Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Giant Pink Toy

I'm so god damned glad that Christmas is over. 

And don't get me wrong. We had a great Christmas. A glowing, cinnamon scented, real tree, Santa Claus came to town kind of Christmas and I loved it, but I'm still glad it's over, because Christmas is exhausting. I feel like I haven't sat still since a few days before Thanksgiving and now I just want to put all the toys away and clean out my closet and get this forsaken, needle dropping tree out of my living room and back outside where it belongs and I don't want to see another cookie for at least three months. I feel like I need to go on some kind of macrobiotic cleanse like Gwyneth Paltrow or something. Maybe get acupuncture. No, cupping. Or is that so 90s?

Anyway. I need to brag about my child, mommy-blogger style.

This was the first year she really seemed to get the whole notion of Santa Claus. At first she was like, please, you can't possibly compete with Halloween. Halloween was such a big deal that every time she picks up a basket she says "Trick or Treat." I understand. On Halloween she could hardly contain herself. You could see her little mind ticking away and being like "Whoa. I get to dress up like a cat, a PINK cat no less, and knock on strangers' doors and they open the door and drop candy in my pumpkin basket and then Mommy actually, for once, lets me eat it? WOW. Halloween is the greatest thing ever."

I think Santa was almost as good.

"You mean some strange old man is going to come into our house while I'm asleep and eat cookies and drop off a mess of toys? Ok, As long as they are PINK TOYS."

Little Lawns is obsessed with the color pink. I'm trying to ignore it and I swear I didn't encourage it. I don't know how it happened, but I'm sure it's because I said before she was even born that I didn't want some princess possessed, pink tutu wearing kid running around eating nothing but easy mac. And what the hell did I get? Oh yeah. Except the easy mac. At least her macaroni and cheese is homemade. The rest though? I throw up my hands in defeat. I gave birth to a princess who loves all things pink and who prefers to dress as if she's going to a Quince ALL THE TIME. We asked her repeatedly what she wanted Santa to bring her and every time she would say "A Giant Pink Toy."

So Santa brought her a little pink kitchen and a pair of pink rain boots and so thrilled was she that she momentarily forgot about Halloween. She played with her kitchen, literally, for several hours on Christmas day.

Now the little pink kitchen has a little, retro telephone. It was so retro that I actually had to explain to her that it was a phone. How sad is that, by the way? She thinks phones are flat screened things that you tap and stick in your back pocket. This thing that you hang up? What the hell?

Anyway, so I'm cooking in my real kitchen and she's playing in her little kitchen and I see her pick up her telephone and the conversation went as follows:

Little Lawns: "Hi, Santa."

She pauses dramatically. I guess Santa was saying something to her.

"Thank you Santa. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you SO MUCH for my toys."

I about fainted. It was truly one of my finer parenting moments. My child is grateful and well mannered! And thoughtful! I had tears in my eyes.

Then yesterday we watched her new DVD of Cinderella that my cousin sent her and in the first scene Cinderella is getting up out of bed and she has to get dressed and take a shower (which consists of birds squeezing a sponge over her head, but whatever) and Little Lawns yells at the top of her lungs:


Because, yes, Little Lawns is kind and sweet and grateful, but she is still my child, which means that she wants to see Cinderella naked. She's only two years old, people. Pray for me.      
Thursday, December 20, 2012

Exalting My Warrior

So I haven't talked about yoga in a while because I've been busy writing my second book O Holy Shit - A Series of Christmas Disasters (which I've been sharing with you guys by the way) but I've still been going.

Every day.

Yeah, you heard me. I've been going to yoga every day.

Right after Thanksgiving the place where I go to yoga started this 30 Day Challenge nonsense and it involved a large chart on the wall with people's names on it and star stickers and every day the people participating in the challenge get to put a star sticker beside their name each time they take a class. Well that was all it took to get me to sign up. I am all about anything where I get a star beside my name. Sometimes it takes very little to motivate me. I didn't care so much that the reward at the end of the challenge was that if you make it you get fifty dollars off your next package. I mostly just care about the star stickers. 

And being competitive and taking on insurmountable tasks at the busiest time of the year and trying in vain to prove people wrong about me, which are all the wrong reasons to do yoga every day, but that's how it started. Plus, there was my sister who goes not only every day but TWICE every day while pregnant because she is insane like that and she is always calling me a wuss so I thought, well, maybe I should try to show her that I'm not that much of a wuss, even though I am. I'm always telling people how different my sister and I am. Here's an example. If we were on a reality show, she would eat bugs and win a million dollars while I would be the person who voted myself off the island on the  first show because I was itchy and wanted a smoothie. But sibling rivalry is not a good reason to go to yoga every day.

Last year I gained almost ten pounds during the holidays, which didn't come off and when I started going to yoga, sporadically, last summer, I thought, well, maybe I'll finally lose that weight I gained and then when I signed up for the 30 Day Challenge, I managed to convince myself again that the pounds would just melt off, because how could they not in 98 degrees or however hot it actually is in there. It hasn't happened yet. I've actually gained five more pounds and I'm trying to convince myself that it's muscle because that sounds better than admitting that the five pounds is from my holiday diet of cookies which is so extreme that it would make Buddy the Elf tell me that maybe I should limit my sugar intake. Wanting to lose weight is a slightly better reason to go to yoga every day, but it's not the best.

I believe that sometimes our reasons for doing good things aren't as important as the fact that we are doing them. Sometimes feelings follow actions. I may have signed up for the challenge for some ridiculous reasons, but today, when I stuck my twenty-first star on the chart beside my name, I knew something in me had shifted and that I'm now doing this for the right reason. Because yoga makes me a better person. Because yoga makes me feel better, even when it makes me feel worse.

Yoga is a struggle for me. I've never done anything physical. Nothing and I'm not kidding. As a kid, I picked last for teams in gym class so often that my teacher decided to let me be the captain and each time I tried to pick another student to be on my team, they actually refused because no one wanted a captain who was a loser and who ran from the ball (which I consider good sense, because who wants to get hit with a ball, jeez). In first grade, after a year of ballet, my teacher told my grandmother that I shouldn't come back because I just didn't have the required grace. Because six year olds are supposed to be graceful apparently. I'm just not physically inclined. I'm a spazz, so I kept to the things I was good at - reading, telling stories, making myself the butt of the joke, writing, teaching, cooking

I'm a perfectionist too. I don't like to do things I'm not good at. I hate being the worst person in the class. I hate being the girl with the muffin top who is forever picking her shorts out of her crotch. I'd love to be one of those swan-like, thin women in their tiny yoga bikinis who never seem to get frizzy hair or wedgies and who can melt into back bends as if they were a hot rope of freshly blown glass. It makes me mad that I'm not like them. It makes me feel like the little kid in gym class all over again. It brings up a lot of my worst insecurities. Sometimes I want to say to them "Hey, I am a rockstar in other parts of my life! I swear! I'm good at other things. I don't always look this bad! I look good with lipstick on! I am a real, published writer!!" But that's just my ego shouting.

When I started going to yoga I was a wreck. The past two years were the most difficult of my entire life and so many very, very hard and sad and scary things are going on, which is saying a lot because I've been through plenty of hard and scary things. I've been abandoned by a parent, my fiance got another girl pregnant and sued me. I had radiation on a tumor. Somehow none of that seems as bad as the stuff of the past two years, most of which is totally out of my control.

I've had despair that my life isn't where I'd like it to be. My health is a disaster. Do I have lupus? Sjogrens? Allergies? Inflammatory Bowel Disease? Am I just crazy? Do I even have the energy for more tests? 

Many of my relationships just weren't what I wanted them to be. I wanted people to love me who didn't. I wanted others to be proud of me, to show their love differently, to be different. I wanted kind words from people who couldn't offer them. I wanted to prove to some of the people in my life that I wasn't what they believed and that I didn't deserve how they were treating me. I wanted to change a lot of people close to me.

It just seemed like every time I turned around something else was falling apart. A friend even wrote to me and said "Victoria, I have no idea why the Universe is putting you through this right now." It's been that bad. Just trust me.

I didn't feel a lot of love in my life.  

Sometimes the only positive words I heard were from my yoga teachers, who are all beautiful and graceful and don't poop ever and have never once had to hold a fart in while contorting effortlessly into an asana. 

I think that's why I kept going, to hear a few positive words spoken by beautiful people every day and to lay on my mat and know that I didn't have to be anywhere else at that moment except right there on the floor in a very hot room. That and because I'm not a quitter.

I don't know that my body has really changed very much from all this. I don't mind the heat any more. I may have a little more stamina than I did before and I can work myself into a few more poses than when I started, though I'm not convinced I'm doing them right, but something else has changed dramatically.

At the beginning of each class we set an intention. We ask ourselves what do we want to create or to manifest in our lives. We are supposed to dedicate our practice to this intention. I know there are people who don't - who view their yoga as just another workout. But I don't. I take it very seriously. I set my intentions. Stop fighting, I tell myself. Be peaceful. Be beautiful. Be kind. Create. Give thanks. These are just a few of my intentions. It changes every day. I go with whatever comes up, but I mean it. These intentions have changed me. They've given me something better to focus on instead of all the bullshit surrounding me.

"Open your heart," the teachers tell you. At first I'd be like "Please. I can't even freaking breathe! How am I supposed to open my heart?

"Shine your heart to the sky," they'd instruct us, but I didn't feel like I had any light in my heart to shine. Still, I tried to twist my chest a little further in the direction of the ceiling anyway.

And then there was camel pose. The first time I ever saw a class do camel pose, where you're kneeling and then you do a backbend and grab your ankles, I said "Fuck this shit. Who can do that? Jesus fucking Christ. I will NEVER do that." And honestly, it would never have occurred to me to even try or to even think that the human body could or should bend like that.

Fuck camel pose.

Then one day I was like, oh what the hell, I'll try it, and then I said fuck it again, but I kept trying it and eventually I got it, but when I got it something crazy happened. I almost had hysterics. I had such a panic attack that I had to go into child's pose to calm down. Every time after that the same thing happened and recently I learned that camel pose opens your heart and releases all sorts of bad energy. That's what was happening to me.

Slowly, my closed up, very scared, very unsure heart was opening. 

We do a lot of Sun Salutations in class. Standing with your arms up and outspread and your head thrown back is a posture of exuberance and even if you don't really feel particularly exuberant, which I assure you I haven't, if you keep doing it, your mind will kind of align itself with your body and if you really pay attention, you can't help but feel this huge, ridiculously great sense of reverence and love for and from the Universe when you do it. I felt like a jackass at first, but I stuck with it and now I catch myself smiling in this series of poses. It feels like a prayer, but not the "I want this and that" kind of a prayer. The right kind of prayer that says "Thank you for everything I have. I'm so glad I'm here."

I feel better. 

The funny thing is that nothing in my life has changed. All the circumstances are pretty much the same and still out of my control. I still suck at yoga. I still have an autoimmune disease. None of the people I wanted to change have changed very much and while there are still times I'd like to kick them in the face, I mostly don't really care anymore. I've stopped obsessing. I've learned to calm down. I've stopped fighting so hard against everything. I've come to a place of acceptance. I haven't given up. Instead, I've let things go that weren't serving me and I've opened my heart to all the things that are.

So here's the thing I've realized. When I say I suck at yoga, it's not true, because it's about so much more than headstands and backbends. I will probably never be able to do that God forsaken scissor thing. Crow eludes me. I still say "fuck that shit" to Bird of Paradise and the thought of doing Revolving Half Moon makes me need a Xanax. My body might not be capable of doing a lot right now, but my mind and my spirit can work miracles, and I think ultimately, that's the real goal of yoga, isn't it? I am strong in spirit. I am a warrior (one, two and three, ok maybe not three). I've got this. I can do it.

I'm ok with where I am in my practice. I'm ok with my frizzy hair, though I could seriously use a headband, and I can live with constant yoga short wedgies. I am fine with being the underdog of the class. At yoga, I don't have to be perfect and that's a huge relief.

A couple weeks ago, two of the teachers praised my progress and I was so embarrassed because I can't take a compliment sometimes, but you know, that compliment went a long way. I felt good for days. That day in class I suddenly felt stronger and more powerful. It's amazing what a few positive words can do for a person. I really needed those kind words and they transformed me quite literally.

I am so grateful to all of my yoga teachers for helping me along through such a hard time in my life, although they had no idea that they were. 

The winter solstice is tomorrow. It's the darkest time of the year and all of the holidays around the solstice celebrate hope and life and light in darkness. The holidays remind us that the darkness is only temporary, that it's going to pass and that spring will come back. It's a big metaphor for the hard times in our lives. They won't last forever. There is always hope. Change your perspective. Open your heart to the good.

Thank you to all of my yoga teachers for setting me down a better path. Thank you for shining your lights into my darkness.

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