I feel like I have been in a fog this week. I am downright depressed over what is about to take place in this country. I decided to drag myself to the gym after teaching this afternoon because I ate my weight in carbs yesterday and my metabolism is not what it used to be…and I needed the endorphin boost. I found myself watching the inauguration preparations on the TV attached to the elliptical while listening to an On Being episode called, “Meeting Our Enemies and Our Suffering.” Yes, I purposefully chose to listen to that episode today. No, I did not anticipate watching MSNBC muted on the TV screen. Sharon Salzberg and Robert Thurman share so much wisdom applicable to what is now happening right now in the United States that I invite all of you to take some time to listen to Krista Tippett’s interview with them. I think we could all use some practice and tips on “meeting our enemies and our suffering.”
2016 has been a doozy! I spent most of the year with an emotional hangover from everything 2015 threw my way. Even the good moments were intertwined with challenges and uncomfortable growth. There was lots of letting go. I learned that healing and growing are painful, messy, and confusingly nonlinear processes. My comfort zone became too confining, so I wandered, okay, sometimes I was lovingly pushed by my closest friends, outside of what felt safe. Some truly magical things happened (when I was able to quiet the intense anxiety of being so far away from my stifling comfort zone). I spent a lot of time feeling uncomfortably cracked open. However, Leonard Cohen, was indeed right, “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” A lot of light and love came into my life in 2016 (when I stopped fighting and blocking it). And, well, let’s not even get started on all the world events this year that made it seem as if hope, love, and acceptance were trendy things of the past meant to be squelched out for good. All I can say is, if you are reading this then you survived 2016…congratulations! May we all find greater clarity, love, and connection in 2017.
Confession…I am a bundle of nerves on this election day. I am secretly wondering if it is acceptable to have a stiff drink or a glass of wine with my bagel. Yes, it is a bagel kind of day. It is an eat as many carbs as I can stuff in my face in hopes they absorb some of this anxiety kind of day. No, I am not going to start drinking mid-day. I don’t think the students I see this afternoon and my classes this evening would appreciate that very much. Or maybe they would, but we will never find out.
The woman who greeted me at the door of my polling site was wearing a smile and a hijab. Most of the poll workers at my site are older African-Americans. Inside were people of every color and religion, lots of young girls standing hand in hand with their moms and dads, a lesbian couple with their two daughters, and I thought, “This is the America I want to live in.” Our communities and country gain strength when everyone has a voice. So many fought tirelessly and gave up so much for the people at my polling site to have the right to vote (there weren’t a lot of white males represented when I was there). We still have a very, very, VERY long way to go, but backsliding is not going to help anything.
For now, all I can do is wait…along with the rest of the country.
My three month sabbatical in California came to an end yesterday. This morning I returned to my apartment in Brooklyn. Everything was the same, and yet different. My apartment had the lingering smell of someone else and an air freshener scent I never would have chosen to use in my home. Furniture had been shifted ever so slightly in every room. Little odds and ends had been left, quarters and pens that had fallen out of pants pockets, a book that got pushed under the dresser, the kitchen had olive oil, corn tortillas, and some random jars. The subletter, despite rave reviews about his plant tending from the previous person he sublet from, had let my bamboo plant and terrarium turn shriveled and brown. And while the place was nowhere near dirty, every surface was in need of dusting.
As I walked through the quiet early morning streets of my neighborhood to get a bagel and some basic groceries to tide me over for the day I felt the same dread and disdain I had felt upon leaving three months prior. Distance had not made my heart grow fonder. Had I ever really loved the neighborhood when I moved in four years ago? Or was it just conveniently located near people in my life at the time and still reasonably priced? I found myself, once again, missing my little studio on the Upper East Side, conveniently nestled between Central Park and Carl Schurz Park.
After a nap (when will I learn that I cannot sleep on planes, not even red eyes?), I opened the front closet where I had stored all of the stuff I chose to leave in my apartment but did not want to leave out for a random stranger, otherwise known as a subletter, to riffle through. It was time to make my home feel like mine again by placing pictures of family and friends back in their designated places, putting my clothes back into the bedroom closet and dresser, and arranging my toiletries in the bathroom. For what felt like the millionth time in several months, I began asking myself what to keep and what to get rid of. Literally and metaphorically. So much of the work I have been doing recently has revolved around peeling back the layers and letting go of what I no longer need. I had hoped my time away would bring greater clarity to the questions that began arising as the layers continued peeling away…instead, I was left with even more questions.
I returned from Costa Rica a few days ago. The trip I had a great freak out over. This city girl is reacclimating to being indoors with the background noise of cars driving by and the occasional dog barking or cat meowing instead of the crickets, frogs, howler monkeys, and birds constantly making their presences known. I have been trying to put into words my experience being in the Costa Rican jungle for a week, but I am not there yet. For now, I leave you with some pictures.
This afternoon all the logistics of leading my first yoga retreat came crashing down, dressed in all of my irrational (and some potentially rational if not blown totally out of proportion) fears. What if we don’t all find the shuttle from the airport to the resort? What if the resort isn’t as magical as it seemed online? What if the mosquitos are rampant (can we say, Zika)? What if it rains the whole time (it is the rainforest)? What if I didn’t pack the right stuff? And on that topic, none of my beach clothing fits properly because I have gained a lot of weight since last summer. So now I am the “fat” yoga teacher about to parade her jiggling cellulite all over the beaches of Costa Rica in front of her yoga students. And the scent of all my beach attire, which hasn’t been worn since last year, reminds me of people I went to the beach with weekly in the past, but who are no longer in my life…a wound that is still healing. I digress, though. What if I suck? What if the students, paying good money for this, are unhappy with their experiences? I am the one shouldering the blame. I am the one who lured them out to Costa Rica for a week.
Needless to say, it was a long afternoon leading up to getting dropped off at the airport. (My parents were the brunt of much of my swirling anxiety.) My students tend to believe I am always calm, cool, and collected. I teach in NYC, stuff happens. My students often pride me on my abilities to stay calm and eloquently handle just about any situation. In my personal life, however, freak outs happen. More often than I would like to admit, my anxiety gets the best of me.
As I sit in an airport restaurant reflecting, and putting the finishing touches on my lesson plans for the upcoming week, I can almost laugh at the absurdity of it all. My freak outs are pointless, they never change the outcome of things. In the end I just get all riled up. You’d think by this point in my life I would have it together enough to squelch the freak outs. I was a therapist and now I teach yoga and meditation. Shouldn’t I have a better handle on my emotions and be able to remain calm by now? The answer…not yet.
Exactly five weeks ago, yesterday, I landed in California for my three month sabbatical. How has it already been five weeks? Where has the time gone? What have I done? What do I have to show for the past five weeks? These were just some of the questions charging through my mind. And then, because I am really good at generating panic and anxiety about things to come, I started to freak out about repacking and shipping everything I carted out to California back to NYC at the end of September. I started getting worked up over planning the retreat I’m leading in Costa Rica later this month, even though I have been jotting down notes and planning for several months now. And then the real kicker, what if I don’t accomplish enough during my three months away?!?
When I arrived in California I was in desperate need of down time, I also had a long to-do-list of self-imposed projects I thought I had to get through. Transitioning from NYC to a small town that runs at a slow pace on the central coast of California was challenging. I got horribly homesick. I missed my friends and the city. I felt like a fish out of water. I didn’t know what to do with myself. The cold, fog that wraps itself around the town where I am staying left me depressed and craving sunlight and warmth. I missed my regular yoga students and struggled to adapt to teaching new students at new studios. I missed my yoga teachers back home. I felt like I wasn’t doing enough, and yet, the motivation to do anything was nowhere to be found. I needed to spend time doing nothing. I needed to drop the to-do-list and projects and plans (something I am not very good at doing). I needed to let go and simply let things unfold on their own. I also needed to acknowledge that I was working, just not as much as I was in NYC. I needed to remember that the whole point of this sabbatical was to slow down, re-ground, and re-evaluate things, not to get a ton of stuff done.
I struggle with change and transitions. I need more time than I often admit or allow myself to adapt to changes. While five weeks may seem like a huge chunk out of a three month long sabbatical, it really isn’t all that much time in the grand scheme of things. I feel as though I have just started to settle into my new surroundings and life as it is here. I am working on letting go of the need to accomplish anything in particular, focus on what I am doing, as opposed to all the things I think I should be doing but am not, and give myself the space and time to simply be and relax. I’ll let you know how it goes.