Getting Back to my Center

Last week’s 40 days focus was on centering. I wrote a bit about my experience, but was so wrapped up in a home makeover project in celebration of this week’s focus, Triumph, that I hadn’t posted it.

Law 9: Don’t Rush the Process

Stop thinking about what is going to happen in the future and obsessing over what will happen after this or that, because we all know what happens in the end. The same thing always happens…we die. –Nancy, during class last week (paraphrased)

“I learned I had to be willing to show up and suck until I could show up and shine” – a student of Baron Baptiste, quoted in 40 Days to Personal Revolution

Both of these revelations resonate with me. I’m always so focused on achieving a goal or being excited about the upcoming trip, project being completed, or event that I resist the current process. This applies to everything I do, right down to blogging: I read successful blogs and I forget why I started writing again in the first place: to connect, to share, to chronicle and to, at times, be vulnerable.

Listening

My mom and I got into a tiff a couple of days after Christmas. It started with one thing, led to something completely different, and the past was brought up because it was relevant to what was going on. It got ugly, and we hadn’t been talking.

Last week, in our 40 days meeting, we talked about listening without preconceived notions. The exercise was to listen to people without any consideration of the past, to drop what you already know. This meant focusing on the other person stating what truth is to them and not adding any additional meaning. Only seeing possibility. I had already made plans to meet up with her and give our relationship a rebirth with new boundaries, so that advice had impeccable timing.

After eight years of working nights, four years of residency with a 2+ hour commute a day, and four years of medical school, my mom just began working “normal” hours. Immediately, when she walked up, I could see a clarity about her. When she talked, I listened, without assuming things were always how they had been or without feeling that she was making excuses or being controlling or being a villain in any of the ways that I had turned her into during those weeks that we didn’t talk.

I had been operating for years with a tinge of resentment before realizing now that my mom was neglecting a basic need—sleep—for so long and so often that she was too harried to think straight. After years of seeing her behaviors in me, I saw my behaviors in her. I realized that it was just over a year ago when I started doing this level of inner self work—the yoga, meditation, 40 days group therapy. Back then I was so harried that I was never the mother I thought I’d be when Tobias was an infant. There’s been several occasions when I was so distracted I let things go by the wayside. At one point, but at different levels, we had made the same mistake. Who am I to judge?

It opened up completely new things for our relationship, and we set up appropriate boundaries so that something like this wouldn’t happen again.

Law 10: Be True to Yourself

That’s what this is all about, really. No matter how true I think I’m being to myself, there will always be moments where I’m seeking approval or taking things too personally, or adding drama. There’ll be moments when I’d rather eat a cookie for breakfast than meditate (guilty!) and I’d rather do laundry all day than take a moment for myself and run.

PS. Honestly, part of the reason I hadn’t posted is because I feel a little “done” with 40 days and talking about what I’m doing with it/self growth. I’d rather be out there growing and doing. So thanks for bearing with me while I babbled about the process!

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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

Oh yeah, about those 2015 resolutions.

No matter how soon before Christmas I begin to consider it, I never seem to hammer out my resolutions until at least the end of the first week of January. With Christmas decorations on top of the usual mess to clean up and New Year’s Eve and Day plans with travel, I don’t quite have the sanity to envision the next 365 358 351 days. I’m okay with being a few days late, with the right intentions, rather than not following through consistently with my goals.

This year, though, it was even harder. Continue reading

This is it!: My 2nd 40 days to Personal Revolution

It sounds hokey, I know. I was curious when I first saw posters for 40 Days at my yoga studio. Personal Revolution, really? It’s pretty ballsy to say you’ve got a program that’ll single-handedly change the lives of those who take part. The flyer seemed so vague–forty days of WHAT will lead me to this?

During the first meeting, I learned what we’d be doing. There’s a book that was authored by the creator of Baptiste Yoga and each week we had assigned readings from the book that included directives on how we will be eating, meditating and practicing yoga for the following week. At the end of each reading, there are questions to answer about yourself and the way you’re experiencing the world, to dig deep at what is blocking you from living the life you want to be leading.

Along with the book, we were required to do yoga six times a week (five of which had to be at the studio, one could be at home), meditate morning and night for an increasing amount of time and attend a meeting once a week at the studio that focused on what was showing up for us through the process. At Big Yoga, we’re very much into community, so there were a few other things thrown in there so we’d get to know each other, but that’s the bulk of the plan.

This was my second time doing the program. The first time opened up a lot of stuff for me, and I was intrigued by these people who have essentially read the same book again and again and felt the need to participate again. I was curious as to what could lie ahead.

Here’s what happened:

I stopped worrying about pleasing other people and became aware of the subtle hints I was dropping to myself and the people around me about what I really wanted. I committed to changing. I decided to leave my job and we mutually parted ways. I allowed myself to be vulnerable, and opened up really deep feelings to a whole room of people I didn’t know and also to my closer friends. I opened up in general. I blossomed and became visually happier to those around me. I celebrated my accomplishments and accepted applause. I took breaks from vices that once controlled me, and continued with changed attitudes toward those things. I connected more deeply with every person in my life.

I became a stay-at-home mom and am completely fulfilled by it. After years of trying to prove myself, I’m convinced that I am enough. I became organized, cleaned my house, and have stayed up-to-date day-to-day with my calendar. I got things done that I had been putting off. I became calmer and more patient in my responses, which led me to be a better mother, wife, daughter, friend, granddaughter, and co-parent. I felt more warmth toward everyone around me. I began volunteering regularly to serve my community. I hugged my dad like an old friend, for the first time in my life.

Oh yeah, and I got better at yoga.

My 25th Year: a post-birthday post

This time last year, I was working in the digital department of a large local retailer, putting in sixty hour weeks working beneath an unqualified manager–and bully–who had “known the right person” to get his position. I was overworked, overwhelmed, filled with guilt about my inability to have time for my family, and unsure as to where my “family” stood: my son was now beginning to call my boyfriend his dad…leaving much to be desired. As a recent graduate, I was engulfed with worry that this was what I had worked hard for and it my new normal. I was devastated, to say the least. Those emotions are what consumed me during the days I celebrated the first #quartercenturyofkelsie.

I’m quick to assess a situation’s costs and benefits and make adjustments, regardless of how difficult they seem at first. My thirst for growth is never satiated, and the previous year was filled with big choices, mature revelations, humble understanding, and peaceful acceptance. Here’s some of what I learned in my twenty-fifth year:

1. I am enough.

I spent the first few years of my twenties trying to prove something. I had a child at nineteen. I was devastated by the stigma and felt I needed to be redeemed. My final year of college was guided by fear of achieving a job, and when my job was depleting my quality of life, I didn’t know how I could save myself while still upholding this Wonder Woman Mom image I had been fighting for.

In January of this year, I participated in a 40 day transformation the Houston yoga studio that I belong to. The program is a combination of daily yoga and meditation, mindful eating (and living), and hard-hitting concepts that everyone struggles with. Through this program and my inward contemplation, I began to understand how OKAY I already am, how my journey is just as it should be, the illusion of right vs. wrong, and applied these concepts to my perception of others. I highly recommend the program, which can be guided through Baron Baptist’s book, 40 Days to Personal Revolution.

2. Letting go is worth it.

This year I said goodbye to some people who had been friends to me for a very long time, and I also reconnected with someone whose friendship I had let go of years ago. Someone’s presence is either serving your journey or they are holding you back from it. Don’t let feeling like you owe someone keep you from the growth you need.

On a bigger scale, you have to be willing to let go in the same way of dreams that you had for you future, so that you can make room for new ones. When Mark proposed this past November, I was stoked to have the dream wedding I couldn’t have when I married my son’s father as a teenager and then have a marriage filled with love and respect as I had hoped. Then I reviewed the budget and had to prioritize.

We’re still getting married, but it won’t be a big affair. Yes, I had those dreams a child, but I dreamed of going to Harvard before I was a slacker and the various other ways I let my life go astray from that. The dreams I’m achieving because I didn’t get stuck in not achieving others is why my life is so fulfilled.

3. Working a 9-5 is SO last century.

My favorite thing about working from home for a Houston-based marketing firm and our partners, is that all of the people I’m meeting with have one thing in common: they value life as a whole.

There’s this big issue with work/home balance in our society, but the people in my circle are living the lives that they desire—travelling the world, having the time to enjoy their family, staying faithful in their religion, and being active in their hobbies, all while running a business. We work random hours, but we’re able to enjoy it, rather than spending half of the day mindlessly surfing the web and watching the clock.

4. I’m not that great of a parent.

.,..But I’m not that bad of one, either. When I was growing up, I was always upset my mom was at school or work instead of being around and spite toward my absentee father grew stronger and stronger. I had opinions about the parenting that was given to me, and was sure that when I became a mother, I would do everything better. When Tobias was in utero and infancy, I read all the books I could get my hands on, then I was cocky about the choices I made—sure that they were the “right” ones.

I yell, I say inappropriate things, I talk too much and lose my patience quickly. But I’m doing the best I can, and that’s okay. The boy is all right.

As am I. Twenty-six sure sounds old, but it came with a sense of peace and an invigorating sense of priorities. I’ll take that over a face without fine lines and wrinkles any day.