A Year in Review

Today marks exactly twelve months since my first post.  That post is now my touch stone for when I question myself or need some focus.  Finding My Thing has made for an interesting year and when I went back and looked at all of my posts, I am astonished at just how much I have written.  I actually had forgotten a few of them.  So I have decided to remind myself, and you, of a few of them.  It’s really just shameless self promotion but I’m trying to make it sound deep and introspective.  Is it working?  So take a look, click on the links and let me know your favorites.

yoga drawing

My First Yoga class was my second ever post and it still cracks me up to think about that class.  My friend Randi continues to help me understand yoga and I am so grateful for that.   The drawback is that I now don’t need to go and see my friend Wendy quite so much for massage.  A big part of finding my thing has been reconnecting with friends like Rob and finding out about their passions.  I hope in some small way I have given back to them what they have given to me.  Aimee’s cakes are continuing to amaze me and Sarina’s commitment to soccer for women is going strong.  Jane’s struggle with Brain Injury continues but Making Pastry with her was good for both of us.

vans

My family has been the subject of a few blogs and my son actually wrote one of the most read pieces I have ever posted.  Surviving Seventeen and In Response to Surviving Seventeen started a great dialogue and now months later I have realized that I am indeed very similar to my now Eighteen Year Old son.  My seven year old is still full of Piss and Vinegar and we often bond over our Addiction to Organization.  My husband (bless his heart) supports me and regularly acts as my editor.  In Finally Learning What Love Is you can find out how our love started and has lasted fourteen years through ups and downs.  Oh, and don’t forget to call Call Your Mom.

fifty cake

Really though, it has been all about me.  LOL.  Okay not in that way, but in a good way.  In the year that I turned Fifty I have put my Darkest Times behind me and have learnt to relax.  I’ve looked at my relationships with Friends.  I’ve talked about my Regrets.  I’ve made Marathon Decisions and ended up Happy?  I’m still running but rethinking spending 33 Hours in a Van again.  I am now Sugar Free (well, only if you don’t count wine) and have never felt better.  I have questioned my motives and direction but then a friend made me realize that I will Find My Way. 

Thank you for reading and commenting.  Here to another year of adventure.

cropped-small-blog-photo.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Breaking Habits

yoga drawing

I am a creature of habit. We all are really. We find something we like and we get into a groove. For some, it’s their morning coffee. Some have a regular exercise ritual. Others find a TV show and can’t get through the week without it. For the past ten months I have gone to yoga every Thursday morning at 9:30am. I love the class. It’s a great mix of relaxation, stretch and physicality. I know what to expect and it never fails to deliver. Yoga is a fairly new thing for me and my introduction was with mixed feelings.  But I have stuck with it and now look forward to my weekly fix of ohms.

My friend and I went for a relatively long and hilly trail run yesterday and my leg muscles were screaming for a good stretch. But it was now Friday. My usual class was yesterday. What to do, what to do? I really needed to stretch. “Suck it up sister and go to a class that is different and where you don’t know the instructor”. Was that really me talking? Me. The one that doesn’t always like to venture out before analyzing all options and thinking about it for a week or two? What the hell was going on in my head. Before I knew it I was logged in and registered for the class. I wondered what it would be like. Would I like it? Would it be close to what I was used to?

The class started and I settled in and closed my eyes. Sitting cross-legged isn’t very comfortable for me. It’s just not the way I roll. The instructor was quietly taking us out of our busy morning and into a quieter place. And then we kept going. And going. Breathing and breathing and breathing. My legs started to cramp and my mind started to wander. Why is she taking so long to get going, I wondered. Just as I got to the point where I was going to unravel (literally and figuratively) she asked us to open our eyes and change position. Thank god. But then she picked up a Hoberman Sphere. It’s a child toy that starts as a small ball and expands out into bigger ball. She was using it to demonstrate how to breathe through your practice. Cool, I thought. Well for the first 30 second it was cool. Three or four minutes later I was pretty sure I had the concept down. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great way to visualize how your lungs and rib cage expand and contract, but I wanted to move on. I was used to moving on.

Hoberman Sphere

Once we started to move things progressed slowly. I like a class that moves along at a pretty good pace. The instructor was good though and careful to show us each move and explain it. I learnt a new way to move into downward dog. All the time she reminded us to breathe and think about the ball. Oh my god, not the ball again. The class wasn’t as challenging as I am used to but I tried to remind myself that yoga is all about doing things at your own pace. I’m no expert yogi, but I enjoy pushing myself a little bit in practice and I like to end up with a feeling of not only stretching but exertion at the end of it all. I enjoy feeling me muscles work and challenging myself in new poses. I wasn’t really getting that today.

Shavasana is the best part of yoga class for me. The relaxation after the exertion. The word Shava is Sanskrit for corpse. Meaning, I get to lie on my back, like a corpse, and let all the stuff clogging up my head float away. So, as we settled in with the lights turned down I was happy to just be. I had noticed a guitar case when I came into the studio and now I heard quiet guitar music. Very cool I thought. Nice touch. But then……the instructor started to sing. Loudly. She had an amazing voice and it was a lovely French song but all I could think of was. “Hey, this is my nap time and, while your singing is lovely, it’s a tad loud.”

shavasna

Will I go back to the class I went to this morning? Probably not. I’m sure that some loved it and got exactly what they wanted out of the class. I just wasn’t one of them. I, as a creature of habit, will go back to my regular Thursday morning class. It’s what I’m used to. However, The Best Thing in Life is listening to that voice in your head and trying new things once in a while and seeing what is out there. Whether you like it or not is up to you.

Giving New Years a Pass

I’m not particularly looking forward to 2015. Not because of anything in particular, but because 2014 was such a great year. How can I improve on it? Can’t I just opt out of a New Year? Continue on with the one that is working so well for me? I don’t want to make any resolutions because life is good and it would appear that what I am doing already, is working. I am happier now than I have been in a long time. I am relaxed and feel good with who I am, where I’ve been and were I am going. I don’t know if I want a New Year?

The year started in Hawaii. All four of us spent two weeks enjoying all that Maui has to offer. Beautiful quiet days at the beach, snorkeling with serene sea turtles, fish tacos and cold beer for lunch and relaxed dinners on the patio. Really, it was an amazing vacation.  I had a chance to paddle board with my 18 year old son for two hours one day. Two hours of uninterrupted time to talk about life, work and the future. No cell phones allowed. For all of you with teenagers. you know that this doesn’t happen very often and is precious time.  The fact that we still had enough in common to talk about made me realize that I have raised a thoughtful, mature man.  (Holy crap, my son is a man)

Two weeks away was also a good chance for me to think through my options when it came to work. Life was getting crazy with my husband away so much and me not enjoying my job. On a warm sunny beach the decision seemed quite clear. Work? Whatever. But when we got home and life got back to normal, the decision wasn’t quite so obvious. I spent an entire weekend in early January changing my mind every half an hour. Work. Quit. Work. Quit. Thank god my husband is as patient as he is. So many reasons to continue and so many reasons to pack it in. Ultimately I decide to stop working at the end of February.

I thought that once I had decided to quit work I would immediately feel a sense of relief. Nope. Panick, guilt, stress. It took a good six months before it would really sink in that I had made the right decision and that everyone in my family was in a better place because of it. I do still feel some guilt. Usually it’s when I’m on the phone with my husband and he is telling me about how he has a meeting in one city, then is flying to another city for a site tour and then back the same day for more meetings and then working late to keep up with the work he didn’t do because he was in meetings all day. “Okay then, bye I’ve got to get to yoga” I say. Guilt. At least yoga is teaching me to be grateful for everything in my life.

So March 1st rolled around and eventually so did this blog. In hind site I went out of the gate a bit fast. I wrote A LOT in those first two or three months. Loved it, but perhaps could have saved some pieces for a later date. The world of online blogging is quite fascinating and I have learnt a lot from other bloggers and writers. When I tell people that I have a blog I get lots of different reactions. Some are interested and some sort of dismiss it as if to say “ya, you and every other person with nothing better to do”. There is some truth to that I suppose. For me it has been an outlet for the small speck of creativity in my brain that has been waiting years to come out. I’m not a “writer”, I’m not trying to change the world and I’m not trying to sell people on anything. I’m just enjoying my life and my friends and passing on the experience.

I think in my head I was hoping that not working would change how I felt, not only emotionally, but physically. I was dead wrong. In May I found myself feeling worse physically than I had in years. Tired, achy, fuzzy, bad skin. I could name a couple of others but, well, I’m not going to as nobody needs that much information. A complete overhaul of how I ate was, as far as I could see, my only option. Hardest thing I have ever done. Almost six weeks of no sugar. With a road race smack dab in the middle I needed to get off track a bit and then back on track half way through my detox, but I did it and am so glad I did. It’s not for everybody and anybody who does it should approach it in their own unique way. By the time I turned fifty in October I could finally say “I feel good inside” and truly mean it.

So here I am on January 3rd filling in the 2015 calendar and reminiscing about last year. It was a year of change and realization for me. I am comfortable in my slightly older skin, although I could do without a few of the new grey hairs. I feel a sense of contentment in my life that is new for me. I started Tweeting every day in November to recognize some small thing each day that I feel is one of The Best Things in Life. Give or take a few days, I have kept up with it. Totally not something I would have seen myself doing a few years ago, but isn’t that what life is about? At any age? Being able to make changes and start new things that bring happiness into your life? Maybe I won’t pass on New Years after all

Options to Explore

It’s been two months since I left my job. Sixty days. Not very long really. I am almost at the point where my mind has shifted to a new way of thinking. I wonder how I did everything before and stayed sane. Maybe that’s the point. Maybe I was going a little wacky. I read a quote a few weeks ago. “The trouble with being in the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.” I’m pretty sure I don’t want to be a rat.

I do find myself falling back into old patterns though. Feeling like I need to fill every moment with activity and busy-ness. I’ve found that every once in a while I need to look back at my original blog post. Finding My Thing. Why am I doing this again? I’m fifty years old and I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up? How can that be? I have a son who is almost a grown up himself. That’s when I take a step back and say ” Okay, what are my priorities in life?”

Surprisingly, writing this blog has been a huge source of focus for me. Even it, however, is still a work in progress. Why am I writing a blog of all things? Am I writing for myself or the people who are reading it? Do I really care what people think? Of course! Why do you think they have a stats button on WordPress? It is a bit scary. You’re putting yourself out into the world that everyone can see and if they can see it, they can judge it. While I have been fortunate so far to have only received positive feedback, I know that the day will come that somebody will not like what I have to say. Do they have an Ignore button on WordPress?

path

I read a lot of other blogs too. Some are really journals of peoples lives, some are serious, some are hysterically funny, some are written by truly gifted writers, some are not. Where do I fit into all of it? Do I fit in? Do I want to fit in? I’ve made a conscious choice not to make my blog a place of controversy and as a result probably don’t have as many readers, but that’s okay. Now, I don’t even pretend to call myself a writer but I have realizes that I enjoy the process of writing a post. I don’t think I would enjoy it as much if I HAD to do it. If I had a deadline and was forced to write about something or someone that I wasn’t interested in I’m not sure it would be as fun. Then again, I could be wrong.

Yoga? Yes, I’m still going to yoga. Once or twice a week I try to make myself into a pretzel. I still fall over and I still hate the pigeon pose. What does it give me? (Because for me it’s all about getting something out of what I do) My brain tends to get stuck into a fairly high gear sometimes. I find it difficult to stop and just….be. Yoga has helped with that, but so has writing. I can be doing about five things at once but when a thought hits me and I sit down to write, everything stops but that thought. Yoga still doesn’t do that for me. Randi says I need to find a mantra to repeat during shavasana. Namaste.

One of the huge benefits of having a little more time is that I’ve reconnected with people that I haven’t spoken to in years. I’ve made deeper connections with people who I thought I knew. I have pushed myself out of my comfort zone by sitting down and having conversations with new people and people I was interested in but didn’t really know very well. I have learnt so much already about new things yet I’ve only just scratched the surface when it comes to determining what my “thing” is. Some say we write what we need to learn. For me, right now, the The Best Thing in Life is having options to explore.

Randi

As Randi and I headed out onto the tails for a hike on a drizzly Friday morning, I mentioned that I had recently started going to yoga. For Randi, yoga is one of the best things in life. She is a yoga instructor. As yoga is a new thing in my life, I was curious to know how she chose that path and what it was about yoga that was so attractive to her. Up until recently my perception of yoga was that it was kind of boring and complicated. So far, all of the instructors I had experienced seemed so immersed in their craft. So my mission for today was to find out why.

Randi started doing yoga from a DVD starring Ali McGraw (80 ‘s flashback) about 20 years ago. After her second son was born she started going to a power yoga class at the local rec centre to add variety to her gym workouts. In her own words she became a bit “obsessed” with yoga and at one point was practicing either power yoga or flow yoga almost every day to the point that if she missed a day, she would feel tense. Power yoga is more of a North American invention I have discovered. A more challenging, strength building workout based on Ashtanga Yoga but with a huge variation of postures and flows (often invented) strung together at the instructors whim and generally with the intention that yoga is solely a physical practice. A great workout, however, resulted in injury for Randi and she was forced to re-evaluate her approach. She has now learned that yoga should not be viewed as simply a good workout; but instead, a lifestyle. A thought process that can be taken “off the mat”.

It was at about this point in her life that Randi was also re-evaluating her job as a chemical biologist. She and her husband had a conversation that I’m sure many of us have had: “If I won a million dollars what would I do? Would I work, volunteer, travel the world? What would I do even if I wasn’t getting paid? ” This got Randi thinking and she realized that she wanted to teach yoga regardless of whether she won the million dollars. Eager to get started and not knowing a lot about the different styles of yoga (beyond the more powerful ones) she found herself signing up for a three year program in therapeutic yoga that had been recommended to her by her current yoga teacher. It would mean training far beyond the training of a regular yoga teacher and this was an area that Randi was not familiar with at all, but had a feeling it was where she needed to go.

At this point the hike was getting pretty steep but I was learning so much about yoga, and Randi, that I kept my mouth shut and pushed through. Did you know that it is called a yoga practice because it never really ends? You are always practicing and working towards a higher state of being? I didn’t.

Randi found the calmer, slower pace of therapeutic yoga just what she needed. Three years later she was certified as a yoga instructor. At the same time she was taking her training, Randi was working towards her certificate as a Holistic Nutritionist. Seriously, this girl is no slouch. She has a BSc in Biology with a minor in psychology and has traveled extensively to China, India and Africa. Her second trip to India was study under her teacher’s teachers in Chennai in the lineage of TKV Desikachar, son and student of T Krishnamacharya. An amazing experience that required the participants to be up at 7:00 am and practice for the better part of the day with limited breaks. Crazy? Before today I would have thought so. Now I see that perhaps devoted is a better word for it.

So now Randi sets her own schedule and teaches therapeutic yoga at multiple studios on the North Shore. She is able to balance her passion for yoga with a busy life with young children. She has combined her love of yoga and her knowledge of holistic nutrition and created Samana Wellness. A practice devoted to restoring balance to body and mind. She no longer dreads getting up in the morning and slogging away at a job she doesn’t like (sound familiar). More importantly though, it has given her an inner sense of peace and allowed her to deal with stressful situations, live in the moment and be her best person. It’s obvious to me that yoga is one of the best things in Randi’s life and potentially mine.

http://samanawellness.ca

My First Yoga Class

yoga drawing number 2

A little while ago I went to my first yoga class. I know that sounds odd given that I am a forty nine year old woman living in Vancouver. It’s practically unheard of really. I came from the school of “if I’m not sweating and breathing really hard it probably isn’t worth it” but my physiotherapist and every person I know had told me that it would help with my stiff and sore muscles. I also realized that I had an entire drawer full of yoga wear and that I never actually wore it to do yoga. So I agreed to meet my friend at the local studio and signed up for my first Hatha class.

Before the class my friend helped me pick out the appropriate props for the class. Two soft blocks, a long woven strap and a blanket. Yes, a blanket. I was encourage that a nap could be in my near future. At first I thought I had made a bit of a mistake. I gather that in the first few minutes of the class you are supposed to expel all the bad energy out of your body with a few big exhales. Some people it seems take this quite to heart and exhale rather loudly. Then came the ohm. Again a little loud and more boisterous than I was prepared for. I suppressed a small giggle that was building and inhaled through the nose and out through the mouth. My friend had assured me that most people had their eyes closed during the class so if I wasn’t sure of a pose I could watch somebody who did. Very good advice as I adjusted my toes for the first downward dog.

Hatha yoga consists of asanas, or poses, that you move through to stretch and strengthen your muscles. It is also designed to reduce stress. The instructor encouraged us to use the time in class to think about whatever it was that we were working on in our life. Patience, kindness, strength or softness?  Really? All I could think of was “don’t fall over”. Things started out well and my confidence grew. The instructor was great and led us from one pose to another with quiet prompts. As the hour progressed the poses became more difficult and my limbs began to shake a bit. Hoping that everybody still had their eyes closed I soldiered on. At some point I suddenly realized that I was stretching, posing and breathing. Ohm……

I had no idea how much time had passed but the instructor was telling us to lie on our backs with our arms to our sides and breathe deeply. She turned the temperature down in the studio and I noticed some people pulling their blankets up over themselves. Ah, nap time. I lay down and tried to concentrate on my own breathing rather than that of the lady beside me. Easier said than done as her breathing was quite loud. In through the nose out through the mouth. And then it was over. I sat up and realized that I was indeed fully relaxed. That kind of relaxed I typically feel after a good massage. But also a bit sore. As a person who hadn’t thought that yoga would be “hard” enough, I was pleasantly fatigued.

As we stepped out into the sunshine my friend ask me “so, how was it?”. I thought about it for a moment and replied. “Great”. Not what I expected but exactly what I needed. Just the right balance between relaxation and strength. Just what I needed to get on track with finding the best things in life.

Namaste.