Today I took a stack of books down to one of the little free libraries about a mile from my house, freeing myself of the requirement of dusting them. As I locked the little door back on the library and walked away, I felt a bit freer but also as though, somehow, my generous contribution was making an impact on the entire Universe. A little over the top, I’m sure, but hey. Whatever gets me through the ‘unloading process’, right?
And what a great segue into the last of the Yamas in Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga: Aparigraha. Aparigraha is, essentially, the art of practicing non-attachment. When translated, we often see it as the practice of non-greed or non-possessiveness. Recently I had experienced a little bit of jealousy – something I’m not necessarily prone to, so when this was introduced to me, that’s the spot in my psyche where it landed.
This Yama instructs us to only take what we need, keep only what serves us in the moment, and to let go when the time is right. The letting go part was hard for me -,one I’m working through by trusting the Universe with the process.
Aparigrahpa introduces the art of ‘having no attachment to the outcome’. This can be misleading if you aren’t familiar with Buddhist tradition – which I’m not – but (and I could be so far off base here…) I gather that it means that you aren’t hoping for an outcome – it’s just that you have let go of the emotional attachment to the outcome. In other words, sometimes the Universe is smarter than we are. Sometimes It delivers what we want in a different time or different place – like ten years later – or maybe…maybe it delivers something so completely different, but better for us, despite our longings leading up to that.
I’m extremely good at letting go of material items but absolutely fucking awful at letting go of emotional pain. I’m working through it, which I guess is the point, but to sit here and tell you that after one yoga class on Aparigrahpa and a few weeks of trying new things that I’m all better? Well, that would be untruthful – which is the second of the Yamas.
So, I did easy stuff to work on my practice of Aparigrahpa in the weeks that followed the class. I did these minor – but important – things. I hope they can help you consider what you can do:
Purge and then purge some more. I had a garage sale. (That’s the same as a tag sale for my New England readers.) I’ve done this a million times in my lifetime and written about it here. But most of my big sales came prior to a move to another state, so this time I really focused on what was no longer serving me. There were some things I had hung onto for years, moving from place to place, because I thought I might need it someday. Graham Hill has a great TedTalk about this very thing, and when I went through my closets and drawers and boxes and bins, I simply asked myself if this was serving me and the life I wanted to have. Additionally, while I was just sitting out there in my garage, I started going through totes I had packed there. This was an interesting endeavor to say the least. I won’t go into any details, but let’s just say this: About $2000 worth of wedding photos, a wedding video and follow up photographs got shipped off to the Springfield landfill. And I am not sorry one little bit about it.
Give to others. I made an anonymous gift. Don’t get too excited. It wasn’t huge and it wasn’t the first time. But, I get a kick out of being the infamous anonymous donor. I don’t give for the recognition and I don’t expect anything in return. My concern is in the action alone – never the fruits of that action. I never want the results of the action to be my motive for giving and I’m not attached to the inaction, either. I was called to give so I gave.
Let go of the attachment. We already touched on how this affects me in relationships, so I’ll go for an explanation a little less ‘charged’. For years I didn’t write because I didn’t think I was good enough. When I stopped focusing on whether or not I was any good at it, and simply started doing it again, I was able to expand. Many great poets like Thoreu and Whitman or painters like Corot weren’t sure of what would come of their art. They simply enjoyed the process of it. I let go of the idea that my happiness was determined by what others thought and simply started writing as therapy. Therapy turned into a blog. A blog is turning into a story. A story is turning into a novel. If people read my work and like it – great. If it inspires you – even better! But, as part of Aparigraha, I am not tying my self worth to the opinions of others. I have let go of the attachment to the outcome.
So as I leave you today, I leave you with a Jason Isbell song which is one of my favorites though it sounds a bit melancholy.
How are you generous – or can be more generous to those around you? When we offer the truth (like I do here in my blog to you) then we are also being generous. Let’s not forget how powerful the truth can really be. It can make all the difference in the world even if it isn’t bedazzled and perfect.
Are you attached to an outcome? Are you betraying your natural talent because of fear? If so, how can you push yourself through this and live in the beauty that is you?
I really do love to hear from you, if you are out there reading. I may not be attached to an outcome, but I do like to communicate!
I have a love/hate relationship with social media because I know if it wasn’t for Facebook, I’d never had any readers of this blog. I also work in the field of Digital Fundraising (Or “Peer To Peer” as they say in the biz). I understand that sharing is caring in that world and if people didn’t share, money doesn’t get raised. If money doesn’t get raised, I lose my job, and (here’s the real problem…) my son would not get the number of chicken nuggets he does now. But, I don’t live in that world and I kinda feel like an imposter. (I suppose, though, that I don’t have to use heroin to know it’s bad for me. Some things are a given, you know?) I have never had accounts on Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Reddit, Tik Tok – or any of the others that all the cool kids use. If I am to publicly admit to being addicted to any time-sucking app, then Pinterest is my drug of choice. In my very well-organized, 42 board world, my house is tiny and well decorated, my kid has the best birthday parties, I’m over toxic relationships, I’m married to Rip Wheeler, I exercise like a boss and only consume Vegan Keto meals while in my ‘eating window’ because of, well, intermittent fasting. In other words, I pin pin pin and never do do do. I’ve written about unplugging before so maybe I should read it again myself.
Which brings us right into the fourth Yama within the Eight Limbs of Yoga. I love it when the Universe aligns like that and gives me something esoteric in which to hang my hat. Today’s Yama is Brahmacharya.
Brachmacharya is about the practice of moderation. Doing anything to excess in our lives—food, sex, work—typically leads to imbalances, leaving us with low energy and high frustration. Brahmacharya can help us. Half the battle is becoming aware of where we’re going into excess and why we’re doing it. Then we can make changes. It’s been about four weeks since I was in the yoga class that introduced Brahmacharya so I’ve had some time to sit with it. I think we can all admit that we partake too much in something in our lives but for me there were four biggies that stood out. Here they are:
Conserving Sexual Energy: I’m not going to get into a ton of details here because my sex life isn’t something I discuss publicly. But, I have written about how I’ve recently decided to be single. Part of this journey is simply to refrain from any romantic endeavors and sexual encounters for a specific time period. If history has taught me anything, I have learned that leaving one relationship and jumping right into another one is a good way to recreate toxicity and fuck things up right from the start. I’ve done this many, many times in my lifetime. It’s time to do something different.
Slothfulness. Okay, typically I’m not prone to laziness – ask anyone who knows me. I work hard and stay really busy. But that lends itself to the other side of the pendulum swing – my downtime. I ain’t gonna lie, I have (like everyone else on the planet – thanks COVID) been isolating and missing planned social activities. At first, the introvert in me was like “Dude. Forced social distancing? Yay!” But now, seven months in, I found I can breeze through an entire series on Netflix in a weekend only getting up for the pizza delivery, another glass of wine, or to change out of my stinky pajamas into my clean pajamas. Really. It got ugly. I give myself permission to do this occasionally, but I was definitely not practicing moderation six months into this pandemic. After learning of Brachmacharya, I canceled Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Peacock. (I kept Netflix, obviously). I started hiking two-three times a week and meditating when I’m bored to ease the anxiety and impulse to ‘fill time’. When my son is with his dad, I drive. I drive a lot – with the goal of finding a new place to explore.
Living inside my telephone. Jason Isbell, in his song If It Takes A Lifetime, croons about fighting the urge to live inside his telephone and I have to say “Yes. This is an issue.” The revelation – and I’m checking my call log as we speak – is that even though I pick the damn thing up to see if I have any messages about 400 times a day…my actual ‘recent calls’ list indicates that I haven’t had a call lasting over two minutes in two weeks. I’ve written about my CHOICE to put all romantic relationships on hold for a while but I can still also admit that there are times when I am really fucking lonely. (Not in a sad, set me up with your single cousin, way so just stop. But still…) We aren’t just able to go out right now and all social activities require a six-foot distance. At times, it isn’t really worth the effort – but today – if I can pawn my kid off, I’m going to find myself a big ol’ body of water and paddle a boat. Maybe I’ll meet a new friend. Maybe I won’t. But here’s what I won’t be doing, for sure, and that’s sitting on my ass waiting for my phone to ping..
So – of course – I’m gonna leave you with a song today from one of my favorite local artists, Barak Hill. I will also leave you with some questions and I’d love to hear from you.
How has this pandemic created imbalances in your life? Are you addicted to the Dopamine hits each like, ping, and comment gets you? Can you disconnect your life for an entire weekend? A week? A year? How would you make a shift to connect with others if you weren’t simply able to scroll through your Facebook feed?
This week I’ve started to feel a bit like a drunken monkey in a new forest. That’s a pretty extreme way of saying that my attention span has been minimal as I’ve started to pick up my pen (okay, it’s a keyboard – sigh) and write the thoughts down that have been swimming in my brain for years. I feel like I’m bouncing from one tree to another to another and then another. It’s rather intoxicating, though, to finally feel alive again.
I’m not much of a talker – at least not about my feelings – and my feelings have been so wrapped up in my divorce and the recovery of that both financially and mentally that I haven’t – for about two years – felt much like getting in touch with my true self. Nope. I was more focused on just staying alive and facing a new day.
I wouldn’t necessarily go as far as to say I’ve been pretending to be someone I’m not. That implies that I’ve been dishonest or untrustworthy. None of those are true. But I think we can all agree we each have our own coping mechanisms when it comes to dealing with our shit. And mine is to bury. Bury it deep. In a blue barrel, underground, in the middle of an Ozarks National Forest.
I’m communicating better – at least I believe I am. I wish I had had the strength to communicate to those I love this way all along, but I haven’t. I am neither sorry or sad about that. It was just the way it was.
I feel braver. I feel stronger. I feel…what is it that I feel…Ahh…more like me than I have in a decade. Sharing my thoughts with you have led to some revelations and I thank you for reading. I’m launching something new this week – Post It Poems – inspired by the work of Atticus, JM Storm, rh sin, and my very big celebrity crush Zachry K. Douglas. It really needs some content but I did manage to post one today on my Facebook page and it felt really good to make this dream go live.
I’m often reminded of something I usually tell my friends: You become “fill in the blank” by saying you are. For example: You are a fisherman when you say you are a fisherman. Now, some might rebuke that and say “That’s not necessarily true. You become a fisherman when you start fishing.” But I argue that first you have to believe you can fish before you actually do fish and the creation of that identity starts with your thoughts and words.
If that is true, then I’m claiming my new identity. I am fierce. And I am soft. I am both. Loving me requires you to respond accordingly to the person I present to you on any given day. I’m not easy to love but I love easily. I am brave and I am strong. I am alive today because of the brave and strong people I have met but also because of those who are fearful and weak who propelled me forward by their inconsistency.
Accordingly to Leo Babauta, another one of my favorite writers, you can change your identity over time. And, as it turns out (thank god) I don’t even have to quit my job, change my name to Gertie and start waiting tables in some little café outside Bay Springs, Mississippi. You just decide to be something different…and then you take the steps to do that. If you aren’t changing, you aren’t growing and I no longer have room in my heart for people who wish to remain stuck in the past. I encourage you to read his post because it so well illustrates how we can become someone else – yet remain whole.
If you haven’t read some of my posts regarding my experience with the Eight Limbs of Yoga, you can check them out below. I suppose I should warn you of my excessive use of the ‘f’ word. There. You’ve been warned.
In March of 2020, the world changed in an instant. People were hoarding toilet paper. Milk and bread were difficult to find and distilleries stopped making whiskey and started making hand sanitizers (which was the real tragedy, in my opinion). It was crazy-ville, to say the least. Never in my lifetime had I witnessed a ‘me and mine’ mentality such as this.
I mean, I understand selfishness. I am selfish at times. I think everyone is, and that’s okay, because there are moments when only you can take care of you. I witnessed selfishness as a survival trait when working with the homeless and economically-disadvantaged, food-insecure folks here. I had always been fascinated, and admittedly often annoyed by, their lack of consideration for others when it came to matters of survival. Sugar packets, napkins, and prepackaged foods would be gone in a matter of minutes, everyone taking what they wanted with no consideration for the person next in line. I’m not judging them. I’m just saying it was something I couldn’t grasp conceptually…until the Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020. (Did you know there was a TP shortage in 1973? Me neither until just now. Of course, I was wearing a diaper, so it wasn’t relative to me.)
As we continue down the Eight Limbs of Yoga, we are still in the Yamas. Yamas are, essentially, the practice of abstinence. We meet this morning, over coffee, to discuss Asteya – or the act of ‘nonstealing’.
We all know that nonstealing is refraining from taking what isn’t yours and taking more than you need. Most of us don’t steal from others – unless you include pens from the bank, then I am guilty as charged. And most of us – unless you’ve ever been to an All You Can Eat Buffet in the Ozarks – don’t usually take more than we need. Or…do we?
Shall we go deeper? (If you don’t want to, that’s okay. There’s a good list here that will get you some understanding of Asetya, without my ramblings.)
For those of you still reading…Have you ever refrained from speaking up because you were afraid of hurting or angering others? Have you ever chosen to not use a talent? Have you pushed yourself over a boundary line another person has set? Have you ever slept, eaten, ‘relaxed’, worked, or spent too much? Hmmm. Yes. Me, too.
When Asteya was introduced to me I was in the middle of juggling working from home while also trying to be my son’s teacher three days a week, and getting little to no sleep because my anxiety was so high one dose of Xanax wasn’t even scratching the surface. Add to that a little (okay, A LOT) of negative self-talk and poor food choices and what I ended up with was nothing short of a recipe for disaster. I was stealing from myself and others and I was most definitely taking more than I needed in anxiety meds, wine and whiskey, and sugar. Here, as I share, my hope for you is that you can simply take a deep breath, and instead of judging yourself – just decide if you need to make some adjustments. After learning Asteya, I found the following Truths:
I identified where I let others cross my boundaries. Crossing boundaries is a two-way street. Yes, other people push them and cross them and that is wrong. Period. But, let’s own this, shall we? If we allow it to happen, we are stealing from ourselves in the same moment they are stealing from us. One morning I was feeling particularly edgy and when that happens, my senses go on overload. (I often say that my son comes by his Autism naturally because if they were diagnosing Sensory Processing Disorder in 1977, I am certain I’d be on the list.) On this particular morning, for some reason, the idea of being touched was making my skin crawl. The air conditioner was too loud, the motorcycles driving up and down the street were nerve-wracking and the coffee tasted bitter, no matter how I doctored it. The idea of being touched on that particular day was akin to wearing polyester fabric in the middle of a southern Missouri summer. In other words, a nightmare. My then-partner went in for a hug and I said “I really don’t want a hug right now”. Needless to say, I had to repeat myself a few times, and while I did it nicely, after the fourth time, it escalated to “I told you not to touch me” – in a rather sharp tone – I may have even said ‘Don’t fucking touch me’ – I honestly don’t remember. All I remember was being so confused by why he wasn’t listening which led to me putting on my shoes and leaving – quickly. First, to be fair to myself, if I had packed my anxiety medication or if the stash I had at his house wasn’t depleted, I might have been okay that morning. But me, without my meds, and he, with his habit of not listening to the word ‘no’, just really set me off. So several lessons: If people don’t respect your boundaries, walk the fuck out. The first time. Don’t apologize for setting a boundary. But don’t… and really listen to me here…DO NOT let others manipulate you into believing that because you have a boundary that you are somehow the person who is wrong.
Clinging to someone because we are too afraid of being alone or because we doubt our own abilities—that’s stealing as well. – Linda Sparrowe, Yoga International
Next up in the Asetya revelation field: I was managing my time – badly. Now, normally, I’m not known for poor time management. I can accomplish a shit ton before most people have their lunch. But, working from home while a child is present is like trying to brush your teeth whilst eating Oreos. It’s just a mess. (And if this isn’t you…then you don’t get to judge anyone in this situation. You. Do. Not. Understand. End of story.) I would no sooner get involved in a work process and he’d say “Hey, Mom. I’m hungry.” or “Hey Mom, how many likes did my YouTube channel get today?”“Hey Mom, wanna play Minecraft?” I love my son more than any other human on the planet and I was ready to murder him. (I’m fucking working here, kid, so that you can have lunch, afford that tablet, and buy Google Play cards in order to upgrade your village. If I get fired, we are both fucked. You know…the stuff you think as a parent but don’t say out loud because, well, you love them.) Also, I’m always a remote employee – which means I always work from home and have for nearly nine years. Working from home isn’t an issue for me. Working from home with a retired and anxious housemate, a bored and restless child, and juggling all my friends’ who weren’t used to working from home was the issue. All of that was (is) fucking exhausting. People who don’t normally work from home weren’t (aren’t) used to the isolation. Under normal circumstances, if they get bored or restless at the office, they take a lap and chit chat with others. This ‘take a lap and chit chat’ when everyone was on lockdown resulted in text messages and FB messenger posts constantly: Ping. Hey, when are the yearbooks going to be distributed? Ping. OMG. This Zoom meeting stuff is hard! Ping. Shots fired in the 1900 block of E. Grand. Springfield is full of idiots. Ping. Hey, any word on yearbooks? Ping. The neighbor next door is yelling at his wife on the porch. Ping. The neighbor I was telling you about? Now the cops are here. Ping. Hey. Do you know anything about the yearbooks? Ping. If one more person asks me about those yearbooks I’m going to lose my shit. Ping. Hey, has anyone asked you about the yearbooks? (Can I be blunt? I don’t fucking care. About any of it. Not the yearbooks. Not the fact that our city is a cesspool of crime. Not about your neighbor. I care about getting my work done – and why don’t you care about that?)
Each ping, each “I’m hungry”, each interruption, added minutes to my day that I just didn’t have to give. I found myself at my desk until 9 pm each night. When I finally told everyone in a public FB post (public FB posts are rare for me) – rather impolitely, I now realize – that I was not going to be available for them all day every day I pissed people off. One even wrote, “You told the entire world to leave you alone. Alone, you’ve been left”. Fine. Because now I’m not stealing from myself during the day – I’m working when I should be working and I’m answering texts about yearbooks at 7 pm – when normal people should be answering texts. Some texts I just don’t answer at all because there isn’t a direct question that requires an answer. Lastly, and I’ll wrap up this point, there’s a scripture in Proverbs that instructs us as to when to make hay and when not to (read here). Not only does answering unimportant texts during the day steal from myself, I’m stealing from my employer by not working when I’m supposed to be working. And, if I text YOU during the day, I’m stealing from your employer, too. How ’bout them apples, huh?
Linda Sparrowe, Yoga International, states “One way of practicing asteya is to refuse to allow our mind to ‘steal’ us away from what we’re doing and rob us of our present-moment focus. Allowing ourselves to be distracted is a form of stealing because we deny ourselves the true joy of experiencing what is happening right now.”
Asetya also challenges me to be honest. Newsflash, I am not always honest. I don’t lie on purpose but through Asetya I’m learning that by not sharing what I am feeling or experiencing my shadow side with others then I am stealing from them and ultimately, from myself. I’ve learned that my single-most toxic trait is my inability to ask for help when I need it. I say “I’m Fine” but I ‘disappear’ and ‘isolate’ when I am feeling the most anxious and I emerge when I feel better. This is what I mean by ‘shadow side’. I believe my shadow side is ugly and unworthy of love so I do my best to hide until I’m back ‘in the light’. I once told a lover “If you give me the benefit of the doubt and don’t give up on me, I will always come back. You just need to be patient and realize it isn’t about you. It is all about me.” So far, no one has been able to fully extend that courtesy, but I’m hopeful that the right person can. Additionally, I’ve recently learned that being ultra-independent is a response to trauma. Now, I can’t blame all my issues on my trauma – but I can say that I am absolutely fascinated by how much of my shit connects back to trauma. The more I learn about this subject, the better I understand myself. I think the more trauma-informed we can become as a society, the better equipped we are to understand and appreciate people’s resilient nature. I’m already, by nature, an independent soul. It’s just who I am. But you couple this natural-born trait with some trust issues and Boy Howdy. Yeah.
Anyway…if I’m being honest here (and I am, right?)…I just wish I could be loved and understood for the whole part of me…the natural traits, the response to stress, the anxiety, and the learned responses…without having to apologize for them. I mean, growth is expected if I’m ever going to refrain from stealing from myself or others – but the expectation of a little grace is also necessary. If I hurt another, I should apologize for the behavior, but constantly feeling apologetic for who I am at my core just to get love in return? No thanks. There are 7 billion people on the planet. If I’m not what you want, there is an entire sea of better fish. Let me say that again: If people cannot offer you grace when you are spiraling…then find new people. Grace, with growth, is necessary in order to learn to stand in Asetya by being honest. I’ve walked too many people through the valleys of their own mental unwellness to be left alone in mine.
In reflection, I leave you with a song but also with some questions:
How are you stealing from yourself or others? Are you refraining from activities that harm you or others – and I don’t mean harm as in something big like shooting or beating someone…are you stealing from your relationships because you are unkind or taking things too personally? Are you giving people the benefit of the doubt when they deserve it and holding them accountable when they cross the line of your boundaries? Are you honoring others’ boundaries? Are you honoring your own? Drop me a line. I love comments!
The weather is starting to change here in the Show-Me State, turning the mornings crisp and misty. September has always been my favorite month for some reason. My son’s birthday is in the month of September and this year he turned eight. Last year I went all out on his birthday, but I recently located a post I had made about simplifying birthdays coupled with, well, a global pandemic and I just didn’t have it in me to be a hero. It was just a quiet gathering with one friend over for pizza and a cupcake. I watched Grey’s Anatomy while they played Minecraft. It was glorious. I wish I could blame COVID (I mean, I suppose technically I can blame COVID) but truthfully, I was secretly glad it was such a low-impact activity.
September signals a time of hibernation for me, a preparation of sorts. Missouri winters are not at all like those of the northeast or even upper Midwest, but still – for me – a time to put on a light jacket, make myself a London Fog, and prepare to wrap up a year. All across the world, people are declaring 2020 a shitshow but, while it hasn’t been ideal, 2020 has been nothing like the shitshows I’ve endured over the last four years. On my son’s birthday I was reminded (thanks, Facebook) that just three years ago, my husband packed his bags and moved out releasing a two-year-long season of emotional pain and growth. So, yeah, no. I’d take 2020 over any of the years between 2016-2019 (or if I’m honest, the entire time we were married) – thank you very much.
That sounds a bit dramatic, doesn’t it, admitting I’d take a worldwide health crisis, global financial instability, and suffering through the worst presidency of my life over my own personal trauma, but well, it’s the truth. Nothing hits home harder than the pain of one’s own experience. And so here we are today…talking about Truth.
I’m still working through my series on the Eight Limbs of Yoga which I introduced here in my last post. I am really getting into this and almost think the hour on the mat, along with the teaching has been better than the thousands I’ve spent on therapy over the last four years.
The second of the Yamas is Satya. I think this one has had the most impact thus far, with the exception of a little emotional release in week five – which I’ll get to in a few more posts. Satya is Truthfulness, or more explicitly, the refraining from lying with an additional emphasis on being more authentic and more real.
Satya, as with all the limbs, isn’t a ‘one and done’ thing, I’m learning. Finding Satya – my Truth – has been an evolutionary experience that will, if practiced correctly, be a lifelong process. I am relieved that this can’t be rushed. Since I’ve ignored it for 49 years, I would suspect that, naturally, it would take time to unravel the ball of bullshit I’ve managed to wind so tightly into my psyche.
As a partner to Ashima (nonviolence), Satya (truthfulness) prevents nonviolence from being a wimpy cop-out and nonviolence prevents truthfulness from being a brutal weapon. These two Yamas support each other – checks and balances, of sorts.
I’ve experienced the war of Ashima Versus Satya most of my life. Case in point, some say I am kind – to which I would always disagree – because I always believed kindness and niceness were the same. After all, I’m the one who was alone with my thoughts – you know, the stuff you don’t say out loud because you don’t want to be an asshole – so, therefore, I couldn’t agree that I was kind because my thoughts weren’t always nice. When I started to realize that being kind didn’t necessarily mean being nice – I was able to accept that yes, most of the time, I am kind. I am, however, not always nice and I’m learning to appreciate this about myself. For example, recently I was asked for my advice and I spoke my truth: “Are you sure? Because I’m not going to sugar coat any of this shit, so if you want someone to be nice, then call your mother. I will, however, be truthful and kind.”
Almost immediately after the class where Satya was introduced, I started listing the ways I wasn’t honoring my truth in my life. My hope is, by sharing, you might start to see how not honoring your truth doesn’t have to be a big deal while others, well, brace yourself – are up-ending.
Here are some of the ways I have been able to practice Satya since my introduction on August 18th.
Be real rather than nice. As I’ve mentioned before in many posts, I have been notorious for saying yes when I really want to say no. It’s a byproduct of my anxiety and my upbringing that I’m working to change, but nonetheless, I don’t enjoy risking upsetting the asker so I would be nice instead of truthful. But, during my hour on the mat, I realized that saying yes when I wanted to say no was not really nice at all because I often ended up feeling bitter and resentful. I quickly put some tiny changes into action: Not answering the phone after 8 pm to protect my quiet time, telling people to stop texting and IMing me all day so I could get my work done, and taking some of my precious kid-free time to embark on much-needed self-care instead of overcommitting. In my mind, at first, these felt ‘unkind’ but I took a deep breath and said “Fuck it”’ and let the chips fall where they may. And some people were pissed. And that’s okay.
Tell yourself the truth. This one was harder and less easy to put into place. On any day of the year, I am already my worst critic so it was a rather difficult week when I faced some brutal truths. The hardest: Realizing that I had definitely STILL not healed from my divorce and the resentment was carrying over into several areas of my life. I was hyper-focused on ‘telling my side of the story’ and was starting to feel resentful of my then-current partner because I hadn’t stopped the bleeding from the last relationship. But other big revelations were more crushing: Coming to grips with the fact that I got married – twice – even when I knew in my bones both times neither of these men was right for me (this goes way back to an event in 1993 that I also learned through the Yamas I had not dealt with, which I may get into at some point). Still yet: Admitting I am much more anxious than I let on which explains a lot of my self-preservation tendencies and inability to speak my truth; Learning I’ve trusted so many of the wrong people with my story and coming to grips with the fact that I am not so crazy about where I live and why I live there. Also, I’m mean to my body – or at least, was mean to it. I’m being kinder now.
Accept ‘Truth’ Changes. When you focus on your truth and are open to the lessons – no matter how ugly – the truth can change you. It seems a bit cliche to say but, indeed, the truth will set you free. If you can accept this idea, you will also need to accept that these changes will affect others to some degree. If you really are practicing from a Do No Harm mindset, then you’ll understand – and maybe even embrace – some fallout.
As you reflect on Satya, I wonder – In what ways are you living inauthentically? The truth rarely seems to ask the easier choice of us. It is entirely comprehensible how we arrived at the spot we are now if we seek our Truth. And yes, “The truth hurts” but “The Truth will also set you free”. Practicing Satya isn’t always fun, but it is always authentic. Furthermore, are you being nice rather than kind to yourself and/or others? What is Satya for you and how do you think embracing Satya will change you? As always, I’ll leave you with a song.
I’m not sure when I became addicted to Gentle Yin Yoga, but it just kind of happened. I think I like it so much because it forces me to be on the edge, yet also, to be still at the same time. It’s a ‘thinkers’ yoga, and I like that because so much in yoga is quieting the mind. My mind is never quiet. Ever. (I am the reason Xanax was created.) Yet, for one hour each week, I sit still on my mat and come into my breath, letting my body guide my mind and releasing whatever hysteria the past week has created.
The class I’m attending here locally is currently studying the Eight Limbs of Yoga which are Yama (abstinences), Niyama (observances), Asana (yoga postures), Pranayama (breath control), Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation), and Samadhi (absorption). We started with the Yamas, of course, and as far as simplicity goes, this is going to make up a great series.
I’ll open at the beginning (how appropriate!) with Yamas – Ahimsa. The Yamas comprise of five essential principles, each addressing our interaction with the world around us. Ahimsa is the practice of non-violence, or doing no harm, to ourselves and others. It can also mean being compassionate to ourselves and others. Essentially, the Ahimsa is the knowledge and understanding of non-violence, the non-harming of yourself, and other living beings.
“Go quietly, alone; no harm will befall you. Life is thickly sown with thorns, and I know no other remedy than to pass quickly through them. The longer we dwell on our misfortunes, the greater is their power to harm us.” – Voltaire
My introduction to Ahimsa was the week before my birthday, so somewhere around August 13th. I remember leaving the class with the knowledge of how I was harming myself and harming others – feeling as though change needed to occur but unsure exactly how. The how would start to unfold for me in ways I didn’t expect. I was in a relationship with a man I loved, but for some reason I felt I was always falling short of his expectations for me. I realized this was harming both of us, and in an act of compassion for him and myself, I told him we made better friends than lovers and that was that. And throughout the course of the week, I thought about other ways I was harming myself – and others – because, let’s be frank, when you harm yourself you also spill some blood onto others. The ways I was harming myself (not an exhaustive list, but short enough for today) were:
Saying ‘yes’ when I should say ‘no’. I didn’t realize how often I do this until it became abundantly clear to me in a mild breakdown over trying to determine whether to take the time to shower or eat a sandwich, which I wrote about here. Most people can do both (not at the same time, but you know…) but I couldn’t because I had said ‘yes’ to so many things, with no ‘time buffer’. I had to choose. In relationships, I tend to lean heavily on my own expectations of what a relationship should look like and because of my flawed beliefs, I was giving away time to others I really wanted for myself. COVID created a big hot mess of juggling work, parenting and parenting as a teacher, and teaching as a parent that I never expected. I was longing for relief. But I was still saying ‘yes’ to things that stole my time – the time I needed to restore myself and restore my soul. Not only does saying yes when you should say no harm yourself…it harms others, too. You aren’t your best self when you are bitter. And, you can’t show up for yourself or others when you aren’t your best self.
Working ineffectively. Yin yoga isn’t hard but even the softest poses made me sore. When I became more mindful of my work day practices, I realized I sit – sometimes for hours – working at my desk without stretching or moving anything more than my fingers as they race across the keyboard. This is definitely a form of self-harm – although we don’t talk about it much. They say (who are they, by the way? Is there just one group of theys who get to dole out sage advice?)…anyway…THEY say that sitting is the new smoking. I believe it. So I started setting a timer for every 30 minutes. I get up, I stretch and I drink a cup of water (bonus self-care). I’m feeling better and my body feels better.
Holding on to the story. My divorce wasn’t as bad as some, but for me, it was devastating in so many ways. And, for a while, telling my side of the story became imperative. I wanted the world to know that I wasn’t the villain in the story, but what happened by telling that story over and over again was that I became the victim and that…oh boy…that was so much worse. That story was actually more harmful to my self-esteem and my livelihood than I could ever imagine…until I did imagine it. So I changed my narrative. When asked recently why that relationship ended in divorce, I simply said “You know, we just couldn’t get on the same page with values, money, and priorities. It wore us both down.” That is actually a true statement, too, so I don’t feel as though I lied. I just no longer need the fillers.
Mindless drinking. I wouldn’t say I need a meeting but I can say, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that alcohol is my drug of choice when it comes to dealing with stress. Except…alcohol is awful for your body. (Please don’t even start with the studies about red wine to justify its consumption.) My doctor said it best: Alcohol is a poison. I never quite considered it a poison but, um, yeah. It is. Have I given it up altogether? No. I loves me some whiskey and a glass of cold white wine does hit the spot. But I’m more mindful about my choices and my consumption now that I’m aware of how much harm it can do. And, let’s be honest…if you drink too much…there’s a good chance you are harming others, too. The blog post is too short to go into all the details but I think you can recall a time where you drank a bit too much and said or did some things that hurt other people. That’s probably not your best moment.
Ignoring my dreams. I’ve set off on a journey this year (my ‘year’ always starts on my birthday, for those of you who don’t know. My birthday is my new year’s day). The journey, a bucket list of sorts, to engage in some of the things I said I would always do but never took the time to do, or trusted that someone else would make happen for me. For example, I’ve always wanted to commit to a yoga class but when I’d block my calendar for it, I suddenly started penciling in ‘my guy’. I wanted to learn to paddle a kayak but waited for someone else to take the reigns and make that happen. I just decided that life is too short to wait for someone else’s timeline to align with mine. I didn’t see anyone blocking calendars to spend time with me or make these things happen so it was up to me to make them happen. And several things have been crossed off my list so far this year. Check out the list.
So, I’ll end today with some questions (and a song): How are you harming yourself, and consequently, harming others? Are you ignoring your dreams? Are you saying ‘yes’ when you really want to say ‘no’? I’m curious. Really.
The picture below spoke to me in the early morning on Tuesday, the day after Labor Day. I woke around 6 AM – after going to bed late – because another bout of insomnia has taken me captive again. Once I realize I’m probably not going to get to sleep any time soon, it is usually too late to do anything about it. So rather than wake up with a Tylenol PM hangover, I simply lie awake and hope slumber reaches me soon. It probably doesn’t help at all that I reach for the phone in these times and aimlessly browse Pinterest memes. Alas, this is how I came upon this quote and spent another hour processing the emotions it stirred in me.
I am reminded by my awesome therapist…and I often remind others….that just because you don’t feel loved or aren’t being loved the way you want to be loved doesn’t mean the other party isn’t loving you the best they can – or with everything they have at the moment. I can count on both hands the times my Dad actually uttered the words “I love you” to me in my lifetime, but when he’d hear I was planning a trip, he’d always stop by to check the air pressure in my tires and check the under the hood of the car for any ‘rattles’. My son, who is autistic, says the words “I love you” to me all the time, but I’m not sure he understands what it means. What I understand, though, is that if I am gone for too long, he asks continuously where I am and when I will be home. The way he searches for me tells me that he loves me…or at bare minimum…expects me to be there for him. I’m rarely the “I love you” girl, but I am totally the ‘Text me when you get home so I know you’re safe’ girl. I know I’ve said it to some of you on more than one occasion.
The thing about love, though, is that there is this belief out in the world that it is difficult. Love is anything but simple, right? I posit that if you have some over glorified Disney idea of what love is then yes, love is not simple. Love is dramatic and hard and a fantasy no one can live up to. Add in a volatile history, sprinkle in a bit of trauma, and add a dash of victim mentality and Boom. You’ve created the perfect recipe for complicated love. (And you wonder why it tastes so bitter. Huh.)
I, personally, am not great at verbally expressing love. I guess you could say I don’t love loudly. I don’t say it much because I feel if it is said every hour of every day, or expressed in overly dramatic ways, it loses its power. I’m a bit like Yellowstone’s Beth Dutton. I don’t want to be told “I love you” in some sappy Hallmark moment. Expressing love on holidays, birthdays, and any other stupidly wasteful retail opportunity is easy. Add in a pet name or two and you’ve pretty much made me vomit. It takes absolutely no creativity. In my opinion, the expression of love needs to be done when it matters. I don’t know why I feel so strongly about this. Maybe because my ability to love comes into question a lot in relationships because I’m not like most girls. I don’t do touchy-feely. Well…maybe my ability to love isn’t the entire problem. Maybe it’s their inability to be loved that is also contributing to the issue. (Oh. Sorry. Was that a raw nerve?)
Love, to me, is simple. Be patient. Be kind. Don’t keep a record (unless the relationship is abusive and full of manipulation. In those cases, document the shit out of that stuff). Respect boundaries. Keep your promises. Keep other potential love interests at bay. Clean up after yourself. Be there in a crisis. I really can’t think of much more. Love is expressed in action and the occasional “I love you” means a lot when action is taken. Love, to me, is answering a phone call when it matters – when it alters the course of someone’s life. Love is a pinky-swear that reminds another person they will always matter, even when the seasons of life don’t match up to present day desires.
A good friend had recommended to me that I look at 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7 in the Bible. She said to replace the word ‘Love’ with a name, and then ask myself if the verse still rings true. I’ll use my friend, Bill, as an example here:
“Bill is patient, Bill is kind. Bill does not envy, Bill does not boast, Bill is not proud. Bill does not dishonor others, Bill is not self-seeking, Bill is not easily angered, Bill keeps no record of wrongs.Bill does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Bill always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.“
Bill is married to my best friend so I feel I know him somewhat well. And I would say, from the outside looking in: YES! When I replace the word “Love” with his name, the statement is absolutely still true. I could replace Bill’s name with my ex-husband’s name, and the statement is absolutely false. See how that works? Even when relationships go through troubled times, you can come back to this and ask yourself…if I replace the word ‘love’ with my own name, am I acting in a loving manner? Is the statement true when my name is inserted here? There are going to be times when you need to course-correct, but at your core…are you “love”?
To me, that’s what love is about and love can be defined, simply, in four sentences. Love doesn’t have to be written in the stars or broadcast all over social media to matter. I am not defined by how the world views my relationship status.
I don’t know if you agree or not with me on the subject of love. That’s what the comment section is for, but before you blast me with how wrong I am about this, take a moment and replace the word love with your name or the person who says they love you. How true is it then?
I don’t know about you, but I find social media to be a drain on my brain – and yet…if it weren’t for social media, no one would even read this blog. Thank Heaven I only engage on a few sites (Never Have I Ever…had a Twitter, IG, Snapchat, TikTok, Vine….etc.) so I don’t feel so overwhelmed but I do, at times, realize that the phone barely rings at all and emails from friends and family are even rarer. But I digress.
What I’m thinking about today isn’t so much about my utter disdain for social media – it’s about how to take some simple steps to build real connections. And I’m also not considering ‘likes’ or ‘retweets’ to be anything near connection. I’m talking about connection. You have to actively make that happen. Yeah. I know, right? You have to do some work.
And, while it is simple, it isn’t easy (My 2020 Theme Song) – especially amidst ‘the Vid’ – but there are some simple ways to connect and I’m hoping you’ll grab one or two of these and try them.
Set a time and place. So, I’m a quasi-leader of a faux book club. I say this because, first, I rarely have my shit together long enough to plan ahead and post questions so there is absolutely no leadership qualities at play here and two, rarely is anyone ‘on the same page’ (see what I did there?) meaning: some of us read the book, some of us “fake read” the book and some of us just outright do not read the book. Given this, I almost quit the faux-club last week thinking that it obviously wasn’t a priority for anyone (meaning, um, me) when my bestie points out that she “needs this. I need the connection”. (Given the fact that her husband is fighting brain cancer and we are in the middle of a global pandemic, I’d kinda agree that um, yeah, she needs the outlet). She knows that no matter what: I’m going to send out a Zoom link (even if only an hour prior), we are going to drink wine (er, whiskey) and we are virtually going to connect every other week on Tuesdays at 7 pm. (Since it’s virtual, you can join if you want to, too!)
Make the effort. This is so hard for me. I put so much effort into everything else I do, that putting an effort into building connections is not a pastime I’m excited to embark upon. I have been bitching for years that I don’t go floating because I don’t know how to paddle my kayak/canoe. I was afraid. Yes. A.F.R.A.I.D. and I was waiting for some dude to teach me how. Turns out, that dude’s name was Justin. I, along with two of my girlfriends, signed up for a class at Lake Springfield last Friday, paid the man $30 each, and we got our own kayaks, paddles, and instruction on how to do this. I had to make the effort to herd the cats, but we got it done – us individually lonely girls. And it was fucking fun. But, if you find that you are the one always making the effort, then there needs to be a chat. Making the effort needs to go both ways. Building a pure and meaningful connection is a lot like sex. You can’t do it alone.
Connect in the present. We all have a person in our life who lives in the past. They bring up how they almost won Star Search back in 1996 and how the band members were ‘so tight’ or how they fell madly in love in with some random person they didn’t even speak to ten years ago. But here’s the deal: Those pieces of our lives are over. Yes, the past may have been the catapult to the relationship today…but if one person is trying to grow and develop and the other person keeps bringing up the high school cheerleading competition, then the connection isn’t about what’s going on today. Have you ever been in a relationship where you feel like you can’t move on because you are stuck in a historical vortex? It’s impossible to feel connected in that scenario. And frankly, it’s boring.
Connect to a Higher Purpose. I won’t get into all the details, but right after my divorce, things were really financially difficult. I had earned a great salary before that point, but due to circumstances of which I had little control over, I was struggling. Fast forward a few years and while I’m not near where I was before the big “D” I am doing okay and have a little leftover at the end of each month. I like to use that ‘little leftover’ to connect with others – in secret. It’s like when the cute guy in front of you at Starbucks pays for your coffee (this never happens to me, ever, but if it did…this point would be like that). I enjoy being the anonymous donor because I feel connected to something bigger than myself as if my measly little contribution to some single mom’s day is somehow like the Butterfly Effect in the Universe. And, it does come back to me, even though that’s not at all why I do it.
Connect on a deeper level. I’m not a hyper-fan of Brene Brown, but I do like her stuff and I cannot stress enough the importance of being vulnerable. Although I’m not vulnerable with everyone in my circle – some just can’t be trusted out of the gate and others have proven that they enjoy using the vulnerability as a weapon – I still think it is important to connect with empathy and past experiences. I’m an INTJ so if I connect on a level like this with people I’m pretty much connected for life – unless they prove to be a douchebag. And oh boy. Do I know a lot of those. But, the point is…be vulnerable. Be okay with saying “I have struggled with my weight all my life. Want to go get dessert?” or “My boyfriend and I just broke up. Can you pick up some batteries for me at Walmart?” or, for reals, “My dad died ten years ago. I miss him every single day. I know what you are going through so would you like to just grab a cup of coffee?”
To wrap this up tonight (there’s whiskey in the freezer and reruns of Yellowstone to watch) I realized I’ve been embedding songs recently, so true to form, Imma gonna leave you with this ‘fun little song‘ by One Republic which actually got me thinking about this topic this week. I’m curious if you are feeling disconnected or if you plan to try any of these suggestions to make some changes in your life. How do you find a connection with others?