Sunday, July 27, 2014

Requiem: A Song of Memory

Requiem: A Song of Memory*

Link to Brahm's and Mozart's Requiem

When I lost my baby, it was as though everything that was possible ended.  When my mother had died, I felt that my naïve thoughts about health were in the past.  It did not matter if you never abused your body, it didn’t matter how well you ate or how full your heart was of forgiveness, death could come for you and there would be no reason to it.  It just came.  And leaves a trail of heartbreak in its wake. 
Even so, when the busyness and expansion of pregnancy occurs, the complete immersion into existing for another, it never occurred to me that the person for which the pain of being split wider was happening would actually never appear. 
How to Have a Miscarriage
And what you have left is space--deep interior space filled with both parts real and unreal, of blood and sorrow. Of tissue and loss, of pain in rhythm with metallic air and grief. 

When I tell people I have lost a baby, there is usually pain and compassion in their glance.  Then, "Is it your first?"  “No,” I say, “I have three children.”   Then there is tightening, an actual vice like gripping in the very air and a coldness.  "Well, you should be grateful for the children you have then."  I nod and am ashamed.  How dare I expect more?  How dare I complain of loss when I have riches already? 

Miscarriage is a terribly insufficient word for what I have experienced.  It means, first, “corrupt or incompetent management; especially :  a failure in the administration of justice,” and second, “spontaneous expulsion of a human fetus before it is viable and especially between the 12th and 28th weeks of gestation.” 

When I became a mother, and for me it happened as
soon as the possibility appeared blue or pink as a line tearing through paper in its haste to be known, my instinctual duty is to protect from harm. And with each loss, I felt extraordinary failure.  And a shadow of deep fear.  Both were exacerbated by comments that ranged from the seemingly innocuous to the downright knife woundingly fierce. The voices are loud and they crowd around me, people who care for me and people who could care less and all those in between:

                                                                   “It was God’s will.”

"Why do you need to push
this at your age?"

                                                               "You have three                                                                           children, be grateful."

"You are too old, something in
your body has changed.  
Stop doing this."

                                                        "You have three healthy                                                           children, be happy."

"You are unbelievably selfish.  
Do you have any idea how 
many children are out there
waiting to be adopted?"

"Listen to your body, it     
       just cannot do it."

"You cannot have a healthy
baby at your age.  The chances
are a million to one."

                                                                       "Just be happy                                                                            with the family                                                                           you do have. A lot                                                                        of people don't                                                                              have that."

"Just stop already.  
So many people 
would kill for just one baby."

                                                                   "No one should                                                                             have more than 2                                                                         children.  The                                                                                 population is out of                                                                    control."

"Wow are you so desperate
for a girl that you'd just 
risk your life?"

"You need to pray more, and listen more and ask for forgiveness from God."

The last one was from a family member on my husband's side.  Most of these comments resonate in my head, but the last one implied that I didn't pray, that I don't listen and that it was something intrinsically wrong in my character that led to my child's death.  And that, my friends, could not be further from anything that I know or am.

Maybe some of the comments that swirl around my saddened brain are meant to be kind, concerned for my health rather than aiming at my intention.  I
don't know.  What I do know is that somewhere in the space between of not being and having lies an emptiness so vast and profound, I find that I am lost in it.  That space holds my grief and it is the space I enter to be silent and hold my loss, because in the eyes of the world, I have no right and no claim to sorrow.

My answers are simple:
I know I am older.
We are grateful beyond measure for the three children whose lives are ours to guide.
We feel our family isn't complete.
We aren't feeling called to adopt.
We have the resources and ability to raise another child.
We are not seeking extraordinary measures or taxing anyone’s resources including our own.

Has it been this way for you?  Maybe not about a child, but about something else?  A loss that splits you but cannot be shared because the tolerance in the eyes of the world for that grief is shortened considerably by circumstances that are not of your choosing?

If that has happened, and if no one else has told you.  I want to say, how sorry I am for your loss.  How sorry I am that you are hurting.  How I wish there
was something, anything I could do to offer you comfort.  To reassure you that there will be time to smile, just that there will be something in it that was never there before and will never be separate from it again.   To reassure you that your grief is your right.  And to remind you that you are indeed a good and kind and deserving person. 

Since it does not seem to be permissive to grieve a baby who did not exist past the window of the womb, and because I can, I’m writing a requiem of my loss for the world who may just not want to hear it: 

I want you to know that as soon as I thought of you, I wanted you.  I felt fortunate to carry you and to have you with me for whatever time we could share together.  I want you to know that I planned for you and sang to you and forced negative thoughts out of my head so that you would only know the good and not anything that was tainted with doubt.  I want you to know that despite all the evidence to the contrary, no matter what others may have said or thought, your parents prayed for you and wished only the best for you. 

I want you to know that when I felt the pain of losing you, when I saw the evidence all around me of your leaving me that I felt I needed to know all of it.  Because I would never be able to hold you in this life, I wanted to feel you leaving me for the next one.  I follow your development, and I always will.  That I know when we meet again, and because “God will manage better than that,” you will not be a stranger; you will still be my baby.   And that I think of you.  Every day.  Thanks for choosing me to be your mom, I’m so grateful for you.

I know that our family’s story does not end here; it will continue on and be well.  And I know that as I walk with your brothers, and hold their hands in mine, that I feel the shadow of your arms in theirs. 

That I still carry you, and that our adventures include you, because it wasn’t just my body that expanded to allow room for you to grow, my heart did as well.  And that stays just the same.  From now until we see each other again.  In love and justice, Mommy.

*For Dan, Aley and Lily, we’ll see you on the other side.  x

*Images above may be subject to copyright.  Original artists' names could not be found for attribution.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"Not One of Us": An Open Letter about Women, Friendship and How Social Media Can Break Us—Part One

"Not One of Us": An Open Letter about Women, Friendship and How Social Media Can Break Us—Part One

Dear Friend,

Do you remember the girl in school that had a trail of followers?  Maybe she was wearing the coolest jeans, or had the “it” bracelet or the sparkle pen.  Maybe she had the matching set of something, or the sweater that everyone wanted.  Maybe she had the
Girl Cliques
heart of your secret crush and no matter what you tried, no matter how you did you hair, the backpack you bought, the lunch your mom packed, you were never, ever, ever going to get invited to her table.  You were always going to be on the outside at recess, while they looked over at you and giggled, with this girl goddess sitting on top of a lunch table, smiled serenely. 

That cast?  That scenario?  It doesn’t change.  No matter how old you are or how much you’ve traveled, it doesn’t evolve.  There is always going to be the leader of the pack and if you are the woebegone that doesn’t meet its criteria, you will always, always be on the outside.

Honestly, I did not start out wanting to write about this—I feel like it has been covered time and again by so many bloggers on social media.  I wanted to throw a couple recipes your way since I was awol last week, I wanted to write something on dementia because my father, well, it has been more than trying of late.  I wanted to write about how no matter how much, how long and how well you love your kids, there is more than one day that they are the most trying, crazed, alien beings you never, ever want to lay claim to.  I wanted to write about those things, and I probably will, but yesterday I met with a sweet friend of mine. And I don’t get to see her nearly enough.  She has a spine of steel under such warm and softly understanding eyes.  We had our children meet together at the local pool and we talked and what came out of the conversation was this: the cliques
and the Queen Cliquesters.  And those on the outside and how in the world to continue to navigate the schoolyard and four square when we are all grown up and should know a lot better.

Because there is a reason it is covered again and again and AGAIN.  It still exists.  Somehow the schoolyard princess bullies just grow up and wield power again.  And maybe it isn’t that girl, maybe it was the little girl in glasses sitting in a corner who had the misfortune of doing something that made
The Hurt Stays the Same as We Age
somebody mad who grew up wanting “in” and getting it by building a wall of women around her who would hold her up because she never learned to do it herself. 

I was scrawny with wild curly hair and brown.  At a time when there weren’t kids who looked like me everywhere, and even if there were, they weren’t Indian Syrian Christians.  Our histories and communities were vastly different because of that.  Of course I didn’t know that then, and I couldn’t articulate it like that, all I knew was that I was different—and not in a good way.  Because of that in my predominantly white school, because my parents spoke with an accent and because I wasn’t particularly good at sports, I was picked on quite a bit—rejected for Girl Scouts when my mother turned to me full of feeling of parental failure, a look I only understand now, after getting off the phone saying that Jenny Smith’s mother had mocked her accent.  Life was not easy at my elementary school.

I think the formation of otherness and outsiderness begins there.  In this space of the schoolyard.  The vast criticism that is so brilliantly bald with children who say exactly what they think, know the viciousness with which it will hurt, and keep propelling those verbal grenades over and over and over again.  Lee was the bully in my schoolyard in those early years, with curly dirty blond hair and pink cheeks and friends with the girls who were not ungainly and othered as I was.  She also made sure I knew that I was outside that circle. 

I have boys, but there have been moments like these for them, and my friends who have daughters say the cliques have worsened, and the expectations are far more precise and because of social media, the maliciousness and pointedness has become almost too much for them to bear and walk and be.  It is a lifetime commitment to instill in a child the presence of mind to walk as who they are without any kind of qualifier.  It means a deep resourcefulness and courage that is not innate.  Because I do know what happens when this doesn’t take place.  The girls grow up, and those feelings of exclusivity and otherness, respectively, continue on with them from the schoolyard all the way to the playgrounds of our children.
Judy Nelson Fine Art

Do you remember the book that launched popular fiction writer, Emily Giffin’s career?  It is called, Something Borrowed.  And it’s about a young woman, Rachel who sleeps with her best friend, Darcy’s fiancé.  On the surface, it is appalling.  A code of women and line of trust that is so broken.  But Giffin relates a backstory that overcomes it by showing how Dex (the handsome, wealthy, well-
© Warner Brothers
connected fiancé), was attracted to Rachel first, that she felt unworthy to be courted by him because her best friend was more attractive, popular and interesting than she was.  She had lived in Darcy’s schoolyard shadow for years, getting cosseted protection from the verbal barbs and anger from other girls not permitted into Darcy’s world.  And, to some degree, Rachel was tired of being her foil. 

I cheered Rachel on, despite this huge moral failing, and I suspect a lot of other readers did too, because of the underdog role she played that was so quintessentially familiar to so many.  No one wanted to see the mean girl win; for once, they wanted to see the soft, rounded, “wheat germ haired,” smart girl get the guy.  When Rachel does, it seems like a cosmic wrong is righted.  Giffin’s subsequent novels have not appealed to me much as a reader, but she is enormously popular and often she seems to hit on the fragile pulse of women’s lives.  That goes a long way toward relatability.  But when I look at this, the coming together of Dex and Rachel, the continued affair against a friend, no matter how vapid or self absorbed, it is just wrong.  And where have we gone wrong as a female audience that we applaud it?

My string beanishness, and otherness followed me as it would, for the rest of my life and I made friends, don’t get me wrong, but I also went through a period of pushing them away.  I was trying to negotiate some hard in my life and that meant a complete
resurfacing of the seam point of who I thought I was and who I actually am. 

And, for a long time before the self-renovation began, I was a McJudgerson that would put any of those mean women to shame.  I didn’t run a crew, but my mind was as vicious as any old episode of Project Runway with Michael Kors as judge.
© Project Runway
  I would assess a woman by her shape which if it was over rather than under, made me believe that she wasn’t working hard enough on being healthy and just was gluttonous and lazy, her hair, the frizziness and the inconsistency of color that showed me that she either wasn’t aware of her appearance or couldn’t afford its maintenance.  Her clothing which could reveal a distinct lack of designer label which meant that she either couldn’t afford where I shopped and that meant we were from vastly different spheres.  Her nails, which may or may not be chipped or well polished, which spurred in me an insecurity as mine have long been short, not able to grow past a point and cuticles that would make any manicurist scream in frustration.  Upon this assessment, I would determine that this woman would not be in my circle, because by associating with her I would be assessed by others to be accepting of her and that, I couldn’t have.

Now, before you completely dismiss me as one of the worst women you have ever met, consider this: if I have been so unbelievably critical of a woman I’ve never known, can you see how extraordinarily hard I have been on myself

The judgment above is equal parts absurd scrutiny and, had I continued, the self-reflexive gaze of my own inadequacies that I have absolutely placed on her.  It seems to me that these are the judgments, the daily picking of self and others that eat away at our self esteem and confidence in ourselves, and, by extension our ability to mother.  With such careful gaze directed outward, the antiseptic quality of the inward eye was impossible to keep up—the clothing I wore, the hairstyle I kept, the stroller and diaper bag I carried, the clothes my children wore, my nails, all of it, all of it would be next to impossible to maintain even if I had been able to do it all the years before I had children.   I remember lamenting to my friend and teaching partner about how hard it was to break into this group, how they did everything together, how I felt I was all wrong (and, mind you, I was so
Pundit from Another Planet
wobbly because that's what a first baby does to you) and he said, "Good grief Sara, get away from these women!  This white mommy mafia sounds terrifying."   And for awhile, I did.  My friends are not
Stepford Wives by Ira Levin.
Adapted in 1975, 2004 for film
the least bit Stepford, they are all different shapes, sizes, experience levels and family groups, they bring a wealth of experience into my world and really, that's what I want for my children too, that their friends reflect combined differentiated experience and talent, not carbon copies of the same person.

It seems to me now, from the long distance of memory’s backspin, that my preoccupation with
Boarding the Mothership
these ideals had less to do with wanting to be in the clique (although that played a part and truthfully—it still does), but just wanting to be understood and cared for. 
Bolstered by my community of female friendships, which understood my place and space more deeply than anyone else in my life could.

It always strikes, this knot of fear of rejection whenever you feel the most vulnerable.  Whenever you aren’t sure of your steps and your place.  Often after you’ve had a baby, or gained weight or lost it, when you’ve experienced a loss or had a major upheaval.  All of those moments are ripe for self-scrutiny and where you are most fragile for the atmospheric drop in pressure that comes when you see the cliques enter.  And it doesn’t matter who they are, does it?  You know exactly who I’m talking about.  You need resilience and belief in yourself to make sure you can stand up and walk tall among these women.

The beginning out of it is grace and truth.  Are you really all the negative that swirls in your brain?  You’re not.  The God that made you loves you just as you are and you need to know that, own it and remember it.  You extend grace so effortlessly to others around you, pray for those who are hurting, offer comfort to those who need it, bind wounds of friends and children but you refuse to allow that grace for yourself.

So I am telling you, as I finally told myself, and have had to hit pause, rewind and repeat: 

You don’t need them.  
You can manage.  
You need to cut the weight of those who are making you feel small
out of your life.  

Without that amputation, no matter how long those voices have been around you and near you, you will never have room to welcome or extend your arms to embrace the friends that can help you navigate the new seasons in your life.

It’s going to hurt.  All forward movement, all change does hurt, at least a little.  But sometimes saying goodbye to friendships that do not feed you or sustain you needs to happen.

When other women who you thought you knew, begin to say things to you that prick your skin and make you doubt yourself or the ways in which you parent, consider why it bothers you.  And then depending on the answer, get rid of the person who is causing you pain.  You wouldn’t allow it to happen to your child, would you?  Why are you enduring it yourself?

You are a strong person.  You are a capable mother.  You are a good friend.  You are a consistent person.  You are trying and trying and trying.  
And that is enough.

Those same gut instincts designed to protect us from harm, the fear factor that can keep us alive, are the same ones that can protect your heart from hurt.  If you feel the heat rise in your face and the clench in your chest or the burn in your stomach, it’s time to take decisive action and stop the pain rather than endure it.  And this is counter-intuitive.  Because as women we are expected to take pain and manage it no matter what the cost.  We hold it in, worse still, think we deserve it and there is a negative loop that runs in our brains that hold us hostage to the comments, ill meant or not.

Consider this, I was in a Bible study where we were reading Lysa Terkeurst’s Unglued. In it she writes, “Brain research shows that every conscious thought we have is recorded on our internal hard drive known as the cerebral cortex.  Each thought scratches the surface much like an Etch A Sketch. When we have the same thought again, the line of the original thought is deepened, causing what’s called a memory trace. With each repetition the trace goes deeper and deeper, forming and embedding a pattern of thought.  When an emotion is tied to this thought pattern the memory trace grows exponentially stronger” (22). 


Okay.  So what this means is that there are negative thoughts (or positive ones) that our own minds have created that create grooves in our brains….  Grooves, not passing bruises or scratches that heal over time, but grooves, picked over and over, wounds that will not heal.  

These comments, this scrutiny by other women who are supposed to be on your side—I mean you travel in the same circles, your children are in the same grade, same class, you worship in the same place, so the differences seem entirely outward—my fabulous Target pleather bag and your Kate Spade one, for example.  And to dismiss me just because my workout gear says lululemon instead of Old Navy, is not only egregious it is just plain old fashioned dumb. 

These aren't wholly impossible to ignore of course, these comments, I mean, we are adults.  But the scrutiny no, the rejection affirmed or otherwise from female friends are like small ants who come out of nowhere and begin a sedate crawl to spaces that you'd rather they not go.  So that you're constantly picking and searching for the invaders that have come to rest on your very skin and try violently to stop their ascent and access to somewhere more serious and provoking.

It begs the question:  Do the bugs just like me or do I actually invite them?

(Ponder this question, think about it, tell me your thoughts about it and stay tuned for Part Two of this lengthy love letter where we'll also talk about how to turn social media around so you can get your sea legs and continue to be as fabulous as I know you are.  L, smh)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Leave it on the Mat: A Confession about Exercise, Health and Chocolate

Leave it on the Mat: A Confession about Exercise, Health and Chocolate 

I don’t like to exercise.  
I am worried about my health.  
I have a weakness for chocolate.

If only that would take care of the whole post entirely!  Listen, I’m not here to tell you what to do, you are smart, capable and know exactly what you need to do.  I can only tell you my own story…about exercise.  And it’s been definitely a hate-like-hate relationship over the years.

My husband has run the Boston Marathon twice.  Twice.  He’s a natural gifted athlete who played two (or was it three?) sports in college.  He never went to the library.  I mean, I don’t think ever.  I’m only saying this as a means of prefacing the fact that we are not a couple that works out together, or goes for runs together or anything like that.  I am just grateful that our DNA mixed well together because otherwise my children wouldn’t have a chance at all of ever playing anything at any time.  And that’s not a good thing Martha. 

I live in a place where it is summer year round.  I cannot hide under or behind or even near a sweater.  I cannot accumulate some insulation for the oncoming winter.  Shorts are a uniform staple, remember?  So if things aren’t quite where they need to be, I cannot wish it or diet it or even detox it away (how does one survive those by the way?).  I need to work out and modify my diet.  I know this, I know it, I do know.  And yet.  This is what I think about it. 

And then during the workout.

And then after.
But remember, I told you about my mom?  She passed away from a rare cancer far too soon.  Sometimes I think if I can only make it to that magic age, I’ll be okay somehow.  Maybe I’ll live to see my kids grow and grow.  The likelihood of my getting my mother’s particular cancer is exceedingly small.  I do know though, that there are a whole host of other illnesses that are waiting around the corner for me —and for you—and chances are, they don’t care about the excuses from the day or the party that you had to have a piece of cake or the fact that you ran that day.  Like heart disease, or type II diabetes, or hypertension, or, yes cancer from all the environmental toxins that we seem to readily consume day after day.  I sometimes scare myself thinking about it.  The only real thing is that I want to be here.  I lost my mom as an adult and it is 
women and heart disease
devastating.  If it is in my power, I have to make sure I am here for my kids.  So that brings me to exercise. 

Lately, I’ve been feeling my middle swell.  And it’s not a good feeling, because I was born with a wicked fast metabolism.  I was scary skinny all my younger years and teased mercilessly because of it.  Just a string bean.  Then when I hit 30, it slowed down to a trickle.  I got my familial curse of holding all my
I don't want to be a fruit
weight in my middle.  They call it being “apple shaped”—charming, isn’t it?  And as I’ve gotten older, that helpful genetic detail has now extended to my thighs.  Wonderous. 

So I was thinking about this.  There was this time, a few years back that I’d had enough, I’d had my third baby and was larger than I’d ever been.  I lost count of how many times people asked me when my next baby was due.  It was, well, tragic.  One day I just decided I was just going to try to workout.  And I bought a couple of DVDs from those celebrity trainers: Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper.  I did them 6 days a week, building up to working out for 45 minutes to an hour each day.  I cut out sugar and flour.  I reduced my portion size.  It took awhile but the numbers on the scale started to fall backwards. I had kick started my metabolism all right.  And you know, people were nicer to me.  At stores, salespeople were eager to help me.  Seems like being skinny now was much better than when I was a young girl.  I was happy with the compliments too, but I fell into a trap—I didn’t stop.  I had reached my goal weight that my doctor felt was a good target and I just kept going.  Cutting out only one day, so I was working out 5 days instead of 6 and instead of the recommended 3 for maintenance.  And then a crisis hit, my father was in trouble and I needed to help him.  The anxiety and the stress were too great but I just kept going.  And you know what happened? 

they may be small but they LINGER, trust me
I had horrible stomach pain and problems digesting food.  My hair started to shed more than normal, and I had ulcers in my mouth, right along the frenulum, the line of tissue that connects your tongue to your mouth’s floor.  My body was screaming at me.  I was horribly out of balance.  So I did what I think a lot of people have done, I stopped.  And now I found myself here, having to start all over again.  Because the DVDs weren’t cutting it this time, and I knew, I knew, I knew it was going to be hard.  And it was going to take longer because I didn’t want to cut out everything that made everything else taste better.  But I was daunted.  And I was tired.  And mini-chocolate donuts are sooo good going down. 

So what do I do?  I’m here.  The kids are in school, I’m in class, holding my water bottle, and I have the new cropped leggings I got from Old Navy and an old tshirt that covers a discolored sports bra from Target.  I have sneakers.  They don’t have as much padding as I’d like, but they are dark grey.  I have a wonderful sweatband that would not make Richard Simmons jealous, but it’s up there, wait until I get a rainbow one.  And I have my mat.  And I see you.  I doubt you’ll remember me, but I remember you.  You’re in an exercise class, be it the cardio one I take or the yoga, and you look like you’d rather be a million miles away.  I get it.  I do.  And you’re probably shaking your head because when you looked me over you saw my chicken legs and said you wished you had my problem.  But the reasons we are in this class aren’t so different.  Maybe you want to lose weight, you told me once at the end that maybe you shouldn’t have even tried it.  Maybe you want to feel better, and you said all you felt like doing was just laying down.  Maybe your doctor told you that you had to start a fitness program, and you shared with me that you were worried about what would happen if you didn’t.

 The diet industry is a multi-billion dollar one.  There are so many methods, tricks, pills and contraptions that guarantee pounds lost.  There are self help books aplenty and if you remember, we have a very popular show in the States called, Biggest Loser where contestants are awarded for losing the most percentage weight. 

I am no fitness expert; I’m not a natural athlete.  I was the last picked for every single team.  I fall over my own feet on a continual basis.  I get no endorphin rush from running—I just want to stop.  I celebrated the day I didn’t have to take phys ed in high school anymore and then I stupidly went out for field hockey because my friends did and I thought I needed a letter.  I should’ve done debate.  Anyway, all I know is this, you need two things to get healthy: movement and control.  That’s it.  No magic secret.  You need to burn more calories than you are taking in.  All the responsible books and interviews all boil down to the same idea, burn more, consume less.  Here’s the thing, you can tone it down after you get where you need to be.  You can keep controlling your portion size, but if you really want those extra calories, plan an extra workout to balance it out.  But don’t deprive yourself, and don’t tell yourself you can’t have something, because if you do, I think you’re setting yourself up to fail.  Ever see exercise sayings on Pinterest?  If you are the negative 1 % who haven’t here are some popular (and, I think, ridiculous, images) :

I have never ever seen my cardio teacher Erica, post anything like this on her group FB page.  Ever.  She has never emphasized getting skinny as being the panacea for all that ails you.  Her own philosophy is to feel better and that, in turn will help you look better.  She wants you healthy.  I have never seen my yoga teacher Carolyn, discuss size or doing more.  She meets you where you are and encourages you to the point of stretch not pain.  Maybe these motivational pinterest ripped fitness models truly inspire you, and if that does it, then that’s great.  But when I am confronted with having a slice of cake after dinner when the scale and my shorts aren’t where I need them to be, I’m not going to remember this woman.  I will mutter very, very bad things about this woman, decide I will never be like her anyway and then eat.the.cake. 

In the moments before class, whether it’s a cardio class or my yoga class, I hesitate.  The hour I am about to do could be spent, I don’t know…writing?  And maybe my heart isn’t the reason, and maybe an unforeseen cancer isn’t either, maybe it is just not feeling the squelching noise of my thighs when I wear shorts is what it is, maybe it is that kind of vanity.  But I hesitate, I do.  Even when I can make it through a class.  Even though I know I will feel better after it, I hesitate.  I wonder if it’s worth it when I just don’t see anything happening.  But once I take that breath, pull the key out of the ignition and get my stuff together, and set it down, once I look around and see some looks that match my own of worry and apprehension, nervous smiles exchanged, I can look in the mirror and just leave it.  On the mat. 

Right there I put every piece of stress that I’ve got and the thoughts that burn in a loop in my brain:

  • This is never going to work anyway.  Leaving it.

  • My son will never, ever get anywhere with this, I am a failure as his mother and he will never move out and do anything with his life except play insipid video games.  Leave it.

  • I don’t know what happened but she is not talking to me anymore, what should I do?  Leave it.

  • That “friend” put me down in front of the whole Bible study yesterday.  Gone.

  • My husband’s frustrations with work are spilling over into my life even as I’m trying to distinguish it from his.  Stomping on it.

  • My kid didn’t get picked.  Leave it.

  • My father is getting worse and is mad at my very existence.  Breathe it out.

  • My word, I had no idea my behind was that large.  Enough.

  • How in the world am I going to be in three places at once today?  And why did I volunteer for snacks?  Leave it.

  • I don’t think I’ve got enough in the account to cover the field trip.  Just for this hour.  Just this one hour.  Leave it.  Work it out here.  Leave it here.

Whatever you’ve got, allow it to drive you to finish that workout.  Cast out every negative comment that has lingered deep in your belly about what you look like.  Concentrate only on your breath, your teacher’s instructions, for that moment, just stay present only on what you’ve got to do in front of you.  When you hear her call your name or say, “come on, you can do this” or “you are doing great” know that she really is speaking to you. 

We all have stress.  I don’t know what led you to class, and truly I don’t care.  You belong here.  And you are doing yourself a huge disservice if you think you do not.  Every teacher out there worth her sweat will tell you that, I don’t need to.  They are there to help you get where you want to be.  And you know the only thing you need to do to get there?    Keep going. Talk to them when you need encouragement.  Be held accountable. And most importantly--come back.  It will get easier, you will not always feel like your lungs are on fire or about to be thrown up, your arms will be able to fully extend once more, your feet will not ache.  Come back.  Come back and leave whatever you’ve got on the mat. 

And when you finish your workout or your practice, take a breath and a moment as you roll up your mat and know that you can walk out a little lighter.  You are strong.  You are amazingYou can do this.  Leave it all on the mat and walk tallYou are worth it.

So how about it?  Want to join me?  You can do it.  I know you can, just keep showing up.  And I will too.  Cheers.  (By the way, you can completely reward
yourself with one of the squares in this chocolate bar—it’s dark and good for your heart, at $1.79, it’s a bargain.) xoxo

* this post is dedicated to my great exercise teachers and friends, Erica and Carolyn, thanks for making me see the other side even when it’s cloudy out.