Be

I am, or actually we are, 45 days into 2017. And I would just like it be over already. Within the scope of 45 days I have felt pretty much every emotion, it’s been a heavy year thus far. Most of theses emotions are self-inflicted , and I am still trying to figure out exactly how to navigate what I want to do with each of them. But instead of processing anything that I know I should be,  I sit here and I don’t feel like doing anything, just nothing. No reading, no yoga, no thinking, just being. And for me right now, a week after my 29th birthday, being is all I can be accountable for. I have thrown everything in the air and it has landed upside down around me and all I need to figure out is how to be. To be myself, to be strong, to be stable, to be stupid, to be something.

I thought that I had a pretty clear picture of what it was I wanted to be, until one day I didn’t. I woke up and saw everything for what it wasn’t, what I wanted it to be and how it didn’t turn out that way so I threw it all like caution to the wind. I thought that after I had thrown my life into turmoil that I would be able to breathe, and now that I am surrounded by the aftermath of my decisions I still cannot breathe. Sure I am breathing because I am living, I am here and I am aware. But I’m not here and I am only semi aware.

Maybe me trying to be requires that I take the steps to become aware. Or maybe I fly home and hide on my parents couch in 20 degree Western New York weather, maybe I need a distraction, maybe I don’t. Is figuring out how to be yourself a journey through maybes? Is that what I have done, entered myself into this self created labyrinth of maybes? I had spent so much of my time creating a place where I was sure, where I felt safe and secure. Until I didn’t. And instead of living in a world of what ifs I traded it all for maybes.

So what do I do with these maybes? What do I do with all of these emotions? I’m not exactly sure yet. But sitting here on my couch by myself wrapped in a blanket can only last for so long, until I decide to go back to yoga. When everything around me was created by the chaos within me then the only way to fix it is to go inside. Root down and rise up, lean on the strength of other souls so they can show you how strong your own soul is. Sweat out every tear that you think you have inside and try your hardest not to cry when you release the emotions that have settled in your hips (it is kind of embarrassing to cry in a crowded yoga class on a Monday afternoon I’ve learned). It’s 2017 and I am really, really over it, but it’s not done, and neither am I.

The World Turned Upside Down

Last week I had walked into a Big Lots for the first time in a long time. I was in need of some paper plates and dog poop bags. As soon as I entered the store, Christmas smacked me in my whole face. It was everywhere, from candy to decorations, to Christmas kitchen items to dog costumes. I immediately felt bad for Thanksgiving. It just gets the shaft, rushed over and forgotten.Agreed that Thanksgiving has transformed into a holiday that is buried in commercialism; stores don’t even close anymore, forcing  employees to miss the entire weekend with their families not just a Friday. And yes, Thanksgiving is a holiday with somewhat of a contentious history, but then again, what part of the United States history isn’t contentious. But I still felt bad, Thanksgiving had been reduced to a distant clearance corner inside Big Lots and it hadn’t even happened yet. With everything that has happened already this November, I can’t imagine rushing to the end of the year, freely falling into the unstable and unknown.

My fear of falling into the unknown followed me all the way to my yoga practice and has been taunting me for some time. In order to conquer this fear, I took the day off of work and participated in a yoga workshop given by a teacher that I take on a regular basis. During the opening sequences of our practice, the class focused on opening our chests and strengthening our spine; breathing intentions and focusing on our fears. The world is becoming unbalanced enough, my teacher had explained which is a vibe that has been a haunting theme in the everyday. He then mentioned the recent attention to this unbalance when the cast of Hamilton called out Vice-President Elect Mike Pence during a curtain call following a performance.It was the only political comment of the class, and it was taken with a passing laugh. In order to overcome that fear of being unbalanced, we had to adjust our “sunskaras” which is a sanskrit word for mental impression or habit, the order in which  you automatically cross your arms for example.In order to do that, we had to become aware of when our fear took over and adjust our reaction to that fear. Physically, this meant that as soon as we felt we were pass center we should bend our knees and land on the balls of our feet essentially in a wheel position.

When we focused back on finding balance while upside down,he went on to tell us that our spine has to be strong enough to find this balance; but subtle enough to adjust to the shock of falling. Our spine is the center of everything that is happening while trying to achieve an inversion. We spent a better chunk of the class flipping upside down and trying to hold various inversions including headstand, handstand and forearm balance. The ultimate goal, my teacher explained, is to not be afraid of falling out of an inversion, but to get frustrated that you did so. The goal, is to stay upside down, balance and be strong, getting over the fear of falling is just the first step.

By the time the class got to savassana I was exhausted. My arms were sore, my quads were screaming and I could not wait to lay down. Our savassana was extra long since our class was both extra long and hard on the nervous system. Once I had opened my eyes after giving gratitude for being able to practice that day, I felt light but grounded. I felt open and ready to be strong and stable in an unstable world.

Every Emotion, All in a Week.

I skipped my blog post last week. I was planning on writing a post Tuesday night no matter what happened but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I needed to take a collective breathe.And now it has been a full week of observation to this transition in history. It has been a mixture of disappointment, shock, and a test to issues and causes, institutions I believe in, family members and strangers relationships.

I had spent election night at work, watching history unfold in the side station by the service bar so I could see the T.V. This whole election season I have been one of the many that vocalized how “Trump could never become President,” I couldn’t fathom that when it truly came down to it, America would elect a Reality T.V. star to its highest office. But then states started and continuing to turn red and everyone around me started to panic. Since I was watching the election results at my job at a restaurant in Los Angeles, my coworkers, whom the majority of the them are Latina carried a specific anxiety with them all evening long. I came home and went to bed. I woke up the next morning as if I was a child who had been disappointed by every single one of their Christmas gifts. I made my coffee and I went to work, because that is something that will never change.

I reran the whole election cycle in my head. I closed my eyes and watched everything unfold as I brewed my coffee and I came to a grave and disappointing conclusion:America is obsessed with Reality T.V. From the establishment of villains, the heightened anticipation of conflict, to the very last minute of drama when John Podesta addressed the crowd and told everyone that Hilary would not be addressing the crowd and everyone should go home. Everyone ate it up like the best Housewives reunion ever. Donald Trump is perceived as one of the most successful businessmen on television. So America believed that and voted him into the oval office. I took a whole day to come to the realization.

The morning after there was a lull at the office. Everyone was either very over dramatic or very lethargic.The news of the election resonated throughout various corners of my family and friends, if anything FaceBook is a great reminder of that. The next day, I went to yoga class. My teacher spoke of accepting defeat, and allowing ourselves to work with the things we cannot change. She tried to apply these smalls pieces of advice to our yoga poses, but it was understood throughout the room that we could carry this advice with us once class was over. We laid on blocks to open our chests and our hearts. We used our legs and feet to find center and become balanced in an unstable world.

Once everyone was over the shock and disbelief of what had happened Tuesday night well into our Wednesday lunch break, protests began to break out in various pockets of the country including Los Angeles and New York. It was and continuous to be an emotional anger that will either be the catalyst to more participation in localized government and change or a further wedge in the division that has been a theme throughout this election cycle.

By the end of the week there was only one thing to look forward to and that was Dave Chappelle hosting SNL on Saturday. And after we were done crying because of Kate McKinnon’s cold open, it was worth the wait. He spoke truth and reminded us that we can laugh about our mistakes, change who we are and carry on. By Sunday, John Oliver made us laugh and then called the defeated to action. And that is important, so much of this election was convoluted by non fact and a misunderstanding of what our government could be. We use humor to pick ourselves up and learn to change our reaction to the things we cannot change.

And if all else fails we have those perfect Joe Biden memes.

Finding Center and Building Strength

Four years ago I was working at a restaurant at the Santa Monica Pier when a guest had left his book at the table. We kept the book behind the bar for at least a week and no one had claimed it.My fellow co workers (knowing me all to well, like a person addicted to rescuing animals, I was addicted to rescuing books). When I came in for my shift the following week, I could only think about the lost book sitting behind the bar waiting for a home. That is a serious statement, I had a dream about that book before I went into work the next day, I take it as an indisputable sign from that dream on. So, I snuck behind the bar and snatched the book from one of the bartender’s buckets.

“I knew you were gunna come in and snatch that book!”

Whatever now the book is mine.

The book, if I haven’t mentioned the title was The Bhagavad-Gita. And I’m not going to lie that book made a home for itself on my every protruding bookshelf for a solid year before I picked it up, but then I did.

I haven’t read the whole thing yet, I read some sections at a time; so I can really think about what the text is saying. I’m must disclose that I am not a religious person at all much to the dismay of my Italian mother & grandmother. And I don’t take the Gita as religious text. I let my eyes take the words in and my brain interpret the meanings as it pleases.

But what I did discover was the practice of Yoga.

And yes, many people start yoga for many different reasons.

But maybe I needed a push; maybe I needed a sign to tell me it’s time to start. Maybe I have a flair for the dramatic.

I started going once a week to get my body better, and to get myself out of the house. Until I found myself in Anthony Benenati’s Hath 1 Yoga class, and then I never wanted to leave.

After practicing yoga for a solid month I noticed the benefits my practice was having on my body. My arms jiggled less, my thighs were always firm and my stomach…well it was getting there. And after a month I pretty much stopped worrying the classic newbie worries one has when they start something new. ‘Am I breathing right? Does the teacher think I suck? My boobs are sweating. How do people sit here for 15 minutes and have a clear mind? I hope I don’t fart. I have to get milk later.’

But I was waiting to feel something, something that connected me to “my practice”. An enlightened moment when I could say, “OMG I am a true YOGI!”

But that doesn’t happen, that’s not realistic. Yoga’s whole philosophy is to take it slow, use props, build your way to a pose from the Earth up.  And I found the belief in my practice that way. When I started yoga not only was my body weak, but so was my spirit, and gradually from the ground up I learned how to build strength.

I have now been practicing yoga for a a few years and I continue to find solace in the hard wooden floor, brick walls and humming ceiling fans.