About the Parasympathetic System

There was a time, not very long ago, that writing in this blog was very important to me. I would clear off my desk and set to my writing task as if it was my vocation. It was my voice and outlet and connection with the greater world. I craved acknowledgement that I existed, however meek and feckless my Internet utterances carried forth.

But over the past few months, I’ve been engaged in other assignments and neglected this space rather intentionally. For one, I have a real job, and for another, we’ve returned to Maine where family and friends are always nearby. I don’t crave the same validation I did nine months ago.

That’s not to say I don’t have my same existential questions, my yearning for happiness and truth and peace circle around me still.  I have days I wonder why I’m not completely at ease with my life, and why I can’t be happy just because I wish it so. I still wonder what success looks like on me. Though I’ve had fleeting moments of triumph and insight into the world, I regularly question whether I’m on the right path in life.

Mostly, these questions abide with the day and surrender to the back corners of my mind. They do not plague me with insecurity, and I’m not an aimless 20-something anymore. I have a family, and work that satisfies. We have a beautiful home on an island, and I can see the ocean from my bedroom window. These were the things I wanted, and now these are the things I claim as my own. Simple things and important things.

I couldn’t let this year close without one final thought to carry me forward into 2014. I need more blind trust and faith that things are going as they should. The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for our quiet body processes. Rest and recovery, digestion. Crying. Functions of the body that we can’t consciously activate, but occur through our capacity as human beings.

I have goals and dreams for what my career and family life will look like in the future, but I think that I need to stop holding so tightly onto these projections. Because undoubtedly, there are parasympathetic happenings in the universe, occurrences for which we cannot know the causes. We will have trouble sleeping for no apparent reason, and failure happens no matter how hard we work at something. Letting go and believing that it is not defeat that defines me, but the ability to wake up the next day and to continue to work hard does.

While I’m unclear how often I’ll continue to write in this blog, be sure that I’m working hard on other aspects of my life. We have some amazing and exciting intentions and schemes for this next year, and all I can do is hold on to the people I love, work hard, and wait to see how things work out.

Until we meet again, my ever faithful readers…
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On Unseen & Deliberate Creation, or: A Highly New Age Way to Look at Rejection

(I have been thinking about writing this post for quite a while.)

There are possibilities everywhere, and it is hard not to let the mind wander toward exciting uncharted territory. There are the possibilities we actively seek out, taking their shape in goals, cover letters, bruised wrists, and brazen moves out of state. Then there are the possibilities that we can only wish and pray into being. We all wished to win the lottery (it helps to buy a ticket though), we wish natural disasters don’t occur, we wish for lovely weather when our far away friends visit; and I wished that I said the right thing in the right conversation that would have landed an offer of employment.

The HR rep greeted me warmly, and reminded me to “just breathe,” which I brashly shrugged off.

I could have used another breath.
I sat down parched, then thankful to see paper cups of water in front of each place. As the deputy director was going over some initial details, I gratefully sipped my cup.  It slowly dawned on me that, in fact, there was no paper cup of water for me. I had just touched my lips and tongue to the executive director’s cup. Burning with apologies, I tried to move on from my error as the interview trio politely shrugged it off. There was probably a way I could have recovered from that egregiousness, but whatever it could have been was beyond me. Those interview questions I should have practiced would have come in handy then.

I walked out of that interview more defeated than I’ve felt in a very long time. I wallowed for the evening, and the next day. I perked up here and there, convincing myself my errors really weren’t all that bad. But they were. Oh reader, they were heinous.

This was April 1. For many reasons that I hope to go into with another post, I joined an instagram yoga challenge.  So when I finally got that email that said, “thanks, but no thanks,” I had something else to think about. It was a moment of unseen, though very deliberate, creation, and it has re-ignited my buried passion.

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I’ve done more yoga in the last two months than I have in many years…maybe ever. It has helped me realize that job was not my dream job, it was just a job. Looking back, I see my hesitations.

Self-sabotage of the best sort.

How did that spark inside me that trained to be a yoga teacher five years ago get so obscured? It is a little strange for me to be on the cusp of the next decade of my life, and still not know precisely what my career will look like. But I’ve been opening to new possibilities that I never would have seen if I got this 9-5 job I lusted after. Teaching yoga. Getting a 2nd Masters. Going to the beach every beautiful day with my son. Volunteering with the troubled local school system. Going to France and to live in a little cottage by the sea. Meeting and celebrating my new niece this summer.

Anyways, I felt like I needed to document this episode of my life, and thank you for reading. It is reassuring to know there is no such thing as a dream job, for me, right now. That position for included zero discussion of creativity. And yoga, definitely no yoga in the job description. So I’m settling in for a summer of possibilities manifesting, and setting the stage for a happy next decade of my life.

Surely Hafiz can’t be wrong:

“This place where you are right now, God circled on a map for you.”


Chrysalis Phase in Retreat

The last few months have been tiring, notable here on my blog by the glaring lack of posts. I rarely opened my computer, but when I did and saw the wordpress icon, I looked away guiltily.

I suppose I am guilty of overextending myself sometimes, my aspirations are greater than the minutes each day has to fulfill them; eyes are bigger than my stomach. 2013 has been a mostly quiet year so far. Introspective and temperamental, but not unhappy. Reassessing and planning, as I’m wont to do every 4 months (sometimes 3) I find there is a shift. Sometimes with the seasons, sometimes with circumstances, but routines get broken up and as we’re settling into our new ones, life can feel a little rocky.

I do not have enough words to express the gratitude I have for the few constants I do have in my life: yoga, nature, the sea, my family, my friends. Today I actually practiced on my mat at home while my son played with the combination lock on my train case, and explored the rest of our usually off-limits adult rooms. Seeking strength through my core, knowing the limits of my flexibility and wanting to push past them: these are lessons from my mat that I need so badly to apply to the rest of my life. Holding my spine upright as I walk into scary meetings with new faces just might be the edge that gets me the job I am interviewing for next week.

As always, I’ve been doing my best. Many mammals hibernate in the winter, here I am stretching out of my air chrysalis phase and ready to dig my feet into the earth.

“We can stop thinking that good practice is when it’s smooth and calm, and bad practice is when it’s rough and dark. If we can hold it all in our hearts, then we can make a proper cup of tea.” –Thanks, Pema Chodron!

If I can offer one piece of advice so far for 2013: accept your state, do not judge yourself on sad or lonely days because they will end, and when they do share your happiness freely.

One more thing: This morning at the gym I was in the bathroom, washing my hands. I looked up at my face in the mirror, for half a second, and the lady washing her hands next to me turned and said “you look adorable, so cute.” She wished me a happy Easter (after asking if I celebrate) and breezed out the door. She infused me with joy. Husband had left for work very early, and my sweet son does not have much of a vocabulary yet. That kind stranger’s words gave me a kick of confidence, as I dragged my yoga mat into a deserted wall space.

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Instead of kicking up to warm up my handstands against the wall like I always do, I floated on my hands in the middle of my mat for a few moments of unexpected bliss. Thank you, kind strangers everywhere!

Image: http://www.deutschefotothek.de/obj87503021.html


So Many Angels. Can You See Them?

Yesterday afternoon, my husband called to ask me if I heard about the news from Connecticut.  I had, but some innate defense sprang up and did not allow me to react until I had the space to do so.  I listened numbly to the news on the radio,  I even relayed the news to an elderly friend.  I hugged my baby tight before putting him to bed, and only when he was sound asleep did I delve into the tragedy of yesterday’s news.

Tears were pouring from my eyes half way into a paragraph describing the scene, and I wavered between wanting to read more and being too horrified to continue.  It breaks my heart as a human being, and injures a part of my soul as a parent.  The hardest part for me is that it is a familiar ache, and though I have no relationship to the adults and children that died yesterday, I can’t help but remember what it felt like to lose my father.

There is no silver lining to an incident as horrifying as yesterday.  It stirs difficult emotions in everyone, and I can only hope people will be as understanding and compassionate with each other as long as possible; towards people like my husband, who has never so much as lost a pet, but cannot stop himself from tearing up in public as he watches the news on the television at the gym.  On days when the pain is especially raw, a smile from a stranger can be the motivation to keep going on with life, as random and hard as it sometimes feels.

Those poor families from yesterday have a long road of mourning and sadness ahead of them.  We brought our son to sleep in our bed last night for a while.  I stayed up late watching him, terrified and envious of the vast possibilities of life that lies ahead for him.  Sometimes it is hard for me to empathize with death, losing my father when I was 10 infused me with a sense that it happens to everyone, and we’ve no choice but to continue on with our lives.  I was sad when my 87 year old grandmother died last year, but I did not mourn her passing.  She died peacefully.  But a life that ends in violence is one of the greatest tragedies I can imagine, and I think that is part of the reason I am having such a hard time reading the news from yesterday.  Post traumatic stress bubbled up in my throat, and I crawled into bed until my husband got home.  I don’t deserve any more or less sympathy, but I feel especially vulnerable, and as a parent now I have to offer my child the courage to not be afraid, and the tools to deal with our sadness when it arises.

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We’re all hugging our children a little closer today, cuddling our pets, being extra nice to each other.  I haven’t felt this sad through my core in years.  I hope everyone remembers their manners and compassion in the days to come, and the debate about why tragedies like this occur stay far from those closely affected.  I plan to escape further into my re-readings of Ian McEwan.  If anyone needs a healthy diversion in the form of fiction, please suggest Enduring Love.  It is a portrait of a man who recovers after witnessing a tragedy (though in no great proportions as yesterday’s).  McEwan offers realistic, strong and moral characters.  I’m finding some peace re-reading The Comfort of Strangers.


Home Page

I think we all should have a little slice of the Internet, don’t you?  It might not be as good for your soul or lungs as when you spend time in nature, but it exists nonetheless, and when you spend time somewhere its nice to have a spot to call your own.

Sharing your spot can be pretty scary at first.  One of my friends asked some of us today if she should publish the link, to her blog on twitter.  It definitely took me some time before I was confident enough to share this url anywhere, but I am so happy I did.  It is kind of like taking a walk through your experience of the interwebs with a friend or two.

Like it or not, the Internet is a place we work and live today.  People talk about digital detoxes these days like its a liver cleanse.  Kind of like how sometimes you just have to escape the city (maybe permanently) to see some trees and sky, sometimes you have to turn your iPhone off for the weekend and let your lap top lose its charge.

Side note: when we first moved to Charleston two months ago, I went to story time on Monday at one branch and on Tuesday at another.  I didn’t know anyone here, and I needed to have some adult conversations lest I go 8 hours in a row speaking solely to a pug and to an infant.  I think that is a major reason why people use the library as opposed to buying the book (or movie) online.  Human interaction prevails over convenience at the library for us patrons.

Anyways, my digital plot has been gathering an awful lot of dust and disregard lately.

I’ve been involved in other things during my free time:

It has been fun forgetting about blog statistics and interactions, but I’m back and refreshed, and ready to tackle some work, Internet chores, and busy work.  Maybe I’ve even done enough research now to start my creative work!


Mini Me

I go about the business of daily life now in miniature variations of its former rigid constitution:

Twelve minutes of yoga here.  A shoulder stand on the nursery room floor there.  I try to include a proper (pro-rated) savasana too.

Baby sized meals.  Often eating whatever is leftover on my ten month old’s plate.

There is only time to do quick errands, between nap time and lunch time and story time.

The dog gets walked on a short leash now.  Even though we’re far from any traffic danger, it lurks in other places, like shallow ponds and swampy marshes (snakes and alligators, not traffic, are the main concerns here).

We food shop for one or two days at a time— we only have two arms to carry things inside, after all.

In the end, everything adds up to regular portions.  I have acquiesced my control over things, for now, which has made it essential to do things in bits and spurts if I want to eat and breathe.  Life is a series of short, intense moments—of learning, play, and tears.

There are other things, though, that I am consuming at a much more rapid pace:

Books. I’m quickly reading literature again.  Like 2 novels a week, devouring it, staying up late and waking up early to greet my titles.

Wine. A bottle every two or three days.  It sometimes feels like life is a vacation.  Husband prefers his icy Yeungling (maybe the novelty that it is available here) but sometimes he’ll share my bottle.

Showers and baths.  They feel so good, morning and evening and sometimes afternoon cleansing watery rituals.

Sleep. I know should be letting my hard working husband sleep more than me.  He’s the one at work for so many hours everyday, after all.  I’m home: shopping, decorating, eating, napping, playing, and reading.  But, he insists on letting me sleep in the mornings so he can play with our boy. Its hard to argue with that.

Phone calls. I always used to be the one who texts back to respond to a voice mail.  I’ve talked the same amount in the last two weeks than I have the whole rest of the year.

This last month was about final times, goodbyes, boxes and packing tape, living out of suitcases, eating quick meals, waking up in strange rooms, and starting again in new places.  I’m encouraged by our decision to move, and the change.  Even though I knew, months ago, that this was the right thing for us, it is still sometimes hard to feel confident diving into unfamiliar territory.

I used to rely on my daily activities to derive a sense of balance.  That is impossible now.  Life as a Southern Housewife is a jumble of inchoate ideas for routine and activity.  Its easy to feel like I’m having a bad day when my Vriksasana gets blown out of alignment because the baby wakes up early from his nap.  Or I get hung up thinking its too late for lunch, too early for dinner.  But, I try to remember to breathe, and that these are small troubles with easy fixes.  So I’m relaxing into my new life here, aware that Friday nights may not be able to include a double yoga practice, but they also will never include sitting in smoggy traffic on the expressway.  It is a welcome trade off after five years of city life.  And honestly, even though I can count on four fingers the names of people I’ve met down here, I feel at home.


Reluctantly Becoming a S.A.H.M.

We’re moving in less than a month. Besides that temporary sojourn to the Netherlands, this is the biggest move I’ve ever made. I’m legitimately allowed to bring everything this time, (except my house plants–more on that to come), and I have three live beings to care for, unpack, and help acclimate when we become Southerners. I’ll keep busy tending to our new home, hanging pictures, potting lavender, finding reading spots, testing out bathtubs. I’ll visit all 16 branches of the Charleston County Public Library System. I’ll organize my bookshelves by some new aesthetic postmodern cataloging standard. Maybe I’ll bake bread.

But the truth is, I’m scared to death about staying home all day with the baby. And before I launch any further into descriptions of what I hope my new life as a Southern Belle will be like, I feel the need to explain myself. Partly out of socially induced guilt (I have lots of friends who tell me “this is the best time to be home with baby,” or “a mother is the most important teacher to a child,”), but mostly because I used to love life as a lady of leisure. I didn’t get my first meaningful, moneymaking job until I was 26 (two weeks shy of 27, actually). That is barely two years ago, but so much has changed in that time. I’m a wife and mother now, and I’ve embraced my responsibility to provide and act as a role model with focused and tenacious gusto.

You see, growing up, my mother never worked. And yet she was present for fewer of my field hockey games and swim meets than my friend’s parents who worked as lawyers, magazine editors, and pilots. I regularly had to hitch rides home with these families because my own mother was too busy with her own life. Its not that she was a bad mother–on the contrary, she was superbly nurturing and caring. But she didn’t represent the archetype that traditional “stay at home mothers” portrayed in my small New England town. She is an artist, and by definition emotional, flighty, and self-absorbed. That she was teaching me about feelings, life, and the great world was irrelevant to me when I was a child.

I wanted her to be exactly like my friend’s moms who didn’t have jobs. I wanted to come home to freshly washed sheets, elaborate dinners in the process of baking, to find her on the back porch catching up with a neighbor over a pitcher of lemonade. Instead, she’d be shut off in her wing of the house (we were forbidden from entering if the door was shut). Sometimes we wouldn’t see her until hours (and as we got older, days) after we’d gotten home. Sometimes we’d see her after making our own dinner, she’d glide into the living room with her friends–the gay jeweler, the rambunctious Greek book artist, the waitress-cum-writer from their favorite restaurant. My sisters and I were doted upon by my mother and her friends during these impromptu parties. We had our portraits painted dozens of times, I had a jewelry collection to rival the Duchess of Cambridge’s by the time I was 16, (not to mention I was introduced to my first real Librarian–a mentor who still serves me to this day).

This was not the traditional life I wanted, but I know it was also not the artistic life my mother wanted. Her parents refused to pay for her to go to art school, so she studied archaeology and met my med school bound father instead. When he died, she was left alone with three young daughters to raise. I cannot even imagine how terrifying that must’ve felt–suddenly being solely responsible for parenting three children. I know she did the best she could. The same friend that told me mothers are “the most important teachers” a child can have also told me that as mothers, we have to find our own balance and take care of ourselves.

Children at N.Y. Zoo (LOC)

Children at N.Y. Zoo (LOC) (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)

My great fear: that I’ll lose myself in my own ambitions. OR: I’ll lose my great goals for life while I’m busy playing baby games.

I know balance is the key to not falling into either seesaw pit of these extremes. But balance has been a tricky thing for me to grasp throughout my life. It usually takes me some trial and error. Like just now, two weeks before putting my career on hold indefinitely, I am getting into a groove with my writing, reading, spending time with my husband, with my child, running, sleeping, & eating. I’m even able to sit and breathe for a few minutes every day.

So, lovely lookers of my lexicon: please do not judge me too harshly, or write me off too quickly as a selfish person when I say I’m not super psyched to be a stay at home mom for the next phase of my life. But great things never came without some adversity first, right?