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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Beware of the mother in the candy aisle.

Being a mother is difficult.
Obviously.
Being a mother who tries to keep her sanity amongst a million opinions, parenting techniques and snarky comments from strangers and even her own support group is a challenge to put it politely.
I'm not a perfect mom.
No Mother is.
I am a Mother who raises her voice to epic 'Italian' levels and because of that my son does, too.

I set the precedent for that kind of behavior just as my parents did for me.
My Dad was not much of a hitter but he was a yeller.
My mother was a rager and I'm still going to therapy to get over it so, I get it.
I do.
Generational Habits.
They run thick don't they?
The best within us wants our family legacies to insure gratitude and kindness not violence and resentment so I work at reigning in behavior that might encourage the latter.
I'm reminded on a regular basis by my partner that the temper tantrums my son throws are very similar to my own.
That kind of insight is helpful but not quite the support I need after a long work day.
It's intended to be a 'wake up call' but when you've been trying your best to raise a thoughtful child who splits his time with a father who thinks it's funny to teach his son to cuss and tells him that going to school is punishment... 
Well...the reality is that THIS Mother just wants a little compassion, maybe a hug and to be told everything is going to be ok even if it's just ok for another moment.

I'm trying to be a good mother.
I think considering the circumstances that my son was brought into he is doing well but I've been guilted for not taking my son to his current preschool years ago and all I can say is that yes...
I wish I had been able to afford a more nurturing preschool in the past but I was living paycheck to paycheck without financial support from his father.
Things changed when I finally reached out for help from my family.
My own shame and delay in asking for help meant that Atticus started school later, more stressed out than most children his age and impulsive.
He has thrived since he began his new school and I am grateful that he has been able to grow. 
I have, as well.
I also know that we could have had it much worse.
I have family to lean on and I am privileged for that.
I grieve for the families that are truly alone, working all the time but under constant stress and having to make even tougher decisions than I have.

Being a parent requires patience, skill, emotional maturity and financial finesse.
I didn't have much of that when I left my son's father and became a single mother.
I just knew I couldn't stand living the way I had been for 16 years.
I had no plan.
I had no idea how to be the mother I wanted to be so I have read books, observed other parents and locked myself in my room to cry it out MANY times.

I know my non-parent friend shake their heads and say "Why would anyone have a child?".
Some days I wonder the same thing but I get reminded more often than not that the person I brought into this insane, crazy and dying world is HERE and he fantastic.
He's here and he is LOUD about it.
Willful.
Stubborn.
Kind.
Generous.
He has a sense of humor that is both intelligent and absurd.

And...today?
My ass is tired and exhausted.
My morning was spent fluctuating between sweet cuddles, perfecting my squash blossom recipe and not freaking out after an hour of Atticus chanting words I don't recall but may as well have been "I'm annoying" over and over.
It's barely 11am and I raised my voice at least twice today before leaving the house.
I didn't feel good about it but I'm not beating myself up about it.
Not too much, anyway...just a little.

About an hour ago, we went to the market. 
It's something we do almost every day.
My boyfriend finds my 'European-style' of daily market trips to be charming and ridiculous but it's my thing.
I want my food fresh.

And because this is a routine, rules have been established regarding grocery store etiquette:
Stay near Mama.
No hands in the bins and don't put anything in your mouth.

When I am well rested, calm and poised I know it's easiest to just stick my son in the cart in order to ensure no tiny, dirty hands find their way into the candy bins at Sprouts.
Today was not that day.
Today,  I thought we'd wing it with a small hand basket since my list was short.
Everything would be fine.
I was wrong.

Atticus streamlined it to the Gummy Worm bin before I even had a chance to pick up my basket.
He walked towards me with his head down and his hands covered up by his t-shirt.
I knew what was up.
He had stolen some candy but before I could talk to him about it an older woman walked up behind him and said "Little Boy, they are going to throw you in jail for stealing. Do you know that?".
I didn't say a word.
I figured maybe a stranger would get through to him faster than I ever had and despite having a mouth filled with gooey grossness he immediately said he was "Sorry" and apologized.
I figured it was settled.
Lesson learned...
But, then this woman grabbed my son and began to spank him.
I was stunned.
I grabbed him away from her and again had that moment of "What the fuck do I do that doesn't get ME arrested."
Thankfully, I didn't have to do a thing.
A mother who was also in the midst of battling her very small kid from reaching out from his stroller to grab snacks from the bins stood up for me saying "It seems to me you need to learn some boundaries because you just crossed the line."
I thanked the helpful mother who just gave me that always appreciated look of 'Motherhood is hard'.
The spanking woman just walked away and I stood there feeling angry, spent and tired.

I probably could have followed the spanking woman and given her a piece of my mind.
I didn't.
I felt that the whole scenario was my fault.
 I had failed in every way. 
I shouldn't have let him out of my sight. 
I should have told that women to mind her own business from the get-go. 
I should never have bought sweets for my son, in the first place. 
I should have...

Yes, I'm judging myself!

I'm judging myself but so is everyone else.
My family, my friends, my boyfriend, my son...
When I feel frustrated I get a list of why my son acts out and it always my fault:

I should have stayed with his father and worked on being a 'real mother' and not focus on a career.
I should have him medicated (his pediatrician disagrees, by the way).
I SHOULD spank him.
I should NEVER raise my voice to him.
If I had a vaginal birth he wouldn't be so high strung.
If I hadn't had him vaccinated he wouldn't be full of negative energy.

Honestly...it's shit.
I'm tired.

Parenting is hard work so why do we make it so much more difficult for the people who are trying so hard to bring another person of value up in this world by bullying them?

As mothers...the expectations and fear mongering begins before you even give birth:

Do NOT rest on your right side or lay on your back.
Don't eat feta cheese unless you have a death wish for your child.
Sushi? 
No way...who cares that cultures all over the world seem to procreate and eat raw fish but us? Americans? 
No way!
It's too bad we don't demonize processed food the way we do fish.

You MUST breastfeed if you want to bond properly with your child.
I did for almost 4 years and we are very close but I don't think that's the only reason.

You should Home-Birth.
You should Hypnobirth.
Or to be efficient you should schedule your C-section.
Heck, Preplan your child's afterbirth craniosacral appointment.
Do not circumcise.
Circumcise.
Raise them gender neutral.
No TV.
Classical music, only.
Baby Einstein all the way!
Aye...stop.
Stop!
It's exhausting, isn't it?

For crying out loud, Motherhood shouldn't be a competition, should it?

I just want to raise a good person.
I remind him on a regular basis how wonderful he is.
I hold his hand and remind him to stand up for himself and he does.
I can assure you of that!
He stands up to me all the time AND I don't always agree with him but our battle of wills always ends with hugs.
I don't believe it's weak to apologize when I am wrong or I am traumatizing him when I hold accountable for his actions.
I know that in the end my son is his own person.
He came through me but he isn't mine.
He will do what he does and I do my best to let him learn from his mistakes without shaming him.

He's a bright, curious, clever, mischievous, fearless and completely awkward person.
It's awesome.
When I put him to rest at night or wait for him to wake up in the morning...
I see the world's most beautiful person quiet and all I want is for him to wake up and ask for cuddle time.
Those are the best kind of difficult moments in my book but not the ones I learn from.

So as I've had time to reflect on this morning's drama, I am reminded that while being a mother is hard, it is incredibly rewarding.
I get to watch this little person grow up.
I get to watch myself evolve and find my own voice.
In the moment, at the market, I felt somewhat powerless and overwhelmed but even that messy moment has reinforced my recognition of how I want to raise my son.
He shouldn't steal.
He shouldn't lie but he also doesn't need to be abused by strangers and neither do I.
He knows there are repercussions for his actions and like most adults he picks and chooses when he learns from his mistakes and when he doesn't.
But...he is learning.
He sits himself down in the midst of meltdowns to breathe.
He walks with his breath when he knows he is about to explode.
It's not everytime just now and then but it counts and I know that little bit of self care he learned came from me and that's huge.
And I'm grateful.
The abusive habits that were handed down throughout my family line CAN be broken and I will do whatever it takes to see to it.
No matter how hard it is.


Sunday, June 1, 2014

Shhh...I'm practicing YOGA.

I've been thinking a lot about 'YOGA' and all that it means to the students that arrive to share their time with me. 

Because I work at a resort my students are transient  often doing yoga for the 1st time so I take my responsibility to welcome them into the possibility of a practice with care.

Yoga has been a big part of my life for almost 20 years and I appreciate the challenges it has brought to my attention.

The need to find steadiness and ease as you stand on one foot may not seem like much until you realize how many stories your mind can throw at you:

I need to get my foot up to my thigh...then I'm really good at this.

Why can't I get my foot above my ankle...I'm good at making dinner.

What should I eat for dinner?

Is that guy next to me farting?

Look everyone...my foot is on my inner thigh...clearly, I am a better person because...oops, I just farted.

I'm a terrible person.

And so on and so on.


My first class was at our local community college when I was 20 years old and I remember thinking a few things:

1. The twisty blonde next to me was gonna eat crow in a few weeks because my body was younger, bendier and I was going to show her she wasn't the only impressive Gumby in the room.

2. The white haired bearded man teaching the class must have been doing this since the 60s. 

Did he ever met George Harrison? 

3. I bet if tell him I've been a vegetarian since I was 14...he will be very impressed. 

4. What language is he using?

5. Everyone else knows what 'Vira-ba-whatsana' means so they must be smarter and more enlightened than me.

6. They probably don't get mad like I do.

7. Why can't I touch my toes?

8. I reeeeeally need to be touching my toes.

9. Damn it. Why can't I touch my toes?

10. I'm gonna practice the crap out of this and be so amazing that everyone will be so jealous of me and my ability to touch my toes.


Pretty much...me and my first experience was wanting to become a human pretzel.

I took the Sun Salutation handouts he gave me, showed them to my roommate and tried to convince her we would be doing this EVERY morning and we would become oh, so interesting.


Then for many years...I dated yoga.

On and off.

More like flirting...really.

A little stretch here and there, a few months every year dedicated to learning Primary Series from a DVD and dropping in at the class at my gym when I had time.

Then I got into Capoeria and Tai Chi and Pilates but like yoga...

I just wanted to look good while I did it.

Learning to play the berimbau or learnng the stories behind the movements of Tai Chi were not in my realm of interest.

I had other things to do...

And I did them...but then I hit 30.

I started to have a flurry of health issues and went back to yoga and found a studio near my house.

I even remember my first "real class" back.

I was late.

Not like a minute or 2 , probably closer to 10.

I walked in and plopped my mat down and when the teacher asked me calmly if I had done yoga before...

I said ' oh yeah, all the time.' 

She smiled.

She let me stay despite...and years down the road she actually hired me as a teacher.

The embarrassment and learning that came from my first year teaching are equally humbling but for now...let's focus on 'younger yoga me' and the new students I see all the time.


I meet  'younger yoga me' all the time.

Everyday.

Of course...

Now, they bring their cell phones and their outfits are smokin hot.

I also meet people who've never done a lick of yoga in their 60 years of life but their partner or friend or child dragged them along.

Yoga.

What's the big deal?

I love it because I will always have more to learn, about it and from it.

I watch people move in my classes and I explain to them that looking a certain way in a pose isn't the most important thing.

After all, the point of asana is to prevent future suffering so you can rest your body in meditation.

Some people get it, some roll their eyes and others beat them selves up or ask me to tell them what they're doing wrong.

Does it hurt?

What feels good about holding this posture?

If the answer is nothing and it hurts, then come out of it, already.


My own 'younger yoga me' still lingers within my mind.

She likes to come back to visit and she can be persistent just like current me.

She stops by and bangs loudly in my head whenever a student walks in with a perfectly toned body and an Olympic-Gymnist -Type practice.

I react.

I wonder if I'm lame because at 39 years of age I've decided that all I want is to be able to keep touching my toes until I'm 100.


Don't get get wrong...

I thouroughly enjoy the challenge of trying a handstand again and again but for me that is a physical challenge that just gives me a little adrenaline rush and reminds me to play...

I'm not a better yogini because I can do it and I'm not an inferior one either because I still wind up using the wall whenever I can.

I like my wall. 


'Older yoga me' has for the most part become okay with falling on my tuckus and trying again next week.

Of course that's me but what I see too often in classes is ego floating through the rooms like the never ending dust that is constantly stirred up with every breath.

The brighter the room, the more obvious the dust becomes in it.

It's all over the place and it seems to go unseen because the focus of my words get mistranslated in their minds and all they want is to nail 'the pose of the year' and wear neon colored Malabeads while doing it and then later listing every Yoga Festival they've attended.

My ego joins the party and I feel a little small because I think I'm somehow a disappointment.

I haven't studied with any rock star yogis like Shiva Rae?

I didn't travel to India?

I am not a strict vegan?

I don't play the Harmonium and I didn't participate in Shivaratri Puja?

No.No.No.


And then I breathe...


And recognize that I have managed to stay healthy and alive in this aging body.

I wake up each morning to sit and watch the little dramas from my mind percolate like my morning coffee (yes, I drink coffee) until I find some moments that just let me pause.

I practice.

I practice asana everyday...at least, a little.

Sometimes, it is a long Yin practice, sometimes it is 3 Sun Saluations and sometimes it's a sweaty 90 minute Vinyasa practice however movement isn't my priority anymore and I have to remind myself that I'm not better or lesser for it.

I remind myself when the yogis who DO want to perfect a pose walk in to my class to be humble and encouraging because I was once the same as them...

and what happened when I aligned my body just so, breathed in and out, held my dristhi?

I noticed a pause.

I noticed me.

I noticed my sadness, my joy, my anger...

I noticed compassion in my bones and muscles and got to watch my self moan with relief when I came out of Triangle Pose...and smile with delight when I first held headstand steadily.


Whatever we get from our practice has value but it's not always glorious, magical and sparkly.

I celebrate my fellow practitioners who beam with joy and speak to one another as if each comment is being written down as the Facebook Yoga Meme of the day.

I would love to be in a constant state of bliss and I've been told I could be, if I only worked harder.

I'm messy. 

I'm a moody, cranky, funny and joyful person and that is worthy: 

My strong jump backs, My pranayama practice...My geek outs regarding anatomy, 

My moments of ' oh, I just yelled at my dog for being a dog' right after I finished my yoga or meditation practice, 

My-I still struggle with my relationship with my mother,

My-Am or am not really attractive to my boyfriend,

My-I'm doing a Kitchari cleanse and 2 days later I'm gonna eat my body weight in Strawberry Pie moments are important and I shine the light on all of it with my students because even the old moldy stuff that becomes unearthed after I thought I just cleaned my shit up immaculately...

Well?

They have value.


So now...when 'younger yoga me' walks into my class...

Whether they are Santa-Monica-Power-Yogi-Proud or Iowa-is-this-a-cult? student...

I just hope they become a bit more aware of themselves during my class.

If they hold handstand with ease or never try it once...I hope that in the quiet of savasana they can hold themselves in their heart and have some compassion for themselves.

Maybe, that's not straight Sutra teachings but that's what 'YOGA' means to me.

Today.