Marching forward

I woke up this morning to an achy body and bursting heart. Both sensations kept me weepy all day.

When the boys and I left home Saturday morning to meet up with the families who comprise our proverbial village, I had no idea what to expect aside from sore feet and complaints of hunger. In fact, I had a little talk with the boys before we even left home.

“Listen, today isn’t going to be easy. There might be a lot of people. We won’t be able to quickly leave if you’re tired or hungry. So just remember that fighting for what you believe in isn’t always comfortable and it isn’t always fun.”

I didn’t “make” my kids join the Women’s March on Washington. I’d decided to walk when I first saw the announcement, but initially figured I’d leave the kids home, fearful of subjecting them to acts of violence. But both expressed concern for this new Administration and a desire to take a stand, so we outfitted up, pockets full of snacks, and joined the throes.

“I wish I’d made a sign,” my younger son said immediately upon getting off the metro and seeing the sea of posterboard. He got something better; a marcher handed him a Ziploc bag containing a pink hat knit by a woman in Kansas unable to come for the march. (He didn’t take it off until bedtime.)

We walked. We chanted. We shared stories with the people we encountered. We smushed in close and spent the entire march keeping track of the kids in our village. We were 14 adults and 11 kids, though it certainly felt like those numbers were flipped, head on a pivot constantly counting and recounting. We didn’t make it to the rally (or anywhere near the Jumbotrons), wedged as we were on the Mall-side of the Native American Museum, just a few blocks from the action. So many people were packed into this usually wide open space that we never made it to the actual march route; instead our part of the crowd carved a wide and densely populated path to merge in with the rest of the marchers on Pennsylvania Avenue.

I’ve been to a few Inaugurations, Wembley Park for a legendary concert, the Esplanade in Boston for 4th of July festivities, and I’ve never experienced such a friendly, supportive and polite crowd. There was little pushing. Lots of information comparing/sharing. A warm camaraderie underpinned the grit, determination and passion evident on faces and signs. When in midafternoon we peeled off to head back to the metro, I was surprised to turn back and see the sea of pink overtaking the city; I wasn’t surprised this morning to read zero arrests were made in connection with the event.

We got home exhaused but exhilirated. Hungry, but ready for more. “We marched for a good cause,” noted my older kid. “Defending the rights of you and my friends is totally worth it.”

The hard work starts now. The new administration already scurbbed the words climate change from the White House website, like deleting those two words will make the crisis disappear. The new press secretary lied in his first press conference, which didn’t involve the press at all but served as a venue for him to scold the media for reporting the numbers from the day before. (Why is this White House so focused on size?) And the president made a jab at marchers before appearing to have his Twitter handle taken over by a more moderated set of thumbs.

This is our new normal; it’s anything but normal and it’s not okay. What I learned and felt yesterday is that I am not alone. For the last two months, I felt helpless; now I’m unstoppable.

reflections on a year

The sidewalk screams happy birthday with a thin but potentially dangerous layer of black ice. I get it, 2016; you have a sadistic sense of humor.

One year ago, I had more than a few lessons to learn in my journey toward enlightenment, and ice played the part of catalyst. I had to experience trauma so I could let in the light. Elective surgery, emergency surgery, three months in a wheelchair, a year of physical therapy, financial stress, and an ulcer. But in the midst of the dark, I grew closer to my sister, deepened bonds with my “sister friends,” started writing a third novel, published an opinion piece in the Washington Post, found my center, and in ten days, I’ll be sunning on a beach in Hawaii.

The greatest lessons: I can’t do everything alone, it’s okay to show vulnerability, and people want to help. This morning’s ice was a nice reminder. Slick sidewalks and roads stretched between me and the yoga class I had to teach. Two blocks away, I burst into tears and froze in place but Nancy hugged me until my breath calmed and led the way, baby step by baby step.

Ice aside, I can’t say I woke up feeling different. I still greeted the morning from the fog of a crazy dream. (Jojo from the Bachelorette was president-elect, except she looked like Anna Kendrick, and I was contemplating making a play for the chief of staff job, sacrificing my flexibility with the kids for a position in the White House because my country needed me.) The ice will melt, my relationships will continue to grow, the wine will taste delicious. And I will shine the light within me.

Namaste.

on sisterly love

For three weeks minus a weekend, my sister has cared for my every need, often without my asking.

She refills my coffee cup, water bottle and wine glass. She now expertly wheels me in and out of the house and knows just how to help me get in and out of the car. When I wake up feeling achy, she massages my shoulder and helps me stretch my glutes. Without complaint, she dumps the icky contents of my flushable port-a-potty, an improvement upon the bedside commode but still a piece of equipment that needs maintenance beyond my abilities.

For three weeks minus a weekend, she put on pause her own life in order to help me with mine. She took leave from work without pay. Left her girlfriend, dogs and routine to be my personal caretaker, home health aid, nurse, massage therapist, healer, shrink, chef, chauffeur, housekeeper, hairdresser, cheerleader, and more.

Living my life, she wakes the boys up and gets them off to school. Reminds them to brush their teeth. Washes their laundry even though they are fully capable of managing the chore. Feeds them. Ribs them. Loves them.

For three weeks minus a weekend, she has had coffee ready when I got out of bed. A master with eggs and whatever contents of the refrigerator need to be eaten, she prepares my breakfast. She composts and recycles without my having to ask. She washes and styles my hair, even giving me beachy waves one night, prompting Jack to give me the only hair compliment I’ve ever received from him.

For three weeks minus a weekend, we have laughed and cried together over insurance company ridiculousness, heart wrenching books, ugly sutures, crazy cat antics.

For three weeks minus a weekend, she has been my near constant companion. But for a lifetime, we have loved each other deeply, and I know she has not done a single thing for me during this time that I wouldn’t do for her.

My sister leaves me tomorrow, but I know in our hearts, despite the mileage, we won’t be far apart. Part of her lives in me and me in her.

 

the strong but silent type

I don’t remember your cries at birth. I think I was too tired from being in labor for longer than I wanted, which sounds absurd because no woman wants to be in labor for any period of time. But when your brother was born, the nurses told me his birth was so easy my second baby would pop out with a sneeze. Fast forward two and a half years, those three bouts of preterm labor led me to believe you were eager to make your arrival. But oh no, once the real labor finally started, you weren’t quite comfortable with the idea of a whole new world. Until you were comfortable, that is, when you loosened your grip and took us from two centimeters to birth in 20 minutes.

This zero-to-sixty pattern continues to define you. You’re taciturn until suddenly you’re ready to entertain with a story. You resist change, but then on a dime advocate for it fiercely. Some days you barely eat, until without warning I can’t get enough food in your body.

I worried about your reaction to my recent accident. Sensitive at the core, but either unwilling or unable to always show it, I suspected seeing me in a hospital bed would bother you. And I was right. You didn’t cry or ask what happened. In fact, you sat ramrod straight in the chair. You could barely look me in the eye. You asked about safe topics like whether I had any snacks. You hugged me cautiously. But I could read the worry in your eyes.

I feel compelled to constantly reassure you I’m fine.

Until I broke my ankle, I still tucked you and your brother in at night, every night, without fail. It pains my heart that in my current condition I can’t get upstairs for our bedtime ritual. The other night, the thought that you wouldn’t want or need it anymore tugged mercilessly at my heart. As if you heard my anguish, after the lights were out, you came downstairs to tuck me in.

Inside that skinny preteen body a strong, sensitive man is brewing. I love watching your new layers and complexities emerge.

Happy birthday to my baby.

on “doing” yoga

 

“I guess you aren’t doing yoga for awhile,” I frequently hear.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. Now is when I need yoga the most.

While a physical yoga practice eludes me for the time being, I would not have survived the hard times at the hospital and since my discharge if it weren’t for the other seven limbs of yoga, the ones we westerners often ignore when worrying about the right Lululemon outfit to wear or complaining about a class that didn’t leave us sweaty enough.

Not that I’m so highly evolved. I own a ridiculous number of expensive yoga pants. I have been known to pass judgement on group classes I like or don’t like and am often reluctant to try new instructors even though I am a new instructor. I choose sleep over meditation on cold mornings when it’s hard to get out of bed. Since shoulder surgery, I’ve had a relentless (yet obviously unachievable) urge to stand on my head. While I hate that I can’t walk/hop/scoot up or down the stairs, I’ve spent equal time despairing over the lost progress I had been making toward hanumanasana (otherwise known as the splits) before a sheet of ice sent me flying. Every bite of food irrationally represents a pound I worry I will have to lose when I get out of the wheelchair. I get angry and frustrated at my current limitations.

Yes, I have the woe is me moments. But my intention is to use my time on the DL to transcend the fixations with my physical body.

I’m still working out exactly how to achieve this…

In my better moments, I close my eyes. I breathe deeply. I direct that breath to the parts of the body that need love: ankle, shoulder, almighty/overworked left side. Inhale love. Exhale angst. When I teach, I constantly remind my students to let go of thoughts, tension, energy that doesn’t serve, but true release is easier said than done. These last few weeks, I’ve had to peel back the layers, protective sheaths that keep me from asking for help, showing vulnerability, accepting unsolicited offers of help, coming to terms with what I can and can’t do.

I have the semblance of a plan. I want to reread the Yamas and the Niyamas, the ethical guide to yoga. During yoga teacher training, a wise soul recommended picking one yama or niyama and dedicating ourselves fully toward it. I focused on practicing ahimsa —or, nonviolence. Now I recognize that what I need in my life is the hardest for me to contemplate achieving: ishvara pranidhana —surrender. I do not control the universe.

Whether I can do a headstand or a split is irrelevant. My right side body is down but the left side remains strong. I can breathe, think, love, and appreciate. Kitchen items are going to be out of place, but why? Because kind and generous caretakers prepare my every meal. I’m mostly confined to my house, but I get to avoid cold (icy) winter days. I feel alone deep inside, but nothing could be farther from the truth.

A yoga practice represent more than a series of poses on the mat. It’s a journey toward peace. I will bumble and fall (hopefully only figuratively) on the way to learning to let go. I’m ready to offer myself up to this time and experience.

In all these ways and more I can’t foresee, recovery from my injuries represents the hardest yoga I’ve ever “done.”

Namaste.

the middle ages

A dear friend of mine – let’s call her Kate – recently pointed out that we are in our middle ages.

“Get out of here,” I texted. “I am NOT middle-aged.”

“Um, how long do you intend to live?” she asked.

“Barring random accident, I’ve got a good shot at 90.” After all, my grandmother is in her late 90s and her mother lived to be 101.

“And half of 90 is…?”

I did some quick math in my head. Dammit.

How can 45 be the middle ages? For that matter, I don’t even feel 45. Or at least I didn’t until over the weekend, when I went to the wedding of another dear friend, let’s call her Laura. While a majority of the guests were (like Laura and her groom) in their early 30s, it didn’t occur to me how much older I am until I sat down to dinner.

“Are you a friend of the bride’s mother?” the woman next to me asked. She clearly was a guest of the same generation of the mother of the bride. Obviously she should have recognized I am not.

Or maybe I am delusional.

My goal has always been to age gracefully. That means instead of planning on surgical interventions or injections, I spend less time in the sun and more money on skincare. I do color my hair and get an LED facial every three-to-four months, but that’s about as extreme as I plan to get. I have firm rule against wearing mom jeans, but also nothing screaming teenybopper graces my closet. I drink at least ten glasses of water a day. I work out. Come on! I am not old enough to be a friend of the mother of bride!

The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

Sigh. It is what it is. I will concede to being in my middle ages, but only because it’s a better than old age or… the other option. With age comes experience and with experience comes wisdom.

And maybe a few wrinkles.

like sands through the hourglass

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I am officially mother to a fourteen-year old. While the age thirteen sounds whimsy and sixteen, scary, I’m not sure what to say about fourteen. I barely remember myself at that age.

I turned fourteen in 1983. Like my son, I was in 8th grade. Unlike my son, I had a perm, bad feathered bangs and wore bright purple eye makeup. I’d never been kissed. Return of the Jedi came out that year, but I only know that because I googled 1983 cultural occurrences. Apparently my mom was paying a buck-thirty-five for a gallon of milk and a dime less for gas.

But back to Jack. I asked this sprouting teenager over breakfast what responsibility he’d like to be granted in honor of his 14th year.

“The right to do everything I want,” he said, foam of a homemade latte on his lip.

“Doing everything is overrated,” I replied. “Really, what do you wish you had the freedom to do?”

We talked about his taking the metro alone or going to the movies with friends. Maybe a solo metro ride to the movies with friends. Otherwise, I was at a loss for suggestions, and Jack didn’t have any ideas either. Moms of fourteen-year olds, I’m open to your thoughts. Essentially, I want to give him space to grow, but within the bounds of what’s safe. A doable challenge that will make him feel good about himself. And then I want to help him build on the added responsibility rather than force him to drink from the firehose of adulthood. I don’t have many more years left to shape this soon-to-be young adult. I want to get it right.

I’m not one to miss the years gone by, but tonight we will look at his baby book, sing happy birthday and celebrate the funny, thoughtful, witty, guy he’s growing to be.