Ten things about me (okay, eleven)

IMG_44791) I love music.  I love listening to all kinds of music and dancing to most.  This first thing I know about myself helps me resolve all the other things I know about myself.  I always feel better when I listen to music and definitely if it’s the type that makes me dance.

2) I am a terrible housekeeper.  I’ve come to grips with it recently.  Instead of beating myself up for it, I relish in all the time I haven’t wasted doing monotonous, meaningless, thankless chores required to keep a tidy house.  Instead of letting the chaos stress me, I am grateful when the day comes that it IS cleaned up (every two weeks when the housekeeper comes.)

3) I am eternally disorganized.  This relates back to #2.  Things don’t get tidied up and put away like I imagine they do in some other households.  Every other Tuesday the housekeeper comes.  I spend the entire morning putting stuff away on the first floor just so she can dust, mop, wipe, and vacuum the first floor when she arrives mid-day.  Then, I retreat upstairs to do the same for the rest of the afternoon until she makes her way to the second floor.  The whole day every other Tuesday is devoted to cleaning up.  I could keep doing it that way or I could tidy up every day.  Either way, it’s six in one, half dozen in the other.

4) I am nearly always 5 minutes late everywhere I go.  IMG_1781This goes back to #3.  I’m always searching for something in a sea of papers that I’m supposed to bring with me or a shirt to be returned after my appointment (that I am already late for) and I can’t find the shirt or the receipt.  Or, I attempt a quick tidy up in order to combat #2 or #3 quick so that when I come home later, I’m not faced with the utterly discouraging mess.

IMG_53515) I dream of living in an Airstream.  With a great sound system.  I won’t have to keep house (whoever heard of trailerkeeping?), be organized, or on-time.

6) I love the places where the land meets the sea.  These are mostly the places I will go to in my Airstream.

7) I am vigilant about the truth.  Music speaks the truth to me.  I will search in all the places where the land meets the sea in my Airstream for the truth, even if I’m late.  Even if the truth is messy.

8) I despise the word hate.  “All you need is love, love.  Love is all you need.” – John Lennon. There is no need for hate.  Ever.  “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate.  Only love can do that.”  – Martin Luther King Jr.

8a) Can I add another thing about myself?  I love quotes.  Quotes help us define our truths, drive out hatred, embrace acceptance and love unconditionally.

9) I love hugs.  Deep, heartfelt, loving, silent hugs. The kind that conveys all the words we use to try to describe love, which is indescribable and invisible.  I love hugs that make you feel the words “I love you” echoed in a whisper in the bottom of your soul.  Words that are of another world, residing in the silence of the embrace.

10) I love silence.  Even in music.  Claude Debussy once said, “music exists in the space between the notes.”  That’s where I like to live.  In the space between the notes, where music lives in silence, in dance, in chaos, in disorganization, or even in a beat that may arrive late and find it’s way to the back of the room in silence.

Observation 1

Valerie. Thursday. 10am. Valentine’s Day.

I don’t know her age but she looks amazing.  Is that long blond thick hair really real?  No way. She must be Swedish or something.  Who has hair like that over the age of 50?  She’s definitely more than 50.  Is she more than 60?  In any event, I want to look that good in 10-15 more years with THIS body.  I will.  I will practice my asanas if that’s what it takes.  Or maybe I’ll get new yoga pants like those.  Will I still be able to do those poses when I’m her age?  Will I be able to teach yoga by the time I’m her age?  Will I look good in yoga pants at her age?  I will practice my asanas and then time will tell.

Clearly I will need to practice non-attachment also.  Non-attachment to long thick hair, or to body image, to age or defying age, to nationality, to yoga pants, to time, or to any of the things that one loves to observe when observing.

I started a yoga teacher training course this year.  As part of the training, I need to observe one instructor each month and reflect about that observation.  This month, I chose Valerie’s class to observe.  This was her intermediate Kripalu class, Thursdays, 10 am.  Valerie likes to play music and read sweet readings to impart her wisdom and grace.  I love this.  She stays on her mat and demonstrates with the utmost ease and beauty each posture she wants us to attain.  She is what I imagine sculptures might look like if they could move.  She speaks clearly and distinctly.  She reminds us over and over that we are beautiful and to breathe in loving kindness, breathe out compassion.  She asks us to let go of the burdens we carry on our shoulders, clear out the heaviness, root ourselves down into the earth, open our hearts and be at peace, wherever we are.  Create emptiness in that backpack we carry and fill it with love.  Love is light.  Light is love.  Honor your beautiful spirit, your light.

Valerie read to us short phrases from The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz.  This is a short, easy read and lovely for it’s refreshing reminder of how to begin practicing non-attachment.  For when we practice non-attachment, we can truly still the mind and honor our beautiful spirits.  The Four Agreements were lovingly intertwined with asana instruction and created a wonderful atmosphere in the room of yoga students practicing with an open heart on this Valentine’s Day, 2013.

1) Be Impeccable with Your Word.  Your word is a gift, a force, an energy, a power.  One word can change a life or destroy it.

2) Don’t take anything personally.  Allow yourself to be.  If you take it personally, maybe you think you are not enough.  Everyone’s world is different than yours.

3) Don’t make assumptions. Assumptions make us believe it is the truth, then we take it personally and react.  All drama is rooted in assumption.

4) Always do your best.  The other three agreements become more deeply ingrained when you do your best.   Keep doing your best.  No more, no less.

Improve Upon The Species

Your job is to improve upon the species

he said

That’s what we are doing here

You take the next generation and you want them to evolve.

Always and forever until the end of time.

Take him. You. and me.

Into eternity.

That’s all we are doing here.

No more. No less.

Mind Your Head

So I went to London over the weekend.  This was a huge deal for me because I’ve never been overseas in my whole life (I live in NY.) I was meeting my husband there for three short days.  It was a romantic notion and all very exciting.  We did many of the touristy things – Westminster Abby, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s, Harrod’s, the pubs, fish and chips, afternoon tea, took lots of pictures, etc.

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We rode the Tube east and west, north and south, hopped a double decker to Trafalgar Square and jumped in a black cab when the Tube closed early on Sat. night after a late night jaunt for some of the best Indian food I’ve ever had.

I love Indian food.  The warmth of the spices makes me feel so…..grounded.  Plus, I love pronouncing the names of the dishes.  Tan-dooooooooohhri.  Baaaaaaaah-jheeee.  Chaaaah-naaaah Mah-saaaaah-lah.  Beer-reeeee-aaaaaah-neeee.  I’m not even sure I’m pronouncing them correctly, but that’s what they sound like to me.  The words feel fun when they roll over your tongue.

More importantly than all the tourist stops was being away with Big Head in a far off land.  It was one of the great experiences of our time here together.  Leaving the kids in good hands with Mema and Grandpa to be husband and wife instead of mother and father for more than a night out is not something we have done since I can’t remember when.  It was restorative and rejuvenating to explore and find each other in the churches, in the art and architecture, in the pubs, in the food, in the music.

I can show you the plethora of photographs I took of the facades of London buildings which we’ve all seen time unending.  Instead, I will share this:

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This just about sums up my trip.  First off, Londoners are FAR more polite than New Yorkers.  They put up signs like this.  Please Mind Your Head.  In New York, you would be lucky there was any sign at all.  You would smack your head and the next guy would say, “what’d you do that for?  What are you, stupid?  Why don’t you watch where you’re going!”  Secondly, this reminded me that, wherever you go, be careful to mind your head.  Pay attention, look keenly at your surroundings, observe, be still, listen.  You may never be in this spot here on earth ever again.  If you are, things will surely have changed since then.  They always do.  Mind your head by taking stock of all your blessings.  Mind your head – don’t be messy with your thoughts and the words that come out from them.  Mind your head – mind your manners.  Be polite.  Treat each other kindly.  There may be some who have lost their way or are unsure of how to get to where they are going – help them find their way.

So, now that I’m back in New York playing mommy again and Big Head is off playing banker, the thing I want most to remember about my trip to London is to be polite and mind my head.  Really, it’s what my mother and father taught me all along.  After 40 something years here, I had to cross an ocean for the pleasant reminder to “please, mind your head.”

Weather Report Suite

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This window serves me up the weather report every morning. I blink my eyes open and contemplate the day. It’s winter. The sky is blue. The sun is shining. It looks bright, cold, but warming. Some days I don’t notice, because it’s before the dawn and my alarm bolts me out of bed and I stumble through the darkness. The light tells a different story. As the light changes from season to season, I watch the trees from this window, year after year. I am told what I need to face the day. Day after day. I am told what to be grateful for when I retire for the night. Night after night.

It’s the winter trees I love the best. Raw, black and white silhouettes; vulnerable yet strong against the dark of night and the light of day. Maybe that’s because it’s winter now. At present, I love their vulnerability and their strength that represents all that we are at this time of year. We are vulnerable to the cold and yet day after day, we face our days with strength. We stand stall, we carry on.

These are the giant oaks of the The Great North Woods. They are disappearing. We take them down to make way for more open space, more light on the yard, in the home, less work, less maintenance, an easier life. Time, too, takes them down, worn with age and disease, they give up, holding tight to their decaying leaves, scattering their acorns in one last fitful state of desperate reproduction. To save their souls; to bridge this mortal life into eternity. And at times, a singular disparate act of nature comes to take them before their time.

Do you see the tree with the broken limb in the bottom right corner of my window? Do you see the open space that limb used to occupy? What do you see first? The open space or the broken limb? While it’s raw splintered edge seems a garish reminder of the ravage done by Superstorm Sandy, it also speaks to me to never forget. Never forget that it could all be gone by morning. Between the time you retire in the evening until you blink your eyes open at dawn, all you see before you can be torn down by a simple gust of wind. Places and people and things you love can become broken, splintered and torn overnight. The open space reminds me that from destruction, we grow. We have new spaces that were not here before. How shall I treat that broken limb? What shall I do with the open space? The tree needs trimming in order to save the life of the tree is what I’m told. Shall I take it down all together, creating even more open space? Without the brokenness will I remember? Will the openness be enough? What do I need to remember? How it hurts to be broken? Or how good it feels to be open?

Just as I’m beginning to accept the open space, another destructive force of nature comes to break us open again. This time, it’s human nature. This time it’s the children who are broken, splintered and torn. By human nature. Torn from this world in an instant with not a burst of wind but a burst from a gun. Human nature creates the need for human rights. So now, we have the right to own a gun so our human nature can protect our human rights. The nature we have of glorifying war and destruction and protecting our human rights. We forget that our human nature can also be like that of the trees. We can grow into the great wide open, sharing the space with others in the area, creating natural borders while harboring safe respite, providing food, water and shelter for those who need us. How do we protect that right? We have the right to grow up healthy and strong, vulnerable against the sky. Trees are like children. They don’t have guns. They grow into the openness. We can too. An openness that serves the right to protect, an openness that protects the right to not be destroyed.

Airstream

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I have these moments that I call Airstream moments.  It’s when I visualize myself selling everything, buying an Airstream trailer and heading west into the sunset, streaming some air, homeschooling the children out of the trailer.  I don’t have to play house anymore, the husband doesn’t have to play the banker anymore.  He can just play husband.  The one who is devoted to me more than he is to his emails and conference calls.

I expect the real husband lives there.  In the Airstream.  With the real me.  The one who doesn’t have to go to PTA events and cocktail parties.  The one who doesn’t have to pick up the dry cleaning and make sure there are clean undershirts in the drawers. The one who doesn’t have to make sure the kids are on time and well practiced in the art of everything.  The me who lives in the Airstream is someone I long to be for what she is not and yet I have no idea who she is.

I imagine her to be wearing the same comfortable shoes, jeans, and beloved fleece day in and day out.  She eats her yogurt and grape nuts every morning.  A simple sandwich at lunch.  Tea somewhere along the way with fruit and nuts.  Bread and cheese. Salad with a glass of red wine.  She reads books, she writes, she takes photographs, she walks the dog and listens to the news on the radio.  She gets plenty of sleep and drinks lots of water.  She reads stories and plays chess with anyone who will oblige her.  On Wednesdays and Saturdays, she washes her hair and does laundry.

The husband that lives in the Airstream is a man who gets plenty of rest.  He breathes deep and long while contemplating the light.  He doesn’t need as much exercise as banker husband does because he doesn’t overeat like stressed out banker husband does.  He cooks on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays and we eat what’s left in between.  He has time for kisses on the back of my neck and hugs that convey what words cannot.  We share passages from the words we read, listen to radio segments together and have time to question and ponder.  We hold each other close and we dance.   We go to bed early and we wake up late.

I’ve envisioned all kinds of scenarios that correspond with the potential number of riders in the airstream.  One.  Me, alone, solo.  Mom’s taking a sabbatical of sorts, to sort stuff out.  You guys are old enough to fend for yourselves now aren’t you?  Two.  Just us, me and him like it used to be before kids, like it will be after they are gone, which won’t be for another 6 years.  That scenario has to wait.  Three.  Me and the two youngest, after the oldest leaves for college this fall.  Husband can continue to work crazy hours while I go on with my crazy dream.  Four.  Husband quits crazy hours and joins me and the two kids in my crazy dream.  Five.  Oldest takes a year off before going to college and the five of us go on down the road, exploring how we belong together.  As one.  As two.  As three, four, and five.

None of these scenarios are possible right now.  Now I must pick up the dry cleaning.  Now I must practice belonging here.  The Airstream will wait for another day, week, month, year.  Another time.  An other time?  An other me?

The other side of 2012

This is the Year. Dream. Don’t Ignore The Signs. Create Workspace.  Focus. Natural. Light.  Home Organization.  Experience Change.  Be Love.  Quietly Practice Hoop Peace.  Create some space.  Get organized.  Hoop.  Plan.  Think organized.  Hoop.  Jazz. Save Time.  Rhythm.  Stay organized.  Complete the cycle.  Hoop.  Shine On.  You can do it.

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And I did it.  Well, kinda.  2012 was the year I dreamed.  I didn’t ignore the signs.  I created workspace by getting a job. I focused on the natural light within me.  I experienced change, while quietly practicing hoop peace.  I created some space to hoop in.  I tried to get organized (again).   I tried to think organized (again).  I didn’t stay organized (again.)  I hooped.  I listened to jazz, rhythm (and blues) and tried to save time to be on time but instead found time to be myself.  I hooped some more and I really did shine on.

Then the storm hit.

Twenty twelve was the year the world was supposed to end.  When Sandy blew into town three days before Halloween, many were spooked enough to think it could be true.  I tried to focus on gratefulness and Thanksgiving, which by the time we got our lights on in our area, was quickly approaching.  This year, our stories of gratitude would focus on how we made it through the storm.  No one we knew lost anything but power.  For us, that was enough.  Enough to make us step back, take stock.  We lost power, so what?  Far too many lost everything they had.  For everything that was lost, many will step back and say, “we lost our home, so what?”  They will give thanks that they have their health, their life, each other.  The world did not end.  We are grateful to be here.  Now we can tell our children, “see? the world did not end, it all works out, don’t worry, you’re safe with me.”

Everything changed.  The trees were broken.  When we got power back after twelve trying days, so much had shifted.  I found myself looking harder and longer out my bedroom window at the trees, wondering what they were saying.   After moving through Thanksgiving with a deep gratitude in my heart, I looked back at my vision board.  Did the words and images change me?  I don’t know.  Words and images are the very things that change us, everyday.  The images we see, the images we look away from, the words we read, the words we hear, the words we say.  We look, we listen and we change.

So much happened in 2012 that catapulted me to the point where the Mayan calendar runs out; the point at which some feared meant we would run out.  Of time.  Of stability. Of earth’s resources. Of money. Of compassion or understanding.  Of love for one another.

Then, the Newtown shootings took place and it began to feel that it WAS all running out.  I was running out.  My clarity was running out.  All that I was trying to hold together just started leaking out, hemorrhaging.  I had nothing to say.  I could only cry.  We had lived in Newtown for 14 years. We moved closer to family 5 years ago.  I thought of all the times that I too, sent my child off to school, knowing they were safe, wishing them the very best of days, waiting for their return home.   This time, I was unsure if we could hold our children close and say, “see? it all works out, we got through the storm, the world did not end, you’re safe here with me.”

Will they remember what it looked like after the storm?  How it felt?  Will I remember?  It seems I will never forget what the winds of 2012 blew in.  Then again, many times we forget.  We forget the lives lost, the things that floated away, exploded into the ether, were gone with the wind, the voices that echoed down the halls, and the bullets that richocheted off the walls.  Will we remember how cold it felt without power?  That there are some that live everyday like that?  Will we remember the eerie dark streets night after night?  The vacant buildings, the empty supermarket shelves, the abandoned houses?  How the trees were broken, splintered and torn?  The ten feet high walls of debris on either side of the street that threatened to stay long into 2013, if it ever came?

Will we remember the type of town that Newtown was like?  How it felt?  Will we preserve our childhood memories in all the quiet serene towns like Newtown? Or will we remember how cold it felt to be without power again?  Powerless to keep our children safe.  What happened in Newtown can happen anywhere.  Will this be something that stays with us long beyond 2013?  By the end of 2012, I was beginning to think that maybe the world was going to end.  How could we go on?  How can this world go on?  To those who lost someone, it must feel like the world has come to an end.  I didn’t lose a child but I felt so deeply that I did.  We all lost children that day.  We all lost brave heroes that day.  If 2013 comes, which we all know now that it did, can we prove that we remember, that we take away the lesson, expanding compassion, putting down the guns in favor of time, precious time spent together?  We are all here now.  We got through the storm.  The world did not end.  Look.  Listen.  Go.  We are naked in the wings.