yoga dorc

life and times of a modern day yogini (named dorcas)


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make it happen.

success

We’re obsessed with success.

“If you believe in yourself enough
And know what you want
You’re gonna make it happen
(Make it happen)”

Mariah Carey told us so in 1992 with her hit ‘Make it Happen.” Go ahead, take a listenūüôā

The 90’s are long gone, and who knows about Mariah, but the sentiment lives on in a BIG way.

But can you really just make it happen?

Like, what if you really really really want to have a baby but you can’t. ¬†Or what if you really want to make more money and you really believe in yourself, but the money ain’t flowing. Or what if you really want to be cancer free, but you aren’t? Or what if you really want to be the first female president but its not up to you? ¬† Or what if you just really want to put your face on your feet like the girl next to you in baddhu konasana, but that’s a joke.

And what if you even:

“get down on your knees at night
And pray to the Lord
He’s gonna make it happen
Make it happen,”

but it’s still not happening?

I don’t know the answer, but in my obsession with getting rid of crap I don’t need, I recently came across my ‚Äėgoal sheet‚Äô from 2004. It really got me thinking that maybe we, the people of our modern day culture, have it all wrong believing¬†we can just willfully force things to happen and expect a happy ending.

This set of goals was far more than scribbles on a page. ¬†They had evolved considerably since I started the contemplative and written practice¬†in the late 1980’s when I was 9 or 10 years old. ¬†A work of art, I had taken time to color code, print on cardstock and assemble them in a binder. ¬†Scanning the pages, I could see that by 2004, they were finally more mine than my parents.¬† I had deviated from the (Glen Bland) method and gone wildly rouge by adding a few new categories like “Life Goals.” ¬†Purple, centered, in a slightly cursive font and at the top, my own true desires were sprinkled in and rising. ¬†Just as I was then, I am most proud of this section. ¬†It marked a deviation. ¬†Slight, but notable.

The “life goals’ were vague and grandiose. Have kids. Write a book. Live abroad. ¬†They were wildly rouge because there was no date attached, no plan of action to follow and that was the death of a goal in the Glen Bland Method. ¬†But these¬†were things I could imagine I wanted. I didn’t want them now of course. ¬†No way. ¬†Too big. Too scary. ¬†But someday, maybe.

I can rattle off this definition without even thinking, nearly 30 years later:

“Success is the progressive realization of predetermined goals, stabalized by balance and purified by belief.”

But is it really?

I’m just not sure.

glen blandThis is what Glen Bland taught me in the late 1980’s. ¬†His book, entitled, Success, the Glen Bland Method, was required reading by Tyler Quynn, my dad. ¬†I remember reading it in the back of the suburban on our one of our many cross country trips.¬† Reading, followed by questions about what I had read, followed by years of prescribed weekly goal sheets that had to be turned into Tyler Quynn.

It wasn’t just me. Big brothers Rudy and Willy turned in goal sheets too. Many a Sunday night were spent doing it at the last minute before the week came to a close. ¬†No kid really wants to stop playing to go sit down and write out goals. ¬†But indeed, it was very effective in guiding us toward worldly success. ¬†We all got our black belts within the time frame we set out and Rudy and Willy went on to be distinguished Navy Seals just as they planned. ¬†And I learned to ‘control my emotions,’ which was one of my 5 affirmations I would write weekly.

And in my 20’s, when I found myself in debt from my college education and burdened by the feeling of being financially trapped, I sat down and applied the Glen Bland Method to my life. ¬†Earn 100K, pay off all debt. ¬†I had a calculator and determined exactly how I would do it and sure enough. IT WORKED. I was focused, un-yeilding and fiercely driven. I made it happen and was successful.

DQ Photo LargeBut it was also horrible.  One of the worst periods of my life.  I spent most of my time in the car. I ate tons of fast food while talking on the phone and driving.  I experienced crushing stress and regular migraines.  I literally ran everywhere.  I even went running when I could.  I met a few real gems, but more often absorbed rude, demanding clients that treated me like the real estate salesperson they expected me to be. Yoga was my refuge, but I was severely unbalanced.
Not surprisingly, I applied the same willful quality and pressure to my relationship.  On that very same couch that I drafted my get-out-of-debt-goals, I insisted that A and I get married. Either that, or consider a breakup. I needed definition, certainly, clarity.  What were we doing after all?  So we made it happen.  We got married.  2 weeks later in fact.  The surprise event was fun and exciting and a proud moment, but my willfulness left no space for an inspired engagement or organic romance.  But success, yes.

In this very same period, an unexpected window opened.  I paused. Nowhere to be found on my goal sheet and definitely not something I had time for if I was to stick to my get-out-of-debt-plan, but overwhelmingly and serendipitously the right step РSol Yoga opened in January 2005 after barely any preparations or planning.   It was the opposite experience of making something happen.  Instead, it felt like I was being PUSHED, even propelled to do something.  Every piece of the puzzle fell into place without effort.  The space, the help, the timing, the rent, the people, the website, the name, everything.  I never bothered with a business plan, a business loan, marketing, nothing.  People heard and people came. And as more effort was required, time expanded.   All I did was keep saying yes and teaching yoga. This felt effortless, joyful, rewarding and happy and its been that way since 2005. Success would never have been a word I would have chosen to describe it.  There was nothing pre-determined about it.

So WHAT IS SUCCESS?  Who defines it anyway?  Besides Glen Bland of course.  A little research turns up alot of viewpoints.

It’s obviously more than money and power, as Arianna Huffington discusses the ‘third metric’ which includes ‘well-being’ ¬†in her book Thrive. ¬†Maya Angelou defines it this way:

“Success¬†is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”

And who knew that Glen Bland and Deepak Chopra have similar versions.

“Success in life could be defined as the continued expansion of happiness and the progressive realization of worthy goals,” Chopra writes in The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success.

But the most well known American success guru, Steven Covey, author of¬†“The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” which was also required reading in the Quynn Household, believes success is defined by the individual.

Great, so according to Covey, its on me to decide.

Until recently, I’ve largely operated under the philosophy, as most of us do, measuring success externally –¬†good job or meaningful work, good relationships and some money to spend. ¬†And, like most, believing it is well within my control to make that happen. ¬†Think about what you want, envision your life, set your goals, and voila, get results. ¬†Using goal setting as a critical aspect – create specific, attainable and time bound goals with a plan of action. ¬† Commit to the plan and be held accountable too.

And I’m not the only one out there doing this very thing, ALOT of people are. ¬†Personally and professionally – planning, action-stepping, focusing and chasing the goal. ¬†And this is the exact definition of the:

rat race
noun
  1. a way of life in which people are caught up in a fiercely competitive struggle for wealth or power.
    • an exhausting, usually competitive routine.

rat raceI’ve held onto this belief for so long because it does indeed, yield results. Especially if you are strong, competitive and¬†not adverse to suffering. ¬†I believed if things weren’t happening it was because I didn’t plan well enough, or work hard enough.

But as much as Tyler Quynn taught me to believe Glen Bland, he also taught me to never be limited by what someone tells you. ¬†A charge I’ve¬†practiced for many years now – yoga has little to do with the body and is actually a path of inquiry. ¬†Complimented more recently with a study of¬†A Course in Miracles, a system of debunking perception and revealing truth, and here we go Steven Covey. ¬†I’m ready to re-define success (for me).

Here’s my beef. ¬†The thing that has given me pause for the past 10 years (I’m an observer and slow thinker).

People are not happy. ¬†Outer success and inner contentment are not lining up. ¬† I know, so obvious, right? ¬†But in a day and age and culture that is cranked up on caffeine and actually VERY productive and VERY successful in the eyes of the world, I don’t know too many happy people. ¬†Scores of people flock to yoga to alleviate something. Every other person I talk to in my inner and outer circles are flagging from stress, anxiety or depression and a high percentage of them have a pretty regular relationship with anti-depressants, anxiety or similar drugs. ¬†And because everyone is doing it, it’s the norm.

I have known people that have committed suicide because they were not successful enough.¬†They had millions. ¬†Just today, my french neighbor pulled in her driveway and got out of her car looking distressed. ¬†She sat down on the concrete wall between our homes and confessed that she had a ‘resolution’ to not be stressed this year. As though she could just make it happen. ¬†Casually, she chatted. ¬†I doubt she even realized but her head was in her hands as she talked.

“Zee job is oh-kay. ¬†But I have mooneey. I have my house. ¬†I have my children and husband. ¬†Zeese are the most important things.”

She shook her head as if to say, ‘if only I could get rid of the stress.’ ¬†There is a language barrier and a distance, but a deep understanding of the problem. ¬†It is not rare. ¬†It is not uncommon. ¬†For generations, we have strived for these things – good job, money, then house, then family. ¬†Or sometimes, money, family, house.

People may be living longer, or richer, but they are not living more content, meaningful lives. ¬†In a Harvard study, back in 2011,¬†National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), the rate of antidepressant use in this country ¬†(USA) among teens and adults increased by almost 400% between 1988‚Äď1994 and 2005‚Äď2008. ¬†In an article in 2013, citing an increased use in ‘rich’ countries ¬†“Antidepressants are widely oversubscribed to get rid of unhappiness,” said Professor Tim Cantopher, consultant psychiatrist with the Priory Group in the UK. The rates today continue to skyrocket.

I’m not trying to pick on people that use Prozac, and obviously I’m not a researcher, but does this freak anyone out? ¬†Either we have a pharmaceutical crisis or we have a mental health crisis, or we have a lack of happiness crisis, but there is definitely a crisis. ¬†And one that we are band-aiding at best.

And when I get really clear, which I’ve been doing down here in New Caledonia, ¬†I see the same for myself. ¬†Success, yes. ¬†Ultimate Health, no. ¬†Deep contentment and happiness, no. It’s not lining up.

WHY?

If you assume that almost everything is a function of your unique perception of life, or your mental thoughts around a position, which I happen to believe, then this is all a problem of the mind.  

As I sat staring at my goal sheet from 2004, I wondered.

What is this obsessive, pervasive attachment to precisely planned goals and a controlled future? ¬†My life plan before me, encased in a binder for fucks sake. ¬†Like I might forget what I’m passionate about or how to live. It struck me as kind of weird.

Is this at all related to or effective in producing happiness, the very thing that seems to be the juice of life? ¬†Is it possible that it (the ‘make it happen’ philosophy) even diminishes our potential for maximum ‘success?’

I was amused by my own discoveries. ¬†That my vague ‘life goals’ from 2004 had manifested. Without even a plan of action or dates. ¬†And not at all in any way that I could have imagined. I’ve had 3 kids. I live abroad. ¬†I write all the time (though there is no ‘book.’). ¬† And that the door that organically opened (Sol Yoga) has continued to propel me forward, filling me with richness and depth and inspiration.

Sometime after 2004, maybe when I packed this brilliant work away, I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants. ¬†I rarely¬†know what I’m doing until I’m doing it. ¬†I sometimes pretend this is an accident, but it’s all by design. I’ve strengthen my internal guidance system and find planning & scheduling completely un-creative and flat. ¬†Dream I can do. Imagine, got that covered. ¬†But I need access to intuition in the moment to make my best moves. Where will the wind blow me? ¬†Where am I needed? ¬†What opportunity will I seize today?¬†Seriously, how do I¬†know what would be good for tomorrow?

I think this is called faith. ¬†But I’m not actually sure. ¬†Because it’s different than the faith I had growing up. ¬†The Episcopal church kind.

It’s a faith that there is another factor at play. A factor that cannot be contained inside the tiny space of our minds. A factor we cannot rationalize without limiting it. Something beyond our control that guides the flow of life. ¬†The recognition that OTHER people’s lives, or events intersecting with ours might magnify our potential in ways we literally never imagined in the space of our minds.

It’s like when you are driving around block looking for parking. ¬†There are no spaces. ¬†You make another loop and someone pulls away just in front of your stop. ¬†Couldn’t predict it, couldn’t make it happen any sooner than it did. ¬†But look how easy that made your life. (this is how i look for parking by the way – it drives A CRAZY – just driving around having faith something will shift in the perfect time).

So I set about researching this notion that goal setting can actually limit maximizing your true potential.¬†And what I found initially was again, overwhelming support for goals, intentions, accountability, mentor-ship, vision boards, anything that helps you answer the question ‘what do I want for my life?’

But then I started to find a smaller voice and less research that taps into the reason behind this obsession with planning. And it started to get juicy and exciting! ¬†Because of course, it supports my position. ¬†My position that has developed from years of yoga and meditation brain re-organizing, interaction with thousands of students affected by the pressures of leading successful lives, 20 years of living with someone that is completely driven by living in the moment and happiness and can’t even imagine a ‘goal.’ ¬†And of course, my own self study.

And I found this great article filled with research. The following is an excerpt.

British journalist¬†Oliver Burkeman¬†argues in The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can‚Äôt Stand Positive Thinking¬†‚ÄĒ a fascinating look at how our conventional approaches to happiness and success tend to backfire as our very efforts to grasp after such rewards generate a kind of anti-force that pushes us further away from them. This counterintuitive, counterproductive proclivity is particularly palpable when it comes to plans and goal-setting. Burkeman writes:

“What motivates our investment in goals and planning for the future, much of the time, isn‚Äôt any sober recognition of the virtues of preparation and looking ahead. Rather, it‚Äôs something much more emotional: how deeply uncomfortable we are made by feelings of uncertainty. Faced with the anxiety of not knowing what the future holds, we invest ever more fiercely in our preferred vision of that future ‚ÄĒ not because it will help us achieve it, but because it helps rid us of feelings of uncertainty in the present.”

“The solution, however, might not be to further tighten the grip with which we cling to our plans ‚ÄĒ rather, it‚Äôs to let go of plans altogether,” he continues.

Sitting in uncertainty is a very hard practice. But as the article continues,

‚ÄúUncertainty is where things happen. It is where the opportunities ‚ÄĒ for success, for happiness, for really living ‚ÄĒ are waiting.‚ÄĚ

Sha-bang. There it is.  When we plan away the uncertainty, we miss the magic.

Running Sol Yoga has always felt a little like magic. ¬†Because of course, ¬†it was given to me. ¬†I didn’t seek it. I just said yes. ¬†So I was interested to read this:

“In considering what it might mean to lean into uncertainty and embrace it, Burkeman cites the work of psychologist Saras Sarasvathy, who studied the essential qualities that successful entrepreneurs share. In her extensive interviews with forty-five such people, who all fulfilled the same criteria for ‚Äúsuccess‚ÄĚ ‚ÄĒ a minimum of fifteen years‚Äô experience in launching businesses and at least one company they had taken public ‚ÄĒ she found a profound disconnect between the cultural trope of the innovator as a goal-oriented go-getter who brings her concrete vision to market and the reality of what these successful entrepreneurs did have in common. Burkeman writes:

We tend to imagine that the special skill of an entrepreneur lies in having a powerfully original idea and then fighting to turn that vision into reality. But the outlook of Sarasvathy’s interviewees rarely bore this out. Their precise endpoint was often mysterious to them, and their means of proceeding reflected this. Overwhelmingly, they scoffed at the goals-first doctrine of [management theorists Edwin] Locke and [Gary] Latham. Almost none of them suggested creating a detailed business plan or doing comprehensive market research to hone the details of the product they were aiming to release.

Instead, at the heart of the entrepreneurial spirit lies something else entirely:

The most valuable skill of a successful entrepreneur ‚Ķ isn‚Äôt ‚Äúvision‚ÄĚ or ‚Äúpassion‚ÄĚ or a steadfast insistence on destroying every barrier between yourself and some prize you‚Äôre obsessed with. Rather, it‚Äôs the ability to adopt an unconventional approach to learning: an improvisational flexibility not merely about which route to take towards some predetermined objective, but also a willingness to change the destination itself. This is a flexibility that might be squelched by rigid focus on any one goal.

Huh. ‘Improvisational flexibility.’ I like that. Sounds like a muscle I could stretch in yoga. And ‘unconventional approach to learning,’ – isn’t that exactly what reading Glen Bland in the back of a cross-countrying-suburban is all about?

I think I remember something else about that time in my life. Another fine soundtrack laced with overly simplified wisdom –¬†Kenny Rodgers, The Gambler¬†(go ahead, listen to this one to too).

“You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
Know when to run

Every gambler knows
That the secret to survivin’
Is knowin’ what to throw away
And knowin’ what to keep”

Aren’t we supposed to really learn from our parents. ¬†Like, learn from their mistakes and stuff too? Keep the good stuff, improve the lackluster and toss out the old?

On her deathbed, my grandmother asked me what I would do with my life.  I had no idea to be honest, so I told her I was thinking about getting my MBA.  She quickly told me if I was going to do something great with my life, or have accomplishments, I should do it while my parents are still alive so they can enjoy it.

This is the philosophy that raised my father.  Accomplish something.  Be somebody. Make people proud.

And my dad made a correction, he did parent us differently. Most importantly he chose my mother who is pure unconditional love embodied. Beyond that, he very openly loved the hell out of us, spend loads of time with us and told us we could absolutely do anything we wanted. ¬† Just be the best at it. ¬†“If you want to be a trashman, just be the best trashman.” ¬†He gave us confidence and conviction and clarity. ¬†And he gave us fail safe method for achieving anything we could think of that we ‘wanted.’ He gave us Glen Bland and the courage to just make it happen.¬†

Perhaps this next generation, as it vigorously studies the science of happiness, instead of¬†the science of success, will allow us to make a widespread correction. ¬†A correction toward being happy NOW instead of after we succeed. ¬†Because according to Shawn Achor, in this powerful talk on Oprah’s Supersoul TV about Happiness,

“If you can find a way to be happy NOW, you get an incredible advantage.

1) your creativity triples 2) productivity improves by 30% 3) your intelligence rises  4) you are 40% more likely to receive a promotion.

When you choose happiness first, you can trump your genes and your environment in just 2 minutes per day.”

So, goal sheet, Ty Quynn, Glen Bland and Kenny Rodgers, a sincere thank you. ¬†All those interactions have lead me to this moment. ¬†Where I redefine success and connect it directly to happiness. ¬†Where I throw away my goal sheet, walk away from predetermining my life, run away from ‘making it happen’ and instead, hold onto faith in uncertainty.

For 2016, I will stop asking myself what I want, and try this Daily Prayer from a Course in Miracles: Where would You have me go? What would You have me do? What would you have me say, and to whom?

‘Success’ can feel amazing and it can feel shallow. ¬†When we listen, we all know this.

‚ÄúSuccess means we go to sleep at night knowing that our talents and abilities were used in a way that served others.‚ÄĚ Marianne Williamson

 

 

 

 

 

 


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writing declaration.

No step is too small.  There is only now.

On my ‚Äėlife goals‚Äô list from 2004 is to write a book.

Words stream through my head at all times. In there (my mind), they are beautiful, fluid, meaningful.  But my hands are always full, never free to pen them down.

I’m torn.  I practice letting go.  Letting go of the words, the sentences, the stories. Having faith they will come back when the time is right. Having faith that perhaps they will be even better then.  But passion is hard to put off.  It does not take kindly to being second place. It is not reasonable and logical.

So I will begin.  Again.  And again if need be.  I will let go of perfection and just write. The fragments, the incomplete stories, the random.  I will trust that, indeed, they will come together into something we call a book.  And if not, I will at least have written.

 


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the birthday series, part 2

(1/2 started, old entry – practicing leaving things incomplete is HARD)

DSC_3407Birthday season comes to a close on a sweet note.  Jonah’s birthday rounds out our burst of summer birthdays.  And of course, it all started with him.  He’s the one that made me a mother.  Seven years ago today.  So much has changed in those years.

I certainly didn’t set out to raise a family.  Just to have a baby.  Then another. Then another.  But now all of the sudden, I realize I am fully engulfed in the very full time IMG_7449experience of RAISING A FAMILY.  Once upon a time, I had a career in real estate.  And before you actually buy a house, someone sits down with you and goes over a 30 page contract of what you are getting into.  Then you do inspection after inspection.  Then you go to settlement and do more paperwork, that an attorney explains.  And even still you have a chance to get out of it for 2 or 3 days after that.  Where is the RAISING A FAMILY CONTRACT?!  The explanation that your autonomy and independence will be temporarily confiscated, given back to you only for mere moments.  That your ability to have a complete conversation with another adult without interruption will be rare, if ever.  That your dependence on yourself will not be enough.  That grocery shopping, food prep, daily logistics and laundry will now consume most of your thoughts and your life. And that you will most certainly be changed (for better or worse).

20 things that have changed since I became a mother:

  1. I cook. I actually cook. I put at least 12 nutritious meals on the table every week for 5 people.
  2. I realize I can’t do this (life) by myself. I used to be entirely self sufficent and proud of it.  Now I am proud to ask for or hire help.
  3. There is nothing you can buy me that would top a good, full nights sleep. Nothing.
  4. I used to love accumulating stuff, now I’m obsessed with getting rid of it all.
  5. A good girlfriend is gold. Especially one that loves your kids, or can even just watch them.
  6. Good paid help is worth paying for.
  7. I’m less afraid. There are moments when I feel actualized. Powerful. Empowered by my family.
  8. I’m more afraid. Nothing trumps the fear of losing your child.
  9. I appreciate my body. Wow. Function, stamina and safety, all built in.
  10. I don’t take autonomy for granted. 2 hours alone is what 2 weeks used to be. Saaaweeet.
  11. I have a real yoga practice.
  12. I drive a minivan. (it pains me greatly to even write that)
  13. I realize that I am resentful. I used to just be
  14. I tell people I love them.
  15. My cup size.
  16. I don’t control my emotions. I feel them.
  17. I let other people take responsibility for their own experience of life.
  18. I make homemade ghee every week.
  19. I don’t eat junkfood.
  20. I love myself. And now I can love my neighbor.
just pre jonah, june 2008

just pre jonah, june 2008


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i quit

i quit sugarIts been over a year since I quit sugar. ¬†I didn’t even know it was a thing until I heard a bunch of Aussie’s talking about new cookbooks and bumped into Sara Wilson on Instagram. Apparently,¬†its all the rage right now. ¬† After a popular New York Times best seller, I¬†quit sugar, ¬†and an 8 week program that¬†A LOT of people¬†have tried, quitting sugar is making its way mainstream. ¬†And of course, its surrounded by drama and¬†controversy. ¬†Its bad, its good. Sara Wilson doesn’t know what she’s talking about, etc. etc.

Its no secret that white, refined sugar has been classified as a poison because it has been depleted of its life forces, vitamins and minerals.  And high fructose corn syrup gets a fair bit of bad press now too.  And more than ever, obesity has been linked to the effects of refined sugar in our diets.

But I’m no expert. I can only speak for myself.

Do i feel good? Yes.

Did I lose weight? Yes. Weight I didn’t even know I had to lose.

Do I ever get bloated anymore? Nope.

Is it hard? No, its actually not.

Do I have cravings?  Sometimes.  For these moments, I learned how to make pretty awesome chocolate.

Do my kids eat sugar? Yes. 80/20 rule with them.

But lets be clear. Saying I quit sugar could be misleading. Sucrose is table sugar. Glucose is in our blood and our energy source, fructose is what you find in fruits that is metabolized differently. For about 6 months, I wiped it all out of my diet. including fructose and natural sweeteners (thecandidadiet.com).  After that, I added the good stuff back in, but never the junk.  Nowadays, I eat loads of fruit and carry a vile of maple syrup around with me for that occasional cup of coffee I have.

My dad said I should never quit, but in this case, I think its a win.

 


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The birthday series. part 1

DSC_3404Rosemary reminds me of my summer babies.

We have a HUGE, overgrown, can’t-be-killed rosemary bush just outside our home in Frederick.  It has been driven over, week wacked and survived horrible winters. But remarkably, every June & July it is THRIVING.  Plump, fragrant and unaffected by nonstop snipping for this and that.

For some strange and unknown reason, the morning after all three home births of Jonah, Ivy and Paloma, A would bring to my bedside, with arms outstretched like an offering, a wooden bowl with things to smell ‚Äď a sprig of rosemary, a rose, and a few mint leaves. Perhaps, an intuitive invitation to stop, and smell the roses.¬†It is a remarkable, perfect moment.

And so when I think of ivy, I think of many things, but rosemary is one of them. I often invite her to rub her hands in it or take a sniff.

DSC_0062It was five years ago this morning that she made her precise arrival.  It was her due date.  June 4th 2010.  23 month old fat cheeked Jonah was fast asleep in his big boy bed in the room next door. I had just stepped into the birth pool to help ease labor, but the water became far too hot with the heat of the summer and the intensity of my contractions. The midwife and A silently, with flashlights, at 2am in the morning, ran mixing bowls of cold water from the bathroom to the pool to help chill the water.

It was totally ineffective.

I hung off the edge of the birth pool, heavy arms dangling to the floor.  Not wanting to be in or out.  Not knowing if I should sit, stand, kneel or puke, sweat dripping in my eyes.

And then it happened.  A  strong push came out of nowhere and I felt her come all the way down.  I was so thrilled that it might be over that I groaned and added to the push with all my might.

But no.

I slumped back on the side of the pool and felt her slide all-the-way-back-up inside. ‚ÄúF—UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU-K‚ÄĚ I frustrated-ly moaned.

It’s so hard to collect yourself during labor, to regain composure, to surrender to the fact that you have NO IDEA how long this is going to take.   But I went back inside myself and waited.

Thankfully, she didn’t keep me long at all.  The next push, her head popped right out under water.  The midwife shined her light on her big open eyes as she unwrapped the cord from her neck and gave me the go ahead to push her the rest of the way out.

I announced that she was a boy. When I pulled her face to mine, all I could see was Jonah’s expression.  But indeed, SHE was a SHE.

She loves to reenact the story. She curls up against my belly. I tap into the deepest, guttural, birthing groan I can muster and she descends.¬† She ‚Äėpops‚Äô her head out, looks around, then wiggles the rest of the way off my bed where she pretends to be slippery and newborn-ish.¬† Sometimes, she goes into my closet and pretends that is my uterus.¬† Once she has instructed me to call the midwife, then push her out, she slides the closet door open and emerges.

DSCN1584DSCN1610DSCN1645

I knew it the moment she was born.  In fact I knew it when I was pregnant that she was a fierce one.  I always felt scared, on edge and tipped from my usual steadiness.

IMG_2088Ivy.  Ivy Elizabeth McWilliams.  Her face.  Her square jaw.  Her penetrating ice blue pitta eyes. I’ve gotten to know her now but she continues to carry a veil of mystery about her.  She shows up exactly as she is, which is not always predictable.

She cannot fake anything.  Unless of course she is playing pretend.  Then she can fake everything.  One hour she’s assertive, charming, engaging, funny, mature and adamant.  The next she is tipping over furniture on her way to thrash around in her bed with brown blanket screaming profanities and threats.IMG_7301

I love her.¬† She is wild and wonderful. ¬†She loves adventure and lives with passion and power.¬† When she loves me, she loves me so hard it hurts.¬† We both cry, tears of love streaming down our faces.¬† And then she looks at me and tells me to stop crying because its making her cry more.¬† When she hates me, she throws shit, scratches, squeezes and screams DIRECTLY IN MY FACE WHILE STARING IN MY EYES. ¬†‚ÄúIf you don‚Äôt get me some warm milk RIGHT NOW, I‚Äôm going to get ANGRIER and start scratching you.‚ÄĚ

But I am trained for this.¬† Once she was out of my belly, I regained my steadiness.¬† She pushes my buttons like NOONE, but nonchalance is my specialty.¬†¬† I tell her I love her and give her some space to realize that she has mistaken her love for hate.¬† In fact, she just reminded me tonight as we sat together drawing – ¬†‚ÄúWhen I say I hate you, I really don‚Äôt mean it.¬† But my body makes me say it.¬† Its like I‚Äôm going to throw up if I can‚Äôt say it.¬† But I actually love you.‚ÄĚ

Happy 5th birthday my awesome one.  Warm glass of milk, sprig of rosemary and a dash of adventure coming right up.

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3-6-5

My man¬†is away on work travel in Fiji and everything is breaking. ¬†I can’t get the car in gear. The kids broke the key off trying to open the mailbox, Paloma broke the laptop I use all the time, the kitchen sink clogged and I had to do some plumbing, the washer overflowed, all the IT is problematic, my Iphone is still dead from its trip down the toilet, AND I’m sick for the first time since I’ve been here. ¬†I’m tattered and worn.

Woe-is-me.

holdin hands5x7pResentful, I sat down to email A a ‘honey’ do list of all the broken things to prepare him when he comes home and I realized it was 3-6-5. ¬†March 6, 2005, A and I got married in a small, surprise ceremony with 22 friends and close family. ¬†Ten years ago, today I was dressed in a white gown, riding in a very fast limo with my BF – running late to the tiny, cold, candlelit stone chapel on south mountain. ¬†My grandmother awaited in her finest fur coat and orange lipstick. ¬†Friends helped sprinkle rose pedals, light candles and tweak the propane heater we rented. ¬†Both my brothers were miraculously in the same place at the same time and my dad had just been told he was¬†to walk me down the aisle in 10 minutes.

As the memory quickly flashes across my mind, it all catches me by surprise. ¬† Snapped out of my own self pity and sore throat, I noticed too that I was listening to Krista Tippets interview with Thich Nath Hahn On Being. ¬†Compassion, gratitude and forgiveness are hallmarks of the monk’s philosophy on living. Mine too. In theory anyway.

And so, I scratched the honey-do list for this one.

Thanks A, 10 Things I’m Grateful For On our Anniversary

1) Thanks for a great love story.  My first and only true love. From our first non verbal notice of each other in chemistry class in 1995 to falling in love over Bauer skate boxes, jujitsu lessons behind the ice rink and all night conversations in the VW Jetta.  It was unconventional and magical.  I can only hope our daughters have such a beautiful and charmed experience in their life.

IMG_09752) Thanks for your persistence with my family. ¬†Daddy Ty and brothers Rudy and Willy aren’t an easy group to sway. after years of painful, awkward encounters, you still persisted, unaffected by their rejection. ¬†And now, our strong bonds will affect future generations. I deeply cherish this.

IMG_31423) Thanks for you patience with me.  Undeterred by my absolute, stubborn unwillingness to hike the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal with you, you waited, albeit annoyed, until I came around. You always push and persist, not letting me give into my own fears. Always giving me the time I need to say yes and never throwing it back in my face.

4) Thanks for being an awesome birth partner.  Moments we will always hold as high marks in our IMG_0994adventure together.  I have never valued your presence more than during those hours our babies made their way into our world.  I have never surrendered so deeply to the unknown or felt so supported, encouraged and respected by you. (except in the beginning when we always get in a big fight because I want to be alone and you want to be with me).

IMG_62805) Thanks for being an extrovert.  You, single-handedly, bring balance to me and to our family.  You take us out, bring us adventure, keep us social and demand we LIVE life instead of DO DISHES all weekend.

6) Thanks for the 30 second snuggle.  The secret to long-lasting relationships. Really, its only 30 seconds.

7) Thanks for being interesting.  You keep yourself fresh, informed, up to date on all kinds of stuff.  You can spew off random facts and cool stories and teach the kids, or me, about anything we ask.  You are curious, clever and forward moving. Stagnation and boredom are not in your life.  I love this.

8) Thanks for holding up the mirror and holding me accountable for my faulty perception of myself. Although this is the most painful aspect of a relationship, it is the one I ultimately value the most.  I grow and evolve and improve because of you.

9) Thanks for breaking my heart a few times.  It may sound weird, but I know I have loved deeply and madly and lost.  I have learned a great deal from my suffering and it gives me empathy and insight into all other forms of suffering.  It teaches me forgiveness and humility and the opportunity to be vulnerable over and over again.

10) Thanks for taking care of yourself. ¬†You have self-respect. ¬†You set a good example of how to stay happy and balanced for me and our children. ¬† And it doesn’t hurt that you still look as handsome as ever to me. ¬†And with much better shoes.

Happy Anniversary my love.  1995-2015.  Lets go for 20 more.

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just say yes

DSC_3325She’s a mother of four grown kids. ¬†A triathlete turned yogi. ¬†An adventurer and lover of the open road. ¬†And she’s my guest in New Caledonia!

As if the full life she has lived already is not enough, she has sold her belongings and taken a one way ticket to places she has never been.

For the past 10 days, every time I ask her. ¬†” do you want to go …” she¬†says YES.

Now, that is inspiration.

“love the life you live.
live the life you love.‚ÄĚ
‚Äē Bob Marley


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skinny

point breakI always wanted to be that chick on Point Break. ¬†The one that shimmied her jean shorts up her wet and sand covered legs, tossed her bikini on the floor of her MG and rushed off to work. Her name was “Tyler” (Lori Petty). I must have watched that movie a hundred times, always imagining my escape from Frederick, Maryland to Encinitas¬†California. All I knew was that I would surf. ¬†And by default I would have long white hair, tan skin and strong legs.

That was NINETEEN NINETY¬†ONE. ¬†Patrick Swayze was hot and Keanu Reaves had a big future. I was 13 years old. Turns out a lot can happen in 20+ years. ¬†Patrick Swayze lost his battle with Pancreatic Cancer, ¬†Encinitas has been named one of the World’s 20 Best Surf Towns by National Geographic and is home to some of the most premier yoga and wellness centers in the world, including The Chopra Center for Wellbeing¬†(which is nestled in the LaCosta resort where my mom worked in her 20’s.) ¬†Keanu Reeves is 50 and well, I tried surfing at Moonlight Beach in the late 90’s, got pounded against the rocks and left my dream there.

IMG_2232So I laughed out load today when Lori Petty came to mind as I shimmied my own shorts up my sticky legs. In a rush to pick up the kids, I slung my wet bikini on the floor and raced around to the drivers side. ¬†The image of “Tyler” hit me. ¬†I may not be 18, or in Encinitas, but here I am – living at the beach. There were certainly no kids (or even a man) in my dreams and ¬†‘water walking‘ with my pregnant friend is hardly the surfer I thought I might be. ¬†But sure enough, I’m here. And its time to carpe-fucking-diem.

It may seem a bit late to be coming to this realization, as we have been here for nearly a year. ¬†I’ve spent the better part of the past 12 months absorbed with life in Frederick or thinking I was living somewhere between my kitchen sink and the clothesline. I’ve seen the outside world here, instagram-ed¬†it and adored it, but not lived in it. ¬†Silly me.

As the one year mark hits and reflections run rampant, I realize I have no time to waste.

I think about leaving New Caledonia every single day. ¬†Ironically, it keeps me present. ¬†WhenIMG_0094[1] I pull the driveway gate closed, I imagine what it will be like to say goodbye to our house. ¬†When I drive along the coast on my way to meet A for lunch I pretend it’s the last time I’ll take in the beautiful kite sails and the turquoise waters.

Its my way of appreciating what is right beneath my nose. ¬†Maybe its a mind trick, but when I do pull away from the house for the last time, I don’t want to leave here with one regret. ¬†I don’t want to look back on a cold winter day in November from my kitchen in Frederick and think – why didn’t I go to the beach every damn day? ¬†That would be pretty stupid. ¬†And so, I’ve made myself a promise to go to the beach – everyday. Besides, one must cool off daily in the heat of the south pacific.

IMG_2592What presence I have lacked this year (despite all my mindfulness practicing), the¬†kids have indeed made up for. ¬†They have walked down the street everyday in their blue school shirts, worked hard and rocked an entire grade of school in French. ¬†People always tell you that kids pick up language so fast, but to see is to believe! ¬†I’m so impressed and inspired with the human capacity (as children anyway) to adapt. Neither of them knew any French when they started and now they both understand their teachers and speak French with their classmates. Jonah is quite motivated to really improve his language skills and wants to learn Spanish now too (and then russian after that). ¬†Ivy uses her skills as needed, or when no one is obviously listening you‚Äôll catch her signing some French tunes. ¬†I’ve hired them to teach me. ¬†Never too young to get a job. ¬†And never too old to learn a new language.

And now its summer!  Jonah has wasted no time mastering swimming. I suppose IMG_2513
‚Äėmastered‚Äô is not quite the right word, but he has turned a corner is really comfortable¬†underwater, swimming from one end of the pool to the other, snorkeling and he now wants to windsurf like his Dada. ¬†Perhaps the presence of the exciting¬†PWA (Professional Windsurfing Association) World Cup Championships here in Noumea in November was inspiration too. ¬†In other events, he got his yellow belt in jujitsu and lost his first tooth (where is my baby?).

IMG_2088Ivy is growing up too.  Its been an emotional year with her and there has been a lot of screaming and utter defiance.  She is assertive as hell and clear as can be. She is amazingly strong, powerful and clever. She loves me passionately or hates me intensely.  I just assure her that I love her either way (which she hates).

But she is learning to feel things deeply but also channel and direct herself.¬† She misses Nana and Gma a lot. Our three week whirlwind trip home in October reminded us all of the deep love that is there for us with family and friends and it stirred up raw emotion left forgotten in our hurried departure. ¬†Now Ivy tells me very emphatically that next time she goes to Frederick she is not leaving again. But within a few minutes, she’ll ask what our next adventure will be. ¬†Suddenly, she realizes that with refusing to leave Frederick again, she will never see her best, best friend Lydia againIMG_1604.¬† She‚Äôs beginning to get it.¬† Our predicament.

The predicament of having two homes far far apart, two sets of friends and living a transient, temporary life.¬† It is not something I have spelled out for them or really discussed, but I don‚Äôt have to. So many of the great friends we‚Äôve made in Noumea will be gone by the end of the year.¬† Poof.¬† Gone.¬† Off to Switzerland, Australia, back to America.¬† And the questions begin to be asked. Where is Keighlan?¬† Why isn‚Äôt she coming back? ¬†When is Nana coming? I found Jonah outside in the rocking chair one day, worried that everyone was leaving because they didn’t like him. (ouch).

It’s a great teaching opportunity, but a tough one too. ¬†Life, by nature, is impermanent andimperenance change is inevitable, but we manage to convince ourselves otherwise by creating the perception of security. ¬†I’m not sure if learning this young will make it harder or easier to experience healthy relationships. ¬†It starts to feel easier to close your heart, to NOT get too close to people, as you know they will be leaving.

And so, for all the beauty, success and excitement, it sure has been an INTENSE year.  We hurdled a BIG move in 2014, a lot of transition, a new language (not me), a few big trips back to the states and all while still having a baby.

But the sweetest baby ever.¬† She’s grown from an easy, sweet six month old to an easy, sweet
and funny little-big-girl. ¬†Paloma and I still have a little ‘nuggle’ fest every morning while she has her one remaining drink of mamma‚Äôs milk. I can‚Äôt let it go.¬† She‚Äôs my baby and watching her toddle around the house, put cell phones in toilets and raid the kitchen cabinets almost IMG_2489always brings me joy.

Paloma is my mini me. I smile, she smiles. I make a silly face, she repeats.¬† I walk around the house talking on the phone, she picks up a phone and imitates me in baby gibberish.¬† I go sit on the potty, she wants to sit on the potty.¬† She bring me a colander and chants ‚Äúbeans, beans, beans‚ÄĚ when she wants me to make her some beans (because I always rinse them in the colander).¬† Instead of ‚Äúyes,‚ÄĚ she sings a lovely little ‚ÄúOuiiiiii‚Ä̬† that sounds like ‚Äúwheeeeee‚ÄĚ in response to a question.¬† Or she shakes her head emphatically no ‚Äď back and forth, back and forth, hair flying, cheesy smile.

I’m pretty sure A comes home at lunch just to see her. ¬† They chase each other around and have a squish and a tickle (or a ‘nuggle’). ¬†Both seem pretty pleased with the arrangement. ¬†It must be delightful to commute just 5 minutes for a warm lunch + baby giggles + homemade chocolate. ¬†I’m not sure I’m making this miserable enough for him to want to move back to Frederick anytime soon. ¬† Four hours¬†of commuting in a commuter van on route 270 in the winter with no hope of a lunch date with Paloma would make me think twice.

IMG_0501[1]Beyond always taking a proper lunch break, A has wasted no time diving into South Pacific beach life. ¬†If he had the Point Break dream, he’s hit the jackpot too. ¬†He has been living it up since he got here Dec 4 last year. ¬†Always demonstrating his great ability to have perspective on what is important; ¬†dishes, laundry and tidying the house will never crowd out adventure, leisure or a learning opportunity. ¬†And so he’s working his IT magic by day, windsurfing at lunch a few days a week and keeping his jujitsu skills up by night. ¬†His SPC work team is gaining recognition and they assisted in hosting the controversial French President Francois Hollande on his visit to Noumea in November. ¬†As a natural leader, he has taken on the role of staff representative with some-important-after-hours-work-group, despite my raised eyebrow. But he makes sure I get my yoga nights too while he does the dinner/bedtime shift which often includes¬†the kids listening to ‘This American Life’ (NPR). ¬†We make a good team when we can appreciate each others strengths. Which, let’s be clear, seems to be more rare than common. ¬†Currently, we are having a standoff about getting an above ground pool for the summer. ¬†I think we all know who is going to win (not me).

While he may win that game, I make the food. ¬†Life could get very boring and meager for A. ¬†Not IMG_3992that I would ever hold a grunge against him for a decade or anything:-). ¬†But I will limit his meals to healthy ones. Well, in particular, no sugar, no yeast and pitta pacifying. ¬†I noticed we were all eating an extreme amount of white bread baguettes and chocolate croissants (remember, its French territory here) so I upped the ante on Jonah‚Äôs no junk food diet back in August. And although, no one else is really participating with any fervor except me, they won’t find any junk food lying around when their blood sugar crashes.

digestion sessionsThey might find it boring and disappointing, but I find it fascinating -food, nutrition and digestion that is. ¬†In the absence of opportunity for trips to Kripalu and teacher trainings, I’ve discovered incredible online education and inspiration. The latest is the Digestion Sessions. ¬†19 talks from doctors and experts practitioners on how and why good digestion is the key to health. Some of the data is controversial about specific things like gluten intolerance, but the overwhelming evidence supports the need for a healthy human microbiome¬†to ward off disease.¬†¬†I could discuss this for hours and fortunately I’ve gained a new nerdy friend who loves it too (until she moves back¬†to Sydney in just a few weeks so she can begin studying Chinese Medicine).

I wonder if the next friend to blow into my life will be a smoking, drinking, dorito-eating partier to balance me out. I think it is possible to get too uptight about being¬†‘conscious’ and mindful and lately I’ve noticed how hard I’m working, all day, everyday just to maintain, what I think, are the basics. ¬†Perhaps its the end of the school year, the rising temperatures or the fact that my regular babysitter/cleaner is on vacation¬†for a while. Suddenly, re-using all glass jars, limiting screen time for the kids, meditation and yoga everyday, not wasting food, composting, getting the right amount of vitamin D, consciously communicating, oh-my-god-the-list-goes-on-and-on, is just over the top. ¬†I might need to smoke a cigarette, scream at my kids and eat a whole container of ice cream to balance myself out.¬†The truth is, its become clear to me that there is not enough time in the day to be good at everything. (insert DUH). ¬†As a good friend just said, “I’m just not on my A game anymore since I’ve had 2 kids!” ¬†MEE TOO. ¬†Something has to give. ¬†William Shakspere (and my wise husband) might just be right: ¬†“Expectations are the root of all heartache.”

Unrealistic¬†expectations is a broader theme for me to examine. Beyond conscious living, taking care of myself and mindful mothering, thereIMG_4761[1] is ‘my real job’ that gets sandwiched between drop off, naptimes and pickup, and now that its summer, I’m not sure where to squeeze it in. ¬†I love my work. I love business and I love running Sol Yoga. ¬†But the studio sure has weathered a rough year, perhaps our most challenging ever on many levels.¬† In reviewing it from this year-end perch, it is all beginning to make much more sense. Remote leadership diminishes intimacy and we are in the business of connected-ness. Since the months before I left until now, we have all been in a transitional shit storm. ¬†I am grateful for the dedication of everyone involved and the practice of yoga because it has not been easy.¬† But, we have once again, beat our marks from previous years, hired great staff and are beginning to see the edge of the storm. Fortunately, as a pitta, I welcome the challenge it brings, but might need to soften my expectations ūüôā

Letting go is also another continuous, predominant theme in life this year. ¬†My contribution is limited with Sol Yoga, my days are full with the bounty of motherhood and I’m a million miles away from sustaining relationships. ¬†It makes for really weird, sometimes even hard days. Which seems inexcusable when I look around and see the beauty and realize with so much gratitude just how blessed I am. But I’m pretty human.¬†I miss seeing my mom with my kids. I miss good, deep friendships and I miss feeling truly integrated in a community. ¬†It’s always hard to be away from people and places that have parts of your heart, even if it there is a beautiful beach nearby.

We were not here for the holidays last year. ¬†And I‚Äôll tell you what. ¬†That is pretty weird too. The calendar says December 21, but ALL external indicators tell me it is June or July. ¬†I rallied a few girl friends for lunch for the summer solstice – my favorite holiday in the entire year. ¬†For a moment I longed to be popping into Sol Yoga to practice with some of my old-time buddies, but then I remembered that it’s not the summer solstice at all in Frederick!! It’s the shortest, darkest, often very cold, day of the year. ¬†Instead, five moms (sans kids) sat at a beach-side restaurant wiping sweat from our upper lip and fanning our faces with the menu and offering a baby blessing to my 33 week prego friend Zita. I’ll take that ūüôā

All this weirdness can also be spun as liberating too. The absorption into family life, the dissolving of the my ego and the sense of anonymity, the lack of seasons and tradition all leave me feeling undefined and curious about the layers beneath the external.

Fittingly, my mother slipped me a copy of the Gift from the Sea, by Anne Morrow IMG_3438Lindbergh. I always knew it was my mothers favorite book and now, as a mother, I know why.  It validates so much.

“For to be a woman is to have interests and duties, raying out in all directions from the central mother-core, likes spokes from the hub of a wheel. The pattern of our lives is essentially circular. ¬†We must be open to all points of the compass; husband, children, friends, home, community, stretched out, exposed, sensitive like a spiders web to each breeze that blows, to each call that comes. How difficult for us then, to achieve a balance in the midst of these contradictory tensions, and yet, how necessary for the proper functioning of our lives.”

She goes on to say, “The problem is not merely one of Woman and Career, Woman and the Home, Women and Independence. ¬†It is more basically: how to remain whole in the midst of the distractions of life; how to remain balanced, no matter what centrifugal forces tend to pull one off center; how to remain strong, no matter what shocks come in at the periphery and tend to crack the hub of the wheel. What is the answer? There is no easy answer. I only have clues, shells from the sea. “

Perhaps I did not make it to California when I was 18 because I didn’t need the gifts the Encinitas sea offers. ¬†I did not have yoga yet. ¬†I did not have children. I did not have a husband. ¬†I was not stretched out, exposed and sensitive. In fact, I was tough, certain and closed. Dreams often come to fruition not when we want them to, but when the timing is right.

And so, this hot Christmas and onward for the summer, my intention is to be here now. ¬† To indulge my superficial inner desires and embody the skinny surfer chick from a movie (avec trois enfants). ¬†¬†To take on the carefree quality of summer. ¬†To rock a tiny bikini, tan my strong legs and shimmy into my Billabong shorts with wet salty hair. ¬†This is my chance. ¬†Hopefully Jonah, Ivy and Paloma won’t mind straggling along for the summer ride. ¬†Junk food and TV allowed.


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exposed.

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“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” ¬†Steve Jobs

I was listening to that Steve Jobs¬†Stanford commencement speech recently and I heard him say that. ¬†It’s so true.

Its been raw here in New Cal. ¬†The dots are connecting in strange and powerful ways. ¬† I’ve been busy living 2 full-on lives since the last blog post. ¬†The external functional one that involves being a mother, wife, business owner and foreigner and the internal one of observing, listening and healing.
IMG_0719[1]I can report that all things on the outside are good. ¬†Kids are adjusted, learning French and being normal in all ways that kids are normal. ¬†A is content and happily planning Dorcstock for our return home visit coming up. ¬†During Paloma’s naps, I’ve been super focused on recruiting and hiring a General Manager for Sol Yoga, which after 3 months has finally come to a close.

People come and go here. ¬†The neighbors moved to a nicer house a few streets away and the other neighbors are calling it quits and heading off to Switzerland. ¬†Jonah’s best friend at school (Vasillina) never came back from her ‘trip’ home but we’ve got a new family of six to hang out with and make us feel like five is no big deal. ¬† I walk to school twice a day with my big sunglasses on so I can be introverted and lost inside my own thoughts while managing the functional¬†requirements of life.

But beyond the glamorous view, there is something to this place. ¬†Like no other place I’ve been or time in life, there is a powerful undercurrent that begs me to be raw and GET REAL. ¬†I’m isolated on an island in the middle of nowhere. My shoes are always off. My shoulders are mostly bare, the sky is crystal blue and the waters are translucent. ¬†It is about being exposed. ¬†And vulnerable. As clich√© as it sounds, it’s happening. ¬†In fact, a friend told me¬†..”they say, when you come to New Caledonia it’s to work on your roots.”

I left off with a revelation of epic proportions that I have been carrying around anger for 15 years that has wreaked havoc on my relationship and my physical body.  Not long after I wrote that, my decade old shoulder pain started to unravel. And now, a few months later, with the support of few skilled healers and encouragement to let go,  it has largely evaporated.  Poof.  Pain be gone.  Its true it seems that the mind and body are indeed connected.  With these powerful results, I have been tempted to go deeper.  What about the other aches and pains?  What emotions are connected to those? What can I let go of and walk lighter and freer?

Looking back, I can see that I limped here.  Eight 50 lb bags, three children, a brave face and a broken heart.  A million aches and pains and literally, unfinished business(es) at home.IMG_1348[1]

But life calls sometimes.  It makes decisions for you.  And you can only have faith that the understanding will come with time.

And now I see. ¬†I came here to become whole again. To shake me out of my ‘normal’ and acceptable and put me at the feet of unknown, a foreign land and in the hands of new humans.

I came across this article¬†one rainy night and it struck a chord. ¬†Three steps to healing anything –

1. take responsibility for it.

2. find the cause.

3. heal the cause.

That simple.

I’m not a therapist. ¬†And I don’t have a therapist. ¬†(talking freaks me out a bit) . ¬†But I do like this concept of peeling back the layers to reveal the root of things. ¬†Just keep asking why. ¬†Just like my 4 year old Ivy – “but why Mom?” ¬†Keep looking deeper. ¬†Past the blame and shame, past the fear, right to the heart. ¬†I love this popular TED talk by Brene Brown on Vulnerability. ¬†She reports on the characteristics of ‘whole-hearted’ people. ¬†They live with a deep courage to be imperfect, a compassion to be kind to themselves first, then others and connection as a result of authenticity. ¬†The ‘whole hearted’ fully embrace vulnerability. ¬†They believe what makes them vulnerable makes them beautiful.

In theory I am totally into this. ¬†I fully embrace vulnerability. ¬†I’m authentic. ¬† I’m okay with being imperfect. ¬†Check, check, check. ¬† Uh. nice try Dorcas. ¬†You must not be if you even having this dialogue in the first place.

I re-read the article.  Take responsibility.  Find cause.  I pondered for weeks and weeks, peppered the inquiry with effective bodywork, writing, acupuncture, yoga, daily meditation, discussion with interested friends and of course many walks to school in my big sunglasses.  I thought about a lot of things like my pesky ankle, childhood events, the pain in my hip, the friends I keep, etc.

IMG_6060[1]And sometimes I even felt indulgent wallowing in my own inquiry when there is an Ebola outbreak in Africa and people in the world that don’ t have healthy children and a great life. And then I’m reminded by my studies and practice and yes, TED talks, if we don’t kindly take care of ourselves first, we’ve got nothing to offer anyone. ¬†And so I don’t have Ebola, but a difficult inquiry continues. ¬†It is not comfortable to look at yourself in the mirror. ¬†Or easy. Or really fun. ¬†I am driven by results. ¬†Driven by the end goal of feeling liberated and whole and free of self-doubt, judgement, physical pain and guilt. Driven by the desire to live as fully as possible and have the most awesome relationships I can with the people I love the most. ¬†And in doing so, give back 100 fold.

At first, the examination was widespread and random. ¬†Every time the same thing would come up, I’d try to take it one layer deeper. ¬†“But why Mom,” echoed in my head.

When I was a toddler, my mom was concerned I might be deaf and mute.¬† I’ve always been afraid to talk to people.¬† I like to listen. to gather information. ¬†We joke about it now as I speak publicly and teach large groups of people. But why? What am I afraid of? ¬†I’ve always been good with the conclusion that my truth lies within and I don’t need to share it to feel complete. ¬†But maybe I do. Connection as a result of authenticity doesn’t come from holding things inside.

I fractured my wrist in karate when I was a kid. It was really painful, but I pretended it was fine for days. Until my dad got a hold of me and made me confess that I couldn‚Äôt move my arm. It was the middle of the summer and I wore long sleeve sweatshirts to cover up my cast. I didn‚Äôt want anyone to know. I didn’t want any attention. And I certainly didn‚Äôt want any attention for being broken. Hmm… where’s my deep courage to be imperfect?

And what about embracing vulnerability? That was squashed early on. As a teenager, I wrote goal sheet and affirmations in accordance with some home-school-self-help-study-book choice of my parents – one of my affirmations was, “I can control my emotions.”¬† I must have said and written it thousands of times in my youth.¬† And for my dad, this has (seemingly) helped him thru life. ¬†He suffered loss and grief early in life and perhaps this has been how he coped. ¬†And now, as a parent, I understand. ¬†He wanted to teach me what would work. ¬†What would help make me a successful human being. ¬†And feelings don’t really have a place when you are trying to be successful, forward moving, goal oriented and productive. ¬†And perhaps he could sense in me the very same deep well of empathy he has. ¬†The deep well that drops you to your knees when you feel someone else’s pain.¬† Perhaps he knew I would need tools for remaining steadfast. And most certainly those tools have taught me to be calm, non-reactive, nonchalant and extremely unaffected by surprises. ¬†And, I might add, wildly successful in life by all external standards.

Random things ruminated for weeks.  Until one night after a self shirodhara. As I lay my oily head on the pillow, things came together.IMG_9866[1]

After a good 18 years of conditioning to mask or ignore my own pain and control my emotions, I’ve spent another 10 feigning indifference and appearing unaffected because my hips and psoas are my self storage unit and my thyroid is a great damn. ¬†And then god gifted me yoga. ¬†The grey to the black and white of my life so far, the receptivity to the protection of martial arts, the healing and soothing to the hurting I’d been doing and the people who would help me connect to the truest version of myself I’ve every known. ¬†And so the past 7 years have broken me down and cracked me open.¬† Exploring yoga and Ayurveda, having babies, all while¬†experiencing chronic physical pain and attempting to¬†figure it all out.

And then there is the New Caledonia chapter, the crescendo perhaps, or maybe just where I begin to connect the dots. ¬† I’ve had to¬†risk losing everything I value to learn to trust in who I love. ¬†I‚Äôve had to be anonymous to find my voice again. I’ve had to be uncomfortable to get exposed.

I do have faith. That trust that Steve Jobs talks about.  I almost always feel certain that the truth will rise to the top and I am in the right place at the right time.  That the next step, especially when unknown, will appear right before I take it.  That the right people will show up when I need them.

Within two days of arriving here, I had a new support system. She walked up to me and introduced herself like she had been sent on a mission.  We talk or walk almost everyday.

And when¬†friends from home stopped calling, two more perfect matches dropped out of the sky to put me at ease and make me feel normal here. ¬†I didn’t realize how uncomfortable I was until I wasn’t. ¬†Friends I can geek out with and talk about all things yoga, Ayurveda and the mind-body connection. We indulge in endless conversation about vata/pitta/kapha, the connection of the emotional body to the physical body, the anatomical development of the psoas, the effect of too much yeast in the body and how to make yummy nutritious food. They listen to my deep personal physical and emotional epiphanies and act completely interested and un-phased by it. We have engaged in some of the most valuable conversations of my life and I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to feel seen. ¬†And just as they came, and my story of healing comes to a close, they will be airlifted out. ¬†Thanks God. Mission accomplished. ¬†Now onto the next lesson of ‘letting go!”

It is my urge to re-read my words, to doubt clicking ‘post’ but the greater lesson to me is that it okay to open up. ¬†And if my doubt gets the best of me, I can lean on articles like this confirming the proven health benefits to writing. ¬† I write to process but also because I can allow myself to be fully seen. ¬†And Brene Brown’s research doesn’t lie. ¬†Vulnerability is beautiful.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” ¬†Steve Jobs.

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the unlikely story of love

I’ve been observing a mean little kid. ¬†He’s just short of 5 years old but already getting a reputation as a bully. ¬†He says mean things, hits and bites and inflicts pain however he can. ¬†But if you watch him long enough, you’ll see that he is a loner. ¬†You’ll see that he really wants to play with everyone but he gets shut out. ¬†You’ll see his face begin to crumple and fall apart in tears right before he finds his inner badass and comes right at you with insult or injury. ¬†¬†Beneath it all, he’s a total softy in a big kids body. ¬†But he’s got pretty tough skin, that kid. ¬†And he has to because his smart big sister is pretty unrelenting with the insults.

jonah sentencesThe cycle is terribly perpetual and catches on like wildfire. ¬†One kid is mean to another and that kid feels hurt and is mean right back. ¬†Now, it’s just normal behavior – mean for mean. ¬†My kids, have jumped right on board and it is great opportunity to teach a new reaction. ¬† A few months ago I had Jonah write his first ‘”sentences.” ¬†In his notebook he copied, ” When someone is mean to me, I can walk away or be nice.” ¬†Even for a pretty sweet kid like Jonah its a hard reaction to control. ¬†(**note – jonah also takes jujitsu for the times when he cannot be nice or walk away :-))

So I’ve been watching this a lot and thinking about the seed Tara Brach, author and leading meditation teacher,¬†planted 4 or 5 years ago ¬†at the DC Buddhafest. ¬†She talks a lot about the human reaction to pain and how we naturally do our best to avoid it – physical, mental or emotional pain. ¬†And often when we get hurt, we ¬†immediately lash out in anger. ¬† Bypassing the awareness that in between the infliction of pain and the reaction of anger was a momentary drive through sadness, vulnerability or deep hurt. ¬† Further, she said, we go on to try to inflict pain on the very person that hurt us in an effort to get them to understand our own suffering.

She tells this parable: “Imagine you are walking in the woods and you see a small dog sitting by a tree. As you approach, it suddenly lunges at you, teeth bared. You are frightened and angry. But then you notice that one of its legs is caught in a trap. Immediately your mood shifts from anger to concern: You see that the dog‚Äôs aggression is coming from vulnerability and pain. This applies to all of us. When we behave in hurtful ways, it is because we are caught in some kind of painful trap. The more we look through the eyes of wisdom at ourselves and each other, the more we cultivate a compassionate heart.”

Watching kids is a great way to observe how the feeling of physical or emotional pain manifests and how it begins to create lifelong patterns. ¬†Viewing people’s anger from a place of compassion makes it possible to be less offended, take things less personally and recognize that we all can express anger but it might not be as malicious as it seems.

But here is where the deep work begins for me.  After years of seeing this in others (that was easy), I finally realized it applies to me too.  DUH. DUH. DUH.

dorcasandadamI’m mean to the person I love the most. And if I were witnessing myself in action, I might conclude that I’m¬†lashing out because i’m hurt.

I’ve been in a relationship for almost 20 years with the same person. ¬†That is over half my life now. ¬† And for better or worse, I believe a long-term relationship (marriage in this case) is a damn good opportunity to develop a spiritual practice and the most amazing opportunity for self-reflection. ¬†How many people in life ¬†become so familiar and close that they know your daily rhythms, all your stories, your family, your weakness, your strengths, your baggage and your birthmarks. ¬† The inherent intimacy creates space for your total true self to emerge. ¬†One would think that my true self would be delightful and kind and content, just like I am to everyone else in the world. ¬† But no, A gets the WORST of me. Day in and day out, he gets the angry version of me. ¬†The bitch. ¬†The one that is never satisfied or pleased with how much he has ‘helped’ around the house. ¬†Yeah, sure we love each other. ¬†Sure, I find him attractive. Sure, I can articulate a million reasons why I think he’s great.

But beneath it all, lets face it. ¬†I’m angry. ¬†And I’m mean to A. ¬†Not all the time, but a lot of the time. ¬†And have been for at least a decade. ¬†Until now, I’ve denied it. ¬†Brushed off the accusation as an impossibility.

Meanwhile, ¬†I literally have a pain in my neck & shoulder. And have since 2000. ¬†About the same time A rolled out of my life for 2+ years to serve in the Peace Corps. ¬†This was before the days of free Skype, so I wallowed around, shocked by my broken heart and unaware of how to navigate the feeling of abandonment, grief and loss. ¬†I cried in the shower a few times, but mostly just stuffed those lumps in my throat on down. ¬†I wanted the best for him and I wanted him to feel like I was cool with it. ¬†When it finally hit me that I was devastated, sad and depressed, I put up a wall and turned to anger. ¬†I could still like him and even love him, but not with an open heart. ¬†I became a stone cold lover. ¬†Love him in my head and on paper, but not with my heart. ¬†That would be too risky. ¬†Maybe he could earn my innocence and tenderness back, but he would have to understand my pain. ¬†And it’s never been enough. ¬†So I’m all stuffed up in my 5th Chakra.

But until I¬†sat my ass on a meditation cushion for a few years, ¬†started watching the mean kid, getting bodywork to unlock my shoulder blade and an Osteopath to untwist my hyoid bone, it didn’t occur to me that I’m the angry one lashing out. ¬†That I’m the dog with my leg caught in a trap. ¬†Anger is unpleasant but seductive. In¬†this interview with Bill Moyer, Pema Chodron says that anger has a hook. ‚ÄúThere’s something delicious about finding fault with something,‚ÄĚ she said. Especially when our egos are involved (which is nearly always the case), we may protect our anger. We justify it and even feed it.”

my fav ¬†And¬†so, perhaps I’ve come halfway around the world to the land of the south pacific to heal. ¬†To find tenderness and to say. ¬†I’m sorry A. I’ve been confused. I actually love the shit out of you – more than I can handle. ¬†I get a lump in my throat when I think about what I would do for you. How I would follow you to the end of the earth just to be with you. ¬†That in fact, once upon a time, being without you broke my heart. ¬†The sadness around the days you left is literally stuck inside of me and close to my heart. ¬†Even now, 14 years later, it swells up and nearly overflows, but a lifetime of controlling my emotions comes in handy to push it right back down. Instead, my inner bad-ass, stone cold lover comes out to tango. ¬†Sure, let’s go on a date. ¬†Sure, lets move to New Caledonia. ¬†I’ll be unaffected. ¬†I’ll be tough. ¬†I’ll walk ahead of you and I’ll be just a little bit of a bitch. God forbid I surrender control or be sweet. ¬†I might get hurt.

‚ÄúEach time you meet an old emotional pattern with presence, your awakening to truth can deepen. There‚Äôs less identification with the self in the story and more ability to rest in the awareness that is witnessing what‚Äôs happening. You become more able to abide in compassion, to remember and trust your true home. Rather than cycling repetitively through old conditioning, you are actually spiraling toward freedom.‚ÄĚ ‚Äē¬†Tara Brach,¬†True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart

And so, its time. ¬†Time to let it go. ¬†Time to clear out old hurt and anger and spiral toward freedom. ¬†Life is too short and New Caledonia is too beautiful to be any bit angry at a nice guy like A. ¬† Lets hope clearing the 5th chakra is as simple as an ah-ha moment and a blog post ūüôā

 

(disclaimer – my self assessment could be wrong.)