Most Wednesday mornings I work from my favorite neighborhood coffee shop. The atmosphere is just right whether I need to tune out of the world to focus on a detailed writing project or prefer the inspiration of interesting characters. In addition to unbeatable day-specific playlists (old school hip hop Wednesdays anyone?!), they create and pour creative drink specials that change with the season.
Last week, as I battled a weary spirit and the temperatures dipped toward fall, I was in need of something more grounding and comforting than my summer staple of iced tea. As if they read my mind, the barista team unveiled a lovely treat just in time to brighten my day. The “London Fog latte,” which combines my much beloved Earl Grey tea with steamed milk, was just what I needed to soothe my spirit and warm my body.
Simple comforts surround us, but we have to keep our eyes and minds open to find them. What small treat could brighten your mood and start your day off right?
I had to have a difficult conversation this week. Delivering the bad news was emotionally draining, and I carried the weight of the interaction with me as I walked into the rest of my day. The world, however, kept spinning, and I needed to move along with it. I had a full day of classes to teach and work to do, so I did the only thing I could: I took a deep breath and put on a smile.
As I went through my day, my smile became less forced and more sincere. I helped a client achieve a new pose for the first time. I encouraged a friend facing a challenge. And you better believe I hugged my sweet baby girl when I returned home. The sadness of the morning didn't completely disappear, but each of these interactions strengthened my resolve and reminded me of the joy in my life.
When life's melancholy moments creep up, can you put on a smile? It may be the tool you need to brighten someone's day - and it might improve your perspective along the way.
When I began my teacher training journey almost eight years ago, I had grand visions of mastering all manner of challenging poses in the hope of being able to demonstrate and share them with my students. High on my list was pincha mayurasana (forearm stand). I was strong, flexible, and determined, and before the semester concluded, I could find my way into the pose with ease. There was just one catch: I needed to use a block between my hands.
While I am quick to offer a prop or recommend modifications to my students - and often demonstrate their use - I faced resistance every time I considered showing students my forearm stand "crutch." So I set a goal of achieving the pose unassisted and went to work. I worked, and worked, and worked some more. I sequenced nearly every home practice using pincha as my "peak pose." And one day, it happened. The block was no longer necessary.
Years later, I discovered with great delight that I was pregnant! As I neared the end of my pregnancy, practicing arm balances and inversions took a backseat to a more grounded (literally) focus. When my daughter was born and I felt ready to resume a more challenging physical practice, I headed straight to my old friend forearm stand. Much to my frustration, the consistency I worked so hard to achieve had become elusive. I toppled over or struggled to hold myself up at least as often as I achieved the pose. Disappointed with myself, I took it out of my teaching rotation.
After the passing of legendary yoga teacher B.K.S. Iyengar last month, many teachers talked about his legacy - specifically pioneering the use of props to make yoga and its benefits accessible to everyone. Inspired by the reminder, I grabbed a block, and there it was: confidence and comfort in a pose I love. It occurred to me that my stubborn pride was robbing students of the opportunity to experience the benefits of the pose and gain confidence in their own practice. The following week, I demonstrated my crutch in all its glory, and after class multiple students remarked the block gave them the confidence to approach a pose they previously considered out of reach.
How often do we allow our stubborn unwillingness to use the tools available to prevent us from growing or healing? Could you improve your peace of mind benefit by talking to a therapist? Do you need to see a doctor for that persistent pain in your back? Would you be better able to care for your children if you accepted a friend's invitation to babysit while you take some time for yourself? What crutch can you use this month - and how might it help?
I am on my feet almost constantly. Whether strolling with the babe, teaching yoga, commuting from class to client, or logging miles in the early morning hours, I ask a lot from them. And after a year and a half of this new pedestrian lifestyle, my tootsies are reminding me just how much I rely on them - and how little I do for them.
Like most yoga teachers, I take time for regular pedicures, reasoning that no student should be distracted from his practice by an instructor's fungal feet or overgrown toenails. I have come to realize, however, this cosmetic care is no longer enough.
In recent weeks, my feet have begun to hurt. Almost constantly. By the end of the day, every step is an effort. Each morning, I step gingerly out of bed, hopeful that the condition will have miraculously disappeared overnight. Perhaps not surprisingly, the "ignore it and hope it will go away" approach hasn't yielded any improvement.
Faced with the choice between significantly altering a lifestyle I love or continuing to endure perpetual pain, I begrudgingly resigned myself to the idea of "sensible" shoes and set out to find them. While my image-conscious inner critic bombarded my brain with visions of my elementary school nurse in her bright white oversized sneakers, I took a deep breath and stepped into a specialty shoe store. Much to my surprise, I discovered functional can be fun!
I consulted with the onsite experts, made a decision, and walked out with new shoes - leaving behind my threadbare ballet flats. My feet thanked me immediately, and over the past few weeks, the pain has begun to subside. While I won't be strutting down the runway anytime soon, I love my new shoes - and so do my feet!
Is there a commonsense change your ego is preventing you from making? Consider caring for yourself instead of caring what others might think - and open your mind to the possibility of a pleasant surprise!
Oscar Wilde must have been experiencing something very much like this week in Washington when he described the collapse of summer into fall. In our nation's capital, the heat of summer disappeared without ceremony, and autumn has gracefully assumed its place. We are suddenly greeted by the small pleasures of fall: brisk mornings, honeycrisp apples at the farmer's market, and pleasant afternoons perfect for playground lingering.
For many of us, fall serves as an impetus to begin planning for winter holidays and look ahead to the end of another year. Instead, in these sweet days of shifting balance, I am trying to savor the season. As I recreate my calendar, I am identifying an opportunity to escape from the city for a weekend apple picking excursion. I am taking the long, slow route to my appointments, allowing time to observe the changing leaves. I am gathering autumn produce for harvest meals. These simple acts are helping me stay grounded in the present moment.
What pleasures do you associate with fall? Can incorporating them into your life help you savor the season?
Last week, while bustling through the city from one appointment to the next, I reached into my purse only to discover the lid to my water bottle was not securely fastened, and everything inside was soaked. My wallet was soggy; my computer was wet; and the appointments, plans, and notes carefully inked in my trusty day planner had become nearly unrecognizeable smears.
While most of the world long ago tossed their paper planners aside, choosing instead to capture their to-do's and appointments in smartphones and virtual calendars, I am an old fashioned girl resistant to breaking with tradition. There is something grounding for me in seeing the week's commitments, projects, and deadlines all lined up neatly on one page - and something cathartic about crossing off my completed tasks with an enthusiastic flourish. So rather than seeing this mishap as a sign that it is time to make the (likely inevitable) transition, I instead purchased a new planner and am now filling in the pages based on memory and what I can salvage from my waterlogged journal.
When I first opened the new book and smoothed the clean pages, I was seized with a desire to protect white space and preserve margin. I long to retain at least some of the spaciousness I was blessed to enjoy this summer. Before re-entering an appointment, reminder, or task, I am asking myself whether it is necessary, consistent with my priorities, and a valuable use of time. With these criteria in mind, I am identifying opportunities to streamline my obligations and create windows for the people and activities that bring me joy.
We shouldn't need a water bottle mishap to take control of our calendars - and our lives! Can you take a moment this week to audit how you spend your time and energy? Are these precious resources being invested well - or are you trapped in habits and routines that consume your calendar without feeding your soul? Where can you make the changes - small and large - to create a more full and fulfilling life?
Throughout my daughter's life we have been blessed by an amazing caregiver who has become a part of our family. Knowing she is lovingly pouring her heart and soul into my daughter when I am not at home has given me the confidence and space to step out and pursue my teaching and writing passions.
But all good things must come to an end, and new realities are requiring us to part ways. When first considering the change, I was heartbroken. How will the babe react when someone she has known and loved all her life is no longer part of her weekly rhythm? How can we possibly find someone who will love and care for our daughter with such joy and sincerity? Where do I even begin to look?
I started with a deep breath, gave myself permission to grieve the loss, and began to consider what other possibilities may exist. As I have begin to explore, my perspective is shifting. Doors are slowly beginning to open, and as I peer inside, I am pleasantly surprised by what I am learning. Much uncertainty remains, but I am moving forward with confidence that a new happiness lies ahead.
Can you shift your attention away from a closed door and explore what new happiness is around the corner for you?
Last week the babe and I joined another mama and kiddo for a morning play date. As we prepared to part ways, I asked my fellow mama about their plans for the rest of the day. She said they had a late afternoon commitment in the neighborhood and would find something to keep them busy until then.
It was a prototypical summer day in DC: hot, sunny, and oppressively humid. While the mama in question was imminently resourceful, I couldn't imagine keeping a toddler entertained all day without a home base. As I looked at flushed little cheeks, I longed to be the breezy carefree person who could offer a spontaneous invitation to her home. So I did...
As we set off, however, I was struck with panic. The babe's books are all over the floor! Her toys will be utterly uninteresting to a preschooler. I didn't unload the dishwasher before we left! What will I serve for lunch? I will go down as the WORST. HOSTESS. EVER.
Fortunately I had underestimated the imagination of a little boy for whom everything can be repurposed as a baseball bat. And a fellow mama who had not only seen her fair share of disorderly bookshelves, but also packed a lunch and snacks for herself and her son. We talked easily for a few hours, comparing books of interest to toddlers and adults, discussing food, and debating the merits of a car in the city. Before I knew it, they were on their way, and we had enjoyed a lovely afternoon.
Spontaneity can be scary for the planners among us, but we can all benefit by being stretched beyond our comfort zones. And we may even discover an unexpected delight! Can you find an opportunity to be spontaneous this week?
I have always loved Autumn, in no small part because of its association with new beginnings. As a child, it marked the beginning of a new school year. Later, as a Congressional staffer, it represented a return to hard work after the slower pace of August recess.
While I am no longer a student or Hill staffer, the approach of fall is still exciting. As we turn the calendar to September and stand on the cusp of a new season, the air is buzzing with the electricity of possibility. All around me I am seeing plans set into action and dreams coming to fruition. Seemingly impossible goals are being reached by brave souls who are daring to dream big and willing to work hard.
I love what this quote represents. In our heart of hearts, we are free to be bold and believe anything can happen, but we too often allow our pride and past experience to limit our willingness to act. What might we achieve if we instead gave ourselves permission to listen to the quiet but persistent voice that comes from our heart?
As you step forward into fall, can you plug into the energy of endless possibility and follow where your heart leads?
Thank you for visiting the Starting Over blog. Stop by anytime for a dose of inspiration, tools to help you achieve your goals, and a community of fellow travelers. I hope to see you often!