The babe's grandmother is in town this week, which always offers a benchmark for the subtle shifts I take for granted as my little girl grows from day to day. Though she is able to come out with great frequency, there are inevitably changes - whether a growth spurt, leap in language, or a new favorite discovery - since her last visit.
Yesterday while I met with clients, the girls spent the day out and about in our neighborhood. When I returned home, my mother regaled me with tales of my daughter's amusing observations, defiant declarations, and creative play. As I listened, I was sad to have missed these sweet moments. But it occurred to me that what she was describing was probably not much different than what takes place right in front of me on a daily basis.
I will give myself credit for capturing and preserving the babe's firsts and milestones, but in between these "big" events, I allow myself to be distracted by the dozens of details and decisions that fill our days. More and more, however, I am beginning to realize it is precisely these little moments that make up her life - and mine. The way she tiptoes into the room to see if we are awake. The sound of her giggles when she jumps into the big bed. Her insistence in ensuring every door and drawer is completely closed. The make-believe world that grows richer in color and detail with every story she tells.
For the rest of this visit, I am taking a cue from grandmama. I will sit on the floor and let the babe hold court instead of rushing off to wash the dishes. I will let her walk as slowly as she likes instead of insisting we set off for the next activity on the agenda. I will enjoy the little things - and the big things - and everything in between.
Saturday morning I woke up sick. And not just any run of the mill sniffly, sore throat, change of seasons sick. This was a vice grip on the head, pins and needles in every extremity, burning hot then freezing cold, zero appetite, blurred vision and shaky hands kind of sick...
As those of you who know me can attest: I. DON'T. GET. SICK. And those of you who know me VERY well can confirm that if I were (hypothetically, of course) to feel less than 100 percent I certainly wouldn't admit it. Mind over matter, right?!?
So I dragged myself out of bed, somehow assembled breakfast for the babe (though I have no recollection of what it was...), and staggered through a floor puzzle, willing myself to snap out of it. I consumed cup after cup of herbal tea doing my best to flush away the unwelcome intrusion into my weekend plans. Come on Angelyn - it is going to be beautiful out there today! The babe is excited about the Easter Egg hunt at the park! The Elite Eight starts tonight! You were planning to run to the Tidal Basin to see the Cherry Blossoms! Don't ruin this fantastic weekend!
But less than two hours later I realized I had no choice but to surrender. As bad as the physical discomfort in the moment was the psychological distress of turning to my husband to admit, "I need to go back to bed..." But I did. And every time I woke up throughout the day convinced I could "power through," I ended up right back where I started.
The initial moment of surrender was uncomfortable, but it opened up channels of support that proved incredibly therapeutic. I was heartened by the kindness of a fellow teacher who inconvenienced herself to come to my rescue by teaching my afternoon class. I was warmed (quite literally) by the homemade chicken noodle soup my husband and daughter prepared. I was healed by the 16 hours of sleep I was able to experience.
Often we need to surrender something - whether our pride, our plans, or our vision of how things "should" unfold - in order to receive what we really need. What do you need to surrender to be your best self today?
During our session this week, a client remarked, "I wish I had discovered yoga earlier in life." We talked about how much her practice has helped her improve her physical condition, manage the stress of a high-pressure job, and greet the ups and downs of everyday life with grace. I reminded her that while she may have been able to reap these benefits sooner - or even avoid some of the injuries she sustained through her prior no-pain, no-gain approach to exercise - it is better to have discovered yoga at this point in her life than not at all.
In hindsight, it is easy to look at lessons we have learned and wish we had gained the knowledge earlier. If only we hadn't wasted so much time at an unfulfilling job before pursuing our true passion. If only we hadn't invested so much energy trying to be who or what our family, friends, or colleagues wanted rather than accepting and celebrating who we are?
We can't go back and change events in the past, but we can choose today to move forward with intention. We can be grateful for what our yoga practice, job, or relationships are teaching us in this moment. Rather than waiting for the perfect conditions, we can choose to make the change we "should have" made 20 years ago - right now.
What tree do you wish you had planted 20 years ago? What is stopping you from planting it today?
"Basketball? Um... really?!" Yes, really. Let me explain...
In 1994 I hopped in the car with my mother for what would be the first of many road trips to watch the first round of the NCAA College Basketball tournament. Before the end of the first game, I was hooked on the energy of the arena, the enthusiastic support of the crowds, and the exciting uncertainty of each outcome.
Throughout high school, college, and my early years in D.C., the tournament remained an anchor in the rhythm of my year. It was an opportunity to connect with family, celebrate with friends, and see new places. It fell just after my birthday and on the doorstep of Spring and seemed a harbinger of good things to come.
March Madness took on a new meaning nearly 20 years later with the birth of my daughter. Within hours of her arrival, my family was gathered in the hospital room marveling at the perfection of this tiny creature - and simultaneously providing updates on the progress of college basketball conference tournament games... For the first few weeks of the babe's life, we scrambled to establish some semblance of a rhythm around feedings, sleep, and getting our bearings as new parents. And the soundtrack for this first piece of our parenting journey was the squeak of sneakers on the court, the shrill whistle of referees, the swish of net, and the silence of a crowd holding its collective breath in anticipation of a last second shot.
As our daughter has grown, we have traveled back to the Midwest to watch our hometown team in action, and she may be the only three year old in the world who can claim three visits to the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden. In that time she has grown from being dazzled by the distraction of the crowd and shiny instruments of the bands to identifying players and mimicking their signature moves.
I can argue the merits of sports in general: lessons of competition, teamwork, discipline, hard work. I can point to the social value of being aware of an event that looms large in our culture each year at this time. But beyond any rational benefit of watching what is, at the end of the day, no more than a game, is the sense of tradition with which it is forever intertwined in my mind. This is what I want to share with my daughter as we watch and cheer together. To create a context for connection with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. To establish a sense of anticipation for an event that comes every year. To provide a platform for making memories.
And so, yes. Basketball. To watch. And cheer. And laugh. And love.
As I have mentioned innumerable times on this blog, New York City holds a special place in my heart. It is exciting. It is energizing. It is inspiring. It is also LOUD! And despite being someone who prefers to operate calmly and quietly, the volume has always been something I love about the City.
At the end of last week, after five beautiful days spent cheering along with raucous crowds during down-to-the-wire basketball games; careening in cabs down chaotic, traffic-filled avenues; and fighting our way through the crush of rush hour sidewalks, the rhythms of the New York had elevated our pulses. It wasn't until the train pulled out of the station and calm settled into the cafe car that I was startled by the sound I didn't know I was missing: silence.
While the babe and her father were immersed in a game and my fellow passengers were working, eating, and reading at their tables, I noted the contrast from the soundtrack of the past few days and recognized how much I had longed for this moment of peace. Little by little, I tuned into subtle noises. I allowed my mind to wander. I gave myself permission to feel, and what I felt was tired. So I simply sat. Still.
Sometimes we are drawn to meditation in the hope of inspiration. We are hungry for a revelation. We crave guidance. But often, all we require are a few minutes of uninterrupted peace in which we can recognize what we truly need, which may be nothing more than sitting. Still. In silence.
If we aren't careful, life can seem overwhelming. We know we need to slow down. We want to create more space. We would LOVE to be more mindful. We just don't know how. Starting each day with meditation or prayer seems like a lovely discipline. Incorporating yoga into our regular routine sounds wonderful. But putting these aspirations into action can be incredibly daunting.
For most of us, carving out an hour in our schedules seems impossible. Setting the alarm even 20 minutes earlier feels like a stretch in our sleep deprived existence. But I have yet to meet one person - even the busiest among us (yes I'm talking to you D.C. superstar!) - who cannot identify five minutes of unused time in their day. Maybe it is while you wait for the metro. Perhaps it is while the water in your teakettle comes to a boil. It could be as simple as skipping the snooze button on your alarm.
The question isn't whether it exists - it is how you choose to use it. Instead of checking your email again - or scanning Facebook - or falling down the Wikipedia rabbit hole, be intentional. Step away from the screen. Take a walk around your office. Sit still with your eyes closed and breathe deeply. The escape will look different for everyone, and it may change from day to day. Don't worry about perfection. Resist the urge to tally up your success or chastise yourself for a day missed. Just start...
Three years ago today my sweet girl entered the world. We stared in wonder at her tiny perfection and asked one another, "Who is this beautiful stranger?" We marveled at the awesome responsibility of attending to her needs and shepherding her through life. We daydreamed about who she might grow to become.
But with each step along the way, I am realizing more and more that our journey as parents is less about who she will be at some fixed point in the future than who she is becoming day by day. We remain curious about what she might study, where she may travel, and how she will choose to live, but the more interesting work is witnessing who she is today. And doing the same again tomorrow.
Each day we have countless opportunities to observe her with other children at the playground, one her own, and interacting with us. We see how she responds to disappointment, the way she treats others, and what brings her joy. Seemingly insignificant moments throughout the day are opportunities to witness as her character develops, and (hopefully) provide guidance along the way.
The journey also reminds me that my own "self" also remains a work in progress. Today I am a mother, wife, daughter, friend, and teacher, but any one of these pieces of my identity could change in the next moment. Rather than envision the world as I hope it can become and dream of the role I can play, I have an opportunity to sit with each moment as it unfolds and experience who and where I am today.
I invite you to spend time today observing and experiencing the present moment. Rather than race forward in your mind to a desired - or feared - outcome, notice who you are becoming right now...
A villager lived in a tiny house with his wife, 6 children, mother-in-law, a cow, and some chickens. It was making him crazy. So he went to the village rabbi and asked for help. The rabbi said he could solve the problem: he told the man to buy a goat. Thrilled, the man immediately went out and bought a goat. Now he had a wife, 6 children, a mother-in-law, a cow, some chickens, and a goat. The house was even more chaotic than before. The villager went back to the rabbi and told of the even crazier chaos. Again, the rabbi said he could solve the problem. “Sell the goat.” The man went immediately and sold the goat. Suddenly, all he had was a wife, 6 children, a mother-in-law, a cow, and some chickens. Things were much more peaceful without that goat…
In her book, Living Your Yoga, author Judith Lasater uses this story to explore the idea of perspective. I love the image of the crowded house and the simplicity of the rabbi's sage advice. How often do we lament how busy or stressed we feel only to add one more thing... then another...then another...until we find ourselves completely out of space - mentally, emotionally, and physically?
We can all benefit from a change in perspective from time to time. But rather than add a metaphorical goat to our bursting-at-the-seams household, I wonder if we could instead sell one of the chickens we already have. Is there a standing commitment that you dread every time it comes around? Is there one volunteer shift too many in your routine? Do you expect yourself to do more than is healthy? Or even possible?
Take a good look at your household: consider your commitments and evaluate your energy. Perhaps you have struck a beautiful balance - if so, congratulations! If not, maybe it is time to sell a chicken...
As I celebrate another trip around the sun today, these favorite lines from e.e cummings are circling through my mind. The blue true dream of sky has been on vivid display this week, whispering the promise of Spring - and reminding me just how grateful I am for these days and their infinite possibilities.
The past year has been full of ups and downs. I have learned hard lessons and celebrated incredible opportunities - often arriving hand in hand. The elements that have provided grounding in earlier seasons - a certainty of my place in the world, defined responsibilities, and a set schedule - seem ever-changing in the present. But one beautiful constant remains gratitude: for these days and their experiences, the loved ones with whom I am able to share them, and the God by whose grace it is all - amazingly - possible.
In grateful anticipation of what lies ahead...
I saw a fellow yoga teacher in class recently, and she relayed she was there because a client cancelled their regular session. She was excited to have some free time in her day and joked that while she could see the shift as an opportunity to practice self care, not so long ago it would have sent her into a downward spiral of self doubt.
I laughed at the familiarity of both sentiments. I also am grateful for "found" moments - unexpected windows of time that allow me to tackle a project - or simply sit still and breathe. But I am not immune to the waves of insecurity they can trigger: He cancelled our session because he is bored with my teaching. I really should work harder on my sequencing. Who am I kidding - I'm just not that good of a teacher. Why did I ever think I could make this yoga thing work?!
We have all been there. The Impostor Syndrome is very real. No matter how hard working, well qualified, and skilled we may be - no matter how many accolades we have received from family, friends, and colleagues - we feel we are in some way undeserving. We think we have arrived in our position because we were in the right place at the right time - or because someone did us a favor. And we fear we are one small misstep away from being discovered, and dismissed.
These fears go deeper than just our professional identities. How many times have you tried to explain away a compliment with a self-deprecating response? I'm not a particularly good parent I was just blessed with an amazing child. I'm not very smart, I just read a lot. I'm not a great cook, I just follow recipes.
These patterns are harmful - and often deeply ingrained, but that doesn't mean we need to be defined by them. We all have within us the power to rewrite our narrative. Sometimes a simple shift of perspective is all we need. Rather than focusing on our perceived flaws, we can choose to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt. We can call upon our inner Stuart Smalley and remind ourselves that, "We are good enough. We are smart enough. And doggone it, people like us!"
It also can be helpful to acknowledge objective facts. It may be true that your uncle made a phone call that got you a job interview, but you have thrived in your subsequent career because of your hard work and determination. You may have convinced yourself you are a horrible hostess, but people continue to come to your home because you make them feel welcome and cared for.
In trying moments, it can be reassuring to take a cue from the people in your life who love and support you and hold tight to the encouragement they offer. Next time you receive a compliment or accolade, sit with it. Allow the sentiment to become familiar. And if all else fails, allow yourself to be "fooled" along with the rest of the world - and enjoy the ride...