Birdwatching in El Yunque National Forest and Loquillo Beach

Spring has certainly sprung over in our little corner of Coastal Connecticut! For me, that means spring cleaning every nook and cranny, yard work, and enjoying the heck outta the outdoors. But! I can’t let one more day go by without sharing the final full day we spent in Puerto Rico–it’s been a week and a half since we were there.

The visitor center at El Yunque National Forest was great- all outdoors, but well covered. There were many exhibits on the wildlife, Rainforest preservation, and we caught an English version of the documentary that shared all of this information in a way that our seven year old could bear.

El Yunque is the only forest in the United States National Park system that is a tropical Rainforest. With my obsession with National Parks (Remember, I eloped in one?), it’s suitable that we showed up to el unique El Yunque during the National Park Service Centennial.

Visitors Center for El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico Continue reading

Advertisements

This February, I’m getting out of my funk

Man, what I year this last one was.

I know, I know. This started out sounding like the post that everyone makes during the first week of January. I’m okay with that.

Last March, after going through the first months of 2015 with fervor, focus, and a plan for the goals I wanted to achieve, I was caught off guard by a sudden life change: we were moving cross country. If you’ve read my blog the few times I’ve posted in the last year, you know this well. Maybe a little too well.

I touched on the subject a bit, but I hardly elaborated on the despair that I went through in the months preceding the move. Continue reading

Relax, Remove the Rocks

did end up continuing with 40 Days. Last week was all about Restoration, and our focus was on relaxing with what is, accepting your current situation, and removing the rocks in your life that hold you back from being who you want.

Relaxing

Through our practice, we learn that struggling against something makes the experience more difficult. Whether it’s a pose that you keep coming out of or a toxic relationship with your mother, constantly struggling against it won’t allow you through it. It’s like a Chinese finger trap.

Chinese finger trap

Things I decided to relax with:

  • My body does not look the way it once was, or how I’d like it to be. If I continue with the same behaviors, it’s only downhill from here.
  • I’m not working toward achieving my goals in endurance athleticism, and if I continue this way my goals won’t be achieved.
  • I don’t have a home that’ll be ‘repinned,’ but we’ll always have a “fun house.”
  • My mom has opposing views on how to live, parent, grandparent and what is appropriate for young children. I can’t change her, I can only amend my expectations and my own behaviors.
  • There are only so many active hours during the day, and sleeping less will only negatively affect following days.
  • At the rate I have been going, I’ll never have a book published.

Removal

I’ve removed many rocks over the last year of practicing Baptiste Yoga. I restored long-time dormant relationships, connected with people on a deeper level, came to terms with being awful at working from home, committed myself to my family, accepted that some things, people and dreams are worth letting go of and that I’M ENOUGH. The latter, something that has been a driving factor my entire adult life: trying to prove my worth to others through outside achievements.

Getting out of the rat race and resisting the need for approval is a constant toil. I still have moments when, though I have enough on my plate, I feel the need to do more. I have times when I feel like I’m being lazy, even when I’m rushing from one thing to the next. I have times when I obsess over the steps I’ll take after the next thirteen, and others when my past preys on my mind: trying to figure out why I am who I am and if or why I’m at a disadvantage.

These are rocks I’ll keep chipping away at, but this time around I’m going after physical things that are holding me back. I’m heeding advice from the book I read at the beginning of 2015 and I’m ridding my home from top to bottom of excess, bit by bit and often.

Then I took it a step further

People always tell one another to drop the past. That it’ll make them a happier, more fulfilled person if they move on and focus on the future. It sounds like rainbows and butterflies, but I’m already so happy and fulfilled, and I decided years ago, after binge-reading memoirs, that I didn’t go through all that I did just to keep it to myself. I need to hold onto my memories, because what if, suddenly, I wake up and they’re gone? What if I lose them without telling my story?

don't let this happen

On the final day of restoration week, I decided to remove all those rocks. I wrote a timeline, starting from things I don’t actually remember thoroughly going into what I did: childhood cancer, my dad moving out of state without a goodbye during my treatment, dealing with absentee parents as my mom attended med school, getting sent to live with my grandparents and various friends in middle school, hard, heavy and frequent drug use before I hit high school, rehab, dating violence and near-death experiences that stemmed from that, visiting my abuser in jail, teen pregnancy, teen marriage, domestic violence, alcoholism, sobriety, divorce, finding home as a single mother, finding true love, graduating college, beginning the workforce, my second marriage.

It’s just a framework, with few details, but it’s there. So it’s begun. I feel like I removed a boulder.

Should I give up on 40 Days?

As I mentioned in my post about dropping the drama, I’ve been participating in my third 40 Days to Personal Revolution program at my local yoga studio.

Sometimes I feel like 40 days is hard to explain to others, especially because I’m participating in the same challenge repeatedly and expecting new results. In all honesty, the reasoning is simple: it works. What more of an explanation do I need? It makes me feel great from the inside out, my relationships flourish, and I’m able to expose truths that help me hone in and go further in the direction of my goals.

I wasn’t feeling that vibe last night. After admonishing my son for being disobedient again, and realizing the Hasselback Potatoes my husband suggested required a cook time that would threaten the final (and necessary to move on in the program) yoga class of the week, my anxiety level was apparent.

Always quick to notice my agitation (and with the patience of a saint), my husband asked, “If this is putting you on edge like this, then isn’t that against the point? Doesn’t that go against the reason you’re doing it?” and “You’ve already done it before, it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t do it again” even, “Your friend just quit, its okay if you do, too.” He was right.

The three of us cooked dinner as a family—one of my favorite things to do in the world—and I realized how silly it was that I wanted to rush through the process. I said aloud to my family as we sat and ate: “These are the moments I truly cherish. I’m living the dream.”

Still, after eating, packing up the leftovers, sending the boy to bed and a swift kiss to the hubs, I was out the door and on my way with plenty of time to spare in case the incessant parking dilemma at my overpopulated studio waged on.

I spent my drive calculating the amount of time it was taking for me to travel to and fro, to a studio that I love while passing plenty of other yoga facilities that I haven’t even tried. I thought about how, though I love the community of yogis at this place, I’ve given myself a 22 minute—without traffic, one way—commute to a hobby, plus allowing for 30 minutes to park to account for a worst-case scenario. It’s taking me 2 ½ hours to accomplish one hour of physical activity. Is this what I’m a yes for?

Parking ended up not being a fiasco, probably because it was the last class of the week and few were as under the wire as I was. Early, waiting on my mat in the quiet, thoughts spun around in my mind about this commitment: “Why am I doing this?” “I’m not proving anything new to myself.” That negative self-talk propelled into a spiral of thoughts like, “I don’t belong here” and “I don’t even fit in at this place, who am I kidding?” (Which, I later realized, is always my default way of talking down to myself.)

When someone I met through the program arrived, I sprung up and began talking to her about the thoughts I was having. She listened with possibility and offered no pep talk, but did discuss with me the similar thoughts and obstacles she had been running into. The class commenced, and the instructor informed us that in lieu of her usual Rock Your Flow, quick paced class with upbeat music, we’d be listening to R&B in celebration of an employee’s birthday.

Hell yes; I grew up on R&B.

Songs with a history for me came on, track after track, with yogis laughing as we realized which it was. I assigned unnecessary meaning to songs like “Let it Burn,” and resisted shaking my hips as I sank deeper into crescent lunge during another. Tracy Chapman’s hit single from ’95, Give Me One Reason, came on as we arrived in bridge pose, the instructor turned the lights down, and what seemed like the whole room began singing the lyrics. We remained in the pose, and in our song, until it was over.

Then it rushed back: these are my [cuss]in’ people and I’m right where I need to be. 

I don’t know all (or most) of the people in the room, many I probably haven’t even seen before. The fact that we all like to bend our bodies in different, sometimes painfully challenging ways could be the only thing any of us have in common, but I know it isn’t.

Many of us may come from different backgrounds and lead dissimilar lives, but we all have doubts. We like to be silly. We’ve experienced fear, sadness, anger, pain, joy, glory, pride and laughter. We’re all humans looking for connection and growth, and we’ve found a space full of others who are willing to be vulnerable, authentic and honest alongside us our journey. Or, you know, they could just like yoga. Who knows. But all in all, in every savasana, it feels like I’m home.

Because it works.

 Featured photo courtesy of Big Yoga

Drop the Drama

I have a lot of feelings.

Ever find yourself watching Teen Mom on purpose? Lifetime movies? Crying over songs Justin Timberlake wrote for Jessica Biel? Super Bowl commercials?

It can get a little embarrassing, but I do. When people open up about great loss, when they open up over great triumph, when they make something beautiful, when they display any degree of passion in any direction–I cry. I can face it: I cry a lot.

Past

As a kid, my mom and other relatives would call me a “drama queen,” and it caused me great hurt. My feelings felt so real to me; how could people who love me devalue them like that?

When I grew into an adolescent, I rebelled against my feelings. I hated that I was emotional, so I took on a persona of  “hippie” and “chill”. Drama free, care free. I wanted to be Cool Girl, and I steered clear of all people who were always fighting about who knows what, in favor of others who shared the same carefree careless attitude toward life. I wanted to be strong.

As an adult, I embrace my feelings, and take pride in the empathy I have for others. I learned that strength comes from knowing yourself, expressing yourself fearlessly, and inspiring others to do the same. I steered away from the drama-filled people and the careless, and confide in people who are emotionally aware. Now, I’m really drama free, right?

Present

Not quite. A little perspective I gathered from my 40 days meeting today:

Just because you steer clear of unnecessary conflict and people who are always wrapped up in it, doesn’t make you bulletproof from drama.

How often do you think, “Well, I really want to _______, BUT _____,” where BUT is some aspect of life that you allow to limit your growth?

  • “I really want to lose weight, BUT I can’t make the time to work out.
  • “I really want to eat healthy, BUT I hardly know how to cook.
  • “I really want to blog everyday, BUT I worry that there’s nothing valuable in what I have to say, and no one will care.
  • “I really want to simplify my life, BUT first I have to tend to my to-do list.

These are limiting beliefs I’ve let control my actions–my life even. I bring drama to things like going for a run because I haven’t done the laundry yet. I bring drama into cooking because I might fail again, I bring drama into blogging because “Oh no, I posted a link to my blog on Facebook and now people who I know could read about how I really feel and things I do that no one probably cares about and I’ll be vulnerable and they’ll judge me and my writing isn’t good enough and and and!” 

I bring drama into finding misplaced objects: “Where is that f*cking thing?” and as I continue to look, “Damn it! I can’t live in this mess!” and I bring drama into laundry: “I’m going to fold some laundry, but first I need to find a movie on Netflix to watch while doing that.” Then later, “Ugh! Why does Netflix keep messing up, I’m trying to focus on getting this stuff done!” 

Future

Now that I’ve noticed these thought patterns, I can bring ease into my daily life. I can stop thinking about what could limit me, and just BEGIN. I can think to myself, “Where is that useful object?” and replace the word “f*cking” with “delightful” in any situation. I can glide over the hurdles effortlessly if I’m focused on the finish line. All I need to do is see and drop the drama.

Is there something simple in life that you add drama to? Let me know in the comments!

 Featured image found on https://myfitwitjourney.wordpress.com/