what’s in a name…

there are plenty of labels to go around in my hood.

white trash. ghetto. hipster. hipster-wannabe. dirty hippies. damn kids. lazy couch surfer. drunk. deadbeat dad. smoker. bum. homeless guy. beggar. anarchist college kids. lesbians. preppies. crazy religious. not to mention the racist ones i refuse to repeat.

and the list goes on and on.

i mean, i get it. i’m guilty of it. just before writing this, as i pulled out of the taco shop parking lot, i saw a haggard looking family, children running about, an older looking grandpa like figure smoking a cigarette as he rode his bike around and in front of my car as i attempted to leave.

several labels immediately came to mind.

then, another thought:
what if i looked at them with compassion?

and my perspective started to shift.

in light of today’s ruling striking down Indiana’s ban on gay marriage, i’m reminded of a lot of labels that have been pretty prominent in my life for this past year.

gay. homo. fag. abomination. god-damned.

when the only labels i ever recognized were friend. family. people i love.

as i sat listening to hours of testimony in January, through two different hearings and hours of hurtful, hateful labels, my heart ached for these critics to see more. to see the human behind the label. to see their tears, hear their cries, understand their fearful hearts.

see, that’s the thing about labels. they distance us from the human beneath the label. they protect us and insulate us from wrestling with the paradigm shift that people who are different from us create. they keep us from responding with compassion. in fact, they justify us not responding at all. after all, if i can find a label that proves that person deserves what they’re getting, then i have no responsibility to them.

and if they keep us from all those things, they perpetuate hate, and anger, and war. essentially, every evil in this world starts with our simple judgment on one another.

it won’t happen overnight. it may not even happen in our lifetime. but everyday should begin to serve as an opportunity to practice dropping the label.

or better yet, converting it.

how about:
neighbor
precious
beautiful
human
brother
sister

friend.

 

 

a long endurance.

(for Mindy, who I’m pretty sure is the only one reading these days, because she won’t join Facebook and still wants to keep up on me anonymously)

at the ripe ole age of 30, i’ve finally decided what i want to do with my life.

or, at least the path i want to be on. where it leads me exactly, i am still clueless.

but i know this: it will include natural health + yoga.

i’ve been practicing yoga for several years now, off and on. my earliest experiences were with a Y12SR group, which stand for Yoga and 12-Step-Recovery. yes, it’s a recovery group for addicts, based on the 12-step model, with yoga. although i’m not an addict, a healthcare practitioner recommended i try it and i fell in love. for the first hour, we shared our struggles with one another and no one was allowed to respond to you with “well, you should pray more” or “maybe you should try ___”, they simply listened. we breathed together. then another shared. it was through these discussions that i began to realize how i struggle with co-dependency.

then, just as everything was loosened up emotionally, we got onto our mats and this openly broken, beautifully raw group of humans practiced together. many tears were shed on that first mat of mine as years of wounds came to surface and were given space to heal.

when i began my naturopath program in the fall, i knew i would somehow incorporate these two worlds. i envisioned having a small practice and inviting a couple teachers to come in and lead classes. in my mind, natural healing and yoga are inseparable. in classes, i’ve always craved hearing how certain moves and poses would enhance the functioning of organs or help me sleep better. i knew i could never consult someone on healthy options without also suggesting a regular yoga practice.

i never thought i’d teach.

it wasn’t because i didn’t have a desire, but because i didn’t find myself worthy of that path. i have yogi friends who are stronger than me, who can do headstands and have more regular practices. my teachers all seemed so confident and proficient at yoga. i didn’t think i could ever measure up.

still, i needed to change the path i was on. so i reached out to my yoga teacher and asked if there were any studios in the city who could use my talents-PR, marketing, etc-and she directed me to the owner of the studio where i practiced. when we met, he explained i could take classes for free (BONUS!) and get a discount on teacher-training. i nodded, not wanting to betray my interest, but that hit home. i knew this was the right decision. and eventually, i gained the confidence and the affirmation i needed to pursuing teaching yoga.

but money…oh money, how that little beast gets in the way. i would only have part-time hours at the studio so i decided to sell Pampered Chef to supplement my income.

so, this is where things stand now:
money is stretched VERY thin as i work to pay off student loans, pay for my naturopath program and save up for Yoga Teacher Training.
i’m learning to budget (did you know, the key to financial well-being is to spend less than you make?!…neither did i! ;) )
i’m finally, for the first time in my adult life, understanding the true meaning of the word “endurance”–i joke that this is my year for working and studying, as i’m doing one of the two nearly all the time

a long endurance.

that’s the phrase that keeps running thru my head when i reflect on this season. it is both exhausting/overwhelming/frustrating and relieving/exciting/hopeful. for the first time in my adult life, i know what i want to do. and i know the path i need to be on. something within me leaps for joy.

but not too many times, of course.
“endurance” takes all the strength i have to give.
but the results…the outcomes…well worth the work.

 

why teenagers should clean toilets

i recently read an article by a mom titled “Please don’t help my kids” (read here).  the frustrated mom lays down some firm ground rules about assisting her kids at the playground.  while her tone seems to be a bit harsh, i really appreciate the heart behind her words.  i appreciate her desire to race independent kids who know how to stand on their own two feet.  who can be creative, original selves in a world that screams conformity.  who understand resilience because they’ve practiced it, endurance because that is the framework for their lives.

i began “working” when i was just 12, scoring my first few babysitting gigs with the children of my parents’ coworkers.  on one particular night, as my dad was dropping me off, he encouraged me to do the dishes and help straighten the house while the parents were away.  his thinking: if you clean for them, they will be wowed and want you back.  i took his advice, cleaning the kitchen while the children played and watched movies.  the parents came home, refreshed from a night away and ecstatic that they didn’t have to deal with a mountain of dishes.  they paid me well and called me again.

that’s when i learned the importance of adding value to my job.  doing that thing that took the position just another step further in quality.

at the age of 16, i decided to spend my summer working as a young counselor-in-training at the church camp i grew up attending.  me and the few other staff members my age were all considered too young (rightly so) to handle a cabin of campers on our own, so we spent our days doing odds and ends jobs around the camp, and our evenings/nights with the campers.  i was put together with 2 other young girls to assist Marilyn, the housekeeper.  our daily job: cleaning toilets.

we arose at 6:30a each morning, moving quietly about the cabin, careful not to wake the counselors and campers who didn’t have to rise for at least another hour.  we ate breakfast together, then set off in golf carts with cleaning supplies.  we cleaned every bathroom on the campus, from the hair-spray, body-wash fruitiness of the girls’ cabins with showers full of hair, to the dingy, dirty nastiness of the boys’ wash houses that wreaked of urine.  Marilyn was a stickler about hair left in the drain so we scrubbed until the sinks shone and picked out every loose hair that lingered.  the boys had a nasty habit of clogging the conventional toilets, and then turned to pooping in the urinals.  i’d never touched poop until that summer (and never have since).

we finished mid-to late morning with the housekeeping, went to lunch with all the campers, and then i headed to the concession stand, a little trailer with a fridge full of sodas and counter full of candy, and sold sugar to children.  we stayed up too late laughing and joking about boys, and i woke up too early the next day to repeat the cycle.

14 years later, i find myself in a fun, rewarding position at a yoga studio, where i get to interact with people and help build the business.  i have a marketing and promotional background, i’ve written freelance articles and pieces for many folks over the years, i’ve managed departments and had significant positions in companies.  and still, i clean toilets.

why?  because it’s so necessary, so basic.  toilets need cleaned (and floors swept and the counter wiped off) everyday.  because they get used everyday.  if they told me in high school i would eventually use my degree to work a front desk and clean the bathroom.  I would have laughed.  but my dad’s words still linger in my head.  go above and beyond.  work hard to wow your boss, and you will be asked to stay.

what i appreciate about the article, mentioned above, is that this is a similar type lesson the mom is trying to teach her young babes.  when we teach our children anything less than the importance of cleaning toilets, or the value of climbing the slide ladder by themselves, we make them believe the impossible lie that life can be lived without hard work and basic effort aimed at tedious tasks.  we instill the idea that life is not worth the toil necessary at times to move forward with dreams and goals.  that life is somehow easily gotten and that there is no beauty in the simplicity of serving others.

that’s why babes need to learn to pick themselves up when they fall from the monkey bars, and teenagers need to clean toilets, and adults need to rejoice in their challenging work.  because life, rich and full and beautiful life, will be the prize for those willing to work for it.

asking for help, pacing myself and other life lessons

“it is better to travel well than to arrive.”
-Buddha

about a month ago, i left my full-time, all-consuming job with a winery to pursue and fine-tune some dreams that have been brewing deep inside of me.  namely, yoga and natural health.  my schedule has lightened and is much more determined by me.  my income sources have also lightened, so i’ve added “selling Pampered Chef” to my list of fun endeavors.  all of this has left me on somewhat uneven ground, tilting back and forth as i try to find my sea legs and steady myself again.

a few of my less than shiny character traits have begun to rear their little heads during this time of transition.

recently, my shoulder has begun to hurt.  a deep, burning ache that happens when i’m using the computer or driving and especially after an intense yoga class.  feeling discouraged, i resolved to try harder.  until one day, after class, my arm ached all afternoon.  through two movies and lunch and shopping.  ache, ache, ache.  i hesitated to ask anyone, afraid i would need to lay off of yoga and all the things i’ve been working on. finally, i asked a teacher at the studio if i should just take a break.

“no,” she said, “not necessarily.  you may just be doing something wrong.  you should have a teacher look at your form.”  my relief at being able to keep practicing was short-lived as i considered asking someone to not only watch me practice yoga, but also to offer critique.

i’ve always been incredibly insecure about my “performance” in just about any area of my life.  in an effort to avoid commentary, i strive to do better than any expectations, to wow people before they can decide i’m not good enough or don’t have the skill.  asking for someone to help me see what i couldn’t felt less like help, and more like judgement.

nevertheless, i knew i needed help and it wasn’t going to happen spontaneously.  after class yesterday, i asked my teacher to come over, to watch me.  a couple other students, overhearing my request and having similar questions, stood by.  despite my fears, she listened and offered suggestion, noting my form and how my lack thereof was likely contributing to the pain.  she gave me some exercises to gain strength and i felt humbled.  in one of the best of ways.  humbled that another human would handle my request for help with gentleness and respect.

another character trait that has been known to both help and hurt is my “all or nothing” modus operandi.  “all or nothing” people are great and have a lot to offer.  they go after goals with tenacity and perseverance.  they are passionate and driven and, for lack of a better phrase, get shit done.  but “all or nothing” people are surprisingly fragile, susceptible to burn out and running themselves into ground.

that’s where i found myself in my last work position.  i accepted a job that had long been neglected and was in need of serious, deliberate attention.  i called it my wild stallion.  and initially, i enjoyed it despite the exhausting hours and sleepless nights.  but over time, it took its toll as i worn down more and more.  until i finally had to call it quits.

now, in my new season, i find the drive revving back up and my desire to hit the road running have kicked in.  especially in the area of Pampered Chef, especially after our spring conference last weekend.  i came back convinced i would be a director by July, setting my sites on that goal and going hard after it.

the yoga fell into the shadow of this dream, as did my studying for naturopathy.  suddenly Pampered Chef became the destination, not the vehicle.  i’ve joked that it feeds my need for instant gratification, as my dreams for yoga and natural health are things that will take years to attain.

this is not to say i’m quitting Pampered Chef or anything, as my “all or nothing” personality tends to dictate.  but i do need to put it back into its place, to realign my perspective.  i want to do PC well, to succeed and make money, but it’s not my life’s calling.  it’s not that thing that’s recently awoken within me.  it’s the vehicle for getting there and, who knows, may just pay for all my future dreams.

needless to say, life is busy here.  like the winter, i find my life is in a bit of still hardness. soon the soil will be tilled, the seeds planted, the baby plants growing and thriving and putting off fruits to nourish little bodies.  but for now, it is slow and hibernating and the perfect place to learn big life lessons with gentleness and humility.

you’ve come a long way, baby

last week, my little sis had surgery (it was brief and she is recovering nicely) and i agreed to meet her at the hospital.  running late, i had to call before hand to send her my well-wishes and get directions to the surgery center.  as i spoke to my dad, i came to realize that it was just him and my mom there with my sister and, now that my sis was actually back in surgery, my parents were alone together in the waiting room.  and it was ok.  neither was pressuring me to get there, neither indicated a need for intercession or a buffer.  i was told all was well and to be safe getting there.

i cried as the realization of this moment washed over me.

but let me back-track just a minute, to give a greater perspective on the significance of this. my parents separated during my senior year of high school and divorced during the freshman year of college.  it was  a bitter time, full of anger and anguish and disappointment for all parties.  my parents found it hard to be around one another without incident, and we existed that way for years, my sis and i serving as buffers, nervous about moments where the two may have to be in the same space as one another.  it was a hard road, full of anxiety and pressure on my sister and i’s part to keep the peace.

but now, (NOW!), they were sitting there, in that waiting room, not best friends but not enemies.  gathered for a common purpose and not needing anyone to intercede.  they have come a long way in healing, and therefore our family has begun to heal.

a friend once told me she believes we pick the families we come into.  that before we’re born, and we’re just little speck babies out there in the universe or heaven or what have you, we pick the life we choose to enter.  i don’t know how i feel about that or if i agree with the philosophy, but it is incredibly empowering to think that we’ve chosen this life.  then i’m not the victim of the things that happened in my childhood or the events of my family.  i chose this life.

i choose this life.

at the start of 2013, i wrote this about the words i wanted my year to focus on, and so many of them have played a vital role in my year.  in preparing for 2014, tho, that phrase above–i choose this life–keeps coming to mind.

i choose the changes i’m making, the direction i want to go.  i choose my health.  i choose to love.  i choose to cherish the humans i’ve been entrusted to care for.  i choose to go into the kitchen and make a delicious, nourishing meal instead of going out for cheeseburgers (ok, i’ll choose that most of the time).

so, cheers to 2014!
“make good choices!”

a new vision

“where there is no vision, the people perish….” 
    -Proverbs 29:18

“the most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight but no vision.”
   -Helen Keller

as the New Year approaches and i find myself embarking on (many!) new adventures, i decided to attend a Vision Board workshop at my yoga studio.  what, you may ask is a Vision Board, let alone a Vision Board workshop?!  i had similar questions myself and had a hard time describing to others what i intended to spend the morning of my day off doing. still, something stirred in my spirit and i knew that was exactly where i needed to be.

the concept of a vision board is simple: compile all those things you want to Be, Do, and Have, whether in pictures, words, phrases, and display them on a board.  in doing so, you create a space that houses all your desires, and reminds you daily what you’re looking for in this life, where you’re aiming yourself.  and on a deeper level, as i soon learned, you’re allowing yourself to be vulnerable enough to admit you want something.

we started our time together with a brief series of yoga moves, warming up our bodies and allowing the morning to slough off, like old skin.  whatever it took to get us there, whatever our mornings included, soon melted off and a peace settled about the room.  the coach explained a bit of the science behind the vision board, words that went over my head as i didn’t bring my journal to write them down.  and then she set us free to dream.

in the middle of the room were hundreds of magazines for the taking, and scissors and glue sticks and poster board.  i gobbled up several magazines like a child starving and began searching for images and words.  initially, i just grabbed at anything that attracted me, not thinking about what i really wanted to see in my life.

this has been such a strange time of transition.  i recently started studying naturopathy, which has shifted the focus of my priorities.  i also decided that my current job was taking too many precious resources, mainly time, and that i’d rather be spending those on the path it seemed i should be on.  i reached out to my yoga teacher, which in turn led to a job with a local yoga studio.  i am currently merging into my work there, while slowly cutting down my work with the winery.  i am also supplementing my income by selling Pampered Chef, so my time lately has been spent learning the ropes and spreading the word.  needless to say, there is a lot of change and transition happening.

which left me breathless, so to speak, when it came to the vision for my life.  this transition has forced my hand in a way, to develop that picture a bit, but there are still so many other items, tangible pieces that just weren’t coming into focus.

i wrestled with myself as i turned page after page.  what do i desire to have, to do, to be?

the more feverishly i worked, the more i wrestled.  the more i wrestled, the more feverish i became.  until finally i realized the issue: my own limiting beliefs.  focus, i told myself stubbornly.  focus.  what do you REALLY want?  as if my vision board where now some budgetary to-do list, with limited resources to supply it’s coming to fruition.  but there were no limits, and that was the point of the exercise.  what would life look like and include if you had no limits??  that was the very point of this time.

i had missed it.  i had let the limiting voices become mine.  but i didn’t let them take over.  i started to let myself answer honestly and without reserve.

i want to have peaceful mornings, i thought, to create a home, to have yoga be a more central part of my life.  i want a family to warm these rooms, to hear the laughter of little people.  more tangibly, i want to be engaged and be married.  i ripped out pictures of engagement rings and my wedding dress, and a couple holding hands.  i want to visit Paris and New York City.  i want to own my own business and remodel the kitchen.  all these things went on the board.

vision board

above all else, the coach added at one point, is the feelings associated with these things you desire.  how do you envision yourself feeling? she asked.

i struggled with this the most.  the truth is, i gave up a long time ago hoping to feel.  it is a classic survivor skill, neutralizing all expectation and hope to avoid disappointment.  i just didn’t realize how deep it went.  at the heart of all my wrestling, i was scared.  scared to admit what i really desired, scared to see it come to fruition, scared that maybe it wouldn’t fulfill me as i hoped, scared it may never come at all.  i was, and am, scared of good things happening.

i verbalized this to the lady next to me, fidgeting as i admitted it.  do you ever feel that way, i asked.  she nodded confidently.

“that’s called vulnerability,” she said.  ahh, yes.  vulnerability.  my old frien-enemy.  how to ever make peace with her, but that is a different post for a different day.

with my vision board complete, i rolled it into my yoga map and rode my bike home, the visions swirling in my mind.  the coach suggested putting it somewhere we could see it daily, and looking at it, reminding our subconscious selves what we’re looking for in this world.  so my little work of art sits on my dresser.  and the words “boss” and “family” and “cooking up a business” stare back at me when i wake and when i get dressed for the day, to remind me of what is possible and prompt me to pursue my dreams.

 

awaken my soul

i walked into a coffee shop in Grand Rapids, MI, content to know no one.  to sip a delectable latte and study for a couple hours.  in town for work, i had nowhere to be and no one to demand my time until 3p.

within just a few minutes of finding a spot to settle in, i heard my name from a voice behind me.  i turned, not sure who could know me in this city, only to find an old friend from college days.  he was actually a friend i knew through an ex-boyfriend, and he had transferred to another school after our freshman year.  we saw each other off and on over the next few years, as our paths crossed in various ways, but that would have to have been nearly 8 years ago.

of course, the natural questions came forth and i quickly learned that he doesn’t live here either, but is fundraising to move his family to Spain for mission work.  i always find in these situations that i have so many questions and an eager desire to know what the other person is up to, that i don’t share much about myself.  even when asked.  so i briefly mentioned that i was in the city for work, but at the coffee shop to study.  then i went back to asking about him.

but he persisted, and i found my pulse quickening and my eyes brightening as i explained my desire to study naturopathy and natural healing options, as well as go through yoga teacher training, and my hope to combine the two.

and then i said something i wish i could recapture and put in a bottle, to carry around with me at all times.

i said, “it’s one of those things that just makes me feel alive and excited every time i think about it.  i think we need to pay attention to that, because that’s how we know what we’re supposed to offer to world.”  he nodded emphatically, and smiled, and got excited with me.

as a young person, i thought passion about life was a given, and i watched older people with quick judgment about the dutiful lives they seemed to live, committed and busy, but without much true passion.  i took that passion for granted, as i went to school and bought  cars and bounced from one idea to another.

but somewhere along the way, slowly but surely, my overabundance of passion began to dim.  and now here i sit, feeling slightly jaded about life, wondering if anything could ever feel “new” again, could make my blood race with excitement and passion.  dramatic perhaps, but these have been the honest workings of my mind lately.

then an old friend pops up in a coffee shop in a strange city, and asks what i’m up to.

the thing about “distance learning” is that i could legitimately go through my entire study without talking about it.  i could slink about with my textbook and highlighter, and do my thing in the corner where no one could see.  where no one could ask what it is i’m studying, or why.  they could never hear my heart for the subject, and worse, neither could i.

so, a friend walks into my world, and asks that simple question, and without thought i spew off a stream of thoughts about what i’d really like to be doing, how i’d really like my life to look, and feel that passion bubbling up under the surface just as in days of old.  and i feel a ray of sunshine peep through gray snow-filled clouds, as if to say that Spring is on it’s way, and keep going because all this is a sign that you’re on the right path.

afterall, we are all created to offer something beautiful to the world, to awaken others to live their lives wholly and fully.  but we can only know that by finding that thing that makes us feel awake and alive, and chasing it with all we have.