Snip. Snip.

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I sat alone at a bar two hours before midnight on New Year’s Eve.  I watched couples and groups of friends in their fancy attire, clinking jubilant glasses; their laughter as lively as their libations.  I watched Times Square, already an hour into 2016, in full party mode on the TV above the bar, and as I nibbled the salt off of the rim of my margarita, I couldn’t help but wonder, what in the hell kind of holiday hullabaloo is New Year’s even about?

We spend exorbitant amounts of money to participate in parties rife with high expectations, bad champagne, and usually devoid of any significant payoff.  We make resolutions that last for 2.5 days, or like mine, which don’t actually kick in until January 2nd, because you’re so hung-over after the New Year’s Eve party that all good behavior need not apply on New Years Day.

Now, don’t worry.  This isn’t a doomsday story of a sad, troubled girl sitting at a bar, spending New Year’s drinking all alone.  I spent the next 48 hours with new friends and it was the best two days I have had in a long time.

But I did wonder, where did the traditions come from? The celebrating? The resolutions? The shedding of the old and embracing the new…and so I asked the Oracle. Otherwise known as Google.

In pre-Christian times, based on the Julian calendar, the first of January honored the Roman god, Janus.  After which, January was named.  Janus was the god of gateways, doors and new beginnings.  He was depicted as having two heads, one that looked forward and one that looked backwards.  Which makes sense when you contemplate the lyrics of Auld Lang Syne, the New Year’s song which poses the question: “should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?” No matter what changes life brings, what and who do we choose to remember?  What do we leave behind and what do we take with us?

Now based on the modern, Gregorian calendar of Christendom, January 1st was the day Jesus was named and then circumcised.  Talk about shedding! Talk about a day NOT to celebrate: get your dick cut off and have your fate sealed as the Son of God, (talk about nepotism) doomed to persecution, public ridicule and a whole lot of splinters.  Leave it up to the Christians to celebrate a day of foreskin removal and penile mutilation as a sign of hope and possibility.

Now has anybody clued into the fact that Jesus was named Jesus (snip, snip) on the exact same day, which previously celebrated the god, Janus?

Jesus. Janus. Um…hello??? Perhaps the whole thing was a typo all this time!

BOOM!!! I just blew your mind. Da Vinci Code Unplugged!

What I’m getting at (or not getting at) is that everything in my world falls under the category of “new” right now.

It’s really hard to start over. I’m too old for this shit. I was always the new kid. I used to crave being the new kid. I used to move all the time; saw it as an opportunity to re-invent myself.  To be a better version of myself.  But I didn’t come here for that.  I would like, for a time, a little predictability.  Stability.  A comfort zone that feels like home.  Something or someone to stick. A sense of self that feels solid.  And so I feel resistant to all of this newness, because I didn’t ask for this and I certainly didn’t seek it out.

I just moved into a new apartment, have a new job, meeting new friends, flying to New Mexico next weekend (to see an old friend) and let’s not forget, a new studio; my dream and my focus for the last FIVE years is opening at the end of February. Whether I like it or not, newness is something I must accept.  And while newness is supposed to be exciting, fresh and exhilarating, mostly, I feel a little scared and intimidated.

Newness is inevitable. And I have to figure out how to move forward (snip, snip) and let old acquaintance be forgot.

I choose what to remember and what to carry forward. And maybe that is a new twist to an old story that simply changes everything….

 

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When Stars Collide

Memoirs of a Downward Facing Dog

It’s funny how quickly life changes course. Just a few weeks ago I thought that my summer would be filled with camping trips, festivals, hikes, love, bike rides, weddings and the quintessential experience of the Oregon adventure.

Instead, I am spending nearly the entire month of July, on my own, teaching yoga in New York City.

The Universe seemed to think that swapping a sickly summer stench, the hot air rising off of subway grates, sizzling street meats and steamed hotdogs swirling amidst the exhaust of 40,000 taxicabs for all of that romantic, fresh mountain air was a fair trade.

At first, I thought, “This is bullshit.” But then again, maybe I’m exactly where I need to be.

I never realized that New York City is a place that I’ve never lived, but a place in which I’ve spent enough time to have racked up quite a lot of memories. Walking through the neighborhood around my Airbnb apartment, I am flooded with waves of nostalgia. I am familiar here. I walked past a restaurant in which I ate like a queen with an ex, ex, ex-lover; now closed down. My walk took me past a restaurant in which I had brunch with my mom a few years after. And then still, another restaurant, with a different lover sometime after that. (A lot of restaurants and lovers, I know, but it’s New York City. What did you expect?) And while drinking a six-dollar latte outside of the coffee shop across the street from my apartment, on the very same street in which I visited a college roommate some ten years ago, another friend rides by on his bike.  In a city of 1.6 million people, and I still manage to run into someone I know.

In The City that Never Sleeps, I have joined the ranks of insomniacs. Call it jet lag or heartbreak, or a combination of both and I have yet to fall asleep before 3 am. If there is one place that I know of on the planet to be solo, alone, or even a little bit broken, it is Manhattan. You can saddle up to a bar, and I do, all by myself, and don’t think anything of it. I don’t distract myself with my phone. I just sit. And I drink. And watch life pass by in perfect anonymity. This is a place in which to wander the streets, with my headphones plugged in and no one would think otherwise if you were to suddenly start sobbing on the sidewalk. It’s New York City, man. There are a lot of reasons to cry here.

The energy of life is like a Band-Aid. All of those people, with their nose to the grindstone, trying to live, succeed, get ahead; thrive and survive. And it feeds you, vicariously, like the pulse of a heartbeat of someone who probably has blood pressure problems.

I smoke on my grated balcony, because that’s what I do when my heart hurts, and I envision Audrey Hepburn in her doo-rag, strumming her guitar, singing Moon River in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

A friend told me that her teacher once said, “A billion stars had to explode for you to be…here.”

What are our expectations but merely our attempts at controlling the outcome?

And if that many stars exploded on my behalf, what else is there to do but trust?

 

 

 

Then and Now

Memoirs of a Downward Facing Dog

I remember the day that I moved to Montreal.

I had been dumped just a few months before. The original plan was to move to Montreal with my at-the-time boyfriend. We both were accepted to university and thought it would be just the fresh start we needed to give our floundering relationship a second chance. I was to move home with my parents for three months prior to Montreal to work in the States and save up some money, while he tidied up loose ends at our house. So with only my dog and a suitcase, I flew back to Massachusetts, still in love and hopeful.

Three days later he dumped me over the phone.

I spent a good many days into weeks sobbing uncontrollably. I worked 70-hour weeks to numb and distract. The proverbial carpet had been pulled out from under me and I had no idea what to do next. Until one day, I woke up and said, “Fuck it. I’m going to Montreal anyways.”

I knew no one, didn’t speak the language, and at this point, had never even been to the city. My first roommate and I found each other on an online roommate referral service, based on the sheer fact that we both “loved to dance.”  One phone conversation was all it took for us to seal the deal, and soon enough she was searching for our apartment.

The day of the move, my parents drove me up to the city with a borrowed horse trailer filled with my belongings attached to their SUV. A new horse trailer. It was a Friday night in June. By the time we rolled into the city, the streets were bustling as Friday night streets bustle. Cars double parked and whizzing up St. Denis, passing us with only centimeters to spare on the sides of the horse trailer. Squeegee kids didn’t even bother with the windshield of our unusual caravan. And the proximity of pedestrians, cars and bicyclists to the truck had Mom white knuckling the “oh-shit” handles. My new roommate was at a concert with her boyfriend, so I had to pick up the key in his mailbox. He lived off of Rue Prince Arthur, a pedestrian-only street lined with restaurants.

It was a sultry summer’s night, and the terrasses were packed. People clinked their wine glasses in a cacophony of laughter and life. The globes of the street lamps cast warm, inviting light across the colorful awnings that lined the cobblestone street. The water fountain giggled its gurgling little song while a street performer played music, and pedestrians walked past the historic, old buildings; architectural remnants of their French and British influences. A mini-Europe bustling with a vibrant joie de vivre. I practically skipped down the street with the key in my hand, thinking, “Oh my god. I live here.”

Fast forward ten years and a lifetime later, and I am visiting Montreal to teach. Walking down that same street, the awnings now flap placidly amongst the grey dust that covers the street after a particularly brutal winter. Nearly all the restaurants have “A Louer “signs in their windows, as if “A Louer” is French for forgotten, tired, neglected…help me. The fountain does not gurgle, but rather chokes on the cigarette butts that line its bottom. Prince Arthur is like a ghost-town, and although pedestrians still walk down its gum-crusted cobblestone, it does not shine at one fraction of its former glory.

It’s funny how things change. Ten years later, I am still friends with that roommate. We just spent a Friday afternoon together; four girls sitting at a kitchen table drinking wine and talking about boys and love; the hardships and joys of life and we laughed and it felt exactly the same. Teaching at the Montreal studio felt like home, and there is no place that compares to the warm welcome that I feel just walking up those Nag Champa-scented stairs. Moving to Montreal was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It changed me.

So when I got off my plane in Portland, I took in my first deep breath of air so fresh it almost tastes green, and it felt like coming home.  Our car passed the dogwoods, the flowers, all that open space, and I lifted my chin to the crisp drops of rain on my face.

And I suspect that this move, too, will change me, because with that same sense of joy in my belly, I thought to myself, “Oh my god. I live here.”

 

 

Previously Paved

Memoirs of a Downward Facing Dog

After years of whining about being single, flying solo and lacking love and suddenly I find myself in a new relationship. And truthfully, for as much as I romanticized the romance in my singledom, in reality: it’s mutha-fuckin’-terrifying.

Those ancient, unfamiliar feelings: butterflies that almost make you want to puke.  A sudden concern about whether your legs are shaved or not. The inability to make decisions at the grocery store and text messages that in my previous single life would probably have caused me to throw my phone in the toilet: “No, you’re amazing.” “No. YOU!” “No, really, you—”    ….Hurl, Heave, BARF!

Who are we but a sum of our relationships? What defines and shapes us more that the people we have spent time with?  Succinctly put, there are those we have affected and those we have been affected by.  At the end of the day, or in our last breathing moments, is it not more important to have loved ones by your side than to have wealth, or beauty, or things?  And isn’t the way that we behave within the context of our relationships so often a reflection of how we see ourselves?

The relationships we create with our family members are the easiest to take for granted.  It’s almost natural to be critical of our siblings or parents; we feel we have a right to judge.  We throw stones for the choices they’ve made or actions we don’t understand or agree with, but isn’t it simply a matter of perspective?  Just maybe, there’s another side to the story?  If only we choose to see?

And if we can accept them for who they are, what they’ve done and how they got to be the person they are now, might we open up a little room to forgive ourselves for all the times you made her feel small, or pinned her down and slurped up spit over her eye, (which inevitably landed in the eye), or teased at slumber parties, or ignored?  Could we leave our own pasts in the past and honor the road that led to here?  And then relate to one another from present day, honest-to-god truth?

With our lovers, could we not seek to alter or change or improve? Could we not belittle or berate or nag; finding fault (and solace) in all of the things that deflect from the reality of our own insecurities.   Could we leave behind the games of chase and pursuit, the drama, and the hierarchy of whose shit is worse than whose and instead, meet on level playing fields—open and undefended?  Could we not simply let them be to thrive, and grow, and fail, and flail in the sum total of all of their magnificent glory and humble shortcomings?  And in doing so, might we eventually find satisfaction and PEACE in who we are and all of the shit we inevitably bring with us too?

Is there not so much more levity when you summon the ability to acknowledge that sometimes the very thing we are most afraid of is ourselves?

That just maybe, if you loosened your grip even a bit, on your cynicism, doubt, and fear and relinquished your conviction that you don’t deserve this; you might end up with exactly what you want?

There is a crossroads at every juncture; in every moment, a choice.  To do things differently than you did before.  To learn from the past without dwelling and to move forward without being a scaredy-pants-nincompoop.

So that all that came before is only fuel for all that is yet to be:  abundant, rich, satisfying and full of love.

Headstrong into the Ridiculous Unknown

marching forward

Ghandi says, “Whatever you do in life will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it. “  

Every day we are given opportunities to do things, say things, live bravely, let go of our fears of rejection, abandonment and disbelief.  We are given the Proceed-Past-Go-Card in order to right our wrongs and move forward in our lives.
And every day, we allow these opportunities to pass us by.

I am being given opportunities (right here, right now) to move forward, and I am scared.  I am stuck.  Moored into place by what I know.  By what is comfortable.   I’ve had writer’s block for three weeks because I know there is something I must say, and I am not sure I’m ready to “go there.”  I have enlisted every possible form of distraction and procrastination, including, but not limited to, excessive sleep-ins, excessive yoga, cooking ridiculous meals, and a newfound fascination with Garage Band on my computer.  Maybe, I’ll just become a DJ.

What is “moving forward” anyways?  Is it not merely a reckoning of our past in order to break out of the cycles that have and will continue to dictate our lives now?  One thing that is becoming clear to me is we cannot look forward until we summon up the strength to look backwards.  Mathematical impossibility.  So, as an individual who believes life is about surging forward with spirit, I know I must do what I must.   And though I know this in my brain, and even in my heart, that sickening lump of fear remains wedged in the base of my throat.

Can we really find the courage to face our deepest fears?  Transformation is simple in a conceptual way, but is assuredly not easy in real-life time.  Ditching a lifetime of ingrained beliefs and behaviors seems like voluntarily agreeing to amputation.  Can we trust enough to redefine ourselves and find a new way of being?  Can we really do the work?

Ironically, or perhaps not, the thing I need to reckon with is flashing in my face like a neon sign on the Las Vegas Strip.  And I am frantically fumbling to find my sunglasses.  We always KNOW what we need to do, don’t we?  Whether we choose to take action is up to us.

Letting go means that I must face what I do NOT know.  Marching headstrong into the ridiculous unknown.  It means opening up to a level of vulnerability that feels, in my mind, like a rib retractor being inserted through my sternum so that my heart might be on full display for all to see.  Conceptually, I know this can open up truth, compassion and forgiveness in their most pure, distilled forms…but it is terrifying nonetheless.

I allow Ghandi’s words to percolate.  It may be insignificant, but I know it must be done.  And so, I set the stage.  I struggle to summon strength.  I remain committed.

Wish me luck.

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