Saturday, December 27, 2014

No place (feels like) home

"...I looked inward and the beauty of my own emptiness filled me till dawn. It enveloped me like a mine of rubies..." ~Rumi

I've been facing my own worst enemy in these last few hours. And she's me. She follows me around and guesses every thought before it crosses from one side of my brain to the other. I've tried to tie her hands behind her back, but as of yet I have only two hands and when I tie hers, I tie mine as well.

And that's no way to live.

In this Purgatorial island with inmates whose sentences vary from brief vacation-like brushes with spirituality to those who have committed larger crimes, I've met those I needed to meet without realizing it. That's how it happens in the movies, too. The main character meets only and exactly who she needs to at every step on the yellow brick road. Dorothy's road was rather dull (even with munchkins) because she was from Kansas and Oz was dreamed up earlier in this age of spiritual desperation and darkness.

My conspirators are adulterers and addicts, both orthodox and reformed. And they have the tools and skills I need to unlock the intricate stitches that keep me sewn to my demons. All I have to do is ask for help and my shadow can be released to jump back to the real world of Wendy Moira Angela Darling and her brothers while I learn to fly again here in Neverland.

But asking for help is the last thing I want to do.

What I have realized, again, what I have known always and yet forget on a daily basis, is that I cannot outrun my own demons. 

Neither, I'm afraid, can you.

Despite my deepest wish that I could run away from her on my own, or slowly digest her wickedness, I keep hitting the unfortunate snag that no addict has ever, ever, ever liberated herself. Have you ever heard of one? I know those who live in mountain caves in total isolation, but I'm not a cave-dweller. Which leaves me with very few options.

(I'm pretty sure I can't rely on a single-family home caught up in a twister or a crocodile to wander in, either).

My instinct is to run into the sea. To head for the beach and wait for some revelation to wash in on the tide, but beach privileges are restricted to daylight hours, so no sandy midnight ruminations for me. Nothing but excessive, exorbitantly priced chocolate and your sympathetic eyes to fuel my self-discovery. 

According to the sacred doctrine of the Warden, if I think only pure thoughts, deny myself chocolate and coffee, eggs and garlic, and anything with spice or fermentation, and certainly drugs and alcohol and sex and talking and the internet, that then I will find this inner peace and quiet. Then I will realize that my demons and I are in fact just projections on the movie screen of my silly mind.

(It reeks of cave dwelling to me.)

So instead I turn to the wisdom of those whose crimes most resemble mine. Those recidivists who have been in my ruby slippers, both as the witch and the drug-addled virgin from Kansas.  

(you get that it was the witch's shoes that Dorothy wore home, right?) 

This is what I'm like sans caffeine, with fewer than six hours of sleep a night and gigantic white pants. Trying to make sense of the hodge podge of lessons and stories. 

Trying to make shoes out of emptiness.

Clicking my heels to no avail.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Spirituality in the Starbucks

Normally at the end of the year I write a witty, pithy letter summarizing my year. I include updates about my career and home life, and end with a list of Things I Have Learned.

I considered writing this letter before I left for my Caribbean Time Out. I considered skipping it all together. And now I'm writing to you from the darkness of my luxury tent, with nothing but the sounds of my fellow inmates snoring and a dozen cruise ships blaring Miley Cyrus and boozing it up.

This is the sound of spiritual transformation, which is also lit by the screen of an iPad. I'm not terribly confident that this is how the saints of yore experienced dark nights like this, but... welcome to the iVerse.

I nearly said that this year started like all of the others, but reflecting back I realize it did not. Rather than the annual walkabout The Ben and I used to take around the lake, sharing our hopes and dreams and plans, this year started with me feeling desperately alone. Too old for the same old party games, too tired to resist, and profoundly lonely (for people trying to get pregnant, that's code for Not Pregnant). It was dreary and The Ben slept in, recovering from a night that was very fun for him and not so much for me. I didn't drink as I held this tremendous hope tightly with two fists. I didn't dare have fun, because I was one day late, which meant This Could Be It.

I am pretty good at spending time with myself, but this was the umpteenth up and down, and it hit hard. Like crying on grandma's bathroom floor hard.

Like Eat Pray Love hard.

(and yes, I still hate the book)

Without the annual check in, I felt lost facing a year with tides of new flavors of loneliness while Ben planned his retreats and travels and I tried yet again to fold my interests around them. His plans included a three week long retreat in Seattle that I wasn't invited to, and I looked long and hard for an international yoga retreat or training on anything during that same three week time frame. There were none. As in: none on Earth (or at least the internet). So I booked something for myself instead. I turned my back on my marriage and focused in on goals I knew I could accomplish, like traveling abroad.

I did. And then my marriage ended. And then my life burned down. My marriage started on the equinox and will end on the solstice, the darkest day of the year. The day when, in years past, we invited friends over to celebrate the coming of the light.
This year I'm spending it in Paradise with Peter.

Despite my intense criticism of my mythical friend Elizabeth of Eat Pray Love fame, I think that perhaps she was right not to try the mega dose of eating, praying, and loving at the same time. Self transformation or purification or spiritual metamorphosis is not sexy, at all. It involves a lot of ugly crying that comes literally out of nowhere. As in tonight, our speaker at satsang was quite honestly the most boring person I've heard speak in public. I felt like I was trapped in a cocktail party in the corner, and this inspired weeping for the lost solstice party. 

There's nowhere to hide in a 9x9 tent with a makeshift bed, either

I've never spent Christmas or my birthday away from my family. Maybe that's pathetic, but it is true that on my 33rd trip around the sun, I'm starting to break away. The fact that I've chosen this particular adventure in a minimum security ashram built on the set of Pirates of the Caribbean is especially comical. This island is home to both the fanatical purists of the ashram and the dark temptations of the nearby mega hotels, casinos, and cruise ships. 


I'm grateful in many ways for the spotty internet coverage that separates me from the rest of what's happening in the world. For instance, Facebook has just started offering to compile my year in pictures and status updates, and while it's fun to see what your lives have looked like this year, I'm afraid to see how the omniscient biographer that is Facebook would recount my Year of the Wood Horse. Certainly it would pick up on the travel and the changing cast of characters, the gentle transition to those months where I was most clearly observing my feet, and the pervasive, lingering melancholy.

But it would miss the brightest and darkest of moments.... those that should be reserved for journals and those that happen out of view of the camera. It would miss the dramatic irony that my ex-husband's new girlfriend shares my birthday, or the inner turmoil of where to file my boyfriend's mothers' emails.



It would miss moments of realization that should come to me in meditation or deep contemplation, but inevitably hit me at Starbucks. Yes, it's true. There's a Sbx in Purgatory. And that's where I am right now.

Anne Lamott says that God is in the bathroom, and this has been like a mantra for me. I'm doing the work, like daily meditation and karma yoga and asana and philosophy. Every time my mind wanders, I bring it back to my mantra, which is only slightly less sacrilegious than God is in the bathroom, but I bring it back. But it isn't until I set foot in a place that is familiar that I distill the lessons of this spiritual path.

For me, Spirituality is at the Starbucks.

So for this year that cannot fully be described by Facebook or indeed by me, I'll offer you what I can. Lessons that maybe you can take and do something with.

Things I have learned from this: 

1. Relationships between two people can only be understood by those two people, if by anyone at all. Anything you see on the outside is an illusion broadcast by the Man Behind the (social media) Curtain.

2. The best moments cannot be captured by anything other than the soul. Like flying kites on the beach under the full moon, or the sweet boy who came to sit with me during Satsang. 

3. The worst moments are equally impossible to capture, and even more indelibly burned into the etherial material of the soul. Like the decision to part ways, or the infinite number of times I've called that decision to question

4. There is a Starbucks everywhere.

5. I have a quiver full of yardsticks that I've picked up from other people, and these tell me how quickly I should respond to an email, or how I should wear my hair, or how much money I should make or keep or spend. They also tell me about what motherhood and spirituality look like. This is heavy shit that I keep trying to leave behind, but someone from Lost Luggage keeps paging me to come and get it.

That's it for 2014. Next is Christmas and New Years, my birthday and The Year of the Goat, and maybe I'll find the next step to enlightenment scattered among the stars and celebrations. If so, I'll be sure to share.
Om Shanti, kittens. 

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Yellow & White is the New Orange (is the new black)

Yellow & White is the New Orange (Is the New Black)

Two weeks on Paradise Island, and I feel just a smidgen like I'm writing to you from Alcatraz.

Don't worry, the food, the weather, the company, and the beds are better.

Before I left, one of my prenatal yoga students joked that it sounded like I was going to prison: two meals a day, clothing provided, nothing to think about but the task at hand. The running theme for the following weeks was which contraband items I should bring.... like a suitcase full of tampons and chocolate (I should have... chocolate is $8). Then when we arrived, our instructor actually referred to the program as "having many similar qualities to a stay at a minimum-security prison." 


So now I will recount for you the ways in which it is prison-like and the ways in which it is not, based exclusively on my experience watching season one of Orange is the New Black.

- Wake up bell and role call at every session (both in and out).
- Unflattering uniforms you're not allowed to alter in any way, other than rolling up the pant legs for the mandatory beach walk meditation (<- this is both categories). Mine is appropriately sized for an extra small elephant.
- Metal table service. Although this may just mean it's like camping.
- Discipline as asserted from the outside, consequences, and reprimands for things like being 30 seconds late or texting in temple (<- not me, mind you, and totally reasonable unless you are texting Ganesha).
- Quirky nicknames. In this case, all staff and YTT faculty have spiritual names (so you could actually be texting Ganesha and that would not be appropriate).
- The food is good, although some foods are completely off limits and we currently don't know why. Even if we go into town, no eggs, onions or garlic.

- Everyone wants to be here (or want-ed to be here before they got here).
- We can leave any time. Or at least any time the boat leaves the dock, which is four times a day, and we don't require a pass or a shiv or an escape plan to do so.
- There is a lot of chanting. A lot. A LOT. When we're not actually chanting, I'm still chanting in my head, despite my complete inability to memorize the one chant we're actually required to memorize.
- We're here to attain some sort of personal mission for self improvement or spiritual growth or enlightenment.*

*Is this true of prison, too?

The hardest thing for me so far has been the sleep deprivation, followed closely by the discipline. I'm not accustomed to external discipline. And I think it has to do with the lineage-based approach. I'm a liberal artist in a school that adheres strictly and stringently to lineage, and that's tough for me. I've heard many times the analogy of the well. You know how if you want to dig a well and get water, it makes more sense to dig one hole and keep going until you hit water? (I'm sure you've dug a well before, right?)

Well, I haven't. I don't know what it's like, but I imagine that sometimes you hit bedrock and it makes more sense to shift six feet to the left and start again. But again, liberal arts.

So far I'm feeling very much like I did as a child in Catholic mass. I used to feel like it was so unusual that hundreds of people would show up and sit in the same room and pretend to believe the same thing, which we all surely knew wasn't true.

Now I feel like it is strange that hundreds of us gather twice a day to pretend to meditate. Digging the same well.

At least I get to walk on the beach.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Good Girl and The Good Student

The Good Girl and The Good Student

Like most women of my age and time and station, I've spent some time dealing with my predisposition to be The Good Girl, and by that I mean someone who follows all of the rules simply because they are the rules. Usually the rules are not written by good girls, but by groups of elders or men or elves (or ogres).

When they sent the invitations for the Rule Makers Meeting, it's possible they ran out of stamps when they got to the girls.

It doesn't really matter, though, because we are the best at following rules. If there were rule-following prizes awarded by the sun, we would be starlight beings. Even when the rules make no sense, or when we had no part in writing them. We still get a big, bright, gold star in the sky. And better yet, we avoid the stinging shame of punishment.

I'll speak for myself when I say that I'm slightly perturbed by this. 

Well, half of me is. The other half is too busy following the rules.

The other half, the anthropologist, loves observing the absurd behavior of the first half of me. I've introduced these two halves before, but I'll reintroduce in case you're not my mother and haven't actually read the entire cannon of my blogishness.

The rule follower is the Alpaca-Kari. Alpacas are small and skittish and quick to frighten. They are certain that they will end up on the street dragging a shopping cart filled with various and sundry items cast off by the less-anxious animals who seem to believe somehow that they can survive without that pair of broken sunglasses. 

Alpaca Kari follows the rules because she believes that if she just does EVERYTHING RIGHT that it will keep The Bad Things at bay. Like sickness and sadness and death. Anthropologically speaking, this behavior smacks of a superstition, doesn't it? If I told you that all I have to do to stay healthy is to avoid looking at tarantulas, you would call that superstitious. But if Wash My Hands and Eat My Vegetables, you might call that rational, because these rational rules are backed by Science and will therefore prevent me from getting sick.

Tell THAT to ebola.

Yogini-Kari is the other side. The observer who remembers this training in anthropology and yoga and meditation and says... hmmm... there is definitely logic and even evidence that these behaviors will keep me from getting some sicknesses, but nothing, nothing, nothing will actually prevent sadness and sickness and death.

Damn it.

The biggest irony for me, today, is that I'm re-learning this lesson (again, yes, thank you for keeping score) in an ashram. I find myself trying to be The Good Student (which is the best friend of The Good Girl) and forgetting to apply context or my own moral code or set of priorities. Remember when I decided that my own personal health and safety was more important than, say, being on time for things? 

Apparently, I do not.

This means that on my third day here I got in trouble. As in I broke a rule, someone noticed, and then they told me that I Was Bad.

The good news is that I didn't die immediately. I mean, I'm writing this now from what may very well be my death-hammock, as it is possible I've been living on shock for the past 24 hours, but I'm pretty sure this won't be the thing that does me in. 

It did feel like it at the time, because if there's one thing that makes me squeal inside the most, it is Shame. With a capital S. This comes back to The Good Girl/Student who still prioritizes the health and safety of others (or the Collective) more than the health and safety of my self. Not that the health and safety of everyone isn't important, or that empirically it might even be more important than my tired little stress-addled body, however, this is not how I would want to raise my child. To blindly and blithely follow rules written by a committee that I was not a part of.

And this, dear kittens, is my lesson I'm learning again. That I ought to treat myself as well as I would treat my child. Would I tell my daughter to be A Good Girl? Nope. If I ever have a daughter, I want her to be Pippi Longstocking. Full of sass and spunk and unafraid to say, "Dear God, Man! I've spent years delaying going to the bathroom to prioritize the needs of others over my personal comfort and health, and DAMN IT, when  you gotta go, you gotta go. And now I will go scrub the kitchen. I'll even do it better, more sincerely, and for the greater good of all the world... and without doing the pee pee dance."

These are the things I would want for a daughter.

Which surely means, that's really what I want for myself. Isn't it?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Dear internet,

I wish I could pour out all of my demons into your boundless bytes of infinite wisdom and webbery, but I'm afraid that I cannot. You've been there for me through moments of tremendous excitement and deep back-stabby pains, and while I'd love to express gratitude for the gifts you've given me, instead I'm writing for another reason.

I'm breaking up with you.

This isn't one of those, "it isn't you, it's me" things. No, this is you.

This breakup is for the times you showed me the false lives of friends and families… the pretty side... the promise of strong connection has fallen short with the ever-invasive nature of what you've had for breakfast, how much your babies have grown, and who else is pregnant.

This is for the times you lured me with incessant ads and programs aimed at fixing what ails me, only to prey on my vulnerability as someone who wants - needs - to find the mystery cure somewhere in your deepest, darkest folds of 1s and 0s.

This is for the friends and loved ones who have fallen victim to your tangly, snarled rabbit hole that starts with something innocent and lands somewhere just shy of criminal. Or just beyond.

This is for the nights you've stolen with mindless watching, chatting, playing, and vicarious living.

I have 500 Facebook followers, 768 Facebook friends, seven websites and more passwords than can fit in my head any longer. And I'm either too old or too young for this.

I appreciate your boundless knowledge, your ability to connect me with obscure morsels of entertainment and trivia, and I'm here to say I've had enough.

I'm taking the next two months as a time-out from you and all your blessings. Because for me, each blessing comes with a shadowy underside that is too tempting to resist. In all other relationships I've maintained some semblance of boundaries… but here? I've let you into my home, my purse, my driving, my bedroom. And what do you give to me? The Kansas state bird. Medical "advice" that always ends up with me having cancer. 62 likes.

This time, I'm taking my life back. Maybe I'll start churning butter or wonder a bit more how long a construction project will take? I don't know what I'll do with my time. That's why I'm taking a time out.

My word in class tonight was honesty. And this is as honest as I get.

That's why, it's over.

Friday, October 31, 2014


It has come to my attention that my blog posts are making a few of you a bit weepy. To be sure, I didn't really think anyone was reading this little ol' blog-o, but now I know for real and for certain that many of you are.

It means a lot to me.

I've hesitated to write this episode for some time now, thinking that I would jinx the very person or the very process, but in an effort to keep myself from being committed by various friends who think I might just benefit from an extended vacation giving myself an involuntary hug, here goes nothing.

When I worked in college admission (and therefore inadvertently counseled numerous eager and brilliant young minds), I used to describe the butterfly process. You've probably heard it before, and the dear Martha describes it well in Steering by Starlight. College graduation is very much like hatching from a cocoon with a whole new set of expectations and abilities. I think we go through many of these such processes in our lives: get tired of crawling along, hibernate, disintegrate into goo, put ourselves back together again, and then POW! WINGS.

A few years ago, as I prepared to retire, I had a sense that what I was experiencing was not the lego-esque butterfly moment, but something entirely different. More than a metamorphosis, but I couldn't really put my finger on it. I didn't feel as though I was about to sprout wings and fly gracefully, I felt like I might spew fire and be ready to take names (as they say). I called it my dragon moment, and it just happened to occur during the transition to the year of the dragon. It was dragons all around as I launched my business, leapt from the safety and security of the 401(k) and wrapped myself in the fragile threads of faith that I had carefully kept hidden from the world. I jumped from reality into fantasy.

Wild dreams came true. Pretty much everything that I set in motion either took off or very quickly disintegrated, and I breathed a sigh of relief that I would never have to do something that scary again.

(Hilarious, I know).

This transition… this transition isn't like a game of legos, where you build your tower and then take all the pieces apart and start over again. This time I've started by tossing my beliefs into the fire.

Security? Illusion.

Forever? A myth.

Future? Not guaranteed.

Expectations? Worthless.

In some ways, this makes breathing easier, because the enormous backpack full of crap I've been toting around is losing weight as the crap inside starts to burn... And then there's the smoke.

I'd love to tell you that I've done this entirely on my own, like Pippi Longstocking or She-Ra (or any other strong female with gorgeous hair and long socks). But the reality is that even in this very intimate and personal moment, I've done this and am doing this with the support of many, many friends.

Like you.

Your words and thoughts and intentions give me the strength that it takes to weather the flames.

But that's not the end of this story.

I have to be careful here. I'm walking dangerously close to the line of the knight in shining armor, and I don't want you (or the alleged knight) to think I'm a damsel, or that I'm in distress that someone else can save me from. The truth is that I have been inspired by someone who has already experienced this rebirth-by-fire. That he is willing to watch patiently from the sidelines, to push gently when I get stuck, and to hold on when I think I'm about to burn up and die? This has been a gift I couldn't have asked for. I didn't know it was possible.

It's inspiring (and scary) to transition from the lego-world of reality to the dragon world of fantasy to the other world-li-ness that comes with starting from scratch with a whole new batch of beliefs. I'm not sure I would have said that it happens outside of the epic poems like the Odyssey or Siddhartha, except that I've seen it. And every time I think about jumping back into lego-land or closing myself off to the pain (and subsequent beauty), I see this mythical creature soaring in front of me.

Waiting for me.

Edging me along, encouraging me. Loving me.

And so I sit on the pyre, knee-deep in ashes, waiting to grow wings.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


The last few days have been particularly educational for me. I've felt like a jerk no fewer than three separate times, for things I'm so ashamed about that I will not publish them on the internets.

No matter where I go, the Shame Monster lurks.

I've been exceptionally lucky thus far in this life, or at least I think that's what Oprah would say, as would 99% of the population of Earth. The pain I've experienced has been almost entirely self-inflicted, perhaps because I've had it so easy and would otherwise be bored, or possibly because I have some sort of internal defect or flaw, or indeed because I've got a bad case of self-directed sociopathic tendencies.

I love Martha Beck. She says that when you're on the right path, the Universe conspires to assist you, and when you're not… well, it keeps sending reminders. Like my GPS, Shirley T, who never says, "WRONG! WRONG!" she just says, "Recalculating."

I'm recalculating.

And recalculating.

On Friday I went to Divorce Court with my husband. We sat next to one another while the other couples sat across the aisles, spewing silent hate-balls and shooting eye-daggers. We thought we were attending something personal where a judge would give us dirty looks and ask us with puppy dog eyes, "why couldn't you just make it work?" I was prepared for the judge to ask me if I was pregnant, and when I said no, ask me again if I was sure. But I wasn't ready for what actually happened.

Two things broke my spirit on Friday. One, the unfortunate man whose job was to interpret an exceptionally boring flow chart for the masses did his darndest to keep us entertained as he essentially told us five minutes worth of information in two hours. He did this using a narrative style, which I appreciate from the days of working in college admission. Keeping an audience when the subject matter is bleak isn't easy, but his narrative was horrendous. Humbling. Humiliating.

We were a mixed crowd, the 20 other couples and I. Some had children, others did not. As such, our flow charts contained different information. In order to describe the importance of a childcare agreement, Mr. Not Judge described the process of having and raising a child in excruciating detail. "You loved each other, so you decided to have a baby. You wanted the best for your baby and talked about what you would feed it, where it would go to school, how you would teach it values, whether or not it would participate in a religion..."

And there I was, my head pounding. The wailing banshee inside screaming WE DID THAT PART. WE DID ALL OF IT. WE HAD EVERYTHING IN PLACE. AND WE HAVE NO BABY. My eyes started to water, then pour as all of the dreams and goals and plans that I had made washed back into the sea. The reality of the tide receding as I close this chapter was as shocking as Shirley T telling me to take a left turn into a lake.

And so sitting there, in the face of all the never-will-be, in a sea of animosity, my husband took my hand. He said nothing, and he didn't have to, because he knows me better than anyone else. Sure, I've spent months slowly chipping away at the frozen or calcified grief in my belly, but any progress I've made has quickly patched over to preserve or survive. What possibly remains of spirit once the grief begins to thaw? I think it sets itself on fire, transmuting its energy by self-immolation. Grief, I suppose, cannot thaw itself.

It strikes me, haunts me, that in the moment we were supposed to be the farthest, we were the closest.

My wedding video shows my relative insanity as I try to look the blushing bride. Among the things I blame (and thank) my mother for is my lack of Barbie doll preparation for a world that has still quite a few Barbie-esque expectations. There was no deep spiritual transition as I committed myself to a partnership, just a hare-brained attempt to look pretty and keep smiling.

But divorce? That's where the magic happened. The moment I realized that the most loving thing another human could do was to see, to acknowledge, and to hold my hand in the swampy thickness of thawed grief.

We each go our separate ways shortly… him to the East and I to the… well, East, but different easts.

No Shirley this time, just me.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Tyrannical Monday

Today is the anniversary of a lesson (and it has nothing to do with a man named Christopher).

I think most people would say it's the anniversary of a very bad day, and they wouldn't be entirely wrong about that, but I haven't thought about it as a bad day for the last ten years or so. For certain a date when I allowed myself to be pulled down the road less traveled when standing my ground and taking the brightly-lit path might have been a significantly better choice.

Regardless, one more set of footprints on that dark road.

I know other people who have been there and haven't been able to escape the shadows of that more densely-forested lane, but I feel like I did. And I grew from it, and helped lots of people who needed that help, particularly from someone who had the same dust on her shoes.


I've been reading a bit about the pesky, thorny people that come into your life and stick on like brambles and exceptionally tired chewing gum. For me, it used to be the glue-eater in elementary school, and then it was the overzealous coworker who always had her nose and toes and ears in my office asking me where I got my shoes. These people had things to teach me, whether or not I learned them the first time or after declining the seventh invitation to the pyramid scheme kitchen gadget party.  I'm reading a Big Girl Book right now, and I feel I must share with you that this idea is not my own. These people are lovingly referred to as Petty Tyrants, and they A) only come to us if we're really, really lucky and B) are here to teach us important lessons about ourselves. If we're incredibly fortunate, we get an egotistical d-bag named Christopher who begets the pillaging of an entire continent (or two) and the countless peoples within.

Now, I'm not America (obviously). Nor am I so "fortunate" as to be pillaged by the Sons of the Spanish Armada. But I am more than navel deep in my own epic narrative down another road less traveled, and I'm starting to wonder if my tyrant is more of an experience than an embodied person. A situation I've gotten myself into.

Sometimes I imagine that God is laughing - hysterically - about my situation. It's actually pretty funny to think about. I know a lot about preparing women for birth, so a lot of them come to my yoga classes or want to hire me as a doula, or just want to message/text/call me with questions. And it is SUCH an honor to be a part of their experiences! (You want to talk about an experience as f-ed over as pre-Colonial America? try birth). I am absolutely thrilled beyond my wildest dreams that people value my opinion, want my support, or hear my voice in their heads repeating something that made sense when they're in the midst of the cyclone of birth or motherhood.

And yet, the bitter sadness that despite doing everything "right," and learning that nothing is "wrong" that I'm still on the wrong side of that zoo glass. The side that sees motherhood as a spectator. A super fan with no way in.

So here I am, on this dark path, again confronting an experience. Eager (desperate?) to learn the lesson. Trying to find grace and gratitude for the opportunity.

The beauty in the ashes.

I don't like Mondays too much.

Friday, September 26, 2014


My life is divided into before and after.

Before I went to college. (after)

Before I got married. (after)

Before I turned 30. (after).

We live in this culture steeped in a heavy time addiction, surrounded by watches and calendars, and Apps for That. Thanks to the wonder of data and (my) time obsession, I can definitively tell you where I had dinner on July 1st, 2007, exactly how many miles I've flown on United, and when my last 78 menstrual cycles started.

Just in case anyone is keeping score at home.

I was raised by scientists. Mathematicians. People who respect when someone attempts the same thing over and over again and gets the same results. This is my latest bridge, I'm afraid, and it's probably going to piss you right off.

Before I fell out of love with science (after).

Before I lost hope in ever getting pregnant (after).

It's a sticky situation, forced by this artificial concept that time is real and that somehow I should kneel before the altar of the great and mighty timepiece. The thing I didn't realize (or that maybe I forgot) is that spirit doesn't stick to a schedule, and she doesn't know the rules of science.

Spirit does her own thing, each time, sans prediction. Sans time.

So this is my afterlife. After I turned 30, got divorced, gave up on Western Medicine. I'm settling into a wild new way of thinking that doesn't necessarily operate by the rules and has no penalty box. My calendar makes me want to scream, and so I'm chucking it into the wind.

In two months, I set sail (in the Biblical sense) for the Bahamas. I'm literally escaping from the drudgery that is December. The constant (wonderful, I swear) news that someone else is pregnant again, or for the first time, or after trying xyz/giving up/adopting a slew of Latvian orphans. I put this off every year in the hopes that I'll be pregnant, and I never am. So I'm going.

I'm going to a place where everything is provided (including the white pants). Classes, lodging, two meals a day, and two outfits. One of my yoga students said to me yesterday, "My, that sure sounds like prison!"

Perhaps it does. Maybe I'm committing myself to a two-month-long prison stay and I've lost my ever loving mind.

But I'll be on a beach, wearing (formerly) white pants, in a space that ignores shorter days and shoveling. A place that skips the "first Christmas (and birthday) AFTER my divorce." A place that celebrates Tuesday the same way it observes Friday: sunrises, two meals, and a distinct lack of social media.

A place between Before and After.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

How Far I Got

Seven years ago this minute I was frantically running through the aisles at King Soopers in search of something. I can't remember what it was, but I do remember my friends running along with me as I loaded my cart with all of the wrong things… seven different Annie's dressings (because they were on sale), a few boxes of cereal, and a number of scratch-and-dent items that I'm certain weren't destined for use on the honeymoon.

We had finished playing charades with an apartment full of friends, and I was on a mission. No one seems to be able to remember what it was (which was the name of the game in those days). I was always running. Perpetually frantic.

I was in self-escape mode.

This is not the space in which one should consider getting married, and despite thinking that several times (and sometimes writing it down and saying it out loud), I allowed my body to ride one conveyer belt while my mind rode another. My heart? It was in a blender. Still contained but in no way intact.

We never really celebrated our anniversary. We wrote our vows on the spot. We went separate ways  after the wedding.

We had a different kind of love, and were the best of friends. We "made it" through a year in Iraq, through nursing school and admission office travel and file reading season. We almost made it through two years of night shift.

We almost made it to seven.

Three months after I got married, a friend made a Facebook account for me. I loaded in an album of my wedding pictures, and I titled it, "Let's See How Far I Get." At the time I told myself it was in reference to how long I was willing to sit around and painstakingly upload one photo at a time.

It has new meaning now.

His things are either out or packed up, save for the wedding stuff. My bouquet. The pictures. The empty photo albums we never filled. Where there used to be a pile of his papers there is a small stack of our papers with my signature and a notary stamp, and they're staring at me. The house feels both gargantuan and stifling. And whatever home-ness was once here has blown away. It is simply a space filled with memories, history, and a bunch of things that feel foreign.

A life I used to live.

Tomorrow would be seven years from that inane Seal song, the reception music by Schindler's List, the Time Warp. Nine years from the day I proposed on the top of Pikes Peak. One year from, "oh, well, we don't need to spend every anniversary together."

I've learned a lot over this time, and I don't regret it for a second. In some ways, there's a lot of pride in making it seven years. Wonderful things that might improve your relationship, like walking around the lake each New Years to talk about our upcoming dreams and goals for the year. Like finding a way to manage finances that never involved a moment of fighting, disagreement, or even mild irritation. Never going to bed angry.

There are probably reasons we didn't make it further, and perhaps it isn't appropriate to broadcast those on the internet. And maybe we had simply walked as far as we could hand-in-hand, and now it's time to break stride like we're crossing a bridge. If I figure them out, I'll be sure to let you know.

So now, atop a very tall glass of grief, is a thin layer of gratitude. Thank you, My Ben, for walking in and walking out with me. Thank you for never making me fearful, for listening and trying to keep me calm despite my inner tempest. Thank you for doing your best, always. Nine years ago you said you would call whenever you could, and I would always answer. I get that things will be different now, and that you may not call very often.

But I will always answer.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Indecision Sandwich

I've spent the last few weeks (months?) in an indecision sandwich. You know the kind? Where you've got an equal number of good and bad things on each hand, so you squash them together with some avocado slices?

(It's messy in here)

Before you start to lose your breath or pick up the popcorn and tissues, let me reassure you, this sandwich has nothing to do with men.

(or women)

Romantically speaking.

This is a deeper, more personal question. Do I subject myself to medical tests that I fundamentally disagree with? Even if they are THE only way to answer this one question (and ironically, the only way to treat the bad answer to the question)? Or do I stick to my gut, my heart, the tiny sliver of faith that I've kept tucked away behind my left ear for just these circumstances?

My sense of intuition is very strong. I would say it's stronger than yours, but then I also have no idea. I know that I listen to my intuition far more frequently than most people (tell me they) do AND that it is never wrong. My problem, is that here in the middle of this sandwich, there's too much worry and fear and "WHAT IF" amid the roasted red peppers. Intuition has no space. There's no air, no tiny cracks for light to seep in.

Or faith.

This is so good for me. I hate it, but it is such an excellent reminder of what we subject women to with anything related to their lady parts. My prenatal clients come to me with the look I now see in the mirror, and for the first time I really, truly understand them.

What if something is wrong with me?

What if this horrible test is the only way to know?

What if I don't get it, and then something is wrong?

What if I do, and this worry was for nothing? And I've subjected myself to all sorts of unknowns that my ancestors would never have dreamed of?

What if I just made this worse?

I know two things:

1. Worry is never good for you.
2. I just started five sentences (in a row) with "what if?"

To me, this says I'm in no place to make a decision. Fear is never the right place. The path makes itself known when the time is right, when the moon is in the right place in the sky, when the water is clear.

The answer never comes from outside. That's the trick with the sandwich! You think that the right side or the left side is truth, and you can't shake that something is missing in the middle. I don't know about you, but I've never made a good decision from the perspective of a leaf of spinach.

When neither choice is right, it's because there's a third option. I can literally hear myself saying this to dozens of people in the past year. There's more than one right way. There are more than two options.

Find the third option.

Never settle.
Thanks for the pix, Abby from LoveRoots Photography

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


I know you're used to grand, sweeping confessions here on the blog-o, but this one is the biggest yet (and possibly ever).

(wait for it)


For the last ten days I've thrashed wildly against the perils of being alone. The negative self-talk, the cookie monster, and The Darkness. Instead of throwing my usual weapons into the mix (distracting podcasts, season two of Orange is the New Black, margaritas, salted carmel things), I've faced these demons with only the cunning use of meditation, tears, and an unending well of desperation.

There was a lot of thrashing.

I'm not on the other side right now. Most people write and publish these things once they're safely on the distant shore from crazy, but I'm still swimming.

Well, I'm dead-man's floating. Mostly underwater with occasional surfacing to breathe a bit, and then turning inwards yet again to face my navel.

This is reason number one why I hate EPL. She had a pretty good life (as did I), and then had a year of crazy wandering, and then was fine. And she wrote from the space of being fine, after having made it through. This is not helpful to read when your eyes are filled with saltwater.

Reason number two is also my sweeping confession. She ended her journey with love. She stopped denying herself, found herself, and then came to resolution when she found a man. I'm noticing this sickening compulsion I have to "make it through" until someone on a white, shining horse can come sweep me away from my muck and my problems.

This makes me yell at myself the way I yell at Rapunzel,

You have to learn how to save yourself.

Eat. Pray. Eat again. Pray again. Love unabashedly and with total abandon, but do not write love as the end of the story. Love requires prayer. And eating.

The dead man's float is about resting and saving up your energy until you're ready to lift your head out of the water and get your bearings again.

I've stolen some peeks out through soggy eyelashes, and sometimes I get really scared by how far away the land is. Most times, I'm grateful to still be floating.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Instruction Manuals

No matter how calm, cool, and collected you are, how yogafied and blissed out, it is categorically weird to see your husband and his girlfriend at a party (please note, I'm not looking for pity, as I'm also dating). But despite me being cool on the outside and the inside, there's something strange about this part of saying goodbye. It's easy to fall into the, "He never did that for me!" or "I'm glad I never have to deal with that anymore," because I think it's quite painful to actually feel the sadness.

This sort of ending is very sad.

(Just ask the peanut butter jar and spatula next to me).

For some reason today I had the thought that I should pass along an instruction manual to the new girlfriend. Like I should give her a boost, a fighting chance, an opportunity to predict and subvert any difficulties I had to learn about from the start. Maybe I should include a family tree, along with the relatives to focus on (and those to be wary of)? Some hints about travel woes or favorite recipes? Highlight his best assets… he has amazingly beautiful hands- as in - he should be a hand model, if that's a thing. Keep pushing on that one, I'm pretty sure it's a gold mine.

Except that this isn't fair, is it? This is me intruding where I no longer belong. Trying to shine a light through a door that I closed. And what's the fun in that? Maybe there are other endearing things that I missed, and maybe there are habits I beat out of him (like PENS in the DRYER).

Apparently, this is not a concept I cooked up on my own. This idea of passing forwards with the torch must be intimately tied to the phase of the moon, or some fragrance floating through the nearly fall breeze, because the same thing happened to me this evening. A piece of his past handed me a note with whispers of foreboding. Foretelling things I may have discovered, and perhaps things I didn't want to know. Even though her intentions were more than honorable - kind and even friendly - they helped me decide that my husband's future partner(s) are on their own. Untainted by the lens through which I saw him.

I'll sit here, out in the outfield, a shadow of me with a shadow of who he was, fading into the history books.

And look forward to reading the next chapter.

"I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become." ~ Carl Jung

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Soothesayer

It's one of those nights, I'm afraid. I could blame lack of sleep, or time travel, or the emotional roller coaster I've camped out on as of late, but I'm not sure that's what this night is about.

This night is quiet. The nagging little soothesayer that lives somewhere in a secluded cave behind my heart has wandered out into the silence and isn't letting me sleep. She's not even whispering… she's just giving me that knowing look. You know which one I'm talking about? The one that says, "Really?"

You can tell she's been kibitzing with some of my other demons, like Distrustful Sally and Fear of Commitment Bertha and Codependent Sam. They've got some kind of internal network that somehow bypasses Rational Max until they've had time to conspire and create a unified front. How can Fear of Commitment Bertha and Codependent Sam conspire together? Your guess is as good as mine.

I used to be really good at dulling that Greek Chorus with the steady application of red wine and mindless television. But then I gave up drinking and TV, and now I'm just an addict in search of a vice. I've considered internet porn and marathon running, but neither really do much for me. So I cleaned my house. And my front porch. And even a couple of the scary cabinets that contain the ghosts of demons past. The trouble with this method of self-study is that it dredges up years of muck and excess fondue pots.

The culinary villains are easier to part with.

The muck. Oh, golly. Some of them are logistically difficult, like wedding portraits and cut crystal everything, and others are even more difficult than the reminder of the epic failure and fall from The High Horse.

Like patterns, my friend. Patterns so established that the rug is threadbare and the footprints embedded in the floor boards. My wild, unbridled love affair with love. My passion for taking on the burdens of the world, for taking everything personally. The soft, comforting folds of shame and guilt. The fairy tale.

Satya is supposed to be about telling the truth. Most of the time, I think we focus on truth-telling as something we're supposed to do for others. Remember when your parents told you never to lie, unless it was for a birthday party surprise? And then you got to junior high and started to lie with reckless abandon? I'm pretty certain this is a universal experience.

Now I've told my share of lies and half-truths to others, but I'll tell you what: nothing compares to the whoppers I've told myself. The excuses I've made on behalf of others. The times I've wrangled that soothesayer back into her dungeon and walled her in. If there were only an Academy Award for this flavor of insanity.

So this is where I'm sitting tonight. On the edge of satya, reflecting on the lies I've told myself.

And waiting to see just what comes up. And if I can do better tomorrow.

Monday, July 21, 2014


Sutras 2.16 is my favorite: "the pain which has not come can be avoided." It's a good reminder for me, because I spend a lot of time and energy fearing the pain that has yet to come. Maybe you do, too? Lately I've opened myself up to an ocean of pain, and with that has come a tremendous amount of fear. Against my better judgement and the advice of close counsel, I've jumped in with both feet, with total disregard for depth or temperature or even my bearings.

It's a strange world, this underwater paradise. In daytime, the waters are clear and nearly perfect, teeming with life and new adventures. In the darkness, however, the shadows are deeper, with curled fingers reaching out to pull me under. It doesn't seem fair to share space with ghosts in paradise, and yet that is what my reality has become: a desert island that isn't as deserted as I had originally thought. So I take solace in the sea, treading water for days, surfacing for one breath at a time.

Pain is a great teacher. It allows us to learn more about ourselves and how we connect with everyone around us. It pokes through the illusion that we are separate and reminds us that everything we do (and everyone around us) has the potential to create or alleviate pain (this includes you, my dear).

Teachers and writers open themselves up to painful experiences so that they can save others from pain, or at least help them chew through the tough spots (let this be the most important lesson to those of you out there considering a career change to either writing or teaching… it's a loaded gun). Fear however… fear is only useful in small doses, and only when you're about to cross the street in front of a speeding bus.

Fear is the pain that has not come, wrapped in a delicious lie. It can be impossible to resist. Fear tells you to breathe shallow breaths, because you may not surface completely and could drown if you try to take in more than you can manage.

Faith promises to fill your lungs with air.

Faith swallows fear's bitter pill and says: Tomorrow can hurt less than you think it will. It might even be beautiful.

heyam duhkham anagatam

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


I spent the last week in a parallel universe - familiar snow-capped peaks with their toes dipped in green glacial waters.

For desert creatures the rainforest offers a different kind of nourishment.

Away from cell towers and the intimate tangle of the internet my lungs opened in a way I haven't experienced since childhood. The soundtrack was a timeless mix of silence and gongs, the pace set by primeval slugs. Silent and slow and impossible to miss. It is impossible to imagine a dry time there - a crackling pace set by sun and sand. Even the dampness and the lazy morning clouds conspired to say rest.

Yin yoga has always been a powerful medicine for me. I've always kept my tail high and hidden behind me - a place to store all of The Things I didn't have time or patience to deal with. In yin, I had to relent and maybe even drop into the earth. Allow myself to be held by her restorative power. It is so easy to hold on to all of these stories, and yet so tiring to keep them from dragging in the mud.

Feminine energy scares me. I walk lightly and feel most at home when soaring through the sky (or at least wandering airports in search of tea). It's lovely to leave the story at home for awhile. The fear and guilt, the shame and distrust that is fostered in the West makes no sense in the East where it is simply an essential part - perhaps half of who we are.

When men feel stressed, they run or fight. I ran for years (and still do). Not the one foot, other foot, pavement-pounding, but the hyper-fast, ungrounded and abstract busy-ness. My main attempts at rest these past two years have been out of physical desperation, a full depletion of my adrenal glands or my kidney energy, or my spirit. How easily we transform that energy into fuel for someone else's fire. Now that my body has rested, perhaps it is time to support and nurture my own soul.

One of my favorite books as a child was Where the Wild Things Are, when Max puts the wild things into a trance by saying, "Be still!" When I practice yin yoga, it is my body that has to find stillness. Only then does my mind begin to catch up - not by running ever faster, but by slowing down. I've always described this sensation as a trance. After a week of pacifying the demons, I was hoping to leave them behind.

But they came home with me (they always do). And so I need another strategy. Do we make friends?

Do I let them consume me?

Or, like Kali, the mother of death and destruction, is it time to eat my demons?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Gravity and the Great Beyond

A couple of months ago I watched the preview for the movie "Gravity" with my mother. We thought it might be a nice award-winning flick to rent.

Except that the preview gave us both heart palpitations.

There Sandra Bullock was, floating freely in open space: unsecured, unbound, and screaming bloody murder. It's what all of us would do in the same circumstance, and that's what made me break out into a cold sweat. Being separate is totally unnatural. Spinning wildly out of control with no ground, no foundation, no anchor? It's what makes us panic in open water, what makes lifeguards quake in their shorts. When we've got no attachment, when we feel like we're drowning, we grasp and hold tight to anything we can reach.

Heavenly bodies have this same problem and simply don't operate in chaos. They lapse into a dance of close and far, but stay connected by a seamless tether. Moons and planets, planets and stars, and even the planets themselves spend time getting closer together, and then time on their own, before coming back right where they were to start yet again.

No cord connects them, but they dance.

I think about this often now, and it helps to remember that I'm on Earth and that the connection I have with this supreme Mother is equal and steady. Without judgement, she pulls as hard on me as I do on her, and we stick together even as we both dance.

When I start to lose my connection and allow my spirit and soul to wander into new orbits, I come back to my mat. My feet. My trust that she's got me, and that no matter how lost I feel, I always have her beneath my bare feet.

Saturday, June 14, 2014



I was teaching a kundalini yoga class yesterday, on an island, to a group of women, on the full moon, on Friday the 13th, with Mercury in retrograde, during a thunderstorm.

If there were a more perfect way for me to describe my inner state than this, I don't know what it would be.

Warrior 2 is this splendidly overused pose that I deeply despise (is it ok to say that as a yoga teacher?). My dislike isn't from the ancient story of decapitation (google it) or the compression in my front hip, or the tightness in my front patellar tendon. My distaste roots from the forward/backward leaning. Most of us pull forwards into the future and burn the past, many of us lean back afraid to take the next step, and none of us lands squarely in the only place we need to be: the present.

The present is hard, because it demands that we land in the animal space of breath rather than the sinister human place of planning and memory. I'm a planner. And a Story Fondler (as Martha Beck would say).  Like a jackrabbit, I bounce back and forth between where I'll be in five years and how far I've come in the last two.

Now I'm on an island in a space beyond time. There are no clocks, no business hours, no schedules. And as easy as it would be to get lost in lists or someone else's skin, I'm just here, stewing. Processing. Caught somewhere between the sand and the sky with nothing but my breath and the surf: the constant reminder that breath is all there is.

Perhaps the present is a gift that comes without wrapping paper (which, let's face it, is just to place a physical barrier between that a gift and the present moment... to mask it away). Somewhere between warrior one and warrior three, the rage and the reparation, is warrior two. The cutting away.