Arrival

Our plane touches down on schedule at Bangalore’s airport at 1:30 AM Wednesday morning. We deplane quickly and I am one of the first in line at passport control.

Traffic in Bangalore is a sensory experience of lights, color and sound

“What hotel are you staying in?”

“What?”

“What hotel are you staying in? How long are you here? When are you leaving? Have you purchased your ticket to leave?”

“What?”

Two hours later I am still sitting in immigration, left alone and convinced I’ll be put on the next plane back to Frankfurt. When an older gentleman finally decides he can see me, I tell the story once again.

“I don’t know the name of the hotel. We’re in Bangalore until Friday. I can show you the entire itinerary, I just can’t show you the name of the hotel.”

It’s unlike me to be so unprepared. To not know the answer to an obvious question. How could I have let this happen? And why didn’t I lie? Surely it would be so simple to say that we’re staying at the Marriott. But what if we’re not? What would the consequences be?I begin to plead.

“He’s downstairs waiting for me. Can’t someone just go downstairs and ask him the name of the hotel?”

The reply is gruff. “I can assure you he’s not downstairs.”

As it happens, Ben is indeed downstairs enjoying cups of tea with his driver. I don’t know this but he has already spoken to Lufthansa, who have assured him that I am upstairs. He is told about my problem at immigration and provides the name and address of the hotel. The message is never delivered.

By 3:30 AM I almost see the humor in the situation.

I’m kept company by two young immigration officers. We try and fail to force my phone to connect to Ben’s. I remind them again that Ben is on the ground floor and if they only called for him on the courtesy phone or the loudspeaker or held up a sign with his name on it he would arrive and I would be released from captivity.

“Are you certain he’s here?”

“Of course I am. He’s here.”

One of my two companions takes the iPhone I’ve been clutching and tries to reach Ben through WhatsApp. It doesn’t work. For some reason Find Friends does and we are finally able to confirm that Ben is where he promised to be. A few moments later – and by that point my brain is so tired it’s impossible for me to know how it happened – a text comes through from Ben with the name of the hotel. My immigration companion writes the information down on the form and sends me on my way.

My processing, however, is still not complete. I need to return to the starting point. There are fingerprints to process, bioinformation to gather and a passport to stamp.

“So you are a yoga teacher?”

The details are easily available on my visa application.

“Yes.”

“Tell me, how can I lose weight?”

Is this a trick question? I’ve been traveling for twenty-six hours and have been held captive for the past two. Do I have the cerebral energy to formulate enough words to deliver the answer she wants to hear?

“I don’t really think yoga is about losing weight.”

I find the strength to mumble something about Patanjali and pranayama, about right living. They nod.

“But can you give me some tips? How can I lose weight?”

I give up.

“Practice.”

Downstairs my suitcase is delivered and I’m escorted through arrivals. Ben and his driver greet me with a garland of exquisite flowers and a bouquet. The heady scent is overwhelming and beautiful. It surrounds me as surely as the soft chatter of loving reunions and the relentless barking of car horns.

Welcome to Bangalore, India.

An hour later, at 6:00 AM, we arrive at our hotel.

It’s the Marriott.


My Left Wrist: Breaking Up is Hard to Do

IMG_0035Remember when we took walks for the joy of fresh air and sunshine? When the best thing about walking was the unmistakable scent of spring in the air or the sharp, salty brine and the startling launch of an egret?

I do.

But then I wrapped a FitBit Charge II around my wrist and became shackled to the number of steps I took instead of being thrilled by the number of pelicans feeding near the shoreline. I looked forward to the reward of positive feedback from my FitBit’s app when I moved every hour for ten consecutive hours instead of looking forward to and embracing every opportunity to be still. I lived for seeing those celebratory green stars, animated balloons and flashy stripes that meant the goals my FitBit and I set had been accomplished. I was obsessed with keeping my FitBit happy and losing track of the happiness I deserve.

And so, on Monday morning we broke up. I broke free from the device and its freakishIMG_1676 ability to manipulate how I feel. I removed the FitBit and put it in my dresser drawer.

Yes. I know. A FitBit is a simple device. An inanimate object. A tool I use to measure with some accuracy the energy I expend and the energy I ingest. But for a person like me – a woman who likes to have a place for everything and everything in its place – it’s easy to become preoccupied with the numbers, the graphs and the positive reinforcement. Prone to giving human characteristics to machines, at times my FitBit became an encouraging best buddy. Sometimes, though, it was my worst enemy. 

My left wrist feels naked but removing the tracker is liberating. It’s brought me back to the reason why exercise and a healthy diet are important. My walks to work are mood balancing. They reduce anxiety and improve my outlook on life. They soothe me. Good food made from locally sourced ingredients provides my body with ‘clean energy’. Together exercise and an intentional diet have helped me lose the twenty extra pounds that were adding too much stress to my joints, my heart and my pancreas (there’s a bit too much diabetes in my gene stock to ignore).

Ending the relationship with my tracker does not mean I’ve lost my motivation. In fact, let’s be honest. I’ve not ended anything. What I’ve done is reconsidered the relationship. There will be a time when I reach into the dresser drawer and charge up my Charge. It may be that I need a little bit of motivation or that I’ve become so wrapped up in work that I need to re-focus my intentions.  And that will be ok. A tracker as a tool is ok. As long as I remember that healthy living – a life worth living –  can’t be measured in an app.


Turn Into the Spin: Build a Better Me, Part III

IMG_0097Driver’s Education was compulsory in Pennsylvania when I was in high school. Our teacher, Mr. D, was a suave and handsome man with a reputation. The halls that echoed with the sound of slamming lockers were also filled with whispers about Mr. D and a certain senior who seemed to always linger around his office. Then again, Mr. D was popular and there were plenty of us who made excuses to see him. But she was always there shuffling files or helping prepare transparencies for the overhead projector. She was always perfectly put together. Always pretty and always self-assured and apparently unfazed by rumors about the alleged tryst. I was in awe.

And then one day Mr. D questioned my decision to wear a pale blue bra underneath the cheap, white polyester pullover I bought from Two Guys with my allowance money. It felt weird, the attention, and I fumbled for an answer because the truth was I had no idea the color of my bra was at all obvious through the loose knit of the sweater.

After that I stopped thinking of excuses to stop by his office.

But in order to qualify for my learner’s permit, I still listened attentively to Mr. D’s afternoon lectures on safety and shared driving time on the narrow roads of New Tripoli with classmates I barely knew in a car that smelled vaguely of fear sweat, gasoline and pencil shavings.

There are three things I took away from Mr. D’s driver’s ed class. The first, of course, is to consider more carefully my choice in underwear.

The second is to remain aware of the world around me. When I first slipped into the driver’s seat, I was like a horse wearing blinders. I gripped the wheel and kept my eyes fixed on the hood of the car thinking that was how to keep the vehicle pointed in the right direction. Mr. D taught me to see beyond what was in front of me.

The third is to turn into the spin. Pennsylvania has real winter, and a good deal of time was spent learning how to drive through inclement weather. Mr. D taught me that in icy conditions the car might begin to lose traction. When it does I won’t save myself by turning away. I have to fight to regain control.

California doesn’t have real winter. At least not in the Bay Area. But that doesn’t mean things can’t get slippery. I hit a patch of ice life in February and lost control of my ongoing quest to Build a Better Me. The clarity that was coming into focus through January went sideways as I began to spin. My 500 words-a-day trickled to 500 words-a-week if I was lucky. I lost sight of what was beyond and focused on the immediate. Good intentions began to slide.

And to be honest, it would have been easier to let go of the wheel. Except I know how that feels, and I no longer want to feel the restlessness and lack of conviction that a life with no traction offers.

So instead I’m going to practice what Mr. D taught. I’m going to look at the big picture, and I’m going to turn into the spin.


Toxic/Not Toxic

This is toxic:

Unknown

This is not toxic:

Unknown-2

And that’s why I don’t use the word ‘detox’. Yes, it’s time for my yearly campaign to ban the word ‘detox’ and any associated eating plan that encourages us to either eliminate entire classes of macronutrients, requires a blood test before we meal plan or encourages us to subsist on lemon, cayenne and honey.

Why don’t we call what most of us are about to embark on in a few days’ time what it actually is: an opportunity to practice mindful eating.

The problem with a ‘detox’ program – or any strictly defined and limiting diet that promises more than it can deliver – is that it is finite. The rules and edges are so sharply defined that we are almost guaranteed to fail.

If instead we reframe our efforts as an opportunity to slow down and to consider our food choices, we allow ourselves room to explore, to try something new, to reset and – most importantly – to change our relationship to food, our bodies and the intentions we hold when we eat.

 


Me, too.

CIMG2733The hashtag ‘me, too’ isn’t enough and I am not man-bashing. I’m asking the question, “when are boys taught that certain behaviors towards girls are all right and who does the teaching?”

As a girl I was taught to be either flattered, to shrug it off because ‘boys will be boys’ or to wonder what I did wrong. And now I’m asking the question, “when are girls taught that being objectified by a boy is something to aspire to and who does the teaching?”

I was taught by observing my mother and my older sister, their behavior with men and the behavior of the men they chose to have in their lives. But I was also taught by what I watched on television, by the books I read, and by the screaming silence.

How can we teach our children? By no longer being silent.

I’ve decided to share seven experiences that shaped my life.

  1. When I was a pre-teen my first step-father liked to wrestle with me. We wrestled on his and my mother’s bed. He always pulled on my training bra until it opened.
  2. When I was a teenager my second-step father told me I had nice breasts.
  3. Around that same time, a local boy told me he needed help with is homework and asked if I would come to his house. When I arrived he talked me into crawling through the hay bale tunnel he had built with a friend. The friend was waiting in the fort, trapping me in the middle. I managed to talk them out of whatever they planned to do, came home and took a bath.
  4. When I was a senior in high school, a member of the football team stopped me in the hallway to the gym and asked me to unbutton my blouse. I remember thinking how stupid his request was and called his bluff. He was disappointed I was wearing a bra.
  5. When I was a college freshman a plumber who was at my apartment to fix a radiator finished the job and then thought it was appropriate to hug me and grab my bottom.
  6. Several years ago I was in an psychologically abusive relationship. I was called ugly. I was called stupid and told I would amount to nothing. My words and opinions were laughed at. Why didn’t I leave? I was beginning to believe him and I was afraid of his reaction if I began to pack my bags.
  7. A few months ago I was in a local hardware store having a key made. A man working there thought it was all right for him to lean his body against my body and pull me uncomfortably close.

I know that it goes both ways. Women are capable of questionable behavior and sexual predation, too. But I can tell you that in my fifty-nine years I have never wrestled with a boy to feel him up. I’ve never told a man he has a nice package. I have never trapped a boy in a hay bale fort nor have I ever asked a boy to pull down his pants. I have never hugged a plumber so that I could grab his bottom. I’ve never frightened a man until he believed there was no hope. I have never leaned my body against a stranger in order to pull him close.

There are moments in my life when I made poor choices. So let’s teach our children about making choices. Let’s teach our children. Let’s not be silent anymore.


A Day of Rest

fullsizeoutput_3d4What does a day of rest look like? Close your eyes. Imagine it. But be practical. Given everything you have around you right now – the blessings, the responsibilities, the attachments, the gifts – what does your day of rest look like? Is it something you can create right here and now?

My day of rest begins alone with the dawn for an hour’s walk at Shoreline. It’s my meditation, these walks. My day of rest ends with Ben and I together, sharing a glass of wine on our little porch.

What happens in between?

If it is Sunday we go to the Farmer’s Market just a block away. I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve been there in the three years I’ve lived on this street. The truth is I have an aversion to meandering. I can’t stroll. And that seems to be what people do at farmers’ markets. People meander, stroll and stop to compare prices of broccoli between two identical looking organic stalls before waving to friends half a block away who are sampling some juicy white fleshed peaches.

But it’s my day of rest and I’m happy to ‘fake it ‘till I make it’. I slow my natural gallop to an easy trot. Pretty soon I’m learning everything there is to know about raw brined olives in a lecture delivered by a stranger from Half Moon Bay while Ben decides between the oils the stall owner has poured into tiny paper communion cups.
An hour later we have two canvas bags filled with fresh fruit and vegetables to last us the week and 12 ounces of expensive extra virgin with which to dress the heirloom tomatoes.

And I have learned how to meander and stroll.

On my day of rest, which is Ben’s day of rest, too, we walk home to put our bounty away and then head out again for a late brunch. We find a place within walking distance where we can sit outside bathed in sunlight and surrounded by the joy of children running circles around their parents’ legs and the bright colors of summer. We linger over the meal and soak in the sounds of life – sounds so different from the ones to which we are accustomed. Layers of happy conversation, the bossy ‘cawk’ of a crow, the yip of a curly-haired doodle dog, the occasional cry of an infant. The sounds of life. A different sort of music.

On our day of rest we return from brunch and settle with a cup of tea. We read for leisure the books we started months ago. Books with pages made of paper that we turn one by one. Or we walk to the movie theater not twenty minutes away and take in an early matinee with all the other people who don’t like to stay out too late on a Sunday. Or we nap. It’s our day of rest. We can do anything we want.

Towards the end of our day of rest, Ben and I open that bottle of Pinot that’s been waiting for a moment like this. We sit on our little porch and talk to one another like two people deeply in love and separated for too long by work and commitments to other things. We talk to one another with real words that float up from our hearts and linger in the air around us. The sky changes from bright blue to dusky pink and pale orange.

What does your day of rest look like?


Self-care in the Time of Anger

IMG_3426I’ve been out from under the long winter of discontent I wrote about two weeks ago for a few months now and each day I feel more present. I’m standing, strong and solid. I feel familiar to myself again. What characterized my depression was the disconnect I experienced. I listened to what I was saying in conversations and was shocked by the harsh words coming from my mouth. I observed the choices I made and often asked “why?” I felt the connections with friends and family fraying no matter how hard I tried to hold on. But when that little white pill began to work it’s magic on my brain I was able to reintroduce myself to the woman I knew before I took a walk on the dark side. And I like her.

Chemistry, in the form of that pill, opened the door and let the light back in. But what now? How do I keep that light shining?

Self-care.

We live in curious times. There is anger in the air and in the constant stream of information hitting us via the news we stream, the Facebook posts we read and the Twitter streams we follow. It’s confusing. Frustrating. Exhausting. It’s hurting our health.

And that’s why self-care is a practice that is important for everyone to remember. Especially in this stressful time. Because the better we can take care of ourselves the better we will be able to take care of one another.

Here are ten changes, listed in no particular order, that I’ve put into my own self-care practice. Maybe my ideas will be a springboard for your own vision of what self-care means.
1. Exercise more. It was difficult. I didn’t want to do it. But the thing is, each day I rode my bike to the studio and every time I walked – it became easier. I’ve made it a part of my life (and don’t tell anyone but this morning I actually started jogging).
2. Sleep more. This was difficult, too. There’s always one more item to cross off the to-do list, one more email to write, one more check of social media. But good sleep hygiene – setting a regular bed time and wake-up time – keeps my mind clear and my energy levels high.
3. Play more. I am not the most spontaneous woman in the world. But I’m trying. I’m trying to be less rigid with my schedule and more open to last minute adventures like movies and walks with friends.
4. Eat more. What I mean, of course, is choosing healthy foods and eating more of them. I’ve begun spending more time in the kitchen again (the proof is here). This is a great time of year to be creative with the bright, fresh produce available at the local farmer’s market.
5. Back away from the news. This year has been nerve rattling and I spent the first few months watching the evening news every evening for hours. During the day I would check my phone for breaking headlines at every opportunity. And if I wasn’t looking at the news I was looking at Facebook. To be honest I still do spend a bit of time each day reading posts (self-care is a practice – I’m doing my best). But sometime around March I realized how much of my own life I was missing out on by watching every one else’s.
6. Choose your battles. After November 8th I tried to take it all on. I wanted to march in every march, write a dozen post cards every week, call my representatives every day. I didn’t know why I was fighting, only that I had to. It wasn’t long before battle fatigue defeated me. And now I have one or two pet issues that I focus on. Collectively, we’ll get there, but I have to choose one or two battles at a time.
7. Remember that home is where your heart is, not your office. The truth? Home is where my office is, too. Ben and I both have a little space carved out in our 600 square foot condo. Because where we live is so compact, our office spaces were an ever present reminder. What that meant is that when we at home we were in our brains working and not in our hearts living. A few months ago I pushed some furniture around, ordered some beautiful rattan screens and now when we’re at home we can keep work out of sight (and out of mind).
8. Indulge more. How do I indulge? Sometimes it’s a little piece of English Toffee from Molly Stone’s bulk bins. Sometimes it’s a mani/pedi. Sometimes, when I’m feeling extravagant, it’s a Thai massage. And sometimes it’s a simple as spending an extra hour in bed on a Sunday morning.
9. Touch more. I’m not much of a hugger, but I’m learning. When I was in high school I read an article about the power of touch and how, as our society was becoming more automated, we were losing contact with one another.
10. Love more – your work, your friends, your cat, your self.