Saturday, November 22, 2014

The best attitude towards gratitude? Be thankful for what you don't have

Gratitude is an attitude and the week of Thanksgiving always serves as a reminder for us to be thankful. Watching an episode of “Extreme Couponers Black Friday Edition,” last night reminded me however, that most of us are still never satisfied with all that we have. On this reality show I watched as women who were, most likely counting their blessings the day before, stood in line shoulder to shoulder at big box retailers counting their money to shell out on things. Some were shopping for needy families which is a wonderful idea but others simply couldn’t pass up buying $100 worth of leggings and crock pots so they could get a free coin purse (true story). So what exactly are we thankful for? How does gratitude shape our attitude? I’ve had an exceptional year as I know many of my friends have filled with loss and gain, tears and adventures and I have to say when it comes down to it everything that happened to me this year happened for me.

I’m grateful for pain as a teacher. Without tears I wouldn’t know what it means to smile. I’m grateful for the loss of friends. People I would have never evicted from my life if the universe hadn’t shifted for me. I’m grateful for losing my house in the decision to sell it so I could know what having a home truly means. I’m thankful I can look back on my old house with fondness and even drive by there now and again when I feel nostalgic. I’m grateful for coming close to losing my job so that I can assess if flying is truly what I want to do or it’s just a bookmark before the next chapter. I’m thankful for when my daughter is sick so I can appreciate having a healthy child 99% of the time. I’m grateful for the cracks that show up in my marriage and getting a tiny peek into what life would be life without my husband. I’m thankful for the fights I have with my family because at least I have a family I can communicate with even if we don’t always agree. The scratches in my furniture and hair on the floor remind me how thankful I am for my pets even if I KNOW they love me more than I could ever love them.

I’m grateful for my friends who have become mothers themselves this year for the first or second time. I am happy to see their love grow as much as I am the dark circles under their sleepless eyes. I’m grateful they have the opportunity to have stretch marks and baby weight and months of abstaining from alcohol to breast feed because being a mother is a job the universe doesn’t grant everyone. I’m grateful for my friends who have gone through sickness this year so they can know what it’s like to be surrounded by love and support. I’m thankful for them to find their strength in a dark time in their lives and a voice for the illnesses they battle. When you know someone who has a parent, child or is fighting themselves it puts life in perspective on what truly matters in this world. I’m grateful for my friends who don’t keep in touch because it reminds me communication works both ways and I need to put in more effort.

I could say I’m grateful for my own health and all the things I have but in truth it’s the times I’ve gone without that have truly made me thankful. A sore throat gives me gratitude for the days I’m well and a bank account that’s lacking reminds me to enjoy the times I can buy a coffee without checking my balance first. Gratitude to me isn’t an attitude of relishing in my abundance it’s about the attitude I have when the universe smacks me down. How I get up from a fall teaches me more of a lesson than being untouchable on top. We can all be grateful for what we have…it’s harder to be thankful for what we do not.

So thank you pain for being a teacher. For the tears and the sorrow this year. Thank you work for making me fly on weekends so I know what it is to enjoy my family time. Thank you Charlotte for being difficult some days so I can look at you when you’re finally asleep with appreciation. Thank you opportunities that were never handed to me so I could make my own. My attitude has greatly shifted this year from one of entitlement to one of working hard to have what I need in love, jobs, yoga, friendships and family. It’s good to have nothing, to start over. To borrow from Brue Lee, ““Emptiness is the starting point. — In order to taste my cup of water you must first empty your cup. My friend, drop all your preconceived and fixed ideas and be neutral. Do you know why this cup is useful? Because it is empty.”

Drop everything. Let life fill you up. Be grateful for an empty cup and see what life puts in there for you…and when it gets full? Dump it out and start over.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Just be in it

The other night I attended a yoga class – the first I’ve been to in a while. You’d think being a yoga instructor I’d be class all the time but I often spend more time taking care of everyone else over myself. Now that I don’t have a lot of free time to dedicate to my practice I really cherish every moment. I listen to what the teacher has to say and I enjoy every moment on my mat. My instructor was teaching back bends amidst a complex flow and midway through the class she said something that has stuck with me. “Don’t fight it, just be in it.”

Stop fighting it. I’ve been applying these words to my life off the mat currently although it’s not easy. When I think back on how I arrived at my current position in life the process of standing in what’s difficult has been all that’s ever gotten my through. When I arrived in Denver in May 2005 my life was a mess. A few months prior the guy I had been dating for two years broke up with me – a humbling experience everyone should live through at least once. Not soon after my breakup I was fired from my job – another life lesson I believe a person needs to go through - which was complicated by the fact I’d just leased an apartment. When I lost these things I had nothing left to loose which opened me up to the opportunity to go to flight attendant training in Salt Lake City. The day I was leaving for training a dump truck driver re-ended me at a red light and my recently purchased vehicle was totaled (this is not a life changing event I recommend). What I thought was important at the age of 25 were things that could all be replaced and by losing what I had I was open to gaining so much more.

By the time I had lost my job I had stopped fighting which made losing my car and then leaving my whole life in Alabama behind easier. I was no longer trying to swim upstream and against the currents of the universe I was letting it take me where it may and trusting I wouldn’t drown. Not fighting doesn’t mean you are apathetic – indeed it’s the complete opposite. Being in the situations life gives you instead of running from or numbing the experience gives one total clarity. In yoga when you stand in a pose instead of fighting the pose you start to transcend the asana. You start to allow yourself to feel the tightness of your hip flexors or the pain in the arches of your feet and the freedom of your chest cracking wide open. You don’t let go, you let what’s happening take place and realize the sensation won’t be forever. Ever have a cavity filled at the dentist? Where you wanted to jump out of the chair and run but you knew you couldn’t because the place where there was decay wouldn’t be filled? So you sit still and wait until you’re free again knowing the pain of not going through the journey would be a lot worse than what you’re currently enduring.

In trying to live my yoga every day I’ve realized there are a lot of aspects in my life lately where I’ve had to just be in it and stop fighting. Friendships have dissolved because I’ve stopped fighting with the belief that friendships should be easy. I have one friend I haven’t seen since Charlotte was six weeks old and yet we talk on the phone all the time like there’s no distance between us. Another has offered unwavering support based on the fact that there’s nothing I can do in her eyes that’s so awful we couldn’t be friends. Work is work and life is work so friendships should add to the quality of your existence. I stand in my relationships and I’m learning to stop fighting people because there’s no benefit to this. On my mat when I fight to stay in a pose I usually end up hurt but when I move with grace I can open to it.

Everything I thought I had lost when I moved to Denver came back to me in a new form. What I had before I struggled to have and I fought to keep. When this happens, the universe knows we are only harming ourselves and seems to step in and do the work for us. I have started to think of my life in the abstract terms of standing on the bow of a ship. Sometimes the water is smooth and the skies are clear and the sun warms me and I’m comfortable. Other times there’s hurricane force winds and waves and water trying to knock me down. If I let go, I’ll fall overboard and drown but if I stand in the seat of uncomfortable I’ll soon be free. As my yoga teacher reminded me during my practice, it’s better to stop struggling and see what happens then abandon hope all together. Let me tell you it isn’t easy to stand on the bow of that ship….but that’s where the best views are along the way.

danurasana - a pose dedicated to letting go of the struggle and being free

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

New Beginnings

Moving has to be one of the most stressful times in a person’s life. When I first moved to Colorado I had three suitcases and that was all. I slept on an air mattress in a two bedroom apartment I shared with three other girls with sheets from Wal-Mart. Almost ten years later I’ve moved nine times and accumulated a husband, daughter, dog and cat along with various other material possessions. I hate moving with a passion because it involves asking others for help and I’m always embarrassed having someone else see how much I have. In February we sold our home and moved into a rental and I’m happy to report after 7 offers, hundreds of houses seen and a few tears we closed and moved on to our newest endeavor. We hired movers, we threw away what didn’t serve us and we said good-bye to city living to head back to the suburbs. I’ve finally emerged from the endless tedious task of unpacking, painting and decorating to finally sit and enjoy our new home.

Moving with a child is an experience like no other. Not only do you have another person’s stuff to move and sort through but you also have someone who’s constantly in your way needing attention. This house we bought wasn’t like our previous “turn-key” purchase so we needed to do work on it before we moved in. Painting, flooring, carpeting – all these tasks we hired professionals to take care of but other projects we tackled ourselves. The house was not up to code and working in a construction zone with a toddler is a less than ideal way to spend a Saturday. There were many moments where I’d play entertainer while my husband endeavored to make the house safe. We painted and got paint on all of us in the process (even the dog). We ate apples from the apple tree in the back yard. We winced every time Charlotte got too near the stairs begging her not to fall down them and we took turns playing referee while moving – intercepting Charlotte when she got near the road. She slept in a pack in play in the kitchen while we painted upstairs and we all had a few nights in the basement freezing with open windows willing the polyurethane on the floors upstairs to dry faster. This move and renovation has been both chaotic and a test of our strength and love as a family. To commit to buy a house with someone is one choice…to trust them taking down dry wall is a leap of faith. Picking out paint, questioning each other’s abilities as do-it-yourselfers and working hard so you don’t go in debt too much for it all…well that’s the stuff that can pave the road to divorce.

Through it all though my main concern was my daughter. I worried for her because we weren’t devoting the time to her that we normally would. Naps were interrupted for trips to the hardware store and the pack and play was used on more than one occasion to contain her while we worked. At 18 months I know she won’t remember this time in her life but its heart breaking to have someone want you to hold them when you can’t at the moment. I felt I was making a wonderful home but at the expense of being a lousy mother and that didn’t sit well with me. It was bad enough we didn’t even have a microwave to warm her milk in the morning or a stove to cook her eggs…she didn’t need to miss out on being hugged and loved too.

I was reminded by someone, in my anguish about this conundrum, that what I’m doing now IS important. I’m making my daughter a home, a safe place she can grow up in where she’ll have wonderful memories. The house she was brought home from the hospital too will never be on her horizon and she’ll only see pictures of herself celebrating her first birthday in the rental but this, this house will be her home for (hopefully) most of her life. She will have birthday’s here and celebrate Christmas, bring friends over and spend summers laying on our deck. When I was little I can remember moving exactly once (although I know it was actually twice) and I hope that’s the same for my daughter. She will have plenty of time in her adult life to pack and unpack, throw away and acquire and deal with landlords and roommates but for now she can be comfortable in one spot.

In life I realize there are many events that occur that steal our time. Perhaps it’s a new job, a new love, a training or move. These life changing events may give us a chance to begin again or venture down a new path but the consequence is we don’t always have time for everything else in life we enjoy or love. What I find myself trying to remind my husband (and me) is that it isn’t forever. This stage, this growth, this moving forward and on – it isn’t forever. In the grand scheme of life this move is a tiny pin dot on my life map. Charlotte won’t remember and in a few years neither will I. You never do remember the moment’s in-between, the hard stuff, the uphill climb, the constant hitting of the pavement. You remember the view from the finish line, the summit of the mountain, the ease at which life is after. Tornados will come into your life and they will rock your world and leave a mess in its wake but you’ll pick up what you want and move forward. I won’t say enjoy the ride because sometimes you won’t. Sometimes it will be that roller coaster that you keep your eyes closed on the whole time until it’s over because you can’t stand where you are. And that’s OK my friends. Because at some point you’ll open your eyes and begin again.

Here’s to new beginnings.