Holy heat 

The summer heat is stifling, so much so that it dictates the day’s plans, forcing us to bow to it, surrendering to the water or a day in the A.C.

It is on days like this when I stumble across a pair of sweatpants hiding in my shorts drawer that I am in complete disbelief. I can’t fathom ever wanting to pull those things onto my body. I can’t imagine the cold. But the fraying drawstring is proof that I have done this often, and my 40 years experience leads me to believe that I will be cold enough to do it again.

Likewise, I am shocked in the winter when donned in wool socks, a stocking cap and leg warmers I find a rogue swimsuit in the back of my bureau. How could I ever expose so much skin when I can’t imagine disrobing anywhere outside of a steamy bathroom? But the lingering scent of tanning lotion and chlorine is proof that I have often felt differently.

These experiences of seasonal disbelief remind me of my seemingly sticky moods.

When I’m riding high and the blood is flowing and I’m feeling great, I really can’t remember what it feels like to be down. I don’t believe it’s possible to feel any different than the amazing and connected way I feel right then. Why would I contemplate feeling other than fantastic anyway? I push the thoughts of depression and despair out of my mind and savor the freedom of joy.

Until I feel the opposite.

And then I can’t remember what it’s like to feel good. Darkness is all I see. I unconsciously conjure up yucky memories and replay past conflicts, big and small. I make mental lists of why I suck, why my life sucks, how people may be screwing me over and how I’m fucking up my kids. I back away from the light and cower in the corner.

This was my MO for many years, whiplashing unaware between emotional states, feet off the ground when flying and sprawled facedown on the ground when not, but I am oh-so-gratefully noticing that my modus operandi is changing.

Instead of being caught completely off guard, I am beginning to see the dark clouds approach and to observe my mind begin to interact with them. I witness my thoughts transform as my mind shuffles through past experiences picking out the negative ones, as well as picking out the ugly in others. I watch this happen with a little more distance and curiosity and a little less fear, and I do it without completely getting swept up in the river of negativity. I remind myself that like the seasons, this too shall pass, even if it seems impossible to believe in the present moment.

In the meantime, one foot ashore, I remind myself what I know to be true:

  • this  could be symptomatic of low blood sugar or lack of sleep (eat and rest)
  • these thoughts should NOT be taken seriously / acted upon (observe, note, wait)
  • my imagination can run wild (stick to the facts)
  • my breathe can be my guide back to a more manageable place (BREATHE DEEPLY)
  • gratitude can be a gear shifter (remember the good, say it out loud, write it down)
  • sensorial stimuli shifts  too (take a shower, listen to music, enjoy a favorite scent)

Perhaps more important than any of the above is to remind myself that like the midwest seasons, moods ebb and flow. This is not only normal and natural, but BEAUTIFUL, so I benefit to relax, wait patiently, and ride the waves. The scariness only happens when I allow the gremlins that are my negative thoughts to take over in my mind and turn a passing storm into a monsoon. There’s no room for them if I stick to the points above and repeat the mantra:

I’m okay. It’s okay. The kids are alright.

Because I am. It is. They are.

OM. ON.

Here comes the sun

I’ve always had a sweet spot for the summer solstice with the long, glorious summer days that surround it, but only in the last couple of years have I gotten curious about how the solstices and equinoxes play into life’s rhythms, cycles and celebrations. This summer’s solstice is extra special for me. Not only does this week mark the year’s longest days before they gradually begin to shorten into the slowing momentum of fall, winter and the end of the year, but next week also marks my 40th birthday, the one traditionally hailed as leading into the slowing momentum of middle age, older age and death. Continue reading Here comes the sun

a crack in perspective

Much to my heart’s sweet content, the boys joined me for yoga rocks the park yesterday. This is a first for them despite the many years that YRTP has been a thing here in Omaha in the summertime. It’s not that I’ve not wanted them to join me every year. Nor is it that I haven’t asked them to go with me each year. It’s that I’d never requested them to go as I did yesterday. I was needing to get outside, to move my body, to feel community and to spend time with my men, and instead of asking, “does anyone want to join me for yoga this afternoon?” I stated, “we’re going to yoga this afternoon”. Continue reading a crack in perspective

birthday note to my middle

Dearest Ted,

Happy birthday middle child! Oh, how I wish April 20th could come before April 17th every once in awhile. What would it be like for you to just once experience a birthday before your older brother? You may ask what would it be like to experience anything before your older brother. But Ted, you know that feeling deep in your bones: the daredevil bike riding, skateboarding and rock climbing, and being on stage too. I’m sure you also ask yourself what it would be like to have all the experiences last in our family as well, to have parents whose laps aren’t filled with a baby brother. But Ted, because your father and I are frenzied to do it right with the first and we vacillate between being sentimental and nostalgic (or too tired to care) with the last, I think you may have the best spot. Continue reading birthday note to my middle

dharma lesson of the day

I don’t normally leave the house before 8:00 a.m. I don’t normally attend breakfast gatherings. I don’t normally plan a coffee meeting after a breakfast gathering. I don’t normally teach a yoga private on the same day as two other engagements and an evening of kids’ activities. But Monday (despite knowing my mental limit) I did just that, and to assuage myself I decided to sandwich the busyness of the day with a noontime yoga class lead by my favorite teacher. Continue reading dharma lesson of the day

no masks friendship

I had dinner with a friend last night, one that I rarely get to see, but who goes way back. She shared that recently she’d wanted to pull out every hair on her head (one by one), make a nest out of them, crawl into said nest and die. This was the way she felt after losing her shit on her kids. She described her violent spewing of f-bombs and desire to murder after witnessing one of her children repeatedly hit the other with a gaming controller. She painted the picture so very clearly. I was grateful for and felt reassured by her honesty and vulnerability. Witnessing child against child violence and responding with violence and rage is all too familiar for me. It is one of my biggest nemeses. It is the very thing that brought me to a mindfulness practice, and when I slip up, it is the very thing that makes me believe momentarily that I should quit, because can a person really teach while in the throes of learning? Continue reading no masks friendship

Classroom flashbacks: we are all the same

I retired from teaching college Spanish in May, and since then I really haven’t thought too much about any one particular class. Until recently.

In one of my first years teaching, the textbook we were using had a culture segment about the impacts of globalization in Latin America. Taking advice from a colleague, I showed the documentary Señorita Extraviada, which investigated the incredible number of disappearing women in Juarez, Mexico where an outcropping of maquiladoras (foreign factories) had sprung up after the signing of NAFTA. The movie packed a punch. I watched it with the class in complete disbelief. I couldn’t believe that so many women were disappearing, some found after having been brutally raped and cut into pieces, and others never found. I couldn’t believe the foreign companies didn’t investigate when their workers went missing en route to and from their factory jobs. I couldn’t believe the indifference of the Mexican police. I couldn’t believe the disinterest (ignorance?) of the U.S. I couldn’t believe how powerless the Mexican families were in seeking answers about their missing mothers, daughters and sisters. Continue reading Classroom flashbacks: we are all the same

Five days in Oakland

I was supposed to be landing in Phoenix right about now on my way home from Oakland, CA, where I came to meet my newborn niece and kick it with my soul sister, who is also my sister by blood. But because of a giant Midwest ice-storm, instead of breathing stale airport air and hustling from one terminal to another, I’m lounging on the bed in the spare room with the sun streaming onto me from the window, open to the sounds of the street just a few feet below. From my perch I can see the trees surrounding Lake Merritt and the bus stop equipped with the belongings of the mute homeless guy who calls it home. When the breeze blows just right I can hear drumming from a large group of men playing not far from here, and in the span of a few minutes I can hear a multitude of languages spoken by the passersby below. I can smell the inside scents of a 100 year old building and the outside scents of the sea and the Mediterranean restaurant next door. Continue reading Five days in Oakland