Coming Home

I removed my shoes and placed them slowly in the cubby below the fabric-covered bench outside, as I reached the top of the stairs. Apprehensively, I pushed open the door to find a common room with two Latina ladies. A small-framed, curly-haired woman walked in from another room and greeted me through a smile.

I told her it was my first time.

I just attended my first yoga class in approximately two years. And if you really want to count, I haven’t had a steady practice of any kind in over four.

I have been making excuses for a long time for why I wasn’t ready to go back to yoga, and part of it, honestly, was because I really wasn’t ready. My body didn’t crave it; my heart wasn’t in it; anxiety and depression had won the war for years over what to do with my body, and it mostly consisted of alcohol, stress, partying, and avoiding exercise.

I filled out the introductory waiver at the front desk and it asked me what my level of experience with yoga was? I wasn’t a beginner. I have years of experience, including teacher training and advance level classes and workshops under my belt, so “some experience” didn’t seem to fit, either. I checked off “advanced” but then felt it necessary to scribble in “but I haven’t been to a class in years!”

It’s like the shame of my absence of a practice or my billowing breasts that don’t fit sports bras or the stereotype of a well-toned yogi were making me question my validity to be there.

Once in the practice space, I unfurled my mat—my beautiful, deep brown mat—which had been sitting in the back of my trunk amongst clothes donations and bags of bottle returns for years. I think it breathed as much a sigh of relaxation as I felt walking bare-footed to grab my favorite props: a bolster and a blanket.

At the start of a typical class, the teacher usually prompts you to set an intention. Mine was simple:

Enjoy the class.

We began with some qi gong practices with which I was familiar to warm up the body. I remember the teacher’s voice saying, “Don’t even think about the motions; let it be part of who you are,” as my bare arms fluidly moved through the air in a wide arc in unison above my head and then back down. It felt like gossamer threads of energy were trickling across my skin.

It felt like the movement was part of me.

Through each pose, I instinctually remembered how to adjust my body for perfect alignment and total engagement of the muscles. It was like I have practiced every day for the last four years without a single break. The movements are ingrained in my muscle memory. Yes, I am weaker, and my endurance is certainly lacking, but I had a small smile that continually crept onto my lips throughout the entire class because I felt like I was home again.

The teacher encouragingly told me my poses were beautiful and so open, and I could only think about how it was because I am an out-of-shape, albeit, advanced student in a “Gentle Yoga” class full of mostly beginners who have never been the flexible types nor have they studied alignment the way I had. But if I were in a more advanced class, I would be the one taking breaks, slowing down, breathing heavily, and feeling my limbs shake. I’m not about to get cocky about this now.

Towards the end of class, while I rested my forehead on the floor in front of me during pigeon pose, I thought about how I was so thoroughly enjoying class, I couldn’t wait to come back in two days.

During savasana, where you lie on your back for total relaxation at the end of practice, I was trying to keep my mind steady. It wasn’t. But, it was happy. Elated, even.

The teacher read a short poem titled something like, “Let It Go”, and the words of it really spoke to me in that moment. Let go of your preconceived notions of how you thought things were going to be. Let it go. This is what it is.

A few tears of joy actually well-up in my eyes before we sat up to say Namasté.

I was anxious going to a class in a new building where I didn’t have my posse of yoga friends I used to see each week. I was worried about how I looked in yoga pants, or if I was going to be too ill-equipped to do the class. I was feeling like a beginner.

Those were my preconceived notions walking into class. Just like each day I wake up and think about how things were so different a year ago with the man I adore, or how my body looked when I was twenty-six. Humans tend to fixate.

Being in that spring-toned room, as soon as my two feet were planted hip-width apart and pointing forward, I felt like I was suddenly in an old life again. I had rekindled my bond with my body and the familiarity of one of the greatest loves of my life: yoga.

I was not a beginner at all. I was reincarnated but left with the old sensations of what I used to feel like before I let my life fall apart.

I walked out of my first successful yoga class in two years knowing that my intention had been fulfilled. Not only did I enjoy my practice, I smiled the entire drive home.

Among the Living

White petals curled in afternoon sunlight

Rutilant eyes, surprised by morning’s gentle crest of

Whispering, echoing bird calls

The urging tickle in your throat;

The throbbing longing in the chest;

A coming of age for the soul to drop

Those dampening robes of complacency

To join the simple song of humming cars,

A trickling stream, two lovers’ dreams, and kids on swings

To be again among the living

and breathe the purity of euphoria

Sweet 16

I remember being sixteen years old, tightly stuffed into a friend’s basement in Worcester, MA, feeling higher and happier than a child chasing a trail of pearlescent bubbles.

It was New Year’s Eve, 1999.

I was there with my sister, mutual friends, and the boy with whom I was completely infatuated from the first moment I saw him that summer. I wore black vinyl pants and remember my crush saying to me on the ride to Worcester, “I can see myself in your pants. No, really. It’s not a pickup line. I can see myself in your pants.”

He braided me an aluminum foil bracelet as we stood by ourselves in the kitchen, tucked away in a corner, where we rubbed noses and giggled about how Eskimos and gnomes kiss.

I remember hanging out in one of my friend’s van outside listening to DMX and Dr Dre. I vaguely recall our friends’ band playing that evening in the tiny basement. I also remember eating peanuts while chewing gum, and realizing as my gum dissolved and slid down my throat, that that’s why people use peanut butter to get gum out of girls’ hair. Epiphany. I was hopped up on illegal substances and the world was my oyster.

As the ball was on its descent into the year Y-2-K, we all joked about how the internet would shut down, chaos would ensue, and the beginning of the end would follow thereafter.

None of that happened, of course, but when the countdown reached zero, I grabbed the boy and kissed him so sweetly. It was my first New Year’s kiss and I was on ecstasy.

Very early on the morning of New Year’s Day, I went back to the boy’s house and he laboriously peeled the black vinyl pants off my sweaty body. I lay in the boy’s bed, while he tried to do sexy things to me and I was coming down. I was tired, and it just wasn’t working. Frustrated and selfish, he broke up with me; I was mostly naked in his bed and trapped at his home without a ride.

Later that morning, forgetting what he had done only hours earlier, he in naive slumber, curled his arm tightly around my waist and pulled me in to snuggle. I just lay there and cried silently.

Happy New Year.

That boy became the man with whom I reunited seven years later and almost married.

Now, sixteen years after that emotional bumper car ride, I am sitting here in my favorite, thread-bare bathrobe in my cozy apartment. I am thinking about how many dull years have passed. How many of them I spent being a normal, young adult with a relatively stable existence. How many of them I spent with that same boy, and how many I have spent without him since we split. How so many of those years since we broke up were anything but stable or dull. How grateful I am to be where I am sitting today.

One thing that has always been consistent in all of my teen and adult years is my struggle with love. Oh, I find love, I just can’t keep love. The last three New Year’s Eves have been spent with friends, doling out hugs and cheek pecks at the ball drop.

Four years ago, I experienced something akin to my sixteenth year. I told the new guy I was dating since J and I broke up that I loved him for the first time. On New Year’s Day. It wasn’t planned. I wasn’t trying to be romantic by choosing a special day; it had just been six months together and fifteen years total since I had known him, and it came out of my mouth as we lay in my bed after drinking several mimosas and fondling each other. He reacted poorly. Understatement. His reaction was the worst reaction anyone could possibly have to being told they are loved by their girlfriend.

First, he laughed nervously. Really hard. Then, he pulled me in for a hug and swayed us back and forth for an extremely uncomfortable amount of time. It felt like three decades. We both silently shared a cigarette on my porch, and then, abruptly, he told me he had to go.

My New Year’s track record is excellent.

This year I feel good, though. I’ve been taking a lot of time to focus on organizing my life and my home. I have been writing a lot. I don’t really go out or drink very often at all and am in bed by 10 or 11 each night. I cherish my girl cat and lavish in all this extra time I have to be near her because I am not out getting messed up. I am yet again reconnecting with me, my favorite person to hang out with.

I cannot predict how the year will progress nor do I really want to. There are a couple of projects in the works that will keep me focused on my hobby and love for writing and editing, and I am finally loving my body and taking care of her needs.

Coming from the girl who always has put others before her, I am no longer content to be that person who lies there, quietly stifling her tears, while men abandon her right as a human to have her own fears, feelings, and thoughts.

And while I may be romancing someone currently who makes me swoon, blush, or feel dizzy, he is not the center of my world–he is just a very lovely and enticing piece of it. I like my life and I damn well should. It is mine after all. No one else’s. I live it for me and those who come into it, like my friends, family, or this romance, are all just enhancements and embellishments to the steadily polished bowl I’ve been working on for nearly thirty-three years.

I used to repeat the mantra, “I am happy; I am healthy; I am wealthy; I am wise.”

I think as I move into this new year of 2016, I am going to focus on the simple sweetness.

There’s a calm radiating throughout my being, because I’ve been chasing the metaphorical dragon for years and am finally ready to be me. To be the girl renewed from years of bad relationships and abuse; to be the girl strengthened against giving herself to men just to feel wanted; to be the woman who is comfortable in her new shape but still yearns to feel healthy in body, mind, and spirit. But mostly, to be Amanda, the person I know most intimately.

Amanda loves to read. She loves cleaning. Her home is an homage to the things she cherishes most: her cats, her friends, and music. She is nostalgic and loves to read her old journals (and then immediately shred them upon completion). She is sappy and enjoys eating popcorn by herself while watching comedy romances. She puts herself to sleep each night by petting her cat and listening to science documentaries. She writes in a gratitude journal. She requires time to herself every day to feel whole. She loves writing and making music more than she loves most things, and she gives her heart freely and generously to the people who mean the most to her. She does this not because she has to, not out of guilt, fear, or obligation, but because when Amanda feels like Amanda, she is a resonating channel of love.

From what I know of Amanda, she is sweet. She is kind, caring, and sweet. She’s snarky, sarcastic, whiny, and selfish, too, but no one likes a perfectly polished bowl, now, do they?

May I only hope that 2016 simply holds that presence of free love, if nothing else. It might just be the sweetest sixteen I’ve had yet.

It Is Ours

The thing that makes love so great is not that it’s beautiful. It’s not that it makes us a better person. It isn’t even that feeling love makes us seem less alone in this world.

It is that it is ours.

Of course, we all know that sharing a moment with another human, complete with passion and adoration is beautiful. It more often than not inspires us to achieve greater things within ourselves. Having the companionship of another soul that complements ours helps alleviate the mundanity and hardship of everything we encounter every day: tough and trying days at work, hours running errands or scrubbing our toilet bowls. Paying bills. Choosing 401ks. Moving into a new home. Grieving a loss. Giving birth. Long car rides. Sitting at home with a television show or playing a board game.

Here’s the thing–all of that might be a hundred percent true, but that’s not what makes love so great. What makes love so magnificent and shiny, so unparalleled and desirable, is that it belongs to us. We are experiencing it. Ourselves. Together.

There are few factors in our existence that are greater than the driving, motivating force of what love does to us.

Love is way more than romantic words spilled between two people. It exceeds the actions we display and perform for others to show our affection and dedication. Lyrics and melodies of songs might move us to tears, but even they fall short. Commitment to our friends, family, and loved ones shows love. The ability to forgive and see a person for who they truly are without fault shows love.

But love is also so very relative. That’s what makes it so appealing.

Suddenly, a person who is seen as ordinary to others is extraordinary to us. Other people might see them as exceptional or amazing, but never quite in the way that a person who is swayed by love does. Suddenly, everything about them is a novel waiting to be unraveled. It might be the way their hair falls on their face, the pitch of their voice as they say certain words to us and only us, or the events in their life we know have crucified them–those crippling memories that have often kept them fearful and closed off to us–we learn to love those, too. And why? Because that’s love. It’s not rational. Not logical. No true calculations for how it works, when, and why.

It happens in that moment when we realize that the way they touch our collarbone makes our skin crawl with anticipation. It occurs when we only melt when they tell us we are beautiful. We spend minutes physically dizzy, thoughts spinning, trying to make sense of reality again. We smile just because we know they exist, and we smile harder knowing they smile because we exist, too.

Despite the thoughts and opinions of others, no one can take this away from us.

The world is seen through rose-colored glasses because of love, but we notice that it is never the same each time it is experienced. That is what makes love so great. It is never a repeated episode of something we’ve felt before. Each time, we swear it is the greatest, most unique thing we’ve ever felt, and it’s not because we’re idiots, it’s because it’s true.

I have tried forever to understand why humans put themselves in the blinding, gambling “trust” of love, and it’s not because we just continue to have hope that the “right one” for us is out there; it isn’t because we forget what heartache feels like. Most of us are starkly aware of betrayal and pain. Of situations which we thought we couldn’t overcome. But then that person comes along at the perfect time, saying the most perfect thing, touching us in the most incredibly perfect way, and we’re rapt. That’s just the beginning.

Over time, they continue to bare themselves to us. We share things with each other that only two people who are intimate do; we giggle in heated moments of lust when bodies don’t accommodate our wants, and we heave in extreme passion at the pure excitement and enjoyment the other is having, because theirs is ours.

Most of what I’ve ever read about love is how to make it work, how it doesn’t work, or what real love is. I could write about that, because I think I know at least a few things about love, but it has dawned on me that the epitome of what we all want when it comes to love is that personal experience. That “us” feeling. Those moments, those memories, that can never be shared between two others. Only us.

It is the wave we ride on that spawns great poetry, body-shuddering love songs, and most importantly, it is the intoxicating dance that enables us to feel as though we are taking part in something special. There may be millions of people across the globe feeling this love thing, but amazingly, love doesn’t care–it only cares that we feel it.

In that way, love is so rare and beautiful.

I have written for years about what it really means to love, and how I feel love can be achieved unconditionally. None of that matters, because when it comes to actual romantic love, what matters is what two people feel. The true beauty of what we all crave with love is that it transforms us. It makes us softer, sweeter, more optimistic. It adds spice and meaning to the menial. It leaves a sedative melody humming through our body before bed, and it gives us sparks on our heels and thoughts as we move about our day. We feel this not because everyone can have it, but because we, ourselves, in this very moment, have it.

It is ours.

Manhattan Afternoon

It was the way your voice lifted and softened

when you spoke about the chestnut in my eyes;

The bit of yellow you found, and

seemed to be lost in;

The kiss that followed;

The braided embrace

 

By the waters of Manhattan

time slowed down

One of the prettiest and

most sincere moments

we’ve shared

Sometimes Things Just Suck a Little & That’s Okay

[Some adult language]

My life has been something out of a story book, lately, so of course, it was only due time before it partially came crashing down on me. Don’t worry, everything is fine; I’m a bit down and a little stressed. Things just suck a bit.

For about a month now, I’ve almost steadily been on cloud nine with perhaps a day or two where I’ve felt a little bit grumpy or hormonal. Why is that? Well, my life is becoming what I want it to be. I have a new roommate, and things are going really well. I got a raise at work. I even have a new standing desk and have been going for walks at lunch time with my girls, so I’m feeling healthier. I also have an amazing connection with a truly beautiful man. He says things almost on the daily that make me swoon like mad. I am doing my writing apprenticeship and loving it. All ducks are lining up in their pretty, little row. Well, until yesterday and today.

Sometimes, things just suck a little. I feel far away. I haven’t seen this swoon-worthy man in over two months. He’s facing some difficult things right now, and I can’t even help him. I’m powerless, in the dark, and alone. I worry for him, yet have zero ability to actually do anything about it.

My first writing assignment for my writing apprenticeship did not come out exactly how I would have liked. I wanted better than that for my first submission. I have a hard time keeping up with all of the social media postings I have to do each day, and I turn down plans to be with friends. I probably spend well over the prescribed 12-15 hours a week towards working on this class, and that’s on top of a full-time job.

Most of the time, I don’t even mind these things. In fact, I love the alone-time. I like the pressure and challenge of my writing apprenticeship. But some days, and today is one of them, I am just worn down emotionally, and I feel like sleeping until all challenges cease to exist.

I want to be in the arms of a caring man. I want to keep my past in my past, instead of where it’s been creeping in lately, and I want to be the best goddamn writer I can be. In dire need to purge my household of extraneous physical baggage, I am constantly in a state of anxiety until that task is finished. It’s all a process.

Everything will be okay. At least, I think it will. I just need to remember that sometimes I don’t feel my best, nor do I act it. This is a sometimes thing, not an indicator of who I am in perpetuity. I am not perfect; I am only human. I falter, I take things personally, I feel shitty, and I worry excessively.

And some days, I rain love and affection in inspirational waves onto those surrounding me. Just depends on the day. Each moment is a moment from which to learn, and sometimes, you realize that you just need to get through the moment.

I was driving not too long ago, and as I crested the hill at sunset, so, too, emerged the brilliant, red-neon sun. It was only there for a few seconds before I made my descent, but it caught me off-guard. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the sun look so delicious like a sucking candy mounted in the sky. And that’s when I remembered that this is just another day. Beautifully radiant in its own way. Some good, some bad, some cherished moments, and some I’d soon rather forget.

There’s always tomorrow to try again. Sleep does wonders for the soul, as it washes away today’s stains and renews faith and hope. I wish it for everyone: for my friends, family, strangers, acquaintances, enemies, and for the man with the handsome smile, when he actually allows it to grace his scruffy face.

I cannot make others happy, because that’s not how life works, but I can make sure that I am taken care of, and that, in turn, allows me to be the reminder to those who need it of those blaring red-orbed days when there’s too much beauty to feel completely lost.

I Love You More

Several months ago, as I was sitting at my desk at work and looking out the window into the trees and sunshine, I drifted into thought that, admittedly, had nothing to do with aviation or training manuals. I was thinking about the concept of love, more specifically, the difficulty of finding a fine balance of it in a romantic relationship.

With my ex fiancé, we’ll call him “J”, we used to always say ILTFOOY to each other, and because we were really silly, we said it like this: “ilta-fooey“. It stood for “I love the fuck out of you”. We loved each other fiercely. Both being Pisces (our birthdays were one day apart), we could easily conjure up a fantasy existence in our living room, holding each other so tightly that our bodies actually quivered.

Our love was real and very pure. The problem was that J was more possessive with his love of me. He refused to share me with anyone, and I don’t mean sexually, I mean, like, I couldn’t have friends, or wear clothes I liked; I couldn’t attend parties, and I couldn’t form bonds with other humans. Period.

In my last relationship, the words “I love you” never spilled from my partner’s lips. And I waited. Two and a half years. At first I thought he was hesitant or fearful to say it. The more time that passed, however, I started to realize that maybe he just didn’t love me. Maybe he didn’t know how.

Being pulled into a disproportionate relationship, where all the love was on my side, made me miserable. It hurts more than anything to constantly feel like you want to express yourself with all of the affection welling up inside of you, but you can’t. I was ball-gagged and bound in my own relationship, which resulted in a skewed perception of myself and the constant wondering of what was wrong with me?

I’m terribly afraid that I’ll never find that balance. It seems like such a delicate thing. Any gust of wind can just swoop it up and carry it away. At any moment. That’s what relationships feel like to me, because I was involved in so many wrong ones. Will I ever get it right?

In the short period of time that my gaze fell upon the glistening snow, as we were deep into winter in New England, I realized that I am used to loving more. J’s love may have been more exclusive and intense, but I loved him so unconditionally that I still do to this day and always will. My love for the last guy was ineffable in the truest sense, since I could never express it to him.

Would I rather love more or be loved more?

Thinking about it, I had decided that I’m probably always going to be the one who loves more. I just made myself content to believe that. But, in revisiting that thought today, I really want to know what it’s like to be loved with the same level of compassion and respect as I give. A mutual, reciprocal connection. I never want to fear that I am being loved less. Thought of less. Fantasized about only occasionally.

I want heavily-panting, passionate, heart-exploding love.

I’m always going to love intensely. It’s up to the future love of my life to ascertain whether he can step up and match me.