doing too much

the summer between my sophomore and junior years of college, i dedicated my summer to working in West Oakland, CA in a neighborhood called “Lower Bottom” (birthplace of the Black Panthers). it was there that i had one of the first profound prophecies over my life.

not from a shaman, yogi, guru, pastor or priest.

no, these words were simple and to the point and came from the mouths of the middle school girls i was charged with mentoring.

i can’t even remember who was the first to say it, but i’m confident i heard it multiple times from multiple girls. they would look at me after I said and/or did something, raise one eyebrow (which was always a sure sign they disapproved), cock their head, smoosh up their little mouths and say:

“Christie…you’re doing too much.”

of course, it would take me the greater part of a decade to understand what they were trying to say. initially, i was defensive and denied their claims. i wasn’t doing too much, i just cared, liked to help, wanted to be active, yada yada yada.

but as the years have worn on and my body has worn out, i’ve come to understand the wisdom in such simple words.

hello, I’m Christie, and i do too much.

this past week, i decided to embark on a detox. this is nothing new to my life. multiple experts in the natural health and healing circuit recommend a regular detox. detoxes relieve the digestive system of the burden of digesting food and can better focus on removing the build-up of harmful toxins from the system. there are many detoxes out there, but i chose a hybrid of raw & Ayurvedic practices. my detox started with only consuming light, raw fruits and vegetables on Tuesday to ease my body in, moved into a soup/sauteed greens option from Ayurveda on Wed-Fri, and will finish tomorrow with more raw foods to ease my body out.

along with the nutritional detox, most experts stress a mental/emotional detox as well. mine must have been ready for it because i woke from a bad dream Tuesday night, crying into the dark, tears of release. i wanted to let the days of the detox be more intentional, focused on reading the signs of my body, honoring the need to rest and nap.

Wednesday had other plans.

i knew i would need to work at the studio for about 5 hours, then head to a friend’s to clean for 2. then i planned to go see a movie by myself. except a project was overdue and sent me running around town to the printer, then miscommunication between staff meant covering the evening shift at the studio, then the POS software was giving me fits and warranted 2 calls to the help line. i got home at 9:15p and collapsed into bed.

i do too much.

this reality has been a hard one to accept. i moved from denial to anger (why CAN’T I do whatever i want?!) to bargaining (ok, if i just nap here and here, i can still do ALL THIS STUFF!) to depression and acceptance, which i find myself toeing the line as i wrestle with feeling sad at the thought of missing out and then relieved when i just allow myself to rest.

no matter the stage, though, the truth was undeniable. i began to notice a pattern of really exerting myself–accepting every offer to hang out/do coffee/grab a drink, attending every event i thought would be interesting or was invited to, etc–then crashing. it was as if i went back to the well and found it completely dry but my body/mind/spirit completely parched. and i panicked. i retreated. sometimes involuntarily.

one such event happened several years ago. a friend who lived in Chicago agreed to let me borrow her apartment when she was out of town. i packed my backpack, hopped on the MegaBus and, several city buses later, arrived in her place. a wave of exhaustion rushed over me and i laid down for a nap, that turned into bedtime, that rolled into the next day and afternoon and night. i ventured out only once for dinner. i felt sick but something told me i just needed the rest. all my grandiose plans to explore the city and journal and have adventures went out the window. my reserves were depleted and, finally being away from the voices and temptations in my own city, i could hear my body/mind/spirit crying out for a break.

this detox period has heightened those senses. today, after working/running errands all morning, i considered squeezing in a movie with Indy Film Fest (they’ll be gone tomorrow and i haven’t watched NEARLY enough, i argued with myself), before heading back to the studio to work all evening. i kept going back and forth, should I? shouldn’t I? when i sat down to eat my lunch of soup and a banana, i realized how sleepy i was. then i recalled how i woke in the middle of night and evaluated the fact that i am not consuming as many calories, and realized i would probably need a rest more than i need to battle traffic to hurry to the movie, then battle traffic to hurry back to the studio.

so i took a rest.

i would love to say it made all the difference, but i’m not sure. it did, however, leave me refreshed for my evening shift, not depending on caffeine to keep me going. for that i am grateful.

but still, what does it mean to say no? to live in balance?

this, i am still learning. living for so long suppressing the cues of my body has left me a bit out of touch. yoga helps. detoxing helps. but mostly think i will just need time and practice. practice listening. practice weighing options and disciplining myself to choose just one. practice appreciating the details of my daily life-the sun shine in thru the doorway, the way my cat contorts his body during a nap on the couch, the smile of my honey when i come home. all those things that get lost in my “fear of missing out.”

hello, my name is Christie and i am in process.

 

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.

3 days to 30

well, technically, 2 days, 9 hours and some change.

that’s right.  on June 1st, 1983 at 8:16am, i entered this world.  presumably kicking and screaming and flailing and half scared to be out, and half exhilarated to finally be free.  that’s how my life has played out anyway, so i have no reason to doubt it started right at the beginning.

30 is an interesting milestone to be approaching.  about 6 months ago, i mentioned it to a co-worker and he suggested celebrating with “30 days of 30.”  it was a simple concept with a beautiful theme: find a way, every for the 30 days leading up to my 30th, to celebrate/reflect/enjoy life.  essentially make every day a party.  and my birthday would be the 30th day, the biggest celebration of all.

well, the first of May rolled around, which was to be the eve of this great celebration.  suddenly i was panicking.  i had not planned out my 30 days and somehow they snuck up on me.  i scrambled, decided to play it cool, scrambled again, battled with myself on the whole matter, decided to quit the idea and then committed again.  this went on for awhile.

then the 2nd came.  and the 3rd.  and life continued to roll along.  and as i shared dinner parties and bonfires, spring cleaning and weekends away for work, i came to realize something very valuable: i lead a rich and beautiful, albeit challenging and stressful at times, kind of life.  i didn’t need a gimmicky birthday tactic to be reminded of that.

30 is still a monumental type of birthday, tho.  and i don’t approach it lightly.  in fact, i’ve been thinking about it for the last couple of years, what it means to be approaching the end of my 2o’s.

truth be told, my 20’s have been rough.

i graduated college with an english degree and still no greater idea of who i was than when i started.  i worked various odd (i mean really strange) jobs, including but not limited to: debt collections officer, dental assistant, admissions counselor, pizza-making specialist, barista extraordinaire, executive assistant, public relations officer, and so on.  more recently, i’m specializing in the world of wine.

i’ve dated and dumped, dated and been dumped.  i followed one such love affair to Arizona.  i gave away all my possessions to move (except for a trunk full of beloved books) and had nothing when i moved back.  i gave my heart away and had it returned in pieces.  and then i fell for the love of my life.

i found friends that became family, and began to understand what it meant to love someone for who they are; not who i wanted them to be.

i made mistake upon costly mistake.  quit jobs possibly before i should and took jobs i definitely shouldn’t have.  i settled.  and i rose above.

and most of all, i discovered something invaluable: myself.

i came face to face with my faults, admitting i struggle with rejection from others and, more importantly, myself.  i can easily hurt people with my opinions and ideas if i’m not careful.  i am opinionated and willful and stubborn.

i realized just what i have to offer: an articulate voice, a creative prospective, a helping hand, a passion for natural health.  a loving touch, an understanding ear.  a passion and drive that fuels success.

i found yoga and a desire, not just to lose weight, but to love myself well.  to care for and accept my body as it is (ok, i’m still struggling with this one…but the journey continues).

as i washed the dishes this afternoon, i realized that one of my greatest fears when practicing yoga was that i was never really improving.  yogis call it a “practice” for a reason: you accept where you are with grace, but continually push forward to improve.  change is so slow, almost imperceptible, but still present.

i see how this fear has played out into the bigger picture of my life.  change has been so slow at times it was almost imperceptive.  as i turn 30, though, it is evident how this journey of my life has seen great growth and healing and a movement toward wholeness.  reflecting over my 20’s, and comparing where i was this time last year or the year before or 6 years before that, i see a different person staring back at me in the mirror.

for this, i am grateful.

live is a beautiful (and hopefully long!) journey.  as i wave a farewell to my 20’s, and toast in my 30’s, i will remember that truth.

and let it guide me forward.

on the up & up.

“i have everything i need within me to be healed.”

the thought arose like a gentle whisper the other morning.  i sat cross-legged on my yoga mat, eyes closed as my breath began to deepen.  my thoughts were on the doctor’s appointment ahead of me and my health concerns.

“everything i need to be healed is within me,” went through my mind and a gentle peace began to settle.  i felt empowered and strong, ready to handle whatever may come my way, confident i would and could be taken care of.

the call came early in the week, confirming an abscess caused by MRSA.  given that my brain was lingering on the “C” word, MRSA sounded like a cake-walk.  until they switched my meds to a horribly intense antibiotic that caused heartburn for 48 solid hours.  still, it wasn’t worse and i was already visibly getting better.  the aforementioned doctor appointment went smoothly and quickly, with confirmation that i was getting better and, while i still would need to be checked in the future, i had no need to worry.

empowerment is an interesting thing.  while i may not always be able to heal myself without outside assistance, reaffirming the idea that i have it within me to confront and deal and be healed without fear was incredibly strengthening.  the empowerment it brought helped me to hold my head eye, instead of yielding to the fear.  just those few moments on the mat were all i needed to be reminded that i am a strong, formidable creature.

on a different note, thank you to so many of you who “liked” my original post and left notes of encouragement.  may we all be vessels of support and empowerment to one another, and thus work to change this world we live in.

the eve of the eve.

IMG_3897

“to a better year.”

this was me a year ago, at a New Year’s Eve party my friend and i hosted.  in front of the lens of the photobooth, we danced, and wrote posters and celebrated the end.  and the beginning.

my biggest desire: a better year.

so here i sit on the eve of the eve of the end of this year i hoped would be “better,” and have to admit that it was in so many ways.  hard but good.  stinking of death but robust with life.  i entered this year a broken (and broke!) wreck, and am walking out of it at peace with my ever-healing mess.

this year saw a few different guys who laid claim to my heart, a devastating separation from a good friend, a bike accident, the long-anticipated Superbowl come and gone, goodbye to an old dream and hello to a new job, a sickness that made me afraid i might ultimately lose my father, yoga and 12-step groups, dating and falling in love, reconciliation and renewed friendship.

whew.  that’s a mouthful.

still, with all this (and so much more), i sit in a state of slight disbelief that this year is nearly over. as remarkable as this year has been, it’s end is approaching with very little fanfare.  i will rise tomorrow, and go to work, and check emails and eat lunch.  and apart from spending the evening party hopping from one hopping party to another, it will look just like any other day.

i think this is why it’s been hard for me to reflect on the year.  i’ve been trying, though without much effort, to think of what my new year should focus on, what is the burning desire i want to see fulfilled?  what is my “to a better year” for 2013?

i still do not have a clear answer, but the word “contentment” floats lazily and peacefully to the surface.  i cannot yet tell if this is my desire or where i find myself or if its something i should try to center on.  but still, it sits on the edge of my mind and lingers, like the smell of lotion after a bath.

here are some other words that i’d like to focus on during this coming year:

cook.
whole and wholesome meals.  for fun and for serious.  even when i don’t want to.  especially when i don’t want to.

practice.
patience.  hospitality.  yoga.  learning to let go.  grace for myself.  sitting still. observance of the gifts of the seasons (rest and reflection in the winter, preparation and planting in the spring, growth and giant living in the summer, harvest and ending in the fall).

find.
that place where my strengths and passions intersect.  endurance.  healing.

tend.
myself.  my home.  a garden.  the yard.  a peaceful space. those pesky finances.

celebrate.
victories, big and small.  my 30th birthday!

love.
myself.  my sweet B.  those around me.  wildly.  fully.  in risky ways.  all those quiet and subtle places only i am privy to.  even when it’s hard.

so, here’s to 2013, and all the unknown wonders and experiences it has to offer!

Christmas past.

whenever i get gloomy about the state of the world,
I pull out this:

big table 10

i think of this day.
this day, just over 2 years ago.
this day, when i slid on a patch of ice on the interstate and travelled across three lanes into the guard rail.
this day, when i came home shaken and scared and was promptly offered a shot of whiskey and warm spot at the table.
this day when, after Christmas shopping with Kel, we had the brilliant idea to buy everyone “Christmas pajamas” and have our “family photos” taken.

this day, and so many like it, when i felt i had a home with these dear friends.

good-bye too soon.

i remember that day.  my first “real” job in awhile.  i walked into the training room and a sea of new faces, smiling nervously as i sat down.  we played a “get-t0-know-ya” game, where we shared a few facts about ourselves, and i shared some easy to digest vittles, such as “i started an art gallery” and “i live downtown.”

but she, well, i’ll never forget what Tiffany shared.  she was the number 3 dart-thrower in the state and had “cadaver dogs,” dogs that were used by the police to find dead bodies.  in a room full of typical answers–i just graduated college and i’ve worked at this call-center or that customer-service job, Tiffany immediately stood out to me.

for 4 1/2 long weeks, we reported back to that training room each day, learning the ins and outs of timeshare ownership and vacation-booking.  Tiffany was a natural, and i envied her ability to pick things up so quickly.  but her personality was never one that fostered envy.  in fact, she was always ready with a smile, and a “hello,” and a “how are you?”

how ironic that just 6 mos later, the handful of us still left with the company would return to that training room to process the loss of one of our own.  earlier in the morning, work had come to a grinding halt as our management stood in the midst of us to deliver the horrible news: Tiffany had been killed in a car accident.

i felt like a board had hit me across the face, and i felt tears come to my eyes involuntarily.  i have to get out of here, i thought, and made my way to the door.  i bummed a smoke from a friend, and sat in the chilly sunshine of the morning, trying to wrap my mind around what i’d just heard.  our trainer made contact with me later, and asked if i would be interested in visiting with the grief counselor with the rest of my class.  i said yeah, if other people wanted to, i would join.

we walked into the training room, a strange feeling of formality choking out the desire i felt to let my grief hang out.  in the corner, near the front, sat a lady surrounded a haphazard group of chairs.  we took our seats, just as silent as that first day.  just as awkward in how to proceed.

but proceed we finally did.  we spent nearly an hour processing our responses, wondering how a person could go so quickly from existing to not existing, realizing how destroyed we would be if our sister/mother/father/boyfriend were the one who had died, talking about Tiffany and the kind of person she was.  we shared stories about conversations we’d just had with her, about how she was looking forward to the holidays and vacation with family, how she had recently just assumed guardianship of her niece.  we even talked through what little we knew about the accident, all of us hungry to know the details, hoping, i think, to figure out just what went wrong.  we lamented that we, and all those that knew and loved her, were having to say good-bye too soon.

most importantly, we agreed that Tiffany was a beautiful soul, who brought so much to those around her.  so here’s to you, Tiffany Carol Shull; this world is certainly a better place because you were in it; and a lonelier place because you’re gone.  may you rest in peace.