I can’t believe that it’s been over a month since I wrote here. Life is so full and so still, all at the same time. My daughters are continuing their inexorable shift to adulthood, the summer sun is giving way to brilliant oranges and reds in the trees while the light dims ever faster, and the house is quiet without my mostly-companion, CB. It is as though the days are pregnant with possibility and I can’t yet predict the due date. I have a completed first draft of my memoir sitting on my desktop, notes from a fellow writer scribbled in the margins. There are emails from folks interested in my other work waiting for responses I can’t bring myself to write quite yet. I voted by absentee ballot nearly two weeks ago and have sat in limbo since then, waiting for the moment someone will tally up my choices with the rest. There have been meetings about college applications for Eve and practice sessions for Lola’s upcoming band gig and it feels like the things on the calendar are both racing toward me and sitting out in the future like some hologram I can’t quite feel the edges of.

Some days, as I walk the streets of my neighborhood, I think that this must be what it feels like to float in a sensory deprivation tank. I know that there are things outside, but in this moment, I can only prepare and ruminate because it’s not quite time. I don’t feel a sense of angst or frustration about it, just an uneasy stillness. I have to remind myself that it will all unfold eventually and remaining open to the possibility and grounded at my core are the two healthiest things I can do.

When I was in junior high, we used to pass notes to each other in class – elaborately folded, origami-like things that would bloom open when you pulled a tab. The cleverness of the design was as satisfying as the note’s contents, and we had half a dozen different ways to put them together. I had a friend who was incredibly talented at folding a simple sheet of notebook paper adorned with a drawing that would show one thing when it was folded and another when it lay flat on the desk. I marveled at her skill but could not reproduce it. Trying to imagine the sequence of creases and the 3-dimensional shape of the paper was beyond my ability. I copied my friends and was able to master perhaps two of the special patterns and contented myself with crafting a funny or sweet message inside.

I feel a little like that now – unable to decipher exactly how things are wrapped up and packaged, and I am reminded that it has never been one of my strengths. Instead of picking at it or pushing myself to learn how to do it, I choose to wait until it unfolds and see what is contained within. Then, knowing that one of the things I do best is to add content, I will set about doing my part.

It has been a challenging few weeks around here and I feel like I’m learning a lot about grief and emotional overwhelm. The first thing I’ve noticed is that they both feel very different to me as an adult than they did when I was a kid, but maybe that’s because I have a much stronger bedrock beneath my feet these days. Maybe knowing that the bills will get paid and there is someone to share the load of parenting and managing everyday things leaves me more space to just feel what I’m feeling. Or maybe being an adult means that I don’t have anyone telling me that my strong emotions make them uncomfortable or that I’m over-reacting, or if they do say that, I don’t give a shit.

My brother-in-law died quite suddenly at the beginning of July and even though I hadn’t seen him in several months, I was acutely aware of the loss. Like me, he married into Bubba’s family – a close-knit, fairly traditional clan – as someone who came from a very different background and family dynamic. We bonded over our “black-sheep-ness” and became allies early on. He was someone who always, always had my back, someone who was as sensitive and stubborn as I am, someone who always went to bat for the underdog. He was fiercely protective of me and my kids and Bubba’s sister and we had great fun together – often in the kitchen during family gatherings. Even in my grief, I marvel at the fact that our paths ever crossed, given the difference in our ages and the fact that he was Croatian, and I am grateful for the two decades I got to share with him on the planet.

A week or so later, I lost my beloved CB, my “mostly companion,” my shadow, my furry boyfriend. For more than a decade, he followed me through the house, prompted me to go for walks to clear my head, slept next to my side of the bed, scared strangers at the door, and cracked me up with his ridiculous dog antics. He was loyal and loving and when it came time to let him go, he sat with his head in my lap and trusted me implicitly. I still hear phantom toenail clicking along the hardwood floors and expect to see his smiling face at the door when I come home from the grocery store. Taking walks in the neighborhood without him is strange and disconcerting and I can’t bring myself to move his bed from its spot in the family room quite yet. I feel his presence in every room of my house and my grief is tempered by the absolute joy he brought to my life each and every day, by the years he was there to wake me up with positive energy.

Two days ago, my grandfather had a stroke and reminded everyone when he got to the hospital that he doesn’t want any lifesaving measures. He has lived a good, long life, outlived one of his children (my dad), two wives, and has struggled for a while to really feel as though he was thriving. He is my last remaining grandparent and my childhood memories of him are strong and clear. He is a gentle, funny man who was always ready to teach us something, whether it was a magic trick or how to use a belt sander. In my father’s last months, he was such a comfort and source of love for my dad and watching the two of them interact was incredibly healing for me.

Yesterday, a dear friend of mine lost her husband in a freak car accident. He leaves behind two teenage children and my lovely friend who has been a rock for me more than once. I am overwhelmed. And I am thankful that I have learned a thing or two about grieving – at least my process for grieving.

I have learned that while it is often incredibly helpful to have friends and family around, ultimately I have to grieve in my own time in my own way. I have learned that grief – like life – is not a linear process, but one that requires me to circle back around to what feels like the same spot over and over again, but that each time I come back around, I have a slightly different perspective, an ever-so-advanced understanding of what I’m feeling and how it fits into the larger picture.

When CB died, I was home alone for a few days. Someone advised me to “go do something – don’t stay in the quiet house – distraction is good,” and while I know they meant well, I know from experience that distraction only leads to protracted grief. I came up with a sort of formula that consisted of deep, unapologetic dives into sadness followed by a period of mindless activity like laundry or cleaning out the fridge followed by social interaction. By allowing myself to really feel what I was feeling without descending into it so far that I couldn’t get out, I was able to feel the edges of my sadness and honor them without letting them define me. I follow this pattern over and over again without placing any sort of expectation on how long it will take me to “finish,” and the simple act of accepting my own feelings, whatever they might be, is an exercise in trusting myself.

I have also learned that it is important to surround myself with people who understand that grief is not a quick and dirty, check off the boxes kind of process. I need to surround myself with people who don’t find my strong emotions uncomfortable or unpleasant because that means I either have to stifle my true feelings or I end up emotionally taking care of them. I actively seek those who are willing to sit with me during those deep dives without trying to fix or abbreviate or deny my feelings. These are often people who have really grieved themselves, and they ‘get it.’

While there is a tendency to throw my hands up in the air and ask Why? as the tragedies pile on, I have learned that that is simply a distraction tactic that doesn’t serve me in the end. It doesn’t matter why. I am in the midst of sadness and overwhelm and the only way out is through. There was a time in my life when I would have wished for a magic wand or a time machine to transport me through these days quickly and efficiently, but these days I am content to take the feelings as they come and do my best to find the revelations that often accompany them. It can be painful and often overwhelming, but it is all part of this glorious, messy, beautiful, painful, honest life I choose to live.

When the girls were little, I signed them up for a program at the local park where they could learn to ride ponies. They sat in a barn and learned about safety, donned bike helmets and boots, and climbed atop plastic step-stools to hoist themselves up into the saddle. Over a period of weeks, they learned to groom, feed, saddle, and ride these gentle creatures while I stood and snapped pictures on the other side of the fence. After each lesson, they were excited to tell me about the ponies’ names and temperaments and the things they had learned about how to interact with them. When brushing the ponies, they knew to pat their way around the hind end so that the animals always knew where they were, and if they were walking near the ponies but in a blindspot, they were taught to do an “elephant circle” so as to be out of reach of a well-placed kick should the pony get spooked.

One thing you should know about me is that I prefer patting my way around to making elephant circles. If there is an elephant in the vicinity, I am the person who will point it out. I will tell you about it, indicate exactly where it is, tug on your sleeve to alert you, and describe it in great detail. Even if you indicate that you are not interested in anything having to do with this great beast in your midst, it is unlikely that I will stop trying to talk about it. In fact, if I am particularly affected by the sight of this elephant and you actively try to turn my attention elsewhere, I am likely to take you by the hand and lead you to it, make you stroke its leathery flesh, lean in for a sniff and ask you to look it in the eye.

It is not a characteristic of mine that all people appreciate.
I understand.

The other thing you should know about me is that this characteristic is necessary for my survival.

Most of my childhood was spent hearing that crying was an unnecessary activity. That sadness and fear were altogether useless. That the preferred emotions were happiness or anger and anything else was “wallowing” or “self-pity.” From time to time there were entire herds of elephants living in my house that went unacknowledged. The adults perfected elephant circles as they went through their days, picking their way carefully through and around and underneath so as not to discuss any subject that might be uncomfortable. Living like this makes a person feel a little crazy. As a kid, I tried in vain to point out the elephants and was either ignored or reprimanded. I began to believe that I was the only one who saw them, that there was something wrong with me. Or that my ability to see them – my “sensitivity” (spoken with a sneer of derision) – was a fatal character flaw. I alternated between jumping up and down and pointing and cowering in my room wondering whether there was something seriously wrong with me. Eventually, I learned to avoid the rooms where they lived altogether and take cues from other people regarding which things were ok to speak of and which ones were not.

My tactics as an adult are quite the opposite. I have come to realize that, for me, ignoring the elephants is an exercise in self-destruction. To deny my feelings about any particular situation is to pretend that they don’t matter. So while I won’t ask you to see the elephant in the room the same way I do, or to experience the same emotions in response to it, don’t be surprised if I lead you to it and describe it in great detail so that you are forced to acknowledge that it exists. So that you might begin to understand why it is something that is important to me. So that at least we can agree on one thing – that I am not crazy. I apologize if this makes you uncomfortable, but I’ve learned that leaning into discomfort is the best way to define its edges and begin to loosen its hold on me.

I read somewhere a reminder that everything is simultaneously living and dying. And, of course I knew that, but we do our best to think otherwise, don’t we? We either work to ignore it or reverse it in almost every act we take. But the end is part of the beginning as much as green is born with shades of blue embedded in it.

And it made me wonder whether the best thing to do is simply to float along in full acknowledgment of this minute
 this moment  
 this adventure
Or should I work to give the living a little more advantage? Stretch out the living part a bit more? Use my energy to tip the scales?

It’s easy to go back and forth from camp to camp. So that’s what I do.

Sometimes I live in memory, stacking up joyful moments like gold bars, hoping that once the dying is done I will have this wall to lean back upon. And sometimes I realize that so much stacking means I’m not appreciating the living that is happening behind my back, and I set aside my blocks and turn around.

Spending time surrounded by the awareness that what is here now won’t be forever makes for a certain quality of awake-ness that is uncomfortable. It requires me to be mindful of emotional connection instead of physical action.

“I love you” versus “let me do this for you” or “let’s make new memories.”

It is also difficult to define the world in terms of Not-me. That is, to not process every potentiality and new situation with regard to what it requests and requires of me and how it makes me feel. I have to float back and see myself as one part of the whole and that both humbles me and reminds me that I am an important piece of the puzzle. That in any moment I can choose to turn my back, shore up the living, or accept my place and experience what is. Perhaps the beauty in that is that I do. I choose. Among the breath and the pulse and the movement and the slowing and the dying, I choose. And the more I can remember that it is all beautiful and glorious and a gift that I am here, part of it, for a while, the stronger I feel.

I am not much of a routine-loving person. I hate the idea of going to the gym and working out on the same piece of equipment every day or every other day. When I was working a job that required me to do the same things pretty much at the same time every day or every week, it wasn’t long before I got bored to tears and quit to find something else. Even as a writer, I’m much more productive when I write as inspiration strikes instead of sitting down in the same place at the same time every day.

However, I do love rituals. My coffee routine is the same every morning and when it isn’t, I often feel as though something is off. Often, on weekends, Bubba and I will get up with the sun and walk a couple of miles to our favorite coffee shop and back before the girls are even up, but even though the coffee and the company are exquisite, as soon as I get home, if I don’t get busy doing something else pretty much right away, I begin to feel as though I need to make myself coffee at home, too.

I also love the predictable things that come around once a year – my sister-in-law’s annual Easter dinner and egg hunt that includes a different mix of friends and family every time, but is always fun and festive; the way our neighborhood comes alive in the evening just after Daylight Savings Time when parents and kids are out playing catch or walking the dog and visiting on the sidewalk with other folks who are taking advantage of the fact that it isn’t dark at 5pm anymore. There is something comforting and grounding about those occasional events that I forget about and then find myself welcoming back.

I think it is against the backdrop of those rituals that I can feel confident about big changes. Lola is graduating from middle school this year and heading off into the world of high school. Eve will soon have her driver’s license and is increasingly away from home doing things with friends. My work seems to be on the verge of something big as well, but instead of feeling overwhelmed and freaked out, the touchstones of family dinners at Easter and cherry blossoms bursting out all over have given me a safe container in which to sit.

The trick, I think, is to spend as much time honoring the rituals I love as I spend thinking about the new, exciting things that are to come.

*

I remember hearing, back in September or October, a report on NPR about microchimerism of mothers, and it is one of those things that has stuck in my craw for months. Basically, there is evidence that when a woman is pregnant, not only do things pass from her to the baby via the placenta and umbilical cord, but that fetal cells can cross the placenta and circulate in the mother’s body as well. There is also evidence that these cells can lodge in the mother’s body and morph into new cells, integrating themselves into the mother’s tissues and dividing along with the rest of her cells.

Yeah.

Whoa.

I think that means that I not only have parts of Eve and Lola in my actual body, but that Bubba is in there as well.

And I have to say that, as this notion has been stuck in my craw, turning around and around in some remote corners of my brain, it has conjured up all sorts of flashes of weirdness.

Like, there is part of me in my mother, too. Which has me thinking about the cycles of mother and daughter and mother. And that leads to the idea that no matter how much we rail against becoming our mothers, maybe our mothers become us a little bit more, too, and so there’s just no escaping the eventual similarities. It puts me in mind of parallel lines that aren’t quite parallel, so that at some point in the distant future, they will touch, if only for a brief moment.

And it makes me think that (as much as I think my mom would hate this idea), there is some of my Dad floating around in her, too, since she had two kids with him. And, while it is of some comfort to me that I carry some of Bubba with me wherever I go, I wonder how much it would bother me to know that, had I not chosen to have a child with someone (for example, if I were sexually assaulted and it resulted in a pregnancy), that I might always have some part of them in me.

Beyond that, it makes me wonder about whether Lola carries some part of Eve in her thanks to being the second child. Were the cells from Eve so much a part of me by the time I got pregnant with Lola that some of them transferred into her sister? I think I might have to wait for just the right time to broach the subject with them…

And is there some evolutionary purpose to all of this? Does it exist to make the familial bonds stronger? To bind parents together more tightly? To bind mothers and children together in some elemental way? To tighten the strings of sibling connection? I have often noticed that when my children are in pain, I feel it, and even, to some extent, when Bubba is suffering, I have the sense that I am commiserating on a deeper level – something that goes beyond empathy, it seems to me. Could this be because I have had children with him?

It is all pretty mind-boggling and, to be honest, I find it very entertaining to think about the possibilities. I know a woman who tried to get pregnant for years and couldn’t, so she ended up adopting a fully fertilized embryo from a fertility clinic and she now has a lovely little girl whom she describes as a “great passenger” during the pregnancy. Does she now carry the DNA from two complete strangers in her body and will her subsequent children carry that, too? Whoa. Just, whoa.

It really does lend credence to this notion that we are all connected, and I have to say that I like it.

*I searched for pictures of chimera and was dismayed that all the ones I found were hideous and frightening. I chose this picture of a piece of art that hangs in The Louvre because, technically, it has Pegasus on it, so it qualifies, and it’s beautiful.

Last Thursday, I gave myself permission to take a hot bath.
In the middle of the day. With piles of laundry yet to be washed, a dog that desperately
wanted a walk, and a dinner plan yet to be determined.  I ran a deep, hot bath, added a few
drops of lavender essential oil, lit a candle, and stepped in. 
The tub is set in the corner of the room with large windows
framing two sides, frosted below for privacy, and open to the sky on top.  Lying back, I could see a triangle of
roof with the downspout attached, a few bare tree branches, and grey sky.  We have enjoyed a lot of sunshine in
the last week and temperatures in the upper 50s, but today was grey with
spitting rain and that soft light that makes it impossible to tell what time of
day it is without consulting a clock. 
As I let my thoughts drift away a smile appeared on the
right side of my lips.  My nostrils
flared slightly and the left side of my mouth followed until I was positively
grinning.  For no reason. I hadn’t
just remembered something funny or sweet or thought about something exciting in
the near future.  I just
smiled. 
As I pondered this strange, unprompted grin, I recalled
something my nine-year-old said to me once. And I finally understood what she
meant. 
When she said it, we were leaving the hospital after having
just paid a visit to her favorite teacher.  Mrs. H had suffered a severe bout of pain and dizziness the
night before and was rushed to the ER and evaluated for a stroke.  She was disoriented and confused and,
at the time of our visit, still in some measure of discomfort.  And the doctors had no real answers.  Despite that, she was delighted to see
Lola and I walk in to her room and she immediately squeezed us both tightly and
began talking in her rushed, irreverent way.  The three of us were laughing within minutes and Lola
perched on the side of the hospital bed with Mrs. H’s arm draped over her.  We bounced from topic to topic, dipping
our toes in the waters of concern, but mostly skipping lightly around school,
pets, and things we were looking forward to.  When Mrs. H began to get tired, Lola and I left, promising
to check back later in the day.
As we walked down the hospital corridor, I began to feel a
bit melancholy.  I caught glimpses
of other patients, lying in bed asleep with mouths agape, struggling to get out
of bed, pushing IV poles down the hallway as they steadied themselves against a
nurse or a loved-one.  I thought
about Mrs. H and all she has meant to us and our family over the years and
found myself sending an urgent wish out to the Universe that she heal quickly
and completely.  I was lost in my
own thoughts until I felt Lola’s bouncing gait next to me and looked at her.
She was half-walking, half-skipping down the hall, bopping
her head from shoulder to shoulder and singing a little song under her
breath.  Her eyes twinkled with
mischief and she wore a huge grin.
“What are you so happy about, little one?” I asked, relieved.
I had originally resisted bringing her, worried that it might upset her to see
her beloved teacher sick or in pain.
Lola stopped mid-stride, cocked her head up at me in
confusion and let out a laugh.
“Mom. You don’t need any reason at all to be happy. You need
a reason to be sad or upset or angry, but you can be happy just because you’re
happy.” 
I laughed, too, thinking that it was such a “Lola” thing to
say. She truly believes it. She lives it.
It wasn’t until today in the bathtub that it sank in for
me.  As the smile crept across my
face, the first thought I had was, ‘what
are you smiling about?’
  The
answer that came to me first was, ‘Nothing.
And everything.

I don’t need a reason
to be happy.’

*This essay is one of several that originally appeared in BuddhaChick Life Magazine. As the magazine is no longer available, I am reposting it here so readers can find it. 
An active mind and time alone are not a good
combination for me.  Ironic, considering how much of my time I spend
alone, writing from home during the day (or not) and alone in the evenings as
often as not with my husband’s travel schedule.
I have known for a long time that going for
stretches without social interaction does something to me. It pushes me somehow
in ways that are uncomfortable.  And while I know that this discomfort is
a sign of something I need to examine more closely, my methods of examination
push me in to a darker place from time to time.  
I am very good at telling myself what I Should Be
Doing.  Years of being directed by my parents, a Marine Corps father and a
mother who was desperate to be in control of her own destiny, to go here and do this and prioritize that
taught me that inactivity was to be avoided.  It also taught me that
service to others and their priorities was of paramount importance.  So I
often find myself struggling to prioritize tasks in such a way that it becomes
eminently clear which things deserve doing first, second, and on down the line.
 Struggling because there is no way to do that. There is no universally
accepted rubric that says this book review is more important than that load of
laundry or taking the dog for a walk as he whines and follows me from room to
room.  
I tend to give precedence to those things that
serve others – laundry, cooking, shopping for household necessities,
straightening up – and push off others that seem more nebulous.  I have,
over the years, figured out that the dog only really needs to be
walked every other day (please don’t tell Cesar Milan), that if I make it to
yoga or the gym twice a week I am really doing well, and that I can crank out a
good book review in an hour.  
I know that the best thing I can do is banish
“Shoulds” from my vocabulary.  And I’ve come a long way in that
regard.  But I became aware today that I do it in so many other ways, I’m
not sure I’ve really come as far as I thought.  Every time I catch that
inner voice berating myself for wanting to do something more than
another thing that is probably more productive or helpful, I am
“shoulding” myself.  If I have the urge to lie down on the couch
and take a cozy nap with the cat instead of folding that load of laundry or
going to get Bubba’s contact lens solution, the nap is vetoed even before it
was fully realized as an option in my mind.  If, instead of reorganizing
that closet of Lola’s that disgorges random items every time you open the door,
I would rather sit down and read for an hour (who wouldn’t?), I hear this
sweet, condescending voice in my head that says, “You can read on your own
time, dear. That closet isn’t getting any cleaner while you sit there, and
you’ll feel guilty the whole time you’re on the couch, so you won’t focus on
the story, anyway.”  
I have even become so sophisticated at this
little game that the notion of spending an entire day rewriting a chapter of
the book I’m currently working on becomes physically repugnant.  Not
because I don’t want to write, but because I have so thoroughly convinced
myself that my writing serves nobody but myself (at least until I sell
something), that every word I type is a piece of laundry left unfolded or six
steps fewer with the dog this afternoon.  I have associated things that
give me joy with guilt and feelings of laziness in an effort to convince myself
to be more productive in the service of others.  
The truth is, I spend more time performing mental
calculations in an effort to decide how to structure my day than I do actually
performing the acts themselves.  It is as though I envision some stern
judge and jury I will face at the end of the day as I justify the things I
decided to spend time on.  And for what? There is no gold star that goes
on my permanent record.  There is no jail time for dishes left undone.
 From time to time there is an extremely hyper retriever in my face if I
neglected to walk him, and almost always there is remorse that I didn’t write more
(or at all) today.
So the question remains, what am I avoiding by
continuing to deny myself the freedom to choose things that please me each and
every day?  What would happen if, for some portion of every day I sat down
and did something that speaks to my soul? Something whose only purpose is to
make me happy?  As I write this and envision myself doing it, the
grounded, heavy feeling in my core is enough to convince me that I’ve been
looking at this the wrong way.  The simple act of imagining that I have
given myself permission to indulge my desires regardless of what anyone else
may think warms me from the inside out.  Calms me. Settles me.  

That is not to say that the notion of
implementing it doesn’t frighten me a bit.  It is counter to everything I
was taught and every example set for me by adults in my life.  But if I
close the door on that chatter and sit in the space and stillness of the other
imagining it feels possible.  

*This essay is one of several that originally appeared in BuddhaChick Life Magazine. As the magazine is no longer available, I have reposted it here so that readers can find it. 
I love yoga. Not only for the sweating, quiet
determination, sore muscles and peace I gain from it, but because it is where I
hear that strong, inner voice most clearly. Without fail, as soon as I let my
guard down and begin my physical practice, words come to my head. Simple words
that don’t necessarily strike me as being important at the time, but they
resonate for days afterward. Last week’s epiphany was no exception. It didn’t
knock me over with a shout inside my head or jolt me into instant clarity. It
fell like a raindrop in a deep pool. It was quiet, melted into my brain without
a trace, and rippled. And rippled. And rippled.
What would this look like if it didn’t come from
a place of fear?
Throughout the week I continued to examine that
thought. Throughout the week I found myself amazed at how often my reactions
originate in fear and how fear is responsible for outlining the space in which
I act. When I recognize the source for what it is and consciously move from
fear to acceptance or love, everything changes. I can feel a shift in my body
as I relax into groundedness and space. My mind becomes open and possibilities
expand forward. The walls around begin to dissolve.
When I operate from a place of fear, my options
are restricted and I begin to make connections that aren’t necessarily related.
If this happens, next comes this and then it swells into that and…Oh, No!
Spiraling anxiety as the fear feeds on the tightly coiled energy inside my body
and brain and I’m locked inside with it.
When my responses originate from love or
acceptance or groundedness there are no boundaries. In fact, once I make that
subtle course change, I no longer feel the need to drive any agenda. Whereas
with fear, I’m compelled to either stick to the course my anxiety has laid out
or fight to alter it in some way, when I let go of fear, I am more likely to
sit back and see where things go next. I don’t need to act within any
particular moment to make something happen or prevent it from happening. I am
able to temper my responses and, very often, the next step reveals itself or
negates any action on my part at all.
In the last several days I have been able to
watch myself and come to realize just how often angry or frustrated or anxious
feelings arise from my fears. When Eve and Lola begin bickering, it is my fear
that leads me to snap at them to “knock it off!” When I send out yet
another email to a prospective agent or publisher, it is fear that drives me to
downplay my own writing abilities or the importance of this book project to me.
When I get annoyed at being interrupted while I’m mentally planning my day, it
is because I am afraid that I’ll lose the thread of thought and somehow
“fail” to do all of the things I’ve convinced myself I ought to do in
order to be the best mother/writer/wife/friend.

When I sit back and ask myself the question,
“What would this look like if it weren’t coming from a place of
fear?” I am astonished at the possibilities. What if I trust my own
abilities as a mother/writer/wife/friend and simply act out of love and the
understanding that I have enough. I am good enough. There is an abundance of
love/compassion/intelligence/patience/money/whatever I need. When I source my
feelings and thoughts and actions from that well, life looks pretty damned
amazing.

*This essay is one of several that originally appeared in BuddhaChick Life Magazine. As the magazine is no longer available, I have reposted it here so that readers can find it. 
    
I arrived at yoga 15 minutes before class was scheduled to begin and set
up my mat in the front row.  I
wasn’t sure how many people would arrive for class and, while I don’t
necessarily like being in the front, I know the instructor and she would tease
me if she came in and saw that I intentionally chose to be further back. 
            The
room was warm and there was one other woman at the far end of the front
row.  I settled in, cross-legged,
to close my eyes and clear my mind. 
I didn’t expect it to be an easy job. We were just coming off of a long
Thanksgiving weekend and I felt catapulted in to the holiday season.  With only six days to go before my
daughter’s birthday, I had yet to purchase her gift.  Once her special day was over, I anticipated a mad dash of
shopping, decorating, cooking and traveling until January 2nd.  In the meantime, we were looking
forward to a move in the late Spring which meant fixing up our house to put it
on the market.  Add to that all of
the “normal” things on my weekly schedule and my mind resembled a plasma static
electricity ball when I closed my eyes. 
You know, the ones that make your hair stand on end when you put your
palms to the glass? 
            I
sat for a minute, warring with myself about whether or not I ought to even be
attempting this. Maybe the best thing to do would be to get up and go get some
of the things crossed off of my list instead of indulging in a 90-minute yoga
class.  No, I would look silly
walking out now and the instructor would surely catch me leaving.  Perhaps I should sit and address some
of the items in my head right now – devise the menu for my daughter’s birthday
party or make a mental list of which things I can likely get done today.  I felt my anxiety level ratchet up a
notch.   What I needed to do
was to sit with my anxiety. Just experience without judgment.  Acknowledge my discomfort and not try
to solve anything.
            The
teacher entered the room and welcomed us all.  I steeled myself for the beginning of class, knowing that
once I started it was like strapping in to an amusement park ride – I was here
for the duration. Especially in the front row.  She asked us to close our eyes and do our best to stay
within the confines of our mats. No, stay
here
, yelled my mind. This is what is
really real. These things need to be done. This is real life.
            “That
means not looking at your neighbor’s practice or thinking about what is for
lunch. Just truly arrive on your own mat and be here. Simply here,” Mary gently
reminded us. 
            At
that moment I realized that being here in this moment, anxieties and all, was
what was truly Real. Those expectations either existed in the past or the
future, which really means not at all. 
The only place to be was here, on my mat, in my body and my mind.  I know that yoga and meditation offer
me peace and solace as well as strength and a sense of achievement.  Despite that, I often trick myself into
thinking that activity and busyness are more valuable. More “real.”  Because I can get instant gratification
when I cross something off of my list, it feels like an accomplishment. The
benefits I get from stopping, slowing down, and being deliberate and planful
about my actions and thoughts are much less tangible.  But if I think about it, I can always add more tasks to my
list. That conveyor belt is never-ending. 
The act of coming back to myself, grounding my actions and thoughts in
this moment right now, wherever I am, feels solid and constant. It may not be
“progress” in that sense, but without a stable base from which to act, that
conveyor belt will drop into the abyss.
            As
always, by the time Mary had led the class through our second set of sun
salutations, my mind and body were firmly on my mat.  Halfway through class, I realized the static electricity had
completely dissipated and the realization that now is enough carried me through
the rest of the 90 minutes. 

            Whether
or not I actually cross everything off of my to-do list doesn’t seem to matter
anymore. For now, I am reminded that Now is Reality and everything else will
follow. 

*This is one of several essays that originally appeared in BuddhaChick Life Magazine. As the magazine is no longer available, I’ve reposted them here so that readers can find them.