If you’ve read previous posts about important days in the year – Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, etc, you’ll know that my strategy in approaching these events is something along the lines of “oh cr&p, it’s [insert holiday]”. Often it’s “oh cr&p it’s [insert someone’s] birthday.
Now before I unintentionally paint myself as the world’s most insensitive mother, please know that this doesn’t relate to children’s birthdays, which are usually SWAT team-planned the day before. And generally follow the creative bake-a-cake-and-make-your-favorite-meal variety. Elaborate birthday parties, with the exception of this one aren’t my strength.
You can impute thusly that preparation for national holidays isn’t my strength to the power of infinity. Taking that one step further, it wouldn’t be so shocking to learn that I was duly unprepared for Easter this year.
But Easter hasn’t happened! [yells the reader before throwing her shoe at the screen]
Hold on…I’m getting to the punchline.
According to the Gregorian calendar, it has yet to happen. But in our family, Easter will be spent in the coach section of United Airlines flight ABC123, hauling three kids and corresponding bag tonnage to a Caribbean island far far away. So, based on a technicality, Easter actually happened last Sunday. In the form of a neighborhood egg hunt planned by others, and open, mercifully, to all.
Yoga: A 5,000-year-old practice, beloved by millions the world throughout. Beloved, possibly, by everyone but me. Or so was the case until a few months ago.
My gripe with yoga had nothing to do with the practice itself; my fundamental lack of skill was to blame.
Yogis everywhere are shaking their heads right now. I understand that it’s called “practice” for a reason. It’s not called “yoga perfect”, there are no yoga champions; people don’t travel across the US to participate in timed yoga trials. Slap each other on the back after sweating it out through a particularly grueling yoga marathon. Yoga is not a competitive thing.
However, I recognized the purported health benefits and felt that I should give it some time. I tried my hand at Hatha, breathed my way through Vinyasa. I learned to salute the sun, mimic a warrior, pose like a tree, a frog, and a fish. I even experimented with Bikram (hot yoga) before realizing that any athletic activity that requires a mid-afternoon nap isn’t sustainable.
But I couldn’t get past one issue: I have the natural flexibility of a yardstick, and I just felt so completely incompetent.
So I dropped the practice, gave away my yoga mat, burned my pre-Lululemon bootcut stretch pants. I figured that I’d still have tennis for my later years. Maybe join a bowling league. But yoga wouldn’t factor, that I knew.
Fast-track 10 years and I was at the dentist, complaining of some jaw pain. A recent experience with a glazed donut suggested that my mouth would no longer open more than a crack without pain. I expected the worst: root canal, immediate tooth extraction, perhaps some invasive laser head surgery.
The diagnosis surprised me: TMJ.
“Have you been under a lot of stress lately?”
Er, I’m living out my dream of working with food and getting to spend time with my three lovely children…So I suppose that my answer would be no? How stress-derived TMJ was the culprit is still beyond me. But it was there. And it needed attention. Hiring a personal masseuse, however dreamlike, wouldn’t fit my budget. And talk about not getting to the root of the problem.
I was reading a biography at the time where the subject – at one time hooked on drugs and married to a dysfunctional Hollywood actor – found her salvation through yoga and meditation. And I realized that my old friend yoga might have the answer for me as well.
This time….things could be different. After all, I’m more mature, with a slew of folding elbow wrinkles to match. Being the least flexible person in the room wouldn’t be the worst of my problems.
I searched for yoga studios in my neighborhood that would emphasize the meditative aspect of the practice. I wanted to relax, focus less on strength, channel my energy towards mindfulness and inner peace.
I’ve been called a lot of names in my life. A favorite, from middle school, was “Fur”. Fortunately it had nothing to do with body hair; it was a shortened version of my last name which was deemed unpronounceable. Which is all well and good until your boyfriend starts referring to you as “Furburger”.
Back in the bling bling days of the early aughts, when J.Lo and Ben Affleck were doing their horizontal yacht thing in rap videos, I earned the slightly more palatable nickname at work: J.Fo.
As in “what’s going on in that tiny cube J.Fo?”
(that would be the cube with no windows, two computer monitors and a headset).
“Nothing much, just planning my exit strategy from this sweatshop and the name isn’t helping.”
That conversation didn’t happen but my, did I fantasize.
In one of my first blog posts I referenced one of my earlier, husband-assigned nicknames: the “pocket wife”. Both of us are at fault for our size difference; him with his ceiling-grazing stature, me with my child-sized clothing.
However, if we’re really going to get into it, one of us came this close to receiving college scholarship funding from the [blank] club of America. Size discrimination is real. I’m not saying who it was, but here’s a hint: this person never went by the name of “Fur”.
“A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was. The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed that it was. The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full.. The students responded with a unanimous ‘yes.’”
I am the professor.
The jar is my fridge.
A kindly yogurt company delivered the golf balls last week in the form of probiotic yogurt drinks, yogurt squeezers, and 10,000 containers of yogurt.
The pebbles are now the milk, fruit, meat, and other items that called this (formerly spacious) receptacle home. They have been displaced.
Plastic boxes of cherry tomatoes, jewel-like jars of anchovies, preserved lemons, sandwich bread, all pushed, prodded, wedged, and jammed until virtually no negative space remains. The fridge light has gone dim, covered by sprawling leek greens.
There is no room for sand.
While I’m grateful to my friend the yogurt company for this bountiful gift of dairy, I can’t make enough smoothies to free up the kind of space that I need back. The kind of space that wouldn’t require that I shift five items in order to replace a package of ham. The kind of space that prevents bread from molding because “look!” there’s some bread on that middle shelf. The kind of space doesn’t make me curse.
When putting the smoothie machine into overdrive isn’t the answer, you turn to tried and true methods: the leftover meal. Now here’s a trustworthy guy. He’s accepting of all friends – no matter the color, shape or state of disrepair. The wilting mushroom; the forgotten bundle of asparagus; the piece of cheese who’s sweating it out, racing towards his expiration date.
“There were three little squirrels trying to claw their way under the covers.”
“That does sound scary. But don’t worry lady, we all have nightmares. I had one last night too.”
“What happened in yours?”
“Well, we’d just flown back from a family trip and were at home unpacking our bags…when I realized that we’d planned another family trip for that very same day. It was a huge rush to repack everything and get back to the airport. And on top of it all, I had to write a blog post.”
“Um….that was your nightmare?”
Yes, my dear, as you age, nightmares become less about monsters, more about things like perfectionism and overcommitment. But maybe that’s just me.
Fortunately I don’t have nightmares about the blog too often. And when I do, it’s not about the work that I have to do, but about the standard that I try to maintain. As I look back at earlier blog posts, it’s wonderful to see an evolution. Which, in a sense, is what keeps me going.
I’m my own biggest critic, so when I see improvements – whether it’s within the writing, or the photography – I become excited to do more. To write more, to take more pictures, to develop a style that feels distinctly my own.
I read an article in The New York Times that said that blogs have a higher failure rate than restaurants. Causality seems clear. People get caught up in the metrics – their pageviews, unique visitors, press mentions, and number of social media followers. It can be frustrating when you’re not getting as much exposure as you think you should.
I know this from prior experience. I was spending hours each week throwing myself into this new hobby, which somewhere along the line became a legitimate job – taking pictures wherever I went; writing at odd hours of the night. And I wanted to know that people were reading it. If not, what was the point?
Recently I wrote about perspective. About shifting your view, even by an inch, and suddenly the world looks a whole lot different. Yes, I was talking about Starbucks and grits, but the rules still apply.