A Confession.

I have a confession to make. I’ve been hiding the fact that I am a fraud. I have been trying to write this blog about self care and healing, and yet for many months now I haven’t doing either of those things. I haven’t been able to write because I’ve been busy being a fraud. I haven’t been working out. No yoga, except for a little at home that was prescribed by my movement therapist. He was so fantastic that I just couldn’t go back for more sessions, because I felt like I was failing him and wasting his time. No kettlebells, even though I had a regular thing going for several months and began to feel stronger. No more than five or six hours of sleep per night. My headaches and nightmares are coming back with the vengeance of a toddler given the wrong color cup. Breakfast on more than one occasion has been a handful (or two) of chocolate covered almonds sprinkled with sea salt and turbinado sugar. Many days I eat more pasta than vegetables. A glass (or three) of dry, red wine quiets the anxiety in my head at night. I stay up until 2am watching Seth Meyers, Anderson Cooper, Stephen Colbert, and Rachel Maddow on YouTube and feel sick about the world my children will inhabit. I am stressed, sad, and certainly not taking care of myself. I have headaches and body aches. I have gained obvious weight. My back injury has flared up more than usual. I’m tired all the time and snap at my children. It doesn’t bode well for that long, horizontal wrinkle across my forehead. I am failing myself and wasting my time. These feel like the toughest bad habits to break.

I am embarrassed to come here and write under the heading To Bounce Not Break, because so often I feel broken. I am losing my body as well as my mind. I’m missing time with my children and holding onto negativity. I have been attempting to escape and ignore myself with food and wine and mindless, endless television. I have been pushing through the days with my head down, afraid to look up and see the world I am in. I have been afraid to try, feeling as if I am so low that I cannot get back up. I am ashamed and alone, with so much work ahead of me. I am back at the bottom and must take those first steps yet again.

Grieving.

When my mother’s husband died, it was an average day. A warm breeze, blue sky, scrambled eggs for breakfast sort of day. After this breakfast, Lee turned pale. He had trouble breathing. And then the chest pain began. Momma gave him an aspirin and called 911. The ambulance came on the country roads, past cornfields and vineyards. Not fast enough, but she didn’t know that then. She packed him clean underwear and fresh, comfortable clothes, expecting the uncomfortable recovery and days of bland hospital meals on covered plastic trays. Lee never liked spicy food anyway, but it wouldn’t be like their suppers at home together. “Just come sit by me,” he’d often say after a meal from his spot on the big sofa as he flipped through the channels looking for a movie to watch. He would say,“It was a long day today,” and take her hand in his.

She texted me after she called 911 to say she was leaving for the hospital, to follow the ambulance because they wouldn’t let her ride along. He was still alive in the ambulance. Those precious minutes.

In Portland, my phone rang just a few hours later. I was so relieved when I answered and heard her soft, familiar laugh. Lee had bought her first smart phone for Mother’s Day, after she left her faithful, old phone on the hood of the car and driven off. She had called me accidentally. I heard the background noise for several seconds before she laughed. The laugh brought me a wave of relief. He must be okay.

“Momma?”

“Mom, it’s me. I’m here. Can you hear me?”

“Momma?”

After several seconds of silence, enough for a long breath in and time to hold it before letting it out slowly, I heard the sound again. It was not the laughter of relief or the wonderful agony of knowing the loved one will be okay after something horrible has happened. It was a long, drawn out sob. A moaning cry of grief so deep that it lingered, and continued, and seemed endless. It was a sound of such pain and disbelief. I stayed on the line, listening to my mother wail and to the mumble of the doctor in the background. I heard him tell her that Lee’s heart just didn’t make it through the procedure. They had tried to save him. They tried to look with a tiny camera.

I will never forget that sound, the sound of my mother’s grief. Several minutes went by and she just couldn’t stop. I sat on the kitchen step stool with one hand holding my phone, the other stuck to my heart, three time zones away, unable to do anything to help or make this not be happening, while my children played with legos in the living room. The sound of their chatter filled one ear, while the sound of her despair and disbelief filled the other.

“Do you want me to help you call someone?” a woman’s voice in the background asked her. My mother mumbled something incoherent, and the phone shuffled. Her breath came louder and closer to me.

“Momma, I’m here. I’m here.” I repeated, because in that moment there was nothing else I could say.

“He’s gone.” Her voice was barely a whisper. “He’s gone.”

Self Care and Coffee.

I don’t often get time alone. I stopped in the cafe for coffee and a sandwich. I am a pseudo-single mama, stuck in marital separation limbo. Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” was playing, reminding me that long ago I was a kid. My daughter looks like me in the 80’s. Apparently neon and ruffled skirts are back.

I went into the cafe stressed and tired, slightly sick, deepening the horizontal line I’ve been etching into my forehead. One might think a mama out alone could order a sandwich and coffee and eat in peace, but I made my own internal noise.

There was an old woman at the table across from me, with perfectly round, fluffy white hair. She was wispy like a wishing dandelion, quietly sipping coffee from a chunky white mug. She had passed the worrying years, while I am in them, trying to keep a clean home and plan meals, worrying about money, avoiding Pinterest because it makes me feel less than, hoping my children are happy, feel loved, sleep enough, get time to play, dig in the dirt, run in the grass, eat enough vegetables, and know that I love them until the stars turn to fish, even though I feel like I’m screwing it up nearly every day. Just drink the damn coffee, mama, I told myself.

My children want their dad to live with us in our house again. They don’t understand that sometimes parents need a vacation from one another and need space.

The coffee was supposed to be relaxing. Self care. But it is not self care to sit quietly and mentally beat up one’s self. The dandelion lady was gone. A fresh-faced, blonde haired tween in skinny jeans and Ugg boots took her place, coffee in one hand while the other picked an enormous muffin apart into manageable chunks. She licked her fingers between bites and said “like” every ten seconds. She was happy and talked with sticky muffin hands. I am somewhere between the muffin girl and the dandelion lady. My coffee got cold.

Bikram for Christmas.

Merry Christmas to me! New owners renovated the old studio and brought bikram back to my neighborhood. It was even hotter than before, as two giant humidifiers cranked out billowing steam in the cedar paneled room this morning. The space feels great. Lighter. I should love it, but I do miss the old teachers. None of them are here. It feels like starting over.

 

I Did Cold Yoga. Slow Yoga.

I’ve been feeling lost since my beloved bikram studio closed. I cannot use hot yoga towels for anything other than hot yoga, damn it! And I have two rolled up at home eyeing me, clean, ready to go, and silently shouting, “Use me!”

Alas. No more bikram for this mama. For now. I had a choice. I knew I could easily weep, gnash my teeth, and rend my shorty shorts, but I decided instead to try a yoga studio quite close to my house. But it was regular yoga. Flowing yoga. Probably with silk eye pillows and sun salutations. Likely with music and poses that seemed more like a soft dance than a workout. I wanted to sweat. I wanted to work. I wanted to push and growl at myself in the mirror and flex. Yet the class descriptions online listed “Yoga for Athletes”, so I figured I’d give it a go and bought a Groupon for an unlimited week.

Mistake number one: I must have mixed up the calendar. I showed up expecting to find Yoga for Athletes and found myself right on time for Restorative Yoga instead. The teacher was gracious. The space was cold and dark. Several students were already on mats, each with at least two Mexican blankets, foam blocks, round bolsters, and a long cotton strap. One student was wearing a cardigan. Oh Toto, we’re not in bikram anymore. We stayed in each pose, completely supported by the blocks and bolsters, for several minutes. No need for the muscles to do anything. Relax, muscles.

Mistake number two: I wore bikram clothing to cold yoga in December. When I should have been breathing and otherwise restoring myself, I spent my time envious of the girl next to me who knew enough to wear sweatpants, wiggling my cold toes, and making sure the blankets were tightly tucked around me.

Inwardly I dubbed the class “Sleeping in Yoga Poses”. The studio was clean and well appointed. The teacher and students were welcoming and kind. But I have been using yoga to figure out my life, or to escape it. I have been searching for answers. I need yoga to be a strong presence at a time in my life when I don’t feel strong. I need it to move through me and make me change. This particular style wasn’t for me.

My husband rents a little house nearby so he can still see the kids. They are happy and loved, but I know they feel the effects of the separation. He travels for work, and they miss him so. As much as I need restoration, I think I must do it the hard way.

 

 

 

My First Double.

When in doubt, do yoga.

Today was my only day with childcare until next Saturday, so I used my time to complete my first double. Three hours of bikram today, and it was so good. I didn’t relax during the first class, but I also made sure I didn’t overextend myself. Due to scheduling, there weren’t two classes back to back, so I went home, showered, washed down a little protein with a ton of water, waited, and then came back for round two ready to sweat again. I was tired but energized, able to stretch more and go further than ever. I began already warmed up, when usually it takes me several poses to get there. I felt so strong all the way to the end. If you haven’t yet completed a double class, you must try it.