An Open Letter To Winter

Dear Winter,
It’s over.  I’m breaking up with you.  I thought I could build a relationship when you first came on the scene back in November, but now I see that our core values simply do not align.

You promised long days and nights of introspection, deep couches, cozy fires, red wine and chocolate.  You said I wouldn’t miss the outdoors; wouldn’t miss my friends.  But you were wrong.  I have discovered that I don’t need cold and blustery to be introspective.  I have discovered that a swaying hammock under a shady tree is far better for me than a deep couch.  If I want a fire, I can light the chiminea as dusk falls, and sip a little Riesling as I scan the sky for the first star.

You said it wouldn’t be so bad, but it is.  I have a bad case of the Uglies. My skin feels 3 times too small for my face, my eczemic ears itch non-stop no matter how much I swab them with oil.  The humidifiers run day and night but make no dent in the dry heated air of the house.  It takes me 5 minutes to gear up for any foray into the outdoors: coat, hat, scarf, gloves, boots, chapstick, tissues.  The dog finds frozen muffins on campus and tries to swallow them whole.  I spend the whole walk calculating how far I am from home rather than enjoying the day.

Every morning I twist the slats of the blinds open and look out into another gray day.  It’s the same every day.  The birds come to the feeder, but they do not sing.  They just eat.  Their life, like mine, is a matter of survival, not joy.
I am sick of you, Winter.  You are an owl and I am a lark.  Our biorhythms do not match. I am sick of soups and stews and root vegetables.  I want a crunchy salad of fresh greens.  I want to see a perfect cherry tomato fresh-picked, gleaming in a pool of viniagrette on a salad.  I want to end the day eating tapas on the deck, sipping wine, wearing shorts.  I am sick, sick, sick of shoes.  And more than shoes, I am sick of socks.

You said I could sit and read all day without the siren song of the garden and its endless demands for weeding and watering, but I need to do those things.  I find that after a few hours of reading and writing I need an active diversion.  But you make it so uncomfortable to be outside.  All you give me is snow to shovel.  It was cute the first few times, but now it’s not cute any more.  It’s boring and uncomfortable and annoying.  As are you.  We don’t fit.

I love long sunny days, hot sidewalks, the sounds of birds, the softness of an evening walk.  I love to lie on the beach, or walk the shore in the early morning and hear the waves.  I miss an ice cream cone after a long day working in the yard.  I miss flowers–oh! how I miss flowers!  And hummingbirds, and being able to walk the yard each morning with my coffee and see what has bloomed overnight, what is new.

I want to put the space heaters away, ditch the humidifiers, eat watermelon, itch a mosquito bite, float around in the kayak, read in the Lafuma chair.
I am tired of armoring against you, Winter.  I am tired of your moodiness, your grumpiness, your bad humor.  I don’t appreciate your sense of humor.  I don’t like your sloth and torpor.  I don’t like how you make me want to put on my pajamas at 4:30 in the afternoon and never get out of them until noon the next day.  I hate how you make me watch the Weather Channel every time I want to do something.

Tomorrow is February 1st.  I have to put up with you for at least 2 more months and then I am free of your bullshit. I don’t know how I am going to  to endure you for even these next few months, I really don’t.  I really hate you, and I hate the person I am when I am with you. You bring out the worst in me.  All I want to do is complain, and every time I open my mouth to do so, I have to check myself because complaining goes against all my core values; it’s just not ME.

You have made me into something I am not.  I have put up with your bullshit for too long and I really can’t do this another year, Winter.  I will be finished with you sooner rather than later, I know, but then you will try to ingratiate yourself into my life again next year, and I will probably be forced to to take you in, but god, I will not want to.  We need to find an amicable way to separate, Winter.  I cannot change you, and you cannot change me, I get that.  But I really need you out of my life.  No true happiness is possible for me until you’re gone.

Regards,

Kath

Robbed

My studio got robbed on Friday night during the Happy Hour yoga class. The thieves took about $1300.00 in cash and checks.

I feel nauseous as I write this. And stupid for leaving that little green purse (not a bank bag) with my month’s income on my desk, but I was teaching class in the next room!

After class ended, I opened the studio door and ran smack into 2 teen-aged boys in the hallway.

I asked them if they needed help; were they looking for somebody in the yoga class? They said they were looking for the yoga class. I said it was over. Did they want some information about future classes?

All the time I was talking to them, I knew what they were doing because the hallway reeked of cigarette smoke: They had been using the hall bathroom to smoke. It’s not the first time I have smelled cigarette and marijuana smoke in the hall.  I know kids use that bathroom sometimes.  Lately, not so much though.

I started to talk to them, I asked them their names, introduced myself, shook their hands, gave them a January schedule and then they left out the back door. I stayed another hour, talking with Brenna and Fred.

After Brenna and Fred left, I closed up the studio, went to my desk, picked up my money purse and it felt light. It was not only “light” it was “empty.” Those asshole kids stole my money.

As I said, it was about $1300 in cash and checks. I was instantly nauseous. I felt afraid; I felt like crying, but no tears fell. I repeated the mantra: No! No! No!  (fyi: It did not help.)

I headed for the police station.  On my way out, though, I noticed Bob, my landlord, working late in his office. I tapped on his window, he let me in, and together we called the cops, and Bob spent a lot of time on the phone talking to his kids and we got some really good info on these kids.  I remembered the name of one of them, and I could certainly ID them because I had talked to them for quite a while, even shook their hands for cryin’ out loud, while my money was in their pockets!!  (oh the irony).

We found them on the building security camera, but they had hoods up and were looking down so the cop couldn’t see their faces.  (Which is a real shame.) One of Bob’s kids saw the kid in Dollar General about a half hour after they would have left the building with a big wad of bills, and asked him about it.

The cop took all the info, but told me that if I get my money back at all, it will be a long process. If they catch them, they will be charged with a felony; they’ll have to be prosecuted, etc. etc. It sounded to me like I have a snowball’s chance.

So although I remain optimistic, because I just have to be, because that’s the way I roll, I also have to be prepared for the fact that it’s totally gone.

But, things could be a lot worse. I am grateful, actually. For one thing, this time I know who took the money. I don’t know their last names, but I could ID both of them, no problem.  Unlike the last time, when I was totally baffled and kept walking around asking: Who would rob me???? This time, I know who robbed me. Those 2 kids did.

They just got lucky. And it was just a piece of really bad luck on my part that those kids knew about that bathroom to smoke in, and then got curious and started walking around, found the lounge, snooped in the right place, found the money, pocketed it, and as they were leaving I opened the door and they had to go through that whole bullshit drama of, “Oh, we were looking for the yoga class.”

 

So now it is a few days out from the crashing mess of the robbery, and I was really hoping that the cops would have found those kids Friday night, and that they would have been busted and my money returned, but no.

I have been thinking a lot about it, as you might imagine.  I feel shame for letting this happen again. But I really wasn’t irresponsible this time. I did not leave obvious money like a bank bag, unattended.  I was in the next room, too. Within earshot of anyone coming up the stairs or through the door.  But they came in through the back door, and they were sneaking a smoke in the bathroom….

So, here are my “Learnings” and the ways I plan to make sure there isn’t a three-peat of this episode:

One thing I have learned is not to carry so much money around with me in the first place.  From now on, no more than $20 in small bills to make change. The fact that I had so much money in that little green purse to begin with makes me feel stupid and ashamed.

The back door is now locked. Edith took an allen wrench in there this morning and adjusted it so you will need a key to get in: no more easy entry for punks.

I have also ordered a keypad lock for the lounge.  Until it’s installed the lounge will be locked when I am not there.  Once the keypad is installed, I will give the code to all my students and they will be able to use the lounge whenever they want.   I will also lock the lounge during class from now on to safeguard the valuables of my students.

Here are my Gratitudes:

I am grateful that I am not hurt.  When I told Ira I was robbed, he visibly paled.  His first thought was that there was a “hold-up” of some sort.  When I explained the circumstances, he was relieved, naturally, but then went into a whole thing about that tragedy in AZ with that messed up kid, and how you never know about the mental stability of kids who would go into a place and take money like that.  It’s a whole different breed of human being who do things like that, he said.  They could be whacked out on drugs, or just mentally screwed up due to personal problems and hang-ups, so he was just happy that I wasn’t hurt.  I thought that was nice and kind of him.  So yeah.  No violence. Gratitude for that.

But far and away what I am the most grateful for is that none of the personal belongings of the people in my class were taken or touched.  No wallets, credit cards or cash were stolen.  For me, that would have been the ultimate nightmare, and the guilt I would have born would have totally crushed me.  Steal from me, fine, okay, but leave my people alone! I’ll take the hit, the loss of money.  It’s not really a problem.  It was a substantial hit, but I can pay my rent, everything is fine. But if my students had had their wallets stolen…. No.  That I could NOT have endured.

The other thing I am grateful for is that there was no physical damage to the room.  Kids can be really crazy and destructive just for kicks, but all these little douche bags were interested in was the money. They were sneaky, too.  I did not hear anyone moving around in that room, and that room is virtually the same room as the studio. The wall that separates the two rooms is just one piece of drywall, and I can hear a person practically breathing in the lounge, from the other side of that wall.  (Anyone who has practiced in my studio can attest to the audio porosity of that wall.)

Which brings me to the sheer audacity of them when they knew class was going on in the next room!  How easily they might have been caught!  And they were caught, just not red-handed.  Dammit.

And that, of course, is the current problem.  We saw them leave the building on the security camera, but they had hoods up and were looking down and the cop didn’t see their FACES.  This is really a pity because if the cop could have had a good look at a FACE, it would have made it tons easier to ID them and pick them up.

Now the only thing I have to hope for is that the cops have the skills, and the incentive, and interest to follow up on this.  And this is where hope sags.  I think they got away with it this time.  They spent the money, ditched the checks, and I think the game is over.  How can the cops pick them up when only I know what they look like? How can they prove they took my money?  It’s probably not gonna happen.

On Friday night, after a big glass of wine, I sat for a long time thinking the following thoughts:

I have such a good life.

I am healthy and happy and all the people I love and care about most in the world are pretty healthy and happy too.

It is really easy to be altruistic and optimistic and compassionate and loving and patient and forgiving when your life is running smoothly. But when something happens to ruin your “rainbows and unicorns” life, THAT’S the time when you REALLY get tested.

It almost doesn’t count if you can be patient and forgiving and compassionate in the easy times; it only really counts when you are faced with a shit storm.

So on Friday night, I said to my self, in effect, “Okay, Kath. Here it is.  Here is your current test.  And it’s not even that big of a one. It’s not a health crisis, or a problem with your child, or a death. It a theft of $1300.00. Now, what are you going to do?  How are you going to behave? Are you going to get angry? Are you going to feel self-pity?  Are you going to feel shame?  Are you going to be afraid? Are you going to close your open heart?  Are you going to become suspicious and cynical and vindictive? Are you going to worry, and wring your hands, and tell the story over and over to try to ellicit pity and commiseration from others? Are you going to pretend it doesn’t hurt, or make you feel fearful or anxious?

OR: Are you going to sit down and invite all your feelings of shame and fear and anger and anxiety to join you, to sit right next to you on the couch, *she pats the couch here* and allow them all to have their say, to take their best shot at you. You will not argue with them, you will not defend yourself, you will just hear them out. You will listen to them all; you will endure their attempts to defeat you.  You will take it. You will not flinch if they bare their fangs and growl, you will not cower if they try to kill you, you will stay put. You will hold your ground. You will not run. You will not distract yourself with food or alcohol or exercise or reading or talking. You will simply sit tight and watch the whole thing play out and you will allow yourself to feel the pain all the way through.  You will do this because you know, from all your reading, and your yoga practice, and your writing, that the only way out is through. You will sit and take it, and hear it, until it is all over.

And it will be over.  Because fear and anxiety and shame and regret and sorrow are like scary thunderstorms.  When you are in the middle of them, the downpour is so hard you can’t see a thing, you think that you are going to die, or drown, or get hit by lightning, but you know if you just stay and weather it out, eventually these storms will run out of juice, and break up, and move off, and the sun will shine again.

So that’s what I’ve been doing this weekend. I’ve been sitting in my Space Chair, making room for it all to be, and watching the storm crash and blow and pour, then die down, and then start up all over again. Over and over.

Today I will draft a letter to all the people who gave me money this month, particularly those who wrote checks that will go unaccounted for in their monthly bank statements because they are probably lying in a trash can or a dumpster somewhere.  I will apologize for not being a more careful steward of their hard-earned money, and promise that I will take better care of them in the future.

Then, I will take the next step forward.  Hopefully with more humility, and grace, and assuredly, with renewed gratitude.

How My Resolutions Advance My Pilgrimage

How is drinking more water going to advance me on my journey? The answer: My lack of sufficient hydration is starting to cause minor break-downs.  In a word, I itch.  I have to stop and itch.  My ears itch. My skin itches.  And every time I have to stop and itch, I have take my focus from the journey, to the itch.  More water = less itch.  Less itch = Westward Ho! the wagons!

Break a sweat everyday is really important for my mood, my sanity, my mental health.  It is also a great detoxifier, and it has the added benefit of making me stronger and fitter; but mostly I see a good sweat-producing workout everyday as keeping me feeling young and optimistic. It’s as simple as that. Everyday I have to pass The Wet Torso Test: when my torso feels wet to the touch, and my underwear is soaked, mission accomplished. And when I feel great, I get things done and I make things happen. And Making Things Happen is one of my key mantras for this year, too. So there’s that.

Meditate. This one is so that I don’t forget my place in the scheme of things. When I devote a few minutes (ideally 20) to being quiet and just listening to my inner talk and noticing what I think about without judging it, and then just listen to the traffic or to other sounds in the room for a while, all the snow in the snow globe settles down and I feel ready to approach the day with equanimity and balance and a sense of okay-ness.

My own sadhana. (sadhana means “spiritual practice.”) This keeps me in integrity. The fact is, I have a yoga studio. I teach people how to practice yoga. That’s a big part of who I am. So if I don’t practice, what right have I to teach other people? What right do I have to tell other people to practice every day? Plus, if I practice everyday I fill my cup. I have something to give to other people because I come to know what it means to practice. One of the things I learned about myself (here we go again with the “Know Thyself” rules) when I was sitting at Springwater is that I need a holy body practice. Running or working out doesn’t do it for me. I need yoga. I need a body practice that has no goal except self-exploration. Running and lifting weights are all burdened by goals about times and how much weight you can lift, or lose, etc, etc. Yoga CAN be about goals (how deeply can you backbend, can you get up into a headstand, etc.) but I don’t really care about that stuff. Yoga for me is about moving and watching the whole “mind” show. Listening to all the chatter about how I still can’t do this, or how my hammies are so tight, or maybe I should switch to Ashtanga or Bikram or Yin. And then just staying present to whatever I happen to be doing in the moment and just doing it. Then, when it’s over, reflecting on it. In short, using the body as an instrument of awareness, as a “biofeedback tool.” If I just sit meditation without partnering it with a body practice, I feel like I am missing an opportunity to use something I have (my body) to further my insight, my development. It’s as simple as that. And the integrity piece is huge too. If I don’t practice I don’t feel I have any right to teach. Period.

Learn Spanish. Okay, how will learning Spanish help me on the pilgrimage? Well, one of the reasons I want to learn another language is simply because it is challenging to the ol’ gray matter. But the other reason is that I want to travel more. I want to go places that are exotic and new and unfamiliar and see if I can manage there. One of the things that has always frightened me about foreign travel is going to a place where I don’t speak the language. So if I go someplace new, I want to see if I can fumble around in a language that is not native to me. Plus, I am finding the learning to be really enjoyable and I am excited about it and it is fun! I would love to teach yoga in Costa Rica someday, take a group, do a retreat, like now, in the middle of the winter! So that’s why Spanish.

Express Gratitude.  I feel so grateful for my life, my family, my friends, my yogarians, for random kindnesses shown to me by others.  But I have come to learn that feeling grateful is swell and groovey and all, but if those who you feel loved and tended by don’t know it, what good is it?  (Remember: thoughts are not REAL.  Only ACTIONS are real.) So expressed gratitude is essential.  Also, the act of expressing gratitude seems to remove obstacles along the path, and make the journey easier.  Weird, but true!

So there it is.  Onward!

 

The Journey

Drink more water

Break a sweat everyday

Meditate

Learn to speak Spanish

Tend my own sadhana

Express gratitude

Get to 12% body fat

These are my “resolutions” for the coming year. But I don’t think of them as resolutions so much as things I need to do to get to My Best Self. I am excited to do these things,  find out about them, and to see what would happen if I actually could pull some of them off.

I read in the paper today that for most people, their New Years Resolutions are already toast.  (Today is January 8th).  They’re done and it’s back to business as usual. “Resolutions are stupid; I can’t do this.”

I think the big problem is that most people think of their their resolutions as skinny, treacherous tight ropes they have to inch across carefully and delicately, and if they fall: Game Over. They’re out.  (Thanks for playing.)

But what if, instead of a tightrope, we looked at resolutions as noble challenges deliberately placed along the way in a “Sacred Pilgrimage” we are making to the “Shrine of Our Best Selves”?

Because if you are on a journey, a journey that you may even think of as sacred, to find your True and Best Self,  what you now call your “resolutions” are simply part of the trail. If you do them, you’ll proceed faster and more efficiently, so you want to do them.  But if you don’t, you can’t abandon them.  That’d be stupid because progress would halt.

So when the inevitable happens, and you stub your toe, or get a blister, or it starts to rain, or you get lost, or a wild animal frightens you, you don’t say, “Fuck it, this quest is stupid, I can’t do this, I’m done.” No. You just get a bandaid, or put on a poncho, or consult a map, or carry a pointy stick to defend yourself.  That’s because you realize that the setbacks come with the territory.  You’re Indiana Jones for crissakes! You’ve got to get this job done! Even if it takes your whole effin’ life! (And guess what? It WILL!!)

Am I right?

(Of course I’m right.)

There is a Zen saying: Fall down 7 times, get up 8.

So let’s boot up and get this journey goin’!  Whaddya say?

Feliz Ano Nuevo!

Hola!

And much gratitude to my commenting readers for talking me down from the ledge, where I teetered precipitously for a few days on the verge of jumping to my death into the 365 Day WordPress Blog Challenge.

Whew.

Now that I am back inside, sitting on my bed, dizzy, nauseous but alive, and (hopefully) back to my senses, I feel renewed and reset and now can contentedly blog when I feel moved to, and on the days when my Inspiration Meter is trending toward “EMPTY,” spend my time re-fueling rather than coasting on fumes.

So, deep bows to you all.  Gracias.

So…… Short synopsis of the Holiday seems in order.  Here goes: Cookies, fudge, stuffed shells, pasta, Grand Marnier, wine, beer, champagne with hibiscus flowers. Repeat this list 6 times, fast.

Also: house guests, yoga, yoga nidra, 750 words, and books. And when house guests left, Pajamas played a starring role. There were also multiple “Mandatory No Underwear Days” and “When WAS the last Time I Showered??” days. And did I mention books were involved?  That famous and ubiquitous and teetering stack on my bedtable? Gone….poof!

Well, not gone exactly. Shall we say, transformed? Yes.  From inert objects with the potential for wisdom and joy, into embodied wisdom and joy (that’d be me.)  My “Stim Meter” reading is now decidedly FULL.  I topped off my tank, actually.  (I know you’re not supposed to do that, but I dig the smell of those wisdom fumes when I drive away from the tank.)

Now onto ¡Presents!

Lots of ¡Presents!  Every Xmas we try to abide by the following formula:

1. Something you want.

2. Something you need.

3. A book.

4. A surprise.

That’s it.

(I stole this piece of genius from Ellen Blais.)

What these rules do is set parameters, or guidelines, or as I like to think of them, “velvet ropes” that (hopefully) keep out the “impulse buying” riff-raff.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but most of the time, it does.

Something I (we) wanted, and actually bought ourselves: Rosetta Stone Spanish (Latin America).  Love it!  All the leftovers in my fridge are now labeled in Spanish and I don’t even have to pop the lid to know what’s inside. “Arroz: 1/2/11”  And I now practice rolling my rrrrr’s during dog walks with my “perro loco.” A Costa Rica vacation beckons.

2. Something I need: Great coffee from My Starbucks Angel in Oregon. (i.e. Emily.)  I know for some people great coffee is not a NEED, but more of a WANT, but for me, it’s a definite need.  The best part of waking up is definitely not Folgers in my cup. *spit, gag.* Need Great Coffee!  Need: Fulfilled!  In spades!  Some seriously exotic beans are being ground in this house.  Espresso machine working overtime.  whoah.

3. A Book.  This is where the velvet ropes were breached a bit, and this year the *gasp* award went to the over-sized print book of Barnett Newman’s paintings from Ira.  Beautiful!  Delicious! Inspiring! Also, my friend Rick Dale self-published his poems and sent me a copy.  Mucho cool!

4. A surprise. The Purple (Animal) Dyson Vacuum.  I know a cleaning utensil brings with it a mandatory Life Sentence in the Doghouse, but holy man, you know how much I needed this???  You ever visit and sit on my couch and then have to use the sticky roller on your way out? Then you know. And secondarily, do you how much these puppies COST???  I considered buying one a few months ago, but got “sticker shock” and decided to soldier on with “The Boss.”

Xmas was dissembled the day before New Year’s Eve, and then the PERIOD OF REFLECTION AND ANGST began as I reviewed my resolutions from last year and pondered 2011.

That is the subject of the next post, though.

Buenos dias! Ciao!**

** My friend Louise, who has traveled extensively in Latin America tells me that NOBODY says “Adios” in Latin America.  They say, “Ciao!”**