Friday, December 14, 2018

True Nature

This year at my family’s annual holiday party I was talking to my friend Heidi, a physical therapist/wise woman who has two teenage daughters and is herself in peri-menopause. “I’m totally in puberty” she said. “ The difference is that now I can see it. I can see from outside looking in what is happening to me and I have some clarity about it. Some perspective.” When girls are in puberty they don’t have perspective. They don’t have the years of experience to tell them that this is a moment in time, that this emotion, body change, or crush will change. They are flooded with the here and now of hormones and life experiences.

At fifty, I am just entering menopause and I can see what Heidi is talking about. The mood swings, the drama, the frustration at not being able to control the texture of my skin or my energy level are all here, just like in puberty. But I have wisdom and clarity. I am connected with my inner voice that tells me that I am driving this train. These changes that are happening to me do not define me. It took me years to come back to this true nature. I am still aware of times when I shush it, turn down the volume to accommodate someone or something else. As a fifty-year-old woman I can now reflect back on my own path. I can see where my inner voice was loud and clear. I can remember when I closed it down and boxed it up to make room for what I thought was expected of me. And I can feel now how it is showing back up, loud and clear, awake and aware.

Women share a hormonal and a historical connection that is powerful and illuminating. My mother’s story--- her strength and resilience as well as what she lost and sacrificed-- informed my own experiences as a girl and a woman. And what I’ve learned from my mother and my own experiences informs my own daughter’s path. What we all share is an inherent true nature. This is the thread that runs through us at all stages of life and connects us to our power. That's pretty awesome.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Guest Blog- Menopause Mentoring




Menopause Mentoring by Kate Poux
This is my grandma and her sisters in 1954,  when they were in their late 40s/early 50s. I admire their easy middle-aged glamour. I am the same age as they are in the photo.  I wish I could  be part of their midlife summer barbeques. What would they say to me about this time of life? What will I say to my daughters and nieces and grand daughters 30  years from now? What are they learning right now by watching me live it?

When my daughter was 3 she would watch me get out of the shower and get ready for the day, and ask for some of my lotion to rub on her legs like me. One day as she bent over, going through my same lotion motions she said, “I do what you do, Mommy.” I am struck  by how much she took in as a toddler watching me, and how much she must notice now as a teenager, sometimes seeking connection to me and many times doing the hard work of separating from me.

My dad died 28 years ago. I spend November remembering him, and every year I notice how much more I am like him. This year I dug through an old box  at my mom’s house and collected photos. He’s the guy at the block parties with a clipboard, putting up the flags, playing the “head on a table” in the haunted house, wearing make up for his part in the Kismet chorus, singing real loud in church, whistling, drinking coffee in the front yard, running with the dog. I live so much of my life like he did, mostly unaware of this deep subconscious connection. He doesn’t tell me to do all these things, I just do what he did.

The process of becoming like our parents and ancestors is deep. As parents and adults in families, we work so hard  to keep children safe, healthy, happy. We make conscious choices in every moment about what to say, do to help them grow, but all the while they are watching us and becoming like us, without either of us being really aware of it. I do what you do. How can I live through this time of menopause in a way that will help it be an easier, fuller time for my daughters and next generations?

I made a  friend on the Claws in your Pause retreat last year who told us that every day at work for her is a +5 on her energy meter. She made changes to her diet a few years ago and feels great, totally reconnected to her body. Being with her changed me. I want to do what she does. Not literally, of course, but I want to embrace opportunities, let go of the energy suckers and love my life like she does. And making it happen for me at this time in my life has an impact on how the young women around me will feel about menopause, now and maybe later.

It’s kind of a lot of pressure to figure it out. Especially on days like today when I pretend to be sick and hide in my bedroom so I don’t have to deal with anyone. This last photo is my daughter around the same age when she used to imitate my showering routine. She’s making a banana phone call. Wouldn’t it be so much easier if banana phones could call back and forth through time, connect past and future generations? She could just call present-me 30 years in the future and say WTF about all this menopause bullshit, Mom! Oona, if you’re still there…

...notice changes in energy, mood, confidence, hair falling out,  temper, libido, weight, heart palpitations in your 40s, open up a dialogue about it with your family, friends, doctor. Track your symptoms, write them down. Keep a timeline. You are not crazy.

… notice what gives you energy, and what depletes it, and practice letting go of the things that don’t bring you joy or energy.  Observe how much more decisive you feel. Reconnect with your intuition.

… find the nearest chapter of Put Some Claws in Your Pause and tell them Mommy sent you. Bond with people about menopause. Say it out loud, often. It’s a comforting, inspiring connection, to find out how other women are handling it or not handling it, how we can learn from each other and shed the shame.




 Kate Poux is an elementary school teacher and co-facilitator of Put Some Claws in Your Pause, a Yoga & Writing Retreat in celebration of Menopause.
















Sunday, October 7, 2018

Listening for the birds

About ten years ago I was on a family nature walk in Seward Park. My daughter Lucia was about four-years-old at the time and the naturalist leading the hike was a young man who looked barely out of high school. I was a little disappointed. I wondered what I could learn from this young guy. The docent took us along the path pointing out the different barks on the trees, poison oak, variations of ferns and moss. Then he stopped suddenly and became completely silent. We all followed suit, even the kids. After about a minute he said, "No matter where you are in the world, if you stop, be still, and listen, you will hear birds. Even in New York City," he went on, "birds will be there. Birds are everywhere. You just have to stop, be still and listen."

I've followed that naturalist's words at least once a week for the last ten years. He's right. In New York, Chicago, Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma..... the birds are always there.  Today I am completing the fifth day of a meditation training.* This particular training is about coming back to our true nature by welcoming all our experiences. We get to this, in part by opening all of our senses. The training is at a beautiful retreat center in Northern California.  There are deer everywhere, wild turkeys, snakes, lizards, jack rabbits, hawks, owls and so many other birds. For this training, most of the time we're sitting or lying down so every morning for the last five days I've gotten up at 6:30am to walk the hills to prepare my body for the long days of stillness. At 6:30am, when I leave my dorm, the sky is still dark and the sounds of the birds are loud and clear. They too might still be just waking up. In the dark I can't see any of the other creatures, but I can hear the birds.

As I walked the hills at sunrise these last few days, as the sun illuminated the golden grass of the hills, I have spotted deer and a few times, a lucky jack rabbit. I stepped on a snake yesterday and the squirrels, lizards and hawks have been everywhere. This morning I noticed that, as my visual senses came alive with the sunrise, I stopped hearing the sounds of the birds. So as I got to the top of a hill, I closed my eyes and stopped. I stood still. I heard the wind in the grass. I heard the highway in the distance. But I couldn't hear any birds. Just as I began to worry, I heard one.  Then I heard many. They were there. They always are.


*Integrative Restoration Yoga Nidra is a form of yoga and mediation. If you're interested in learning more, sign up for one of Laura's workshops at The SweatBox Loft.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Growth

People throw around the term ADD a lot. I hear many adults, myself included sometimes say, in reference to being distracted, "I'm so ADD" or "I probably have ADD." My nephew and many other people I know truly have ADD or ADHD and it's not a joke, so I've really tried to temper my use of that term. What I have, and what I think many people have, is a lack of focus. I believe this is exacerbated by the easy access to distraction via our smart phones, tablets and laptops. Yesterday I was writing my mom and email about coming to visit. As I was driving home I thought to myself, "What ever happened with that email?" A few hours later when I opened my laptop, I saw it, just sitting there half-written, abandoned mid-sentence.

About a year ago I felt strongly that I needed to move on from owning and running The SweatBox. I wasn't feeling inspired or motivated. I felt distracted and unsettled. Then my landlord called me to tell me that a new space was opening up in the building and did I want to look at it. It was the day before I was to leave for Chicago for a long family trip, but something made me say yes and I met her to look at the space. Of course I loved it. The building my yoga studio is in is old and filled with character. In this new space, there are original wood floors and brick walls. The ceilings are 13 feet high and the windows look towards a beautiful patinated church spire west of the studio.

I spent the week in Chicago meditating over the idea of expanding. How could I go from uninspired to excited in such a short time? What did this mean? I tried to process this and figure out if this was just my lack of focus taking over or if there was something bigger. I told my landlord that I was unsure but to tell me right away if anyone else showed serious interest. I hemmed and hawed for a few more weeks until one day I talked to my friend Vanessa in New York. Vanessa is an old friend. I've known her more than twenty years. She's also a therapist and we've had many conversations dissecting both of our psyches. I told Vanessa of my challenge making this decision. I shared my concern that I had flip-flopped from being ready to sell my business to wanting to expand in such a short time. Was I being impulsive? Was I losing my mind?

Vanessa listened. And listened. And listened. And then she said, "Laura, for as long as I've known you, you've craved risk. You've always needed some element of risk in your life. It's okay. It's part of who you are." The MOMENT I heard these words it was as if the final piece of the puzzle had been placed. She was right. My lack of motivation was not for lack of passion, it was that there was something missing. Adding this element of risk and creativity, was what I needed. So I said yes to my landlord and The SweatBox Loft was born.

Opening The SweatBox Loft has been challenging, stressful and chaotic. It's definitely adding an element of risk to my life! But it's also made me feel complete, like all the parts of my brain are being attended to. I'm excited and motivated for this new adventure. Mostly I'm relieved to have this clarity. Sometimes my lack of focus and distraction is poor technology hygiene and bad habits. This time though, it was something else. It was that neglected part of my brain asking for some attention. I'm grateful to Vanessa for helping me shine a light on it.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Puzzle Time

I'm in a constant battle with technology in my life. I live everyday trying to be more conscious of when I'm using it, how I'm using it, the number of minutes I'm using it. I even have an app that keeps track of all of this and reports back to me. Technology feels like a vortex that I will fall into and never emerge from if I am not constantly vigilant.

To watch a young person experience this is frightening. As a parent, I have to toggle the line between being a full-time anti-screen-time nag and having a good relationship with my daughter. I can only lecture and lay down the line so much. I have to find other ways to connect and be together as a family, to make being off the screen engaging and fun. Going out of town to remote places together, with lack of wifi is always a good way to decrease technology's grip on our brains. Swimming for long periods of time works too. And of course, doing yoga is a solid solution to reclaiming a technology free hour for our bodies and brains.

At the beginning of the summer I had the idea to bring home a puzzle to engage my family in a non-competitive, technology-free activity. The puzzle home is our dining room table. During the summer this hasn't been a problem because mostly we eat outside, but as I look outside today at the grey sky and clouds I realize those days are over. And the 2000 piece puzzle, only 75% complete, has been on our dining room for five weeks.  I'll need to find another home for future puzzles if we're going to eat meals sitting down.

The first puzzle we did as a family was 500 pieces. It had a lot of color and writing, things I now know make puzzle-making easier. It was mostly my daughter Lucia and I that did it. My partner Nancy hadn't quite embraced the passion for puzzles but she'd hang around chatting, cooking, puttering while Lu and I did the puzzle. That first one was easy. We did in in a day.  The second one was 1000 pieces and was a bit more challenging but we finished that one as well. My plan was working. We were spending time together, slowing down, engaging and connecting without the distractions of screens.

This most recent puzzle is 2000 pieces. The image is of three hot air balloons floating above a lake with trees and mountains in the background. Each of the balloons has a reflection in the lake and their are vast swaths of solid green and blue. This puzzle is a beast. One night Nancy and I were home alone and I was working on the puzzle. "Do you want to try this with me?" I asked her.

"Sure. I'll try it" she said, surprising me. I was so excited to have her on board.  We spent a couple of hours and managed to finished to frame of the puzzle. We felt like geniuses, puzzle masters,  incredibly psyched and proud of our accomplishment. The next day we went out of town and our friends Simon and Nadine came from New Orleans to stay at our house. We left a note, "Work on me" sitting on top of the puzzle with the hope that they would know to at least not put the puzzle away. When we got home, there was significant progress on the puzzle. They shared that, every night for the four nights in Seattle, after eating at a great restaurant, instead of going out to hear music or have a drink at a bar, they'd come home and work on the puzzle. When they left, they laughed, pointing out the huge piles of solid green and blue that they'd avoided during their puzzle-time.

Simon and Nadine left over a week ago and we are now finally inching our way through the solid greens and blues. Yesterday, home alone, I spent three hours on the puzzle. Three hours I could have been planting bulbs, taking a walk, riding my bike, doing yoga, having coffee with a friend, cleaning my desk, binge watching Shameless. Several times, I really wanted to abandon the puzzle, to storm away from the table and yell in frustration, but no one was home and my dramatic outcry would just echo back to me, amplifying my angst.

So I stayed seated, tethered to the puzzle by some invisible, unbreakable puzzle force. I sat in front of the spread out pieces-- solid blues on one side, solid greens on the other. And as I looked at the pieces, minute after minute, I slowly began to notice the details that I hadn't noticed before. The tiny spot of red on the corner of an otherwise totally green piece. The unusual jagged cut out of another piece. The thin, almost undetectable white strip in the center of a blue piece. I sat there, moving only my arms and my eyes for three hours. When I finally got up it looked like I'd made no progress at all. But it didn't matter. I felt like the static on on my mental TV had finally been tuned. My mind felt dialed in, focused, and clear. The app on my phone that I use to record my screen time said I'd used 7 minutes for the day.



Friday, August 17, 2018

Forgiveness

Last week I was talking to a student at the front desk, something I do everyday when I teach. Sometimes we talk about the weather. Sometimes it's relationships. Sometimes it's even about yoga. On this day, this student, who's been practicing at The SweatBox for close to twelve years, said to me, "You know, I was really mad at you guys a few years ago when you kept talking about gratitude."

This was a compelling thought in itself, but even more so because I have been thinking about the overuse of the concept of gratitude in social media, in mainstream advertising, on t-shirts.  "Tell me more," I said to the student. "Well, " she explained, "it seemed for a while that teachers were just talking on and on about gratitude, but what about forgiveness?"

Forgiveness. The act of letting something go, of absolving, granting mercy, releasing, allowing. I got it. To forgive is to be able to make space for gratitude. If we are mired in the anger or holding on, being unforgiving, it is virtually impossible to have gratitude for what is there. The things to be grateful for are blurred by the static that comes from the energy it takes to hold on to anger or judgement or pain or whatever is in the way of forgiveness.

For the last several years, in my little village of Capitol Hill, I have watched the housing prices sky rocket. I have witnessed countless people-- customers, colleagues, friends--- being displaced into neighborhoods further north and south. I have seen everyday the proliferation of people literally sleeping on the streets. The same young man sleeps in front of our studio every night. We walk by him to get to our yoga mats. When we leave class, we walk by him, wondering what we can do. I've called the social service agencies the city tells me to call, but alas, the man still sleeps on the sidewalk night after night. I worry about the summer ending. Where will he go? How will he stay warm?

As a result, I have been really PISSED off at the City of Seattle. I am mad. How has a city so rich  and so smart allowed for our housing crisis to reach such a catastrophically shameful state? I am judgemental, frustrated, and ashamed. Last week the Seattle was electric with the buzz of Pearl Jam's two concerts- The Home Shows. I'm not in that scene. I'm a lifelong nerd.  I like quiet music. Big concerts give me anxiety. Then I started hearing about how twelve million dollars was raised from two concerts. At first I felt cynical. "Oooh. Great marketing for them." I thought to myself. "Seattle shouldn't be depending on concerts to house our homeless."

And then my wise student came into my mind. "What about forgiveness?" I thought to myself. And I tried it. I made an earnest attempt to forgive the City of Seattle. I talked myself through it. Bureaucracy is a bitch. Durkan is a brand new mayor. Amazon is a megaforce. Our city is growing  really fast. I let go of some of my anger and judgement and I forgave the City of Seattle. It worked. I was able to truly celebrate the gift of Pearl Jam, the gift of raising twelve million dollars to help people who need homes, rent subsidies, utility assistance, mental health care. Twelve million dollars isn't enough, but it's a damn good start. Thank you Pearl Jam and everyone who supported the Home Shows.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

The Man with The Duffels

There’s a man who lives in Seward Park. I’ve seen him for years. He’s very quiet. He walks very slowly and he always carries two duffel bags. He wears a dark parka all year long that looks navy but is shiny with grime and age so it's hard to tell the actual color. I often see him walking the south end of Lake Washington. I've seen him as far as Leschi but mostly I see him around Seward Park and inside the park. I often run the inner trails with my friend Kate and her dog Tucker and we've crossed this mans path multiple times.

This morning as I was walking around the Seward Park outer loop, I saw him walking in front of me. He was about 100 yards ahead and I could tell it was him from his distinctive gate and the two duffels. I’ve always assumed that this man lives in the inner sanctum of the park. There are arterials all around the loop that feed into the park. It's easy to get lost among the arterial paths. The inner sanctum is a wonderful, peaceful sanctuary from the chaos of the city. The old growth forest is magical and lush with centuries-old Douglas Firs, nurse logs and ferns. I never go on the inner trails on my own because I worry about getting lost. I also fear the mystery of the vast, beautiful, unknown park.

This morning, the man with duffels turned off to go up one of the trails. I was still about 50 yards behind and as I approached the trailhead I could no longer see him, but I heard screaming inside of the forest. It was angry, aggressive. The voice was swearing. I stopped. I took out my earbuds so I could hear more clearly.  It was early, not even 7am and there was no one else around. I walked to the other side of the path, away from the lake so I could hear better. I heard the voice again, "Fuck you!" and then something unintelligible. There was only one voice. No one was responding to the angry outbursts.  I felt stuck, unwilling to go into the park to investigate and no one around to help me discern the origin or meaning of the yelling.

Finally, I yelled into the tree line of the inner sanctum, "Are you okay in there?" I waited. I heard nothing. I waited a few more minutes and a woman on bike came by. "Did you hear yelling?" I asked. "Yes" she said,  "I think he was yelling for his dog. There's a lot of bunnies in there and it's easy to lose your dog to the chase."

I knew there was no dog. I had seen the man turn in and I was pretty sure it was this quiet man's voice I'd heard. But I didn't say anything to the woman. I just nodded and she continued riding. After the woman rode on I waited a few minutes more and when I heard nothing else from the woods, I continued on my own loop. I kept my earbuds out so I could hear if there were any more voices.

What was this man's story? Maybe he was a person with demons who found solace in the woods. Did I interrupt his private experience by yelling into the trees. Maybe the woods is his home, his sanctuary and I witnessed a private moment that was supposed to be his alone.

We never really know a person's story, their emotional experiences, their inner demons. I wonder what kind of home the man with the duffels has made inside the park. Has he found a way to create a place where he can be who he truly is, sometimes quiet, and sometimes angry and loud.

As I walked on, I thought about my decision to not follow those yells this morning, to stay on my safe, paved path on the outskirts of the forest. I'm a city kid. I grew up on the South Side of Chicago. My mom warned us about which train stations were safe. I knew what bus stop I should get off to avoid danger.  When my little sister was held up at gun point while sitting in a car a block from our house, I waited with my parents and sisters for the all-night locksmith to come change our locks. Sometimes when I'm walking and I'm alone on the path and I feel unsafe for some reason, I know it's my city dweller voice resurfacing. When I'm walking around the park and there's no one around or I get a weird vibe off of someone I pass, I think to myself, "I can always run into the water. I'm a great swimmer. Most people wouldn't follow me into the water. That will be my escape."

But I don't feel that way in the forest. For me going into the woods is not an escape. I'm scared of it. It's dark and closed. There are secret hiding places for the boogie man all over the forest. But maybe for the man with the duffels, the forest is a safe place. The darkness, the canopy cover, the mystery and the hiding places are his comfort. I'll never know what made the man with the duffels angry or if his yelling was even out of anger. I hope I didn't interrupt something that made him feel less safe in his home. I feel a little bit like I invaded his privacy, his safety zone.

When I think of the man with the duffels, I feel a sense of reverence for him, for his life in the forest. I love the beauty of the woods, the smells, the sounds of the birds, the variant greens, but he is a part of the forest. When I heard him yelling, I knew somehow that he had entered his home. In his yelling, he was letting something out that he doesn't when he's outside of the woods. We all need a place where we can feel safe and at peace. I often find that place near the water, on the periphery of the trees. I hope the man with the duffels finds his peace in the forest.





Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Triangle Then. Triangle Now.

Circa 2006
I started practicing yoga almost twenty-five years ago. I was twenty-four years old, ten years older than my daughter is now. I cannot remember what my body felt like that many years ago. I can't imagine not feeling a little something in my shoulder or a tiny kink in my hip, the chicken bone snaps in my knees.

During practice recently I've been modifying triangle pose. Sometimes I skip it altogether. Triangle pose is not the only yoga posture that's changed for me, but it's definitely the pose that's changed the most significantly-- I really notice how my body is a different body.

When my daughter was born almost fourteen years ago, my labor was long, 42 hours. I had multiple midwives during the course of my labor. The last one, Kelly, had to really push me. If I didn't progress, a C-section would be in my future. During hour 36, after putting some kind of gel on my cervix and walking the stairs of Group Health Cooperative for 90 minutes straight, Kelly told me to do triangle pose. And I did. Nine months pregnant, awake for almost two days, laboring for most of it, I dropped into triangle like it was no big thing.

The other day in class that image popped into my mind as I struggled to get my left leg into position. In days past, my left hip would just slide into place, but now it behaves like a rusty car door in a junk yard. It's not an injury. I'm just getting older and my body is the messenger. Sometimes my left hip feels more lubricated and cooperative and I catch a glimpse of my triangle from days past.

At the end of summer, my friend Kate and I are hosting a Yoga and Menopause Retreat. We're calling it Put Some Claws in Your Pause. Our goal is to find the power in this next phase, to step into menopause with fierce grace. To prepare for the retreat, I've been doing a lot of reading about menopause and peri-menopause. There's a lot of negative bullshit written about menopause but there are also realities about how our bodies change. It got me thinking about the comparison of my triangle pose during my young, fertile phase, literally when I was giving birth, and my triangle pose during this time in my life where I am recalibrating, physically slowing down a little. I've earned this time to put on the brakes and take some breaks. My body needs it and my soul needs it.

I'm not convinced that my triangle will stay as it is, but it is like this right now and I think I can learn from it. This incarnation of triangle, the more limited, creaky version is not worse than the badass hips down and open version of the triangle of my thirties. It's a reminder, an affirmation, that I'm entering a new phase. 

I'm excited about what's next. It's a reality that I as I get older, I will experience more limited hip mobility and likely other physical changes, but it's okay because I also get the wisdom that comes with age. In my thirties I would have fought hard against a sticky hip, but these days I have the wisdom to see these physical changes for what they can teach me, to embrace them as medals of honor for living a half-century. My triangle might look a little different, but I'm still doing triangle.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Counting days is not the answer.

Most mornings when I wake up Nancy and I talk about something that's happening either in our city, in our country or our world. Yesterday it was the 114  families in Ohio who were rounded up by ICE and separated from each other, the new American standard. When driving home from Fremont on Tuesday, coming off of my exit onto Rainier, I drove by a man with a sign that said, "My name is Brandon. I need your help." Before class yesterday, one of my students almost started crying when we talked about the current state of the American South. Two weeks ago a 17-year old getting ready to graduate from Franklin High School was shot and killed in one of my favorite parks a mile from my house. There is a mini-billboard hanging on a porch a few miles from my house that the homeowners hung after the 2016 elections. They change it every day to show how many days we have left.

We talk a lot about just getting through this. Waiting until this terrible darkness is over. We can see what's happening. It's happening in plain sight, before our eyes. We are no longer in denial. We can't be. There is too much and it is too big. We find ways to talk about it, to make ourselves feel better. I walk the Seward Park loop and smile at the different faces, taking pleasure in connecting with strangers. I cherish my time at the studio. I often say, "We're so lucky to have this community." I try to give what I can by contributing to my little circle, by making a kinder, more gentler world for people in my orbit, but when I look from the outside in, my influence is tiny. It's not enough.

My sister Katherine has dedicated her life to social justice. She works relentlessly, constantly for her cause, which is truly all of our cause. I used to feel sad, rejected because she never had time for me, but now I see that she's compelled. She's driven because her eyes are wide open. Our limited time connecting is not about me. It's about creating a better world. I've gone from being resentful to being grateful.

It's not that I do nothing. I volunteer. I contribute money. I hold fundraisers. I promote specific issues through the studio to raise awareness. I am raising a feminist daughter with extreme left-leaning tendencies. But it's not enough. I woke up today feeling stressed about my little work problems--personnel disagreements, retreat enrollment, summer class attrition. But when I sat down to my computer to write, a luxury I give myself in the early morning hours whenever I can, all I could think about was that I'm not doing enough.

What's stopping me? Is it the hours in the day? The fear of seeing more? Seeing too much? Knowing more about the bad in the world makes my breath catch. I am afraid. When Nancy was sharing the details from the article she read about the Ohio ICE raid, I said, "Honey, we have to make our home available to harbor people." We have to do more. I texted my friend Michelle who does pro bono immigration counseling at El Centro de La Raza and said, "Tell me what to do!"

It's not okay, the world right now. It's not enough to just be grateful for what I have, for the freedoms I experience. Right now my chest is tight. I can feel the fear that I will fail, that I'll never be able to make a difference. And then I think about these families who are being separated and deported. I imagine the fear they must experience. It must be beyond fear-- terror, trauma.  It's true--"No one is free when others are oppressed." I might feel the freedom because I am financially secure and an American citizen, but I'm not free. This tightness in my chest tells me as much. I don't have the perfect answer for what I should do. I don't really have any answers right now,  but I know that counting the days is not it.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Cranky is temporary

Why was I so flipping cranky? All week long I've felt so happy. I've been joyful even. I've been like a Hawaii vacation commercial with myself. I walk around and randomly pause to smell the flowers. A few days ago when I was taking a walk and it started to rain on me I thought, "Oh goodie! Now the pavement will have that amazing just-rained-on smell that I love so much." I have tried new recipes, cheerily done all the laundry, made my daughter's lunch for her when she ran out of time, all with a twinkle in my eye and not a hint of a grudge.

And then yesterday afternoon it suddenly switched. Crankiness took over like bald tires on black ice and I spent most of the day trying to crawl my way out of this swamp I somehow landed in. I tried a long walk. I saw a group of senior citizens dancing to Polka music in a picnic shelter and even that only boosted my spirits for split second. The gloom came right back. I tried meditating. I tried watching an episode of Broad City. I bought a succulent and some basil to plant. The crank held on like a tick.

I could feel the ooze of negativity seeping out of me. Who had I become? And why? Was there no boundary to this negativity? Would I ever come back to my joy? As I parked my car to sub a night class at the studio I thought, "Laura, you have got to get your shit together or you are going to ruin the Friday evening of every person who walks through The SweatBox doors."

Unable to explain or shop or walk or think away my mood, I had the momentary burst of thought that maybe this could be hormonal. And suddenly I could breathe. Maybe I hadn't turned into a terrible, cranky old lady. Maybe this was a temporary hormonal state. I texted my friend Kate and told her about my hideous mood. She shot back with the offer to drive by my house and have a ten minute swear off. Since I was already at work, I declined, but the camaraderie of the gesture made me feel better.

Isolation is a terrible feeling. It's insidious in that once you're in an isolated state it's very hard to ask for help to get out of it. Kate and many other women in my life are dealing with hormonal shifts that, for lack of a better term, "fuck your shit up" at unpredictable moments. It's not unlike puberty when I hid in my room for no other reason than, if my mother told me it was time for dinner, I would jump out of my second story window. We all need to feel like we can be understood, like we belong somewhere and fit in.

I did end up getting myself together to teach last night. It was a beautiful group of humans and by the end of the class my heart was swollen with love and gratitude for all of them. I'm lucky that I have peers who are going through these hormonal shifts at the same time that I am. And I'm grateful for my yoga community who reminds me that being cranky is temporary.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Middle Schoolers on a Rampage


This past weekend I chaperoned 49 seventh and eighth graders to San Francisco for a choir competition. It was an epic weekend for the kids, but for the parents too. There were six of us chaperones and one teacher. I got my share of eye rolls and a few nasty talk-backs, but mostly I left the weekend filled with pure joy.

Remember when you didn't know things? Like that dancing on the pier with wild abandon in the wind was kind of crazy? Like that wearing shorts in 55 degree windy weather was going to be uncomfortable?

Remember when you didn't know if you had to take your shoes off at security? When you weren't sure how or what to order in a restaurant? When budgeting $80 felt like a possibly insurmountable task?

Remember the first time you went on a boat? A plane? Remember the first time you stayed in a hotel? When you stayed in a hotel or anywhere without your parents?

Remember when you made a new friend, an intensely close new friend that felt like a forever bestie in the period of thirty-six hours? When you could stay up way beyond exhaustion just for the challenge of it? Just to spend a few more moments talking to that new bestie?

I didn't have any of those experiences over the weekend, but I soaked up the glow of that energy for three days straight and it made me ecstatically happy. It was magnificent to watch the excitement of these kids as they celebrated their independence on the streets of San Francisco. It was heart-wrenching to see them bite their nails and cross their arms with nerves as they waited to be called up to perform their set. And it brought me close to tears to see the pure joy that coursed through the veins and out through the limbs of forty-nine 12, 13 and 14 year-olds when the heard the announcement that they'd won first place for their performance.

We forget as we move into adulthood, then middle age, then older age, what it felt like to be so excited and surprised by the new-ness of life. It's one of the great joys of being a parent--- the reminder of those days past. Being a witness of that time in life reminds me to make room for what's new and different and exciting, even as I approach 50.

There's no going back to middle school. Those days are gone and I'm happy to be where I am now. But I can't get those forty-nine faces out of my mind. It was a true gift I received-- to see the joy, the excitement, and the thrill of these kids doing so many things for the first time. I'll cherish it and I think it will keep me giddy for a good long while.

When I drove my daughter Lucia to school this morning she said, "Mom, that was the best experience I've had in my entire life." Do you remember when you had the best experience of your entire life? I don't. There are so many experiences wandering around in my tired, old brain; I couldn't begin to find that one magical moment.  But right now I am keenly aware of the importance of finding moments of wonder and discovery in my own life. In the meantime, I'll revel in the slideshow of images from watching my daughter's middle school choir live it up in the city by the bay.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Intuition. It's Real.

Last week Nancy and I went to Mexico for a grown up getaway. We'd both been burning it with work and life obligations and I was deperately feeling the need for a decompressing getaway. We went to Isla Holbox, a remote island in the Yucatan that neither of us had been to. To get there, we'd fly to Cancun, take a car two hours north, and then get on a ferry to the Holbox.

We'd hired a car with the hotel and were expecting to see a placard with our names on it when we exited the airport. It was a madhouse and we couldn't find anyone who looked like they were coming to get us. A nice man in a uniform asked me if he'd like me to call our hotel and find out where our car was. I speak Spanish which is always helpful when traveling in Mexico. I generally feel pretty confident in my communication. "That's strangely nice." I thought to myself as he started dialing. But then I felt a little tug in my belly and I had the thought, "This is weird."

That's where my suspicions started. "Let me see the phone screen," I said and he showed me the number he'd dialed. It matched that of our hotel. I heard the man talking in Spanish to someone on the other line. He was talking about our ride, where was it, what was happening. Then the nice man looked at us and said, "Your ride says the van broke down and you should take a cab."

"Let me talk to the person you're talking to," I said. My suspicions that this was a scam were mounting.

I talked to the person on the phone who confirmed that the van had broken down and that we should take a taxi and save the receipt. The hotel would pay once we arrived. The guy in the uniform waited patiently while I finished the phone call and then led us to an area where we would meet the "taxi." It seemed odd that he took us to a more secluded area of the airport parking lot where no one could see us. I asked him to call our hotel again. He did and I again confirmed the plan with the person on the end of the line.

Finally a van came and we got in. Nancy is much more easy-going than I am and she's very trusting. I, on the other hand and borderline clinically anxious and I'm a skeptic. As we climbed into the van, I felt a surge of panic. "Nancy!" I practically screamed as I half stood in the van, "this is not right. We need to get out of this van." At this point our luggage was in the back and we were getting ready to make our way to a cash machine to take out the $320 (!!!!) we'd need to pay the driver.

"Laura," Nancy coaxed in the voice she so often uses to calm me down, "It's okay. This is just a change." I took a deep breath, sat back in my seat, and hoped for the best.

We did make it to the ferry. When we got there I asked the driver to call our hotel and tell them were we catching the ferry to the other side. He called and then reported back to us in Spanish, "The hotel said they were waiting for you at the airport for two hours but you never showed up. I just wanted you to know that they're saying they sent a car."

It was a scam. When we finally got to our hotel, we confirmed it. Those guys at the airport had a fine-tuned, well-honed plan to "help" tourists like us. Once we settled in I had the realization that we were really lucky to have gotten to our destination at all. We had prepaid the $320 and they really didn't need to drive us 100 miles north. I also had the realization that I knew the whole time that we were being swindled and I didn't listen to my gut. I was mad at myself for ignoring that voice and I was mad at Nancy for shutting it down.

I spent a good 48 hours feeling really mad-- at Nancy. And at myself. Countless times, as I sat stewing in my lounge chair under a palapa in paradise, Nancy would lean over and say things like, "Laura, I am so sorry I didn't listen to your intuition." After about the tenth apology I was finally able to engage in a conversation.

Nancy and I are different. I operate on an almost purely gut level all the time. I very rarely make pros and cons lists, do cost-benefit analyses, or take time to really look at the rationale behind my decisions. Nancy, on the other hand, is very analytical, a thorough processor.  Neither way of being in the world is right or wrong or better or worse. They are just different ways of being in the world. The experience at the Cancun airport highlighted the importance of making space for all ways.  Because I'm so anxious, Nancy and I both dismissed the strong gut feelings I was having. If we'd listened, separated the anxiety from the intuition, the outcome would have been different. We would have slowed down, called the hotel on our own phones, gone back inside the airport and regrouped.

In the end we were safe. We had a wonderful vacation and an important conversation. I'm not mad anymore. The next time my intuition rears strongly like it did last week I'll listen to it. And I think Nancy will too.

Monday, April 2, 2018

It wasn't so bad.

A few years ago when I went to New Orleans for a week, the yoga studio sprinkler system went haywire and we had a flood. A big one. It took us two weeks of being closed with industrial sized fans to dry out the place.

Yesterday morning, while I was in Chicago celebrating Passover with stepmother, my four siblings and our families, I received a phone call in the middle of the night from the Seattle Police Department that someone had broken into The SweatBox. I didn't get the message until I woke up in the morning, four hours after the incident. The message said that someone had broken in and done damage. They needed someone to identify what items had been stolen. I was in Chicago, twelve hours away from my 8pm flight time that night.

I panicked right away because that's how I roll. Panic first, think later.  I called Nancy who was home in Seattle but she didn't answer. Then I called Seth who was teaching that morning and asked if he could go a bit early and assess the damage. I was deep into a melt down imagining the computer gone, our modest cash box depleted.  I didn't stop to think that there really wasn't much to steal from a yoga studio......

Eventually I got a hold of Nancy who met Seth and the police at the studio. Between the two of them they managed to get the full scoop from the police, clean up the place and get students ready for Seth's 8am class.

They assessed that the burglar, who the police actually caught, had taken nothing. He had, however caused significant damage. In addition to the front lobby window he broke through, he smashed one of our bathroom toilets and, in an attempt to escape police, actually kicked through a wall in the men's dressing room into the main area of our building.

Once I got the story from Nancy and talked to the officer on duty, I was able to take a breath. A patron at Neumos, the night club down the street had seen the guy break the window at 2:30am and called the cops which ultimately resulted in his arrest.

No one was hurt. Students checked in while the police took the report and classes would continue as normal all day long, despite the broken toilet and demolished wall.  I hung up the phone, took a deep breath and went on to enjoy my last hours with my siblings and their kids before flying back to Seattle.

When I arrived to the studio today, tired from a midnight arrival last night and very little sleep for the worry I was holding over the repairs to be done to the studio, I was pleasantly surprised. It was the same. Yes, the front window was boarded up, but as I walked in at 7:30am, greeting the 6am students who were leaving and the 8am students who were just arriving, it was as if none of it had happened. The energy was the same as it always is. People were laughing and chatting and sweating. I shared the bits and pieces of the burglar's escapades with people and we all laughed imagining someone escaping by kicking through an actual wall!!!

By the time I left today the toilet had been replaced, the men's dressing room wall had a preliminary sheetrock patch, and all of the glass shards were safely in the belly of the shop vac. The insurance claim was filed and it felt like business as usual. Just like that.  I felt actual happiness, joy even for the fact that it all worked out.

I'm not surprised that our studio was broken into. Times are desperate. So many people are struggling-- with poverty, addiction, anger and despair. Maybe the guy who did this was just pissed at the world and needed a place to rage. Maybe he really thought he'd get some cash from a little yoga studio. I'm not glad this happened. It will cost me money and it caused a great deal of stress for me and many other people, but it also renewed my sense of community, of gratitude for the connections we have in our little village of Capitol Hill in our growing city of Seattle. The SweatBox is open and ready to serve. All are welcome.


What am I worth?

For the first time in my adult life I am in the position of not having a "real job." I am on a chosen hiatus from being fully d...