Relationship Goals

Same day, different observation. The two pictured above walked from the sand toward the shore. He in his little bathing suit. She in her bikini. I would say they were in their 70’s. They stopped several yards from the waves and lifted their arms up toward the heavens. Then, they began what can only be described as calisthenics. Arms up and back. Swinging. Bending. Clearly a routine they both knew. Describing it to HT he said, “Like Jack Lalane?”

“Yeah. Exactly.”

There was vibrancy in how they moved.

They appeared to be reveling in being active. In being active under the broad sky, looking out at the ocean and the horizon. They did not care about what they looked like. They weren’t hiding or covering anything up.

After their routine, they went into the water. She hanging back a little, going slow. He, diving in.

Their whole ritual took maybe twenty minutes. And they were off.

I was happy for them.

And I hoped HT and I get there some day, free, and happy, and out there in tiny bathing suits, not giving a rip about anything but the joy we feel in the moment. Not caring who knows it.

Safe Travels

After an exhausting month, and following an exhausting day, I dropped the girl off at school and headed to the beach. I had about an hour before I was to teach. I walked for a little bit, then sat in my trusty four-year-old $10 beach chair from Target.

A family walked by. Two boys. Maybe 8 and 10. One boy flapping his hands fast and furiously, appearing to be excited by the water, the freedom of the ocean air. It likely wasn’t his usual routine to be at the beach at 9AM on a Tuesday. They seemed to be on vacation.

Passing me without noticing me, I noticed them. My attention went to the mom. My heart went out to her.

Without knowing her story, I know her. Having autism comes with gifts, but it isn’t easy. It comes with challenges. When those challenges cause your child to suffer, you suffer too. So this mom has been through some stuff. The whole family likely has. And let’s be real, vacations with kids are technically not vacations for moms, as a rule.

Closing my eyes, I took a breath and sent them loving-kindness. I prayed for their happiness and that they be safe from harm. That they be healthy. That their lives be easier rather than harder.

I like to pray for unsuspecting people. It’s a good way to pass time while you’re waiting. I do it in line a lot. If you’re bored, antsy? Look around and pray for someone. And if you don’t pray…you can just wish them well. Or give them the benefit of the doubt.

If you want a real workout, pray for someone you don’t like. I did this recently and it really changed a very charged negative loop I was on about someone. It reminded me I didn’t really know her struggles, or what would make her act like such a hag.

What a relief.

Anyway…I hope that family is having the best vacation. I hope that boy is flapping with joy, and that his heart is content. I hope the mom is getting some time-outs, just for her. May they be well.

Safe travels, everyone.

The Only Way Out is Through

Reverend Michael Bernard Beckwith of the Agape International Spiritual Center often tells the story of a chick inside an egg. He says at first it’s pretty comfy in there. It has everything it needs. Enough to eat. Lots of room. As the chick grows, it becomes less and less comfortable. Resources begin to dwindle. It starts to fester in its own stench. It becomes toxic. 

The chick has to get out. 

The chick does not know what’s on the other side. But instinctively it cannot stay in the egg. It begins to peck. It begins to break free. It can’t know what is to come, but it will die if it doesn’t take action. And taking action is difficult. It can make your beak sore. It can take everything you’ve got. 

But once free, a whole new world opens up. A whole new life. 

How often do we stay in situations that do not serve us, because we are afraid of the unknown? Because we have no faith in what cannot yet be seen?  

The chick cannot become what it is meant to become within the confines of the egg. 

So it does the only thing it can do, it gets to work. 

Be it little ‘ole you, or an entire country, “The only way out is through.” *

Keep going. 

 

*Robert Frost

 

 

 

 

 

Blatant Suffering

I went to a Yin Yoga workshop recently with a Buddhist teacher named Sarah Powers. She explained that in Buddhist philosophy, it is a given that suffering happens in life. No one gets out unscathed.

So, there is suffering. But then there is something she described as “making the suffering worse,” or blatant suffering.

Suffering is an unavoidable aspect of being alive, but then we pour gasoline on the fire of our suffering, and really run with it.

Easy example: Someone cuts me off in traffic, I suffer. Maybe it was a close call. Maybe it scared me. But then what do I do to hold onto that suffering? What do I make someone cutting me off in traffic mean? What is at the core?

-He didn’t wait his turn.

-That’s not fair.

-I’ve been disrespected.

-I don’t matter (how far back does that go)?

-Fury.

How long do I suffer over this incident? Am I still suffering ten miles down the road? Do I need to be?

~

My child has a problem at school. I suffer. I don’t like to see my child in pain. Putting wind in the sails of my suffering, I look too far ahead. Off I go, predicting all kinds of future suffering for my child (and thus for me). Berating myself as a parent. Did I not do enough of this, or too much of that? Berating the other players involved. Lamenting why the world is the way it is.

Do I need to go there? Can I just be in this difficult moment with my sorrow? Do I need to heap onto it and make it worse?

Can I make room for my own suffering, rather than run from it?

Can I meet my own suffering with humility, rather than chesting up to it screaming, “NO!”

Can I just say, “Oh…there you are,” and offer it compassion, acknowledging every other person on the planet suffers too, at some point. Even if they put on a show, pretending they are immune.

The first step is to recognize suffering for what it is. In a moment of angst, can I be present enough to pause and name it:

I am suffering. 

This would be a good time to take some breaths.

And then might I ask, How am I making it worse?

More breaths.

~

Pain in my shoulder roused me from sleep this morning. It’s chronic, off and on, but mostly on. In those moments between sleep and awake I noted it as suffering. 

Lying there in bed, in the dark, eyes closed, I didn’t resist. Silently, I whispered to my shoulder pain, “There is room for you.”

Breathing,

breathing,

lifting into consciousness.

By the time I was fully awake,

it was gone.

Is Your Kid the Welcoming Kind?

Cleveland Circle of Friends (2009)

One day when Riley was in third grade, I met her on the playground after school and she fell into my arms, sobbing.

“Why doesn’t anyone like me?”

No one had made fun of her. No one had shoved her down.

But no one had included her. Lots of playdates happened every day after school. No one ever invited her.

Soon after, we started a monthly “circle of friends” group in our home. Initially, we talked about Asperger’s, and how it affected Riley; her gifts and challenges. We talked about how those girls could support her as friends, and they did. They were awesome once they were given the tools to know what to do. We usually did one activity, and then had free time and occasionally I’d lead them in a guided meditation.

You’ve probably given your kids the “don’t you ever bully” speech.” Or even, the “stand up for someone if you see them being bullied,” speech or maybe the “get help if you see someone being bullied” speech. But have you taught them how to include someone who might be struggling socially? Because excluding someone is bullying’s cousin. If done deliberately I would go so far to say it is bullying. But like the girls in our circle of friends group, I think many good-hearted kids simply don’t know how to include someone that doesn’t easily jump right in.

It isn’t just autism. It could be shyness. It could be anxiety. I have a friend whose sweet daughter (who happens to be chubby) was the only girl in her class not invited to a birthday party…in ELEMENTARY SCHOOL.

Even as an adult, excluding someone from a community has serious emotional consequences on the person being shunned. I’m not sure the popular people, people “social” comes easily to, truly get the long term ramifications of shutting out another human being. If it’s never happened to them, they might not understand just how crushing it is.

I know when a group of kids ignores the presence of a quiet kid, they’re not plotting, “I’m going to scar this person for life.”

But it can.

It also scars their mother.

Teach your kids to be gracious and welcoming. To look out for the one who is struggling. Teach them to be kind and to have the common courtesy to acknowledge every person in the room. Offer them guidance on what they might say to welcome someone who is shy or holding back. It can be as simple as a smile, a hello to acknowledge their existence. A stepping back and widening the circle to include them in a group conversation. Lead by example. Compliment others that are gracious with new people, (in front of your kids). Let it be known that you value this welcoming quality in a person.

My child has worked all her life on developing social skills and it still doesn’t come easy. She is so brave.

If your child were on a group hike, and sprained their ankle, and no provisions had been made for the injury..no choice but to soldier on, would it be reasonable to expect one or two kids to slow down, to maybe walk with that child? Might they even see some rich and beautiful scenery that would have been a blur had they kept pace with the rest of their classmates?

Would it be reasonable for those classmates to trade off? They of course don’t want to spend all their time at someone else’s pace, but could they go a little more mindfully for 20 minutes, and then let someone else walk with that classmate? Might they recognize and honor the one that is working harder than any of them, just attempting to keep up?

Would it be okay with you, if your kid was part of the group that ran ahead and left that child to limp for miles, alone?

A Text at Butterfly World

Yesterday I was with the kids at Butterfly World when a text from HT came through, asking if we were anywhere near Ft. Lauderdale.

No. Why? 

A shooting at the airport. 

Jesus. 

As details pour in we find this shooter is a mentally ill veteran. He asked for help. He turned himself in to the FBI. He “heard voices,” telling him to view terrorist material on the internet. Statistics say 22 veterans a day commit suicide and that likely is an underestimate. Our country doesn’t give a rip about our soldiers. Don’t even try telling me we do. We don’t take care of them. Patriotism at the top is lip service.

My husband, sickened, asks why we have to register our dog, but not a gun? Our car, but not a lethal weapon?

Florida Governor Rick Scott says, “now is not the time to talk about gun laws.”

Vice Pres. Elect Pence calls the shooting in Ft. Lauderdale “heartbreaking.”

Both men are loved by the NRA.

Our country is so very unwell.

Our children have become desensitized to mass shootings. I tell them it’s not like this in other countries. This isn’t NORMAL.

They want to believe me, but can’t really imagine it.

 

Puppies for Trump?

Yesterday, I barged into the teen girl’s room, pried the phone from her hands, set it aside and snuggled her. I told her she is an angel here on earth, and that God loves her and that she is doing just fine. Soon the dogs piled on and it was a mommy/daughter/canine heap love fest. She said, “This is what everyone who is sad needs. A mom to say nice things to them, and puppies.” I asked if she was sad, and she said no, not today. After lots of belly rubs and behind the ear scratches and many a “Who’s a good girl?/Who’s a chubby Chihuahua,?” there was a long pause, and she said,

“I wonder what would happen if we swarmed Donald Trump with puppies?”

~

Surprising Uber riders with puppies. 

* Surprising drunk young women with puppies.

* Surprising a little girl with a puppy for Christmas.

Christmas puppy surprise compilation.

 

She Shed Dreams

One of the hardest things for me about living in an apartment is that I don’t have my own space. In Cleveland, I had a whole attic. True it was cold in the winter, space heaters required, but it was mine. I could go up there, close the door and be alone. Alone with my books. Alone with my thoughts. Alone to meditate. To write. Sometimes, if I could swing it, I’d even take a nap. We had an extra twin bed up there. That no-frills attic was heaven.

When I was growing up, there was no quiet, peaceful space for me in the house. The TV was on every waking hour. I shared a room with my sister. Our brother had to walk through our room to get to his. It was a small house.

But we had a dilapidated detached garage, kind of like a barn. It had barn type doors. The back of the garage had a little shed-like room. I made it mine. The windows were covered with years of grime. I wiped them as best I could. There were shelves, made of cheap panel. The floor was uneven concrete, with deep cracks running through it. It had the greasy feel of an old mechanic’s supply shed. Once I got it “fixed up” I referred to this back room of the garage as my fort. I had a cot. And a plaid wool blanket & a pillow. I would go out there with a good book, and a snack. A bologna & American cheese sandwich with mayo, on a Roma’s Italian bread roll, (and a glass of Coke, if I was lucky).

My own little space.

A notebook.

A book.

A snack.

A beverage.

That’s all I’ve ever needed.

In my shed, I could stare at the grimy window and notice the sun glinting through, and go somewhere else. I could follow single drops of rain on the window, watching them make their way down, over and over. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was meditating.

A visceral letting down of the angst of everyday life happens as soon as I am quietly alone. It’s like taking off a bra, or tight shoes at the end of a long work day. Nothing is needed from me, for a moment. Without some sort of quiet time, without meditation time, I am not my best. Too long without it and everything/everyone gets on my last nerve. I need to write. I need to meditate. I need some quiet. I used to feel kind of prissy to need these things. Not anymore. I accept it as part of who I am. I come back to my loved ones better for it.

I thought it would be okay living in an apartment, because there is a conference room I can go to, to get writing done. But the conference room has air fresheners that spout off every so often and they feel toxic to me. I get a headache sitting too long in that.

I thought I could go to the rooftop terrace, but (poor me) it is so sunny and bright here in Florida. Often, I can’t even see my computer screen if I want to write. And it is too windy some days, and too hot others.

Yesterday I snuck off to the library for solitude and procured a study room. Two doors down it was mommies and small kids, making a ruckus. No peace & quiet at the library.

My children are on winter break. Presently, my son is in his room, headphones on, “rapping” loudly, thinking no one can hear him. My daughter is singing her chorus songs in the bathroom as she prepares for her day.

Our bedroom is out, because HT needs it during the day.

Where there is a will there is a way, and I can’t entirely blame lack of my own space for not coming up with a plan for writing, but it isn’t easy. Right now I’m at the kitchen table. Kids and dogs are in and out, interruptions are constant.

When I hit “publish” on the first post I did recently, after not writing on my personal blog for two years, I felt a huge sigh of relief. That feeling of letting down, after being constricted.

It sounds kind of corny, but in my own head I actually heard the words, “There she is.”

We thought about buying a house this year, but realistically we are not there yet. (Thank you Big Banks for the housing crisis. It was swell selling at the bottom of the bubble in Cleveland).

If we do ever buy a house again, it will likely be a small one. But a space just for me is a must. Even if I have to get a she-shed. Actually, a she-shed would be a dream come true.

I guess you could say, I kind of invented it.

Rampage of Appreciation

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There is a little park in the neighborhood where our son goes to school. The school is about 30 minutes away from home. I drive all over the place teaching, and often there is a window, sometimes 20 minutes, sometimes two hours, where it does not make sense for me to drive home, and then drive back to get him. I go to the park. I went today.

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I bring my little beach chair, which is always in the car. I sit. Sometimes I close my eyes and meditate. I always have my Kindle. The cat tails sway in the breeze. I pay no heed to the “Beware of Alligators” signs. I just don’t think I’m delicious enough to worry about them. And I’ve never seen one there. Just iguanas. And ducks and pelicans.

There is public restroom at the park, which is vital.

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Today I was doing kind of an informal, open-eyed meditation. Just observing my surroundings and I couldn’t help but go into a rampage of appreciation. If you are familiar with the work of Abraham-Hicks, you understand the term. It’s an appreciation binge.

Suddenly, I was so very aware that someone(s) had planned this park. There were likely lots of meetings and red tape. Someone had the idea for it. Others built it. They cleared the space. They planted. They constructed. They mapped it all out and brought it to fruition.

All I had to do was show up.

They brought plumbing in for the bathrooms. They paved the sidewalk and the parking lot. They mow the grass and trim the shrubs. They maintain the dock that I sometimes sit and meditate on.

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And don’t even get me started on the natural beauty given freely from the Divine. Every leaf. Every ripple in the lake. Every bird song. The smell of grass and earth and blossoms. The cat tails in all their forms as the seasons change; the sound they make in the breeze. The cloud formations in the sky; a different show, every day. A pelican streaming head-first straight down into the water for his lunch. An iguana basking in the sun. The feel of a cup of warm tea in my hands, and the taste of a chocolate cookie, bought at a nearby bakery.

A quiet moment. A break in the day where I can take it all in.

We are surrounding by blessings.

“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.”

-Meister Eckhart

Play

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I stopped at the beach for 30 minutes and watched this man play yesterday morning, while drinking my tea, (before teaching my Soulful Sunday yoga class). Since living here in Florida, I’ve seen the kite surfers, and always wanted to try. But it’s a pricey hobby, and our priorities are on other things right now. At this point, I’m not sure my neck could handle it anyway, with the injuries from the car accident. My neck did not like a recent NIA dance class I was enjoying.

What do you do for fun? When was the last time you played?

Once, years ago, my friend and I returned home to find HT and our kids, and her kid, playing a card game. We didn’t discuss in front of the kids, but later, we talked about it. My friend and I both had childhoods that got too serious too soon. We didn’t play games. We couldn’t fathom how anyone could just sit around playing a game. What IS that? Who DOES that? WHY do that? Wouldn’t our energy be better spent reading a book, learning, achieving something, etc.? (orphaned at a young age, she went to Harvard, and is a kick-ass beautiful and successful human, btw). Intellectually, we knew it was a good thing, for children to be playing, we were appreciative that they were playing cards, but we didn’t exactly “get it.” Not really.  Not in our bones. Incidentally, some of HT’s favorite childhood memories are of playing Yahtzee with his family. He’s always been willing to play games with the kids.

When I think about having fun, about playing, my chorus in Cleveland comes to mind. It was work, but it felt like play. It was serious at times, but being there was playful. It was fun. I miss it. Walking on the beach is a blessing, it’s contemplative, it feeds the soul, but it isn’t play. When I used to practice martial arts, in my twenties, sparring was play. I often found myself giggling with joy during sparring. Taking swing dance lessons with HT was play. A lot of laughter went on with that, as our 4′ 10,”  80+  year old teacher whipped us into shape.

Now, I’m sitting here contemplating not playing. I seriously can’t think of anything that I currently do that is just for fun. (Watch me use the quest for play to stress myself out). And frankly any time I feel playful lately, I feel guilty about it. The world is going to hell in a hand-basket; who am I to be lighthearted? Who am I to have fun?

But my spiritual teachers assure me, you can’t get sick enough to make a sick person well. My sinking, does not help the collective. It’s okay to have fun once in a while. It doesn’t mean you’re burying your head in the sand. It doesn’t mean you don’t care.

~

I left this post at this, and went off to teach this morning. As I drove home, I was still thinking about it, about play.

You know what is fun for me?

Blogging.

Maybe I’m right where I need to be.

The Man with the Cane

The line at the post office was long; people were shipping packages hoping to get them there in time for the holidays. A stooped old man with a cane was at the counter, a couple of spots ahead of me. It took an awfully long time for his transaction at the counter. I wasn’t paying attention as to why, as I was busy with the important business of scrolling Facebook on my phone.

When he walked back, out of the line, he stopped to look at a display of mailing envelopes. He pulled one out, and the stack fell over and scattered to the ground. Instinctively, I squatted down and had them almost picked up before he could bend all the way down to get the last one.

“I never do anything right,” he muttered under his breath, slowly placing the envelope back in the display.

My heart hurt for the man. I wondered if someone implanted that sentiment when he was little? Has “I never do anything right” been with him always? Or did it come with the process of aging, and losing the ability to do things as he used to?

Plenty of self-flagellation goes on in my mind. Less than in the past, but still that “voice” is there, telling me how much I “don’t do right.” What I should have done. What I didn’t do. How embarrassed I should be for this or that. How I didn’t handle x,y, and/or z in the perfect manner. I would never talk to my loved ones like this, but I talk to myself that way often enough.

I am 48(I think. It’s possible I am 49, but HT keeps track of these things). Do I want this to be continuing into my 50’s, 60’s, 70’s? My 80’s and 90’s if I should be so lucky to live that long? Do I want to be stooped over with a cane, still internally beating myself up for every little thing?

I don’t. It’s so tiring.

I feel like that little old man was a messenger, telling me to “watch the way you talk to yourself.”

Make mistakes.

It’s okay.

You’re human.

Be kind.

Forgive us our trespasses

Forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.

HT works a second job, part-time at a small compounding pharmacy. The owner of the pharmacy is generous enough to treat his employees to a nice dinner around the holidays, his way of expressing appreciation for all they do. We were having a fine time Saturday night. People had a few drinks. Dessert had already been served, things were winding down. I couldn’t really hear much from the other end of the table, it was so noisy, but then it happened. The husband of one of the employees, started making fun of someone with Tourette’s. This guy is generally the life of the party, joking around; he has people in stitches with his stories.

I don’t know how it started, but he was suddenly mimicking the tics of a grown person with Tourette’s, someone that he knows. Like he was doing a comedy impression. It went on for a bit. Then he talked about how the guy he knows, with the Tourette’s, was abused as a child, insinuating this caused the tics, or made them worse.

I waited for my husband to say something.

He didn’t.

The man quickly shifted his topic to being a (his words) “deplorable” Trump supporter. He was loud and proud about it.

I looked at Todd and what I told him with my eyes was IT IS TIME TO LEAVE.

We got up and walked to the other end of the table, to the owner of the pharmacy, who seemed so happy to have everyone gathered. As we said our good-byes I stood inches away from the “deplorable,” and had a vision of flicking him in the head as we walked past. That vision seriously came to my mind. What would happen if I just picked up a cloth napkin off the table, and twirled it tight and snapped him in the head with it, like a towel in a locker room?

We stood outside the restaurant waiting for the valet, our eyes met and HT said, “What?”

“You know what! How could you not say something? Were you expecting me to handle it? These are YOUR people.”

“Do you want me to go back in?” he asked.

I glared at him.

The valet pulled up with our car.

Taking out my phone I pulled up a photo of our son. The one with tics. The one that can suddenly, overnight, look like he has Tourette’s when a virus or bacteria causes his immune system to over-react and attack the movement area of his brain.

Shoving the photo in HT’s face I asked, “Don’t you feel kinda like you just betrayed your child?”

Eternity went by in his one-second pause. He bowed his head and replied quietly,

“Yes. I do.”

His willingness in that moment to be honest and vulnerable, turned the ship around. Had he gotten defensive it would have been so much worse.

It was a long, 45 minute drive home, and we fought some more, (with me texting a friend for support behind his back) but the edge was off. We were getting back on the same team. Once home, around 11PM, we walked the dogs, and we talked more. I acknowledged that this was a big night for his boss. And that confronting the “deplorable” would have ruined it, especially so late in the evening when there wouldn’t be time to recover the mood. HT said he would address the woman who’s husband caused the scene, and tell her how hurtful it was, when he saw her on Monday. Not that it’s her fault, what her husband says, but she was giggling along with it, and so were some others. I forgave him for not knowing what to do in the moment. The truth is, I didn’t quite know what to do either. I was stunned.

While I was glad he planned on talking to his co-workers, I felt the need to say some things too, as a mother. I wrote an email, describing who our son is, and what his struggles have been. I attached photos of how little he was when his PANS started, and photos of him now, because I wanted them to see his face. I wanted them to know that making fun of someone for something they can’t control is ignorant and cruel. I sent it to HT’s boss asking him to forward it to everyone that had been there. I hoped that even if the “deplorable” didn’t take my message to heart, maybe someone else in the group would. Maybe it would be an opportunity for learning.

Driving to teach a yoga class the next morning, I thought about times I have inadvertently offended someone. When you know better you do better, and there have been times in my life where I didn’t know better yet. Maybe he didn’t know better. While I feel it was the right thing to do, to address this, I also have to look into my own heart and know, without a doubt, that I have been on the other side of this equation. And undoubtedly, there have been occasions I’ve offended people without even knowing it.

This passage from The Lord’s Prayer said over and over in my childhood, my grandmother’s voice, with mine mumbling underneath it in church,…and said every night at bedtime prayers…..repeated in my mind,

Forgive us our trespasses, 

as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.

HT’s boss called the next day to apologize for not setting the tone at the dinner. The “deplorable’s” wife apologized via email and in person to HT on Monday. Another colleague also apologized via email, and in person.

I have gone back and forth about whether it was necessary to address this, in this way, and if I let my ego get the best of me. Could I have been a bigger person? Would it have been better to take him aside and talk to him privately at the dinner? Perhaps, but I didn’t have that presence of mind at the time, because I was upset. Because I am human. Because I was stunned. HT was too. Some people think it is cowardly not to address a person face to face, but those are usually people that have the words, right there, in the heat of the moment. They are good arguers. Quick tongues, quick on their feet. I need to think first. As a special needs parent, I’ve come to respect different learning styles, and different ways of expressing. I express through writing.

Forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.

In the heat of the moment, I freeze and can’t talk. Or I cry. I’ve gotta feel really safe to express myself when I am upset, and I didn’t know this guy. And he didn’t seem all that safe to me.

So, that’s how it all went down.

I felt like if we didn’t address it we were betraying our child and others like him.

Trump might have won the election, but it is still my country too. I don’t want my world to be a place where making fun of people with disabilities goes unchecked.

I didn’t flick the guy in the head. For now, that’s going to have to be big enough.

Yoga Stories- After the Crash

In March of this year I was driving home from teaching two back to back yoga classes on a gorgeous Florida morning. Traveling on A1A a, beautiful palm tree lined route that hugs the Atlantic ocean, I stopped at a crosswalk to let a pedestrian pass. She cleared my side of the street, and as I lifted my foot off the brake to proceed forward a car hit me from behind. There was not a skid mark on the road so it appears the driver that hit me did not even try to stop. My car was totaled. Ten months out I am still in pain from the neck injuries I sustained. I will likely be writing more about the accident and the aftermath here as I continue to process it. Below is something I wrote one week after the crash: 

screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-1-09-51-pmA week ago my car was totaled, with me in it. At first I was happy to be alive. My back wasn’t broken! My pelvis wasn’t smashed! By day three, I was really hurting. The chiropractor sent me for x-rays at a walk-in clinic, and for an MRI.

With three herniated discs in my neck, one torn, I am able to teach, but not demo. Teaching takes my focus off the physical pain and a mountain of red tape we have to deal with. I teach, but then I need to rest. I keep it together for an hour, and then I need to go lie down.

The walk-in clinic where I went for x-rays was filled with sick people. I tried not to breathe or touch anything, but ended up with a bad cold anyway. Now every time I cough or sneeze, I have to brace my neck with my hands or it’s excruciating. My head hurts.

Today, I went to the outdoor yoga class my teacher Leslie offers on Saturday mornings. I’ve done gentle stretching since the accident, but have not been able to practice. The class is vigorous and I knew I wasn’t up for it, but I needed to be in the presence of my community.

Lying on my back I surrendered to just absorbing the yoga all around me. A big part of me wanted to get up and prove what a trooper I am. It was all ego. I stayed on my back, breathing.

Yoga teachers say all the time, “If you come to class and just breath, you’re doing yoga.” But do we mean it? Could I do it myself?

I inhaled. I exhaled.

My ego’s next attempt to hook me was this, “If you can’t do the practice, then you will visualize it. You will lie on your back, and see the whole thing, and you will study! You will improve your teaching by really listening to the cues! You will do, do, do, do, do!”

Observing my thoughts was painful.

If I can’t allow myself to rest, after a serious car accident in which I was injured, (and with a bad cold like a rotten cherry on top) then when can I? If I can’t cut myself a break, aren’t I the hypocrite, encouraging my students to be kind to themselves?

Quiet tears streamed down the sides of my face. A gentle breeze scattered leaves from a tree above.

Breathing in, I did my yoga. Breathing out, I surrendered over and over.

On the way home, sobs from the trauma that I’d been holding in for a week had out.

I went to yoga and barely moved.

It was the most challenging practice.

Yoga Stories – Tibetan Bowls

I love teaching yoga. There is a new story every day.

One of my playlists features Tibetan singing bowls. People generally respond well to them. One of the ladies in one of my classes LOVES them. Any time I play them for shavasana, she is so happy. She tends to set her mat down in the back of the room. Sometimes just for final resting pose, I move my portable speaker back there, closer to her, knowing how much she enjoys the sound.

But, it turns out there is a guy in class, that hates sound of Tibetan singing bowls. After I’d played them lots of times, he took me aside one day and told me they hurt his ears, making shavasana feel like fingernails running down a chalkboard for him. I was glad he told me, and glad I’d at least been moving my speaker to the back of the room, since he usually parks his mat more toward the front, and on the opposite side.

What to do? What to do? I don’t want anyone to be miserable in my class.

Being ever so helpful, I decided to gift a CD of the bowls to the woman that loves them. If she can’t have them in class, at least she could play them on her own. I told her only to play them at home, never in the car, they might relax her too much. Hardy-har.

It was a few weeks later, when I noticed them leaving together in the same car.

Turns out they are a married couple.

I inadvertantly sent the singing bowls home with her, to torture him at home.

Oops!

If you want to check out Tibetan Singing bowls to see if they resonate with you there are lots of sites on You Tube. Put some headphones on, and notice the effect they have on your body. Even closing your eyes for five minutes and listening to the bowls can give the worry- weary brain a needed rest or re-set. Or, try playing them as background noise and notice if they have a calming effect on your mood.

If you don’t like them, I promise not to send them home with you.

Have you prayed for him?

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So you know, when people act out, it is because they are hurting, deeply. When people lie, it is because they are afraid. When people can’t own up to a mistake, it is because their ego is so fragile, from lack of love and acceptance. When people lack a conscience about hurting other people, it’s because they have no connection to other people. When they say one thing one day, and another a different day, it is because they don’t really know who they are.

I can’t imagine DT has ever been truly loved. I wonder what his early years were really like. Who hurt him? Who was mean to him? Who ignored his cries? Who made fun of him? Was he passed off to nannies that hated his parents and therefore hated him?

Was he ever told no? It doesn’t appear so.  A loving parent stops an out-of-control child from hurting themselves and others. It appears no one ever helped him learn to regulate. Spoiling a child is not loving a child.

The bully always acts out of fear. The bully and the bullied share the same vibration. No one who truly knows their connection to the Divine would ever bully another. He is so disconnected, so lost.

My tribe is hurting right now. They are scared and with good reason. DT stands to take away our most fundamental human rights, and maybe even destroy the world.

Anyone can hate him. It takes nothing to hate him. Pile on. So what? It only makes him hate you back, stronger.  He thrives on revenge.

When I meditate I shrink him down to a baby and rock him. I rock him until he stops fighting, and the sadness leaves his body. I tell him I’m sorry, and that he’s safe. That he’s loved.

It feels like the most radical thing I can do right now.

 

“…no need for silence, no room for fear.”

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I’ve been feeling the call to blog again, but I am scared. I am afraid of giving too much of myself (and my family) away again. I am afraid of the lack of civility that has descended upon us as a human race. I am afraid to put my words out there. I am a sensitive person. My skin is not so thick. It used to be, or maybe that was just bravado. But now, not so much.

I’ve been rather inward over the last few years. So much transition and change in my life. It’s been a lot to process.

Part of me wants to curl up in a ball and hide right now. And another part of me felt strong resonance with this quote from Toni Morrison that someone posted the day after the election.

“This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”

I do feel a real pull to get to work. To write. My hope is that in some small way, by exploring and sharing what’s in my heart, I might be part of a larger collective of healing. That is my intention.

Update

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I somehow lost my password to my blog, and could not for the life of me figure out how to recover it. All logical ways of resetting it were not working and so…I put it off, and put it off, and put it off…and finally just this week, figured it out with the help of HT and a man named Thomas at Liquid Web. I’m not ashamed to admit, I told Thomas, “You ‘da man!” Because he was.

Some folks have asked for an update, so here goes. We’ve been in Florida a year and four months. Riley completed her program at the school we moved here for in May, and has entered a regular public high school, a large one, and is doing extremely well. The things we hoped her school last year would help her with, it did. She is mainstreamed, without an aide in the class, though there is support should she need it. She has friends. She is in two after school clubs. She is truly making her way.

Seth is at a sweet private school (both kids changed schools again this year as we moved to get Riley into the public school with the good rep). He is happy and healthy. Still has tics, but isn’t too bothered by them. We thought we moved to FL for the girl, but the Florida sunshine seems to be a big benefit for him, keeping him healthy. Lots of time outside. He’s playing flag football and soccer.

I graduated Yoga Teacher training in January and this year it has been all about gaining teaching experience. I have taught my group of autism moms for the last nine months at a cafe. I am teaching at a gym. I am teaching on the roof of our apartment building twice a week(and getting a chunk taken off our rent for it..score)! I have taught at a resort, at a boutique, at a martial arts dojo. I have taught for Connected Warriors(free yoga for veterans and their families), and I am set to teach a Yoga Gangsters class starting this weekend(for kids in foster care). I am also blogging for the yoga studio I got my training at called Yoga Journey and I work the desk there once a week. It sounds like a lot, but many of these have just been one time subbing deals, so I’m not overwhelmed and am keeping my schedule in check.

We had a horrible commute last year, but that is over. Things seems to be settling down and falling into place. I underestimated how hard moving to Florida would be, but I feel like I’m getting my legs under me a bit.

HT is still cute and good. This is him at breakfast this morning. The palm trees are a reflection in the window behind him. He likes ketchup. He likes it a lot.

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Not a ton to report. For those who have inquired, thanks for asking. It’s nice to know you think of us. I hope everyone who has ever read this blog finds themselves happy and healthy today, and always. As they say in the yoga world, Namaste!

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Before the Body

This meditation has been kicking around in my mind lately. I wrote about it back in 2008 on my old blog, and I repost it here, with love.
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I want to tell you about a meditation I sometimes do. It is a modified version of something I read in one of Rachel Naomi Remen’s books (Kitchen Table Wisdom, I believe). She was working with terminally ill patients and using this to help with their fear.  She is a physician who endured Crohn’s Disease, and has done much work to bridge the gap between our health care system and the spiritual health of our health care workers, particularly physicians.
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You start where you are and go back chronologically in age.
I see myself now, then go backward in time.
To Virginia, to Maryland.
Seth is born.
To Illinois.
To Binghamton.
Riley is born.
Todd.
I envision what I looked like. What I felt like, at each stage.
At 27.
24.
When I lived in the DC area.
21. Fresh out of college. What did I look like? How did I feel?
High school.
Jr. High.
Elementary.
4 years.
2 years.
Newborn.
I picture myself as a fetus.
Floating.
20 weeks.
8 weeks.
6 weeks. An embyro.
A tadpole.
A cluster of cells.
16 cells.
Eight.
Four.
Two.
One.
It is here I always hesitate, hovering for a while, unsure.
The question comes, “….and before that?”
Finally, the egg splits.
I’m still here.
The freedom.
The exhilaration.
The peace.
The vastness.
I’m still here.
Before the egg.
Before the body.
I am.
I AM.

Ilonka loves.

Spoiler alert re: Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things. Skip the second paragraph. There is also profanity in this post. Be advised. 

Moving is no joke. Even when you land somewhere as beautiful as Florida, it is monumental. It is beyond draining. It is hard.

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Two kids each with their own issues, and the near constant advocacy required to keep it all going in new schools(one with a teacher who is well meaning and doing her best but with absolutely no ASD training). A commute that has me in the car between 3-4 hours a day in crazy traffic. The “clean” diet the kids require to keep them functioning at their potential. Supplement schedules, new doctors, dentists, specialists of every variety. And the good news/bad news looming knowledge we’ll be moving again locally when our lease is up in August, in an effort to nix the aforementioned commute. Riley has flown through her specialized program this year and will be ready for high school next year. Seth will be in a different school as well, starting middle school.

I have not written. I have not blogged. I have not visited Pinterest. I have not been on Twitter (not that I was ever much of a tweeter). Worse still, I have only read one non-yoga related book in months. Elizabeth Gilbert’s newest. Seriously, great book, but poor Alma. Will someone please have sex with her?

Did I mention I became a yoga teacher? I did. Smartest decision I made and I didn’t even plan it that way, but hello instant community of the most wonderful sort. I adore these people and loved every minute of the training. I’m hoping to help autism moms with self-care. Yes, yes, we teach what we need to learn.

Before moving, I let go of so many material things. Things I didn’t need. Things that didn’t serve me or my family.

Since here, I’ve also been letting go of behaviors. The kind where I don’t speak up and I tolerate things that are hurting my feelings. The kind where I self-sacrifice and co-dependently give to the point of my own detriment. The kind where I take on other peoples’ stuff, often without them even asking, and bear it for them, because I can’t tolerate seeing them in pain. The move just pushed me to the point of such exhaustion, I couldn’t. Could not. Could no longer do it. I was flat on the ground, thyroid/hormones/adrenals out of whack, last nerve raw, empty…not a brain cell or heart cell left to offer.

And then I spent some time kicking myself for not being more spiritual than that. More evolved. Move giving. More loving.

And maybe a better person could handle things differently than me, but turns out I’m not a “better” person. I’m just me. And there is some relief in that.

And some strength in it too. But boundaries come with sadness and loss.

I’m cracked open. Limited. 45 years old. 13 years into this intense uber parenting gig, and I’m fucking tired. Moving is said to be one of the most stressful events in a person’s life. Right up there with death and divorce. Moving with my kids? And doing it again in a few months?

The “perfect” mother friend wife sister is gone. None of you were fooled anyway, right?

So I’ve been doing tons of yoga, obviously, and it’s done its thing, filling me up with oxygen. Toning my muscles. Busting open my heart. Quite literally, a sternum injury the likes of which my teacher had never seen in 20 + years. It is better now, thank Goodness. My body seems to be re-knitting itself. Yesterday some weird thing happened and released in my legs. I could never touch my heels to the ground in down dog, and then boom…there they were, suddenly with no warning. On the floor. Grounded.

And I’ve been meditating religiously, just to stay afloat. To stay just barely on top of what could crush me. And I have the most beautiful man who adores me and for some reason finds me hilarious. And I have two pure hearted angels for children, and we four are so close. And my Hot Toddy reminds me I fostered that. I created this good family. And he reminds me I am good. And he gets fierce about anyone who says I am not. Even me. He’ll not have it. I say something bad about myself, he says, “That’s a lie.”

And I talk to God. I’ve always been good at meditating, and listening, but not so much at asking, and I’m asking God more and more, WTF? I’m so sick of working on myself.

And I breathe.

And I visit the ocean.

And the other day while walking on the beach with my family, I had a tiny glimpsy feeling that maybe I’d like to write something, a fleeting spark of me, coming back to myself, but then thought, no probably not.

But here I am and I did write. And I don’t know if I have it in me to do it again any time soon, but please know the kids are doing well. The weather agrees with Seth and his health is good. Riley is becoming more savvy and poised each day. Truly a young woman. Hot Toddy is sturdy and stable as ever. The dogs are fine, though it is a tad too hot for Jingle’s liking and her walks aren’t as long most days because of it.

And me? I am, as always, for good or bad, a truth teller, ever becoming. Older. Grayer. Hopefully wiser. Ten pounds lighter.

Speaking of truth tellers, the other day, Riley told me I have more wrinkles than I used to.

“Almost every one of them has your name on it,” I replied.

And we laughed! We are at the point where we can have that kind of exchange and laugh. She understands sarcasm.

She’s not so delicate. And I don’t need to be so measured.

I surrender to my own imperfections and limits.

And, I love.

“Ilonka loves.” That was my nickname at yoga teacher training. I’ve been using my first name, Ilonka, in Florida. Michelle is my middle name, in case you didn’t know that. And my teacher gave all of us Sanskrit names at our graduation, and mine was Anahata Devi (open hearted Goddess).

Ilonka loves.

More and more, even her own messy self.

And that ocean.

She rocks me like a baby.

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Speeding Ticket

25mphDriving in the residential neighborhood I live in, my eyes focus on the intersection coming up at the end of the street. Suddenly, there is a cop standing on the side of the road, with his hand up, telling me to stop, then directing me into the parking lot of a row of apartments.

There are two of them. Young bucks. One in a police car, one motioning drivers over. There are at least half a dozen cars pulled over. Speed trap.

He swaggers toward my car, sunglasses as armor. I roll down the window.

“Do you happen to know what the speed limit is right here?” he asks in a condescending tone, motioning toward the street behind him.

“I’m not sure,” I say.

“Where do you live?”

“I live just around the corner, but we are new to the area.”

“How long have you lived here?”

“A couple of months.”

“You’ve lived here a couple of months and you have never noticed the speed limit? You want to take a guess as to what it is?” He might as well add “you stupid shit,” to the end of his sentence.

He looks at my license.

“This is an Ohio license. Do you happen to know how long you have to obtain a Florida license if you are planning on living here?” (you stupid shit?)

I shake my head.

“30 days,” he glares.

I look at him, and nod, “Okay.”

“I’ll be right back. Don’t leave the car,” he commands. As if this mom in a ball cap and yoga pants is going to make a run for it.

As he walks away from me, his partner ushers another vehicle into the lot.

I have not gotten a speeding ticket or any other traffic infraction in 25 years. The last time I got pulled over was about 18 years ago. I had gone straight in a turn-only lane, on my way home from an intense therapy session. The cop was more hostile than today’s cop. He screamed at me, and I completely lost it. I was crying hysterically. To the point where he changed his tone and wondered if someone had died? Was I sick? Had I just come from the hospital with a bad diagnosis? He actually asked those questions. I couldn’t even respond I was so broken up. He let me go.

Today when the cop walks back to his police car, I close my eyes. Rather than taking in his attitude, I study it. The condescension is probably part of his training. It isn’t personal. It has to feel wrong to be setting up neighborhood residents who are really not going terribly fast, or causing any danger, just to get revenue. Or maybe not. Maybe the power trip is fully enjoyed, which is even sadder for his soul.

I think about the yelling cop from 18 years ago and a wave of sorrow passes through me for who I was and what I was going through at the time. I could not handle anyone being mean to me. Being mad at me. It’s still hard. But today I don’t crumble.

I start to “go there” with the victim thing. I don’t want to pay a fine. I am the victim of these cops and their unfair trap. Then I go somewhere else, where cops are total assholes. I breath that thought in, and then breath it right back out.

They are doing their jobs.

They are doing their jobs.

They are just doing their jobs.

I will not hate them.

I close my eyes and breathing, practice a mantra I’ve been working on.

My heart releases, my heart forgives.

My heart releases, my heart forgives.

My heart releases my heart forgives.

I think of Nelson Mandela who just made his transition. What he endured. I am getting a pinprick of attitude from these cops. And I likely was speeding. Mandela didn’t hate, even after being wrongly imprisoned for 26 years. I’m not going to hate anyone over a speeding ticket.

Breathe.

Breathe.

Breathe.

A spiritual teaching I value floats through my mind:

This is not happening to you. It is happening for you.

But why? Why do I need this? Why is this for me? What’s here to learn?

I remember me of 18 years ago.

I breathe.

I experience me right now in the present, with the calm heart. The me here, now, deciding not to be a victim. Deciding not to hate.

Breathe.

Breathe.

Breathe.

I am calm. So very calm. It’s strange, really. Take your time, young cop. Do what you’ve got to do. I’m good.

I have completely surrendered.

He comes back to my car and hands me the ticket. Hands me a flyer and tells me I can plead guilty or go to traffic school or plead not guilty, the whole nine yards. I look right at him, right though his sunglasses and into his eyes, with my calm.

“Be careful,” he says. I raise my eyebrow, because we both know this isn’t about careful. I was not a danger to society, and neither were any of the other cars lined up in the parking lot, awaiting their fate.

“Thank you,” I say, calmly.

He looks slightly puzzled, my reaction is unexpected. Then he walks away, politely stopping traffic so I can exit the lot.

Later, on the phone, I tell a friend about my ticket and, “I hate cops,” flies out of my mouth. But it’s hollow. It was just something to say. I can’t pull the hate up for trying.

This experience was for me. It helped me value where I’ve been, and where I am today.

It’s been some ride. I like where I am, and where I am headed (at no more than 25MPH).

Full-Soul-Ahead!