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Happy 2014! 20 things I know now

Last year at New Year’s this Norman Rockwell painting was my resolution.   


I wanted to make a mess of the year, and of myself. My resolution was to get my hands dirty, get in the fight, challenge myself, aim high, and not fear getting beaten up.

I can successfully say that after 30 years on earth, I have never stuck to or been as successful at keeping a New Year’s resolution. Here are 20 things I know now that I didn’t know one year ago.

1. How to move cross country: This one was tough. Not gonna lie. In February I looked at my husband fearfully and said “Are we gonna do this?” and “Do we have to?” He directly answered back “Yep.” And thus began one of the most stressful events of my life, moving out of New York city, our home of 7 years to Austin, Texas, with no jobs, no apartment, no cars, no connections, and no idea of what we were doing. It was amazingly stressful and we almost killed each other several times in U-hauls. But we did it. And we survived. The thing moving really teaches you is how wasteful you are. It shows you how much useless crap you have. I never realized a person could collect so many pairs of Yoga pants (in my case) and plays (in my husband’s case). The Christmas of the year you move cross country, you will say “I don’t need anything” and mean it for the first time in your life. Because DAMN. It’s just gonna be more stuff to move, store, or throw away.

2. How to say goodbye: I’m not the only one of my friends who moved away from the big city, but in my mind, I did it best. First off, I created a New York bucket list. This is very important when saying goodbye. The list included a Mets game, a big 30th birthday party, beers outside with friends, a sail boat ride around Manhattan, and most importantly- openly sharing with the people in my life what they meant to me. I made it a point to tell my friends, my teachers, my coworkers, my therapist, even my driving instructor Howard, how much I felt my life was touched by them. That I was a better person having known them. I took the time to reflect on where I had been and how far I had come, and I personally thanked everyone I could think of who had an impact on my life. Then we cried over coffee at West Village coffee shops or Pizza in Astoria.

3. How to have faith: Like I said earlier, we moved without any prospects. Although we have a great support network of family and friends, we jumped off a cliff. I was digging my nails in and being dragged every step of the way. I felt anger and sadness a lot during our move. My husband was a champ. But he wasn’t what got me through. I told my acupuncturist in New York I didn’t know if I was making the right decision to move. He said “Whatever the quiet voice is saying, do that.” Somewhere, deep inside, buried beneath my anger and fear, was a little voice that said to keep moving forward. So I did.

4. How to deal with anger: I never realized how many uses there are for an automobile. Your car is the perfect place to “Primal Scream”, as my friend Jonathan calls it. Moving can and will make you crazy. You need a place to primal scream.

5. How to quit a job or two that you care about: This was one of the most difficult things about my year. I had a job that I loved for 3 years. It was the first job in a new career and I worked with amazing people who taught me a lot. We were a close knit group and it was really difficult to leave especially because I had no idea where I was going. There is no easy way to break up with a man, a city, or a job. Basically, you have to really believe that you and they, will be ok and find someone or something else. This is where the faith comes in. Then, you have to be honest about your needs, your desires, and your worth. That brings me to my next learning moment:

6. How to be direct: This has been SUPER hard for me. It is one of my ultimate life obstacles. I want to please people. I want to say yes to all things. I want to be able to do everything and be all places at once. I can’t. And I won’t. This year has taught me to ask for what I need and state who I am. Up front. It’s really hard. I’ve realized that being a people pleaser is like being a delayed release capsule of asshole/psycho. It is not virtuous. People pleasing is fear and shame at it’s core. Nothing good will come from trying to be something you’re not or agreeing to do things you cannot do. You must ask for what you need, and respond accordingly if you cannot get it. This is the definition of integrity. If not, you will most likely really need a car for that primal screaming.

7. How to drive (on highways, busy streets, country roads at night, in a storm, downtown, very tired, very scared): I didn’t know that you shouldn’t use your brights in fog. I didn’t know what a faulty transmission sounds like. I didn’t know how good it could make you feel to be in control behind the wheel of a car. I owe so much to my driving instructor, Howard. A year ago on New Year’s I made a resolution that I would learn to drive and signed up for lessons in Queens. Howard is a Queens born, 60 year old man in sweat pants who says some of the most Guru sounding things I’ve ever heard in my life as a Yoga teacher. Some gems were “Are you breathing?” and “Are you having fun? This should be fun.” and “You should be very proud of yourself. You’re growing a lot.” and “Do you have any questions? I love questions” and “Who do we trust? No one. We trust us. We anticipate that the other person on the road might make mistakes. We can only control what we do. So we remain calm, aware, and always keep breathing.”

I’m telling you, the Universe sent me this man. He has made me an excellent and fearless driver, and a better Yoga teacher. Bless you, Howard.

8. How to be a more involved Aunt: Things I know now are important: the Backyardigans, stacking cups, not discussing family drama or making inappropriate jokes in front of a 4 year old. My 4 year old nephew loves Macklemore and this year he learned to swim. My 11 month old nephew lights up a room with his smile. Being closer to home to watch him walk and grow teeth has been incredible. It is magical. I didn’t know those things one year ago.

9. The Wisdom of Andy Grammar:

10. How to be adaptable: Whether throwing away items for that last day before your move, making new friends and seeking a new community, or learning to drive, relocating makes you nothing if not adaptable.

11. Why Being 30 is awesome: My 20’s were all about having fun and discovering who I am. My 30’s are about getting what I want and learning the lesson of grace when I don’t.

12. Why Long Distance Friendships are great: I was so afraid I would lose my friends in the move. Instead, I truly feel it has brought us closer. Thanks to modern technology, I stay connected in more ways than I ever thought possible. If you are ever planning a wedding, look around and think to yourself, “If I was to be in a time of crisis, which of these people would I text, call or skype for emotional support? Who would make me laugh, or let me cry, or offer advice, or just listen?” When you answer that question for yourself, you’ll have your bridal party.

13. That sunlight makes your hair thicker, and your soul shinier.

14. What marriage is: I have been with my husband for 10 years. We’ve been married for two of those years. Never did I understand so clearly what marriage was until this year, and I’m sure I’ll have a new chapter if we ever have kids. The move has brought us closer than ever. Marriage is being partners in a trench, guns drawn, alert and terrified, and having a secret sign language that indicates “I’ll cover you”. It’s knowing that if you run out of ammunition, you’re going to have to share your bullets with your trench partner and may not have enough for yourself. Marriage is having a door before you that’s only wide enough for one person and saying “you go first.” Marriage is growth and screaming matches and best friendship and it’s awesome. I don’t know who I’d be without it.

15. Teachers are everything. And everywhere: I didn’t think I would make it without my New York network of teachers and students. Suddenly, I’m noticing more teachers are emerging from everywhere I look. A pair of 80 year old lovebirds holding hands in my Yoga class during savasana, my 2 nephews, my new coworkers, my new students, everywhere I turn there are more teachers who will take me to the next level of my journey, and I’m grateful.

16. What “It’s all in who you know” really means: I used to think this meant making friends with important people. It doesn’t. It means surrounding yourself with people you truly and authentically feel are inspiring or fun to be with. When the people you love succeed, you succeed. When you are having fun, you succeed. When you are around people who inspire you, the creativity will flow like water. You make each other richer, you add to each other’s ideas. This is important when choosing a teacher, mentor, or boss, as well as friends, clients, and spouses. It really is all in who you know.

17. How to let things go: (sigh) a year ago I had a goal to apply for grad school this year and take the GRE. Since moving, my husband is now studying for school so he can go to school first. We both decided that because I have a skill set already in place, I can put off school and it’s important for him to go first. This is one goal I did not accomplish this year. It’s important when creating a long list of your year’s accomplishments to realize that the one you let go is totally, and absolutely acceptable. Learning to adapt and let things go is everything.

18. Support is everywhere, you just have to lean into it: I’ve heard the phrase “it’s when you’re down that you know who your real friends are” thrown around a lot. I don’t like this phrase because I believe it’s a little negative in it’s contextual implications. For my experience, I can say that it’s not until you need, that people provide. Your friends, family, and people who you barely know care about you more than you realize and have a deep, deep, capacity for kindness, generosity, and support. Hard times give us the opportunity to explore our kind and vulnerable selves. Between my in-laws helping us move, my best friend selling us her car, my brother and his wife giving us some furniture, and everyone who has listened to me cry, I am truly thankful. It’s our duty in life to rely on others. It gives us both the opportunity to connect. All life is connections.

19. How to confront everything I feared, and live to tell the story.

20. That skinny will never feel as good as breakfast tacos taste: enough said.

Wide Open Spaces

a4265913c28311ee0bde3369c83e8a2b   This is a picture I pinned about 7 months ago. I had entered the search “wide open spaces”. Yes, like the Dixie Chicks’ song. I had been gravitating toward a certain word for months leading up to that moment. Beginning the previous fall, I’d been diagnosed with Gastritis. Totes not a big deal, but I definitely was nauseous 24/7 for the better part of 5 whole months. Now, as you can probably imagine, that’s a very effective diet. Aside from the unintended benefit of new found svelt-ness, however, I was completely unhappy. Riding the New York City subway while wanting to vomit is an undesirable occurrence even once. Everyday for months, is just a flat out BITCH. In addition to that, I’m a Yoga Teacher. I taught for about 3 months nervously getting through each class feeling like I might lose my lunch any minute. “Look on the bright side” I told myself. “this is great practice for if you’re ever pregnant.” But I wasn’t pregnant. I was ill. All the time. I subsisted on a diet of white rice and coconut water with cinnamon. What was my problem? I had no idea. I had a job that I liked, my husband was awesome to me, and it had always been my dream to live in New York City. And here I had been doing it for 7 whole years! And finally making it. But. I was nauseous. All the time. “It must be stress” the doctor had said. “Maybe you worry to much at work.” my boss had suggested. “You were stressed even as a little girl.” offered my mother. None of these additions aided my issue.

Luckily for me, I was surrounded by the greatest community of Yoga teachers. Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthews of the Breathing Project had been giving me new things to think about for 2 years. If any of you have had the pleasure of studying from these two masters, you know how abstract and amazing their line of questions are:

How do we relate to our surroundings?

How do we feel support?

How to we find a balance between content and container? Between Sthira and Sukha (as Leslie would say)

How can we make use of space? In us, around us, and in our lives?

How can we create more SPACE……???

A gorgeous question, it’s inviting, it’s inspiring, and yet, every time the question arose I’d feel inadequate. I’d sit in class with furrowed brow. “I’m lacking space,” I thought. “My chest is tight. My breathing is shallow. I’m way too stressed. And it’s my fault. I’m a terrible Yoga teacher. And a hypocrite.”  A beautiful young woman was smiling at me in class. Afterward, she introduced herself. “Hi. I’m Akasha.”she said. “What an awesome name!” I replied. she smiled. “Thanks! It means Space.”

That was it. I couldn’t take it anymore! Between the rapidly moving, putrid smelling, terribly lit and noisy subway rides, my tiny apartment that we paid too much for, and feeling as though I could never take a full breath ANYWHERE, I’d had it. The universe had a question and Akasha had the answer. Well, maybe not the answer,  but her parents had the right idea! Space! I thought. Her parents must have been very wise, placing the appropriate amount of value on inner space, outer space, emotional space, holding a space, containing a space, needing a space, finding a space, and belonging to a space. They were my kind of people. And it was then that I knew what I needed.

Space is defined as “a continuous area or expanse that is free, available, or unoccupied.” In other words, something hard to come by in New York. It’s an urban myth, the New Yorker’s Chupacabra. “I know a girl who knows a girl who inherited an apartment and only pays $400 a month. It’s HUGE!”  This is a common tale told by the envious 20-something masses. But I was happy with my outer space. My husband and I had been working for years to create this life and it was finally happening. We lived in a great neighborhood, our place was a steal, a great place to raise a family! What was my problem? Somehow, things were not matching up. Something inside of me was calling bullshit on my awesome outer space. My inner space was demanding attention and it was overdue. Leslie Kaminoff works with people one on one, and if you ever get to watch him do it, it’s really cool. It’s as if he finds breath hiding in spaces people didn’t know they had. They take these huge, post-exorcism gasps and their chests open as if he’s using a crab cracker on their ribs. For me, it was terrifying to watch. I wasn’t sure why. And then it hit me.

I DO have space. I have A LOT of space. I’m just terrified of what’s in it. And I’m terrified it won’t be enough. And I’m terrified of what it will feel like to be free of what I’m holding. I wasn’t ready for space. And because I wasn’t ready, I knew it was what I needed. My husband agreed. He was ready for space. And so it was decided. 5 months later we were all packed. I said goodbye to my Breathing Project family. They assured me they’d hold a space for my visiting return. I had been filling my mind with ideas, and skills, and problems outside of my own, and now it was time for me to move into, find, and create more space of my own. So we headed to Austin, Texas. The land of my birth. Still a major city, but with LAND, and TREES, and BODIES OF WATER, and  larger amounts of cheap SPACE!

We’ve now been here for about 2 months. I have felt consistently lost since our move. Driving, trying to find new work, adjusting to a life without our friends has been difficult. But I know why I’m here. I’m here for the Akasha, baby. “The only way to figure out where you are is to get lost”, said my new boss completely literally the other day. YES. Yes, I thought. And so it goes. I’ve succeeded in conquering my fear and begun to move into the space. My next mission, as all pioneers before me, will be to claim the space. Beyond that, one day I will encounter and embrace the space within. Until then, I’m teaching others about their choices. Because although space is the goal, structure, direction, and contrast are my strong suits. And because space is hard for me to find in myself, I make it a priority to hold space for others. In fact, I’m brilliant at it. I’ve noticed my hair is thicker in Texas, and I’m no longer nauseous. Could be a coincidence. Could be the Vitamin D. Or it could be my subconscious mind and corporeal body reacting positively to being placed in a healthier situation, where trees are abundant and my fears have been laid to rest.

Embodying my vision of health and happiness does not make me successful. Holding a space for my anger, doubt, and fear does. I’m sitting in the synaptic space, as Amy Matthews says. In space lies possibility, and the need for creativity. I believe what has started out as a search, is turning out to be more of a lesson on how to be with what is.  And in my search for space, I have much to teach.