I moved to Los Angeles six years ago with a silenced voice and a broken spirit. I was married at the time, to the drummer in my band, and we'd been on the road touring full time for about six months. There was no planned end for the tour, and until a few weeks earlier, no plan to settle in California. There had been no plan to settle at all, actually. We just booked gigs and drove around the country with our bass player, sleeping in relative's spare rooms, stranger's lumpy couches, and on rock club floors. Every day we drove into a different town, every night we drank beer, and every morning we drove off.
It's strange to talk about a music tour and realize that my prominent memories have nothing to do with music. My then-husband and I had spent the money we got from our wedding gifts to buy a van that we rigged to run on recycled vegetable oil. Just before our first anniversary we found a new bass player (our original beloved one had no interest in hitting the road) and the three of us loaded the van with all our most prized possessions - drums, guitars, amplifiers, microphones. We drove out of Boston in the Spring of '06 with an extended Chevy cargo van full of songs and dreams.
I grew up going to folk festivals. All my heroes were singers and road warriors. I'd dreamed of touring for as long as I'd been writing songs. Since my first east coast road trip from college back home, I'd wanted to see the country. My drumming husband and I met at Berklee College of Music where we both did graduate work, and then gave up our jobs and apartments to live out our rock star dreams.
Right from the start I felt ungrounded. Despite the good attendance of our shows at the beginning of the tour, as we made our way down the eastern seaboard I had a sinking feeling. Not sinking, actually. More like drowning. Locked in the van for hours on end, I lost all sense of schedule. Always surrounded by people, I misplaced all sense of creativity. I filled my days with numbers and papers instead of poetry and melody. I sent business emails and phone calls to bookers and promoters, and counted the cash at the end of the night. The unfamiliarity of each new town made me too anxious to venture far from the van. The only exercise I got was the heavy-lifting of sound equipment at the beginning and end of each night. The only time I sang was for the hour or two of the gig. The rest of my days were silent.
By the time we got to Los Angeles, it was just the two of us. I'd started having emotional breakdowns on stage, crying at lyrics I'd sung for years, alternately self-medicating with coca-cola and gin-and-tonics. One night in New Hope, PA the tourist season had ended and the club was near-empty. We played the opening bars to our first song and my throat choked. I cried so hard I couldn't sing. We dropped the bass player in Virginia with his folks, and pointed the van west. I didn't care where we went - I'd go anywhere my husband chose, as long as I never had to sing again. He picked L.A, and to this day I believe this was one of the greatest gifts he ever gave me.
Almost a year into our lives as Californians, a woman I worked with but barely knew gave me a flyer for a 12-week workshop based on the book The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. I didn't know anything about the book or the workshop, but I instinctively knew that this was what I needed for some deep healing of my creative spirit. I hadn't sung in over a year, hadn't played guitar, hadn't written a song. I was working long hours in the celebrity endorsements department at a top talent agency, lost and trying desperately to find a new dream, a new career.
The Artist's Way workshop that winter was a spirit-saver. I drank up the weekly meetings like I'd been parched. I was parched - desperately thirsty to be around artists of any sort, deeply needing to tap back into my own creative depths. Those twelve weeks helped me begin stitching my creative spirit back together. After the twelve weeks were over, I took some more workshops with facilitator Kelly Morgan, the inspiring woman who I began to consider my mentor. Soon, I became Kelly's assistant in the workshops, meeting weekly at her home with a small group of other assistants, and helping to hold the space for new Artist Way students' healing.
Ultimately the workshop helped me to unveil other desires. I found my longing to regain body-wellness during those workshops and in my weekly one-hour "artist dates" that the book prescribed. I remembered my love of yoga, and found Rising Lotus Yoga, a beautiful studio near where I worked. That summer I delved deeply into my yoga practice in a personal 40-day challenge in which I practiced every day (resting every 7th day). It was the discipline and surrender that I needed, inspired by Boston yoga teacher Baron Baptiste and the transformational journeys of biblical teachers. Later that year I enrolled in the Rising Lotus Yoga teacher training program, and spent the next nine months studying yoga and unraveling my marriage. Whatever is no longer serving us, the yoga practice teaches us, begins to fall away. I felt renewed, like a phoenix rising from the ash, like a lotus growing out of the muck.
In the years since those Artist Way workshops with Kelly and my yoga teacher training at Rising Lotus, I re-found my voice. I remembered my love of writing. I discovered that I love teaching. I learned to nourish myself with good food made well. I would be remiss to not mention the love that has come into my life through my dear man Darby and his beautiful daughters.
Songwriter Patty Griffin has a line in her song Love Throws A Line: "We run out of luck / We run out of days / We run out of gas a hundred miles away from a station.... Just before we can't go any further / Love throws a line to you and me". The Artist's Way, Kelly, Rising Lotus, yoga, California.... they all threw me a line, a life saver when I was drowning in the muck of dreams that were no longer sustaining me.
Last year, when I began The List of 100 Things, I included two lines about a vision I had:
#60 - revise creative yogi proposal#61 - send creative yogi proposal to Rising Lotus
Inspired by all these things and wanting to share the healing, I've created a one-day workshop for the yoga community of creative spirits. There are so many students I have met at yoga studios and in classes who chat with me later about their screenplays, their books, their music, dance, films, paintings. Finally, because of last year's List of 100 Things, I created this workshop. I sent the proposal to Rising Lotus sometime in 2012 and they loved it. We booked a date right at the beginning of 2013 because since it seemed the perfect time to fan the flames of the new year's creations.... and now the workshop is coming up.
That I created this workshop (step one!) and moved past my fear of rejection (step two!) were major accomplishments from my List last year. On January 13 I'll check off item #4 on my List for 2013:
#4 - Teacher Creative Flow workshop
Here's a link to the event, if you are in Los Angeles and interested in attending. There's early bird pricing - only $35 for the 3-hour workshop. We'll do a mixed level yoga practice (appropriate for all levels) to start and then move into writing and interactive exercises. I already know some of the folks who have signed up for this, and I'm looking forward to us all inspiring each other as we uncover, discover, and tap more deeply into our creative spirits.
Here's the blurb from the poster about the workshop:
In this 3-hour workshop we will embark on a hero’s journey –
because we are all the heroes of our own story – and unleash the creative flow through movement of the body and the pen. We will tap creative inspiration and loosen the grip of hesitancy and fears by releasing the blocks of our past stories.
This workshop will begin with a 1-hour yoga practice. We’ll focus on breath, movement, and sweat to quiet the surface thoughts and find our inner strength, balance and joy.
Following the asana, we will move into writing practice, playful sensory explorations, and small- and large-group interactive exercises to spark, inspire, and unlock the creative flow.
January 13, 2013
$35 adv / $40 day of
This workshop is open to all levels of yoga practice.
All types of creative spirits are welcome — actors, writers, musicians, dancers, filmmakers, painters, cooks, parents, teachers…
Bring your journal, a pen, and your curiosity.
Rising Lotus Yoga 13557 Ventura Blvd. Sherman Oaks 818-990-0282 •risinglotusyoga.comm
I didn't want to post the 2012 List while I was still working on it. I felt vulnerable, and wasn't sure how it would all go. As it turns out, I revised it several times in the early months. Later I want to explore what was going on with the revising, but not now. For now, I think it's just the right time to unveil the list in its final form. It's still fresh on my mind, and the 2013 list is just a little zygote. So, without further delay.... (purple items are complete)
The List of 100 Things To Do in 2012
Nothing like the blues to get you in planning mode. I'm still on my doctor-ordered two weeks rest so that my foot will heal from a stress strain on the metatarsal area. This has been particularly challenging as I've been off ALL foot-related activity, which means no running, no yoga, no spin. It's been years since I've been this sedentary - actually, I think the last time was when I was on tour with my band and we had to drive hours a day to get from gig to gig. As it turns out, I'm not well-suited to the dirty (folk)rocker life. Being on the road was depressing, and after the tour ended (Fall 2006) I've been committed to moving my body. (And I've never toured again.)
During the first week of healing, I was pretty patient (and fairly impressed with myself). Then came Day 10. My mood went south. Fast. No running (or even walking as exercise) meant a lot less sunshine. And of course no exercise endorphins. Besides that, I have no idea how to eat for this kind of sedentary life. I've given up trying to figure it out, and just hope two weeks is all the rest this foot will need.
When I'm feeling down, yoga and running are the things that bring me back up, and to be honest, this week has been hard for other reasons as well. Of all the weeks, this is the one for yoga and running. One of our sweet kitty cats passed away Friday morning. Since last Sunday we've been taking care of him, sitting on the bathroom floor brushing his fur and watching him quietly transition out of this world. Yesterday morning I left for work, and Darby held Scooter through his last breaths. He's buried now in our backyard, and today we stood with our girls at his grave. It started raining yesterday, of course, and still is, which suits our moods just fine.
So, to while away my time for the last few non-running days, I'm plotting #100. This is one of the big ones. As I wrote the other day, it feels impossible that my body will carry me 18 miles to the beach. But it can, and it will.
#29 - run for 25 minutes straight.
I've come a long way since #29. Literally. 663 miles, in fact. Friday, January 27 was the first day I started using the sportypal app to keep track. At the beginning of January I couldn't run the 25 minutes. By Friday January 27 I was running 45 minutes. Now, I've gone for 2 hours.
#100 - run from our home to the beach
This will be my longest run so far, on Dec 30, from our home in Toluca Woods to the end of the pier at Venice Beach. I can run 13 miles in 2 hours. This will be an 18 mile run. 18.2, actually. It should take around 2 hours and 40 minutes, if I don't stop along the way. Since I'll need to refill water a few times, though, I think it'll take me closer to 3 hours.
I've gone back and forth between the Santa Monica and Venice Beach piers, and have finally settled on Venice Beach. There's something about the Venice Beach pier that draws me lately. It's less touristy. Lots of fishermen. I have photos of me and my brother down there from a years ago when he came out to LA to visit. Darby and I held hands for the first time as we walked down it on one of our first dates. Later, my first holiday week with his daughters, we all went down to the beach and I have pictures of the girls rolling around in the sand on a moody December day.
Also, I'm particularly interested in mapping out the route and deciding on a date because I've decided to do this as a fundraiser for a charity. I'm still trying to decide on which one. I love animals, and we could do something in Scooter's memory for an animal shelter or Farm Sanctuary. Or, Darby and I recently performed with one of our bands at a fundraising event for Valley Cares Family Justice Center, which provides support and services for victims of domestic violence. Or, perhaps an environmental cause like Heal The Bay, a local organization working to protect and heal the Southern California coastal waters and watersheds.
I'll be considering and researching more about these options in the next few days, but meanwhile I wanted to have a plan for the run so that I can focus my energy on the fundraiser, on my recovery, and on the training with which I'll soon be back on track.
Marking my calendar. December 30. 18.2 miles. From my house to the Venice Beach Pier.
Meanwhile, today is Saturday. A rainy, fireplace-y, pizza and movie kind of Saturday. On Monday I will be off my two weeks rest, and plan to run a short 2.5 miles. THANK GOODNESS!
By the way, speaking of having the blue, it would be a shame to not clue you in to the antics going on here while I've been writing this post: blue hair dye.
A numbers check:
There are 6 weeks left to 2012. I've crossed 55 items off my list. There are 3 items that are a little ambiguous - I can cross them off, but technically they aren't *quite* done. There are 2 items that I am fully committed to completing, and another 10 that are most likely going to get done during the holiday season. There are 25 that I'm pretty sure won't be done this year. Hmmm... that doesn't add up to 100. Well, who's counting anyway.
These are two of the main ones going on right now:
#98 Embark on a new writing project
#100 Run from our home to the Santa Monica Pier
#98 has been an adventure in itself. This blog satisfied me when I wasn't sure what the writing project should be, and it helped me find direction. I'll write about that adventure later.
#100 is the one that has me a bit nervous.
Up till a week and a half ago, I felt like I was on a good track (no pun intended) for my training.
#100 is the culmination of this whole year of running, and while I can articulate the ways that running has helped me in other areas of my life, for right now I want to stick with the actual act of running.
It was Halloween week, and I crossed the finish line at the Los Angeles Rock n Roll Half Marathon in 1:58:01. It was my first race, and the third time I'd run thirteen miles. I had wanted to complete it in under two hours. That day I was successful in every way I wanted to be. I felt like I could've run another two miles. I was an Amazon Goddess Warrior and I could do anything.
And then week later, I bailed midway through a nine miler. I had a strong pain that had been nagging for attention for a few days, and at mile 5.5 it would not let me go on. Metatarsal stress fracture? I whipped out my phone to google it, and then called Darby to pick me up. By the end of the day I could barely walk.
The x-rays came back with no fracture (although I've heard MRIs are better indicators of fractures). My doctor is a long-distance runner too, and she said she experienced the same pain -- right under the shoes laces -- after her first 14-miler. Two weeks rest, she ordered, from everything. No running, and none of the other active stuff that I do - vinyasa yoga, spin, biking.
For the past week and a half I've been boo-hooing about lack of sunshine, lack of heart-pumping adrenaline, lack of movement. Lack. These past two days have been the worst so far. I desperately want my foot to be healed, and while it is better, I know in my heart that it needs more time. That said, I'm holding my foot to the two-week timeframe my doc ordered. Two weeks. It better be healed.
Meanwhile, here's the longer-term picture of what I'm grappling with: In six weeks I plan to run my first-ever 18 miler. From my home to the Santa Monica Pier. This is a spiritual journey as much as anything. I am an East Coast girl, running to the Pacific Ocean. My own body is going to carry me over the Hollywood Hills, and I am going to know that this is because of my own determination and my commitment to myself and this practice. I need this sense of accomplishment, because it is tied, metaphorically, to other things in my life that I want to accomplish.
Six weeks. Eighteen miles. I have still only run 13 miles max. I'm still on "rest". I'm nervous that when I go for my first recovery run on Monday (in four days) that I will find myself still not healed. Besides all the unhelpful neurotic mind-chatter (I haven't exercised in 11 days - "I'm out of shape", "I've gained weight", "I won't be able to run ever again"), I also have the less-neurotic (but still not helpful) chatter that goes something like this:
-- I would like to use this 18 miler as a fundraiser for a local charitable cause.
-- If I've never run 18 miles, how do I know I can do it?
-- If I can't do it, I will fail in the fundraiser, in my list, and in my expectations.
Today, to help me work through this, I've created a training schedule. Assuming that my foot will be healed after two weeks rest, this is my plan:
Week 1 - 18 miles (50%): Mon, Tues: 2.5. Thur: 4. Fri: 3. Sat: 6
Week 2 - 27 miles (75%): Mon - Thurs: 5. Sun: 7
Week 3 - 30 miles (less than usual): Mon, Tues: 5. Wed, Thurs: 2.5. Sat: 15 (!!!)
Week 4 - 30 mile: still deciding how to work the recovery/training this week.
Week 5 - 31 miles: Mon - Fri: 5, Sun: 6
Week 6 - the week of the 18-miler. still deciding what day, but there won't be a lot of miles leading up to it, and there will just be recovery runs after. It will be, after all, Christmas week. And happy new year!
Based on my half-marathon pace, it will take me around three hours or so to run 18 miles. I already have friends who have offered to support me in the run, providing food and drink along the way, and emotional support leading up to the day.
This is why this 18-miler is so important to me: is it impossible.
More to the point: it is a once-impossible thing that is now (I hope) entirely possible. The mere fact of making this impossible thing possible alters every other impossible thing in my life: raising $1800 for a local charity. Writing and publishing a book. Recording another album. I love my life in so many ways, but I am still yearning to put some of the other pieces in place.
Three hours of running. Three hours of meditating on the vision of making the impossible possible. And at the end of the three hours, I will have done it. Darby's sweet face will be there at the end, standing on the Santa Monica Pier, on the edge of the continent, to greet me with love and (hopefully) a delicious meal.
They go slower now. If I remember correctly, July didn't have a single one. Trust me, I was working, if not on everything, at least on the running bit. I've made good progress there - way beyond my original expectations back in January when this all started - but it won't be till next month that I can cross off my next running goal.
What's that old coffee commercial cliche...? "The best things come to those who wait." Well, I'm in no rush, but 2012's autumn just began which means the year is beginning its wind-down. Typical me, already I've had thoughts of what might be on next year's list, but I want to focus on now. The third quarter is when many of us creative types bail on our projects, so I feel better when I see the check marks in the little boxes. I like to know I haven't given up. And I haven't - I feel great that this week I've checked another one off:
#23 - Post 12 blog entries on Love Them Apples
I started the Love Them Apples blog a few years ago with what I thought was a reasonable expectation for foodie posts. Twice a month seemed practical. Secretly I'd hoped to post once a week. I knew that if I really wanted the blog to take off I should post at least twice a week, but I didn't think I'd have that much time to work on recipes. Blogs like Oh She Glows astound me - she used to post three times A DAY. But even Smitten Kitchen only posts once, tops twice, a week, and I'm pretty sure she's not still navigating around a day job in a different industry.
However I couldn't keep up with my own goals. I was disappointed in myself, but I try to question my assumptions. Perhaps my expectations were unreasonable. I wanted to succeed, so how could I adjust my vision. When I started The List I decided to commit to LTA blog posts once a month - or, softening that a little, twelve times this year. I figured I could at least do that.
At first I did pretty well. In March I posted every week and thought maybe I'd short-sighted myself, but then April was nada. May and June, just one apiece. And then nothing in July and for most of August. I'd stagnated.
It was at that time, and independent of The List, that I decided to go on an epic journey to my childhood home in Jersey. I went into planning mode and all my writing stopped. The journaling. The stories. The new writing project. Love Them Apples.
It wasn't that I didn't try. I went for a run almost every day. Words formed into sentences as my feet hit the pavement. I brainstormed. I wanted a new writing project to emerge from my pre-epic journey's fits and starts, only when I sat down to write I didn't get anywhere.
Darby's been encouraging me to write a recipe/essay-type book about cooking - sort of Love-Them-Apples in book form - but I haven't had the focus. A love story/recipe memoir has been on my mind for years and in July I even came up with a title, but I couldn't locate the beginning of the story. I pulled out old journals and tried to find a thread, but zip. Meanwhile, during those weeks a woman I know invited me to collaborate on a vegan cake cookbook, so I figured even if I couldn't eek out a sentence, at the least I would learn something about the world of cookbook publishing.
You see, even before I left, the epic journey shook me up. By the time I got back, it'd rebooted me old-school style, like an etch-a-sketch being shaken out. I went back to the childhood turf that I'd left the summer before my senior year of high school. It was my first time back in twenty years, other than a quick and awkward afternoon about eighteen years ago with my green-haired college boyfriend. On this summer's trip I didn't so much as begin to release internalized stories of "who I am" and "what made me", as complete the liberation. I felt clean. I buffed the record with the skip that kept jumping back to replay that same old riff.
As the fresh picture of myself emerged, it came like static channel snow on our old black and white. I was as nebulous as a cloud of stardust. I couldn't find the words, and I lost my desire to search for them. I just wanted to wallow in the images I'd taken during those few days on my old stomping ground. I took plenty of photos while I was there, but those weren't the images I was looking at. They were the pictures in my mind that captured me. They were sensory rich - smells, sounds, the touch of the rock, the movement of deer who crossed my path, the chitchat of gossip from the old ladies in the Clubhouse office, the look of my old house, and the deep search for buried memories I haven't seen in twenty years.
July and August were the dream months of swirling memories. My subconscious needed to settle before I could understand enough to express in writing. There was no way to go back to the old routine of the first half of 2012, so in a rash desire to do something while I was waiting for clarity to step in, I started this List of 100 Things blog.
#98 - Embark on a New Writing Project
And it worked! Writing this blog cleared space for other writing. After a few posts here I was able to get back into the Love Them Apples blog, and finally this week posted my 12th entry there. Yippee doodle. Of course I think I may have cheated on the pancake post, since it was really a re-working of an older post, but it's only September. I'm ahead of schedule.
One of the beauties of this list is that I didn't know upon the writing how each item would exactly manifest itself. I mean, when I wrote
#33 - Run a race
I didn't know that I would sign up for half marathon, or that I would run the equivalent of that distance two-and-a-half to three times a week every week.
Likewise, when I wrote
#98 - Embark on a New Writing Project
I hadn't considered that the project I'd embark on might be an online extension class at UCLA. As it turns out, it is. And I am. Enrolled. Writing The Personal Essay. Class starts next week.
I'm going to leave off here. I stumbled upon some insights in the course of today's writing, but those will wait. I'm still not clear on why public journal-type blogs like this are compelling to write, or if/why anyone reads them, but there must be a reason why insights emerge for me here in times like now when I can't uncap my pen for my journal.
In any case, that is exactly why I created this blog. Come on, baby, let the insights roll.
My weekday job is a sit-all-day gig. I dig the paid holidays and health insurance, but I've never been one of those sit-all-day gals. For years I used my lunch hour to walk, the highlight of my workday. In 1 hour you can get a good 3 or 4 miles, a few seasonally-stolen fruits (figs, blackberries, mulberries, apples, pomegranates - I've got the neighborhood mapped out tree by tree), and a catch-up call with friends and family around the country.
Walking brings out the details that you never get in a drive-by. In a car there's the traffic, and the curb, and that 4-way stop that the north-south traffic always rolls through.
When you're walking, there are the two mulberry trees whose branches have been grafted together in someone's corner yard - two trees become one - with a little bird house hanging between them. You pass those grafted trees everyday and note the seasons with their pruning and growing. You notice a bird cage with cockatiels that was hung from the branches last spring, and you whistle a melody you still remember from the cockatiels your parents got after you went off to college. You start to think about the trees, and how they are now linked, growing separately but together, and how the love you share with your favorite person in the world is like that, how you two grow independently even as you stay intricately connected.
As you walk by you think also about how much you like that little bird house, and how it looks so much like Dorothy's house in Kansas when it spun around in the black and white dust of the tornado. And then you move on to the next interesting thing.
It was years of that, walking by the mulberry trees growing full of leaves through summer, and then pruned back in the winter, until one day last October. This is where the question of beginnings comes up. Where does a story begin?
Last spring I got my foot X-rayed. For years I had been managing some pain in my big toe joint, but by the spring of 2011 it was so inflamed that I was concerned for my daily walks, and I finally limped down to the doctor. The joint was red and swollen, and hurt to the touch. Date night heels? Forget them. Even my combat boots were hurting. Well, the x-rays showed why. Turns out there's a lovely bone spur that's been scraping against another bone. The more it scrapes, the bigger it gets. Ouchie.
The doctor's fix was to give me custom inserts for my shoes. My fix was yoga. I shifted the focus of my practice to my feet. I lifted my arches. I spread my toes. I noticed my tendency to roll inward and strengthened my stance. Every practice, which was almost every day, was about my feet.
And, defiantly shunning physical limitations, I kept walking. I refused to baby my foot. No bone spur would keep me down. I'd show my big toe joint who was boss of me. Take that, toe. BAM!
Then I heard about this friend-of-a-friend, Milton Miller. In the fall of 2010, Milton was a 235 pound 40-something-year-old couch potato. In the spring of 2011, a mutual friend invited me to celebrate Milton's arrival in Los Angeles. He'd run into town from Miami. On his feet. From Florida. Across the country. To California. An out-of-shape regular non-athletic dude. All the way to the Santa Monica Pier. By himself. R-U-N-N-I-N-G.
Here I was, a fairly active 30-something yoga teacher who walked every day and loved to hike, about to be taken down by her stupid big toe. And then there was this couch potato named Milton who up and ran across the country. I've driven across the good ol' U.S. of A. three times, and in case you didn't already know, I'll tell you: This country is large around the middle. Hell, forget about the country, we could just talk about Florida. His starting point of Miami is a helluva long run to the panhandle turn into Alabama. Anyway, you can check out his blog, 100 Days Of Madness, if you like.
But let's be honest here. If we're trying to find the beginning, it's a childhood kind of thing. Between 3rd and 11th grade I lived in a little mountain lake community in north Jersey. At the crack of dawn across all seasons my mom met up with a friend to run the equivalent of a 5k around the lakeside curvy mountain roads. Back when I was young and knew everything, I could not imagine why anyone would wake up so early, nor why anyone would ever want to run, but there you have it. The root of it all.
This brings us to last October. One day during my usual lunch time walk I had an urge to run. I resisted, of course, because it was a ridiculous notion. There was no reason I -- or any sane person, I thought -- would want to run. I kept walking and finished back at the office where I settled into my chair, happily looking forward to my yoga practice that night.
The next day, however, it happened again. I wanted to run. Was it the intersection of varied lifelong influences? Was it the cooler autumn air? I have no idea why the urge came upon me -- and this immediately spoke to some sort of baffling duality. One "I" wanted to run. Another "I" wanted to know why. The idea of running ignited a bizarre internal struggle, and a third -- the mediator voice -- finally suggested a bargain. I could run, it said, for as long as I wanted, within these parameters:
Running for pleasure. What a concept.
It was with those guidelines intact that I finally ran. I ran two or three times that week, and eventually checked Google maps to see, just out of curiosity, how far I'd gone. I kept the mediator's rules in check and stopped whenever I wanted, but it was a few miles each time. I ran through Fall and into the holiday season of 2011.
I kept those parameters in mind, too, in creating The List. That New Year's Eve journalling was the softening of my recent years' resistance to goals. I'd been goal-driven for as long as I can remember. I was raised that way. Or maybe it's my nature. Either way, five years ago I burned out like a big firework display. I was the morning after a lifetime of plans. I was a rocket ship pummeling back to the ocean. Who cared if mission was accomplished, I was spent. When I moved to Cali, it was less of a life decision and more like an exhausted crawl to floaties. I'd been sinking under my life goals. I needed the gift of the present. I came to southern California for the ride, and when we stopped the car I pitched camp.
It's been five years since I got to Cali. The List's emergence this past New Year's Eve was a tiny voice inside me saying, grow. Show up. Now that you know how to enjoy the present, it's time to stretch. Reach beyond your base camp. In the five years since I crawled to California's arms, something inside had finally healed. I was ready to think ahead. I numbered down the moleskin page.
#28 - Get new running shoes
The shoes I'd been wearing to run were the same shoes I'd been walking in for years. This is not a metaphor, but maybe it could be. The back edge of the soles were worn and likely not helping my big toe issue. Showing up for ourselves means having the support and tools we need to be healthy and happy. I checked off #28 the first week of January.
When I went to get the shoes, I saw the face of a gal I know on the cover of LAS&F magazine. Michelle was often in my yoga classes. The next time I saw her, I asked her what she liked about running. It was her answer that opened up the real beauty of running to me. Her reason was exactly the same reason I love yoga. To be present with whatever comes up. To notice the mind-chatter. To hear the wind and the birdsong. To feel the belly cramp, the shortened breath, the strength, the weakness. To experience everything life had to offer at the moment, without reaction, without judgment. To be aware, and alive, and joyful.
Once I started setting goals, I met them pretty quickly. January surprised me. I was intrigued by my strength and stamina. Each week I ran a little longer. I downloaded the Sportypal app and started tracking my miles and time. I did not set distance goals, only time. I wanted to find my base - what was my natural pace? It was faster than I'd expected. What was my natural exhaustion point? It was further than I'd assumed.
#29 - Run for 25 minutes straight
#30 - Run for 30 minutes straight
#31 - Run for 35 minutes straight
#32 - Run for 40 minutes straight
Through the months of writing and revising The List, I also checked things off. I finished #29-#32 in January and challenged myself to my first 8-mile run in February. Inspired by that, I added:
#33 - Run a raceI didn't commit to what kind of race. I figured time would tell me what I was capable of doing. A marathon seemed extreme, but I knew for sure I could easily run a 5k or 10k. By April or May I was running 3-6 miles, 4-5 times a week, during my lunch hour.
Just as the weather was getting hot, I found a running partner to keep me going. I met Brandi one day in June when we were both out running. Her office is 1.25 miles from mine, and she runs five miles every day during her lunch hour. We started meeting up, and even as the summer heat beat down, my weekly mileage increased. I added longer runs on Saturday to get some hills into my routine.
At the end of July I took an unplanned non-List epic 20-years-in-coming journey back to my old mountain lake hometown in New Jersey. I brought my running shoes. Everyday I ran that old 5k lake run that my mom used to do, past my old house and the houses of my childhood classmates. I saw deer, and smelled the trees, and felt the air. I cried and grieved losses I'd needed to mourn for 20 years. I also spent some time in NYC, and logged my first ever 9+ mile run one morning in Central Park.
As I neared the end of writing The List, a final goal for the year came to me. I knew it was not something I could do anytime soon, but the year was only half over. More than a race, I thought, I would like to GET somewhere. Somewhere to celebrate. Somewhere significant. Somewhere spiritual. Somewhere like the edge of the continent. Somewhere like the Pacific Ocean.
#100 - Run from our house to the Santa Monica Pier
So this is what I am working towards. I plan to do it in the days between Christmas and New Years Eve. We live in the San Fernando valley, so the ocean is 18 miles away by local roads. I'll have to run through Studio City, over the Santa Monica Mountains, taking the Coldwater route which is a beautifully winding road, past Fryman Canyon, over Mulholland Drive, across Sunset Boulevard, down Santa Monica Boulevard, turn on Ocean Ave, over the bridge, to the bike path, to the pier. There on the sand, at the edge of the country, at the end of the year, I will meet my Love and celebrate my year of The List of 100 Things.
Every year at the end of August a temporary city pops up on the alkaline sand in the middle of Nevada's Black Rock Desert. Folks trek across the country, some from other corners of the world, to participate in its creation. The population numbers vary, but in recent years it's been in the range of 48,000 - 60,000. With planned infrastructure and unplanned whimsy, this is not so much a festival as an alternate reality. The weather is harsh. The stars are brilliant. Time of day is measured by the sun and moon. Time of week is marked by large installation artworks being set on fire.
Back in my East Coast days I'd sometimes hear mention of Burning Man. Maybe the word's spread, maybe it's the advent of Facebook, or maybe it's just because I live on the West Coast now, but it seems pretty much everyone knows a thing or two about it. That said, if you want to know more you can read more about it here or here or here. Or, if you want to just know about the ticket fiasco that happened this year, you can read about that here or here or, for a summary and also an excellent lesson in public relations, here.
I've only been once, and had ambivalent feelings about it. I was giddy in love with Darby and we celebrated our 1st year anniversary there. We stumbled into circuses, live music, strange art, inspiring people. It was our first week-long vacation together and I wanted to be perfect. I wasn't perfect. The last two days I had a headache from the almost-constant dust storms. It was exhausting. It was an adventure. I was in grief.
Planning for a week on a different planet -- that is what it feels like -- takes some forethought. When we decided to go again this year we also began looking forward to the summer months of creative preparation. In this Year Of The List I jotted down some Burning Man intentions:
#36 - Contradance at Burning Man
#38 - Drink a beer at a Burning Man theme camp
#52 - Give gifts of food at Burning Man (cook pancakes on the ashes?) (vegan s'mores from our bike baskets?) (middle of the night vegan hot dog stand?)
I suppose everyone has their reasons for wanting to take a journey into the desert. There were many reasons for me, but this year the two biggest were:
#85 - Go away for a week with Darby
And, to go back to the Temple.
Burning Man is bigger than a song, it's like a symphony. It is built, thrives, and then is burned to the ground. Ashes to ashes, desert to desert. It is like life, only smaller, so you can see the whole picture, or at least a whole picture. For everyone it's different, but it is always temporary. Like music. Like life.
The Temple looks different every year. I suspect, however, that the feeling around it is generally the same. It is a sanctuary, it's a wedding chapel, it's a wailing wall, it's a grave stone. The walls are filled with love, release, anguish, and hope. There are Sharpie marker dedications to lost loves painted on the walls. There are angry notes folded into cracks. There are witnesses and wedding vows. There are platitudes. There's a hush in the air, a respect for the grieving. And then, like so many of the other structures built for Burning Man, on the last night of the week, the Temple is released in flames and ash into the desert night.
That last cold night of our first Burning Man together, I huddled with Darby as the Temple ignited. For the first time that week, everything was silent. 53,000 people stood in a wide circle around the Temple, and you could hear the flames. With the love and loss that had been graffitied on the Temple walls all week, I released my own well of sorrow that had been building for some time. The columns of smoke swirled into the night like souls being released. Tears ran down my face and my stomach tightened. I felt the baby that I had long dreamed about finally release into the dust and stars of Black Rock Desert. I was never going to have a child of my own, I had known that for awhile. But as I stood there in the dark with the man I knew to be my soulmate, I sobbed in grief. The man I loved was the best father I could imagine, and he already had two wonderful, beautiful, fabulous girls. I knew we wouldn't be having another. That night in the desert I buried the baby I would never have.
A week later, back in Los Angeles, I still felt shell shocked. I walked around numb, and then drove out alone to Joshua Tree -- a different desert, with different people. There I spent a quiet few days amid the celebration of a music festival my band was performing in. While I was there I reached out to a friend who had lost her father. How could I grieve for something I never had? She helped teach me how to mourn. I reached out to another friend who had never had children. How did she release her desire? She helped me find peace. When I got home, I reached out to Darby, my sweet man who I know wishes he could fix any sadness I have, but who I knew couldn't fix this. I learned how to ask him to hold me in sadness, without trying to fix anything, and let it work its way out. It took a long, very long, time, but eventually it did.
About ten months later, Darby and I moved in together and started creating a home. Now I have kids every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. There are school events. There are camping trips. There are holidays and hard questions. There are sick days and cranky days and happy days and goofy days. Little by little I am learning how many ways there are to be a mother.
Someone told me once that in Sweden a step-mom is called a "bonus mom". It doesn't resonate with me. I was never one for extra credit, I never cared for add-ons. The fairy tales all show step-moms as wicked and unfair. That is not the story I carry in my heart. I have no template for how to do what I do, how to be what we call "a step-mom". From my own fragmented upbringing, in a way this is a blessing. I cannot turn into the models I had, because I never had this model.
Well, this is Burning Man week. We tried to get tickets several times earlier this year, but after a few months of frustration we decided to let it go. The ticket fiasco complicated our plans, and although many available tickets popped up recently, we'd already let our desire to go slip away. Over the months of the fiasco evolution I rewrote The List, nixing Burning Man for the year. We are here in LA.
This weekend is the anniversary of our first date -- the most wonderful first date in the history of humankind -- so instead of the desert we're heading to a little cottage on the beach to celebrate. We will ride our bikes along the boardwalk, hunt for seaglass, toast over cocktails. My sweet man and I will write our love and our hopes in the sand, and release them to the Pacific tide.
I have been reading Ernest Hemingway lately. He writes in "A Moveable Feast" that he would go to great lengths to think about writing only when he was actually sitting down with pen in hand. The rest of the time he'd allow his subconscious to do its work by distracting himself with social engagements and the books of other writers.
I understand the subconscious, or at least the theory of the subconscious. Oftentimes I wake today with the solution to yesterday's elusive idea, or emerge from a yoga practice with the clarity I had been missing all day. I've resisted this blank page all morning because I have two thoughts swimming around and I haven't been sure which one to explore. The result, of course, is that I have been mining the internet for articles to read, looking for complete distraction and hoping that while my back is turned one of the two ideas will emerge dominant.
During this year of The List I have also discovered that running and writing have been consciously and intrinsically linked. I'm fairly new (again) to them both as a disciplined practice, and The List has entwined them as both near-daily practices. During my solo runs I often turn my mind to a story that I am trying to work out. The thumping of my feet on the pavement somehow loosens my mind to ideas. Throughout the Odessa months I walked through Texas conversations while running my route here in Los Angeles. I'd write in the mornings, run at noon, and sometimes write again in afternoon or just let it go till the next day. For better or worse, about 2 months ago, just around the time Odessa was finished, I found a running buddy. This has helped immensely with my mileage increase, but now many of my weekday runs are spent in conversation instead of quiet contemplation.
So, the two thoughts that are swimming around in my mind today are Time and Running. Running, because I have already posted here about writing (and will surely continue to do so), and as I said, they are intrinsically linked. Time, because earlier this week I received this email from a friend:
I woke up in the middle of the night thinking this: you have a full-time job in addition to cooking, blogging, singing, teaching yoga, writing, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera? Where do you work full time and how do you do that, if you don't mind me asking.
While I slept and allowed my mind to soften into subconscious problem solving, my friend was losing shuteye over my schedule. And so here we have it, it looks like today I am writing about Time.
By the way, have you seen this poster?
This manifesto is on one of those magnets I see at Whole Foods or on a friend's refrigerator. Maybe it's on your refrigerator. Our fridge is a jumble of report cards and drawings, but if I were to find space for a reminder-type magnet, this might be the one I put up. I generally hate being told what to do, especially when it brings up that "no duh" reaction, but this is one of those calls-to-action that I love to read in the checkout line, partly as a reminder and partly as a positive reflection of my own life.
It's that line in the second section that really speaks to me.
If you don't have enough time, stop watching TV.
And the one before that, about the job and quitting.
With all due respect to my friends who work in the entertainment industry (I'm included in that group, actually), and with all recognition that there is some excellent programming out there, TV is useless. Unless you are an actor or some other creator-type who can learn from active TV-watching, it is a waste of time. Most of us tend to watch TV passively, so when I say it is a waste of time I mean it in the big sense - TIME. Our precious 70 years. Our 25,550-some-odd days as humans. The divine gift of life. The likely one chance we have to exercise our true nature as creators. The active choice of how to live. The act of being alive.
Who cares about life after death. Let's talk about life before death.
Now I must pay attention to one of my chatty inner voices. This one wants me to apologize:
I don't mean to insult you. What do I know? I get up on my blogosphere soapbox and think I have the answers, but perhaps I am just a different bird. This is the way I choose to live. We all have to make the right choices for ourselves, and truly I do not judge someone for watching a show. But then, you did lose sleep over my schedule last night, and you did ask the question...
It's just that until I left home for college, I watched way too much TV. By my senior year of high school I was already feeling the crunch of time and the regret of wasting my early years with something that distracted me from my real work. The work that my spirit longed to do. My soul path. My creative life. I don't know how to say it any other way, and I can't get more specific than that. It has less to do with specificity of project and more to do with intentional living. As I packed my bags for college I wondered how much better of a musician I would have been if not for the sitcom-squandered early years. Time is all we have, I knew that at 17. I left home with 2 duffels, a trunk, a new laptop, and my trusty clarinet. I never regretted leaving that old black and white set my folks had saved for me. My dad still doesn't get it, but all I can say to him is that I love my very full, but very creative, intentional life.
So, here were my thoughts as I answered my friend's email:
1) WHAT TELEVISION?: Everyday I look at the clock and know that I will spend 8 hours at my office day job, exchanging precious time for peace of mind. I run for an hour during lunch. At 6pm I will get in the car and either drive to teach yoga, and later do my own yoga practice, or just get right to a yoga or spin class. Afterwards would I rather sit in front of the TV, or read aloud to the girls, connect with Darby, work on songs, edit photos, tweak recipes, read Hemingway?
The weekends hold endless soul-filling activities, some of which I get to almost weekly like the farmers market, some of which happen only occasionally, like gardening or visiting the arboretum or hosting a party at our house. Would I rather watch a movie? Yes, about six or twelve times a year, I would, and I do, snuggled up with Darby on the couch with a big bowl of popcorn and a bottle of hot sauce.
Luckily all we have is a flat screen and a DVD player. Have I mentioned how Darby and I are perfectly suited for each other? It was almost seamless when we merged our homes.
2) FINANCIAL VERSUS CREATIVE NEEDS: Since my post-college days I've been trying to find the balance between my creative and financial needs. I've bounced between the walls of creative endeavors (with no income) to financial endeavors (with no creativity). During 2006, when I was a full-time touring musician, I realized how my peace of mind and dependability of income are related.
The salary from my day job is, shall I say, not a hellavulot. As it turns out, that's been somewhat of a blessing. It only meets my basic financial needs, but along with the company health insurance, that's a pretty good foundation. It meets my foundational needs -- financial well-being, physical health, food, and shelter. My other three careers - writing/performing music, teaching yoga, and personal chef/catering - are all creative and bump up my income enough to satisfy my cravings for buying gifts for the people I love, taking little holiday escapes with Darby, and good olive oil.
I don't have a lot of unscheduled free time. I prefer generosity, but for right now I parse out my time carefully. Big projects take longer. The relationship between creativity and financial satisfaction is a balance I am still trying to work out, but there's an energy lately that I dig. This period of my life is the first in which I truly feel both creatively fulfilled and financially stable. Eventually, as more of my income is derived from creative sources, I will be able to find more balance in my schedule.
3 ) WRITE LIKE A MOTHERFUCKER: I'm dedicated to writing for a couple of hours a few times a week, at least, which means getting as efficient as possible with my work. I've always been a morning person, and my best writing happens at 9am. My intention is to write Monday through Friday. Sometimes I can organize my day-job work to allow for some writing time, sometimes I cannot, but most importantly I strive to not allow the internet to become what TV used to be. Even on a day like today when I have been a bit scatterbrained, I consider a day spent writing, time well spent.
4) KEEPING THE VISION: when I feel exhausted and a bit overwhelmed, I try to keep my vision on an upcoming short getaway with Darby. It helps on the weeks that hold tons of cooking, teaching, and music gigs. They are all things I love to do, but when I'm a bit low on sleep and quality time with Darby, it helps to have Big Sur on the calendar.
5) WORK THAT BODY: I exercise at least once daily, often twice, with a 5 mile run during lunch and/or a spin class/yoga practice in the evening. The running thing is a direct result of The List, but even before that I always went for walks. On the weekends I usually just get a long run Saturday and a good yoga practice Sunday. Our bodies were meant to move, and being a writer/musician is sendentary work. Our minds work better when our bodies work well. Also, despite the time commitment, I find that in general I am more productive when I am getting regular exercise.
6) THE TOP: Darby. He's the pirate's booty. He's the treasure chest of gold. He's the top, he's the tower of Pisa, he's the smile on the Mona Lisa... I deconstructed my life with the tiny glimmer of hope that there was a relationship like this for me in this lifetime. There is. I have it. I know I've won the jackpot, and I do not take it for granted. Darby is the single most important priority in my life. He and I both know that essential to having a healthy relationship with each other is having a healthy relationship with ourselves. Together we support each other in finding and creating our individual visions of the lives we want as individuals and as a couple.
All that said, we have just booked a one-night getaway to the beach. Sure, the beach is only about 15 miles from our house, but we rented a little cottage in Venice Beach for one night next weekend. Completely unscheduled for one night and the two days on either side of it, we will lose track of time, soften our gaze, and breath a little deeper.
#57 -- spend a lazy day at the beach
Sometimes it only takes a 15 mile drive to get a world away.
I've been trying to write for the past four hours and all I've got are scattered thoughts and jumbled sentences. It's after 1pm now and I bargained with myself hours ago that I would go out for a run just as soon as I wrote something worthwhile on the page. I got nothin'.
Some days are like this, all the great writers say. They say, just show up. While you're waiting for inspiration, inspiration waits for you so be at your desk, they say, everyday, pen in hand. You've got to write to clear a pathway for the gems. The only way to learn how to write is to write.
Anne Lamott, so often comforting to me, your birds do not comfort me today.
People tend to look at successful writers who are getting their books published and maybe even doing well financially, and think that they sit down at their desks every morning feeling like a million dollars, feeling great about who they are and how much talent they have and what a great story they have to tell; that they take in a few deep breaths, push back their sleeves, roll their necks a few times to get all the cricks out, and dive in, typing fully formed passages as fast as a court reporter. But this is just the fantasy of the uninitiated.
Okay fine. But sometimes I feel like I spend my whole life just clearing pathways. I wonder, where are the gems. On days like today I wonder if there are any in me.
Today I've been hacking through the woods once again, trying to get somewhere. I hope against proof that I will emerge through these blogs, journals, letters, and stories with something worthy of standing dog-eared and tattered on a bookshelf in a stranger's home. I'm not sure why I want this.
What I do know is that long after "lights out", I used to lay with a book at my bedroom door, halfway into the glow of the hallway light, halfway in darkness. If I heard footsteps on the stairs, I'd scramble back to bed. The story was worth the risk. I feel like this is where I am again today, halfway in the light, halfway in the dark. The light is my spark of determination to find some narrative in my own life. The darkness is my doubt, ready to scamper back to bed at any creak.
#70 -- revise "Odessa" (story)
The fact that Odessa is #70 does not mean it almost slipped away. Like the kitten who is right now meowing at my feet, it has been calling my attention for years. I jotted the first ideas of Odessa down in 2006 while sitting on the edge of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, after 6 months of playing honky tonks and coffee shops across the country with my band. Of all the places we went, there was something about the folks I met on our one night in Odessa that tugged at me. These past years I've just kept circling around it like a satellite, never touching it but never leaving it alone.
This was the year, I decided, that I would open the files of my memory and write about that night. I don't usually show up everyday for anything, but in March I started showing up everyday at the same time every morning for Odessa, writing for hours. I surprised myself with my commitment, but then, that's pretty much what this whole list has been about. As I wrote I'd send sections to Darby to keep myself accountable. When the first draft was finally done sometime in May, I wept. It'd taken six years and the urging of The List to get me back into that one night in West Texas.
Odessa was 9350 words.
I re-read and revised countless times. I summoned my courage to ask Darby for his feedback, and then re-read and revised again. Darby was the perfect editor, pulling my own themes out and reflecting them back to me so that I could hone and clarify. When I felt I was ready, I tested the waters one at a time, asking my friends to be honest but gentle in their feedback. As each one read and responded, I'd dig back in, spit and polish. I checked off #70 in June.
#72 -- send Odessa (story) out for publication
#72 was exciting. I found a deadline for the Narration literary journal contest for emerging writers, circled it in red, and set that as the cutoff to my revising. I needed an end-date to what had become near-obsessive analysis of every phase in the story. The day came and off Odessa went, along with a brief bio and prayer to the wind. It felt like my kid's first day of kindergarten.
#73 -- get 10 rejections for Odessa (story)
Well, Narration sent me a nice note of rejection. They didn't use the "R" word, in fact the letter was quite pleasant about how my story Odessa "does not meet our needs at this time". #73, despite how comparatively little time it demands, is the hard one. Definitely the hard one.
Last year I read this story about Kathryn Stockett who took 5 years and received 60 rejections for her novel The Help. Of course we all know what a blockbuster hit the movie became, and the novel itself was on the New York Times Bestseller list for 100 weeks. When I finally got around to reading it - about 6 months after the rest of America -- I found The Help to be a beautifully written novel.
So, with Kathryn Stockett's 60 rejections in mind I created #73. As of this writing, I've still only sent Odessa out exactly one time -- to Narration. If I can find the courage, nine more rejections will keep me sending it out at least through the end of 2012. Where is my lionhearted determination now?
I am reminded of this David Whyte poem:
I want to write about faith,
about the way the moon rises
over cold snow, night after night,
faithful even as it fades from fullness,
slowly becoming that last curving and impossible
sliver of light before the final darkness.
But I have no faith myself
I refuse it even the smallest entry.
Let this then, my small poem,
like a new moon, slender and barely open,
be the first prayer that opens me to faith.
-- David Whyte
I don't have the pluck to receive 10 letters of "your story does not meet our needs". But maybe this little blog entry, this baring of my fears, will be the quiet strength that I need to send Odessa out again.
by Arielle Silver
There is nothing pretty on the cracked four-lane blacktop
between Abilene and Odessa. Once you cross over Route 83 and
leave the Abilene city limits, for three endless hours it’s
wide open country, bone dry and spotted with prickly brush. We
left central Texas with its antique stores and population
signs of under 500, and traded it for the oil pumps and jagged
terrain of Big Bend Country. The low rumble of hot air blew
over the windshield as lonely tumbleweeds tangled in barbed
wire fences along the side of the road. For as far as we
could see, it was open grassland, occasional rust bucket
carlots, and countless oil pumpjacks rocking in the heat like
thirsty birds sucking deep from the earth.
I’d never been to oil country before, but I traveled
those West Texas roads in the dog days of the oil wars.
Schools held bake sales to support the troops, and the other
drifters we met at truck stops along the way grumbled at $4 a
gallon. We stopped for water refills and to stretch our legs,
but my traveling companions and I rarely pumped any gas. Our
tour van had been running on the filtered oil from Chinese
food restaurants and doughnut shops since last autumn in New
England. We drove the Vegmobile, our black vegetable oil-fueled
Chevy van, along I-20 with the other travelers making
their way across the West Texas summer....
This is a little video shot by a friend in '06, just after I got back to Boston from my cross-country travels. It's funny to me to see my baby face cheeks. How much my face has changed in six years! But why not? It feels like my whole life has changed along with it. Six years ago I would never have guessed about even the tiniest aspects of my life now. Anyway, if you care to see the cheeks and a little ditty at the end, here I'm telling about one man we met that night in Odessa - "Mr. Handlebar".
2009 flipped my life inside out and shook out anything that wasn't super-glued down. It started with an angel card in a yoga class on the first morning of the year. Of course I pulled the birth card, and of course I interpreted it in the easiest way possible - a baby. I wanted one. I wanted to go through pregnancy, childbirth, babyhood. The man I married said he wanted the same thing, and I suppose it was a true gift that he never stepped up to the plate. We never had enough money, he said. He wasn't ready yet, he said. We'd be ready when his music career finally took off, he said.
Meanwhile I began to prepare my body. By the end of '07, I'd nixed all refined sugars, flours, animal products, and non-organic foods from my diet. I ate mindfully, I exercised more. I practiced meditation. I found a yoga studio and went to classes every day. Quietly on my mat I sweated out the toxins, let my breath expand my lungs and heart, let my body dance so that I would be strong enough to carry a child. Then on New Years Day 2009 I pulled that birth card and my heart fluttered around in my chest as my breath caught in my throat. Was this the year?
They say that as we deepen our yoga practice, things that no longer serve us begin to fall away. I became stronger, more flexible, more balanced. But just as they say, the things that were no longer serving me in an positive, authentic, healing way began to fall away... like my marriage. After 8 months of untangling a nagging feeling that had started as a funny feeling and then permeated every waking thought and sleeping dream, one day I looked over at the man I had married and realized that I did not want to raise a child with him. I did not want to navigate life with him. I did not want to wake up and go to sleep with him for a lifetime. My life with him - the life in me - had shrunk smaller and smaller until I felt like I'd been painted into only the tiniest spot of light. My inner light was still shining, but it was like a candle in the darkest of nights. He was a good man but not good for me. I was too young to settle but old enough to appreciate how precious life is. I could not write the next 40 years or so away for a tarnished ring and a misplaced vow.
Ultimately it was the nighttime dreams of shattered windows and dark corners that reminded me of the greatest relationship I would ever have - the one with myself. I could no longer settle for the least common denominator of good enough. My spirit wanted, needed, to be lived fully, to celebrate the gift of whatever may be left of my 70 or 80 years. My heart banged at the bars of my ribcage, begging to be set free. If I cut myself loose from my marriage, without a solid promise of romance or child in my future, at least my spirit would be free. I came to the point where I could not live any other way.
Through the months of unraveling the stitches of my life, I filled journal pages in self-exploration. What did I want from life? What did I want in a relationship? What was I looking for in a partner? What were my deepest desires, my hopes, my values?
As I unpacked the boxes for my new apartment, I embraced solitude. I spent quiet evenings curled up with my kitten, reading yoga philosophy and indulgent novels. I took photos with my new camera and sat in the glow of my computer learning how to crop, dodge, and burn. I cooked meals and poured crystal glasses of wine, just for myself, remembering how to nourish myself. I slowed my pace at the flower stand and brought home peonies and lavender, because they are beautiful and completely un-useful.
Darby and I met on July 4th that year, divine '09, and slowly invited each other into each others lives. We spiraled inwards for months with brief conversations at the yoga studio or online, until Sept. 3 when he came to my apartment for an evening of music exchange, conversation, cookies, and prosecco. We kissed that night for the first time. From the very core of my heart-wisdom, against the logic of my mind that told me we still barely knew each other, I knew that this man would be my deepest love. We moved slowly, toeing the edge of the cliff for weeks on end, but the gravity of love tugged at my cells and it was everything I could do to keep from falling fast, far, deep. We practiced yoga together, both on our rolled out side-by-side mats, and in our careful, conscious movements as we entangled our hearts and lives.
We spent the lazy day of New Years 2010 in each others arms until we laced up our hiking shoes and climbed some local trails. Darby and I made it back down the mountain just as the sun was setting on the first perfect day of a new year.
I do not know why today I am writing about those months of '09. This blog was not created for writing my life story, or at least yesterday when I began this I didn't think it was. I've never written about those last months of my marriage, except in my closely-guarded journals, but it feels right to me now, without knowing where any of this is going, to just write what comes and worry about the direction later. It feels somehow like that's where the story of my current life begins, so perhaps it is fitting.
Besides, I've been having only fits and starts with #98.
#98 - Embark on a new writing project
Maybe whatever comes out here will help birth the new project. Or perhaps this is the new project.
I began today's post about New Years '09. The List Of 100 Things To Do in 2012 also began on New Years. Forgive the abrupt fast-forward. There is no easy way for me to close up the entire unraveling that occurred in '09 and then quickly knit you the tapestry of what emerged later that year. Just know that Darby and I fell completely in love, and have entirely entwined our lives in a beautiful, sexy, conscious way. These past years I have grieved about not having a baby of my own, and I am learning about the other ways to be a mother, as step mom for two incredible girls who just this week began 3rd and 7th grade.
On New Years Eve, as the calendar flipped into 2012, Darby and I rolled out our yoga mats next to each other at the studio where we both teach and often practice. The NYE intention-setting class was the only plan we'd made for our holiday evening. We'd created a new cooking project that autumn - Love Them Apples - and we were entirely exhausted. What would 2012 bring? More of all the good stuff life had lately been sending, along with some extra sleep, I hoped.
I always have my journal with me on NYE, so I don't miss anything in case some insight on the past year strikes. Without any plan to do so, sitting on my yoga mat that night, I began this list of 100 Things To Do in 2012. Maybe it was the need for a vacation with my man, or the desire for a few quiet days in nature, but #1 surprised me.
#1 - go back to Big Sur with Darby
Last autumn, just after Love Them Apples started, we ran off for two wonderful days in Big Sur. We fell in love with the moody coast line and redwood forests. Neither of us had ever been there before, so Big Sur is entirely ours to share and explore together. We found a delightful place to stay on the south side of the region called Treebones and are smitten with the charming folks who work/live there, the magical organic garden that feeds the restaurant, and the quirky places to spend the night.
As I started creating and living through The List, Big Sur has been on the top of my mind. We did go back this past Spring. It was perfect, as I knew it would be. We spent our days jade-hunting on the rocky beach, hiking through golden grasses high above the Pacific, enjoying indulgent meals at Big Sur Bakery and Treebones, breathing in wildflowers everywhere, talking about everything and nothing, and holding each other through the chilly nights in the Sibley tent campsite.
Between the kids' school schedule, music festivals that we're playing, and yoga retreats we're cooking for, it looks like I won't get to cross off #85.
#85 - go away for a week with Darby
We still need a holiday though, so we may end up running off for another short 3 day/ 2 night trip to Big Sur this Fall. Perhaps in 2013 we'll get our week away. For now I'm not at all bummed about possibly having a few more days this year in what may be one of the most beautiful places on Earth.