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2018: Happy New Year

What does the New Year hold for you?

Ancient peoples tracked the sun and the moon, noted the seasons for planting and harvest, and lived their way into a construct for time that predates but informs our modern calendar. Drawing on a number of organizational creations, Julius Caesar implemented much of the calendar we still live today, including adding his own signature: the New Year would begin January first, the day two high officials began their year-long governing positions. More than a few since have attempted to change that start-date—to March to coincide with the spring or to September to coincide with the harvest. Through all the political tugging and pulling, Julius Caesar’s stamp on when we begin the New Year has prevailed. And so it is that we arrive at the end of one calendar year and launch the next.

And with that brand new calendar full of possibilities, it’s irrepressibly human to want to implement life-improving change.

During the holiday season my gift list took me to the Container Store. It’s one of the happiest shopping places I’ve been because each object makes a promise that if put to use under just the right circumstances, life will be more organized and thus infinitely better. It’s 19,000 square feet of countless mini-resolutions. I came home with, among other things, a magic silicone computer keyboard cleaner that helped me de-stick the keys on the left edge of my laptop where I had, alas, spilled coffee. To be honest, I came home with three of them—one for my immediate use and one each as stocking stuffers for Eighteen and Fifteen.

The reminder of that heart-stopping moment when I tipped the cup onto my computer (it was a lidded cup without much in it, a candy coffee I was treating myself to while writing) lingers in the dimmed segment of lighting behind my keyboard. I was swift in my response, inverting the computer and then racing for napkins to wipe away the spill. For a few days my computer smelled faintly of coffee, not an unwelcome fragrance for a writer, and the impacted keys were sticky. Today it’s an object lesson—my computer turns five this month, is long out of warranty, and makes it possible for me to connect with the world and earn a living. If something disables it, even if that something is me, I’m going to need a replacement immediately. Mental note for the accounting department: start a new computer fund.

And so it begins … it’s easy for the mental notes to turn into life-improving resolutions around money, health, friends, travel, employment, getting rid of stuff, cleaning and fixing the house, losing weight, getting fit, finding a boyfriend. Like the unbroken snow in the backyard or the shiny allure of just the right organizational box at the Container Store, the crisp clean calendar beckons. This is the year I might just get it all right.

Looking for the lessons of 2017, and there were many, I light on a few. I set out to study and learn a lot more about yoga, and I did, completing my 500-hour yoga teacher training and implementing a new kind of preparatory approach to my classes that has been well received. In the course of the hours spent reading, researching, and producing, the travel to trainings, and the workshops I attended and developed, I learned something in my own practice that I am still exploring. It’s a tiny adjustment in my hands in strength-requiring poses like plank (the top of a push-up) wherein I press into the floor using my hand-wrist joints like levers. I don’t yet know the full extent of the strength the maneuver allows me to access, but I know that it changes the experience of the pose in my entire body. It’s a tiny, valuable truth, and I look forward to discovering where it might lead.

I learned, too, that my beloved yoga practice, while it opens all sorts of possibilities for self-improvement and advancement (yoga really is, as my teacher Mona always says, an ancient self-improvement practice for body, mind and spirit), is so comfortable for me in a large part because it allows me to embrace and strengthen my strengths. I am patient; yoga makes me more so. I am flexible; yoga celebrates my range of motion. I am a teacher; I’m so grateful that people come to learn yoga with me.

In writing those practices for my classes, I stumbled into understanding, in 2017, why it’s okay that for years when I’ve started writing in a blank book, I’ve left the first few pages unsullied. I always thought it was to take the pressure off—indeed, as I’ve been cleaning my bookshelves over the past week or so, I’ve discovered a number of blank books starting with three or eight or fifteen pages covered in childish scrawl, the beginning of a novel one of my children sat down to write in a fit of creative passion and abandoned shortly thereafter. I can’t bear to throw these books away—loving the intensity of the resolution it took to start a novel. Nor do I want to use these books, even though they have pages and pages that are unmarked, leaving me uncertain as to what to do with them. So they go on the shelf for now. But in my own favorite blank books, spiral-bound so they sit flat on the desk, especially the ones I use for planning yoga practices, I find that the skipped pages at the beginning are perfect for creating a table of contents. Thus, when the books fill up, I have a way of finding the information therein. And something about leaving those early pages blank does indeed make it much easier to fill up the books—with class plans, lists, notes for my novel, and every other project-launching whim or frenzy that takes over.

I believe fervently that it’s important to set resolutions with kindness—intentions or visualizations for the new chapter seem healthier than the often critical messages of resolutions. However, I’m learning for this New Year that the impulse to make sweeping changes in our lives offers many gifts. We may or may not live our way to the intended goal, but if we stay both grounded and open to the possibilities, we will learn lessons from our inclination to leap into projects and transformations for the better that range from merely fascinating to life changing.

Today’s full super moon feels, to me, like a spot on a transitional timeline that starts with the winter solstice and skips like a stone across the water with stops at Christmas, New Year’s Day, the Chinese New Year, and Groundhog’s Day. Rather than set sights on changes that will revolutionize all of 2018, I’m focusing on this period, giving myself some interesting challenges, and staying open to the discoveries that I don’t even know are possible. Wishing you and yours a safe, happy, healthy, and revealing New Year, that you might discover your own wisdom pebbles and skip them farther over the water than you ever dreamed possible. With all my love, Namaste, Rxo

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Vertical Hold

What are you reading these days?

[[Author’s note: This is probably more essay than blog post. Posting here anyhow … with thanks to my writing circle who challenged me to write into this more. We’ll see, for now here’s Part II, or thoughts to follow “The Door to Everywhere.”]]

When I was little we had an enormous color television set that stood on the floor. You had to cross the floor to change the channel, adjust the color, or turn the volume up. There were four channels and occasionally reception through an enormous antenna on the roof caused a snowy picture or rapid scrolling, black lines crossing the screen, necessitating adjustment of the vertical hold.

My mother gave my brother and me a television account, seven hours a week each. We had to read the TV Guide and select what we would watch ahead of time. I liked Captain Kangaroo in the mornings and when I snuck a peek in the evening, I thought perhaps he was also Walter Cronkite, no longer dressed in his signature red coat, back to deliver the evening news my parents consumed along with their cocktails every night.

Saturday mornings we must have somehow combined our hours, because I remember settling in with cereal bowls to watch cartoons. I liked the antics of Bugs Bunny the best, but it is the misadventures of Wile E Coyote I remember—how he would freeze in midair, eyes enormous before dropping legions down a canyon or look with sudden awareness at the item he was holding, something explosive, then look at the camera with full knowledge of what was about to happen. His ears might droop a little, but powerless to do anything about it, we’d wait for the inevitable, boom. It always made sense to my trusting mind that in the next frame, or maybe the one after that, he would return unscathed.

There are moments in life that feel just like that. Once I was navigating the overcrowded evening streets of Taipei, a metropolis that truly never sleeps, with a friend who had been living in Asia after college. We started across a street just as a car started barreling toward us. Maybe she was across faster than I was, but I jumped in the air, alarm on my face, my feet peddling while I hovered without moving forward—just like the Coyote right before he would be smacked by an oncoming Mack truck. Somehow I started to move (cue a whoosh sound with a little puff of cartoon smoke behind me) and made it safely to the other side of the busy street. When I got there, breathlessly, I said, “I felt like a character in a cartoon just then.” My friend laughed, “You looked just like one.”

More recently an ice storm coated the streets, sidewalks and trees of our community. I was on my way home from a late meeting, one of the only cars on the road. I got to my street, a one-block suburban circle that leads up the hill to my house, turned, and fifteen feet up the hill stopped, sliding sideways. Backing down and making a run for it netted me a whole twenty feet, and I determined that I wasn’t going to make it up the hill until the city had treated my street.

I slid back onto the more mainly road where traction was somewhat possible and saw a treatment truck go by. I thought to go and see if other circles in the neighborhood were being treated, figuring I could wait until they did mine, and found the truck two streets over. I pulled over to the curb to watch him start up the street and stop, wheels spinning. As soon as the driver took his foot off the gas the truck paused, totally still, and then started to slide at an angle right back down the hill. I watched him try and try again, getting no further than I had in his enormous six-wheeled truck with flashing lights and a bed full of ice melt.

It was no more successful when he turned around and tried backing up the hill, spreading his treatment mixture ahead of his own back tires. I couldn’t see the driver’s face, but the whole truck, each time momentum stopped and before it started to slide, had that Coyote-like expression, in the dark, the icy rain still falling and freezing all around us.

That night I ended up parking my car a solid half-mile from my house and navigating the icy pavements by walking on yoga blankets I had in my trunk. I’d put one down, walk across it, spread the second one as best I could, step onto it, turn around pick up the last one, and inch forward. I could walk safely on the grassy surfaces, but my trek crossed a parking lot, a slew of driveways, and one major street. By the time I reached the bottom of my circle, I had ice coated on my glasses and in my hair and I was exhausted. I thought, if I’m going to fall, it’s going to happen up this hill close to home. I tried to redouble my care.

Years of yoga and I fall well. That night one tiny misstep, my foot half on the blanket half on the icy pavement, and I went down fast—no time to look helplessly at the camera—curling into myself and landing on my right hip and shoulder. Normally I would stay down after a fall, allowing the adrenaline to subside, but heart pumping I got up knowing it was too cold to stay on the ground. I was two driveways away from my own safe house.

The next day’s weather wasn’t much better. Eleven and Fourteen had delayed openings at school, the people I was supposed to meet with opted to stay home, and I inched my way downtown to see my chiropractor who brought mobility to my stiffening shoulder. That evening, on the sofa enjoying a fire and the surety of having everyone at home, I thought it might be nice to read a book.

I don’t remember learning to read, but I remember reading just about every book in my junior high’s library, some of them many times. I consumed books, like my children do, opting to read over just about any other activity, even sometimes those seven hours of television. My appetite continued through college, when I would use reading to relax, especially during finals week. Then in graduate school I spent three years not finishing books because there was always more to read. But I regained my reading pace as a professor, surrounded in various English departments by colleagues who always were reading and recommending something new.

Novels, memoirs, and academic treatises gave way to Moo, Baa, La La La and Goodnight Gorilla when Fourteen was born. I read to him constantly and it wasn’t long before he would toddle his way to me, a book offered with a beseeching look. We would stop everything and read, one book over and over or a stack that seemed to appear as he crawled into my lap. My own reading pace slowed considerably, not to a dead stop but to an agonizingly slow pace, maybe a book every month or two. Television and Internet screen time took over as my drugs of choice.

Today I read a lot—editing materials and email messages and business-related items—and I don’t read much at all. I still have the habit of buying books—I’m rarely able to finish a library book in the three weeks allotted for me—and starting them. They tend to lie around with a torn scrap of paper marking the first chapter or, worse, open, their spines creasing to keep my place. Momentum lost, I’ll clean them up two or three or eight weeks after I’ve started reading them and put them on the shelf next to all of the other “must reads.”

The hankering to read that started on the sofa the day I was resting has turned into a full-blown impetus. As a part of this year’s visualization process, I kept coming up against this image of books not just organized and waiting to be read, although that’s a part of it, but actually reading books, consuming them like I used to, like I watch my children do every day after school, without a thought.

At the same time, I kept seeing explosions and fireworks, alarm and beauty, cartoon character style. Cartoon characters have a plan, often foolhardy, but they set about it with resolve. I drew a picture—order written in the cursive fuse of a rocket, a stick-person rendering of me hanging onto the rocket called chaos, the ascent, explosion, and subsequent fireworks lighting up the sky. Such events can be beautiful, breathtaking, and damaging; there’s a chance of getting scalded by falling embers or dirtied by ashes as they tumble, not to mention the perilous fall back to earth. When I looked at my drawing, what I could see was an image of me coping through the ups and downs. It’s a start but not ultimately a good visualization because it doesn’t promote the life that I want.

What I crave right now is ordered space, a concept that in my mind means I’ll be able to pick up those waiting books and read, put them down to attend to the next thing—or hold on as the inevitable chaos explodes, like I did just this week when the hydraulic system in my car’s transmission failed—but come back to the books sooner and read some more. Ordered space means that although life is chaotic and sometimes explosive, there will be a firmament that’s truly firm for me to stand on, manage the chaos, shelter through the explosions, and settle back without too much lingering ash or danger from falling embers. Ordered space is my visualization for this new year, represented by a line-drawing box, the inside a place to find order, the outside chaos held mostly at bay. Ordered space equals organized time and organized time includes time in my account to indulge in activities that give me joy, like reading on the sofa with my peeps.visualization

Makes sense, doesn’t it, that I’m reading Everything That Remains, a memoir by Minimalists Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus. Happy New Moon, Happy Wood Horse Year (Eleven’s year), Happy Groundhog Day, a day that marks my eighth anniversary as a yoga teacher. Wishing you warmth and the solid belief that spring will spring wherever you may be. With love, as always, Rxo

The Door to Everywhere

The Door to Everywhere

What will my visualization be for this year?

A few years ago I would have been panicked when January First arrived before I’d had opportunity to evaluate my world and make New Year’s Resolutions. That’s no longer a problem and not simply because I’ve given up resolutions in favor of visualizations. It’s no longer a problem because I now see the time from the Solstice to the Chinese New Year as a period of transition, an easing through the end of one period and the beginning of new energies.

This year, as happens once every nineteen years, the first of January was also a new moon. The new moon is an auspicious time for beginning anew. This January will lengthen under two new moons, and not just any two new moons, two supermoons.

Supermoons, my friends at Earth & Sky explain patiently, are the moments when the moon in its orbit is closest to the earth. There will be three full supermoons this year in June, July and August, and two new supermoons, both in January. The scientific name is perigee new or full moon, with perigee meaning “near earth.” To the gentle observer, supermoons look really big and close and, as with all moons, that’s true wherever on our planet you are.

In wonderful contrast, the full moon this month, falling on January 15, will be a micro moon, as far away in its orbit as it can be.

Bringing the question back to earth, what shall be done with this whoosh of new beginnings energy?

I’m just starting to see. Of course, there are the standards: lose-weight-exercise-more-eat-better-save-money-cultivate-less-stress-be-an-attentive-mommy-shrewd-business-owner-happy-yogini. I might add that sleeping regular hours would help immeasurably. Each of these is a given alongside writing more and worrying less. Still I know better than to make resolutions around basic quality of life improvements most of us can embrace.

Last’s year’s visualization was an open door. Most days I drew the icon in the steam on my shower door before I stepped through into the towel waiting on the other side. That my shower door swings both ways is a perfect metaphor for the door I visualized—sometimes it opened to the way home, sometimes into my business, sometimes into the world.

Doors ended up being a very big part of 2013: in January, I financed my house in my own name, so for the very first time I now own some 54 interior and exterior doors and doorways, including garage, pantry, and closets. A short while later I added a four-door car to my fleet, making Eleven and Fourteen more independent as they leap from the car to head off to the bus, dance, or Taekwondo.

Some interesting personal and professional doors opened for me as well, but the one that is most significant for me came along sometime in mid-December. It started with a very real need to invent a door—an interior door that could be closed to cats but open at the same time. I considered a basic screen door, but at least one of my cats climbs screens and would ruin a screen door in record time. The problem lies in wanting to keep the cats out of my bedroom—there is a mysterious spot on the carpet only in my room where they seem to feel they need to pee—but wanting cool air in summer and warm air in winter to circulate through the door. With the solid door closed, my room rarely gets above 60 degrees in winter and is often colder.

I found metal cutouts at Menards, on sale in the garden department and thought—if I could build a door, I could use those as panels. Then I thought of my friend David, a creative carpenter, and challenged him to the task.

I also asked him if he could solve a problem with my oven, and he gave me the name of a talented electrician. As is so often the case, I had a laundry list of small chores for an electrician, so we met and went through the list and he gave me a most reasonable estimate and we set a date for the work.

It’s no surprise that the one item on the list that wasn’t truly a repair, but rather an opportunity to fix a gross mistake in the original wiring of my house, had to do with doors. Both three-way switches for the dining room light were behind dining room doors. That meant to turn the lights on or off or to access the dimmer, you had to walk all the way into the dining room, swing the door away from the wall, and activate the switch. The talented electrician moved the switches to the stairwells that hug either side of the dining room, and now the lights can be accessed without hassle. It’s one of those things that has bugged me since the day I moved in here (nine—gasp—years ago), and now every time I need to turn on or off a light, it is with both ease and the total delight of having fixed something that was all wrong.

The novelty of the accessible switches hasn’t worn off one morning when we are hustling out the door to the bus and the world beckoning beyond. I reach over Eleven, sprawled on the stairs to put on her shoes, to click the switch for the dining room light off and smile to myself, “I made that happen. I did that.” Surveying the out-the-door-to-the-day scene in front of me, I find the thought expanding, “I am doing this, all of it.” I look up at my new door, a piece of art that makes me smile every time I see it, and the feeling deepens, “I can do this …  yes, not always perfectly, but I can do this. I can do precisely what I’m doing.” Peeps in tow, I walk through the door to contentment, ready for the everywhere that lies beyond.

The micro full moon rises over us tomorrow, 1.15. I hope you are warm and enjoying cozy winter activities. Part II of this post, along soon, aims to answer the question about my visualization for 2014. See you soon, with much love, Rxo

ps. I’m so enamored of my new door, I can’t stop adding pictures of it. It’s hard to photograph well, but it’s beautiful!

The Door to Everywhere

The Door to Everywhere

Shall I make you a list?

One day in November of 2011, I suddenly became very concerned that I would lock my keys inside somewhere and myself out. Or in. Or something. My mother had recently given up driving and there wasn’t another adult who who could come to my rescue in the event that my keys and I became separated. The often frantic Where-Are-My-Keys dance that I routinely do, made all the more frenetic in direct proportion to how late I am leaving, took on new urgency.

For a week or more, I was fried by the problem. With a keypad for the garage, it logically should be possible for me to get into the house. But what if I was at the studio? What if arriving at the studio I set my keys down, as I have done, gathered an armload from the front seat, and flung the car door closed, the keys within? I would be standing with studio laundry or a bale of paper towels or new yoga props, no keys, no purse, no cell phone, outside a locked studio door. I could see the whole thing play out in my mind and the more I noodled the issue, the more the problem loomed.

Ultimately the answer wasn’t very hard. I calmed down and set about collecting several complete sets of keys. There’s one set that never leaves my house and another, including a key that miraculously bypasses the electronic features of the car, stored with a dear friend who would rescue me in a heartbeat. I divided out the other keys and carry only the ones that I need. Upon arriving home, I stash the keys on a hook near the door to the garage or in the key drawer; out in the world I endeavor to put them in the same pocket in my purse whenever I get out of the car. These systems in place, I felt much better. For a while.

Shortly after I found my key solution, an old friend, now a beading artist, sent me this beauty.

Shortly after I found my key solution, an old friend, now a beading artist, sent me this beauty.

This year my visualization practice brought me to a door, one that opens in or out. It leads into home, into the studio, and swinging either direction also into the world. The door to everywhere is the icon I now draw on the shower glass each morning. In meditation and visualization, twenty-thirteen presented itself as the year doors would open for me. In contrast, the very real doors in my life started to act up.

Here’s the list:

  • The door latch between the garage and the house became stripped and stopped closing.
  • The screen door that I painstakingly rescreened myself tore right out, the spline staying
    put but the screen ripping
  • The lock in the studio door handle mysteriously began locking itself at random moments
  • The garage door keypad malfunctioned for the last time rendering the garage door
    operable only with an actual opener
  • The freezer door developed the new unfortunate habit of not easily sliding all the way closed, warming the contents within
  • The driver’s side door on my brand new car started to discolor, turning into an unripe tangerine in contrast to the rich color of the rest of the car

On the same car, the new car I’ve been driving less than three months, the rear left tire started getting squishy. New cars tell you, among other things, the air pressure in the tires. Four times the warning light came on urging me to add air to the rear left tire. After the car sat for five days in the garage, the pressure was down to just over half. I put air in it for the fifth time since I’ve owned the car and called the dealer.

Just like malfunctioning doors, that’s not the only squishy tire in my fleet. All three tires on my recumbent trike, the front tires on the lawn tractor, and a mis-installed new tire on the convertible have been flat or low during the last six months. I can’t make a move without checking tire pressure and adding air.

I love metaphors, live by them and the meanings they impart. And so I ask another question: new and old, why are the doors and tires—the openings and the ability to move—so flawed in my world?

Taking a page from dream interpretation, squishy tires are easy—they represent something going wrong when the dreamer is trying to make progress. True enough. Even if it’s simply taking time to pump up the tires before using the vehicle, it slows progress to add air. It’s an extra step that can be ignored only if one is willing to risk the lasting working order of the equipment. Late again? The car tire needs air before you can go.

A door in a dream is the road to opportunity. A broken door is more complicated—it isn’t exactly impassable, most of the time, and there isn’t anything preventing you from fixing the door or having it fixed. But if you have to stop and consider the door, perhaps use it more carefully or turn to close it gently behind you, it’s one more step you must take before moving to the next level. You might understand that there’s an opportunity through that door you’re keen to pursue, but you might not be able to make it there because too many obstacles get in the way. The broken door is a gatekeeper, a sign you may have to wait before you can explore the new opportunity.

Dream doors and tires can be dusted away along with sleep when the alarm goes off. My door and tire issues are all too real—and so in waking hours I attend to them, taking my car to the dealership for first one repair, then the other. As it turned out there was a nail in the tire of the Dart, and it’s repaired, holding pressure beautifully. The mechanic worked it in on a hot and busy Tuesday, fixing it for free, and I was driving safely again by the end of the day. Teased apart from the other things on my to do list, it got done. The discolored door has been a longer process, but the car has an appointment to be repainted, courtesy of the manufacturer, in August. All in good time. Divine right time, actually.

As it is with most things, I need to learn the lesson again. There’s a moment when the universe presents opportunity. If we don’t take it, the opportunity will come back in a bigger, better and often more challenging way. So too, opportunity may appear to be out there, behind door number one, but the path may slow us down. Those are signs I need to look for and learn to trust—trust that my attention is needed locally, on the individual details close at hand. If the opportunity I thought I was looking through the door toward goes away, it wasn’t the right one. If it’s meant to be, I’ll get there.

Happy Full Thunder Moon! Eleven, Fourteen and I are going to head out for a few days early next month, so I’ll skip celebrating the new moon with you here in August—but like always, we’ll be under the very same moon. The peeps and I are headed for Northern California—maybe we’ll go look at the redwoods, a place where it’s good to see both the forest and the trees. Namaste, with my love & thanks for reading, Rxo 

Let It Be

Are you trying to do too many things at once and thereby scattering your energies? (Ted Andrews, Animal Speak)

The first time I wasn’t sure—there was a blur of movement where the foundation wall meets the floor joists. My eyes were focused on the television on the shelf below, playing my movie of the week as I walked on my treadmill. It was early in the morning, the basement lights low. I shook my head: It couldn’t have been. A minute later I flinched. This time there was no mistake. I saw the grey streak, long and low, scurrying along the top of the wall. A mouse. A mouse in MY house. A house, I reminded them as soon as I went upstairs and was confronted by the morning feed-me chorus, inhabited by four cats.

My lecture fell on unresponsive ears. Ten, Thirteen and Eighty-eight, as they emerged from their respective rooms, were far more sympathetic and outraged. Then the kittens played soccer with a cat toy; the older cats went off for their morning baths. The humans did our own scurrying as we got out the door for the day.

We were in the midst of true Iowa January cold. I thought maybe the overnight lows had driven the mouse inside. Given the mouse to feline ratio, I didn’t think he’d be there long. I certainly didn’t expect to see him again. But five days later as fog moved in and pushed the cold out, there he was at the top of the wall again.

I believe that the natural world sends us messages, if we’re willing to listen. Poet Carl Sandburg wrote about fog:

The fog comes

on little cat feet.

It sits looking

over harbor and city

on silent haunches

and then moves on.

Each year there seems to be dense fog in January, a reminder to look carefully, just at what you can see. Wait to consider the big picture until the fog lifts.

I looked up mouse totem. Mouse’s message is similar to fog. Metaphysical author Ted Andrews tells us what it means when a mouse shows up in your life:

… it’s either time to pay attention to details, or an indication that you cannot see the forest for the trees.… Mouse medicine can show you how to focus and pay attention to detail. It can show you how to attain the big things by working on the little things. Whenever mouse shows up there are lessons associated with attention.

Maybe the fog came in on little mouse feet or my mouse disappeared in a shroud of fog. Both mouse and fog are shape-shifters, agile and light. The mouse scurries with agility and has a keen ability to hear, but can only clearly see what directly in front of him.

Okay. Message received. Take a tighter focus, dwell in the details. Reimagine January as a transitional month, allowing the whole uneven year that was 2012 to be wrung out. Attend to the details and work slowly toward more organization of house, work and family—a whole month like that day after a vacation when you unpack and do laundry and consider the mail that has mounted up while you’ve been gone.

I may not yet have attended to all of the details nor gained the organization of home, studio and laptop that I should like, but rethinking January’s meaning made the wintry month a lot easier. New Year’s Day was not a resolution-centered beginning, but a buffer through which to move toward a life more squared away.

In spite of a day when the cats seemed nearly organized into a hunt that lasted into the evening, the mouse continues to make fleeting appearances.

No, CharCoal, not that mouse, the real one please!

No, CharCoal, not that mouse, the real one please!

The fog, though, lifted after two days and the full January moon made lacework in the sky. Now January has waned as well and with the new moon arrived the Chinese New Year on February 10. It’s another gift—natural world meets energy world in celebration. The calendar turn moved us into the Year of the Water Snake—a watchful energy. A snake coils and waits until the moment is right. I’m a Wood Snake, myself, and reading about the snake year I’m learning it’s a whole year of rebuilding, working on infrastructure, focusing on detail, and moving forward. Progress may be slow, because of attention to specifics, but it will be constant and goal-oriented. These are appealing forecasts to me—more time to bring mental focus and adventurous spirit to the journey ahead. More time for the snake to watch and strike when the opportunity is right. More time to allow for events to unfold and evolve rather than pushing or forcing into the future. But I’m a little restive about how much more time it’s going to take those cats to eradicate the mouse from the house.

Happy Chinese New Year. Happy Snow Moon. Wishing you light, joy, and an early spring, just as the groundhog predicted. Thanks for joining me, xoR

Overneath It All 2012

What happens when a robin breaks her wing?

The chiropractor told me on my first visit that my shoulder is “acute.” The tightness and stress in my neck, rhomboids, and all manner of tiny muscles that feed into the inners workings of my shoulder plus overuse just before Thanksgiving caused tear-inducing pain. I think of myself as a pain wimp, but according to my doc the shoulder pain I’ve been living with on and off since February would have sent a lot of people over the edge long ago.

Maybe it’s my yoga practice. A couple of years ago I was in a workshop with Doug Swenson and he was answering a question from a participant. She said something like, “I can’t do it on that side, that’s my bad leg.” Doug, small, wiry and strong, shot back, “Then, that’s your teacher leg.”

Our aches and pains do teach us volumes, about what it is to be human and fragile and temporary. That they are object lessons in the making doesn’t make them easier to bear. The pain is one thing; the blues that go with them are quite another.

It’s been a year of aches and pains for me, most of them emotional or energetic. This current shoulder pain aside, my problems are first world problems. In the plus column, I am fed and clothed, I have a roof and a job (well, several), my children are happy, learning and thriving.

Still, pondering the year here at Overneath It All and thinking about writing a review post that might just sound a little like a holiday letter, I sat one recent morning and considered the highs and lows of the year. My word cloud of the 100 most-repeated words in my blog is revealing. I’ve written a lot about my children, about writing, about yoga. No surprise there. I’ve written, apparently, the word “like” many, many times, although I wonder about this because I’m not, like, you know, given to Valley-girl speak. That the word “writing” sits at the foot of it all, a solid foundation, makes my eyes grow wide and I smile. I’ve also written quite a bit about Menards, apparently, and my bank statements confirm I go there to spend money second only to Trader Joe’s on Tuesday mornings.

"Writing," my foundation and what I reach for. It, too, is overneath it all.

“Writing,” my foundation and what I reach for. It, too, is overneath it all.

I feel as though the cloud is incomplete. It doesn’t include the amazing friendships I’ve forged and deepened this year. It doesn’t make mention of a single martini, although I’ve enjoyed more than a few. It doesn’t update the ongoing stories blog posts have touched upon, nor does it project harbingers of what comes next. But it’s a picture of some of it, a snapshot, a place to begin.

At the end of December 2011, I wrote about my visualizations for 2012: This year I’ll be visualizing that published book, more yoga, more writing, happy, growing, engaged children, and yes, more martinis or cups of tea or delicious bites of chocolate, so long as there are friends to enjoy them with. I realized a part or all of these visualizations, although I’ve made less progress on my book than I’d like. And the “growing” part, if you read my last post about Thirteen you already know, has hit a bit of a roadblock. But excellent doctors are working on that. In April I wrote about wishes, specifically the wish for more time. In May I mentioned the garden, rich with sweet snap pea plants. That garden delivered many peas but little else as first weeds and then unbelievable heat took over this summer. I wrote more than once about my car—somehow it continues to chug forward and hold together in spite of itself (knock wood). I mentioned a list of things to do, written when I was five years younger than I am now. One of the undone items I took to heart this fall, and I’m 17 pounds lighter than I was when I wrote that entry. I wrote about the new kittens who are thriving and keep the house alive well past bedtime. For the full blue moon in August, I wrote a line that—and this was a first—a reader actually, kindly, quoted back to me: Breath by breath I rescue myself.

That’s some of what I’ve done this year. I’ve also cried, screamed to release pent-up frustrations while driving, downloaded an inordinate amount of emotional crap to friends who were kind enough to listen, and thumped my pillow more than a few times. I’ve dovetailed alternately between feeling like I was failing whatever test the Universe was hurling my way and feeling like I couldn’t get a break.

And then, the same week that Ten was on stage dancing the Nutcracker role she was destined for, the Party Girl wearing a green dress, I found myself with a sick child (Thirteen), a broken wing and jury duty.

But instead of making everything worse, somehow sitting in a room with a group of randomly selected strangers offered the onset of healing. Like a lingering body pain that teaches us to surrender, rest, and release superhuman expectations of ourselves, jury duty—where this time I did not serve—reminded me to let go, accept what is, and be a little more patient. My reward included completing my civic duty with little overall interruption to my parenting duties and clarity.

The metaphor isn’t hard. We shoulder the world, stand shoulder to shoulder with friends, cry on someone’s shoulder. Shoulder pain refers emotional stresses, burdens in our lives we somehow can’t address or resolve. My shoulder has hurt all through this year and its challenges. It got precipitously worse when I overused it physically, but that corresponded with a particularly heavy moment in my heart. It’s getting better, slowly, with physical care from my talented chiropractor. But I won’t pretend for a moment that it isn’t getting better because when I walked out of jury duty after the second day, I recognized the gift of space—I have space to move, space to manage my own schedule and thoughts, space to parent in, space in my heart, and progressively more space in my shoulder joint. My studio is a welcoming space where I love to work and people arrive every day to further their practice. My home is an evolving space that offers shelter and solace. My yoga creates interior space, my words connective space, my friendships loving space. And 2013? It’s the space of a whole new year, one where I shift beyond the need for rescue and into a larger frontier.

Happy Holidays and thank you for spending this year with Thirteen & Ten & poses & prose & me—I’m giving myself a mini-break from posting. See you around the new moon in January 2013. Much, much, much, much love, Rxo

Paper Chase

Do I need this list?

Packing for a trip I pull a used 4×5 spiral notebook off of my bookshelf for note taking. There’s a drawing on the first page by Ten when she was no more than five. It shows two female stick figures, one labeled M and one labeled L. In her sprawling handwriting she has written across the top, without any regard for margins, her full name running right into mine. Then it reads “I love you,” twice.

Much as I like a clear field and had planned to ghost the entire contents of the notebook, I am not giving up this drawing. I can date the drawing based on the material that follows—the next page an old to-do list, some items completed, some long since not important. There are several more and after them notes from a yoga workshop I attended that I peruse but quickly decide I no longer need. Preserving Ten’s early work, I carefully remove pages and drop them into the recycling bin.

The next page has outdated notes for my novel. Were my book not printed and sitting near me on my desk awaiting next steps, I might be tempted to keep these. Instead their irrelevance makes me smile—the characters names have changed and I have long since, as I directed myself in the notes, made one of the characters more lively. This list not only is no longer relevant, the items on it are finished. I’m tempted to take a pen and line out all of the to-done items, but instead I begin to rip out these pages and file them one by one in the recycle bin.

I slow my breathing as I consider the last page of novel notes. There’s a line separating my creative jottings from the rest of the page, a list. I read the title: 5 years – (start with 42, ½ year grace period).

When I’m at a crossroads or stuck, this is what I do. I make a list of where I want to be in five years. It worked beautifully for me once in my early twenties—I don’t know that I’ve ever made it happen as successfully since, but since I am a list maker, this strategy for sorting out my brain appeals to me.

The list that follows on the page after the five-year list describes my “Perfect” town. These are the documents of a woman who was looking for opportunities to change her life.

I’ll turn that 47 this month, my birthday arriving with the forward cusp of Virgo in a few weeks and just in advance of August’s blue moon. My peeps have traveled the five years with me, and their decent foundation in school and community feels like a triumph. I’m still living in the house that the list suggests I’d like “less” of. I have opened a “’room’ of my own, something that’s mine,” and I work in the margins of time on my creative life: the novel finished, the blog now well into its second year.

The list that pulled me back to the place I was before even as it underscored how far I’ve come.

What list of resolutions doesn’t include something about being thinner or leaping onto the fitness path more or eating better? But did the 41½-year-old me know I would undergo major surgery, recover and move so entirely into my yoga practice, teaching and opening a studio? Would she see me as “svelt (sic) & healthy” today? Well, the current me shrugs, there is always room for improvement.

My professional life has definitely coalesced; although I still divide my time among writing, editing, and yoga, more and more these are interconnected circles. It is largely the thinking on this list that launched me toward Taos the summer I turned 42, the summer I first met Jeffrey Davis and experienced Yoga as Muse. I feel the glimmer of energy of all that has come together in writing and yoga in the tiny seed planted by this list.

Remarkably, this list overall is still a comfortable fit. For some items, more of precisely the same please. For others, there’s updating to be done. The central tenant stands—my list is about living a life that looks on paper not unlike the one I am now living. I know there are others, in the notebooks that litter the shelves and the electronic files I tuck away on my hard drive. I find such lists when I clean out drawers, letterboxes, and caches—whether computer files or folders full of written drafts. My favorites are the missives some younger me wrote to be discovered, notes in a cookbook and reminders of things I knew to be important long ago.

The shamans teach us to dance with every part of the soul. More simply, Mitch Applebom wrote, in Tuesdays with Morrie, “Inside I’m every age I’ll ever be.” Each time I come across a document like this list, it reads as a tiny part of my soul. This one reflects a night at my desk five and a half years ago when I was feeling less than independent and in need of a professional life. What I wrote then looked good on paper. I’m mindful that in building this life, I’ve let some things go untended, left some parts of me behind. I prune and shape, grow and support the life that I am composing. And as I sit here swirling with that other me, that earlier dancer, I think about the one I shall be, the woman I will be when rising 52, five years from now. I think maybe I’ll write a new list in the little notebook and put it back on the shelf of my office, a time capsule of my soul for a later me to live toward.

The first August full moon is gorgeous and glimmering in the sky above. As ever, always, thank you for going on this journey with me. Happy August, Rxo

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