Rachel

New Year’s Day Intentions

Here we are in the New Year. I would love to say I woke up early and and put on quiet music and did yoga and lit a relaxation candle and wrote in my journal and started off the year mindfully and properly and the way someone committing to a practice of yoga and writing and co-blogging about it should start the year.

But the truth is I woke up much later than usual (after 8 am) a bit bleary from champagne and hot toddies and drank coffee and raced off to return a rental car. Most of the day was spent unpacking and doing laundry and folding and sorting and answering piled-up emails doing whatever else attends transitions back to real life. I was hoping to, as my mother would say, “get ahead,” not just keep up. Not just do the laundry piled up, but fix something, get a stain out, organize a pile for Goodwill, figure out what in God’s name to do about the totally unsustainable current “solution” I have for the kids’ clothes. (My four-year-old’s clothes are still mostly in my room; My nine-year-olds are half in a tiny night-table chest and half in plastic containers and not fitting in either.) But I didn’t get ahead. I just treaded water. Stayed afloat. But I did it in slippers and sipping “Winter Solstice” tea–a beautiful combination of apricot and cloves and rosemary and other stuff too–from Java Joe in Park Slope, where Alex once worked. And I did have candles going and music and I washed and gazed all day at the new yoga blanket my sister got me.

We had planned to have New Year’s Eve company, but in the end did not. Planned to be away, but in the end, were here. My nine-year-old is a bit sick, nothing bad, but just enough of a fever to wear pajamas all day and eat saltines, leaving crumbs everywhere.

It was quiet.

I’d like sometime to write about resolutions vs. intentions.Resolutions sound fixed and closed-off, like they could be written in a ledger, accompanied by check-marks; goal accomplished—yes or no. Intensions feel more mystical, open-ended, more about sending out a hope and harnessing the power of the universe to make it happen.

As for today, I can’t say I followed through on my intended practice, I can, with four hours left in the day, under this Supermoon, follow through on intentions more generally, not to judge myself too harshly. This is what I did and did not do. This is what I’ve done and left undone.

I see that Kajal posted last week, wonderful essays posted on her usual days but with an expansiveness to her voice, I imagine, because for once she had a little more time to process the events of her days. I don’t know what gave me the idea that we weren’t posting last week, but it somehow got into my head and stayed there and I never signed in or checked anything last week. I didn’t realize she had posted until last night when I came across a stray email “Liking” a blog post whose name I didn’t recognize. I first felt embarrassed that I had not posted. Then I wondered what Kajal thought about it. Then I thought about how neat it was that she just went ahead and did her work and didn’t worry about what I was or wasn’t doing. There is something rare about that. Something gentle. Most people seem to seize the chance to “check in” somewhat critically. “Did you forget…..?” or “I see you haven’t posted…” or something else that gives them the upper hand.

There were days I did not post when I (now realize) I should have posted. Yet nothing about that feels heavy. One is allowed to make mistakes. Realizing it, acknowledging it, pausing to think about Kajal’s quiet acceptance of it, makes me feel light.

 

—Rachel

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Kajal · Soul

Lessons of a 99 year-old Yogi

On Thanksgiving Eve, I went for my much overdue annual physical. More than eight hours had passed since my last meal. My bladder was on the verge of exploding due to my paranoid obsessive over-hydrating. I was hangry and in a state.

Despite my efforts to hydrate, it took the lovely woman drawing my blood a hour to find a vein. When I got home and back online for work, I could barely type. With each keystroke, I felt like more blood was being drawn from me.

Light-headed, semi-starved, I made it to a lovely pre-Thanksgiving dinner with my family. Instead feeling refreshed and rejuvenated the next day, I woke up unable to turn my head left. The recurring literal pain in my neck had joined me for Thanksgiving day.

Not wanting to disappoint anyone, including me, I pulled myself together and headed to see my husband’s family. There I was greeted by the soulful smile and glittering eyes of Tao Porchon Lynch, also known as the world’s oldest yoga teacher and a close family friend of my in-laws.

We had barely started to speak about her recent trips to India where she had taught an audience of 11,000 people, when she kindly asked me to give her my foot. As she pressed firmly and deeply into the sole of my foot, the tightness in my neck started to wane. Enthralled, humbled and honored to have this precious moment with her, her words filled my soul. “Every day, I say, ‘this is the best day ever,’ and it is,” she explained. Truthfully, I was also a bit ashamed that she was helping to heal me, when as the supposedly younger one, I should’ve been taking care of her.

I could go on and continue to process this amazing Thanksgiving gift. I will probably write more about it as more epiphanies come to me. I just wanted to take a moment to write about the experience and share Tao’s spirit and loving heart is an example to us all. Wherever she goes, her pure soul brings out the best in others.

-Kajal

Kajal · Meditate

‘Countdown to 2018’

Santa has barely made his rounds dropping off presents to eager children awaiting his arrival with loads of milk and cookies. Christmas trees were just dressed to the nines, their lights and shiny ornaments glittering in wait as more and more presents were laden beneath their boughs. Now the cookies are all eaten, leaving only delectable little crumbs to pick up with your fingers and last bits of wrapping paper make their way to the waste bin, as we bid farewell to yet another holiday season.

Meanwhile dreidels are just recovering from making their spins. Menorahs buffed to perfection are placed back in storage for safekeeping. And the delicious crunch of a crispy latke is no more than a faded memory.

With these holiday traditions behind us, all that’s left with six days until 2018, is this ominous pressure to feel like 2017 mattered. Everywhere I look, it’s a “Countdown to 2018.” Before I graduated from college, time was infinite. I never felt the passage of time, everything was timeless. The only pressure I felt was being underage and finding something fun to do with friends. But every year, since graduating college, the passage of time becomes more real. The countdowns only add more pressure, much like the cork popping out of a champagne bottle on New Year’s Eve as the clock counts down and we celebrate the arrival of another year.

This period between the holidays and New Year’s is an odd sort of no man’s land. Despite having experienced it so many times now, it still gives me a sense of discomfort, and a slight twinge of pathos as I try to find meaning in 2017, the year. Like there must be something more I must be doing with my life in these final few days, besides repotting plants and sewing tears in jackets and comforters.

With six days and counting, I work feverishly to get ready for 2018 (including making a few resolutions that I am sure I will never keep) and make sure 2017 was the best year ever, to date.

Kajal

Hitting the Wall

My to do list was long today. It started at 8am with getting work done in the apartment, working all day with the usual phone calls and emails, dropping off a package at the UPS store and closing out with a trip to the dentist followed by a hair appointment. (Thankfully, every interaction I had, whether colleague or clerk, was truly pleasant.) I just got home at 9:30 this evening and settled in to write this blog.

Somewhere around 3pm, I hit a wall. Like my body knew the holidays are around the corner and it just said, “That’s enough, leave me alone.” I’ve been pushing through ever since, mentally crossing off each item on my ‘To Do’ list, each satisfying check giving me the energy to keep going on.

In one of my many interactions today, someone mentioned they are going on a trip to Mexico for New Year’s. It sounds so good. Soft white sand, a warm breeze and a cocktail with a mini umbrella in my hand. What a lovely thought.

-Kajal

Rachel

How to be calm

I noticed a tendency when I start a blog post to first vent/unload about all the chaos of the moment I am in. Sort of like when you show up a few minutes late to meet someone and in a frantic, breathless way you list through all the obstacles that blocked you on your way there or more generally, all the crazy goings-on in life that week/month/year.

That is often my impulse. First I suppose it’s a way in. A way to begin. You are here, but maybe not fully here or not sure where that here is. So you circle around for a while before setting in.

In some ways I think my days are objectively busy—I work, I have young kids, I drop them off and pick them up every day. My partner is outrageously busy now, working way past midnight every night, out the door by 6:30 AM, no longer able to help with cooking or cleaning in the evenings. But I know the reality is there are many people equally or far busier than me who don’t have that frantic energy. Maybe they do more yoga. Maybe they do more heavy lifting of weights. Maybe they’re non-neurotic. Maybe they don’t feel they owe anyone any excuses about anything. (Was it Julia Child who said, “Never explain, never apologize”?)

I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, that rush of anxiety that attends the beginning of something. Part of it I think is defensive, an excuse, pre-emptive—forgive anything I do or say that seems scattered or haphazard because I am, in fact, fully aware of how scattered and haphazard I am. I want to move away from that pattern. I think it’s very female. Talking about her female friends, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie writes in We Should All Be Feminists (Random House, 2014) about how important it is for them to be liked. “…they have been raised to believe that their being likeable is very important and that this ‘likeable’ trait is a specific thing. And that specific thing does not include showing anger or being aggressive or disagreeing too loudly” (24). It is only recently that I am connecting my frantic theatrics to likeability. What’s counterintuitive is that the frantic theatrics are annoying, so why would I perform them to increase likeability? That is the protective element. It is a bargain being made somewhere, for the most part below awareness—that it is better to be frantic even if it’s annoying than to be too self-possessed, too self-assured. To me self-possession and self-assurance often feels aggressive. My current question is this: Is it indeed a kind of aggression in some cases? Or do I read it as aggressive only because I was taught to go so far the other way, into the “Sorrys” when someone else drops something or bumps into me, the excessive apologies and maybes.

Calm but likeable women exist, but they are rare. The overlapping region on a venn diagram would be razor-thin, a sliver, barely there. I am trying to figure out how to move toward that calmness, that okay-ness, that slower and less-apologetic way of being and acting, but without veering into narcissistic self-satisfaction.

In the abstract, it’s hard to figure out how one does this. Perhaps it’s best to start with places where that feeling I’m seeking exists. In Kajal’s post from yesterday, which I just read today, I found it.

gratitude · Kajal

A few of my favorite things

‘Tis the season to be grateful. In all honestly, I am a bit tapped on the writing front from doing it for a living. So what better subject than a list of very random things I am grateful for, in no particular order, to help me with my personal creative writing process.

Tea. Green, Earl Grey, Chai, Chamomile…how do I love thee, let me count the ways. A cashmere glove of comfort enrobes me whenever I put my hands around a cup. Simply put, tea makes everything better.

Giraffes. Typically known for their long necks, giraffes also have the biggest hearts in the animal kingdom, weighing in at 26 lbs. In yoga, we learned about the jackal mind, which is judgmental, and the giraffe mind, which is patience, and understanding of people’s needs. Having a giraffe mind, one is truly linked to the heart.

Aromatherapy. Earthy tea tree, soothing lavender, herbal and healing eucalyptus all open up and free the senses.

Aroma Diffuser. How else to spread the lovely aroma of these essential oils, then with a diffuser?

Good Health. So last week, after writing about the need to balance chakras, mine completely broke down as a result of food poisoning. (Sidenote: My apologies, especially to Rachel, but it felt like my body was being invaded by a black hole and could barely operate.) Everything from my Root (Survival) chakra, to my Crown (Wisdom/Spiritual Connection) chakra was out of whack. The absence of health, and now the slow return of good health has made me appreciate mine so much more. My grandfather used to say, “Health is wealth.” Truth.

Wow, that felt good. Write what feels good, ooh, I like that. Give it a try next time you are feeling empty and need to fill up.

-Kajal

Rachel

Gray Days

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A gray day. An ordinary day—so far. Gray days with their simplicity, their lack of pulls and tugs. No finger wagging—”You can’t just hole up inside!” On gray days you can. I remember writing about them on my other blog, my main blog for 6 or 7 years. Here. It almost feels like that was a different person. Different persona, yes, but different person as well? Depending on how you look at it, yes.

Not a great run today at all. At several points throughout I had to coach myself to keep going not because it was so grueling, so difficult, but because it was just kind of unpleasant. I catalogued back through the recent days. No exercise at all on the weekend. I have so much work now that I was either watching the kids or working every minute. Same for Alex. (Trading off all weekend—That didn’t cause any tension–hah.) Friday was an activity at Wally’s school so I didn’t run. Thursday Petra was home sick. Wednesday I tried to run in the snow/wind and had an awful time of it. So could that be the reason for my sluggishness today? The long gap from the last real run? Or maybe a bad night’s sleep. Not enough water. Who knows? The compulsion always to track down a reason and pin it on that. A combination is fine, but some reason.

Why though? There are plenty of gray, ordinary, not-so-great running days or writing days or anything days. In Wendy Mogel’s book The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, I love her advice to accept mediocre days with the kids. Everything doesn’t have to be great, fantastic, amazing. A fabulous outing or wonderful crafting session or whatever. Our Instagrammed lives are exhausting to live. I know part of it is that, the pressure of social media, but part of it is just the difficulty of sticking with anything, any practice, where most days you can’t see any dramatic accomplishment, most days the endorphins aren’t flowing, the sentences aren’t pouring out. It’s the subject of my book, Writer’s Boot Camp 2, which was supposed to be in stores now (B&N) I thought. Can’t find it on the web and didn’t see it on the shelves this weekend. Although the advances did arrive at my door.

When my editor first said they wanted a Writer’s Boot Camp 2 instead of something more exciting (I had sent a list of about 10 possibilities for a follow-up to the first one), I was flat-out disappointed. But then I realized that the sequel is where things really matter.

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Setting up a sustainable writing practice, or yoga practice, or running or whatever it is you want to do, that’s the hard part. And that means you show up each day and do the work for that day whether you feel good about it or horrible about it or just mediocre blah. It’s a lesson I feel like I learn and re-learn and teach and re-teach myself constantly. That learning and re-learning is part of the process I was going to say, but really it is the process. How can it feel like a revelation each time? Maybe that helps us access, when we stop long enough to feel it, the sacred wonder contained in these ordinary days.

—Rachel