Wednesday, November 28, 2012

My Body is A Compass - A Mighty Compass

I keep coming back to Maggie's talk on the first day of Camp Mighty. She laid out 8 pieces of wisdom that really summed up what the whole weekend was about. Some were reminders of things I too easily forget - that our opinions of ourselves are not fact, that it's about who you love and who loves you. And some were affirmations of things I've already experienced and keep trying to practice in my life - like "my body is a compass."

I had said almost the same thing the previous evening at the opening party to a new friend and fellow Mighty gal - hey Caroline! Your body never lies to you - it knows what it needs. It knows when it's tired or hungry or stressed. And it knows when you are trying to convince yourself to do something you don't want to do. It also knows when you really want to do something but are trying to talk yourself out of it. See the opinion thing mentioned above. That comes from the brain. Not the body.

I started dabbling in yoga off and on post college. It didn't really stick until the mid-'90s when I found a studio in the suburbs of DC near where I lived. The predominant style taught there was alignment-based, and the students definitely skewed a little older, a little more suburban mom than you might find in a more urban setting. I was approaching 30, not a mom, but I needed a place to feel safe and get out of my very judge-y head. And I don't know why I had this wisdom at the time, but I gave myself permission beginning in the very first class to not pay attention to anyone else around me and to accept whatever I was able to do. I had lost about 40 pounds in the previous year, so I wasn't feeling self-conscious about my size, but I wasn't flexible and I wasn't strong, and I just really wanted to be in a place where I wasn't thinking about shoulds and coulds and woulds.

And hey, guess what? It worked. I figured out how to give myself that space. I even, to my utter amazement, ended up teaching at that studio for several years, and several more after moving to New Mexico. And along the way, I became a distance runner, because, you know, the process of training can be very yogic. Listen to your body. Pay attention to your breath. Put one foot in front of the other. And figure out how your body works. When is it truly aligned? When do you have all the support you need? That's how I ended up teaching Chaturanga on the pool deck at 1 am in Palm Springs - damn I wish there were pictures! This will have to do.

The hard part, once you've figured out what your body is telling you, is putting it into action. It's one thing to take the rest you need if there's no one expecting you to show up at a meeting or pack a lunch or make cupcakes for class or produce a client deliverable. When exactly does that happen? And then there's the aforementioned brain talking you out of some deep dream for fulfillment or creative expression, the kind of dream that makes you feel all butterflied in your stomach and rushing in your ears...and your brain is desperately trying to translate that adrenalin into "WARNING! WARNING WILL ROBINSON!"

There's a difference between fear and anticipation, between not wanting to do something and really really wanting to do something. The trick is learning the difference and trusting your body to steer you right. And making sure that you have the support and the alignment - of intention, of action, of vision - to see it through. Besides, the worst thing that will happen is falling. And you laugh and get up and try it again. Life is a process and falling, and failing, is inevitable. Just do it with style. And learn from it. And listen to your body. It's a mighty compass.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Making Things Can Take a Really Long Time.

So Camp Mighty was a week ago. And there have already been so many wonderful memories and observations and learnings captured by some of the coolest women I've ever met - I can't wait to read more. Every day over the past week I've thought about my experience at Camp Mighty and what I want to say about it. But I've been slow to make the transition from brain and journal to blog. With each day that passed, I caught myself slipping back into old and less-than-useful thoughts about creativity, self-discipline and drive. Very un-mighty.

And while Camp Mighty is built around the life list, for me its significance is less about the specific items on the list and more about saying them out loud, sharing them, and discovering not only a community of people who want to help you, but how many ways you can help. It's about taking yourself seriously.

So here are two of the most important things I am remembering from Camp Mighty:

Our opinions of ourselves are not fact.

Maggie Mason's talk to open the festivities was full of wisdom, and like Sheri Silver of Donuts, Dresses & Dirt, I felt like she was talking directly to me. To tell the truth, I was really excited to finally be at Camp Mighty but I was also amazed that I'd actually decided to come. By the end of the first day, it was clear to me that I had been telling myself a story about being stuck, about not knowing what I want to do with my life, about not having something to say, about not being able to play on the same field with the true Camp Mighty-ites. These are women whose blogs I've been reading, whose photos I've admired, whose creativity has inspired me. And here I am sitting in the same room with them.

I got up early on Day 2 and wrote the following in my journal:

"I know a lot more and have a lot more to offer than I have been giving myself credit for. I'm ready to some stuff."

And when Ben Silbermann of Pinterest took the stage as the keynote speaker and told his story with charm and honesty, there were so many things to take away. The slide that brought tears to my eyes was simply this: 

Making things can take a really long time.

I needed to hear this. I am a process girl by nature, all about checking in and appreciating where I am in the journey. But one of my fears is that I will miss the opportunity, that I will take too long, that family and friends will lose patience with me. You can waste a lot of time worrying about that. Time you just need to invest in making what you have to make. 
Makers Gonna Make - Jude Landry
So I'm going to stop worrying about how long it takes. I'm just going to keep making and sharing and learning and connecting. And I am so grateful to Camp Mighty for expanding my tribe. Up next - how I ended up giving a crash course in Chaturanga Dandasana on the pool deck at 1 am.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

I am ready to be Mighty!

I am on my way to Camp Mighty today and I am so excited. I am looking forward to meeting incredible people, getting inspired, and certainly getting some ideas about what I want to do with my life that I didn't even know. More later!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The power of clothes – or why Fran Lebowitz always wears the same uniform.

Fran Lebowitz loves fashion, although she pretty much only wears Levi’s and Brooks Brothers button-down shirts. While I would not want to wear the same thing every day, I am very aware of the power and confidence I get from the perfect outfit. What makes a perfect outfit? It fits, both your body and the occasion. There’s nothing to fuss at. Nothing itches. You can focus on more important things. And it says that you know who you are and what you want to be doing.
My daughter, the girliest girl on the planet, wonders why I wear so much black and grey. Aside from the fact that I genuinely like dark tones, it’s because I feel clear and confident in neutral tones. And I like being able to throw on a pop of color when I feel like it. So most days, you will find me in blue jeans, a fitted t-shirt (probably black or white), and some kind of light cardigan. I live in New Mexico, so that helps.
And yet, you will find in my closet a random assortment of other items – odd jackets and colorful big shirts from a past fancy with clothing from Chico’s (no offense meant to the Chico’s-lovers out there!), leftover suits with padded shoulders from long ago office days (hey the 80′s are coming back!), cocktail-y dresses that never quite seem the right choice. I embark upon a closet purge about once a year. And I get rid of things. And yet, these remnants never make it out the door. I don’t know what I’m keeping them for.
My dream is not to have more – it’s to have a closet that never fails me. I want to slide open the door and know that anything I choose will look great and will fit – my body, the occasion, my purpose.

Monday, November 12, 2012

And crash.

Clearly, I have reached the portion of this month's programming where I become convinced that I have nothing to say, or nothing of interest to say, and one day missed becomes two, and then you contemplate throwing in the towel completely. I am not going to do that.

But what I have learned is that for me, part of this process is about creating structure around it. I may not have to write at the same time every day, but it has to fall into the same general block I think. I'm much more productive in the morning. Of course, today being the day I'm wanting to jumpstart my routine and get back in the swing of things, it also has to be a day off from school for my daughter. Fortunately she's the crafty type so I am going to put her to work working on my costume for the Camp Mighty space party!

I leave for Camp Mighty in 3 days - I'm very excited. And a little intimidated since I keep discovering more and more people I admire who are going to be there. Yikes. But my goal is to be inspired not intimidated. It's going to be awesome. I know we are going to hone in our top 5 goals for the coming year. I picked 5 a couple of weeks ago, but I think I want to revisit them. I want to make sure they are things I really want to do right now, not things I think I should want to do. Wants and shoulds. I kind of think of them like the Hatfields and McCoys. More on that later.

Friday, November 09, 2012

A little hiccup

Day 8 came and went. I was really busy all day, although as usual I anticipated having more time and more energy than was remotely realistic. So in addition to failing to post here, I also didn't sew the new cushions for our kitchen bench, although I did get the fabric purchased. So maybe today.

I've been doing astrology chart readings for friends as a way to raise money for Camp Mighty's project to support Charity:Water. I'm a newish student, so every reading I do is like a mini lesson for me. It's really interesting and I'm so grateful to my friends for their interest and their willingness to share. So far, they all seem to be getting some good insight from the process too. But it's also time consuming. And sometimes, you are faced with a friend's chart that really confirms that they are going through some rough stuff. When that happens, you wish you say it's almost over and sometimes you can. But sometimes you can't. You can encourage them to keep doing the good things they are doing to take care of themselves, and you can tell them when the transit will end. Still, oof.

I did not sleep very well either. I am glad it is Friday.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The day after...

I'm feeling a little sad this morning. Not about the election itself - I am very happy about the outcome, not just at the presidential level, but truly thrilled by all the victories for women and for civil rights. I am sad that we have reached a point in our society where people are so angry and so cynical about the motives of those on the other side of the fence. I've seen posts this morning on Facebook from conservatives claiming that the only people name-calling are liberals, and liberals claiming the same thing about conservatives. Frankly, there was enough name-calling to go around. But how did we get to a place where we assume that the motives of those who disagree with us are to actively destroy our lives?

I have never liked discussing politics. Mostly because I really hate to argue. I do not enjoy a debate. I do not want to talk you out of your position or convince you that mine is better. And I do not want you to tell me that my opinion is worthless either. I know, I know, the benefit of debate is to be exposed to other points of view. But surely that means you have to listen, really listen, to other points of view. Try to understand them. Be open to the idea that those who disagree with you believe what they believe for a reason.

We live in a very complicated world. This is a big country and it is populated by citizens with a lot of different life experiences. There are some things that maybe just have to be taken off the table for us to move forward and work together. You can't change the color of people's skin. You can't tell them what to have faith in or how to practice it. You can't tell them who to love. You can argue about what the role of government should be and how it should play it. But the role of government is not to deny rights or enforce morality. And if you are going to try to link up conservative fiscal policies with social and moral restrictions and controls, then I think you end up with the results we got last night.

I didn't vote for President Obama because I agree with everything he's done or what the Democrats in Congress want. I voted for President Obama because he wants to make the tent bigger, not smaller.

Thomas Friedman said it far better than I ever could in his op-ed today:

“We think you’re trying. Now try even harder. Learn from your mistakes. Reach out to the other side, even if they slap away your hand, and focus like a laser on the economy, so those of us who voted for you today without much enthusiasm can feel good about this vote.”

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Election Day

The day has finally arrived. I was glad to vote early but I miss the experience of going in on the day itself. I remember when our school was a polling place. Apparently they do that at some schools in Albuquerque, but we have a lot of voting centers sprinkled around the city in commercial spaces, so it's not quite the same. And I miss the voting machines with the levers. Such a satisfying sound. I used to go into the voting booth with one of my parents - I remember that clearly. I've taken K with us every time. This year, she wanted to help fill in the little circles. I'm sure she would have done a very good job. But I wasn't sure if that was legal so she had to watch. There were a lot of local offices and bond issues on our long, two-sided ballot. So it took awhile.

I'm cautiously optimistic. But I remember how stressful it was 4 years ago and I expect this will be worse tonight. I hope the results come in smoothly and the outcome is clear. The worst thing that can happen is controversy and lack of clarity. That will do damage to our psyche that will be very hard to undo. But I trust that we will all move on tomorrow and get back to life. I hope so.

Monday, November 05, 2012

It's a beautiful day.

Sometimes I feel guilty about living in New Mexico. It's in the mid-60s, sunny, just came in from a nice easy run with one dog and a quick game of fetch with the other one. There's a kind of surreal calm and quiet here right now. It's the waiting. We already voted so there's no line to be standing in. And I haven't heard of any lines out here anyway. I couldn't figure out what was going on in Ohio today, and then I heard they only have one voting center per county for early voting. That's nuts.

It's hard not to feel that the only way the election turns out any different than where Nate Silver is pointing is if something we've really never seen before happens. Is it possible that the polls are really completely off base and biased? Is it possible that people are really saying one thing and doing another? Is it possible that enough votes can be stolen or suppressed to really turn things? It feels like either way, half the country is going to be furious and feel that something has been stolen from them. That's a bad place to be.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

NaBloPoMo Day 4...

is apparently about trying not to think about the election. I'm generally averting my eyes from television and newspapers, though I can't quite bring myself to not look at facebook or twitter occasionally. I've been listening to Tina Dico's album "Count to Ten" this morning. That helps. And I finally dug out from under the piles in around my workspace and put the label maker to good use with a stack of empty manila folders. My desk is in a corner of the kitchen near a sunny window. This is mostly a good thing, except that it is also near the laundry room and much-used back door, which means the temptation to drop things off in the vicinity is a little too-tempting for the third-grader I live with. At least my husband has become careful about logging me back into facebook when he's done hijacking my computer.

My plan for today is to figure out what will be cooking and nourishing our bodies and spirits in this house this week. I am usually not very successful at planning meals ahead, but it's going to be a busy week and I for one would like to not inflict any unnecessary stress on myself.

And if you haven't voted yet, just do it. I don't care who you vote for (not entirely true of course - I do have a preference) but I do care that we all show up and take responsibility for ourselves and our country. I have always believed that in the end, people show up and try to do what they think is best for everyone. I want to keep believing that. So VOTE!

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Random thoughts on a Saturday - Day 3

Yikes, it's only November 3 and I've already got that "yeah, I've got nothing" feeling about what to write about. I'm also often a little drifty on the weekends, torn between missing the weekday routine and the flow that creates and liking just winging it.

I just got The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook a couple of days ago. It's a lovely lovely book, just what you would expect. I made the rushed pizza dough last night, instead of my usual, and it was delicious. Great texture, crackly from being baked on the stone that lives in my oven. I am looking forward cooking from this book in the coming weeks!

Deb actually gave a peek at one of the recipes in the book a few weeks ago - the pancetta, white bean and chard pot pies. They were delicious too - definitely recommend.

Obviously, I am in a cooking mood. I am also keenly aware that Thanksgiving is less than 3 weeks away. Which means Christmas isn't very far away. Every year, I think I want to be more "plan-ful" about the holidays so that I can feel like we really were able to enjoy them. I find the holidays to be at their best when there is enough quiet to really experience them, not a lot of frantic running around. So I think I want to have a plan, and get some things done ahead of time, and know what I want to happen so I don't forget. It's wishful thinking - I usually get to the point where I decide on what I can't live without and let the rest go. That's actually not a bad plan. But I'm sure I'll put holiday plans on my to-do list for the next few weeks, dutifully moving it to tomorrow's list most of the time. Mostly I just want to wake up on Wednesday morning and have the election be over.

Friday, November 02, 2012

To run or not to run.

Imagine that you've been training all summer into the fall for your first marathon. Maybe you became a runner to run a marathon. This is the hardest physical thing you've ever tried to do and you are both exhilarated and terrified that the day is nearly here. And now you have an unforeseen challenge - the conditions the race will be run in are, to say the least, not good. And now you have to decide what to do.

Of course I am talking about the New York City Marathon, which is apparently taking place as scheduled this Sunday. Despite the fact that so many people on Staten Island and in lower Manhattan are suffering and struggling to recover. There is no comparison, but I'm also sympathetic to the runners and the dilemma they face. And so I've been thinking also about my first marathon experience in Chicago in 2007. I was not a runner. Before training for a marathon, I would have told you I hated running. But I was interested in the process of training and suddenly, the idea of finishing a marathon and being in the best shape of my life in the year of my 40th birthday was very motivating. So I'd done it, slogging my way through longer and longer training runs.

As race day approached, the weather forecast was not looking good. And the emails from race organizers kept warning everyone about the heat and proper preparation. There was no plan to change anything about the race though. The start time remained 8 am. And the weather forecast kept getting hotter.

On race day, some 40,000+ runners lined up at the start. It was an incredible place to be for a first-timer. Inspiring, exciting, nerve-wracking. We shuffled our way to the start and were finally off. It was so hot and so humid. But everyone's spirits were high and the crowds were out cheering and everything seemed fine. And then we reached the first water station and hit the first stroke of bad luck of the day. There was no water and no gatorade at the first aid station. The system was breaking down very early it seemed, since I was running in the section of the crowd shooting for under 5 hour finish times. There were thousands of people behind us.

Things went downhill from there. I never saw gatorade on the course, though I did find water along the way at aid stations and from the amazing residents along the route who were out with coolers of ice and bottles of water. As I approached mile 16, the word was spreading that the race was cancelled. Suddenly, there were police barricades blocking off the course and rerouting everyone back to Grant Park. It was chaos.

I went on to finish my first marathon a few months later in Phoenix. And I returned to Chicago last month to finish my second. It was a wonderful experience to complete the full course and to run into Grant Park and cross the finish line for real.

So what does any of this have to do with the NYC marathon on Sunday? I wish for the runners that the organizers would do the right thing and postpone. Of course that would be disappointing for runners who've been training so hard. But to put the burden on them to make the decision? If I was running on Sunday, if it was my first marathon? The race experience is the end of a long journey. It's important and should be honored. Unforeseen events can and do happen. But if you know that you are going to be putting runners under unnecessary duress, and testing the resources of a city that can't afford it, you owe it to everyone to take responsibility for that and make the right decision. And to all the first-time marathoners struggling with what to do, do what's best for you, for both your body and your spirit. And if you agree that the marathon needs to be postponed, please sign the petition at

Thursday, November 01, 2012

The earth was the floor of the sky...

 Elsewhere the sky is the roof of the world; but here the earth was the floor of the sky.
- Willa Cather

I subscribe to two different daily quotation lists. I'm always seeing quotes I like posted by friends on Facebook and in blogs I read. I'm known to post favorites myself. And yet, to choose a favorite? I don't have one favorite. It depends on the day and how I am feeling. 

So today, on this first day of Nablopomo, I choose this lovely sentence from Willa Cather that describes to me what it is like to live in New Mexico. When I first started visiting here, before we knew we'd end up living here, I described it as a place where I felt like my feet were really on the ground. They have to be, because the sky is so huge, and you feel so small. You have to find your roots when you are in so much space. Growing up and living on the east coast and in the midwest, the sky holds you down. But out here, you have to find your center and your path in all the possibility. The harsh beauty of the high desert tests your equilibrium. You can never be detached from the earth here, and you never forget that you are part of something much much bigger.