Monday, September 30, 2013


So, yep, with all the anger swirling around in me, I should have seen it coming. I should have.

I should have thought that something was up when it felt like there was a sock stuffed behind my right ribcage. When I felt the dull ache in my left hip, felt the slicing pain running down the outside of my legs, I should have taken better care of myself.

I should have.

But on Saturday morning, I ate my usual breakfast (eggs and potatoes), and the sock behind my right ribs threatened to explode out of me. I was queasy, bloated, and just downright miserable.

It appears that my gallbladder and/or my IBS has flared back up. I was miserable most of the day on Saturday, and did whatever I could to rest and let my body heal.

Yesterday, we went on a road trip down to Oscar's Smokehouse. When we got home, I felt terrible. More muscle pains, aches, bloating, gas. (Sorry for the details.) I was supposed to lead a yoga class at the studio, but that wasn't going to happen. I couldn't move without feeling miserable, so I made the decision to cancel class, took a hot shower, and tried to eat.

I debated going back to the doctor this morning, but then hesitated. I know what this is, and it's not like it's an emergency situation right now. I am not jaundiced. I am not in excruciating pain. I do not have a fever. I simply have an attack of gallbladder/IBS that is trying to tell me something, and I need to slow down, pay attention, and listen.

There are two reasons I'm hesitant to rush off to the doctor now: the first is that since I don't have any of those severe symptoms, I'm probably okay. It's not an emergency. The doctor would probably just ask me if I wanted anything for the pain (no) and if I wanted to try some acid-reducing drugs again (definitely not). She might offer to do another ultrasound and maybe another function test on my gallbladder, but since everything seems to have been humming along nicely for the last 18 months, and this is the first time I've been this uncomfortable since then, I doubt she'd find anything earth-shattering.

The other reason? Our health insurance. We have been paying through the nose for this new plan that Tom's employer switched to, and we still have another $1,500 to go on our deductible. I'm still trying to pay off an emergency room visit from earlier this year, plus some bills from the psychiatrist and the retina specialist that I've seen a couple of times this year. If it were an emergency, I'd say, okay, we just have to figure it out. But since I'm still relatively functional and not in excruciating pain, I'm just going to suck it up and see what happens.

Mornings and evenings are hard. It takes me a little longer to start moving in the early mornings, and by 7:30, I'm so exhausted that all I can do is curl up under the blankets and watch old episodes of "Benson".

Lately, I've been a yoga book junkie. Which is a good thing and a bad thing - bad for my bank account, but good for my practice. I read these books and then try to use what I read in my practice. ('Cause, really, you can read all you want, but unless you get your butt on the mat and practice, it's all worthless, right?)

Two books in my new yoga library are Insight Yoga by Sarah Powers, and a little $2 diddy I downloaded from Amazon about yoga for the gallbladder and liver meridians. Insight Yoga is broken down with yin poses based on the different meridians in the body, as well, based on Traditional Chinese Medicine. So this morning after I got Colden to school and ate some breakfast and got some work done, I rolled out my mat and put on some music for a little gallbladder/liver meridian yoga.

It felt like the hour rushed by, even when I was holding in poses like lizard and pigeon. It felt good to really stretch out the ache in my left hip. It felt good to lay down in Savasana and just let it all go.

And then when I got up, I cried.

And cried, and cried, and cried some more.

Obviously, this little yoga practice for my gallbladder meridians not only released tension in my body, it released something in my emotions. (Gallbladder and liver meridians are related to feelings of anger in the body.)

I cried until I thought I was going to be sick, and then I managed to calm myself down, focus on the tasks that I needed to finish this morning, and got a cup of yogurt and some crackers.

I can't say that I feel a whole lot better. But a little bit. It's a start. More yoga tonight. We'll see how I feel.

Monday, September 23, 2013

A Bag of Cement

So, there was this 80 pound bag of dry cement in the back of the van for the last two weeks. Tom bought it to repair our fireplace and to repair the fireplace at his parents' house. For some reason, Tom slit open one side of it, so that the wrapped folded open like a book. (Which I was clever enough to discover when a bunch of it went flying through the van as I drove with all four windows open on a nice day earlier in the week.)

Well, this morning, we were trying to get out the door at a reasonable hour to pick up some friends and spend the day at the Wild Center. I needed to haul this 80 lb open bag of dry cement mix out of the back of the van and into the wheelbarrow that was sitting alongside the garage before I could pop the back seats up and get us on the road.

I grabbed the little bag (it couldn't have been more than 15 inches long - and, yes, it really did weigh 80 pounds) and tried to pull it towards the back of the van. It budged about half an inch. This thing was heavy. I probably would have had better luck trying to haul an entire dead deer out of the back of that van - at least I would have something to grab on to.

Little by little, I nudged it towards the back of the van. I had sorely underestimated just how heavy 80 pounds of dry cement is, when it's crammed into a tiny little package like that. Every time I budged it another quarter of an inch, the bag tore a little more. And every time I budged it another quarter of an inch, I got angrier and angrier that I couldn't pick the damn thing up and just slug it into the wheelbarrow and get on with it.

The cement started spilling out all over the place. I tried to pick it up, the bag tore a little more, and I got angrier, and I tried to yank on it.

Mind you, my arms were still a little sore from the intense AcroYoga class I'd been in the day before, so I wasn't really at my best to begin with.

But I was getting damn angry.

Colden was on the back porch, yelling about wanting me to put on his shoes for him.

The cement was spilling everywhere.

I was getting angrier.

Finally, I somehow managed to drag the bag, half into the wheelbarrow, half balanced on the back of the van. It continued to tear, slowly, spilling cement everywhere. I could feel my heart going into palpitations, I was so damn angry. I wondered if I was about to have a panic attack or a heart attack.

Colden was still yelling about his shoes.

And that was when I lost it.

Fuck it, I thought. Cursing as loudly as I could, I got into the van, turned the ignition, and drove forward until I felt the thud of the bag of cement hitting the driveway.

When I got out of the van, I saw that the bag had torn completely in half. Tom had suggested to me on the phone that I get out the shop vac and try to vacuum up whatever cement had spilled so that we didn't get a little concrete ball on the driveway. I dragged the damn shop vac all the way into the driveway, plugged it in, and started to vacuum.

Then I realized that all I was going to be doing was vacuuming up dirt - and what the fuck did I want to do that for, anyway?

I went back inside. Colden was still screaming about his shoes. And I yelled, at the top of my lungs, for him to put on his own damn shoes or we would not be going anywhere.

I was covered from the waist down in dry cement. My comfortable pants, my comfortable shirt, my shoes - covered. I was sure that I'd inhaled a good amount of it, too, judging from the coughing I was doing.

And as I started stripping off my cement-covered clothes, I suddenly started to cry. I mean, really cry. Big, fat, hot tears, the kind that come out in yoga sometimes. And it hit me - my entire life, I've felt as though people have been asking me to do things of which I am just not capable of doing.

Dealing with an anorexic/bulimic/agoraphobic/mentally ill mother like a grown-up. At 11 years old, I was not capable of doing it, yet I had to. There were times, I realized, that dealing with my mother's mental illness felt a hell of a lot like trying to move that damn 80 pound bag of cement. Impossible, yet I somehow had to do it.

Trying to get my own apartment at age 18 because I just couldn't live with my mother anymore. I was far from capable, yet I had to do it.

These things made me angry. So angry, and yet I felt like I wasn't allowed to be angry, because what good would it have done me?

Angry that my mother refused to eat, even when she thought she was starving to death. Angry that she was so afraid of, well, everything that she refused to let my sister and I just be normal kids, or normal teenagers. Angry that she finally said to me in the hospital, the week before she died, how sorry she was that she "screwed up all our lives".

That's how angry I was.

I went back out onto the porch and saw that Colden, now in tears as well, had put on his own sneakers. I gave him a big hug, and he snuggled down into my lap, and we cried together. I apologized for getting angry. He gave me a kiss on the nose and said, "Mommy, what would make you feel better? Some Starbucks?"

This is what makes me think that I'm a terrible mother, but at the same time, maybe I'm doing something right.

I cried pretty much all the way into town to pick up our friends, and even though it was a nice day to be at the Wild Center, I just felt sort of off the whole day.

But the cement bag, it really brought something out of me. It brought out all the anger and the frustration I've felt for most of my life, anger that I've always just ignored or held back or squashed because I was afraid to let myself feel it.

It's something that I feel during yoga practice a lot lately. Anger. Anger that I can't do a forward bend. Anger that I can't do a crazy backbend or a shoulder stand. When it comes to a pose that I can't do, I get angry that I'm not like the other students in class who can do that pose. And it's not one particular pose that makes me angry, it's any pose that I can't do in its full expression.

I just get mad.

So, I have no idea what to do now, except to do more yoga. I've been crying on and off for two days now, trying to figure out what I do next. I feel as though I have no idea what I'm capable of, and I sort of feel like I'm not capable of doing anything.

The only path ahead me that I can see right now is...more yoga. Maybe the answer will come there.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Writing is Like Yoga

Yep, it sure is. Sometimes it ebbs, sometimes it flows. Sometimes, I just have to force myself to sit down at the damn computer and write. Sometimes, I find myself awake at 3 a.m. and writing like a crazy woman. (Of course, those 3 a.m. days usually mean that I'm a zombie for the rest of the morning until I drop Colden off at kindergarten, but, whatever...)

So, what have I been doing this last week?

I've discovered that my home practice is most definitely developing nicely. We had a couple of very warm, sunny, sweaty days where I chucked a couple of yoga mats out under the box elder tree in the backyard (two mats, because I live in fear that another ginormous earthworm will crawl its way up onto me as happened once while practicing some impromptu sun salutations on the freshly-mowed grass one afternoon - I am positively terrified of worms, and the bigger, the more terrifying) and did a good one-hour practice all on my own. There were even a couple of days when I actually didn't want to go to the studio to practice because I wanted to practice at home! (Of course, part of treating the anxiety with me is getting myself actually OUT of the house and interacting with other people, so, going to the studio can be important for me.

And speaking of the studio...

This past weekend, I participated in a 2-hour workshop where we went through the entire Ashtanga primary series. I went right along with it, doing what I could, modifying where the poses weren't accessible to me, and inserting my vinyasas in all the right places. At the end of the practice, I was exhausted, elated, and felt just a little bit "high". I had my Ashtanga practice manual by David Swenson in front of me so that I could follow along and find the right modifications for the poses as we went through the flow.

It was an amazing experience: there were probably 14 of us, all different ages, one man and the rest women, all different body types, different levels of flexibility and strength, but we moved together, we breathed together, and we rested together.

I'm also counting down the days until my advanced yoga studies/teacher training begins on October 5. To say that I am giddy with excitement is an understatement. The more I practice, the more I want to know...

But, the whole thing about yoga is like writing? Yeah. I need to do it every day. Which means I need to finish up this little "warm up" and get down to the nitty-gritty. Later!

Sunday, September 8, 2013


"Everything around you is your teacher."


So, I got home from yoga class tonight, but something just didn't feel right. I've had little snitches of time over this weekend where I started to feel very negative about things - stressing out about how I'm going to follow through on my commitment to yoga teacher training, stressing out about getting our new kindergarten routine down, stressing out about where I'm going to find the time to get all my work done if I have to be running back and forth to Keene three times a day, stressing out about money. All the usual stuff.

When I walked in the door, Colden was sitting at the table watching cartoons, and he hadn't had dinner yet. Bedtime on school nights now is around 7:30, and it was 6:45.

And I. Freaked. Out.

I was pissed. I frantically started to rummage through the fridge for something - anything - that my kid would eat for dinner. I was pissed at Tom for letting dinner go this late. I was pissed at myself for going to yoga. Didn't anything get done when I walked out of the house? How was I going to get this kid fed and bathed and into bed on time so that he didn't have a meltdown in the middle of the afternoon at kindergarten?

I was throwing curse words around in my head at an impressive rate.

It was most definitely a very un-yogic moment.

I swore up and down at the thought that I was going to have to stop going to the studio for yoga practice and instead stay home and make sure that things got done around here.

I was pissed that I wouldn't be able to get to the morning classes, and now I wouldn't be able to get to the evening classes, either. Too many logistics to work out. So much stuff to do! We're not just in pre-school anymore, we're in kindergarten now, and now we have to get SERIOUS.


It turned out that Colden refused to eat because he wanted to wait for me to get home from yoga. (Oh, my little man!) And Tom had been planning on doing bath time and bedtime.

So Colden and I sat at the table and ate a sandwich and some fruit, and then Tom got him in the bath tub while I wrote out the six zillion notes that Colden needs to take to school with him tomorrow, and then Colden came to give me a sweet-smelling hug and kiss goodnight.

And that's when it hit me: Tom was right. I can keep going to yoga practice at the studio. I can go on and do all these things that I need to and want to.

I just need to let go.

I've been so worried about the new routine, the new schedule, that I made it into a problem before it actually became a problem.

So what am I going to do?

Let go.

Things will either get done, or they won't. And I need to stop feeling guilty for going to practice at the studio. I need to stop feeling guilty for committing myself to a teacher training.

When things are ready to happen, they'll happen. And I just need to accept that. Santosha, right?

Yes, I'm still going to have to haul my ass out of bed at 5 a.m. every morning for the next 9 months. But, whatever. Things will still get done. The sun will still rise and set, the leaves will change, the snows will come, and life will go on.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

To Prop Or Not To Prop?

Tuesday morning, there were only two of us in yoga class at the studio, and since both of students are also looking into advanced yoga studies and becoming teachers, Robin gave us a nice little impromptu workshop where we picked apart a few select poses and worked on ways to verbalize corrections.

It was an interesting session. The other student had way more flexibility than me, and where she could easily reach down and grab her toes in a pose like Triangle or bend all the way forward and touch her forehead to her shin in Pyramid, I required the use of blocks.

Which leads me to an interesting question for yoga students and teachers: to prop, or not to prop?

When it comes to using props, the first thing I think of is Iyengar, where props are used extensively to ensure precise alignment in the asanas. Sure, it's important to have proper alignment so that everything functions well, but at the same time, it seems to me that having to worry about all those props just takes some of the joy out of yoga. At least, for me, it does.

On the other hand, I know that when I use a block or a strap or even a bolster for certain asanas, I'm getting the most out of the pose because my body isn't able to go into the full expression.

And then on yet another hand (because some Hindu deities have four or six hands and several heads, dontcha know), there are practices like Ashtanga that don't allow the use of ANY props whatsoever!

What's a yogi Momma with tight hamstrings to do?

Well, like all things in yoga, the use of props is a highly personal choice, depending on your preferred style of yoga, your abilities, and even just how your body feels on any given day. That said, I don't think there's anything wrong with using a prop like a block or a blanket or a bolster in order to get the maximum benefit out of each asana. Or, if you prefer Ashtanga, use one of the variations of the pose in order to work your body and calm your mind.

For an effective practice, the goal should not be to reach your toes without bending your knees, but to become comfortable with your limitations and to learn how to practice kindness.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Being Able to Balance

When I was a kid, I can remember going to the Pathmark grocery store with my father, and standing there at the end of the checkout lane, bagging groceries while standing on one foot. It was just something that I did. Instinctively, I would tuck one leg up under me, foot pressing against the thigh of the standing leg, and bag groceries like that. Sometimes, I would switch it up between bags of groceries.

It never occurred to me until just recently that most people have kind of a hard time with balance in yoga class. When Robin starts demonstrating something like Tree, or Standing Figure 4, Eagle, or King Dancer, I move into easily, because for me, it feels like a natural thing to do.

Of course, the first time she suggested closing my eyes, I bust out laughing. Yeah, I can balance on one leg, but with my eyes closed? Not!

Then during one class, she suggested that we look at balancing poses as a sort of standing meditation. Woa-ho! For some reason, that suggestion clicked with me. I close my eyes when I meditate (most of the time), so why  not close my eyes when it's time to standing in a balancing pose, right?

One afternoon while trying to keep my balance in Tree amidst my wobbling classmates, I thought, yes, this will be less distracting if I close my eyes.

And what do you know? I did it. I didn't wobble. (Much.) I didn't fall.

If I'm having a terrible practice, and I can't stand straight in Warrior or Triangle or any of the standing poses, I can almost always find some stability and some stillness in a balancing pose.

Ironic, since it feels like I spend most of my life chasing after some kind of balance. If I'm working, I worry about what has to be done around the house. If I'm cleaning up the house, I'm worrying about the work that's piling up. If I'm spending quality time with the boys, I'm worrying about work AND the chores that need to be done. You see where I'm going with this?

It's a small comfort that when I step on my mat, I know that I'll at least be able to find a few minutes of balance, no matter what else is going on in my life.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Early Mornings

I don't often get the chance to do an early morning class. (When I say early, I'm talking about the 7:30 a.m. classes at my local studio.) But this week, Tom is off from work all week, so while he's at home sleeping in with Colden, I get to start my day with a yoga class.

This morning was beautiful. Very humid, overcast, foggy, little bit of drizzle in some places. It's the kind of mornings that you don't really get in the city, or even the suburbs. Almost no cars on the road, and I haven't had a reason to be on the road so early in years. I felt like I was sneaking around while the rest of the world slept...

And, yes, I yawned my way through pretty much the entire class. It probably didn't help that Colden was up every hour or two all night, crying for me. It's either this crazy weather, or the moon (new moon coming up), or the impending first day of kindergarten this week, but that poor kid could not get to sleep, and when he did, he tossed and turned and was just generally miserable.

So, there I was, and every time Robin said, "Take a deep inhale through your nose," I found myself taking a big yawn in and out of my mouth. Yawn, yawn, yawn. Savasana was a blissful rest at the end of practice, and I came home feeling calm and quiet, and really, really hungry for some scrambled eggs and cheese.

I'm in the countdown to start my yoga teacher training. First weekend of October is my first session. And as I've been swinging back and forth between thinking, "I really don't want to do this," and, "I can't wait to do this," I find myself thinking, "Yes, this is what I want."