yoga dorc

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


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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, Adam would bring to my bedside, with arms outstretched like an offering, a wooden bowl with things to smell – 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 Adam 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. “F—UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU-K” 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 ‘pops’ 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.

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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.  “If you don’t get me some warm milk RIGHT NOW, I’m going to get ANGRIER and start scratching you.”

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 –  “When I say I hate you, I really don’t mean it.  But my body makes me say it.  Its like I’m going to throw up if I can’t say it.  But I actually love you.”

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 Adam 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, Adam 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 Adam, 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.”
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 Adam 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’ll 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
‘mastered’ 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’s 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’t have to. So many of the great friends we’ve 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’t 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’s milk. I can’t let it go.  She’s 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 “beans, beans, beans” when she wants me to make her some beans (because I always rinse them in the colander).  Instead of “yes,” she sings a lovely little “Ouiiiiii”  that sounds like “wheeeeee” in response to a question.  Or she shakes her head emphatically no – back and forth, back and forth, hair flying, cheesy smile.

I’m pretty sure Adam 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, Adam 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 Adam McWilliams.  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’s 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 🙂

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’ll 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 🙂

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.  Adam 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 cliché 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’t move my arm. It was the middle of the summer and I wore long sleeve sweatshirts to cover up my cast. I didn’t want anyone to know. I didn’t want any attention. And I certainly didn’t 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’ve 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’s 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, Adam 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 Adam.  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 Adam 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. “There’s something delicious about finding fault with something,” 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 Adam. 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.

“Each time you meet an old emotional pattern with presence, your awakening to truth can deepen. There’s less identification with the self in the story and more ability to rest in the awareness that is witnessing what’s 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.” ― Tara BrachTrue 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 Adam.   Lets hope clearing the 5th chakra is as simple as an ah-ha moment and a blog post 🙂

 

(disclaimer – my self assessment could be wrong.)