Shakedown Isaactown

I can’t believe it’s been a year since the last time we came together to do this.

Some people just leave a lasting imprint on the physical world behind them when they leave.

Isaac is one of those people.

It is unusually steamy. The air outside feels like Connecticut’s geographical location has moved to Florida.

I plant myself on the couch and eat a disgusting version of some nutritious experiment with my Nutribullet that turned out much like bland baby food. I don a romper and think about grilling a hamburger patty to eat instead of this pea-green mush.

I lean my head back and my cat, Aum, is lying behind me. I can hear her quiet breathing as she begins to purr. I think about how I love her more than almost anything. How leaning back to rest my head against her ultra soft fur is so reassuring and wonderful. How I won’t always be able to do that, so every time I do, I cherish her fully.

Around 7pm, my best friend, Rachel, and I get our beer and head over to Rose’s house for what we assume to be an epic party, as usual.

There’s a stage set up for musicians to play; food is being grilled. There’s a banner that says “Shakedown Isaactown” and a giant pickle with a hole cut out so you can take your picture. As nighttime falls and more people arrive, the path from the shed house to the fire is lit with glow sticks to look like a magical fairy lane.

Every time I attend an event in honor of Isaac or hosted by Rose, I see familiar faces but I also meet new ones. This is my favorite part. It’s truly a community and family, even if we’ve just met, bound by the common thread of a shared adoration for this man who only stayed on earth for a mere thirty-odd years.

In the shed house stands the keg we all wrote on for Isaac last year at his birthday party. I participate in several games of beer pong. I dominate the table for a while, garnering cheers and gasps with my somehow amazing bounces and throws. I guess all those years at Uconn finally paid off. In between drunken high fives and complaining about my sweat-soaked romper and the hole I tore in the crotch from bending down to pick up a ball, I look at the walls of the shed and think about Isaac. How many times he stood in the exact place I am standing. How it’s so painful that he’s not here to share in this experience with us.

My beautiful friend Jo made a four-hour drive from Vermont to come to the party. She plays guitar and we sing “Blue Jeans” by Lana Del Rey, the song she was playing at Isaac’s celebration at Old Well when I went up and introduced myself to her, because I had learned that song on guitar, too.

Shortly after, it begins to storm pretty heavily. It had rained a little on and off over the evening, with bursts of thunder, but not even enough to put out the fire. This time it is torrential. We all run and huddle under the tents together and listen to the booms as they echo across the sky.

Is this Isaac’s birthday gift to us, perhaps? A group of people forced into even closer quarters with nowhere to escape or find distraction. We have to be there in the moment and wait out the rain. Albeit most are inebriated, we are all there together with nowhere to go. Maybe he just wants us all in the same place for a little while.

Once the rain calms down, Rachel and I Irish-goodbye and make our way home on the windy back roads of Canton and West Simsbury. In my room, I sloppily tear off my romper and plop onto my bed.

The thing is, I know I will see this group again. They are my friends. Some I know better than others, but I cherish knowing them, because the way I was brought to them, although heart-breaking, is so beautiful.

To be someone who makes an impact every day is important. Yet, if your impression on others continues to ripple out and echo across time like a loud crash of thunder, then your breaths on earth were not wasted.

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.

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.