Thursday, April 16, 2015

april 16. life is change.

After graduating from college and getting married, my parents packed up their car and began the long trip south for flight school and for the entirety of the first half of their marriage, moving was the theme. Every two or three years, my father would get his orders from the military and my mother would begin the packing up process.

Before I finally left for college, we'd already lived in a half dozen states plus Japan, Greece, and South Korea, where we spent my last two years of high school. We moved. A lot. But we knew nothing different, so it didn't seem difficult and was generally made easier by the fact that when we moved, for the most part, we moved to military bases and everyone was doing the exact same thing as our family. Transitioning.

We were professionals at weeding out and packing up, the military being notorious for household belonging weight limits and because my parents made everything about moving fun. They loved it and so in turn, we loved it too. For the most part, we lived in base housing, but periodically none was available or provided and we lived on what we called the economy, which was exactly the way it was when we moved to Greece.

I have the most incredible memories of that first few months in Athens. It took my parents and the military about a month to find us permanent housing so in the interim, we stayed in base officer's quarters (the boq). Generally the boq is a drab apartment-like temporary situation on base but in Greece where there was no housing on base at all, consisted of a full-fledged hotel called the Bona Vista converted to boq facilities.

It rocked. There was a pool and Monday night bingo and Friday night all you could eat Mongolian bbq and all sorts of places that kids our age could get in trouble. My dad taught me to play blackjack at the Bona Vista and I learned to french braid my own hair from the lady across the hall - a skill that has actually been invaluable over the years.

Of all the moves, the trip to Korea was undoubtedly the most difficult. Korea was considered a remote assignment which basically meant that my dad had the option of going for a year on his own, or two years with the rest of us. I guess I wouldn't want to be alone for a year either, and in hindsight running away from home for a few days in protest probably wasn't the smartest move I have ever made since obviously, we all ended up in Korea.

Alright, maybe I didn't exactly run away from home, but I did go to school one day where I was a cheerleader and on the student council and madly in crush with the quarterback of the football team, and subsequently refuse to return home until my mom signed me out of math, took me to lunch, said she'd miss me and... cried. I hated to make my mom cry and I am certain my mother was well aware of that fact since now that I am a mother myself, I might also have used tears on demand to my advantage a time or two.

So, we all moved to Korea and to this day it remains one of the most significant growth periods of my life, both in terms of what I learned about myself but also what I learned about the world.

Since then I have lived in Arizona, Tucson for a few years while I attended college and then Scottsdale afterwards when I found a job, met a guy and started a family. For many many years, I shopped at the same grocery store and filled my car with gas at the same pumps. I lived near the same people. I frequented the same places and I ran the same trails, mile after mile after mile.

For a military brat, twenty plus years in the same place can be a lifetime, and for me in more than one respect, it was a life time. One that changed leaving me no choice but to change as well.

I didn't move out of state, or out of country, in reality our new home is not terribly far away from the old, just a thirty minute drive, although it might as well have been to a new planet for as different as everything is now. I have a new love, new neighbors, a new hair salon and a new path to get to my trails. I can ride my bike to yoga and walk to a taco shop that serves the greatest breakfast burritos ever. There is a farmer's market every Saturday at the church around the corner and at rush hour the traffic on the side street can sometimes be loud, but somehow after just three months, I don't seem to hear it anymore.

I find that I really love it here and I feel such gratitude to the people who have eased this transition for us, who have welcomed us with open arms and helped to make us feel part of this space. I think back to the experiences I had as a child moving with my family, and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that those experiences contributed to the content I feel now.

They say that life is change and I can attest that this is true. The past few years, what has not changed in my life has been a much shorter list than what has. But on the heels of that truth also comes growth is optional and the admonition to choose wisely.

Our lives are in a state of constant change, from our relationships to our jobs to the places we live. Sometimes those changes come about by our own hand, and sometimes they are changes that we neither appreciate nor are willing initially to accept. However, in both instances, I find that it is my attitude toward that change that will inevitably set the course I follow. Will I accept, open my heart and subsequently, grow? Or will I fight that change, inevitable as it is, ending up frustrated, resentful and bitter?

I am consciously choosing acceptance these days. And believe me, it is a choice and it is a hard choice at that, at least for me. I find it so much easier to play the victim and to complain that life is not fair and yet, on the occasions I choose that path, my happiness quotient, or whatever that thing is that measures our contentedness in life, takes a face first fall into the abyss tout de suite.

What are you choosing?



Tuesday, April 14, 2015

april 14. practice.

The Huffington Post ran an article recently that talked about how the Encintas Unified School District in California was offering yoga as an alternative to regular physical education classes in their schools. The classes are made possible through a local non-profit that promotes yoga and the grant provides twice a week, thirty minute classes to the district's 5600 students.

A family in the district filed a lawsuit attempting to block the classes, stating that they believed teaching yoga would promote Hinduism and inhibit Christianity, in particular that they encouraged praying to, bowing to and worshipping the sun god. The family's lawsuit was unanimously thrown out and the court stated that the classes were devoid of any religious, mystical, or spiritual trappings.

I have been practicing yoga on and off for probably twenty years, but it has only been in the last two or three that I have begun to take my practice seriously. At first, it was all about flexibility. I am and always will be a runner at heart and yoga allowed me to work out the tight hamstrings and hips, to stretch those hard to get to areas that running wanted to tighten up. It created balance and strength and I do believe it made me a better runner - if only that with regular practice, it kept me from any of those common overuse injuries that are the nemesis of runners.

Recently, however, yoga has become something else entirely. Around the time of my divorce when it seemed that every piece of my life was in a state of utter chaos, the yoga studio was my safe haven. Second only to church, yoga was where I went to find a little peace in my day. For the eighty minutes I was in class, there were no fears, no doubts, no judgment. During those early days of my practice, my thoughts were centered solely around staying upright and somehow not passing out and face-planting in front of everyone.

Slowly I began to adapt - to the movement, to the heat - and as I did, I was able to focus less on the physical adjustment of my body and tune in to what was happening within me.

I realized that thoughts had begun to return to me while I was practicing. But unlike before, they simply flowed in and immediately flowed right back out - like the waves of the ocean as they hit and recede from the shore. I breathed them in and before they could take root and do damage, I breathed them right back out again.

I have heard yoga described as a moving meditation and I believe that is probably the most beautiful and accurate definition possible. Because while I have tried repeatedly to meditate outside of yoga, it is only in class within the confines of the four corners of my mat, where I have finally found success.

Through yoga, I am learning to let go of what does not serve me. Through yoga, I am learning about grace and acceptance and joy and love and forgiveness and selflessness, which seem very much like the lessons I have learned through Christianity. Through yoga, I am learning to practice self care and do no harm. And ultimately through yoga, I am learning to be still and to listen for God's voice in that silence.

So while I am thankful that the court upheld the decision to continue allowing the practice of yoga in the Encinitas schools because the benefits our children will reap, even if solely physical, will be immeasurable, I would disagree that yoga is completely devoid of spiritual trappings as the court suggests. At least for me.


Monday, April 13, 2015

april 13. home is where the heart is.

I've decided to get rid of the three hundred words a day portion of this experience for two reasons. One, it seemed sort of arbitrary and two, I was having a difficult time sticking to three hundred words most days, which I am sure is no surprise.

I am what they call cradle Orthodox. My mother and father are both Orthodox as is almost every family member on both sides, I was baptized as a baby, and as I grew, it was all I knew.

When I was in my twenties and had moved away from home, there were weeks when the only time I would see my mother would be when I met her at church on Sundays. We didn't go every Sunday, her job periodically required that she work weekends, but when she was free we always made time to go together. For me, it was something special that the two of us shared and somehow in my mind church became somewhat indistinguishable from my mother.

I adamantly refused to go to our church after my mother died. The iconography, the incense, the choir, every little bit of it reminded me so much of her and flooded me with such feelings of sadness and confusion that there was just no way I could step one foot inside that place, no way.

It didn't feel as if I was having a crisis of faith exactly, although in retrospect I imagine it was one of sorts because during that first hard period after her death, I was quite regularly displeased with God for taking my mother away from me. I still loved Him, I still believed in Him, I continued to try to talk to Him and periodically listen for Him, but I just wasn't sure I trusted his promises or his wisdom or his love for me all that much.

To be honest, with no church to call home, no mother to call my own, and at a disconnect with God, I felt... homeless.

I tried a number of churches during that time. The littles had been baptized Catholic, so I tried that. For me, it was a little too much like my own for comfort. Too many similarities. Too many memories. I joined a local bible church, attended for a bit and got involved in the new member ministry. I chaired a small group, I taught vacation bible school. I loved the insight and the learning and I loved that I always seemed to be yearning for more when I attended services at that church. A reader by nature, I could not get enough of the in depth study of the bible, something I seemed to have missed out on when I was a child. To this day, I will see notes I took then in the margins of various passages in my bible, along with thoughts of my own that I penned, and all that learning comes flooding back.

In mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis writes...

I hope no reader will suppose that “mere” Christianity is here put forward as an alternative to the creeds of the existing communions…. It is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms. If I can bring anyone into that hall I shall have done what I attempted. But it is in the rooms, not the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals. The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in. For that purpose the worst of the rooms (whichever that may be), is, I think, preferable. It is true that some people may find they have to wait in the hall for a considerable time, while others feel certain almost at once which door they must knock at. I do not know why there is this difference, but I am sure God keeps no one waiting unless He sees that it is good for him to wait. When you do get into your room you will find that the long wait has done you some kind of good which you would not have had otherwise. But you must regard it as waiting, not as camping. You must keep on praying for light: and, of course, even in the hall, you must begin trying to obey the rules which are common to the whole house. And above all you must be asking which door is the true one; not which pleases you best by its paint and paneling. In plain language, the question should never be: “Do I like that kind of service?” but “Are these doctrines true: Is holiness here? Does my conscience move me towards this? Is my reluctance to knock at this door due to my pride, or my mere taste, or my personal dislike of this particular door-keeper?”

I believe those years were exactly that, my hall years. I would tentatively knock, I'd slowly enter and maybe stay for a spell, but eventually I would get antsy and perhaps sensing deep down that I wasn't where I was supposed to be, I would find myself once again on the outside. In the hall.

A few years after my mother passed, my cousin Mark and his fiancée, Sarah, were married in Louisville. Mark and his brother, David, grew up in the church. They began chanting with their father before either could probably walk and Mark is one of those truly holy people. The ones that just get it somehow and I always love being around him because sometimes I like to believe it will rub off on me. He waited a long time and trusted that God would bring the perfect woman into his life and Sarah was exactly that.

I almost did not go their wedding. I had only been inside an orthodox church once since my mother's death, because as strong as the pull was and as familiar as the space was to me, there was also a little part of me that felt somehow unworthy. As if I had deserted God in that place and in doing so, I had no right to enter. How little I understood then about God's grace.

Mark and Sarah's wedding was beautiful. There are so many pieces to an orthodox wedding service, from the betrothal to the crowning to the common cup, that are incredibly symbolic of a couple's love for one another, but even more so, of God's love for us - his children. And as I, alongside all our family and friends, watched Mark wed his bride, Sarah, all the anxiety and trepidation I had felt about being in that place, just kind of melted away. And I realized that the door I had been bypassing for so many years as I searched this way and that, had been standing wide open right in front of me the entire time, just beckoning me to enter.

God was here and He had been doing what God does, He was waiting. For me. To be quite ready to come... home.


Thursday, April 09, 2015

three hundred words a day. april 9. #blackANDwhite.

I tend to live in a little bubble where although I realize that awful things happen in this world, I do not like to dwell on them. I do not regularly watch the news, I find it depressing. And when issues present themselves around me for debate I am usually the last to engage, if I ever engage at all. Maybe its naivete, maybe its ignorance on my part, regardless - my opinions are usually my own unless they hit too close to home.

A while back, I attended a seminar hosted by local law enforcement which dealt with identifying stress and developing coping mechanisms for police officers and fire fighters. It was eye opening to say the least.

The speaker began his talk with statistics - the escalating rate of officer suicide in the nation, the stress induced physical and emotional tolls, issues such as alcoholism and drug abuse, obesity and depression. He explained that public servants in these professions learn to operate at a very high stress level - the job requires it, their lives depend on it - and when they return home post-shift, without a healthy or proper outlet - the effects can be devastating to not only them, but their loved ones as well.

Think about it this way, he asked... Each and every time a police officer puts on his uniform to go to work, he puts his life at risk. From a routine traffic stop, to searches, to entering an establishment, to driving a patrol car, in every single interaction with another individual while on duty, that officer's nervous and other bodily systems must operate at a heightened level for, at the very least, self-preservation.

Can you imagine that? Putting on your work clothes every single day and knowing it could be your last?

I cannot, no way. I get up each morning, grab a cup of coffee and sit down at my computer and begin my day. There is not a situation possible where that could be deadly to me in any shape or form. A bit boring now and again, but deadly? Never. And in reality, in order to do their jobs properly and without fear or hesitation, neither can our public servants.

Although that doesn't change the fact that it is still true.

The speaker suggested that when these men and women come home, without a proper outlet, they often have a difficult time coming down from that "high". He went on to recommend various ways, we, as their main support system, can assist and head off issues before they become full blown problems. Encouraging a healthy lifestyle - working out, hobbies, spending time with family.

Every day I am thankful that my guy makes time to make his emotional and physical well being a priority. He reads, he eats healthy, we practice yoga, we work at it each and every day and I have faith that he will never become one of those statistics.

Recently there have been a number of highly publicized officer involved shootings and the intensity and acidity of the debate in the media and on facebook has left me speechless. I'm saddened at the level of hate and venom we seem to be able to spew at each other in public as we defend our positions, all the while making assumptions based on our interpretations of events. And while I am making no attempt to excuse inhumane behavior in any shape or form, it seems to me that blanketly condemning an entire group of human beings sounds suspiciously like racism to me.

I was not in Missouri, nor Florida, nor South Carolina or NYC. I will never know for certain where to place blame in those situations and so I will abstain from doing so. I want to believe that as a people, our actions are no longer racially or prejudicially motivated regardless of our profession, but deep down I see every day that that is not true. However, I do believe that as a country we have put our trust in our legal system and that while periodically it will fail us, it is all we have right now.

And in the meantime, I am going to be thankful that there are still men and women, black and white and of every creed and religion, who, despite the uncertainty and danger and possibility of death, despite the backlash and distrust and judgement, consciously choose to put on that uniform each and every day and protect my freedoms. All humans matter.



Wednesday, April 08, 2015

three hundred words a day. april 8. why so serious.

I am super hard on myself. I use the word should a lot without even realizing it. I should do this... I should do that... I should be more this, more that, less this or less that.

Yesterday, as I was on my way to yoga, I was thinking back on the last few posts I've made here and feeling as if they have all leaned too far toward the serious - the divorce, Bali, coda. Serious topics each in and of themselves, topics that I seem to be always muddling over in my head these days. And yet, when you string them all together - that's a whole mess of seriousness right there for just one week back at blogging.

That little voice inside me admonished, you should really lighten it up a bit. It is too serious. You sound too serious. You are too serious.

Dammit! I want so badly to be not so serious! I want to be the fun one just once!

For a long while I thought that perhaps I was just depressed and that is what was making me so serious, so thoughtful and analytical, all the time. But these days, I am not depressed and I am fairly certain of it. In fact, I feel as if I might be about as far away from depressed as I have ever been.

So, not depressed, not sad, in fact - quite happy actually - and yet, still so serious. What gives?

I've found that when in doubt, it always helps to gts, and this time was no exception. A few clicks later, and lo and behold, I have my answer.

It seems I am suffering from what is commonly referred to as... Serious Personality type.

Here are just a few of the characteristics of SPT:

Straight face. Individuals with the Serious personality style maintain a sober demeanor. They are solemn and not given to emotional expression.
No pretentions. They are realistically aware of their own capabilities, but they are also aware of their own limitations; they are not tempted by vanity or self-importance.
Accountability. Serious people hold themselves responsible for their actions. They will not soft-pedal their own faults and do not let themselves off the hook.
Cogitation. They're thinkers, analyzers, evaluators, ruminators: They'll always play things over in their minds before they act.
Contrition. Serious people suffer greatly when they realize they've been thoughtless or impolite to others.

Holy cow if that does not describe me in a nutshell. Although, in my own defense, I have been known to crack a joke or two now and then, and good ones, too! But definitely not on the magnitude I feel I should be and sometimes I can be really hard on myself about that.

In any event, it just seems as if this seriousness thing is as much a part of me as say, having brown eyes or brown hair. And while I realize that hair color can be changed, as mine has periodically been over the years, when it grows back in - it is eventually the same ole brown.

And you know, I might just be ok with that. It could be worse, after all. I could be suffering from boanthropy, or maybe even autophagia. Now that would really bite. ;)


Tuesday, April 07, 2015

three hundred words a day. april 7. fear.

If there is an outcome you are afraid of and you do not take action because you are afraid, you produce the outcome you are afraid of. - Mastin Kipp

In December, I visited Bali on a retreat that was hosted by Mastin Kipp at the It was a an experience that was so out of my comfort zone that just the simple fact that I signed up at all still makes me shake my head in disbelief. From the little things - like having to travel half way across the planet - alone - to get there, or to not knowing another soul who would be there - this trip pushed every one of my anxiety inducing buttons, of which I assure you, I have many.

I almost cancelled going, I had every excuse in the book. It wasn't the right time, I couldn't take that much time away from work, I was moving, my children needed me and how would I be able to keep control of my world from so far away and with no technology?

And while legitimate, if not lame, justifications for not wanting to go, the truth is I was afraid. I knew enough about Mastin and the retreats he hosted to realize I wasn't going on a little ole beach vacation and there was a huge part of me that was afraid of what I would learn about myself. Afraid that I was too far gone, too this, too that. Insignificant, unlovable. Afraid that maybe with no excuses to hide behind, maybe I wouldn't like who I was becoming, had become.

There were moments of confusion and moments of sadness, moments of clarity, moments where my heart threatened to burst with such incredible joy and happiness that I could not contain it and moments, often immediately after, where I was filled with the most profound grief that it still takes my breath away.

Each day we made deeper cuts through all those lies we'd told ourselves over the years about what was true, what we were destined to be. There were breakthroughs of a magnitude that cannot even begin to be measured, both for myself and for my sisters that joined me, during the retreat and they have continued now three months post. The change, the growth in all of us, has been immeasurable.

And while there are days that I am still afraid, days where all I can do is pick up the phone and ask for help to get through, these days I am trying my best to keep the lessons of Bali close as I work toward producing the outcome I long for versus the one that I fear.


Monday, April 06, 2015

three hundred words a day. april 6. those three little words.

I had a post all queued up and ready to go but then I realized it wasn't relevant to me anymore. At least not today. And so in an effort to stay true to me and speak what is on my mind, I'll save that one for a later date.

I started attending coda meetings on Monday nights toward the end of 2013. My meeting is a step-study where we discuss the twelve steps by sharing our personal struggles and we work through them each week step 1 to step 12, then repeat. Different steps are probably difficult for different people, like admitting we are powerless, or turning our will over to God or a higher power. Universally, however, I would imagine the eighth and ninth steps are pretty much knockouts for everyone.

The eighth step asks us to make a list of all persons we've harmed and to become willing to make amends to them.

The ninth step asks us to make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

I don't know about you, but I find it super hard to think about those things individually - let alone together - and while I have no problem saying I am sorry for the silly little things like slamming a door or bumping into someone, the big things? Well, there are a few things I would much rather forget. And unlikely as it is, there is a big part of me that naively hopes whoever was on the receiving end of those big things has forgotten them too.

How sad is that? How much easier is it these days to deflect or blame or make excuses for bad behavior? How much less stressful to simply stick my head in the sand and pretend things never happened, that somehow maybe my behavior was justified? That my hurt gave me the right to strike back? That behaving badly, regardless of intent, was in any universe ever okay?

Some of the people that most deserve my amends are no longer in my life, I have moved on just as they have moved on. And with what I have learned in coda, I am beginning to both recognize my triggers and avoid situations that could be harmful to me - or others - before they escalate to out of control stage. 

But that doesn't change the fact that in order for me to heal, eight and nine still need to be worked, without expectation of forgiveness and without excuse or justification. There are a few I'm sorry I hurt yous that are long overdue. And while I am not quite there yet, after a year and a half of meetings, I know I am getting closer to putting pen to paper or picking up that phone and asking for a meetup, than I was even six months ago. Which just seems to prove that its true what they say - it works if you work it.

And I am worth it.