Oh Well.

Life has been difficult lately. It’s like my heart is stuck in the mud and no amount of pulling and heaving could bring it to the light of day. The reading, writing, practices, conversations, and bubble baths that usually inspire me haven’t worked to change it. I haven’t been able to figure out why the funk laid so heavy on me. There was no crisis, no problem to solve, no dilemma to massage into passage. Nothing has really changed this month from last month.

I’m a generally happy person, so this moody weight is not familiar. But as much as I wanted to know Why and What, I decided to just let it be. “This, too, shall pass,” I kept telling myself.

Mostly, I decided to let it be because even the thought of trying to figure it out was just too much. Even thinking has been slow and painful.

It’s not fatigue because that would imply that I’ve overdone or worked hard – whether physical, mental, emotional. Definitely not tired.

It’s not depression. My life is quite perfect. I have stresses, anxieties, and things I wish were different. But I am grateful for the life that I’ve created.

I don’t think it’s seasonal. I love autumn! The leaves, the colors, the excitement over pumpkin spice lattes and sweaters. I love it all!

I honestly don’t know what’s been going on. There’s really only one way to describe it.

Bleh.

That’s it.

Well, I would add a BIG, HEAVY <sigh> to the end of that Bleh.

Bleh… <sigh>…

So, all month I’ve just been sighing. A few tears here and there. Plenty of laughter. But, mainly just… Bleh… and <sigh>.

Then I moved on to the next task, the next class, the next load of dishes.

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Somewhere mid-month. I decided that as terrible as it seemed that I was so… Bleh… it didn’t really matter. As important as my mood, my energy, my happiness FEELS… it’s not really that big of a deal. Regardless of the experience I am having, the planet would continue to turn on its axis, the sun would rise and set, and the local supermarket would have something new on sale this week.

So, I unloaded the dishes, packed lunches, analyzed numbers, studied and prepared for classes, and showed up for life. I didn’t want to. I wanted to wallow in my funk. I wanted to listen to The Smiths and write about how not-happy I was. (Just kidding… I hate The Smiths! They’re so depressing…!)

You get the point.

My mood was prime for me to withdraw from my family, my friends, my responsibilities, my life. But I decided instead to just shift into autopilot and carry on.

Don’t be confused. There was no bravado involved. It was a pathetic campaign to the outside observer. I just simply forced one foot in front of the other. It was grueling some days to roll out of bed. So many heavy sighs!

But whatever. And… Bleh.

I did it… Bleh.

And then, guess what happened.

I woke up this morning, pressed the snooze three times and dragged my ass out of bed (again). I sighed (again) and kissed my daughter good morning. I poured a cup of coffee and sat down to write and sighed (again). The words were slow from my pen (again). I sighed (again). And I continued to write (again). I didn’t really write about anything in particular this morning. I just wiped the dust from my brain and yawned.

But then, as I shut my notebook, it happened. The heaviness began to lift. Every so quietly, I could feel it easing up and a familiar lightness replacing what had been weighting me down.

I’ll be honest. I have NO IDEA what’s happening right now. Am I happy? Am I sad? Am I mournful? Anxious? I don’t know why I felt so Bleh, or what this new color of heart is all about. I don’t know if I should welcome the experience of the last month or run for the hills if it happens again. Likewise, part of me is a little suspicious about this strange feeling of lightness that I’m currently experiencing. What if it’s fake! What if it goes away again?

Oh well.

Does it really matter? No.

Oh well.

Yes. The big headline for today is that my Bleh has been replaced by Oh Well.

And that’s about as inspiring as a bowl of over-cooked spinach.

Oh well.

#womensequalityday

I’m a lucky girl to have so many amazing women in my life. What usually leaves me both speechless and smiling ear to ear is this:
Every woman I know is working very diligently in her own way to make life a little better. 
We may disagree on the “how”. We may work in different ways, at different speeds, and with different results. But we work.
We work to open opportunities for women that were previously denied. We work to improve education for girls we’ve never met. We work for pay that adequately represents our contribution. We work for access to health care. We work for the right to have a say in our governments. We work for freedom to wear whatever the hell we want to wear.
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Most of the time, the work that I see women doing is actually very, very personal. It’s work that no one can really see while it’s happening. There are no big demonstrations or public campaigns. There are no commercials or news reports.
Most of the time, the work that we do is in our own thinking. And the actions that come about from that thinking.
And while no one may notice today, over time the world will notice. Because each microscopic change we make in how we view ourselves in the world, how we interact with others, how we think about challenge and celebrate success – they all add up to large, sweeping shifts in the human condition.
Look around. Women are working diligently every where to make life better for themselves and the rest of us. We don’t all do it the same, but we do it.
#womensequalityday

By Request! The Nitty Gritty Details of How to Do It All

Wow! The response from my post on Saturday was a wee bit more than I expected. I’m happy (and a bit surprised!) to know people are reading AND responding. Thank you for asking your questions. Everything I said in that post is TRUE. 100% true. That’s the mantra that marches through my head. But… there is a little more to the story of how I do it all.

It’s tough. It’s not for the faint at heart. But it’s possible. And I promise that just going through this process of meeting the challenge has helped me grow in so many ways.

Let’s get practical.

Here are a few of my tried-and-true Big Picture Tips for How to Do It All:Decide What’s Important

IMG_1567My top priorities are (not in any particular order): my health, my kids, my
husband, my family, and my tribe. When I schedule my week – this is an activity that I do EVERY SUNDAY NIGHT! – I always schedule these priorities first. Time to workout, time to make dinner, time to do laundry, time to play games, time to make connections with people, etc. Sometimes there are some things that just don’t make the weekly schedule because my priorities are going to take up more time than I have.

And yes, I work full-time. In fact, on average I log over 50 hours of “work” in a week! That was time spent teaching, coaching, crunching numbers, creating presentations, meeting with realtors and bankers, updating social media, professional development, writing notes to students, and more. I use quotes around the word “work” because I love what I do. Time flies when you’re having fun!

Remember too that MY HEALTH is on that list. I sleep. I eat. I take a lavender and Epsom salt bath every night. I admit that often the priority that slips through the cracks is my marriage. At the end of most days, I start snoring within seconds of hitting the pillow. Time with my husband to cuddle up, talk about our days, or have sex often slips through the cracks. This ALWAYS causes friction in my life. It’s no different than skipping workouts. So, I make it a point to take time to spend with him.

My point is that you have to know yourself. Know what’s important and know what’s critical (there’s a difference). Then, plan accordingly.

  1. Plan for the Big Picture, but Always Have a Plan!

My parenting mentor and our pediatrician, Dr. Lisa Morrison, gave me solid advice for life when explaining how to approach my kids’ nutrition. She said, “Don’t worry about 24-hr cycles or even each meal. Think about the whole week.”

Living out a perfectly planned day is like suffering through a boring, mid-western meal of IMG_2913mystery meat, boiled potatoes, and canned vegetables… every DAMN day. Ugh. I can’t handle that. Not only is it difficult, it’s BORING! And it’s hard. Salad with pizza? Just eat pizza! Did they eat all of their greens? Seriously. NO THANK YOU! Sometimes you need to eat cherry pie for breakfast. And lunch. And dinner.

If left to my own devices though, I would eat chips and salsa or cherry pie for every meal. (This is not advisable, although it is a good description of my college years.) Now as an adult, I plan. I plan meals. I plan work projects. I plan back-to-school shopping (in chunks… I can’t handle it all at once with all four in tow!). I plan holidays. I don’t plan everything but I do plan the things that matter.

Plan for the big picture. Over the course of the week, make sure that you are addressing your priorities. Not everyday. Just over the course of the week. Or two weeks. Or the month. Let go of your perfectionism and your laziness. Both are damaging.

  1. No Excuses.

Be honest.

If you mess up, fess up.IMG_2217

Do better next time, but don’t make excuses. And understand that mistakes just reveal our speed bumps and little cracks in the pavement. Likewise, don’t sign up for things you don’t want to do. If you don’t want to go hiking, don’t go hiking. Just tell your friends that you’d rather take a bath, or get a pedicure, or wash your wounds in rubbing alcohol before you would ever step foot on a “trail”. Ugh. Just be honest with the world. Mostly, be honest with yourself.

I hate hiking, by the way. Send me your pictures, because I probably won’t see it myself.

  1. Learn to Let Go.

I hesitate to use this over-used and often misunderstood “Life Rule”. But, the truth is that it is TRUTH. I think the yogis describe it best as Abhyasa and Vairagya. Look it up if you are interested. Abhyasa means Practice and Vairagya means Non-Attachment. My Western Kansas translation is to think of it as the balance of “Never Give Up” and “Always Let Go”.

Consider this. Life is like floating a river. Sometimes, you can just float. Your butt is wedged in the middle of the tube, an ice-cold beer in hand. Sometimes you hold on and ride the rapids. Sometimes when the river is slow, you meander to the side and grab hold of some grass, dip your head back and get your hair wet. If you try to do all of those things at once, you will FAIL. You might even drown! You can’t hold onto the grass on the bank with rapids crashing over your head any more than you can keep your morning workout routine when you have to catch at flight at 5:40AM!

Learn to let go. Learn to roll with the punches. Look at the big picture!

  1. Have Fun.

Everyday. Just do it. Laugh, dance, play, make jokes with the bag boy at the grocery store,
send your BFF funny memes, and when your kids complain about chores… make whiny
impersonations and then tell them, “It sucks to suck!”

I’ll be honest. I don’t know that #5 creates more time for me to do what I want to do in a day. But I know that it always lightens the load and the mood. I am more effective when I’m happy. I’m better at letting go and I’m more creative in my problem-solving. And is it a waste of time to make people smile? No! Smiling and laughter is ALWAYS worth the two seconds it costs you.
All of that said, here are some of my MUST-DO’s:

  • Plan your week. Look at your priorities and figure out when you are going to schedule each of them. Be realistic and be willing to make changes but keep your priorities as the guiding light.
  • Review everyday at the end of everyday and plan for tomorrow.
  • Speaking of tomorrow… set up the coffee (on a timer!), lay out your clothes, pack your bag, and get everything ready for the morning so you can hit the ground running!IMG_1597
  • Adopt a system for getting shit done. I’ve used Franklin Covey’s system (loved it!), Apple’s Reminders, and good ol’ fashioned paper. Currently, I use Todoist and I have to say that it is the BEST system I’ve ever used – easy to schedule, prioritize, and share tasks.
  • Where you can, assign (and pay) others to do the things that are important to you to have completed, but that you don’t necessarily need to do yourself. My general modus operandi is to do everything that’s important on my own first until I understand how and why I want it done. Then I farm it out – sometimes to staff, sometimes to my children. Child labor is my favored route.
  • Recruit! The most important priorities in your life should also be your #1 fans. Your kids, your partner, your team, your health… all parties should be on board for this journey.
  • Talk to someone. See a therapist. Someone to help you think through things. I’ve found that today’s problems ALWAYS have roots in my past. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not advising to wallow in your childhood. But, a trained therapist can help you sort through the parts of life that you’ve stuffed down, ignored, avoided, or skimmed over. In the words of a wise friend, “Wherever you go, there you are.” If you find yourself hitting the same damn wall, feeling the same feelings of anger, frustration, shame, or pain, then that’s something that needs attention. Take care of it. I promise your life will be better.

I don’t know that I have any more to offer. Those of you asking for the details, there you go. It’s hard. It’s rewarding. It’s frustrating. It’s fun. It’s life.

Yup.

It’s life.

And I love it.

Cheers!

P.S. I’ll leave you with this. The most precious and critical moments of each day are those that I spend with my closest people.

Coffee with Stella from Hella on our recliners in the morning sun.

Conversations on the commute to and from Whitefish with Baby Joe.

History trivia and sports updates in the neurology office waiting rooms with Tedzilla.

Jokes and barbeque lessons with Little Rick.

And best of all are the late night vinyl and bourbon sessions with my husband, my best friend, my partner, my muse, my love, my sweet Travis.

Taking time and appreciating time with these people is my lifeblood. This time trumps any and every appointment or task on my list. More importantly, when I’m in these times, I’m fully in this time. I don’t text, check social media, answer email, make calls, daydream, or stew about what’s next. I’ve learned how to do this and I’m thankful I decided to figure it out. These moments make up the life that I love living.

 

What Are You Waiting For?

“How do you do it all?”

That is the number one question that people ask me. Hands down. I usually downplay my response. “Oh, you know. I just kinda put one foot in front of the other.” Or sometimes, I turn the question back on them, “I didn’t realize I had a choice? How could I not do it all?” All of the time, my first guttural, instinctive response is a big “Ha!” But seriously, what does that question even mean!??!

The truth is that the question most people are really asking is, “Why do you do so much?”

familyiseverythingMy four children who are now teenagers were born in the span of 3 ½ years. My husband and I are entrepreneurs. We own several businesses and a handful of residential and commercial properties. I am a dedicated student and teacher of yoga. I train in jiu jitsu and exercise regularly. I am an amazing cook and diligent housekeeper. I don’t like dirty toilets or unkept yards. I have a very large, amazing family that I keep in close touch with. I have a very involved social life and a travel schedule that will make your head spin. I read voraciously and write everyday.
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And I’m always looking for a new project.

Why?

Because I can. Because I want to. Because I’m called by a whisper that sometimes yells loudly in my head. Because everyday I engage with the people, activities, yoga poses, and ideas that tickle my interest – AND especially those that terrify me – is a day that I learn more about who I really am.

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Everyday I am challenged by a problem, time schedule, financial quandary, or teenage hormone-fueled drama is a day that I inch closer to the Real Essence of Me.

In my opinion, we don’t get better with the typical challenges of life. We get closer to our true nature. And every challenge, problem, weakness, shortcoming is just a speedbump or a crack in the road. Some of them take a little more thinking, a little more effort to traverse. But at the end of the day, there’s no choice. Keep going. Acknowledge your challenges. Use your strengths. Be bold. Keep going. Even better – bring it on!

So what’s my response to that initial question? How do I do it all? My response is a question.

What are YOU waiting for?

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A Break to End All Breaks

I planned for months that week of sun and sand, swimsuits and sundresses, rest and relaxation. Maybe it doesn’t sound relaxing to take a family vacation to Puerto Vallarta with four teenagers, but it was my dream. I wanted to dig my toes in the hot sand, paddle board in the ocean, and quench my thirst with pina coladas. beach babies

The process to unwind would take a few days. I knew this going into the vacation. And, I knew that I needed rest. So I was willing and prepared to go through the process of unwinding. Much like I teach my students in Savasana.

Ah yes, Savasana. It’s often misunderstood and commonly avoided. While most of us look forward to lying down and resting our bodies after an asana practice, few people are ever interested in actually practicing the pose. We pretend to let go, maybe we sleep or dance between the dreams and waking. Rarely do we practice Savasana. Much like we rarely ever take a vacation. A real vacation.  A vacation from schedules, checking in, problem-solving, doing, trying, winning, losing, feeling, thinking, being anything other than what is in front of us at that moment.

That was my intention for this vacation. Go somewhere and let go. Just do nothing. People gave us suggestions for where to go, what to do, what to see, where to eat. I never intended to do anything other than wake up, sit in the sand, and see what happens. Truly, I was looking for Savasana.
And let me tell you. Savasana is hard to do.

On the first day we arrived, we checked into the condo and slipped into swimsuits. The rooftop pool was already bustling with happy hour guests. They swam, chatted, and admired the setting sun. My husband found a chair, tipped his hat over his eyes and quickly fell asleep. The kids dove into the pool and began their endless game of Marco Polo. And me? I tried it all. First I sat, then I swam, then I laid on the warm tiles surrounding the pool. I listened to the birds, the surf, and the chatterings of the social hour. I closed my eyes. I opened my eyes. I began reading my book. I closed my book. The spiral of anxiety over what not to do was mounting.

This is just like Savasana, I thought. Great. This is going to be more difficult than I thought.

I’ve always thought it was cute when yoga teachers describe and teach Savasana. Admittedly, I’m no better at teaching the enigmatic posture. But, when I hear descriptions like, “Savasana is a time to let go. It’s a time to absorb the benefits of your practice. Savasana asks us to surrender completely our ego. Savasana is about letting go and being present. Let go of tension, thoughts, distractions, and memories…” Well, I have to chuckle a little. Is anyone actually doing it? Or rather, is anyone really not doing?

But there I was on Day 1 of a 7 day vacation in Mexico with my family. I had to figure it out.

In the words of BKS Iyengar, “By remaining motionless for some time and keeping the mind still while you are fully conscious, you learn to relax. This conscious relaxation invigorates and refreshes both body and mind. But it is much harder to keep the mind than the body still. Therefore, this apparently easy posture is one of the most difficult to master.”

The next morning, I woke at 5AM in a panic. My jaw ached from clenching all night. My heart was racing. The sticky sea air was still cool. So, I began to practice. I breathed in and out. I softened my eyes, throat, and belly. I let go of the grip at the base of my skull. I relaxed my jaw. Or at least I tried to relax my jaw. I pulled in and let go of the thoughts that scattered in my mind. The kids. The bills. The coffee. Did we have any? The sand. Could I keep the condo clean? Let go. Let go. Let go. Just breathe. Breathe.

And I thought of my favorite Samuel Beckett quote:

“Try again.
Fail again.
No matter.
Try again.
Fail again.
Fail better.”

The practice of relaxing, vacationing, being in Savasana went on for a few days. Okay, let’s be honest. I practiced vacationing the entire span of my trip. Some days I looked to the ocean to help me relax. Some days, the pina coladas did the trick. Mostly, I tried again and failed again and then failed better.  I can’t say that I ever really vacationed in the ideal sense. I tried.

On the last morning, I pulled out my journal and reflected on the week. What happened, what did I learn, did I experience any marked transformation of any kind, etc. I couldn’t think of anything remarkable that had happened or any epiphanies that I experienced. I only had the sense that this was something that I needed to practice more often. I needed to vacation more. I needed to practice Savasana.

Over breakfast with my husband on that last day, I asked if he was ready to be home. He said, “Yes. It’s too hard for me to relax. I don’t think I’m cut out for this vacation thing.”

I smiled.

“Yes, I know. Vacations are hard to do.”

Maybe we’ll try again next year.

I remember when…

I remember when I was infinite.
It was grand.
And now I am whole.
And it is.

All these years, we write scripts for the life we think we are living. At what point do we start living in improvisation? And when we do, what happens? Will we still be happy and sad as we were before? Or will our emotions feel differently?

There is an old proverb, “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.”

In my yoga practice, my challenge is always to see things as they are. No small task, which is why I hit the mat on a regular basis. But I often wonder what it would be like to actually not see things in our own reflection.

Food for thought.

The Walking (Brain) Dead

I ruined my son’s life today. There will be no iPods, iPads, tablets, Gameboys, or any other “technology” allowed. The only day that the kids will be allowed to use their “technology” is Saturday.

Ricky’s life is over.

The decision to reinstate this rule came after we played what should have been a friendly game of Monopoly last night. What typically is a night of conversation, teasing, jokes, and stories became a night of regurgitating and reenacting Vines, YouTube videos, and jokes they’d seen online. I felt as though my children’s minds had been hijacked by people I have never met.

So, this morning when I laid down the new rules, two of my three sons shrugged and made a feeble effort to put up a fight. They ended up deciding to head out to play a game of football. But poor Ricky. He spent the better part of the morning with his head buried in his pillow, making lists of why we are the worst parents on the planet.

Later, when Ricky was still buried deep in his cave of disdain, Joe asked me why I made the decision to ruin Ricky’s life. We talked about why I am actually a smart, caring mother contrary to what image I could feel developing in Ricky’s mind.

I explained that I consider our minds like a worm’s digestive system – garbage in, garbage out. If all we see, read, hear, and experience is offensive, sophomoric humor, then that’s what we’ll talk about, replay, and present to the world. I reminded him that he and his siblings are smart, talented, and compassionate. To water down their creativity with videos of kids twerking, adults falling into cakes, etc. wouldn’t be that much of a concern, except the time it takes to watch all of that. When can I expect them to practice their instruments, tidy their rooms, read books, play catch in the yard? Today’s iPods aren’t much different than the TV was in my youth. We can’t spend all day, everyday watching TV or eating Twinkies, or playing Clash of the Clans. That’s just not how we live life to its fullest.

So there I was, repeating the same conversation that I heard from my parents thirty years ago. Ugh. Which made me wonder what other Universal Truths in Parenting there were.

1. Garbage In = Garbage Out. Consider that what you put out in the world (via your athletics, academics, friendship) consists largely of what you’ve consumed.

2. A Smile for a Stranger Opens Many Gates. Is it so difficult to smile at someone? No. And believe it or not, your smiles create a sense of happiness that is contagious. Next time you are serving brussels sprouts, smile and see how much more accepting your kids are of your gourmet selection.

3. Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask Before Assisting Others. The truth is that if your child faints while you are putting on your own mask, you will still be able to help them. But if you faint, then you will be of no help to anyone. As dramatic as it is, this rule applies for many other areas in life.

I’m sure there are others that are equally crucial to surviving as a parent and molding responsible, productive members of society. This is a good start.

Maybe I’ll add more after watching the season opener for The Walking Dead… just kidding!

Easier Said Than Done

As a yoga teacher, one of the challenges of the trade is taht I am often asked about neck pain, back pain, and whether or not there is a pose that would help streacth a certain area in the body. What no one ever asks me is how to detach from designs, still the minds’ flucturations, or find steadiness and ease in a body and mind that appear so rigid and unadjustable. Funny, since those are the root practices of yoga.

I have always been under the impression that people don’t talk about the classical philosophy and practice of yoga because they don’t understand it or they are afraid. More likely it’s because of the public image of the cloth diaper-wearing, patchouli-laced, overgrown hippie who talks in strange vagaries about “beingness” and unrelatable terms that involve fabled stories of ancient times where fabled people always did the right thing and never worried about healthcare, taxes, or how to update their new iOS.

In reality, the psychology, philosophy, and practice of yoga is quite practical and very applicable to our modern lives.

The first aspects of yoga are physical. Yama and niyama remind us to be good and do good. Asana keeps us physically fit. Pranayama teaches us to be still and pay attention. Pratyahara bridges what is tangible to what is more abstract and brings us to examine our consciousness.

When we work on our consciousness – our “being-ness” – then we start to see changes in how we think, work, feel, and live. And believe it or not, therein lies our answers to aches and pains, depression, anxiety, and whatever else it is we are looking for when we type Yoga in to the Google search.

And, like all important practices in life, it’s much easier said than done.