Monday, January 30, 2012

Little Baby Burrito

When my daughter Lucia was tiny, a little 7 pound lump, I swaddled her in a contraption called the Miracle Blanket. The Miracle Blanket was nothing more than a super-soft, organic cotton, hippie-looking piece of fabric that could be folded strategically to wrap a baby like a little burrito. The theory behind the blanket is that it comforts infants to be contained and swaddled in a way much like they were in utero.

The Miracle Blanket was truly amazing. Lucia was wrapped about ninety-percent of the time during her first few months. My mother, when she first came to visit, worried that her muscles might atrophy from lack of movement. But I was dedicated to the burrito maker. Even when Lucia wailed, flailed, and kicked, I used the Miracle Blanket. The calm that came over Lucia when she was swaddled was comforting to her, but to me too. As a sleep-deprived, new mother, bloated with milk that responded to my baby's cry like a fire hose on a burning building, I grew to depend on the Miracle Blanket to make everything okay in the world. Calm for Lucia meant calm for me.

Today when I was practicing yoga, I thought a lot about the Miracle Blanket. My class this morning was a ninety-minute crisis management session. I saw stars, I held back puke, I blinked away eye cream that dripped into my eyes. If it wasn't one thing, it was another stupid little distraction feeding my anxiety. "If only I had the ability right now", I thought to myself as I hoisted myself to standing for another vomit-inducing posture, "to contain myself like the Miracle Blanket used to contain Lucia."

Most babies are lucky. Their parents swaddle them, contain them, give them the physical sense of comfort that induces calm. Most kids too. Parents set the rules, make curfew, control sweets, give them the sense that someone else is in charge, containing them, keeping them safe.

Not adults. We're responsible for finding that calm for ourselves.

Eventually in class this morning, I just sat out for a whole pose instead of trying to get up. In the eighteen years I've been doing Bikram yoga, I've had many hard classes. I always get through them, and I always go back for more. Once I removed myself from my self-induced physical pandemonium, my full-on drama about my nausea, my dizziness, my fatigue, once I finally lay down, it was clear what I needed. I needed a Mental Miracle Blanket. I'd been here before and I knew what I had to do-- stop fighting myself, let myself be contained. And it happened. When I let go of the struggle, I could feel it, the sense of calm, just like the little baby burrito.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Welcome to the Revolution!

Last week while we were cooking dinner, out of the blue, my seven-year-old daughter Lucia said, "Mommy let's make a revolution to not be perfectionists."

"Revolution?" I questioned, then clarified, "A revolution is like a protest."

"No. No. Not a revolution. What's that thing called when you make a decision to change how you act?"

"Resolution?"I asked.

"Yes. Yes. Let's make a resolution to not be perfect all the time."

My heart swelled and broke at the same time. I was so proud and happy to hear Lucia articulating herself clearly and openly, but devastated with the realization that she shares my affliction for perfectionism.

My head still spinning with images of the tortured life my poor little perfectionist would lead if I didn't do something immediately, I seized the opportunity for a teachable moment, "I think that's a great resolution Lu. No one's perfect all the time right? Every single person in the world makes mistakes. All the time. Every day."

"Yeah Mommy, like it doesn't really matter if you don't have the perfect boots on when you get dressed." Lucia lectured while stirring pasta. "You could be ready a lot sooner in the mornings if you didn't worry about your boots or your socks or your skirts."

Stab! Definitely a top ten bad mommy moment!

Later that evening while Lucia was practicing piano, an ongoing stressful event, she kept scolding herself for messing up. I reminded her about our resolution, "Shake it off Lu. Remember, you don't have to be perfect. No one is perfect." She wiggled her arms, took a breath, and tried again.

Since that evening, I've had lots of anti-perfection moments with Lucia and with myself. Like when I let go that my new green-striped Smartwool socks were in the laundry. My black tights would be fine. Like when Lucia read about Martin Luther King and mispronounced "Congress" repeatedly and I held my tongue. Like when Lucia and I built a magnificent snow girl and the head fell off an hour later. I started to run outside to repair our hard work, but instead I just said, "Oh well, she's a smushed snow girl now."(Smile Smile Wink Wink).

I'm not sure what motivated Lucia to make this 2012 resolution, but I'm grateful for the reminder to stand up and fight against the institution of perfectionism.

Welcome to the revolution!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Free falling

My brothers and sisters and I span 15 years. And, aside from being pretty hopelessly liberal, the other thing we all have in common is our love of Tom Petty. When I was 35, my then 20 year old brother gave me a Tom Petty's Greatest Hits for my birthday. Awesome.

When I think of Tom Petty, I immediately start singing "Free Falling."
"I wanna free fall out into nothin'. Gonna leave this world for awhile."

Most of the other lyrics are about Tom's latest love interests and exploits, but the idea of free falling is an awesomely poignant message. The ultimate letting go. Most people I know have at least one thing in their life that plagues them-- a painful childhood memory, significant loss, bad break up. An event that grips us and seems impossible to move out of. I personally know no one who doesn't have at least one "big one." Life is equal opportunity. It's hard for us all.

So why is it that sometimes we can let go and sometimes we cannot?!!! Tom Petty says it perfectly--- because is scary as fuck!! "Free falling. Out into nothin'." That's heavy. But, as any of us who have experienced a big one in life (and gotten through it), the only way to get through a life crisis is to really dive into the great unknown of what's next. If you don't dive, you just hover, holding onto "it", never knowing what's beyond.

None of this is to say that getting through crisis is easy. God no. It's about having the understanding that getting through crisis is possible. And, that there is life beyond. In my life, I've had two significant crisis moments that I was sure I would never get through, and I, like most people found comfort in the familiarity of my feelings within that crisis. Going anywhere different felt too scary--- more grief, more pain. No way! But then, when I finally did, when I started to free fall, started to leave that world for awhile, I actually began to feel lighter.

I see this fear everyday in Standing Bow Pulling Pose. Everyone hovers on the edge of the kick and stretch, afraid to fall out, and then one day they do fall out, and it's okay. And Standing Bow Pulling Pose is never the same again. It's new. It's different. It's better. It's "write her name in the sky" good!

Thanks Tom.