Thursday, January 18, 2018

Timing is Everything

I'm leaving for my first trip to India in about 46 hours. I've been desperately, painfully anxious about leaving--- my family, the studio, my familiar daily habits. It's pretty obvious that I'm sort of losing it. Last night my friend (and student, and teacher) Erika emailed me a podcast that she thought might be of value during this tumultuous emotional time. The podcast, by Tara Brach, is called Remembering and Choosing Loving Presence.

This morning I had to drop my car off on Beacon Hill to get new brakes. I decided to walk to work and use this bonus time to listen to the podcast. I love walking and relished the rain free morning to be in the city. It was commuting time and the hustle and bustle was alive and well all around-- the buses, light rail commuters, the kids going to school. One of the things I've made a personal commitment to do in the last few years is to look at as many strangers as I can in the eyes-- to smile or say hi, to just make contact and feel like the world is still small enough that we see each other individually.

As I got to the bottom of Fourteenth Avenue to the base of the Jose Rizal Bridge, I noticed someone walking much faster than I was coming from behind to pass me. I turned to see his face and looked into his eyes and smiled. In reply, he said, "You nasty ass tramp......" (I couldn't hear the rest over my ear buds once he passed in front of me).

I was surprised, hurt, and a little bit scared. This comment came at the exact time that Tara Brach was guiding her listeners to contemplate how we want people to see us in the world. I got to a crosswalk just after the man passed and, though it was against the side of the street I would eventually need to be on, opted to wait for the light and cross the street. I needed to symbolically cross away from that sentiment in my life.

The timing of this was profound. I continued walking up Twelfth and felt some of my joy returning. The colors of the International District, the smells, the murals on the street cars and dragons hanging from the electrical poles all brought me back to that urban wonder I love so much. The podcast continued on about opening up, allowing for loving presence in our lives, not grasping for what we don't have, making space for what it here now.

As I got closer to work I felt good. The man who called me a tramp was just a glimmer. I stopped at Stumptown Coffee to get a tea. When I got to the front of the line and prepared to pay, the barista said, "Your drink is on Cole today." Cole, at the other end of the coffee bar is a regular SweatBox student. His generosity smiled on my whole being with that complimentary cup of tea and I felt like everything was going to be okay. I'm going to India and all will be well.

Sunday, January 14, 2018


Lucia has been wanting Instagram since she got a phone for her twelfth birthday. Now she's thirteen-and-a-half. I've known for a long time that eventually I will say yes to her request. Last night while shopping at Nordstrom Rack for sports bras, she asked me again if she could get Instagram. "Yes," I said. Her eyes bulged in excitement. "But," I continued, "give me a little time to think about it."

"To come up with a contract?" she asked.

"Yes." I said, "I want to think more about why I'm resisting it and make a plan with you about how and why to use it."

"Can I write you an essay?" Lucia shot back. "I want to write you an essay about why I want it."

"That would be perfect." I said, so relieved for this solution and temporary stay on the inevitable Instagram activation. Lucia is a great writer and fantastic arguer. I hope debate and/or a career in law are in her future because then her arguments will be against other people and not me. Expecting a more typical teenage rant about what an uptight mom I am, I was pleasantly surprised by Lucia's response. She's been patient. Most of her friends have Instagram and/or SnapChat or other social media. I get why she wants it, but I also get how it is the path of no return and I want to step really thoughtfully onto that path.

I use Instagram and FaceBook for marketing for the yoga studio and even as a business persona, it makes me incredibly insecure and I often feel inadequate after a scroll through those sites. The other day I told my partner Nancy that I think I want to have another career. "The yoga industry is too competitive," I whined. "I don't want to be in this game."

"You've been on social media" Nancy half-questioned/half-stated. "Don't do that Laura. It's really bad for you."

She was right. I had been on Instagram scrolling through all of the incredibly creative retreats and classes and videos that people in Yoga Land were promoting and it made me feel like a little old raisin in a rocking chair with zero cool factor. I am grateful for Nancy's reminder. It snapped me out of that tailspin and I remembered who I was. I am in this business because I love yoga. I love my community. I love my job. That's real. Instagram isn't.

So as I embark on this conversation about Instagram for Lucia, what do I want her to know?

  • Instagram isn't real. It's like a video game and an art project. People are creating ideas, constructing future worlds, managing images. 
  • Instagram isn't you. It's a veil of a part of you, but it's not your authentic self. It's the outfit you wear for going to a specific party or restaurant or play. It's not your cozies that you put on when you're hanging at home with your bestie. 
  • Instagram doesn't endure. It's short lived and fleeting. It doesn't help to build your character or internal compass as you move into adulthood. It doesn't remind you when you're acting petty or immature. It doesn't guide you on a path towards a creative, inspiring career or relationship. You get that from your friends, your family, not from your followers.

As I work through all of these things about Instagram I want to share with Lucia, I'm keenly aware of how relevant they are for me. I'm going to say yes to Instagram and it will be soon. I'm scared and I'm worried, but it will happen. My hope is that Lucia will be able to play and have fun with Instagram, to feel like she's a part of the big video game of life, but that she will also keep in mind what is good and true about herself, that she will always have people in her life who remind her what is real.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Tell More Stories

This New Year's Eve I spent with my family and another family-- four adults, two teens and a ten-year-old. Our dinner of black-eyed-peas and collards was the perfect meal after a long day of skiing. After dinner we all wrote down things we wanted to purge in 2018-- grudges, bad habits, dysfunctional patterns. The plan was to share these with our little community so we could have support in letting go of these things and staying on course in the new year. The final action would be burning papers in the fire pit on the front patio of our rental house.

In addition to the things we wanted to let go of, we also wrote down things we wanted to do more of in 2018. Among mine were eating less sugar and assuming best intentions of people in my life. Bea, the ten-year-old, wrote, "Tell more stories." This struck me as profound for many reasons. What does that mean? To tell more stories. Is it to share what happened at school during dinner with the family? Is it making up a fairy tale before bedtime?

Bea is a very articulate, incredibly creative ten-year-old and she tells amazing stories. I've tried to remember myself at that age, in the era of much less technology, a time when we spent so much more time talking to each other than talking to our phones and laptops. Sometimes before bed my daughter Lucia will ask me to tell a story of my childhood and I struggle to conjure one. I have a hard time recalling in detail how I was forty years ago, but I do remember how my sisters and I would make up scenarios all the time: imagining that we were the proprietors of a grocery store or the managers of a hotel, or movie stars or veterinarians or olympic swimmers.

I worry a lot about how technology is changing our world, how it is hindering the creativity and imagination of my child, but maybe I'm worrying unnecessarily. This morning Bea's older sister shared a virtual story of our family ski trip complete with photos, videos and a pop music soundtrack. It's a different kind of story, but it's still a story. It's creative and beautiful and it highlights the wonderful time our families shared.

I remember when my grandmother was 94, trying to explain email to her. I  remember showing her pictures on my laptop seeing the wonder in her face. This year I will turn 50. I got my AARP membership card in the mail yesterday. I'm getting older and the world around me is changing. But there are still stories. We might tell them differently now, but there are still here. There will always be stories to tell.

Work Life Balance

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