Monday, September 29, 2014

lessons from my vertebrae

The alarm went off. It's Sunday morning. My eyes are open. But I am in pain. An excruciating amount of pain. In my neck. Like the worst pain ever. Ow. Oh my gosh. Panic. Sore. Can't move. Can't flip the covers off and run into the world. What is happening? The thoughts are on overdrive. True panic setting in. Okay. Yes, I can feel my fingers and toes. But neck and head? Can't move. Ice pick pain in the back of my neck and the left side of my neck is like a bunch of glue and straw all piled together. Slowly but surely I use my arms to prop myself up on the mattress, my eyes closed tightly. My partner truly concerned. "How can I help? What do you need?" 

Hot shower. Tea. Slow movements. What I need is for all of this to go away. Today is our engagement photo shoot with my friend who is launching her freelance photography business. It was supposed to be perfect. My outfits, my hair, his outfits, his hair. All of it. Like newlyweds but not. And here I was, completely immobile, in tears, because my neck was locked up. 

Was it the yoga? Was it the shots I got last week at the travel clinic for my India trip? Did I flail in the night during a nightmare and whack myself? WHAT DID I DO?  

The funny part about this whole thing is twofold: 

1. I went to the natural place in my self-sabotaging way of blaming myself for something I did to cause this amount of bodily pain. I made it all about me/myself/I. I did something bad and got a bad result. Easy peezy. 

2. I was concerned about what I would look like in my engagement photos with a bad neck, Ha. 

Well, to wrap up this little moment, I ended up taking a scalding shower, started to feel better, put on my outfit, and we went to the photo shoot, which ended up being wonderful. truly, absolutely perfect in every way, shape and form. We then went to lunch with our friends and gobbled down delicious sandwiches, soup, lemonades, and chai lattes. And came home. My neck was still very stiff. I was still in a lot of pain. But I survived and I was OK. 

Today, I woke up to the same friggin scenario. Lots of pain, immobility, etc. I write an e-mail to work and completely surrendered to the fact that today, I was going to snuggle up close with my neck pain and hopefully learn a thing or two about my operating agreement with myself when things become uncomfortable in my body. 

Ask for help. I am not a super huge fan of chiropractic care, but this was an exception, I really had to tune into my intuitive self and ask, "Body, what do you need? What do you feel?' I felt stuck. Like something in my neck was actually physically stuck/turned around/tweaked. I called in, appointment for 2:30pm. Until then, rest.

PhotoFood good. Mmmm. A big bowl of pho is exactly what makes me feel so good when I am under the weather. Around 11;30am, I ventured out to grab some to bring back to my house. It's totally amazing how nourishment can take pain away, even if just for a moment. I think back to steaming bowls of pastene or Italian wedding soup when I was sick as a kid and it does do wonders. Even if bones are out of place.

Permission. My partner can attest that I hate to rest and embrace boredom. I very rarely take sick days and the idea of "do nothing," pushes me to my limit. This pain I was feeling converted me into a permission believer. Take the time to do Pinterest, play Candy Crush, watch the Biggest Loser & Master Chef Junior on hulu...whatever you do, just be lazy. 

Do the heal. Tea, good food, water, even some ibuprofen, and ice as well as conscious breathing and relaxation are my remedies right now.  

After my visit to the chiropractor, my x-ray showed that the vertebrae in my neck are curving the wrong way. I have to undo some damage. Chin back, relax, will all go back into place. I did have one little bugger though that was completely out and after some snap, crackle, pop, I do feel the relief. But there is still work to be done. I am still in pain. 

One of my yoga teachers says that our own injuries make us better practitioners, but make us the best teachers. It's like a big science experiment and the body is a laboratory. Hmmm...what am I learning where and now? Hmmm...this is an interesting place to be, both mind and body. What is my reaction to this? Where do I resist? What do I embrace?

So I march on, with pain in my neck and back and hope for healing because I know that healing is a practice in itself. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

car repair

One of the things I love about my partner is his ability (and talent) to perform basically all of our car maintenance and repair. He is fearless (as well as experienced) to take on this part of our household and I truly admire him for it. He has no qualms about doing research, getting the right tools and parts together, and scheduling a day for the repair or service. It brings him joy, a deep sense of accomplishment, and it saves us a ton of money.

This past weekend, we replaced my suspension. Yes, the suspension, meaning struts. It is quite a simple job when you look at the big picture; you jack the car up, remove the tires, take out the old strut, use a tool to tighten the shocks so the strut can be replaced, put in the new one, attach some bolts, and boom. New suspension. Well...that's the textbook version.

Let me step back a moment. I can personally speak to the satisfaction one gets from a day of vehicle work. I have learned so much from these repairs...and the biggest lesson of all is how to work with your partner under the stressful conditions of a car repair. It's like a laboratory for our relationship. Car repairs embody communication, trust, a sense of humor, a common goal/vision, etc. All of these things wrapped up in oil changes, new brakes, etc.

The repair was going quite fine. We spanned it across the weekend as we had previous commitments sprinkled in, including our engagement photos. The weather was quite delightful. I was suffering from a pulled muscle in my neck, so I was more immobile than usual, but was assisting where I could. The sun was out, life was good, we were making progress. Then....

The tool we were using for the shocks themselves started to malfunction. "Well this sucks," he said. The sun started to go down, it became damp outside, dew started to form. We were in the shit and it wasn't looking promising in the sense that I would have a vehicle for Monday morning. But you see, this is where the joy comes from. We worked together. I ran about grabbing tools, holding the flashlight, providing words of encouragement, where the old me would have started yelling about starting the project too late in the day, saying things like, "This is why we shouldn't do this," or "You don't know what you are doing." The old me would have succumbed to the pressure, the tension that was in existence at that moment in time. Magic happens when there is a pause between the stimulus-response. I provided the pause, he provided the creativity. We got to solve it together. We were both out there in the damp fall evening and we got it done.

Now, I am not your typical cheerleader for my partner. I don't stand by his side every waking moment saying, "You can do it!" and baking cookies every time he changes my oil, but my insight this weekend was more about the fact that when we come together despite the conditions and constraints around us, we are practically invincible. That gives me so much inspiration. It grows not only my unconditional love for him, but for our partnership. I am so grateful for that...and my new suspension.

Monday, September 15, 2014

the dahlias die

As many of you know, I have quite the affinity for dahlias. I cannot even begin to describe with words how much joy they bring me. Honestly, it's not just the beautiful blooms that bring me joy, it's the whole process from start to finish that brings me total contentment and bliss. 

a dinner plate dahlia in bloom about a month ago
The selection process, the planting, the weeks of nurturing that include watering and staking, making sure that the containers are positioned to get the right amount of sun, and then the waiting and watching. And when the buds start to form, and little by little, as if they are trying with all their might, they start to open and then like something out of the secret garden, the dahlias bloom and bloom, shooting amazing colors into my yard. I walk out on Monday mornings early, cut the flowers and bring them to work so I can enjoy them there. I cut more and send them home with friends. They shower all surfaces in my house. 

Now, they are nearing their end of their life cycle. Heading to dormancy. The leaves and stalks are drying out a little, the blooms look a little lazy, and a powdery mildew is encroaching upon the leaves. The dahlias start to die off. The good news is that the dahlias I grow come back year after year, with proper care and storage but this time of year I always feel a sense of sadness in the witnessing of their death. 

Tonight, I was watering at sunset and as I looked around at my garden, specifically at the dahlia plants, I was overcome with the mixed sense of joy and sadness. Up until this moment, I had not been super aware of being in touch with the combination of these two emotions, yet I realized that these two emotions can and do exist in my life in so many ways. 

...when I bring my students out of savasana at the end of a yoga class.
...when I visit home for the holidays and fly back after new years.
...when I see my garden transition seasons.
...when I finish a project, a book, or a journal entry.

The emotions of joy and sadness at the same time bring this unique sense of closure and room for new beginnings. So as we transition into a new season, there is always a mix of emotions; joy, sadness, frustration, apathy, bliss, happiness, anger. 

It's so natural to get stuck in going with the flow, being stuck in our habits and processes but I challenge you to tune into what emotions exist, what's being churned up, what is triggering you. Maybe it's the dahlias dying back or the fact that our days are becoming shorter, but I give us permission to just be in the moment and sit with the complexity of it all. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014


Tonight I came home from work and I was pretty amped up. I really felt my agitation, my energy bordering on that fine line of being contained and spilling out. My symptoms included an increase in volume in my voice (which my partner can spot right away), a bit of pacing around, a lot of diarrhea of the mouth (gossiping, complaining, making huge assumptions about everything and everybody), and an unwillingness to soften. I have been feeling like this for about a week or so now and tonight, I decided to engage my opposite action I did. I sat down on my meditation cushion and said, "Just 10 minutes. I am giving myself 10 minutes." And now I am here, sitting, writing, feeling cooled off, collected, and way more grounded.


I came out of my sit with my brain and body a little softer, a little more open, a little less agitated. Truly lovely.

I also came out with one of those little insights. I will always be challenged but it doesn't have to be this hard.

I haven't been doing the best job attending to my physical health lately. I haven't been super disciplined with my exercise and physical yoga practice, have been going to bed super late, enjoying more glasses of wine and chocolate than I probably should, and cheese...need I say more about cheese? The same is true for my meditation practice. I have been enjoying sleeping in and not sitting in the mornings and it has really thrown off my game. And I have been judging the hell out of myself.

One of my biggest lessons I took with me into turning 30 was that living in an either/or, black/white world isn't the best place and unfortunately I have been spending way too much time there. So, what now? Well I am declaring that I am giving that sh%* up. Not worth it to judge and hate. Life is constantly ebbing and flowing and that's it. Certain things take up my energy for a certain time and I give my attention and energy to that thing...being 100% present is more important to me than carefully attending to this elusive idea of balance. Sometimes, things go on the back burner and ultimately it comes down to how I want to feel.

So, what now? Well I am not sure. I am just here, living, working, loving, making a difference. I am clear on how I want to feel - Nourished, Vitality, Connected, Grace, Limitless. And that's what matters most, despite the perceived challenges.