A house on the sea and a foot in the city, Violet used to tell me dreamily. She meant Paris, of course, and the coast of Maine–never the reverse, “American cities are so vulgar,” Violet would say. When we were younger I actually believed one day we’d still be living down the hall from each other, with me extracting choice camisoles from her closet, and her sleeping until noon.
One summer, when we were 14 and 12, our parents took us to the coast of Spain. They went to bed early every night, so we explored the Costa del Sol with a guileless innocence. I was afraid of men at 14, but Violet looked at them like they were another species, to be studied and understood. Her sexuality was awkward and some nights I’d beg her not to wear a certain dress because she embarrassed me. But she’d shimmy her bottom in too short skirts after I walked first into bar or a restaurant. Violet welcomed the attention we got from the dark Andalusian men. I preferred to sample deserts and sweet liquers before scurrying back to our lovely ocean side auberge to write it all down in my journal. I though Violet would want to record her experiences too, she was the writer in the family after all, but we must not have caught the same jet lag, because she turned into a night owl while I relished every sun drenched day.
Eager to get back to my room one night, I left a dark dance club in exasperation when Violet repeatedly ignored my pleas to move along. I lost her. I should have stayed and searched for her, but I thought her admirers would look after her. I should have held her tightly by the hand. She was only 12.
Violet returned mid morning the next day. She was barefoot and gleeful. We took a walk on the rock of Gibraltar, and she collapsed into fat tears when one of the naughty monkeys stole the fedora she had returned with that morning. Our father had to console her with a visit to Prada to find a new pink wallet to take her mind off the tragedy. Everything that day was irrational, but at the time it seemed completely normal. Violet didn’t sleep until late that night, when she guiltily stayed in with me to watch Audrey Tatou movies. I quizzed her on what she had done, but she was vague. My questions were eventually returned with blank stares and vacant gaps in my attempts at conversation.
When we got home two weeks later, our relationship was markedly different, and that sense of shadowy superficiality never disappeared. Violet closed her bedroom door, and took mysterious daily walks to the post office. We’d never shared our diary entries out loud again.
For college, I studied marine biology in Bar Harbor, while she started at Hampshire, transferred to the American University in Paris, then back home to Boston University. I’m still unsure if she received a degree. That is the way our life so quickly and precariously unraveled. We saw each other along the way, long weekends during the semesters and longer weeks over the summers. But I was never clear what she was looking for, even what she majored in, besides boys and parties. I can pinpoint the end of our childhood though, when I stopped believing in her innocence, and she stop seeing me as infallible.
Now, Violet and I see each other every other year or so. We talk on the phone sporadically, but have never sustained regular conversations. I send her pictures of my son, usually with terse or no reply. I can’t remember the last time I saw a picture of her face, so to me Violet always looks 12.
Writer’s note: For this post, the name of this bloc, In Progress is very apt!
I have a question, and I would really love some feedback on this, my dear & sweet readers:
Is there such a thing as too much yoga?
In the last few weeks, I’ve been randomly asked how many hours I practice per day by numerous people. The answer, in case you’re curious, too, is: 3-4 (meditation and physical asanas). I want to meditate more, but right now it is between 20 and 40 minutes each day total (post-wake and pre-sleep sessions). I utilize the day care at the gym–my son enjoys his time there as much as I enjoy my 1.5-2 hours practicing. Then, I usually follow up at home for another hour to an hour and a half with certain poses I want to explore and track progress on while my child naps. In addition, I practice again when he is in bed for the night, often the shortest sessions of 30-45 minutes. Sprinkle in a few classes at local studios, and of course my ubiquitous beach yoga sessions, and I spend the majority of my free time doing yoga.
Is this too much? I still go about my other daily life activities. I don’t put off any essential responsibilities. The way I understand it is, I’m here in this new state with few friends, zero extended family, and a husband who often works long hours. If the option to hang out with people arises, I shorten or skip a session without a second thought. I don’t write as often, though. And I don’t run or play tennis. I haven’t been doing much css study, and I’ve permanently put my nano novel out of my mind.
So readers, I need some advice. Should I be reading more? Studying child rearing? Memorizing recipes? Cleaning the base boards more often? I don’t really know. I want to be a well-rounded person, and I’m either really excited or really afraid that I’m starting to identify as a yoga practitioner and structure my days around it.
I think I need to work on giving back to the world more. When I was working as a librarian, it was gratifying because I was working to further a societal institution. I’ve been volunteering in a library a couple of hours each week, but maybe that is not enough.
Related: I wonder if Betty Friedan would have done yoga if it was as accessible as it is today? I just finished reading this book, and it was fascinating!!
(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.
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.”
Something I am working on: meditation.
It is hard to get up earlier than early, but on the days my mind takes control over my body, I rouse from the warm sheets and sit outside and listen for my breath, for the world to wake up. I am assuredly a happier, calmer, more pleasant person on the days I meditate. My goal is twice per day.
A couple of years ago, I went to a yoga teacher training and we were taught meditation. In fact, the yoga poses were a precursor to meditation, everything we did led up to the 30 to 60 minutes of meditation we did each session. Asanas to calm the body so it can sit still and focus on breath and the present. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done–sitting still while I wanted to lie down and go back to sleep, or look around at the French trees, or just ponder my life and my plans for travel once the training was over. Some days I was successful, most days I was not. But I was lucky to have that highly disciplined meditation training, because it enables me to fall back on those patterns today, when life is no where near as spiritual and quiet as it was then. Meditation is the ultimate example of action within inaction.
If you’re just beginning on your meditation practice, I suggest you start with five minutes. Or two, and work up to five. Set an alarm if you must. Stretch your body before sitting down, so you won’t be tempted to wiggle. Sit comfortably, but not too comfortably–sit on a pillow, or the ground (no soft chairs, lest you get too relaxed). Find a relatively quiet spot. Do not think about how much time is left in your sitting–focus on your inhalations, your exhalations. If your mind wanders, do not give up, notice, and move back to your breath. Feel the calm energy it brings to your mind and your body, even if it is only short instances of focus. The goal is to think about nothing, but this is much easier said than done.
Practice, and all is coming. After you master five minutes of meditation, move on to 10 or 15. It does wonders for my spirit and soul.
And maybe I’m biased, but I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t benefit from meditation.
This is how I aspire to practice. The earth and the body in harmony. Not following prescribed poses called out from a platform, but doing just what feels good.
Yoga outside is the ultimate experience of the poses, for me.
Watch this and I guarantee you will be inspired.
Late last August, we moved away from Boston. It was a perfect city for us. But as we got older, the yearning for space and air began to outrank the desire to be close to everything new and exciting.
Still: I have never been more proud to be a former resident of the City of Boston; and, I have never been happier with our decision to move away. The Boston Marathon was always a day of celebration through the city. The day off from work and school, the welcoming of warmer weather, a day for Boston to revel in its own brand of patriotic zeal–a uniquely Massachusetts holiday. In fact, my husband and I usually did everything we could to get out of town for the few days around the marathon. We lived right in Back Bay, so surrounding streets were blocked off. But we were around for a few of the races. Walked the dog along the outskirts of the crowds, never venturing too close to the masses though, crowds are not my thing.
This is the horrific kind of side effect of city life that I dreaded. Not the traffic, the rudeness, the expensive parking, or the lack of fresh air. Yes, I was bothered by sirens and my 2 hour commutes to work, but I could flow with those annoyances. There is no meditating away a tragedy that kills an eight year old child. It is sadness that permeates my soul 1,000 miles away. But I’m no victim.
If there is one thing I remember best about Boston as a city, it is the bite. The fierceness. The resilience. The people who will sit in two hours of traffic to move one miles to attend a Celtics game. The panhandlers who will hustle you half way down a the street to glean the quarter from your pocket. The man from the nursing home behind your building who chases you down to ask not to put your trash on that side of the alley (lest the bottle pickers wake his elderly father overnight). The January runners trudging down the middle of Beacon street because a foot of snow covers the sidewalks.
Boston and its people will be ok. They’ve got a grit and a bite unlike anyone I’ve ever met. The city is on its best behavior during unifying times like this. When the Bruins won the Stanley Cup a few years ago, there was pride spilling out of every corner of the city…including myself, someone who has never watched an entire game of ice hockey. There was mass mourning for Michael Jackson, and outrageous celebration when the Red Sox won the World Series. Without a doubt, Boston will find justice for what happened today–growing stronger, and more indomitable because of events like this that mark the city with a colorfully twisted history.