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Friday, March 28, 2014

Trust Me, you won't need sugar for your coffee after you read this. It's that Damn Sweet.

Oh, Golly G-Whiz.
A year ago marks the date that a juggler came into town and took me on a date.

Like many modern romances...I was courted via Facebook.
He 'friended' me after seeing me at a party with a few too many beers and/or glasses of wine in my system and a belief that I owned the dance floor and pretty much anyone who came within an arms reach.
As is Facebook custom, I did a little bit of stalking.
He's a handsome fella with big brown eyes, a bright smile, black rimmed glasses AND a very respectable beard.
Ughhh...but Damn!
I was also pretty sure he had a girlfriend.
A super cute girlfriend, too.
Of course.

So...I did my thing and tried to figure out the 'dating scene' of Tucson.
I had no clue.
How do I ask a guy out?
Do I dress like I want to get busy or do I try to look casual?
Do I wear short skirts or jeans?
Should I mention I am recently divorced?
Holy Crap!
My experience was all High School.
The Men of Tucson became fair game for my journey into love, dating and just being awkward.
I spent a lot of time hitting on my friends, having lots of bashful moments and just being a single woman for the 1st time in 16 years.
Oh...what a fantastically frightful time that was but also sweet...yes? 
I think, it was sweet.

A few months after 'the friending' I began to notice that this pretty bearded man was 'liking' my posts...
The posts about my child, about teaching yoga and all the other mundane things we share in a virtual world that somehow appeases the loneliness that happens now that we all work too much, have less time but still yearn to share our little part of this human experience.
I started to pay a bit more attention.
It turned out he didn't even live here anymore and the cutie pie girlfriend I was so sure of was actually his ex-girlfriend.
So, who was he?
Does he just 'friend' single moms everywhere because he is secretly a psychopath?
Regardless...I didn't mind too much.
Somewhere in the daily scans of status updates...
I mentioned that my son was sick and he sent me a message of well wishes for my sweet boy.
I was smitten.
Oh man...SMITTEN!

He said he was coming to town and he asked me out on a date.
I was excited.
He had a plan.
A Sunset hike and dinner.
Who does that?
I'd never been properly taken out so I was kind of dumbfounded and nervous.
How nervous?
Like studdering and clammy hands nervous.
I knew I was in trouble from the beginning.

I won't get too detailed about all the happenings of the date but I will say that things went well.

A few days later...he went to The Grand Canyon to raft The Colorado River and for the first time in a long time, I truly missed someone and not because I was lonely or needy but because I just liked the obnoxious amount of bawdy laughs that seemed to escape when he was around. 
He returned from his trek down the river but soon he had to return back to Bend, Oregon.
A long distance relationship started.
Despite working tons and a weird schedule, we managed to keep in touch and talk daily.
I left Tucson to meet him.
At first, after getting off the plane, I had a panic moment.
Oh Dear Lord...
What was I doing?
I left my son at home to roam around the Pacific Northwest with a guy I just met.
A guy who is 4 years younger than me, as well?
What the Hell happened to me?
He took me around town, drove me to Portland, Oregon to see and meet my friends, we camped at Mt.Hood, his Van died, (Yes, I said "Van." It was an awesome Van.) , we floated down The Deschutes River and fell in love! eyelids still twitch just a little whenever I's a little awkward for me, to be honest.
Oh, No!
I'm all for LOVE but being IN Love?
I was sooooo not ready, was I?
I left him in tears, counting the days apart and wondering if I had made it all up in my head.

Then he moved back to Tucson and my life got turned upside down.
Me + him + my son + my dog + his dog + a full time job, a very grumpy ex-husband and total fear that I was going to lose my independence was thrust into my world, all at once.
Huge fears welled up, grabbed hold and very soon after his arrival we had our first fight.

Now, here is the backstory of me:
When I fight, I fight like a wounded animal...fear, insecurity and pain are shielded by blind rage and I become badger-mean.
I kicked him out of my life.
Truthfully, I can't even remember but it felt awful and we talked.
I apologized.

He wrote me a love letter.
It wasn't the first, either.

He has sent me handwritten love letters since the beginning.
I've never been so sincerely romanced in all of my life.
I always thought I was the type of girl who didn't need to be wooed.
It turns out I don't NEED it but I do like it.
It's beautiful and loving, as is he.

I still continue to panic.
I feel old, not 'arty' enough, tired, unappreciated and just scared out of my mind because not only do I love him but so does my son.
Atticus calls Zack his best friend.
Our family.
All 5 of Us.
It is ridiculously terrifying for some reason.

Today it's been a year and within that time period we have moved in together.
He wanted it sooner than I did and it took time for me to adjust to living with someone who wants to spend time with me and be my partner.
I feel like a child sometimes, not sure how to do this...the goofy-in-love-couple thing.
My childhood was full of love but also lots of abuse and death so at a very young age I learned to shut down, close off and put up walls.
It was my habit to validate bad behavior, distrust kindness and try not to become too attached to anyone.
So being 'in love' was always something that others did but not me until Zack came into my life.

He inspires me to open my heart.
He makes me laugh.
He may not always understand the foundation of many of the dramas that sometimes pull me away from being grateful for the present moment but he tries as best as he can to be there for me.
As I move into my 40s,  I am learning to truly love and listen and it's been really hard, to be honest.
I've been messy and chaotic.
EVERY time I feel my heart strings start to wonder too far from my control I retract in fear and look for reasons to escape.
To be alone.
Sometimes, I worry that being in a committed relationship means that I have to be perfect and I can't make mistakes.
In my past relation, I walked on egg shells for much of it, so I don't always know how to relax, breathe and recognize that this man actually loves me.
All of me.
He loves me when I'm hilarious, passionate and sassy.
He loves me when I've become too tired, too hungry or too overwhelmed to function in a rational way.
He always lends his heart, his head and his hand when I need it.
Slowly...I'm learning to let him take my hand without hesitation and I'm glad about it.
I love him.
And he loves me...crazy sexy, bossy, controlling and brilliant me.
We are in love and I think it's awesome.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

It's my Dad's Birthday and I miss Him.

Today is my Dad's Birthday.
He would be 67 years old if he was still around.
It's hard to say what he'd be like these days, what he would think of things and what he would think of me.
He was born and raised in a very small coal mining town in Southeastern Ohio.
His love of home and the beauty that surrounded it was always something he seemed to long for.
As a kid, he would walk to the banks of the Ohio River from his house and swim across to West Virginia 'like a torpedo' or so he said.
When I was a little girl, he showed me how to skip pebbles across its surface and properly line my fishing pole to wait for blue gill.
I miss my Dad.
Growing up...he was my friend.
He was the one who put me to bed at night, rubbed my back and read me stories.
He was also the person who tried to braid and curl my hair the way that my Mom did while she was out of town to only accidentally burn my forehead with a curling iron.
As I remember, he felt pretty bad about it.
He ingrained a strong and somewhat obsessive work ethic which I inherited.
Like him, I can be very stubborn and strong-willed.

My Dad.
The man who put wheat germ, bee pollen and peanut butter on everything he ate, died when he was only 52 years old and I still think about him daily.
I am filled with memories of helping him match his socks, pants and shirts before he left for work because even though he was severely colorblind he wasn't going to let anyone else know about it.
In the 70's he had the much desired perm, sideburns and butterfly collar shirts.
In the 80's his hair was more Ronald Reagan than Reagan's...thick and black with the exception of when he shaved his head to show support for Oliver North ( a moment captured on the front page of The a Green Valley News, by the way).
That was my Dad.
He was hell bent on holding onto the ideals of what it meant to be a boy raised in the 50s: 
A love of baseball, apple pie, God and Conservative values.
He was a hard worker.
He was the Powhatan Point boy who pitched his team to a State Championship, got a scholarship to Ohio State University but lost it due to a football injury that wrecked his pitching arm.
He become the father of 2 young boys born 11 months apart at a young age.
He married his High School Sweetheart and began a new life on a military base in Michigan as a member of The Air National Guard.
He wanted to fight in Vietnam but was never sent and he was always dissatisfied that his service never took him into a war zone.
He moved to Arizona in the early 70's to start over and began a very long career in The United States Postal Service.

The story goes that my mother was on his mail route and his friend, Manny asked him to get her number for him. 
My dad got her number but he saved it for himself and asked her out.
She was a petite and big eyed girl from Southern California who like him had decided to start over in the beauty of the Sonaran Desert.
2 weeks after their first date they were married and 9 months later, I arrived in the world.
Before I can remember, my 2 older brothers became integrated into our small family and 4 years later we welcomed the last of The Volpe Boy Trio.
My dad had plans for them and spent much of his time encouraging them to adopt his appreciation for hard work, fast cars and sports.
I was Daddy's little girl but that also meant that much of that 'Dad Time' didn't include me because he didn't want to upset my Mother's intention of grooming me to be the prettiest and smartest dress up doll around.
Of course, all I wanted was to lead whatever team my brothers were on into victory.

My dad worked his way to Postmaster and was seen as our small town's unofficial Mayor as he managed to become President of almost every local fraternity in town.
He was a big deal, at least to me.
My Dad...
It's been almost 15 years since he passed away.
But, when I look in the mirror, I can see that I have the same deep set but bright eyes that he had.
I also know that like him, I can throw myself into work to avoid situations that I don't want to deal with.
My Dad wasn't around much.
He and my mother fell in love quickly but also fell out fairly quickly.
They kept up the facade of a happy family for 17 years but by the time I entered High School it was obvious how unmatched they really were.
Aside from their love of all things Republican...there seemed very little for them to talk about.
So when I was a Sophomore in High School my parents split up.
Despite all of his success, he was never satisfied with where he was in his life so he projected the need for the rest of us to go above and beyond our perceived potential.
I'm grateful for it.
I've never been one to shy away from a challenge...there has always been a belief that no matter how many times I fail at something, at some point I will get it right and I know I got that from him.

There are times that I question if he would be proud of me.
I tested him early on in my youth but his ability to have incredibly open discussions with me without rising (too often) into heated arguments leads me to think that in the end my dad just wanted me to be happy and true to myself.

When I was 12, I told my parents I would not be attending church, as I did not believe in God.
When I was 14, I became a vegetarian.
I joined Greenpeace, helped distribute condoms downtown and lectured my peers on AIDS Prevention, despite being told by my parents that AIDS was a punishment for sin.
My dad believed that poverty was a choice, that people were smart enough to regulate themselves and that The EPA was the root of all evil.
During The Gulf War my Dad volunteered to go to Iraq and I was part of a school walkout to protest the war.
Our differences were strong but he never put me down for them.
After his 3rd Marriage and a Terminal Cancer diagnosis my Dad became a Born-Again Christian.
He was open about his disappointment in my beliefs, he prayed for me but I knew he loved me.
The day he walked in on me smoking a cigarette is still one of my lowest.
Remembering the look of sadness on his face still causes me to tear up.

I don't want to talk much about his last days, as this weekend is meant to celebrate his life.
We were always able to have honest talks and I miss them, terribly.
I may not have gotten much of his attention growing up but when ever I needed a rational parental voice to depend on, I knew I could call him.

The last months of his life were chaotic.
His house became overfilled with family:
Visiting relatives, my younger brother, my oldest brother, my elderly grandmother, my Dad's 1st wife (it's a long story to explain why she was there) and myself all crammed in a modest house.
It was my responsibility to take care of my Dad, medicate him, drive him to appointments, help my Parkinson's inflicted grandma feel in control and then also keep an eye on my oldest brother who was reacclimating to a life not on the streets and without drugs.
It was crazy.
Unbelievable, really.
That time of his life was heartbreaking but it was also inspiring.
We watched the sunrise and sunset from his backyard almost everyday.
We made smoothies and we managed to visit EVERY cowboy themed steakhouse in Southern Arizona as my Dad loved the romantic notions of being a cowboy.
He played golf for as long as he could and often told me that he wasn't that different from golf WAS his meditation and he was right.
I miss his Midwest drawl and the way he would always check to make sure his car was scratch free when he parked in a public lot.
He was a little neurotic.
So am I.
It's funny, as you get older you see your parents more as people.
When your a child, they are your idols, your oppressors but human? 

His final days were painful to watch as cancer ate his body away and I will never forget the look of disbelief in his eyes as he saw his body waste away from the strong form it had always been.
But...I also remember his hands holding mine as we would sit in his bed, the joy he had as he watched my 2 year old niece run and squeal around his house, his nervousness as he held my newborn nephew or the smiles and applause he shared when my teenage cousin wanted to show my Dad her new dance routine in the middle of the living room.
His last Birthday came just a little over a month before he died.
I made him a cake and we took him to Pinnacle Peak for dinner.
He loved his steak and he loved the novelty of having servers decked out in cowboy boots and greeting us with "Howdy, Partner."
So the other night...I took the grandson he never met to Pinnacle Peak and we walked around Trail Dust Town dressed as cowboyish as possible.
I don't believe in Heaven but I do believe that my father lives in my heart and I shared his influence with my son to celebrate him.
Happy Birthday, Jim Volpe.
Atticus may never get to meet you but he knows you and I'm glad about it.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Shake what your Mama gave you.

I'm a petite little lady.
A few inches over 5 feet tall and a wee bit over a 100 lbs. 
I'm small but I'm also strong.
Everyday, I have the privilege to teach yoga, meditation and mindfulness at a beautiful resort in Tucson, Arizona and it is AWESOME.
I love to move and I love to connect with people.
It's an amazing life but it also comes with its own unique expectations and challenges.
My responsibility is to care for myself and for my students.
I share my struggles with emotional instability, self doubt and just my general nature of being human.
I make a point to let my students know that despite a regular meditation and yoga practice, I get frustrated, I lose my composure, I act a fool and often let little things bother me way more than I'd like them to...because I do not want to create an expectation that doing all these practices means that life isn't still a challenge.
It is.
Sharing the difficulties that I face as a mother, a lover, a daughter, a sister, a mentor, a friend and just someone who tries to leave the house without being covered in dog hair or kid goop is not hard for me.
I share that stuff with ease and I am constantly told how helpful it is that I don't make these practices seem elusive or a cure-all.
I'm honest, sometimes embarrassingly, so.

However, as easy as it is to be honest about my periodic meltdowns and tantrums, I've started to think about what I project physically.
Basically, I workout for a living and part of my yoga practice is to be aware of what I consume and despite my daily dose of chocolate, randomn soda, an evening beer and my periodic relapses with a pickle addiction...
I'm pretty healthy and fit.
I excercise almost everyday but even with that...I've got a jiggly bum, puckered thighs and breasts that certainly show the history of breast feeding a boy with an insatiable appetite for 3 years.
Of course, when I get in front of a class no one can see that.
If you haven't noticed, all those tight black yoga pants squeeze all those 'imperfections' in pretty darn well.
I've been told I have 'a yoga body' and have had women look at themselves with shame as they tell me that they can't do yoga because they don't look like me OR they ask what can they do to look the way they think they should which is thin, lean and forever 25.
So...the past few weeks, as Bathing suit season has made its arrival in the Desert Southwest, I've been thinking about how much I still actually hide from my students.
It's taken many years and a lot of therapy for me to appreciate my body and lessen my habit of searching for issues or reasons to dislike my body.
I am lucky to have a gorgeous gym and lap pool to use when I'm at work and when I have time to workout or go for a swim, I am aware that the eyes of the women who take my classes are looking at me.
I know it happens because it's what we do as women, we look, we compare, we judge... so I've always worn a towel around the locker room so they don't  see my cellulite.
I'm strategic when I undress and I wrap a towel around me as I walk to the pool, covered up as I look for the closest lounge chair to the pool's edge so I can lessen the chance that anyone will glimpse all the imperfections of my 'yoga body'.
Earlier this week, several teenage girls were at the pool with their mothers and I felt my usual inhibitions take hold but then I realized what a hypocrite I was being.
I can reveal my stories of depression, my moments of screaming at my child or freaking out because someone cut in line in front of me at the market but the thought of these women seeing my untoned butt puts me in a panic!
What kind of message does that send?
So...I said 'screw it' took off my towel, took the long way around the pool and walked right in front of them and then hopped in the pool to do my laps.
I survived.
They saw me and hopefully they recognized that a healthy body, a 'yoga body' is a strong body with dimples, sags and some stretch marks.
A 'yoga body' moves with ease and steadiness. 
It doesn't starve or suck in its gut all the time.
It can be flabby, round, skinny, wrinkled, can bend, be flexible, be tight, be achey...
What it looks like is not the point, actually.
Go The Yoga Sutras...
I'm positive there is no mention of a need to look good in a bikini while posing in Nataraja (dancer pose) on the beach.
Not one word, I promise.
Looking good in a pair of tight pants or skinny jeans is not what it means to be a good yogini or a good person, for that matter.
Yesterday...I walked around naked as could be in the locker room in front of a several middle aged women, just being me, being unattached to what they may think of me but only hoping that they might judge themselves less and love themselves more.
Just love.
And Everyone.
It's fine...besides if we could channel the energy saved from self loathing and put it into solving the problems of the world, I think we could see real change.
We would see how beautiful and fragile things are and how important it is to take care of ourselves and others.
Who cares!
There is suffering to be ended and hearts that need mending.
 Photo by Jade Beall 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Be Good

Dear Atticus,
Last night I watched a video discussing the 3 words a boy should never hear: 
"Be A Man"!
This phrase implies that boys are only worthy of praise when they negate "feminine" qualities like compassion, generosity and gentleness.
This is a harmful message not only to boys but the world at large.
You are a boy.
A Wild, Fierce, Sweet, Loving, Funny, Challenging Humane Being...these are all qualities that we ALL explore each and everyday but as a boy you will be told that being strong means to deny your emotions and to not ask for help.
There are many men who became known as heroes who initially bought into the pressures to 'Be a Man'...
Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Nelson Mandela...these men were not always fighting against oppression by peaceful means, however, at some point in their lives something in them woke up and they recognized that compassion is strength, generosity is not weak and stopping to listen to the opinion of another will not break you but inform you.
You are only 5 years old but I already watch you fluctuate between wanting to seem tough and admitting that you like 'girl things'.
You can like it all...
Why not?
Question it all.
Who says a doll is only for girls?
When you play with dolls, action figures, Legos, cars, rocks, beads, crayons or in the dirt with sticks you're telling a story, right?
That's all.
Wouldn't it be boring to live in a world where girls only interacted with Barbies and boys only played with Spider-Man?
And what is it that you like about Spider-Man, anyway?
Spider-Man protects people but he also shows vulnerability and humility, doesn't he?
He isn't a bully, he doesn't need to 'Man Up' in fact, he just wants to see everyone happy and safe.
As a girl, a lady, a Mom...I am constantly being bombarded with messages about who I am supposed to be, what I should look like, how I should speak in order to get what I want or need but so do the men in my life.
We hurt each other with these structured lies...
In so many ways.
But at our core we are the same.
We want to be loved.
We want to be acknowledged.
We want someone to say 'I see you' and 'I desire you'.
We want to know we matter and when we don't get that acceptance, we begin to look outwards for things to fill the emptiness and we spend our time trying to get more :
MORE beautiful things, more land, more affection, more food...
And we exhaust ourselves and the world around us trying to do it.
We are all wanting to be loved but not wanting anyone to see our weaknesses.

There is a quote by Marilyn Monroe (someone who was confined by social structures of gender expectations and suffered greatly because of them):
"I'm selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I'm out of control and at times a little hard to handle. But if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as Hell don't deserve me at my best."
What if we realized that part of being human is accepting all of it?
The joy, the laughter, the grief, the rage... but instead we swim in these streams of murky confusion mistaking trash and sticks for the salvation of the river's edge.
Being strong is not denying your emotions.
Being strong is being able to make yourself vulnerable to someone else's judgments without thinking it's any of your business.
Holding your head up and saying ' I don't care what else anyone says or thinks about me' is not the same as saying 'I hurt. I want this person's approval and I don't have it but...I love them and myself, anyways.'
 I don't want my nieces to feel they can't express anger or demand change and I don't want my son to think he can't be humble or feel fragile.
I am filled with pride every time you say "Hold me, please, I want to cuddle."
I love it because it means you love me and want me to love you and I do...even at your worst.

Last week, I was teaching a yoga class and there was only one guy in a class of 12 or so women.
The class required us to hold some stretches for an extended period of time.
Many in the class were grumbling about the tightness of their muscles and hips but the guy sitting in the front of the class was very limber.
Within minutes, several women began to openly comment on his ability to reach his toes with ease and said it seemed so unusual for a man to be able to do that...
I couldn't let it go.
I said "Yes, he is limber but it isn't unusual to the male body to be's that as a society we encourage boys to focus on physical strength, we don't encourage them to stretch, to be flexible or bend over do we? 
No...physically AND metaphorically that's 'girly'.
We tell them they need to run, jump, punch, push and lift but to pause, breathe, twist and feel their bodies surrender towards the Earth as they reach to stretch their toes?
Forget it."
So...we expect Men to be stiff, inflexible, tight and unyielding in character and body.
This isn't their nature.
It's learned behavior.
So my sweet boy, Atticus...
I love that you love.
I love that you want to be held and want to play in the dirt.
This ex-ballerina also wanted those things at your age.
Be a boy and grow up to be a strong man...
But understand that strength is not about hiding in fear from your feelings...
It's the complete opposite.
You are brave EVERYTIME you open your heart to someone else.
You are brave when you listen to someone you don't agree with and you are courageous to stand up for the impoverished, confused and forgotten.
Let that heart bleed, my boy.
There is nothing weak about it.
Be a good person.
That's all.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Letter to my son

Tonight you hugged me like you always do.
You told me you loved me and kissed my face.
I told you my body hurt and so as we got out of the car you offered to carry the groceries from the car for me.
Your little body, your mind and your heart is full of such amazing strength.
You love your friends and speak of them all as if they are the most amazing people you have ever met because they are.

We came home and you promptly went to your room and spent an hour working on a Lego car with serious conviction and I love you for it.
I have never known such love and am grateful, oh so grateful that my heart was broken open to the beauty of life after so many years of closed off insecurity, always being skeptical of kindness but because of you I see true unconditional love is not is all around me all the time.

The Reluctant Mother

The Reluctant Mother

When I was a little girl my two dreams were to be a ballerina and a cardiovascular surgeon so it makes sense to me that I grew up instead to be a student and teacher of yoga.
I move my body with grace and ease to find fluidity in both form and mind.
I share my insight and experience with the intention to open and mend the hearts of the students who come to my classes, as well and there is extraordinary beauty in that.
Am I reaching a bit to make sense of my path? 
Perhaps but that not the point.
What I'm getting at is that on my list of things to be when I grew up...
Motherhood was not on that list.

My bedroom as a kid was room full of dolls. 
A lot of dolls.
During the day I would prop them up so they could watch me perform skits and dance routines and at night I would tuck them in and tell them that I loved them and hoped that they would get adopted. 
Again...I wasn't pretending they were my children but my comrades as I played alone dreaming that  someday I would escape the dusty desert town of my childhood and move to a place more green and rich in water.
I used to tell my parents that when I grew up I wanted to be ugly so I wouldn't have to bother with boys or marriage (as if beauty was a prerequisite to being loved or having to make a comittment) and could focus on becoming a doctor.
I can't say that any of that worked out for me.
I am certainly not afraid to embrace and recognize my own unique beauty and I let go of becoming a doctor as circumstances in my life changed and led me down a different road but still having a child was not a desire for me.
My long time boyfriend and eventual Ex-husband spoke of having children early on in our relationship and I told him over and over that I wasn't interested.
If he wanted children we could adopt.
I always figured that if motherhood came into my story it would be through the hips of another and not mine.
My body has always been something I guarded and abused on my own terms and I certainly wouldn't give that up to the variables of pregnancy.
Not me.
Not this girl.
I was going to be an Annie Hall- Holly Golightly type and not be pinned down with the seemingly confining duties of motherhood.

And then I hit 33. 
I don't know if that's a meaningful age to anyone else but for me that's when I finally began hearing the tic- toc of my own biological clock and man it was LOUD.

I quit using birth control, quit drinking beer, quit stealing random cigarettes and decided to let my husband know that if he wanted a child...well, I was ready and within a few months I was pregnant.
I was shocked.
Like an adult version of Juno, I took 5 pregnancy tests until I finally accepted that yes the incredible increase in my bra size was not just a stroke of luck but a function of my body preparing for motherhood.
I had lost control.

During my pregnancy in addition to teaching a dozen classes a week, I kept up my daily yoga practice.
It seemed my body didn't to want to slow down.
I enjoyed being pregnant (most of the time) and respected my body's need to create a safe place for my child to grow but I didn't relish in it.
I never got a big beautiful baby bump.
My hair and skin didn't glow.

4 days into Maternity Leave my water broke.
I was alone.
My husband waited until work ended to come home so I kept my chin up and told myself that it was okay to go into labor 3 weeks early and to have no contractions and be ill prepared to bring this little boy into a home that was far from child proofed.
I was fucking terrified.
A few hours later we made it to the hospital.
I was having no contractions and I have a heart condition.
I had expected that much like my pregnancy my labor and delivery would be done on my terms.
All natural.
No meds.
Hell...I figured I was going to pull that baby's head out all by myself.
I would be a strong savage beast and my birth story would be retold in small women's circles as proof that we don't need all these extras that come with the hospital birth experience.

13 hours later, pitocin contracting my insides with endless spasms...
My. Heart. Was. Not. Beating. 
My unborn son had been struggling against a wall that was not opening quickly and after a tough but loving moment with my doula I realized that what was important was to save my life and my son's.
In between tears and chants and last attempts to push him out I succumbed to an Emergency C-Section.
My ego was defeated but my son was alive.
All 5 lbs and 11 ounces of him was alive, breathing and heart beating.
His head was badly bruised and my body was over medicated.
I could not hold him in my arms but I heard him wail above the sounds of The Rolling Stones "Gimme Shelter" as it blared loudly in the surgery room and I knew that the pulse of life that I shared with this powerful spirit had made a mother of me.
Me, the reluctant one.
Motherhood came.
Love finally came.

Disappointment from my labor lingered.
Again, I felt alone.
I had no clue what to do, my son was jaundice and this body of mine that had been a source of strength was having to be lifted up and wiped clean by the nurses in the hospital.
Things had changed and for the first time in a long time I was going to have to accept fragility.

A small boy with the big name of Atticus was in need.
I was tired.
He nursed every 2 hours and was colicky every night from 5 pm till 7, 8, 9 and sometimes even 10pm.
His dad would come home for a bit and then take off to hang out with his friends because he had a long day at work.
I was depressed.
I was not the mother I had wanted to be, I was becoming the mother I had grown up with and I was ashamed.

This year, I will be 40.
My son is now 5 years old.
Like me...his eyes are big, his energy is high and he plans to do it all.
After his father and I separated I moved in with my mother...
To say it was a challenge is to be diplomatic about the situation but we did our best to live together.
She has said she was a perfect mother and in many ways she was...
She was and is crafty, creative and a great cook but she also physically abused me on a regular basis, screamed at me and alienated my friends.
My ideas of good mothering were very much surface reflections and most of my resistance to being a mother was my own fears of behaving similarly to my own. 
I practice yoga and meditate because I am aware of my demons.
I continue to struggle with my own short temper and sometimes I hear myself raising my voice in a way that horrifies me.

But in between the peaks of exhaustion there are valleys that sustain a tenderness and beauty that I never expected.
Hugs, kisses, vomit, rashes, songs, insane questions, fantastic stories...
I never thought I wanted to be a mother and I relate to the women who never find themselves yearning to have children but I have never loved like I do now.
I never stood up and had a voice that wants justice the way that I do now and I think being a mother has made me realize my strengths and inspired me to face my weaknesses.

I love Atticus.
He is part of me and part of his father as he finds his way in his world...
1st kisses, disappointments, obsessions.
It's all magnificent and I pray that this world can nurture him long after I am gone.
I am lucky to know this little boy who sits down and tries to meditate when his mind has overwhelmed him.
This little boy who has a full dance routine worked out to a Daft Punk song, who writes love letters to his 1st 'real' kiss and tells me that he will always love me even when he is mad...
This little boy found his way into my guarded and vulnerable heart and I am so grateful to have met him, to love him and to be challenged by him on a daily basis.
It's not an over exaggeration to say that parenthood is difficult.
It is so hard and the desire to run away, take that bath, close my eyes and pretend that after a late night I can sleep in and not drag myself out of bed to make breakfast is always desirable but nothing can replace the sound of my son's laughter, the sound of him breathing and the sweet embrace that is so lovely when he takes my hand and we cross the street.
I've never known love like this and I will always be in awe of him.


Monday, March 3, 2014

Yikes...The PMS Monster

I've been feeling incredibly ashamed lately.
Not about my outward appearance but by my behavior.
My Premenstral Syndrome has become a menace so after many years without it, I went back on THE PILL.
I tried Chaste Berry, I increased my calcium, started eating meat after being Vegetarian for 23 years and tried many other therapies before finally going to my doctor who is trained in Integrative Medicine.
I trust her not to push medications that are not needed (when I got the flu she told me to make some tea with honey and go back to bed ) so when said to me in the gentlest way "You have PMS Depression and a mild dose of hormones might help" I agreed to go back on birth control to regulate my hormones.
Months of mental and emotional torment made me realize that no amount of meditation, asana or journaling could erase the undeniable fact that a week before I bleed I become overwhelmed with sorrow. I have tried faking a smile or breathing deeply but nothing seems to help me swim through the flash flood of panic that overwhelms my entire body, brain and spirit during this time of the month.
I have been out of control.
My brain, my thoughts, my emotions may be things I've learned to be aware of but when they are so strongly full of real pain and a desire for harm well...that's a problem.
A big one.
A few months ago I sent my boyfriend a flurry of texts accusing him of plotting to love me so he can break my heart and then contemplated about who might be able to care for my son if I were to run my car off the road and into a wall.
Not good.
I needed help.
Once a month I'm depressed.
Deeply so.

My mother has struggled with physical and mental illness most of my life and she has never taken the initiative to care for herself and as much as I love her and try not to dwell in resentment over it, the possibility of a similar burden falling upon my son is unbearable.
My body.
My brain.
My nervous system is a nervous wreck but I am breathing, I'm looking in the mirror and trying to have appreciation for all that I have accomplished in my life, my ability to set goals and meet them, all the people I help through my work as a yoga and meditation teacher and most of the time I am happy about it and a little in awe of it but lately those moments of feeling dark and heavy have turned into storm clouds that just won't break.
There is no relief from a tremendous cleansing downpour happening.
The sky doesn't shake and scream and then suddenly clear out to reveal a just remaines pregnant with a feeling of doom.
I know that the darkness makes us appreciate the light more but the light has seemed more like a beacon in the distance that I have to squint to see with clarity and I've come to understand that my need to do it all on my own can't be the only way.
There is absurd pressure for most women to do it all and I'm tired of feeling like I have to be strong all of the time.
I know a lot of this is self imposed but it's not without a strong influence from society that has influenced my belief that there are 2 types of folks...
those who do and those who wait for someone else to do it for them.
I've always defaulted to the first.
I am not going to regurgitate the social pressure for women to look a certain way...
I'm still waiting to see Heidi Klum naked, beautiful and unphotoshopped after 4 kids but let's not forget the equally unhealthy pressure for women to BEHAVE a certain way.
In fact, a conversation that only seems to stress self empowerment through an accepting body image only maintains a focus that as women our value is still being banked on our physical form.
I won't apologize for my emotions of anger or frustration when they are legitimate...
I do not think I am or any woman is a bitch for standing up for themselves when they have been disrespected but why is the fluctuation of monthly emotional turmoil something that still lingers in the shadows?
We don't talk about it.
We might say it amongst friends but we also act as if it isn't actually debilitating for some of us.
It's just something to endure and hope that we can find a partner that will put up with the monthly bout of 'crazy'.
Aren't we lucky?
Well... you know what?
Being a woman sucks, sometimes.
Be beautiful.
Be beckons of compassion, light, joy, inspiration and self acceptance.
No...I'm a complex system of bones, connective tissue, energy, thoughts, desires and hormones that make me feel wacked out and question my sanity, sometimes.
The reality is that much of what comes up the week before my period are REAL life annoyances and concerns but the elevated level of a need to react is what becomes so frightening.
I understand that men's hormones fluctuate and maybe part of the issue I'm having beyond the sadness and suicidal thoughts (not trying to devalue that, at all) is the need to make excuses for them instead of living in a society that takes this part of being a woman into consideration without making it a hinderance.
Women have long been excluded from positions of power because of our monthly cycles...maybe not outright anymore but we still get labeled as 'emotional' and ''unreliable'.
Would a female President push the button just because she was PMS-ing?
That's the fear, right?
Men can go to war with mere knee jerk reactions to save their father's honor (George W Bush...I'm talking to you) and then get a larger group of people worked up to frantically justify the need to have a temper tantrum and not only do they maintain their positions of power but they are praised for their strength and ability to 'act'.
It's crap.
That's all.
I'm a bundle of hormones.
I'm complex and usually I love and adore being a woman but the fluctuation that creates such extreme thoughts and suffering isn't something I need to be ashamed of.
I've got cellulite, I have stretch marks, I have a saggy belly and serious lines between my brows and it feels good to say that it's ok to love my body but it's only the external.
I know that my body will only get older and I can accept that pretty easily.
I'm struggling to love and accept the internal...the part of me that makes me tired, achey, nauseous and wanting to cry as if I'm in mourning because someone honked their horn at me because I got distracted at a red light...
That part of me...
I am having a hard time loving it unconditionally.
The past month that I have been on the pill I have crossed my fingers and paused to observe how things play out and it was a bit easier...
I was able to catch myself pre-meltdown and recover from the few moments of insecure freak outs with much more ease.
I have had far fewer prideful needs to justify my crappy behavior but I still feel isolated.
I'm not crazy...whatever that means.
I'm just ME having an experience that Mother Nature made part of my life as a woman and I have decided to ask for help.
I'm not less than a woman because I have chosen to end my suffering.
I am ME but a bit more calm and a little more bright than I have been and I am celebrating that.