Sunday, November 24, 2013

Life in the Gray

I've never identified much with folks who find themselves living in the black or the white.

You know what I mean...those who absolutely do this and who absolutely will not do that.

Instead, almost always, I gravitate toward the gray.  There are very few situations where I draw definitive lines in the sand with no room to negotiate or to dialogue and 99.9% of those examples revolve around the advocacy or protection of my children.

But I must say, that I yearn to be them.  It seems like a safe, stable, predictable way to be...where one is in their head very little of the time, content in the knowledge that regardless of comfort, this is where they should be.  Almost like having a playbook for the multitude of sticky scenarios that life throws our way.

And so it was, on a recent outing with girlfriends and their littles, that I found myself opening up about all of the hidden words, feelings, fears that innately women knee-deep in the trenches of motherhood and marriage find themselves in.

Afraid to honestly explore the issues that seem to bubble to the surface but quickly get dismissed out of social norms and quite frankly the things we do and don't say in polite conversation....I was both grateful and elated that my friends rose to the occasion.  We got to somersault in the of judgement, exempt of the shoulds and the shouldn'ts

And as we each shared our tales...examples of what's working and what's not...what we can wrap our heads around and what still alludes became alarmingly clear that the world is messy...marriage and child rearing is raw, ugly, beautiful, painful, fraught with humanness through and through.

And that ultimately, what we need more in the world are less lines in the sand and more appreciation and understanding for the challenges of navigating through it all.  Because as the politically correct walls and barriers came crashing down, the flood of emotions emerged and we all realized that we're not alone.  Shame is a useless emotion.  And that it takes a village or at the very least, a collection of people who welcome you back into the fold when you've discarded yourself out of guilt or fear.

So while living my life in the gray is exhausting.  It feels real, authentic, engaging, and well, more like me...even if it's just one play at a time.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Chance Encounter in the Steam Room

I'm not the kind of girl who walks around the locker room nude.

In fact, I rarely undress at the gym and almost never take a shower.

I run, row, stair step, take classes, lift, swim, stretch and leave.

The most space I take up is a locker and sometimes, use of the lavatory and a quick spritz of deoderant.

So, it was odd last week when I decided to take a yoga class and indulge in the steam room.

Working through a running injury and feeling stressed with my three kiddos, I decided to fully embrace my time away from home.  After a challenging yoga regimen, I stripped, grabbed a towel and headed into the steam.  I was the only one there and it was nice to close my eyes, tilt my head back and ponder all the crazy thoughts that consumed my being.  After a few tears thinking about marathon training, I decided to lay down on the bench and take in the moment.

And then, the door opened.

I kept my eyes closed, but heard a voice say (visualize east coast), "AHHHH....It's GUORRGEOUS in here....Do you mind if I kick it up a notch?"

"Uh, no," I said...not really sure how you kick it up a notch.  But after a few sprays of water, the room got really you can't see your hand in front of you.

And so, I just kept my eyes closed and kept pondering how to let go and lean into the place I'm at in my life.

And then, I started to hear creaking and then rocking and then, yes, moaning. 

And naively, I assumed that like a massage, she was simply settling into the relaxation of the moment, until the light bulb went off and it hit me.  Holy shit...she's well, taking care of herself.

It was in that moment that I froze.

Sweet Mary, Joseph and Saint Jude.  What the fuck? do I get out of here?  And that's when I decided to count to 100, jump up, grab my towel and run into the shower.  While showering off the sweat and feeling a little PTSD, I thought, "what in the hell was that?  my imagination?  no, no...that was, well, I don't even know."

What do you do when crazy ass, out of the blue experiences happen to you?  Stand paralyzed?  Run?  Speak up?  Confront?  Laugh?  Join in?

Holy eyes are definitively wide open.  Everyone has a different level of comfort at the gym.  I'll have to work on mine.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Let Go and Lean In

Two weeks ago I was scheduled to start training for my first marathon race.

And sort of like clock work, I had to admit that I was injured...a chronic injury that I'd been ignoring probably for several weeks, okay, more like several months.  It allowed me to get through training for a half marathon and also to endure a fun, but exhausting 78-mile relay run. 

Suffering from heel pain, I started consulting the world...asking fellow mother running friends, triathletes, physicians, orthotic folks, and physical therapists.  After an epic fail physically and financially with orthotics, I got back to basics and started stretching and doing the work to get better.

And low and behold, slowly, but surely, I am healing.

The marathon is 24 weeks from today, so in theory, I should be okay...I suppose as long as I don't get injured again.

And so to try to minimize future injuries and to get stronger and leaner, I'm revamping the way I workout.  Incorporating more yoga classes and body resistance training with the hope that my running will get faster and my endurance will be greater.

And so it was at the end of a yoga class, after trying to contort my body into the 'Bird of Paradise' pose that I listened to powerful words from my instructor...

Lying on my back, palms open wide, eyes closed, right ear to the mat in the darkness, I heard:

"Remember that the natural state of the body is health and the natural state of the mind is happiness.  Honor that."

And I wanted to cry.

Wound tightly most of the time, I'm always trying to do so much.  And to be fair, I know that it's not just me.  Almost every woman struggles to enjoy life.  We're consumed with making sure that everyone has everything they need all of the time.  It's how we're wired as wives, mothers, daughters, friends, neighbors.  We seek to serve and to nurture, most often, at the cost of ourselves.  And then, one day, our own health and happiness has been compromised.  And we justify it because it's for a good cause.  Making sure that our loved ones have what they need makes us feel useful and brings a sense of joy...until, it doesn't and we're sick and tired, literally.

After the class, I sat in the steam room and through deep breaths, let the tears flow and remembered another mantra that the yoga instructor said, "You must practice letting go."  Words that seem impossible, improbable, and maybe even to an extent irresponsible.

But really, in this life, what do we control?  The truth is nothing.  It's all illusory.  It's all temporary.  And the harder we cling, the quicker it disintegrates.

The trick must be to choose the experience for experience sake and not exclusively for the purpose of the outcome.  Trust that organically the body seeks to be free from disease, most notably from stress-induced behaviors and that the mind seeks to be free from worry and guilt, so that it can thrive and elevate toward joy and happiness.

This information will be pivotal as I start to train for my first marathon race, which will certainly be more challenging mentally than physically.  My prayer is that I can let go and lean in to all that it has to offer.