Monday, December 26, 2011


I've just finished Sharon Salzberg's text Faith.  I don't know any more if this was recommended to me by a friend or if I simply picked it up.  It was on my shelf, and had been started at some point in the past year.  And I spent some time moving through it in the past week.

Some lines I have to share:

"One of the most subtle ways fear can bind us, so quietly that we hardly know to call it fear, is what is known in Buddhist teachings as 'fixated hope.' Fixated hope, like hope itself, resembles faith in that both sparkle with a sense of possibility.  But fixated hope is conditional, circumscribing happiness to getting what we want"  (p. 81).

I hope we all have a sense of the world around us 'sparkling with a sense of possibility,' but also with the acknowledgement that happiness lies in a space that doesn't depend on an outcome.  

"Is it necessary to go through despair on a spiritual path, to endure a proverbial dark night of the soul in order to deepen our faith?  I don't know the answer to that--but I do know that it is necessary to strip away the entangling, unhealthy ways of relating to ourselves with dislike and diminishment that we are accustomed to.  And I know that we need to let go of many things, undergo loss, and unhook from the world's insistence that we cover up our pain in order for us to see what is really important to our lives" (p. 121).

I thought this was particularly salient as we move into the new year.  An artificial marker, yes, but a time when we are all looking to return to what's really important to our lives.  I'm hoping that's what our resolutions lead us to.

"If there is nothing we can do right now but wait, then, as T.S. Eliot wrote, 'the faith is in the waiting.' If we can but wait, we may yet emerge from despair with the same understanding that Zen master Suzuki Roshi expressed:  'Sometimes just to be alive is enough"  (p. 123).

Sometimes just to be alive is enough.
I remind myself.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


There are moments when I realize that it's time to stop and revise, remind myself of what the larger purpose is.  That time is now.  I was reading a blog earlier in the day and it said something to the effect of:  "Sure, take some time to visit with your bullshit, but keep it short."  I'm limiting my conversations with my bullshit as much as I can.

Yoga themes have been along this line lately:  "Let go" and "Manifest" were two of the latest.  I think we should all exhale.  I think we should all let go.  I think this will allow us to send out energies that will sustain the glory, the well-being, and the generosity of all around us.  I'm pretty sure I haven't been very good at this lately.  And I'm pretty sure I'd like to be better at it.

I am revising ideas I've been playing with for years as I put together thoughts for my dissertation.  I'm viewing and reviewing countless hours of video tape of my students working hard to become members of an academic community (and succeeding).  I am filled with pride at the work I do.  I am filled with longing to have this searching and researching mean something.  And I am reminding myself that there is a larger purpose.  There is.  And I exhale and continue.   I need reminders, as we all do, that there is so much more to this life than we can see.  There is so much more that we can offer to one another.  We just need to see.  And sometimes, "re-" is the answer.  If researching is really to search again, then we should all view this journey as a pretty big research project.  And we should recognize that we're all in it together.

Friday, November 18, 2011


Lately it seems that I am receiving the same messages from different sources.  The themes seem to build on each other.  I'm not saying it's a conspiracy or anything, but...
Yoga theme on Wednesday?  "Soften."  I was feeling pretty solid and clear, so the idea of softening to the world around me seemed like a nice bit of icing on my otherwise calm state.  I should know myself well enough to know that any state I'm in is subject to change multiple times over the course of days.  I'm convinced my core is just working through some "shit," and that eventually this will move out of my way if I'm conscious of it.  The stuff we work through not inherently bad, but it is inherently real if we are believing it.  I don't mind moving through.  I mind getting stuck on something.

Some messages headed my way this week from a variety of sources:
1.  "To use a metaphor from the Buddha, the unavoidable pains of life are its "first darts." But then we add insult to injury with our reactions to these darts...When you throw second darts, you are the person you hurt most. The suffering - mild to severe - in second darts is truly unnecessary. As the saying goes, pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional." --Rick Hanson
2.  "If we can stop locating our sense of self in the relentless surge of the monkey mind's slapdash chatter, we can be fully attuned to the life that's right in front of us. Only then are we able to want what we actually have...Here's the logical conclusion: It's downright stupid and self-destructive to keep infecting our imaginations with pictures of loss and failure, doom and gloom, fear and loathing. The far more sensible approach is to expect blessings." 
--Rob Brezny
3.  "Without realizing it, we continually put up protective walls made of opinions, prejudices, and strategies, barriers that are built on a deep fear of being hurt. These walls are further fortified by emotions of all kinds: anger, craving, indifference, jealousy, and arrogance.

But fortunately for us, the soft spot—our innate ability to love and to care about things—is like a crack in these walls we erect. It’s a natural opening in the barriers we create when we’re afraid. With practice we can learn to find this opening." --Pema Chodron

My take aways?  
1.  Accept the pain, but don't exacerbate it by dwelling on it.
2.  You may as well expect good things to happen to you.  
3.  There isn't any room for walls in wide open spaces (paraphrasing Buddy Wakefield on this one).
4.  The moment we soften, invite the vulnerability and fear in, that is the moment we are real, and we can face what is in front of us without artifice or irrationality.

Sometimes, really, it just takes these reminders of shared humanity, of gentleness with ourselves and others to diffuse a situation, and provide a reminder of what we're all doing here together.

Monday, November 14, 2011


This month's funk began benignly enough, as they often do,  on the heels of some excitement, and then slowly became less and less benign.  I moved from what I thought was a fabulous purge of energy and the slippery slope that is depression.  Crying, for me, is productive.  A need to curl up under a blanket without even the energy to read a good book?  Ambivalence about what I'm eating?  Not so much.  A much more interesting exploration of this phenomenon was illustrated beautifully on a blog recently (  Absolute brilliance and worth the read (and re-read) if you have a moment or two.

Anyway.  I'm not depressed (I was for a couple of days...a week?).  I'm now recognizing that I'm just in a bit of a lull, and I'm a little bit tired.  There's a lot of flux and uncertainty (You know that moment when you realize that you can do and be anything in your life?  Sounds great in theory, but the reality can throw one for a bit of a loop).  This is both a terribly exciting time and a terrifying one, alternately.  How I respond to this period of time is all about where I place my attention.  I found myself dwelling on things that had nothing to do with me or my reality in the last while.  I described what I'd like as my "ideal" life to a friend of mine recently, and she said, "I think you just described your life now."  Well, I'm a slow learner sometimes, and it took a few more references and allusions to bringing my attention back to what was/is real before I caught on to the fact (just today) that, indeed, I'm exactly where I need to be doing exactly what I need to be doing, and really, it's pretty lovely.  I don't plan on doing it much longer, but right now it's all I need to be doing.  Right now is a pretty nice space to live in.

Yoga, of course, three classes in a row was a reminder that where we place our attention is what we get more of.  (And, indeed, the dark thoughts, the monkey mind, the self-doubt was certainly feeding on itself and replicating itself exponentially).  I know this on a conscious level, but sometimes I let my mind just go where it wants.  Sometimes it works, but at others, it's simply ridiculous.  I do laugh at myself at these moments, but more often than not, click the tape right back on and keep listening.  Friday evening's yoga instructor said that as he was sitting down to meditate, he had a thought, then said, "It would be so nice never to have that thought again."  And, of course, it was the thought that swirled around in his mind for the entire session...and he said, "I realized I had no control of my own mind."  My therapist also mentioned that maybe I could consider that I don't need to figure out things that have nothing to do with me, or my "right now."  NOWNOWNOWNOWNOW.  Hmmmm....

A couple of weeks ago, two of my students asked me the meaning of "etc." as they had seen it written many times.  I spelled it out for them:  et cetera.  They looked at me and laughed, then told me they'd been reading it as an acronym for:  End of Thinking Capacity.  Now, when I find myself trapped in monkey mind, I simply say to myself:  et cetera.  etc.  Indeed.  No more capacity for those thoughts.

Right now?  I have some work to do.  Right now?  I wish I could see the people I love more often.  Right now?  I know that everything will always be in flux.  And right now, that's just fine.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Safety to Feel

I spent the bulk of the day in the woods with my dog.  We retraced steps we've walked before.  And on the drive into the mountains, I put my i-pod on shuffle and listened to a soundtrack both old and new.  I was reminded of times in the past when I believed something different than I do now, and in the peace of the day, I was allowed to mourn and be joyous in the same moments.

I am struck by the amount of love that surrounds me.  I have an abundance of love in my life.  I have met people in my life who have the capacity for such goodness and unconditional love, and I am never ever "alone."  I've been enjoying time with myself of late--craving it, and also craving connection with the women in my life who have buoyed me through many difficult times.  I pride myself on self-sufficiency, but I also recognize that this self-sufficiency is borne out of the knowledge that I have so many cushions if I fall.

In this space and in this calm, I have been (finally) processing the level of cruelty that accompanied my divorce last year.  I lived through lies, hostility, outright hatred, and my resulting confusion.  I've been confused about what transpired during the course of the divorce process (the parts leading up to it were pretty obvious in retrospect...almost textbook :).   I also know that I can't ever understand what motivates someone to act as they do, nor do I need to in order to move on and let go.   Memories resurface in interesting ways:  snippets of conversation, emails and notes written to me, actions that were (to me) hugely disrespectful.  And I realize, and this is where the sadness lies, that someone I counted as my partner for a number of years, was capable of acting like this.  Oldest story in the book, and I know it plays out a million times over in a variety of ways, and I know there are many many scenarios that are so much worse.

What I keep realizing, as I slowly let things come back to the surface, is that it's all fine.  There are beautiful lessons.  This beauty, however, doesn't mean there isn't some residual pain, and some disbelief. It just means that I mourn not only the demise of a relationship that at one time I must have believed in, but that I mourn the loss of an illusion that I knew another human well, and that he had my best interest at heart, and that he was capable of things he wasn't.  And these realizations are disconcerting.

I think it's okay to celebrate the present, but it's also okay to recognize the past and what's been learned.
Thankfully, I live in a present that offers me the safety necessary to feel these things with no fear.  That, in itself, is a luxury I don't think everyone gets.  Gratitude.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Harmony and Discord

Okay, I'm struggling with vulnerability.  Yep.  So, I thought I'd lay some things out here, and just trust that it's okay to let people know that, indeed, there are many times when I'm just not feeling like a rock star.  Discord.

I'm launching into my dissertation year.  This, coupled with a change in season, some feelings of failure at work, and a slight fear of the future, and confusion about how to make my present what I want, have left me in a bit of a black place the past couple of weeks.

I have found that despite the fact that cerebrally I know my life is really gorgeous, and that there are so so many things to look forward to, I have been a little flat lately.  A lot of this stems from the fact that I'm nervous about resuming my status as a workaholic, and the other part of me is afraid I don't know how to put my head down and do the work I need to do any more.  Some of the blackness stems from the fact that I have been cleaning up some dangling details from divorce (how's that for alliteration surrounding a negative experience?).  I don't like that things are still needing cleaning up.  I'm frustrated with myself for feeling residual feelings of anger.  But, there they are.  I'm not at all angry at the outcome, but I am angry with myself for what I let occur in my life.  And I'm angry with myself for being angry.  These layers make it messy to untangle what the truth is.

One thing I do know as truth?  If I don't go ahead and feel what I feel, it's going to sneak out of me in really counterproductive ways.  So, in order to figure out what I'm feeling and what needs to occur in my life to remedy it, I have to sit with it, not ignore it.  So, this week, I invited the anger and frustration in.  I poured it a drink, made up the guest bed (as it seemed to be hanging out for a time), and I indulged its company until it made me:  1) laugh at myself, and 2) take action.

Forgiving ourselves doesn't happen overnight.  Shifting from "what the hell was I thinking?" to "what did I learn from the experience?" doesn't happen overnight either.  It's a constant process.  And it's one that takes a lot of patience and compassion.  I realized that because I was sick of the process, I assumed all of my friends were too, and I was refusing to tell anyone that I was struggling.  Because, really, I like timelines:  After three months, you should be _____________; After a year, you should be _________.  How arbitrary these deadlines are.  How ridiculous to try to apply linear thinking to something so circuitous and messy as emotion.  How fabulous it would be if we could simply have ego-botomies (I hope you know what I'm trying for there even if it doesn't make any sense as I've written it).  The fortunate part of a process is that we learn from it.  The tenth or one-hundredth time something surfaces, it's familiar, we know it, and we know why it's there.  It doesn't mean that we're cured from having to deal with it, but it's no longer scary or's just what is.  Maybe I'm getting closer to letting go of the judgment I place on myself.  Maybe, one day, I'll be able to say, "it's neither good nor bad, it just is."

So, these feelings of discord will eventually lead to resumed harmony.  The nice part about faith is that I honestly believe this.  And if I can open myself up again, instead of shutting down, shutting people out and hiding when I'm not feeling like I wish I was, then harmony will be faster coming.  One would think this would be a lesson that I had learned already as well (see the judgment rearing its head again?).  My friends have never once said, "No, Lisa, I really don't want to hear what's going on with you.  I'd rather you were distant and strange for a while."  And I know I would feel the same way.  We want the shared humanity; we need it.  I forget how much love there is.  And how much patience.  And this is where I find harmony in the world.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


I have hit the moment in Tucson where I breathe a sigh of relief and realize I've lived through another summer.  For some reason, though, this shift in season has been accompanied by unsettled feelings:  irritability, confusion, inability to focus on what exactly I'm doing in the now.

I spent last year really grounding myself in my space and place and making my life exactly what I needed it to be.  And now I recognize, as we all do, that at any given moment we need any number of things that will not be what we need at a later point.  A friend of mine reminded me that self-care is a moment to moment process.  And to be really honest with ourselves, we need to always acknowledge that change is part of the equation.  

Unfortunately, the past month has been one of ants in my pants...I want to move and I want to move on NOW.  I've had this before.  I'm accustomed to these feelings surfacing recurrently in my life.  I am.  I also know I need to finish what I started here.  I want to finish what I've started here.  And so, this next month is data collection for my dissertation.  I'm alternately excited and completely overwhelmed by the prospect of the next six months of my life.  The excitement wins and I launch.  (Not without some feet-dragging and procrastination in the process, however...and the Saturday of, "I know I'll be able to focus if I just ride up Mt. Lemmon a ways on my bike...I know I will...")

What I do know, though, is that when I leave the present, when I try to leap forward to a place I don't actually inhabit yet, I can't function fully.  And I realize how much work it takes to remain grounded in life.  I have been talking myself out of falling into the trap of believing that just because I lived through a rough time in my life, that everything from here on out will be couched in a blissed-out state of enlightenment.  If only.  The work in life, I think, is taking what we learn in the hardest times and not losing the insights gained as we slog through the minutiae that makes up a lot of our daily life.

My goals right now?  Another purge and clean.  Organization.  Clearing space for a new challenge.  Remembering that I am doing what I do because it's what I truly want, and not because I'm being told to.  And not one person is watching to see if I pull it off successfully but me.  I like that, but I also know I'm my toughest critic.  Maybe I'll learn a little more compassion through this process.  

And I let myself fall into this period of reflection, of time, of space, of movement and of stillness...and I try to shake the need to jump ahead before I have the opportunity to enjoy exactly what I'm doing.  Because even in stillness, there is a lot of forward movement.  

Sunday, September 25, 2011


"Death" was one of the themes explored in yoga this past week.  It's funny because this idea of letting parts of yourself die, and others grow has been recurrent for me of late.
One of the quotes shared was about the idea that hell is often described as "pure."  Intensity of feeling is so often how we end up in our most raw or pure states...pure hell is what may lead us most quickly to powerful realizations or great changes.  I wish I remembered the attribution for the person who, when asked how he dealt with feeling like he was going through hell, responded:  "I stay there for as long as I can."  So often we try to gloss over any periods of negativity or pain.  My experiences in the past year, and as I reflect over the past decades, have made it abundantly clear to me that every time I feel like I'm going through something intensely painful, there is an equally positive reaction that occurs.  Physics doesn't lie.

And along with death, I've gotten to explore the presence of a new life in my home.  We have a foster puppy whose abundance of joy, play, wonder at the world is truly invigorating.  I'd like to capture some of it.  Maybe I will.  Pure joy is definitely a nice balance.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Home has never been a specific place for me.  It has been people, dogs, views, feeling-tones, emotions...but never a place.  I'm hugely domestic.  I love being in my own space.  I love making it feel like "me."  But at the core, the only thing that makes anyplace home is the feeling I have when I'm in it.

Home has included, in no particular order:
-a mesa in New Mexico with my dog Jack.  
-an alligator pine tree.  Same scenario.
-A kitchen with bright orange appliances as snow fell and Garrison Keillor talked.
-My car when the music is just right and I have a dog in the way back.
-A yoga studio with a friend, who feels like she's been in my life for so much longer.
-A voice on the phone who knows me better than I know myself.
-A cozy living room where I can curl up on a couch and cry if I need to, laugh if I want to, and all the time know that the people around me love me no matter what.
-My grandmother's kitchen.
-Homemade peach ice cream.
-Humid summer days.
-A tent by running water.
-Muffins and smoothies and Sunday morning conversation on the reservation.
-A forest service cabin in the woods with women I love.
-A back yard where stars shine brighter than city lights.
-My house when I have nothing left on my to-do list.
-The view out my bedroom window when I wake up in the morning.

I am, thankfully, in each of these scenarios.  At least I know I'm always present when I'm home. I think I may need to listen more closely to myself.  I need to listen to the times when I don't want to go "home."  And why.  I have been so grateful this year to finally, really, feel happy to arrive many many spaces.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Nothing But a Good Ride

Lyle Lovett, my sage, reminds me that this whole gig is nothing but a good ride..."there's something 'bout a sunrise waking up sleepy eyes...something 'bout a highway telling him he can't stay..."  And I have to agree.  And I feel like there's a really amazing sunrise in front of me reminding me that, yes, indeed, this is the "big show."

And I'm working on shaking patterns that I've fallen into...a need to be forever organized and not simply saying "fuck it, let's do it."  I traded in my subaru last week (for another subaru, but, still...); I went to a wedding over the weekend and danced.  I flew back into town and went directly to yoga with a friend of mine instead of agonizing over the fact that I wasn't quite prepared for work the following day.  The most amazing part?  It all got done.  The day went beautifully.  Students learned.  I was relaxed.  Who knew?

I am still in awe of how we, as a society, and as women, still place so much emphasis on finding someone to marry, and so much emphasis on romantic love.  I have a difficult time believing that there is something missing in any of us that can be assuaged by getting married.  I am pretty sure that if there's a hole that needs filling, it will still be there, or it will get bigger if we choose to embark on a journey with someone else without acknowledging it.  I am pretty sure that the only people who can figure out what each of needs is us.  I don't think that finding a guy (no matter how fabulous he is) is going to solve much.  I keep wishing there were media messages feeding young women with the knowledge that they are the most awesome creatures ever, and that a partner is only someone who helps you be an even better you than you thought you could be--not that finding a partner is the only way to become a better you.  I've never bought the whole fairy tale, nor have I ever thought there was someone out there who could "complete me."  I am wholly aware of the fact that being in love is really really fun.  No doubt.  But to tie this to identity?  I'm hoping we can find some ways to revise this narrative.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

In a Groove

The theme at yoga last night asked us to consider the grooves we carve in our lives as we make choices about how we spend our time and how we react to situations.  We make choices at every moment, every day.  I like a lot of my choices, but I realize that some of the grooves I'm stuck in aren't leading me where I want to be.  It's pretty liberating to know that all it takes is a slight shift and I can make a change in course.

A foot injury has taken a toll on my usual routines (and I really really like my routines).  However, I am realizing I can establish new ones that will allow for healing, and that may just offer up some new opportunities and perspectives.  Tonight I was driven to the pool by a need for movement and the oppressive heat that is taking a toll on me (as it always does in August).  Every time I breathed west I was afforded the most brilliant view of the sun setting beyond the storm clouds that hover (and don't ever seem to storm).  The combination of moving through the water, hearing the silence, and being treated to a visual show every time I breathed reminded me of the importance of simply taking the plunge (excuse the pun) and enjoying the time I have and how I spend it.

I've been having a difficult time getting into the groove of the new school year.  I feel slightly off balance as I have watched some of my plans fly a little lower than I'd hoped with my new group of students.  I finally remembered today that sometimes this just doesn't matter.  That it's more about the softness in your eyes, the love feelings, and the easy laughter that make things work.  It's not what I have written on the page as my plan.  It's not the handouts I make.  It's not the fact that the closure wasn't as solid as I'd hoped.  It's the ability to be real in the moment with a group of people who very much need for me to be.

Teaching is a pretty solid metaphor for life:  If you get flustered, everything gets worse.  If you laugh at yourself and the situation, it diffuses.  If you move through with love and not fear, things fall into place as they should.  A good plan is only as good as its responsiveness to the present moment.  And all of these choices become habits.  All of these choices inform the groove that is worn into the fabric of the classroom, my day, and ultimately,  my life.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Forgiving Me

I have spent the day in a flurry of lesson plan writing and handout printing.  And I realize I am back where I belong.  This realization requires some self-forgiveness.  I feel like I owe myself a huge apology for the past years of my life.  But I also have to remind myself that I wouldn't know that I am exactly where I need to be if I hadn't taken some it's a quandary.

So, to be concrete for a bit, here are the things I am sorriest for...Note to self:
1.  I am so sorry I didn't know what love was.  I am sorry I let myself enter a relationship that seemed like the real deal without noting all of the signs that it wasn't.  I promise I kept thinking that it could be.  I know, I know, no more Emily Dickinson and "dwelling in possibility."  I'm fully grounded in the reality of situations now.  I promise.
2.  I am sorry I let myself become depressed, and I am sorry that I didn't recognize that the reason for this was my choice in partner.  I looked for other reasons.  I ignored the one right in front of me.  I kept hoping it was because I was working so much.  Whoops.  Inverse was true:  I was working so much because I didn't have any reason not to.
3.  I am sorry that I changed my name.  I know, this is causing a huge series of headaches as you try to rectify it.  Maybe you can cut me some slack on this one.  Or not.
4.  I am sorry that I'm such a perpetual romantic that I never considered a prenuptial agreement.  Nuff said.
5.  I'm sorry I fought for resolving conflict and figuring out how to salvage a commitment.  I know your ego has taken a hit over this.  But, truly, I had to make certain--it was a big life decision, and not one that I had in my repertoire.  I had to act on my beliefs at the time.  I understand it was misguided, but it's never easy to simply admit you made a mistake.

I don't need apologies from anyone else, nor do I seem to have anyone to forgive but myself, and this seems to be the most difficult thing I've done in some time.  The scariest realization in the last while?  It's that there isn't anything I've missed about the partner I lived with for a decade.  This, in itself, deserves an apology.  There aren't any moments of "if only" or "wow, it was so cool when..." or "I loved how he..."  Wow.

If I can give myself the benefit of the doubt, and if I can stop beating myself up for my stupidity, I can enjoy what I do have:
1.  A gorgeous life filled with truly amazing people.
2.  Lots and lots of love.
3.  A job that is both challenging and truly truly amazing...on every level.
4.  A dissertation to write, that can finally be written...and well.
5.  A belief that the future holds more than I could have imagined just a year ago.
6.  A lot of laughter.
7.  Me.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

And we begin again...and again

The beginning of a new school year (as a teacher) brings with it an assortment of interesting emotions--sadness that the summer is ending, and that there's never been as much time as I'd hoped; excitement at the prospect of beginning fresh; mild anxiety when I realize I'm not as prepared as I thought I would be...lots of good lessons for simply taking things as they are and not as I wish they would be.

My friend Faith and I had a conversation this summer about the fact that we had alter egos: "perfect Faith" and "perfect Lisa" out there somewhere who woke, ran a few miles, sipped green tea, and were always calm in the face of any circumstance (of course the list could go on and on about what these perfect women would do with their days).  I like the idea of this perfect me living out her life in a parallel universe.  She gives me something to aspire to, though I think she might be a little boring in her perfection.  :)

And my classroom is more akin to the real me than the perfect me.  I like to think I'll paint the walls, line the window sills with plants, have the year's lessons completely planned in advance...but the real me spends too much time thinking about the big picture, wrestling with concepts that make the most sense to address, and then, when the year is about to start?  I need to reign in this thinking and make it concrete enough to implement.  And I put this off until it cannot be any longer.

Regardless, I love beginning again.  Each day.  And knowing that all along I've been here...that it's all just a continuation and refinement of previous experiences.  I love stumbling through.  I love having something to work toward.  I love the fact that what I'm working toward, and what I consider important to focus on shifts and changes.  I love the fact that some of these areas of focus remain constant, because this shows me who I am, who my core "me" is.  I continue to work on living a life that is both true to my belief system and in a way that puts positive energy back into the world (I fail on occasion :).  I continue to work on being compassionate.  I continue to allow my heart to break wider and wider open to take in all that's around me.  I love that love is a renewable resource.  I continue to acknowledge that the world is not always fair or kind.  And I acknowledge that I hate bearing witness to that, especially where youth are concerned, but it is the truth of the world we live in.  I'm pretty sure the perfect me is working on a lot of these same things.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


I didn't know I was someone who couldn't see themselves clearly.  I've always prided myself on allowing myself to be exactly who I am, and to feel comfortable in my own skin.  I've looked around at my friends and thought, "How can you not see how fully amazing you are?"  There's a generosity that we hold for others that we don't always for ourselves.  I know I've considered this many times.  Today my therapist offered me an alternative word for "dork" which was "genuine."  And I am sitting with this.

I spent last weekend with a friend who is about as genuine as they come.  We  hadn't seen each other in a number of years, but we fell into step as if there was no time between us.  A genuine connection between two people who are fully able to be genuine with one another.  There are so many life events and societal factors that cause all of us to retreat from our true selves, to step behind some easy facade that seems to be co-constructed by doubt, fear, and unease.  When faced with a facade I recoil.  It would be infinitely easier to hide behind something that's been condoned by society (or our perception of what's been condoned) as if we were teenagers who needed to wear the right brand of jeans in order to feel okay about ourselves.  We've been taught this for so long.  It's a challenge to not literally buy it all.

I'm turning 41 years old tomorrow.  I'd like to believe that I don't need a facade (or botox or a butt lift).  I'd like to believe that I won't worry ever again about what someone else thinks of me.  I'd like to believe that I can move through life never doubting that who I am and what I do is just fine.   I'd like to believe that everyone around me can do the same.  Maybe the most generous stance I can take is to allow everyone else to sift through their own stuff as I do mine.   I'd like to believe that the value of each of us is found in what makes us exactly ourselves, and what allows us to offer something new and unique to the world.  The benefits to society would be exponential.  I can't imagine what there is to gain from hiding.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Grounded...or at least not in flight

I received a text message today from a man I met recently.  He told me that he had jumped out of a plane--a first in a series of firsts for him since his divorce last year.  I realized that what had been plaguing me in the past weeks, as I embarked on a series of work trips that alternately exhausted and invigorated me, is that I am looking for less redundancy and more new experiences in my life.  I don't want to do things for the sake of their being "new" or "different," but I also don't want to fall back into patterns of too much work and sacrifice and not enough play and frivolity.  However, I'm also recognizing that much of what was causing the feeling of redundancy was my mindset.  

What I want is to make certain I move forward through time being very purposeful about how and why I spend my time and energy--as well as the frame of mind I'm cultivating while doing so.  I don't think I'm alone in this, and I also think it's one of the most challenging aspects of life.

I've flown about the country this summer for a variety of reasons, and each offered something beautiful, challenging, and that taught me greater patience.  I also realized, however, that I am in need of tending to the world I inhabit for the bulk of my time.  I'm approaching the beginning of a new school year (tomorrow) and I realize that the patterns I build in my everyday life are what are going to define how I feel and, ultimately, are much more important than any planned vacation or escape.  My day to day reality is what is my life for the most part.  What I want is a continued focus on what's surprising and beautiful, unique and powerful right here, right now.  I don't want to miss out on my world because I'm looking for something "bigger" that removes me from it.   It's a pretty big life I live.  I need to remember this.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Negotiating Tensions and Limitations

I have found myself in a very non-yogic state of feeling tension as I negotiate my schedule and make decisions about how to spend time.  Some of it is a matter of obligations, some is a matter of not quite knowing when to say "no" and when to say "yes."  There have been so many things I'm dying to say yes to:  visits with friends around the country, Lyle Lovett in concert in a tiny mountain town, an extra night in a beautiful setting... but I have to also acknowledge that I've made commitments (for work, for practical reasons) and my "free" time has gotten shorter than I anticipated.

There are sillier negotiations and limitations I place on myself that really shouldn't exist.  Time spent  wondering what to do instead of just doing is not productive and ends up frustrating me.  Yoga on Thursday evening reminded me that "limitations" (at least according to Douglas Brooks) are actually spaces that offer up greater freedom.  And I understand that--within a structure, I am most often able to feel most free.  But when I'm building new structures, or when my routines are shifted by travel (whether for work or play), I need to develop more grace as I embrace the shifts.  Of late, it seems, I am being haunted by tasks that I can't seem to complete, and even as I take a "break" these tasks are weighing on me.  Instead of giving myself the absolute break I need, I try (futilely) to direct my attention and energy back to these tasks.  This will pass.  I've seen this before in myself.  Apparently I have more work to do in this area.

There are also tensions that arise as I try to negotiate intimate relationships.  A dear friend reminded me recently that despite the fact that I have long harbored dreams of being a hermit, my relationships with the people I love are the most important aspect of my life...and with these, there will always be some clumsy moments when we try to make sense of what we need and what we have to offer one another, and there will always be compromises.  And, for the first time in my life, I am realizing that all of my intimate relationships are indeed equal--there is not a different criteria for romantic relationships vs. platonic friendships.  When I can view them equally, I make better choices, and I am able to be more honest in my romantic relationships.  

I am also trying to wrestle with the balance of how much time I need alone and how much I am able to spend with others.  This is a recurrent theme for me.  Introverted as I am, I need time to regroup before I can enter back into social realms.  And when trying to include new relationships in the picture, I find myself stumbling and clumsy...but learning.

And my own limitations may just open up new spaces and everything seems to.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bittersweet Bliss

Brian Andreas, who writes the beautiful Story People nuggets ( wrote one of my favorite images called "Bittersweet":

She said she usually cried at least once each day not because she was sad, but because the world was so beautiful & life was so short.

I was reminded of this story yesterday when I simply had to sit down, breathe, and realize that, indeed, the experience I was having was my life, is my life.  I stood on the beach on the central California coast and my legs gave way and all I could do was sit and let tears run down my face.  I was not and am not sad.  I am awed.  I am letting go of the last little bits of exhaustion and disbelief.  I am breathing in wonder.  And I smile.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Beauty and Trust

I sat tonight at the botanical garden with a beautiful friend, listening to a lovely singer-songwriter play.   Hawks and hummingbirds were in the audience.  The temperature released its oppressive stranglehold.  And I thought to myself, yep, all is right.

And I'm thinking about my own views on beauty.  I have seen more beauty in this world as I've slowed to look around this year than I have in a long time.  It's been refreshing, revitalizing, and renewed my capacity for wonder and enchantment.  However, I lose sight of what's around me at times.  I lost my feelings of gratitude and bliss for a couple of days--succumbing to fears, ancient defense mechanisms, and frustration with myself because of this.  Thankfully, I have been conscious enough of late to at least recognize when I lose consciousness.

Today's yoga theme was focused around the idea that every interaction we have is an opportunity to create a beautiful work of art--that we are able to create beauty in every moment, every shared expression, and in our poses, our conversation and our actions.  There are times when I'm feeling raw and exposed and I would like to simply hide from the world.  And I'm sure that my fellow humans would be happier if I did sometimes.  :)  However, I'm also recognizing that there is a generosity of spirit in those I surround myself with, and that fissures and flaws are allowed.  Who knew?

And I continue to think about what I project into the world.  I'm hoping it's mostly positive, but also know that there are times when I have some work to do.  I can't excuse myself, but I can continue to do the work necessary to bring myself back to right, so I can shine out what I believe instead of what I fear.
If I want to have an open heart, then...well, I need to keep it open in all circumstances.  I have an awfully easy time saying that I have courage when there aren't any situations in my life that demand it.  If I want authentic connections in my life?  Well, I'm going to have to let myself be seen.  We all are.  And, really, who would have it any other way?

I turned to my friend tonight as the sun was setting, highlighting the hawk's nest in the tree above us, and as a woman smiled and sang her heart, and I said, "we have a truly beautiful life."  And we do.  This is my truth.

Monday, June 13, 2011

No Judgment

Is it really possible to live without judging yourself?  I am truly hoping so.  I realize there are layers to my experience when I feel like I've screwed up:  1)  I acknowledge that I haven't been fully present and have acted in a way I don't like; 2) I beat myself up for it; 3) I let my mind run rampant--"geez, how could you be so stupid"; 4)  I apologize, but think there's no way the other person is not judging me and cataloging my flaws.  I've been sifting through this and realize there's no way I would judge someone else as harshly as myself, and also realize that what I do is make something small about ten times larger than it needs to be.

I keep trying to develop my courage to be recognize that I screw up, and that it's okay, because, really, who doesn't?  But, and there's a big "but" here, it's a challenge.  It's easy with people who've known and loved me for years--and I've surrounded myself with these people all year.  It's more difficult to let new friends see all of who I am.  I finally built up a little armor this year, and now that I need to let some of it down, this requires a whole new negotiation.  I have counted myself hugely lucky to have been spending time with someone who I feel totally free to be myself with, but realized recently that this applied only when I didn't feel I had said or done the "wrong" thing. This level of vulnerability is much different than being fully transparent in front of people who've seen through me many times.

I think, though, that it's not a matter of being afraid of being imperfect (I'm pretty clear on who I am and I kinda like me), it's not trusting that new people I engage with are who they say they are, or that they accept me exactly as I am.  I need to remember to put this baggage down.  I like to think I'm a pretty good judge of character, but, as history will attest, this doesn't always extend to the men I let in my life.  Maybe part of growing up is realizing that I have grown in this area too, and that people I allowed in my life in the past are most certainly not people I would engage with now...Still, this takes some doing for me.

As I continue to unpack these ideas, I am not sure why I find it necessary to qualify so many things.  I like to eat junk food sometimes.  I like to have a glass of wine (or two) on occasion.  I like to lounge about my house and do nothing when I feel like it.  I don't mind if my house gets messy sometimes.  Why not just accept that this is who I am and not worry?  I am rewiring the tape that plays in my head, and realizing that most of it is not even my tape--it's as if I've adopted, through osmosis, the ideas of another that were handed to me way too often in the past decade  ("You're not _____ enough.  Shouldn't you be _____?")  I don't think these messages deserve any more power.

So...solution?  Explanation and communication--and reminding myself that I'm not an asshole, but sometimes screw up when I'm not paying attention.   A friend recently reminded me that I should assume positive intentions, and I realize I have to hope that this assumption is extended to me as well.  It's funny, I apply these presuppositions to perfect strangers--people who cut me off in traffic or don't see me while I'm riding my bike, but I don't always have the same perspective when dealing with relationships that feel more vulnerable.  More work to do.  Wouldn't it be so cool if there was an endpoint to the work?  That every new situation didn't come with its own new learning?  :)  Nope.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Past in Present

Times of transition and new beginnings offer space for reflection.  I've been sifting through research done a decade ago as I rewrite my dissertation proposal for the coming school year.  I'm amazed at how lucid my thinking was and how my current goals are simply extensions of the stories I've been wanting to tell since I began teaching--allowing the voices of students to speak for themselves and offer insight.

A decade ago, I wrote about my experience teaching on the Navajo reservation:  "I watched myself change.  It will take some time to recover, but when I do I will be stronger than I ever thought possible.  I have been furious, I have been sad, but I have also felt triumphant and cried from happiness."

It appears that my biggest moments of growth occur when I am forced to confront truly incongruous ideas and ideals.  The conflict, for me, offers up insight that I couldn't come to in any other way.

This mirrors my experience with marriage and divorce.  I will carry the experience with me into my future.  It informs who I am and how I live.  I have emerged, however, with an even stronger clarity about life, love, and myself than I thought possible.  A year has passed, but it's been one of those years when every week is a month.  I said goodbye to my therapist last month, and she and I spent some time laughing about where I'd been:  Remember the "this is all my fault" phase?  Or, "here is where you finally got angry...I'd been waiting for that..." and "thank god, here's where you realized this wasn't about you..."  And we recognized the fact that every single step was necessary to move forward intact.  And the beauty is that when you process all of your shit as it surfaces, you get to emerge freely and fully.  And you get to choose what informs your next move.  The past doesn't own you; it just provides some really cool insight.  I love my life.

And I love every bit of my past that informs who I am.  I'm not proud of everything, but I wouldn't trade.

And I am reminded of an encounter I had with a young person, and one that reminds me that we are all magic...even when we forget it:
"I am a queen.  Do you want to bow for me?" she asked.
I did and I will again, I am certain.  She, at 3 feet 7 inches is the most imposing figure in the room. 
"I am a cowboy now.  Check it out."  And she is: the swagger, head cocked to the left and eyes squinted for an ensuing gunfight.
"You are magic," I said.
"I know," she replied.

Hopefully, our past will always inform our present...

We are magic.  And every step in life is making us more so.  Every single one...even when it feels like a misstep.  Here's to self-correction, to beauty, to recognizing the beauty in ourselves...and to allowing others to see it.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Capacity, Possibility and Abundance...whew

There are moments when we shrink our capacity, when we expand it, and when we completely seal ourselves off.  In conversations with friends of late, I'm noticing that we're all continually revising our willingness to engage in different experiences in life based on our capacity:  emotional, physical, spiritual, etc. The trap I fell into for a long time was not acknowledging that there were moments when I was full up and couldn't take on any more...and kept taking on more anyway.

I'm proud of us for questioning, for prioritizing, and for saying no when we can and should.

When we can be in spaces we can truly inhabit, and not lose ourselves in constant movement, we can fully see possibility...

And as this school year comes to a close, I realize that there are so many lessons I've learned that I wouldn't trade for anything in this world:
1.  It's completely acceptable to let others know you need them.
2.  It's more than acceptable to set boundaries for what you will and will not do.
3.  Happiness is not something to feel guilty for.
4.  The grass is never greener.  We all stand on our own ground, and it is exactly right.
5.  When you least expect it, bliss will hit you.
6.  We all deserve these moments.

If someone had told me last year at this time that I would feel this light and completely aware of all of the abundance around me, I wouldn't have believed them.  I also know that had I not processed the world and my own experiences as I did (though some of my reactions to circumstances leave me feeling sheepish), I would not be able to walk out as comfortably.  Robert Frost's statement, "the best way out is always through" hits home just about now.

Lest I come across as all Pollyanna, I recognize that this is not a permanent state.  But I was reminded by a lovely friend this evening, as I started to move forward into all I have to do soon, to simply bask for a moment in the completion of one task...and enjoy it for a moment.  And I will.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Stability in Motion

In the midst of things that are ever changing, the opportunity to feel stability is a gift.  I have quit seeing stability as something static.  How could it be?  Those who try to force it to be are the one's who seem the least stable (I know that when I've tried to hold tightly to a state, I'm generally left with lots and lots of matter swirling around me--and smacking me in the face).

And so I've been playing with the idea that I will find stability only as I accept that there is nothing that is static.  This theme has resurfaced, yes, but I'm noting its recurrence and honoring that.

In the past two weeks, I've gone from carrying the most stress I've ever lugged around to a feeling of lightness I didn't know was possible after a year (almost to the date) of weight.  I've been curious about this link between the emotional and physical reactions...realizing that my body would take over if I refused to process feelings...and it wasn't pretty.  The emotions weren't and aren't linked to a demise of a relationship--that's a comfortable and necessary state at this point.  I have no regrets. The emotions were tied to the fact that someone who wished me harm, and who isn't operating on a plane I understand, still had control of certain aspects of my life.  It was difficult to live with (understatement).  With this lifted, giddiness ensued.  And then compassion.  And then giddiness.  And then compassion.  And at that moment, I realized I had set it down--not just for the moment, as I have before, but forever.  I have had a tendency to extend way too much compassion to others and very little to myself.  BUT, in the moment I'm speaking of, I found myself joyous for myself and feeling compassion for an other.  And at that moment, I realized how truly truly free I was.

This marriage of joyousness and compassion may be the answer.  Who knows?  I do know I'm hard pressed to make any huge declarations of late, but that may be as close as I get to certainty for a while.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


I feel as if I'm at that moment when the conductor has his baton raised, but the music has paused at the end of a movement.  I would like this pause to last for a week, but I can feel the next movement about to follow.  I'm not wary of the next section, but I would like for the rest at the end of this line to last just a little longer so I can catch my breath, and lay my bow on my lap. (Or sleep, get a massage, and soak in a hot spring, repeat).

It's amazing how much work can go into things that are unseen.  I breathe freely and with relief.   I smile and soften.  I am soon to be ready for movement beyond the pause.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


I am easily enchanted by the world around me:  The yellow flame of the palo verde bloom, cottonwood leaves fluttering, finches on the feeder in the morning...yet those who know me well know that although I am highly appreciative of the natural world, there are times when my understanding of this world (from a scientific stance) leaves something to be desired.  Instead of fully understanding a phenomenon, I more likely will create a fantastical story to explain it:  I may be a creator of 21st century mythology, ignoring modern understandings.

I have been paying attention, however, to certain occurrences in my days, and fully reveling in reality:
1)  I saw a gila monster ( Thursday night on a hike with Lyle.  This was a fun surprise (though was glad my dog was smart enough to take a step back, and I had to text a friend to ascertain that this was indeed what I had seen).  A gorgeous animal, a lizard the size of my and gray and hissing.  He was slow moving and was kind enough to let us know that we simply didn't need to harass him in any way, and we could walk away unscathed.  We agreed.

2)  I've been spending time with a friend who makes me laugh so hard my stomach hurts (both a lovely gift and a wonderful surprise), who is wise and smart (as we know,  these are two very different things).  I find that when I spend time with people who can move through the world comfortably in their own skin, I can be fully myself, with no artifice or apology.

3) My students surprise me every day--their words and their responses to tasks I ask them to complete surprise me in the best possible way--those moments when what you hoped was going to happen, indeed, does.

There's an interesting balance to be struck between believing that great things will happen, but allowing yourself to be surprised when they do anyway.

Surprises can be surprises because we let them.  I have thought a lot about how my yoga practice allows me to be better prepared off the breathe through the negative surprises (and to ask myself:  what about that really surprised you?)  as well as the positive and embrace them all.  I am trying very hard to not be caught off guard by events that don't necessarily engender calm feelings in me.  I have been tripped up a couple of times in the last few days.  I wonder at this, but also know I am not superhuman.  And I cope as I do.  No judgment.  This, in itself, is new for me.  Too often I've beaten myself up for not having as much grace as I'd like in the face of certain life events.  These fissures, however, are just part of being human; maybe I can reframe this and become more and more proud of my own fallibility.  I can at least try.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


I am watching the world of education become so seriously derailed from what's right and good that I can hardly see straight any more.  I've taken the year off from being overly involved in any sort of systemic thinking about education.  I've needed to get really clear on what exactly I'm fighting for in this world.  And each day I work with students and teachers who remind me just how imperative this all is.  And it's not an argument about teacher salaries, unions, privatization, or even about what classes students should take.  It's an argument for creating spaces where students can think critically and creatively, where we can have real conversations about real topics, and where students can learn that their voice matters, and that a carefully constructed argument and confidence trumps bling or a fist fight any day.  

Unfortunately, I also live in an area that has let itself become mired in politics and not what's best for students.  I watch and listen to some of the most ignorant people I have encountered make decisions for our future.  And I shake my head at the agendas being put forth.  We are surrounded by people who operate out of fear, and who insist that their belief systems are "correct" if any of us can find any one viewpoint to set above all others at any given time.  

And my professional feelings spill into my personal life.  I realize that I'm becoming increasingly sensitive to people whose agendas overrule who they are, whether these be a desire to be perceived as something "more" than they are, or a desire to prove that they are "cool"or worth loving.  I am not 20 years old any more.  I don't want to one-up you, or feel the need to.  And I don't want you to position me as if I should. We all hope that we've moved past this by now.  (NOTE:  I wear my own insecurities on my sleeve, as I do my feelings...and I am just as susceptible to ego as anyone else...).  There are people who are able to live without blaming; these people are also able to find a way to take responsibility for their own actions.  And these people are happier, believe it or not, than those who shove everything deep deep inside and project only their feigned confidence.  I promise.  I want to scream:  "Have the courage to be imperfect for christ's sake."  Shake the facade.

That's what I really really want these days.  I want every person to say, "Hey, that one was me.  I own that" when they should.  And I want these same people to say, when they shouldn't be shouldering the shit they are, to say, "Nope, I won't carry that.  I am going to let that go."  And, then, maybe, we could have some realistic private and public discussions about what's real in this world.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Stepping Into...

Sometimes it's necessary to fully step outside of everything to be able to stand fully in your life again.  I love the gift of a hiatus.  I love the days of no alarm set, of random motion, of pausing to stare at nothing and everything, and of letting thoughts flow in and out with no need for focus.  I am reminded, in these moments, of the necessity of being receptive to the world around me.  Tonight's yoga practice highlighted  the importance of simply stepping into the spaces that offer you opportunities to receive the gifts available--whether these gifts are those of a yoga practice, of nature, or the quiet of your own company.  These gifts are not finite.  I can step into the sun, I can bask in someone's smile, and there's always more love--a renewable resource.  Amazing how that works.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Going Undercover

This quote is one I sent to a friend years ago.  I did not write out the attribution, nor do I have any idea where I stumbled upon it.  This friend, however, sent it back to me recently.  We haven't talked in years.  But the message was a timely one for me:

Go outside.
Go away.
It's all the people making you lonely.
Pick a spot on the horizon and head straight for it.
Weave your way through a stand of redwoods.
Kayak an ocean chain.
Peer over your toes at the edge of a canyon.
Go to your favorite place...Again and again.
This is what you need to do.
Not just because it fuels your independence.
But because it reminds you you're a part of something bigger.

I have spent the past months reconnecting, asking for support, asking for time and energy from others.  I have loved being in touch with so many people from different facets of my life whom I love.  I have appreciated every single moment and every single word of kindness.  And, obviously, I'm still sharing in a public way how I'm moving through and thinking about life and the world.

This being said, however, it is time for me to return to the "wilderness."  My "wilderness" not only includes where, but how I operate in my days.  I have sought too much solace from others instead of owning the fact that I need to tend to myself--there comes a place and time when you have to hold your own hand, pull yourself up (or let yourself crash to the ground, whatever the case may be).  I simply need to quiet and be.  To listen carefully.  It is time for paper letters sent out into the universe with no expectation of a speedy reply.  It is time for dark, starry nights with only my dog as company.  It is time for me to shake the fears that are showing up in my nightmares recurrently.  It is time to shake the dust.  It is time to reclaim what I believe and what I need.  It is time to acknowledge that sometimes, truly, things can go on too long.  And the toll is too much.  And too much is too much no matter who you are.  

Gretel Ehrlich, in The Solace of Open Spaces says, "We fill up space as if it were a pie shell, with things whose opacity further obstructs our ability to see what is already there" (p. 15).  

The desert has provided me with an unobscured landscape to dwell in for the past twelve years.  I do not like the desert.  I am not cozy and comfortable here, but apparently, there is more for me to learn before I leave.  I have committed myself to this space for another year.  I have resisted the urge to cut and run many times.  This particular wilderness is one that forces me to shift my perspective on a regular basis--as the lighting and time of year shifts, so does my appreciation for my surroundings.  It is a good place to recognize, without anything to sugar-coat the experience, that you are there no matter where you go, and until you sort that out, well, no lush landscape will do it for you.  We are each moving through alone, no matter how much love surrounds us (or how little).  I hope to go back to the idea of simply doing no harm as I move through.  That's a valiant enough goal for me right now.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Looking Closely

The desert is often more beautiful when it's seen from a distance.  When I'm looking around me as I hike, there doesn't seem to be much to see (not in a lush, running water, tree swaying kind of way), but the distant layers of purple mountains upon mountains and the lighting at sunset are pretty damn striking.  However, when you look most closely, and you notice tiny barrel cacti hidden beneath a scrub oak, or pink flowers poking their way out of cracks in a rock formation, or orange ocotillo tips, then the beauty makes itself apparent.  As I was hiking with a friend this evening, he mentioned that this was kind of like people:  from a distance they're all beautiful, at a certain level of remove they can be annoying, but when you look even more closely, and understand them most deeply, there's surprise and unexpected loveliness.

A yoga class with MC Yogi, in a warehouse studio on Mission, Thursday night provided me with an opportunity to have an experience that I could view from a distance, and to feel intensely close to.  I was able to practice anonymously, but to feel as if I was truly part of something more intimate.  And the class is still with me, in a "to be continued" sort of way.  I sweated.  I swayed.  I cried.  I smiled.  I laughed out loud.  I walked away in a daze.  I walked away with the words "be who you want to be now."  "Stop chasing who you want to be and just be it.  You want to be more?  Be more."  I realized, in that moment, that I did not know what I wanted to be, nor am I clearly seeing myself or the world around me.  I need my vision to both expand out and to zero in carefully, so that I don't miss out on details that may just provide unexpected moments of clarity and opportunities for celebration.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Shakespearean Counsel

I am braving a reading of Romeo and Juliet for the last text of the year with my students.  We will see if we survive (nothing like a little Elizabethan language in a room full of students for whom English is an additional language to learn already...).  However, as I'm digging through Shakespearean quotations in preparation for a writing assignment I'm designing, I realize that he may have said everything that needs to be said.

"There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so" (Hamlet). 
I'd swear this is a favorite of therapists everywhere, and a statement that makes me want to scream, "Of course it's fucking bad!  I want to place some judgment on that action and I want to now!"  And, did I mention I've been playing with the idea of "anger" lately--whether or not it can be a productive feeling or not?  Anger is tricky for me:  1)  I don't really approve of it in general; I'd prefer to think I'm so above anger; 2) It sometimes sneaks up on me and says, "hey little girl, don't you want to try some anger?  I think you'll like it," and for a moment or two, I do.  I feel self-righteous; I feel like I'm on the right side of things, and then I realize that just like a cheeseburger (or a third glass of wine) it always makes me feel like crap afterwards.  BUT, this being said, I think anger can be productive.  It promotes taking action, taking a stand...and sometimes it's the only thing that can propel me forward and beyond the need for it.  I do think that most of us were taught from an early age that anger was simply a sign of weakness (and, for women, that it should not be directed at men, ugh.)  Anger is sometimes justified.  I'm not saying I want to live in a perpetual embrace with anger, but a quick kiss on the cheek and a wink can help me move past slights tossed my way.  I try not to say too much until anger has passed...when I'm not angry, I have an easier time taking the advice:  "While thou livest keep a good tongue in thy head."

"Love all, trust a few.  Do wrong to none"  (All's Well That Ends Well).
I was having a conversation earlier today with a dear friend I have known for more than half of my life.  We both agreed that it would be lovely to think that we had never done harm. (I cringed as I reflected on some ridiculous antics of my own that very definitely did not take anyone else's feelings into consideration...)   I think most of us grow through phases where we are totally self-centered and destructive.  As adults, it seems, we reserve most of our destructive tendencies for ourselves--in various forms:  self-loathing, addiction, refusal to wake up, refusal or inability to step forward without question when others are in need...I'm most scared of adults who, for whatever reason, don't grow through, and who refuse to see their actions for what they are.

However, I will continue to love all.  I will be a little more cautious regarding who I trust.
"The lady doth protest too much, methinks" (Hamlet). Yep.

"And since you know you cannot see yourself,
so well as by reflection, I, your glass,
will modestly discover to yourself,
that of yourself which you yet know not of"

It is my hope that we all have "mirrors" in which we can see reflected infinite possibility.  My "glass" thankfully is a multitude of amazing people who are very happy to hold themselves up to me and let me see what I would never have otherwise.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Inverted Perspectives

I'm waiting for a storm to blow into town, and the wind is stirring up a need to hole up and hit the pause button on my life.  I can't stay paused, but I'm going to embrace this for at least a moment or two.  Tonight I am quiet.  I'm taking an intermission.  I found myself too quick to react this week.

I'm finding that the high points aren't static; I am trying to embrace this, lest I [gasp] become someone who doesn't notice the high points.

I'm sitting with the idea of "inversion" this week--the idea that when turned upside down, things don't always look better, but at least they look different.  I've always been a fan of multiple perspectives.  I have a vision of myself simply kicking into handstand anytime events occur that seem utterly ridiculous or untenable; it's not realistic, but metaphorically might work.

Earlier this week I was consumed by some "What if?" feelings.  I was reminded of wise words shared with me:  "Whatever decision you make is right, because it's the decision you make."  Seems simplistic, but who can argue with that?

I occasionally allow myself the indulgence of the "what if?" In the past week (which has quite possibly been a year) I've thought: (in no particular order and not related) Why didn't I marry that absolutely lovely computer scientist I dated?  Why didn't I become a lawyer?  (duh, it's boring, however, writing checks each month to my lawyer has forced me to reconsider...)  Why have I spent my life looking for something more exciting and not paying attention to red flags (even those glaring, wildly flapping one's) in romantic relationships?  Why did it take so long for me to figure out that I was the "greater good" that I should be sacrificing for?  But, I am reminded, by many brilliant folks, that we truly do the best we can with the information we have.  And, I don't want to go back and alter anything, for fear that exactly who I am now is exactly who I'm supposed to be...lessons learned from great 80's movies should not be discounted.  [Consider:  Back to the Future]

I wonder if I could have ever learned what I have this year without it occurring in such a surreal and incomprehensible (to me) way.

Gratitude is a strange thing. Sometimes we realize we're grateful long after an event has occurred.  I prefer the more instantaneous feelings--where you don't have to figure out why a particular event was a gift...but I learn a lot more from events that take some time to figure out.  Over a decade ago I packed myself up and headed south, away from people and a place I loved.  I have never regretted it; I remain grateful for the experience,  but I had some really fabulous full body, snot-bubble producing cries during that journey.  And who isn't grateful for a snot bubble once in a while?  Inversion.  Snot bubbles generally produce laughter, which leads to perspective, which leads to new opportunity, which... leads to the recognition that the truest moments of complete happiness I have are in response and in relation to nothing at all, or everything all together.  And they most often occur after a low point.  Hmmm...inversions occur naturally, I think.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Shattering Numbness

"Find your voice.  I hear too many echoes," said Cornel West on Friday evening.  I'm certain he's said this line many times before.  But I do think he's right in repeating it. Maybe we all should. What I know to be true, and I'm discovering, slowly but surely, is that I have a voice that may be returning, and I sure wish each and every one of us would find ours.

Tonight's yoga theme addressed the idea that comfort is found through discomfort...and this was not a new idea to me, but one that I do need to be reminded of a time (or two or three) as I move forward.   And I'm realizing over and over the value of being "unsettled" as human beings.  I've sought out work and life experiences that unsettle me--whether it's dropping myself into a new culture or space, or trying on a new professional role.  And each one has left me alternately invigorated and exhausted, but with something new within me that allows me to continue to question and grow.  The only space I (naively) thought was going to be my anchor was in home and partnership.  Letting go of this has also allowed me to see relationships (romantic partnerships) for what they are--opportunities for growth, with no more certainty than anything else.  And I like that.  (Lest my more romantic friends be saddened by this comment, please know that this will be constantly in revision as is everything else in my world.)

But there are truths that I don't think we should deny:  that we have developed into a society that is not critical enough, that we have become "well adjusted to injustice and adapted to indifference" (Dr. West, 4/1/2011); that we, in our desire to be perceived in certain ways, have lost our capacity for empathy or understanding; that we have listened to the same voices, over and over, feed us prescribed lines for what is "right" or "true."  These ideas pervade not only our society, but our individual lives and beliefs ("weapons of mass distraction").

As an educator, as a person who has devoted her life's work to public education, it is daunting to think that there is so much to fight against--and for.

It is amazing when all facets of your life point you in the same direction:  Wake the fuck up.  Feel.  Be lovestruck.  Shed a few tears.  Seek out poetry and music that will shatter and rebuild you.  Find the discomfort.  Acknowledge that when you don't let the suffering speak, there is no truth.

I'm intertwining the personal and societal here, but I don't think societal change can occur unless we deal with our own person-hood (and I'm not talking corporate here).

"Your worldview rests on pudding." (Thank you, yet again, Dr. West.)  Ready to sink into and swim through.  I'm not optimistic.  I'm hopeful.  This takes a long view.  I've got the time.  I've never been one for the quick fix (the quick escape, maybe...but never have believed in a quick fix).

And I love these moments when there is fire and urgency.  And that it becomes apparent.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Putting on Some Floaties

I never wore them when learning to swim (I don't think), floaties, that is.  My memory of learning to swim is that of sinking to the bottom of a very deep pool, then returning to the surface.  Apparently this was a long and trusted method of teaching children to swim in my family's past (I note, however, that this tradition ended with me--I don't believe my younger brother was subjected to this, hmm...).  However, I grew up to be a water lover, and someone, who as a small person liked to jump off of tall things into water.  One summer, while staying with my grandparents and my cousins at a lake house, I decided I would walk up to the top of the cliff where the older kids were jumping into the water, "just to see" I promised my grandparents.  At some point I made the decision that it didn't look like something I couldn't do too, so went ahead and jumped.  My grandfather (who was waiting in a boat below), although he lived many many years beyond that day, was convinced of two things:  1) I almost killed him, and 2) I would probably go ahead and do whatever I wanted and be fine for the rest of my life.  I wish he was here to remind me of that now.

All of this to say, that "floaties" are simply the words and actions of the people around you that keep you from sinking.  We all need them sometimes.  At others, we will jump from cliffs and laugh and scream.  I do think, now that I'm a semi-grown up, that it's not as embarrassing as I thought to let people know that you need a little boost to return to the surface.  We are all so intent on letting people see what we want them too, and quickly plucking out the pieces of ourselves we don't want them to see.

Tonight at yoga, the word was "cultivation"--I was in no mood to consider what exactly I'm cultivating right now, but was intrigued by this idea that we are very conscious of our distinctions between "good" and "bad" parts of ourselves that we cultivate, and those that we choose to show the world.   We all might have a bit more compassion for one another and bit less neurosis if we were able to say, "You know what?  I have crazy bed head in the morning too."  OR "Sometimes I'm not so sure I'm going in the right direction.  I might look like I have it all together as I stubbornly persist, but I'm asking a lot of questions..."  I know I'd feel better.  My hair would still look like it had been out all night wrestling with jungle animals when I woke up, but...I'd feel better.

I am reminded of a morning I spent in yoga class when an absolutely stunning (and very flexible) woman I had secretly envied for some time, cried as she shared her reason for loving yoga so much-- that it was the first time she had actually been allowed to enjoy moving and being in her own body--years as a professional dancer had pretty much beaten that joy out of her.   This simple honesty reminded me, and it's so ridiculous to admit that I forget this, that we all have our "shit" we're working through.  And my inability to do full wheel?  Well, that's pretty small potatoes in the big scheme of things.

Pema Chodron asks, "Right now, can you make an unconditional relationship with yourself?  Just at the height you are, the weight you are, with the intelligence that you have, and your current burden of pain? Can you enter into an unconditional relationship with that?" 

I always thought I had a pretty darn good relationship with myself, but I'm not sure it's ever been unconditional.  And it's certainly not unconditional when I feel like I need something beyond myself to buoy me up.  How ridiculous is that?  All sorts of judgment leaps to mind when I don't think I've got my game on, or I'm not 100%.  There's the work, I'm thinking.  Feeling pretty damn good about it all whether you have the hubris and confidence to defy all odds, and when deep down you would rather curl up in a small ball and leave the world for a bit.

Even now, as I write these thoughts, I think, wow, I'm tired, here's a disclaimer for why this isn't as eloquent as I wish.  And I realize that sometimes that's just how it goes. I consider plucking the words from the page and scrapping these thoughts for tonight. However, I'll share it, some of it may make sense as I want it to.  Some may not.  I'll continue to try and develop my unconditional relationship with myself, and what I share with the people in my world.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Emerging...over and over

Grief is an interesting process, and, as I've noted, I quite like being in control of my feelings, my life, well, I like being in control.  So, this has been one more beautiful learning experience (and I'm not even being sarcastic).

It is interesting to watch what surfaces, to sit with it for a while, and to realize that sometimes all there is to do is cry it out.  I've quit judging myself quite so harshly for the times when, really, the healthiest option is not to hop on my bike, run to yoga class or...sometimes it really is my bravest moment when I sit with sadness.  Who knew?

Tonight I took Lyle for a hike and we stood above the city, watched the sun go down, and smiled.  Those moments when the saguaro are the only audience, crows' wing-wisps are the only sound...things feel very very real and true.  And that is more than enough.  And my heart feels like it has only broken open wider so I can take all of this in.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Uncertainty as an Ally

This evening's yoga theme carried forward the thoughts I've been wrestling with this week (hell, that I've been wrestling with for a while now).  The word of the evening was "uncertainty"--and the instructor shared a quote from Douglas Brooks that referenced the necessity of making uncertainty your ally...then acknowledged that he was still working on the "how" of this.  I was thankful for that side bar.  The how is the tricky part.

Tonight uncertainty is keeping me good company, and I see that we're working together for something pretty cool.  Tomorrow, however, it may trip me up, make me lose my focus and fall on my face.  These things seem to work themselves out, yes?  Amazing how much support you find around you at any given moment.  And, on occasion, it's good for me to simply lay it all down for a bit.  Maybe we all should?  Just for a moment here and there, before picking ourselves back up and soldiering on?

I think uncertainty and I are going to get some really cute matching uniforms.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Recovering Over-Planner

I've always been a planner.  I wouldn't say that each of my planned moves has been fully understood by outside observers at every moment, but I have spent my life with a pretty clear "point A to point B" vision--repeated ad nauseum.

I was never a fan of the "all life is suffering" viewpoint, nor could I even stomach the Stones' mantra of "You can't always get what you want..."  These both seemed a bit silly to me.  Of course you can get what you want, I naively thought.  You just try until you do (or you change your mind and decide you didn't really want it anyway, right?)

My husband decided this past year (no discussion necessary) that he was "done" and he wanted a divorce.  This was difficult for me to compute. This did not fit my narrative of how people operate when considering dissolving a relationship, let alone a marriage...and the moment I realized that my narrative didn't matter, that there were all sorts of possible narratives out there, then it dawned on me:  "if you try sometimes, you might just find, you get what you need."  I got unobscured vision of who I was actually married to.  And technicolor vision that allowed me to see beyond the "Point B" I had chosen a decade earlier.

SO, what does one do in this situation?  If you're me:  You get really really quiet and centered.  You ride your bike miles and miles up mountains.  You do yoga every day.  You remove all foods and liquids that are not essential for survival (who knew I didn't need coffee and wine?).  You throw away everything in your house that is not essential.  You clean.  You re-grout.  You figure out what grout is.  You become very good friends with the nice men (and a couple of women) at Ace Hardware. You paint murals (I have to cut down on the number of hearts and flowers I paint on surfaces around my house).  I became accustomed to crying in public and noticed that not many people seem too phased by it.  I was hugged by a lot more strangers than I would normally be comfortable with (including the guy who works at the post office I frequent), but...I also got to see some shared humanity.  Not a bad thing.

I had the honor of realizing that being vulnerable, and not having a clear plan for every aspect of my life made me more alive, not less.  I would not trade being able to live "wholeheartedly" (to borrow Brene Brown's label) for any preconceived, carefully constructed plan for my future.  And I realized that in order to be really, truly alive, I was going to have to allow myself to be vulnerable and accept that I don't control all aspects of my life. would think that a relatively smart, and slightly over-educated person would have already been able to grasp this simple precept.  I smile.  I shake my head.  And I remain grateful that I've learned it now.

I was talking to a couple of students about how people think life is supposed to get better and better as we go, and that they don't understand that good and bad things will happen all along the way.  I realized what a fully western concept my life and world view were when I told my students that I had just recently learned that life was, indeed, challenging all along--and, without saying it, these two young men from Nepal looked at me like "Whoa, we thought she was pretty smart, but this lady might be retarded"--And I loved them for what they didn't say out loud, and the fact that they still think I have something to offer them.  We simply nodded at our shared understandings.

And more little lessons make themselves known as I go.  A couple of weeks ago my trusty Subaru was hit (by an unknown driver who neglected to leave me a note) while parked outside of yoga class.  I had gotten lazy.  I was driving the four miles to the studio instead of riding my bike, hell, I was driving the half mile to the school where I work--after years of being a committed bike commuter, this was a strange habit to have developed.  A friend of mine laughed when I told her the car was in the shop:  "You weren't listening to the universe so it had to send you a stronger message..."  I had to agree.  I'm working on listening more carefully to subtlety, and noting that I am more and more attuned to subtleties as I let go of my desire to always be moving "forward."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


When I was 21 years old, and I must say, this was not one of my shining years, I adopted a 6 week old puppy.  I deliberately chose a male from the litter, as I decided there would be at least one male in my life who I would love without hesitation and with no question.  Jack suffered with me through many an adventure, he also blissfully trekked across most of the mountain west, frolicked on the coast, covered miles and miles of trails, and, well, was my constant companion for 15 years.  He was not well-trained, but he had human qualities (that are often a result of being a very spoiled dog) that made him quite equipped for most social situations.  He went to bars, to parties, weddings (though, more often than not, the bow-tie I painstakingly chose for him for each event ended up floating down a creek before the ceremony had begun).  He survived my driving.  He sang along to Lyle Lovett with me...or Jane's Addiction, depending on the mood. He graciously took in a younger brother (Lyle, who remains with me).  He tolerated a series of boyfriends and lovers who stayed in his life for varying lengths of time.  He was my ambassador at various campgrounds, and, when people asked me if I was camping alone, it always confused me, as, couldn't they see that Jack was right there with me?  He read Edward Abbey next to campfires with me.

Jack passed away on the back porch four years ago today.  I have a cigar box full of pictures.  I smile.  I don't need the cigar box, but I am grateful for tangible reminders.

And, in the past two days, I have spoken with the other two men in my life who "I love without hesitation and no question" and who love me in the same way.  My brother has been a rock in my life for as long as I can remember-- My best friend growing up, my confidante as an adult.  And, although we see each other much too infrequently, his voice calms me.  Tonight I called home for a parental pep talk (something I eschewed for way too many years), and when I asked only that my dad tell me that I would be fine, he was gracious and patient enough to reiterate the same sentiment he's been called on to provide for me many times before.

And I'm reminded of the fact that I may be one of the luckiest women I know.  I was raised to believe that "The quality of mercy is not strain'd" and that truth and justice may not always prevail, but there is no other way to live.  And honesty is in my blood--life would be easier if it was not.  I'd love to have a better poker face, or "more skin" as my therapist calls it.  I won't trade though.

I like growing up.  I like being 40 years old and knowing that I'll be growing up until I'm gone.  I wish someone had told me that that was how it worked...for some reason I always thought there was this magic end point where you became a grown up, and from that point on, everything was just leading to greater and greater happiness...or at least security.  And I cannot equate the two any longer.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Straight Lines not Circles

As a young person I loved the "Choose Your Own Adventure" books.  I was convinced that I could make any decision, see if I liked the outcome, and then flip to a different page if I didn't (often this resulted in death by careening off of a cliff, but that seemed to be fine as well).  Repercussions from actions seem to get a bit heavier as I get older, but I'm also realizing that they probably deserve only to be given the same weight I gave them when I was younger--I don't recall spending a great deal of time agonizing over whether I should take the trek to the Amazon or fly to Rio.  At some point in the last decade I lost the spring to my coil, and my levels of resilience seem a bit low.  (This could be because as an adult, I'd like to change the page, but I can't simply flip at whim--now there are other factors beyond my control teaching me patience before allowing me to flip to my next adventure).

I was particularly struck by a line from Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun last week.  Asagai tells Beneatha that where she has gone wrong is seeing life as a circle on which we are trapped...and instead should be viewing this as a straight line moving beyond sight...and beyond the scope of our current understandings of what our lives can be:

       "What you just said about the circle.  It isn't a circle--it is simply a long line--as in geometry, you know, one that reaches into infinity.  And because we cannot see the end--we also cannot see how it changes.  And it is very odd but those who see the changes--who dream, who will not give up--are called idealists...and those who see only the circle, we call them the 'realists'!"  (p. 162).

And I've been wondering about this.  I trapped myself for a time in a narrative that didn't fit, but one that I couldn't see my way out of.  And now that I can, the line looms long in front of me--alternately full of huge possibility and alternately scary as shit.  I dwell in the possibility more often than the fear, thankfully.  And, for the first time in a long time, realize that I will continually be revising my path--that the circle I was in, despite being prescribed and condoned by society, wasn't really a good fit.  And it took a woman writer from the 1950s to give me a frame for even beginning to visualize this.