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.

 

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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!”

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.

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.