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.”


Southern Groceries, Take 2

As I’ve written before, grocery shopping in South Carolina is quite different from how I used to shop in Maine and Massachusetts. It is not just the fact that it took three markets to find kimchi, and it was not hard to adjust to the lack of dedicated organic and Asian sections. The produce is generally plentiful and varied, and I know where to buy half gallons of rice milk and sprouted tofu.

However, I was completely bewildered yesterday by the interaction I had with the young man bagging my groceries. He picked up a container of tofu, and stared at it, shook it, then looked at me and asked, “what is this, some kind of soup?” Besides that one video I posted to social media earlier this week (Holocaust on a Conveyor Belt,) I generally try not to proselytize my vegetarian beliefs. So I responded, “no, it is tofu.” Realizing as soon as the words left my mouth how it probably sounded pretentious. The kid looked at me, and shook his head while he continued to bag my items. But what should I have said, “oh, that is a food made by coagulating soy juice and then pressing the resulting curds into soft white blocks.” ?????

“So you must be some kind of vegetarian or something, huh,” he continued the conversation.

“Correct. I do not eat meat,” I replied.

“Oh man, you would hate to come over to our house, we have meat everywhere!” I suddenly remembered I’m in the deep south, and that guns and hobby hunting are popular here. I’m envisioning mounted animal heads, bacon toothpaste, leather sofas. “Not even chicken?” the kid asked.

Now I was getting testy. He was not trying (I don’t think) to be rude. But I felt interrogated. Here he was, looking at an intimate portrait of my life (thank goodness I do not purchase tampons at the grocery store), and questioning my lifestyle. I wanted to reply “especially not chicken” but I just smiled, and shook my head no.

Of course I did not open up the conversation with him further by telling him about my recent conversion to veganism (still in its infancy, there are animal products in everything!) but I was so shocked that here we are in 2013, and some people in this country do not understand a vegetarian diet.

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Welcome to the South!


Primal Rage and The Holiday Spirit

Hello, fair readers:

I have been absent from this domain for longer than I intended. Life, and then travels, interrupted my intentions, and I observe a connection between my peace of mind and writing. The holiday season is over now, and I can retreat to my corner of the world to regain some perspective.

I felt guilty leaving my last post here my reflections of the Connecticut tragedy. I was sad, and then angry, about that event for a long time, and it was hard for me to embrace the holiday season with this pang of sadness sitting on my shoulder. I found myself getting angry at small misunderstandings and conditions of life: we were told the wrong time for family swim one Saturday, a fellow air traveler with unsolicited advice about bottle feedings, the dry nosebleed inducing air of Washington DC in December, my aging grandfather who needs an aide 24 hours each day, the lack of parking along the National Mall, internet filters, out of stock books, unexpected changes of plans, forgotten kindle chargers, and tap water that tastes like pennies. But there was joy hidden among all of these moments, some I missed because I was too entrenched in my misery to look for it. I was with my family and friends, after all. We are alive and together this Christmas and New Year, what more is there to celebrate?

I don’t really make New Year resolutions because I am always trying to better myself. But this year I took a great breath of the cold December air and made myself promise to stop getting hung up on the little things. We’re all human, with our own individual perspectives and experiences of life, and so long as we’re here we should enjoy it. Meditation has been a hugely useful tool in this seeking of joy, and I am slowly mastering longer periods of sitting still. Here is a wonderful site for guided meditation, which I use when my mind is especially busy and reluctant to calm down. Looking inwards, I’ve found, is a powerful way to appreciate the world outside.


Give a Girl a Bone

Dear Readers,

I am confused! I used to love living in Boston, the construction and the sirens were a charming white noise, and the hot stepping industriousness of the masses excited me, even if I was just pretending to be part of the pack on my way to Neimans. I loved living in a 874 square foot apartment stacked neatly above and beside other square living spaces. It was liberating to go to the grocery store and keep my head down, not making eye contact was part of the game (judge people based on their walk and their shoes, not their facial expression, I learned). I rarely got upset by traffic, I began to appreciate public radio and audio books, I walked everywhere I possibly could, and I outsourced all my errands that there was a market for.

Living in the city, we started to hold hands when we crossed the street, not for safety, but to feel a connection among the multitudes of people we were surrounded by all day. I shared tables at the library, knew where all the free dog bags were, sat rubbing elbows with strangers at bars, and discovered the easiest route across Mass Ave during rush hour. I learned to strip my pants off at the gym mere inches away from other women (it is much more efficient to forgo modesty when you’re changing into a bathing suit).

But something about my attitudes towards city dwelling has changed in the last three months. I guess I’ve gone soft in my new state of semi-retirement and stay-at-home motherhood. I have an expectation that people will return phone calls, & emails, especially when one spends 45 minutes composing the latter to a fellow new mother with solicited advice on things already learned. I have little free time, and believe me, I would have preferred to spend it working on my nano project, taking a bath and eating chocolates, bouldering, or playing with my toddler; not recounting my days with the nightmare inducing medela pump, or reliving my first days of returning to work after maternity leave. Sure, we’re all busy, in the city and in the suburbs, but what is it about some people who have such colossal stores of disregard for other people? Boston traffic illuminates this clearly: try driving near the city on I-93 between 3 and 5 in the afternoon, and please, try to find me one example of someone who isn’t entirely offensive and self-interested. The dudes driving the new mercedes or giant SUVs are on the ultimate ego trips, if you ask me.

Anyways, I recently returned from a ten day trip to New England. We flew in and out of Boston in favor of convenient flight times, and though I had moments of awe as I looked up at the skyscrapers, I was mostly disappointed by what I left behind. I spent six years of my life running in the city rat race, though I didn’t really realize it until going back. I joined in on restaurant week fun, tried not to be appalled when a friend’s husband nonchalantly ordered $100 bottles of wine, shopped for cocktail dresses at overpriced boutiques I’ve only ever worn once, attended various bridal and baby showers at over-hyped trendy cafes. I guess I did a fine job of feigning interest, but I have no desire to take part in those activities anymore. Don’t get me wrong, Boston is beautiful, and I loved my time there, but looking back my attitudes were all wrong and much of the time I was helping to perpetuate the Masshole stereotype. I was pregnant during our last seven months of living in our little apartment on Beacon Street, and in that time my husband and I nested, lived quietly, walked the streets and observed small marvels of life existing there; we grew kinder. It was quaint, and I had as much fun in those months as I had when we were regularly meeting people out on the town.

Living in the South, I think I am starting to understand what the Dutch (and Europeans in general) meant when they said that people get colder the further north you go, and friendlier as you travel south. I don’t know if it is the cold weather in Boston that gets people going on the rude train, but it is a lifestyle I am so glad I am no longer perpetuating. I wish I could go back and apologize to all the friends I cancelled on last minute, all the times I snagged a taxi when someone else five feet away was looking at it hopefully. I want to take back the crappy tips I gave to delivery food drivers for being half an hour late with our dinner because of traffic, and I forgive the pedestrians who walked out in front of me when my stoplight changed before they could halt their stride.

I’m not saying that people in the South are superior. I am sure I’ll find their (our?) faults soon enough, but the common sense of decency, gentility, and genuine kindness here is downright intoxicating. Definitely a pay-it-forward kind of society, whereas in Boston, I look back and see all the times kindness stopped because it was more convenient for someone (myself included) to hang on to it to get a leg up.

Whatever happened to a quick chat over tea? Or shows of thankfulness and appreciation? This is the season for gratitude, and I definitely saw very little of it in Boston. It was barely discernible in Maine which was disappointing to me, Massholes be Massholes, but I expected more from my home state. I had a wonderful trip, all the family and friends I did get to see were amazingly kind and generous, and spoiled my son with more love and attention than I ever thought existed.

But I’m not eager to go back. Family and friends have promised visits here over their cold winter, and this way I can avoid the rude stewardesses who gawk at me shuffling down a narrow airplane aisle with 3 bags and 26 pounds of dead weight. I miss the birch trees, but I think palm trees are a great holdover until we go back.

With love,

your ever loyal bloggess

P.S. In case you wondered, I’m taking a little social media (read: twitter and facebook) hiatus for the rest of the year. Time to focus on the family I have here, my projects I want to finish, and the new goals I want to get started on.


Happy Birthday, Nostalgia!

I used to think my wedding day was forever going to be the most memorable 24 hours of my life.  Yesterday was my son’s first birthday, and (forgive this hackneyed allusion to the archetypical woman’s life) I can confidently say his birth now ranks most memorable in my temporal lobe.  Memories of a whole new person were initiated a year ago, and even though I sometimes can’t remember what I ate for lunch, October 23, 2011, feels like yesterday.  I wonder if it always will.

So much has happened in the last year, but baby’s birthday is my most cherished memory.  The smell of copal (which we only light on special occasions, like last night) ignites memories from our wedding, but I’m not able to remember the tiny details of that day anymore.  I am glad there does not seem to be a fixed capacity in the brain to store sentimental memories.  I would be tempted to choose reliving the days of being young, falling in love, and meeting my child over practical functions of the brain like walking, and remembering that 841 is one of my favorite non-fiction sections in the library.  There is a lot of pressure in the beliefs I follow to stay in the moment and not to dwell in the past.  But my dreams–a place where I spend 1/3 of my time after all–is made of beautiful and excruciating memories which have made me who I am today.

But on my son’s birthday, I feel justified to dwell on the past.  He hardly appreciated our celebrations and special activities–a trip to the toy store, a walk around a special island, a visit from adopted aunties, and a waffle cone full of mint chocolate cookie, a special dinner.  So I felt happy to accept the day on his behalf, reveling in the sun and the air, not trapped to a bed in a hospital.  Life is so fair, because without a doubt, next year the labors from his birth will be a more distant memory, like how my wedding day is now.  I will always remember the essentials: unyielding physical pressure, sharp seemingly unbearable abdominal cramps, the incomparable relief and overpowering happiness and love, a beating Mexican sun tempered by soft clouds and northern breezes.  I’m glad I will always have my dear husband–and now my sweet child–to remind me of special days, physical proof that we existed in those pictures that simultaneously look like years ago–my baby is now five times the size he was a year ago, and yesterday–I have looked basically the same in pictures since I was 17.

Next year I’ll be happy to plan a real party for my son’s growing memories.  I feel like your first child’s first birthday is for the parent’s nostalgia, and that is what we observed. Happy Birth day, mom and dad, and of course, our sweet son!


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!