  Life isn’t a sprint, and you certainly don’t get to spend it sheltered inside.  You’re going to inevitably find yourself running uphill, out of breath.  You’re going to make it to the top, only to realize the only reprieve you are going to get is that gentle crescent at the summit — because running downhill is going to be just as much of a challenge.

And that’s life: sometimes that the type of terrain you’re up against.  Just because people outside of the situation — people who have no idea what it’s like to run — might think it’s easy-going for you, that doesn’t mean it is.

So, like it or not, you’re going downhill.  You wish it were easy, but it won’t be.  This is the path you’re on and it makes no sense to wish you chose a different course — because, let’s face it, you’d probably have to deal with hills on those as well.  So you’ve got two choices:

1. Fight it tooth and nail, needlessly exhausting and potentially injuring yourself.

2. Take your own advice, change your stride, lean forward, and embrace the forward momentum.

Savor it. It will not last.

11169833_1444696039156511_3127565373999298013_n

This time last year, I was slowly finishing up my yoga teacher training.  In the midst of finishing my practicum hours, my anatomy assignments, my last rounds of weekend intensives, I was also toeing into the world of actual teaching.  I was finding opportunities and opportunities were falling into my lap.  I was eyeing my first-ever professional-grade yoga mat (no more $10 shred-o-matic mats from Marshall’s for me!).  I was buying tingshas to end savasana with and a little notebook to fill with any and all quotes to end the class with.  After spending the second half of 2013 wondering what in the world my life would be like now that I had left the early education world behind, life was bursting at the seams with potential.  I felt manic with energy and promise.

And as I was sending emails and eyeing expensive yoga mats and buying little knick-knacks that I’d use for my class, I kept telling myself:

“Savor this.  It will not last.”

Of course the feeling will not last.  Eventually things will lose its novelty.  The new yoga mat will start fading in color.  Promise & actualization will only overlap so much, and new emotions & experiences will settle in.  Even when things stick around, the baseline will be raised or lowered, creating a new default.

I don’t say it to be cynical.  I don’t say it to put a negative spin on a positive emotion.  It’s just a reminder.

Savor this.  It will not last.

It was what I told myself as I biked to my preschool classroom in Medford, knowing full well what waited for me when I walked into the classroom.  I would hang a right down a residential neighborhood, where the trees arched over the street.  As the road dipped into a gentle hill, I would gaze up at the sky through the trees and feel the breeze and take in a sweet, calming breath.  My ritual, every morning, when the weather permitted.

Savor this.  It might be your only moment of peace in the entire day.  And it will not last.

I told myself that during my wedding, in the midst of the chaos and music and love and revelry.  I tell myself that on every vacation, every trip to somewhere new and different.  I tell myself that when a good friend cracks a joke and I can’t help but laugh with my entire body and forget that the world isn’t one gigantic good time.

Take it in.  Take in as much as you can.  Experience it with every sense.  Savor it like the sweetest of meals.  It will not last.

Somewhere along the line, I found myself returning to that sentiment.  Somewhere along the line, it stopped being something saved only for those good occasions.  I started saying it when tides would change and tables would turn, when there were tears in my eyes or a lump in my throat.  I started reminding myself of it when my heart would hurt or my soul would ache something unfathomable.

Savor this.  It will not last.

Savor this.  Take in the stress and the frustration and the confusion and the worry.  Take in every damn part of it.  Experience it with every sense.  Take it in because life isn’t one gigantic good time.  It is a lot more than those serene moments.  There are dips and cravats and goddamn if you’re going to try to avoid them.

Savor this because it will not last.  Even at the height of your emotions, part of you knows this.  Savor it because soon enough there’ll be a new emotion.  Nothing is permanent.  Take that in and don’t use it to set a timer, counting down until it’s over.  Take that in and understand what you’re feeling.

Don’t run.  Those emotions mean you’re alive.

Savor it because you are not the same person you were last year, or the year before that, or the year before that.  And you won’t be the same person next year, or the year after.  Savor it because you are on one hell of a ride, because life is one hell of a ride, and it is of no use to duck and cover.

Savor this.  You will look back on these times differently, so don’t catch yourself doing nothing but craning your neck forward.

Now, here I am, a year later.  Plugging away at a lifelong passion that I dare to now call part of my career.  Tirelessly querying agents about one manuscript and getting ready to self-publish another.  I’m researching graphic designers & ISBN purchasing and mapping out marketing strategies on top of marketing strategies.  There’s a hint of that potential that last year provided.  I look at what might be in store for me and I can’t help but get giddy and frightened and excited and petrified.  I’ve long-abandoned the concept of a five-year plan and have become oddly comfortable with winging it on the day-to-day.  I make my to-do list and diligently check off tasks and at times feel downright manic with energy and promise.  Things are bursting at the seams with potential and it’s hard not to get overwhelmed at the sight of it all.

Savor it.  It will not last.

Sea Glass, Pt 2

20150623_200012

The problem with being a writer — and with primarily being friends with writers — is that everything is a goddamn metaphor.  Everything is symbolic.  Everything holds a heavier resonance.

A little while back, my best friend wrote a piece on sea glass, effortlessly comparing who we are to what that once-ragged glass will go through in order to become what it is.  What we are to the world, the glass is to the sea.  Sometimes you are scattered across the rocks, sometimes you are pushed away and back in on yourself — but the importance is on letting the universe do what it needs to do with you in order for that beauty to be revealed.  In order for you to become what you need to be.

Of all the beautiful, brilliant things she has written, I contend that that’s her best.  In a crafts shop in New Brunswick, I bought a necklace with a seaglass pendant: my little reminder that what I am to the world, the glass is to the sea.  Sometimes you feel shattered and disconnected, but that might just only be the beginning.  Your potential has only started to be unleashed.  Let the universe turn you around for a bit.

20150624_162101

On a beach in Nova Scotia, I scour the sand for trinkets.  There are no sea shells, but plenty of sea glass.  As if a whole caseload of glass bottles had been shattered a while back and this was the end result.  They are beautiful little pieces, each worthy of becoming their own set of jewelry.  I start filling my hands, my pockets, with each piece I can find.

I soon come across a little green piece, sparkling like an emerald against the shore.  I’m already imagining what I could do with it, this gem wedged in the sand.  This piece, fit for any necklace or bracelet or pin.  A diamond in the rough.  An end result of letting the oceans churn it up for a bit.

But a closer inspection shows that it’s not even halfway there.  It’s still mostly translucent.  The sands have not dulled the edges.  I hold it in my palm, knowing that one wrong move and it’ll cut my skin.  As much as I wish it were, it is not sea glass.  Not yet, anyway.

It makes me want to quote Maureen in Rent: “IT’S A METAPHOR!”  I want to make a face and roll my eyes and laugh it off.  If I were within cellphone range, I’d text a joke about it to my best friend, the creator of the first sea glass manifesto.

I want to laugh it off because the continuation of this metaphor is hitting a little too close for comfort.  That sometimes, on the surface, you have made peace with the churnings of the sea, but secretly you’re desperate for the end result of that seafare, that you just want to become sea glass already.  But the reality is that your edges are still sharp.  Hold tightly and it will cut you.  You are not where you would like to be, even if it might look that way from far away.

You’ve washed up on the shore, but you’re not done yet.  But give it time.  It’s only not there for now.

“I’ve decided I’m done telling myself ‘be strong’.  Don’t be strong.  Be present,” my best friend would tell me not even half a week later.

Holding the green piece tentatively between my index and thumb, I toss it back into the sea.  I’ve collected enough pieces to fill a small treasure chest, but my mind is stuck on the one I threw back.  My little metaphor in the rough.

20150623_191948

Give it time.  Let the waves give a few more turns.  Let the sea drag you back out.  Let the world drag you back in on yourself.  Be present with what you are.  Be okay that you’re not done yet.  The key word is “yet”.