Boxes & Rain Drops

I am moving in a month, and the unwieldy mountain of stress is identical to the literal mass of things I own.

In an attempt to get a head start on the increasing agenda of tasks I have to do, I’ve begun to sort through miscellany. Boxes I had in storage, my medicine cabinet, old make-up… I reached into my walk-in closet last night and found a small shoebox of letters I have kept for years. Since 2006, to be precise.

It took me a few hours to sift through them all—opening each envelope, inspecting the contents, skimming the hand-crafted words that took commitment and dedication.

These letters all came from a friend who was incarcerated. He and I had dated, and right after we broke up, he did a bad thing and went to jail.

We wrote each other for the entire 6 years he was locked up.

Emotions pelted me throughout the reading like a gentle rainstorm that occasionally picked up or slowed. I was caught off guard by a sentence of deep regret, or my skin blushed by a few compliments of my beauty and effervescence about which he would sometimes reminisce.

I’ve read all of these before. Some of the sentences were so familiar even after all of these years, because, for a time, I had relied so much on the comfort and happiness those paper confessions provided me.

Yet, so many little things I had forgotten. He had written, telling me that I reminded him of a girl in the 2008 Ford Edge commercial, who was lost in thought looking up at the stars with her big, brown eyes.

Or the hand-made stamps his father would carve every year for Christmas cards, and how I had succeeded in putting every other person alive to shame (except his father) with my creative cards I sent him every year for his birthday and Christmas.

Or how he remembered that I used to eat soy bologna sandwiches and never smiled with my teeth in photographs.

It was such a strange and unusual bond we created during his time away, because we both avowed to continue the practice of hand-written letters.

We’d talk about our rituals of writing, where we sat, and what our surroundings looked like as we penned long notes to each other. He’d start letters off with a gregarious greeting, punctuated with far too much excitement for his caged-in existence, musing with eloquent language about my current antics. He shared an intimate look at the inside of a penitentary, while I wrote on and on about outings, my cats, my relationship woes, and, apparently, how great my ass was looking (that came up a few times—I know, because he made sure to comment in his letters sent back).

I held a six-year time capsule that was one-sided. I only had his letters, so I had to fill in the gaps of what was going on in my own world, while he talked about his. I could infer from his commentary easily, and it was like a nicely boxed-up version of my life from the moment he went to jail until the day Rocky and I first broke up. That was the last letter from him before he was released—commenting on how sorry he was to hear about my breakup. That was in 2013.

The letters began with talk of him missing his Myspace page and texting on his phone, and galloped forward into Facebook, various tv shows that had their popularity over that time period, and onward still to mention my employment at the company for which I still work.

I remember when he was released to a half-way house and I was finally able to talk to him on the phone. He had a crappy flip phone, and we talked for over two hours that first night. I chain-smoked cloves, and we delved into everything we didn’t say in our letters.

I went to visit him at his job in West Hartford. We talked a few more times.

That was a few years ago.

He’s free and we don’t talk. Convenience and real life has stripped us of our intimate bond.

But we are Facebook friends…

He often wrote to me, expressing his gratitude for my continued devotedness to writing him, but in the last letter, he stated that I had swayed his mind on womanhood, which went beyond his expectations and even broke down the rusted barrier of his misguided trust.

And now we don’t talk.

The gentle rain of emotions pelted me a little harder right then.

I always re-read everything personal before purging it. I set aside an entire evening to remember. It was only four years later that I decided to take the shoebox down from the shelf, because I need to simplify my personal belongings before moving.

The stress and commitment of moving has caused me to remember what a great friend I have had all these years. How I was once capable of staying true to a friendship with a steadfastness that is only now seen in the few hours left I have to vacate this apartment and start fresh.

Hand-written letters may never be in our future again, but I hope he knows when he reads this that, even in silence, the bonds of friendship still lie.

Open Letter from a Former Skinny Girl

I know you didn’t mean to call me gross when you grabbed your non-existent gut and exclaimed how disgusting you were, but you, a current skinny girl, were standing right next to me, a former one.

If I had to objectively assess myself I would say I am medium build and somewhat athletic, since I am hitting the gym, seeing a personal trainer, and finally putting some tone back on my body. So, this letter is not from someone who is morbidly obese or might be considered overweight by others, but according to what my scale says, and according to what my personal trainer has been paid to tell me, I’m technically overweight.

I have struggled with my body image for years, even when I was a size 0 and could stuff my face with cookies and chicken nuggets for dinner on a regular basis if I had wanted. Now, reaching my mid-thirties and coming to terms with my altered metabolism, even while eating regimented salads, burgers with no bun, quinoa, zucchini pasta, and lean chicken, I can’t seem to win. I probably workout approximately four to five times a week and have hardly seen results. I don’t buy bread anymore, I choose salmon over pasta, and make spinach and kale smoothies nearly every morning.

Most people do not mean to hurt the feelings of others when talking about their own bodies, but it happens. I am not writing to call someone out on bullying; I am writing because I used to be her: the skinny girl with maybe two ounces of fat on her body, who complained about her looks to garner the attention of those around her.

People who are unhappy with their bodies don’t go around lifting their shirts up to show their flesh. We are the ones in the corner quietly shaming ourselves for being pieces of garbage and thinking about how we should not have indulged in that slice of pizza, placing unrealistic and undoubtedly harsh expectations on ourselves.

I don’t want to be taunted by my guy friends, asking where my six-pack is (which is rock-solid and hiding under a small layer, by the way), and I don’t want to be the invisible female in the room, because the tinier, more fit one is standing a couple of feet away.

I realize that someone commenting on my body when I didn’t ask them to is not my fault, and I no longer have this strong desire to caper around men, begging for attention. I just don’t. Some of it might be because I have some extra weight I don’t feel comfortable with, but mostly, it’s because I realize who I used to be, and I don’t like that person.

I used to be that girl who saw something in a magazine and knew if I bought it, it would almost always look the same way on me.

I was that girl who felt uncomfortable when I was around people who legitimately complained about their weight, because I knew I was a poser only seeking attention. Trust me, I had body issues even when I was 105 lbs, but my weight problem has changed from a mental one to an actual physical one.

When I was in my twenties, my fiancé at the time referred to me as a “miniature supermodel”, because I was only 5’2” instead of 5’9”, yet perfectly proportioned. He also happened to control what I wore fairly often. I couldn’t wear short shorts, and I wasn’t allowed to show off my legs in tiny dresses.

Within a year or two of when we broke up, I began to put on weight. There’s a part of me that still feels animosity that I couldn’t “show it off” when I had the chance. The only thing I get to show off these days is my cleavage, because one of the benefits of gaining weight is that I grew two cup sizes.

I have this interesting perspective about my weight gain, because I haven’t had this issue my whole life. Until I turned 30, I was nearly too thin, by no fault of my own; it was just my genetics. I see the girls around me who are like this, and may stay like this, and think about how I was so insensitive to others’ feelings with the way I acted around men and the way I talked about my own body.

For that, I openly apologize.

It’s not fun to be on the other side.

And I know, even as I write this, there is someone else out there possibly reading who is struggling a lot harder than me. I can’t change the way our bodies look, but I can give you the silent nod and the verbal reassurance that even if you aren’t content with your appearance, there are so many people out there who think you are drop-dead gorgeous. And, naturally, you should think so, too, but as is clearly evident by this letter, we can’t always control our emotions or negative thoughts.

I don’t think I’ll ever be a size 0 again, and my choice to work on my weight is solely mine, not to be judged by how anyone else treats their body, but even if I do lose some weight, what I will never lose is the humility I gained in understanding what a huge impact a few innocent words have on those around us.

Sincerely,

A girl continually learning compassion

Picking Dandelions

In preparation for Thanksgiving, I am cleaning around the house, making mashed potatoes, and watching shows on Hulu.

Just like every Thanksgiving-themed television show, things do not go the way we want them to. Timing is never impeccable, and still, somehow, we learn to have gratitude in our hearts for those who invade our personal space and burrow into our lives.

This might show itself as an ex-boyfriend who realizes what he lost too late, or perhaps the perfect man, showing up in the midst of heartache and friendship betrayal. It might mean having to drive over three hours to pick up your mother the night before Thanksgiving because she doesn’t like highway-driving, and it could very well mean messing up your very first, ever, batch of garlic and herb mashed potatoes. (Let’s hope not!)

Maybe the tangled strings don’t all get tied into pretty bows like they inevitably do in sitcoms, but we know we have to accept the chaos, because those people in our lives are here to stay throughout the good, the bad, and the absolutely heinous.

Just about nothing has gone the way I would have liked it to in the past year. Although, when does it ever? Even though there’s been a tremendous amount of pain, loss, and having to say good-bye, I’m not sure that I would change anything.

Yes, I lost my male cat, Zen, a year ago very tragically. However, I would not have the capacity to love and appreciate my female cat, Aum, as much as I do had his death not occurred.

I had a terrible argument with my ex right before my birthday this year, which resulted in months of him hiding away and not speaking to me. If I hadn’t lost my sanity that night, I wouldn’t have sought out and received the help I needed to regulate my PMDD.

Saying good-bye to the beautiful man from Brooklyn nearly decimated my heart, but if I had not made myself completely vulnerable to him in our last moments together, then I would never have known that all this time he truly did love me.

Having a massive falling-out this summer with a good friend, who found many ways to betray and hurt me, led me to learn how to have true forgiveness for someone and manage to find a way to have him in my life in a redefined space. I realized I didn’t have to let go of someone for good, I just had to reconfigure how our friendship now operates.

My failed attempts at dating this summer, the agonizing disappointment of rejection, the yearning to move forward and move on with seeming difficulty—these obstacles literally led me right into the arms of a well-deserving man, who with his gentleness for my heart, has shown me patience and selflessness in ways I didn’t think were possible.

The events in our lives that don’t go the way we want them to, developing into hurt feelings, lost relationships, betrayal, and heartache, do serve a purpose. Sometimes, they help us to understand what we really need to do. They bring us to a patch of our lives, which has been neglected and is overgrown with worry, dampening sorrow, and unacknowledged emotional baggage.

It is here that we begin to sort through the clutter, pulling out the weeds.

We don’t actually have to toss them away, because unbeknownst to us, they can be brought into our homes and flourish what has become dingy and distraught.

Life is a pretty painful existence. It’s necessary to pick out the good bits, which usually end up being pretty flowers disguised as the weeds.

Unsettled

Is it weird that my heart breaks when my ex talks about his relationship woes?

The drive from Willimantic to Southbridge was nice. We needed to catch up, since it had been a few months since we had seen each other, and we text far less now that he has a girlfriend with whom he lives.

When I parked on the steep hill and stepped out of the car to find him on his front stoop, I wasn’t sure if she was there… if I should go introduce myself. Turns out, she had left the house before I arrived, so he got in my driver’s side and drove us to my mom’s, since I had just been driving for an hour. I joked with him that it’s fine, because I was too lazy to ever take him off my insurance.

On the way, we talked mostly about him—how things have been going with the girl; how involved he is with his church. We passed the cemetery I once peed in, because I couldn’t wait any longer, and I pointed and said, “I peed in that cemetery.” J replied, “Yup. And we were listening to Death Cab for Cutie. Fond memory of the early days.”

At my mother’s, he was his usual reticent self. While my sister chattered on about work and gardening, J pulled out his phone and silently played a game. Occasionally, he would say a word or two, but mostly he’d pause to look up at the tv and then back at his phone.

This might be regarded as rude, but it’s not. It’s just J. As soon as someone engages him in conversation, he’ll talk. He’s just always been the more introverted, quiet observer-type.

Out on the deck with my sister, I commented, “I was thinking about how quiet J was being and then I remembered J is always that quiet.” She goes, “Yeah. That’s J.”

It did not feel odd in the slightest to have him there with us while we celebrated my mom’s birthday. My sister provided a delicious dinner and we sat around and talked for a while. My belly was full, my eyes were stinging from cigarette smoke, and I was starting to get a headache, so very shortly after my sister departed, we decided to, also.

On the drive home, there was more serious talk about our relationships and god. It’s so fascinating to me how, now, we agree on so many things, that I give him advice and insight, and he listens and understands. We’ve traversed miles of communication barriers and selfishness in the four-plus years we’ve been apart.

We both wondered if we’d only ever be each other’s one shot at “it”. I told him that sometimes I thought so. Maybe that was our chance for love and we couldn’t do it. Maybe we are both destined not to find our “ones”. Those chances were buried just like the graves next to which I relieved my full bladder on one of our happy, free-spirited rides when love was young and rife with hope.

There’s only one other person since J who has remotely made me feel the way J has in terms of depth of connection and romance. In terms of overflowing emotion and true compassion and appreciation for their existence. He knows who he is.

But lately, I’ve just been wading endlessly in an ocean with a hazy horizon point. I can’t tell where I’m going, where I’m supposed to go, and what I’ll find when I get there.

Since I already have found what I’m looking for, twice, I don’t really know what else I’m supposed to uncover.

It’s been a long four years of feeling unsettled. Even when I was in my on-and-off-again relationship with my other ex after J, I never felt assured. I had no idea if he loved me or not, and he continually kept me dangled on some potential hope we might live together only to sabotage things and pull it away from me.

For years, I’ve learned only to trust myself. To love myself. And to know that even if I never find the “one”, I have enough self-love that I’ll be fine.

That doesn’t mean my heart doesn’t break whenever I think about the one who got away from me, or the ones who won’t give me a fair chance. That doesn’t mean that although I would not get back together with J, my heart doesn’t wrench and sizzle with anger that he’s dealing with immaturity or a person who doesn’t share the same aspirations and passions.

I want to cloak and protect him, maybe because we couldn’t protect ourselves from each other.

Maybe because I’ve been guarding and protecting myself for so long, it’s the only thing I know how to do.

The Universe’s Hickey

The target on my back is starting to get itchy. Can someone take it off? Maybe I’m allergic to the adhesive…

I seemingly have the best and worst luck with men. Best as in, I get asked out a lot. It’s not that guys don’t like me or think I’m beautiful. Worst as in, I am utterly disappointed by the ones I actually like back. They suddenly withdraw or don’t follow through with plans.

I whined through tear-filled eyes yesterday afternoon about how I don’t get how I can’t just have a good thing for once. How I don’t even believe in the Universe targeting people, or bad things happening to people, yet in my case, it impeccably appears that there’s a hex on my love life. Without fail, a guy that I’m attracted to, interested in, or in love with will just up and leave.

My friend pointed out that my energy lately has been placed in all the right areas. Self-love, health, and improvement. Alone time and positivity. It allowed, in the first place, for an interest to even enter the scene.

“Yeah”, I muttered, “but I liked this one. I actually was excited for date number two.”

“Well, the Universe has left you a hickey”, said my friend. “Annoying in the time being, for sure, but a reminder of good things.”

This little bump is a sign that I’m making room in all the right places and someone can even enter my life again in an intimate way.

Didn’t think of it that way, of course, but he’s right.

I’d rather the boy didn’t try to leave a mark in the first place, but since I got the damn Universe’s hickey on my neck, I have to smile in the mirror and know I’m headed in the right direction.

Come At Me, Bro

There’s a couple of things about me everyone who meets me should know: I’m not as innocent as I look, and I sure as hell am stronger than fortified steel when push comes to shove and I have to prove myself or survive.

My week started off great. No complaints whatsoever.

Sunday: Great company, mini-golf, and good conversation. Followed by a delicious dinner and wine Monday night with more flowing conversation.

Tuesday, things began to trail off, as I was asked last-minute to pick up my best friend from the bus station in Hartford that evening. I love her, but she knows my anxieties associated with sudden city-driving requests like this. I did it anyways, and, ultimately, it was fine, even if I parked in the wrong place because I get easily flustered.

Wednesday, I had a follow-up appointment with my doctor to take my blood pressure. It’s been six weeks since my last appointment where my blood pressure was at 120/90. I’ve consistently been at 120/70 for years before I re-started birth control. She’s concerned about the sudden change, particularly because blood clots are a risk after thirty.

I quit smoking cigarettes six weeks ago. My appointment had been on a Friday, when the doctor told me smoking was probably raising my blood pressure. The following Tuesday, after Fourth of July weekend, I quit.

I started doing yoga 2-3 times a week in May. I routinely go running, hiking, or walking.

I don’t drink alcohol at all during the week anymore, with a rare exception for a special occasion.

A little over two weeks ago, I began a ketogenic diet, where I’ve cut out carbs and sugars. I’m taking a handful of vitamins suspected to help diminish PMDD symptoms, and I’ve lost about an inch off my waist and a couple of pounds so far. I feel like a million dollars on roller skates. There’s no stopping me…

My doctor charted my blood pressure at 120/82. Still too high, she says. She was going to take me off the birth control that day, but I begged her not to. I told her I felt anxious because the medical assistant’s vitriol about the possibility of me being pregnant (I’m not!) and demanding a pee sample shook me a bit. The birth control I’m on makes my period so light that I basically don’t get it anymore, so my doctor conceded and said, sure, let’s go three more months, but you need to chart your blood pressure multiple times a week and write it down for me. Okay.

I’m just buying time, at this point. If I’ve done everything right and my blood pressure isn’t going back to normal, then the birth control is negatively affecting it. My options are to stop birth control and go back to managing my severe mood swings on my own, try a different birth control, which won’t be as effective with mood stabilization (and could have potential side-effects, since I’ve had horrible luck with nearly every pill I’ve ever tried), take blood pressure medication, and/or go off birth control and try antidepressants.

Ninety-five percent of those options I refuse to do. I’m not going to pump my body with more chemicals that I simply don’t need.

Defeated isn’t even the word. I’ve missed every train, despite my best efforts to make it on time.

After coming home Wednesday, I found out my roommate doesn’t want to renew the lease. We have about a week to sign it and send it back. He waited until now to tell me he wants to move out at the end of September. I’m frustrated that that leaves me no time to either move or find a new roommate, so I am stuck paying over a thousand dollars a month again. This means I will have no life, because I will have no money. I can probably keep going to yoga, but that will be about the only thing I can afford to do if I want to try to save a couple hundred dollars each month.

Thursday was fine. Just fine. I didn’t feel normal, but I didn’t feel awful. All week, I’ve been irritable, having a bit of trouble getting to sleep, and generally pessimistic and down, but nothing like what I would feel without the birth control, in which case, I’d be writing this while crying and between cigarette and whiskey breaks.

I just want things to be easy. I did what I was required to do, life, now you uphold your end.

My doctor, with slight panic in her voice, said to me, “Don’t start smoking again, despite these results. You’re doing so good!” Don’t worry, Doc. Not my intention. My hormones and blood pressure might fucking hate me with the boundless rage of a sixteen year old’s first revenge after being dumped, but I’m not really the quitting type. Well, except for the time I quit doing all those bad things and bread, recently.

So, this is how my week is going to go? Okay.

I am into the weekend now, and the pessimism is subsiding a little.

I had a dream last night that I was eating bread. Years ago, when I had been a vegetarian, I dreamt about eating meat. After quitting cigarettes, I dreamt about smoking for days on end. Last night, it was carbs.

But I’m doing it. Each day. Yesterday, I thought about cheating and grabbing a small fry at McDonald’s in Bloomfield, since I had just stopped at the Jamaican bakery to buy coco bread for a party I’m attending this afternoon. I didn’t. I allow myself minimal cheats during the week, because I am striving hard for my goals.

Some people find it difficult to stick to a routine or diet. I was always one of those people, until I realized that my life depended on it, and the only person I was cheating was me.

My blood pressure might not be impressed by my recent changes, but my mental clarity and my overall physical health are giving me silent applause.

If my week wants to be a little bitch, she can. I’m finally finding the muscle to hold on a little longer, even if it burns every fiber of me in the moment.

Promises to Myself

I found this loose note tucked into one of my college journals last night. The note is dated January 5, 2002.

It is a bit cheesy, as I was lofty in my writing style at the time, but it’s amazing how every single item in the note still rings true to me today. I can proudly say I’ve adhered to every single one without even remembering I had written this. 

Promises to Myself:

  • Don’t give up on love or life
  • Remember after a storm, there’s always a rainbow
  • Be a good friend always, even when the other friend isn’t being very good to me
  • Never underestimate my emotions and feelings because of something someone else may say; they are what make me a beautiful human being
  • Know that a greater love shall arise; I will not be alone in life
  • Forgive others; we are not infallible
  • Know that it will all come in good time; patience has gotten me this far
  • Remember all is not lost; if a friend really loves you, they might not be able to show it, but it’s in his heart and will someday be known
  • Pick myself up after being kicked down
  • Be a friend to someone who they will never forget

The Rat Race vs. The Ride

I’m here doing these things I’m told to do everyday and I don’t even know why.

You ever think about why you’re taking out the trash or buying patio furniture at Ocean State Job Lot? Why are you doing that versus living in the woods, cut off from society completely? Why aren’t you in Uganda, volunteering your time to help those less fortunate than yourself?

Of course, some of us are.

The rest of us are following the paradigm set out for us since birth: go to school, get a job, furnish a home, find a partner, create new life, raise new life, vacation, retire.

I’m not trying to be pessimistic here, because I’m a generally content person who has meaningful connections with others and believes I have a purpose in being on this planet, but sometimes I get so caught up in the daily monotony that it makes it hard to see the big picture.

If my life is just going to be doing this every day, I don’t know that I want to sign that contract.

I think that’s why I’m kind of differently lately. I mean, really, I’ve been different for the past four years, since I started my new life after relationship death (aka my break from my fiancé).

How am I different…?

I like adventures. This could mean anything. Taking a spontaneous trip to Sedona, Arizona with a mystery man or jumping out of the car on the side of the road to pick wild flowers. Building blanket forts of epic proportions in my living room, or convincing the most gorgeous man I know to get in his car and drive three hours on a Sunday night just so we can hold each other and make-out for another three.

I love alone-time. Alone-time is not bored-time. It is relished, thirst-quenching me-time! I have found that a lot of people do not know how to be by themselves for a duration longer than a few hours. Think about it: whenever we’re out shopping, other people are nearby. We go to the movies, play mini-golf, drink at bars… We take public transportation, we work in offices, we go to Church. We are around people even when we don’t want to be!

I am fortunate to have a schedule quite opposite from that of my roommate, and I spend a lot of time alone, writing, watching movies, petting my cat, crying, lounging, eating, playing guitar, singing, or doing a random arts ‘n craft project. Doesn’t really matter much what I am doing as long as it’s mindful and appreciated.

I am grateful. I “pray” every day. I’m not religious, but I am very spiritual in the sense that I energetically feel connected to everything in the Universe. I believe in the Law of Attraction; I feel watched and cradled and listened to. I write in a gratitude journal most nights before bed. I see the good even when the walls are painted in cow shit and all the windows are stuck shut.

I am filled with hope. I was talking with a friend Saturday night about how my mentality is to refuse mediocrity. We both have been in abusive relationships of varying types, and he more recently than me. I told him people have asked me how I can keep opening my heart to others, and it’s quite simple, really: You have to continually have hope. The second you lose it, you might as well give up. Hand in your key-card for life and resign.

I don’t think too much. I’m a thinker–a philosopher, at heart. My brain never really ceases to have thoughts. That’s not exactly what I mean when I say I don’t think too much. I have stopped over-analyzing every little detail. I go with the flow more and let the powers that be dictate how things will progress. I tend not to get my hopes up over situations by investing so much mental energy in them. I’m more accepting of whatever is, is.

I am getting healthy. Maybe it’s a thirties thing. I’m past partying all the time. I got getting shit-faced all the time out of my system after the years of deprivation from social interaction I experienced being with my ex-fiancé. I think it’s “cool” to quit smoking cigarettes and eat salads. I adore and look forward to my yoga practice, and my idea of a good time lately is listening to music in my kitchen on a Monday night while figuring out how to make a homemade quiche crust.

I feel it all. I let myself cry a lot. If I’m angry, then, I’m angry. Sometimes, I’m elated, and when I’m elated, I dance in my living room and sing so loud that I’m hoping I hear my neighbors applaud when I’m finished.

Feeling blah or numb will happen occasionally, but I don’t want to live there. Living in complacency is like living in a home with no windows. No sunlight comes in. You can’t hear the rain beat against the glass during violent thunderstorms. A thick mat of dust covers all things due to lack of air circulation. The environment has no atmosphere. It is stagnant and un-evolving.

I might have to pay my absurd electric bill or rotate my tires, but I can do those while indulging in the things I love, like music, nerdy podcasts, sudoku puzzles, and avocados.

I love hard. This one’s probably the most important. I believe love is the single-most important thing in the Universe. I make sure my friends and family know they are cherished. I feel ardor for my hobbies and interests. I shriek and throw my phone when someone sends me a ridiculously adorable baby animal picture. I sing annoying songs at work to lovingly piss off my coworkers. I walk around naked in my apartment when my roommate isn’t home, because the air passing over my tanned skin feels amazing, and I take selfies when I look cute.

I compliment myself. I praise others. I love with a heart whose protective case has been smashed open like a poorly designed, knock-off Otterbox. Fully exposed and vulnerable.

If you had to purchase a one-way ticket and you had a choice between the warrantied, safe and amenable race to the finish line or the undisclosed, off-roading adventure, which would you pick?

Most of us have to be a part of the “rat race”, regardless. If we have to travel that well-known, dead-end path, we might as well take as many detours as possible to all the scenic routes to extend, brighten, and give purpose to our daily motions.

Name Ten People

Overly emotional doesn’t even begin to describe me.

No, I am the Casablanca of feelings.

I am the girl who says prayers for roadkill, puts insects in plastic cups and releases them outside, rather than squish them, and can’t watch the news because it will ruin her day.

Most days are fairly rote: I wake up, go to work, see friends, exercise, eat, sleep. But not all days transition like an endless loop of the movie Groundhog Day.

Some days, you wake up and see your newsfeed on facebook and find that a friend from your childhood has passed away in a car crash. Or, you learn one of your best friend’s family members was just diagnosed with cancer.

I’ve lost a lot of friends in the past few years. Some of them were people I hadn’t seen in years and some were closer friends. Since, I have felt like this seemingly solid and functioning world around me is more like a spider web, succumbing to a heavy gust of wind and splintering apart. Or the floorboards beneath my feet are breaking away and disappearing with each footstep like some glitch in the Matrix.

I have an unnerving restlessness and fear dwelling inside me.

I have been told by others that my unnecessary falderal is unproductive. It’s irrational to worry and think that everyone you care about could suddenly disappear at any given moment.

But couldn’t they?

The same person who told me that almost died a year or two before I met him. He had to have brain surgery. Just recently, he gave me another scare by telling me he had some tests done. I had no idea that was even going on, and while I sat there completely distraught on the other end of the phone, his calm, emotionless words popped up on the screen, reassuring me there was nothing to worry about.

I don’t think he has any true concept of a) how much I worry about things and b) how much he means to me.

Later that afternoon, I had told one of my good friends that I was “idiotically” upset over the fact that something horrible could have happened to this person I care so much about and I wouldn’t have even known. My friend then told me to name ten people I knew and something that had happened in their life recently. Um, okay…

After successfully listing ten people and events, my friend says, “See? Look how many lives you are connected to in a meaningful way. You might feel disconnected at the moment from that one person, but you are connected to so many.”

I got his point, but the fear part of my brain goes, “Oh, great. Just ten more people who would greatly affect me if they suddenly meet their fate.”

Deep down I know my friend is right. Feeling connected and creating intimacy with others in meaningful ways is kind of the bread and butter of existing. Without it, our days are rote and, indeed, void of tragedy, but the enjoyment that comes from reaching far into another’s heart and learning about what they yearn for and care about is more rewarding than never stepping a foot outside our emotional barriers.

The only solution I can come up with to assuage some of the fear of losing those I love is to ensure I tell them all the time what they mean to me. It won’t keep them out of harm’s way, but it will fill their hearts with love, which is the whole reason why we’re even here at all.

 

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.