What if and If only

A special thanks before I begin this post, to my friend Peter, for sharing his feelings of anguish and fear with me, which opened a door for me to return to writing. I had been struggling in recent weeks and months to share my thoughts.

For those who have lost someone to COVID, or are presently caring for and worried about a loved one, my heart goes out to you. I light my candles, often sending loving thoughts into the universe to those suffering. This post is not for you, only my candlelight.

But, for those of you who might be somewhat like me, mildly depressed, anxious, worrisome, fretful, afraid, angry, unmotivated, who are not sick and don’t have any loved ones who are… read on.

The other day I saw a headline on People magazine about someone who had died from cancer. My first thought was, “oh, thank God they only died of cancer, and not COVID.” Seriously?!? I clearly needed to put myself in check. Had I actually just thought that? My next question was, “Sue, just how skewed has your thinking become? Come on, girl, we need to fix this.”

It became clear to me that I needed the equivalent of a chiropractic adjustment on my brain. As a result of that, I have spent the last few days playing with different scenarios in my mind, which I wanted to share in the hopes it might help a few of my readers.

Gratitude seems to be my go-to in life, and it’s one of the few things during this time that perks me up. I have to work on it these days. I make efforts each day to put aside my fears and thank the heavens above for all that is so wonderful in my life.

I hate to admit this, but when I’m struggling to find gratitude, I sometimes need to look to who and what might be worse than what I’m experiencing, to put myself in an appreciative mindset. It was in that vein that I stumbled upon the subject of this post, what if and if only.

On what would turn out to be a healing journey of the mind, I began by trying to put myself in the shoes of the people who experienced Chernobyl. I watched the HBO series last year when visiting our Matt in Buffalo. I didn’t know much about Chernobyl, truthfully, until I watched the series. I felt like I was watching the worst science fiction/horror movie I’d ever seen, except it was a true story. It stayed with me for weeks, if not months. The suffering and loss were horrific.

The people of Chernobyl lost their homes, their land, their loved ones, all their belongings, and lastly were delivered a death sentence. For some, illness would make its way slowly but make no mistake, death would be waiting in the wings for anyone even remotely close to the site.

What if those people were told that all they needed to do was wear a mask, stay away from big crowds, do a bit of social distancing and wash their hands often? Can you imagine the relief and gratitude they would have experienced if only the solution was that simple?

Next, I thought about the families who find themselves sending their sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, wives, and husbands off to foreign lands to fight world battles. Who knew that it’s possible to hold your breath for so many days, turning into months and ending in years?

What if, those millions of people holding their breath were told, all they had to do was wear a mask, stay out of crowds, do a bit of social distancing, and wash their hands. If they followed these simple instructions, they could rest assured that the odds were very high that their loved ones would return home healthy and safe. If only

Next, my mind visited the Jewish concentration camps, the prisoners stripped of everything, their families, their possessions, their humanness really, treated worse than animals.

What if the prisoners were told that all they needed to do was wear a mask, stay away from big crowds, do a bit of social distancing and wash their hands often? If they did so, they would be released from their suffering? If only

My last stop was a cancer ward. I could see every stage of life in my vision. Parents with sick children, no child should have to suffer from cancer. No parent should have to experience their sweet baby’s suffering. I saw friends, husbands and wives, parents and grandparents, and grandchildren, every possible connection, suffering through the crisis of cancer. Sometimes there’s a happy ending. So many times, there isn’t.

What if these cancer patients and their loved ones were told that all they needed to do was wear a mask, stay away from big crowds, do a bit of social distancing and wash their hands often? And if they followed these instructions, they had an excellent chance of remission, or even better yet, full recovery? If only

I ended my journey back in my home sweet home, so grateful for my health and that of my loved ones and thankful for this moment in time, which is all I can truly call my own. And the good news is, I’m just being asked to wear a mask in public places, distance myself for a while, and wash my hands often. Simple remedies are my reality, not a what-if or an if only. In my thinking, that makes me a pretty lucky woman.

Coronavirus is a serious threat, no doubt about it. But we have power available to us through our actions. That is an amazing gift. Let’s use it, and not get too caught up in our rights. We lost the right years ago to ride in a car without a seatbelt. We lived through that, and many lived on because of that.

Before we know it, our masks will be lying at the bottom of a drawer. I can’t wait.

A hole of my own

I am adding a preface to this post. I wrote this blog post last week and did not have time to upload it. In the ensuing time, our county has begun to open. Yesterday when we drove out of the canyon, the hiking trails around the river had reopened. There were people everywhere. And for the first time, I began to trust that we would soon be on the other end of this virus. We might take a few steps backward in our attempt to move forward, but in the end, we will prevail. And that knowledge has lifted my spirits. I still wanted to share my post though for all those who are still waiting for changes.

This may not read like most of my posts. It’s a bit dark, but it’s an honest account of how I’m feeling. And it’s my way of making my way back. I am sharing it for anyone who might see themselves in my words.

When COVID-19 first began, while I was afraid and upset, at the same time, I welcomed the unexpected downtime. I would actually have time for all those to-dos on my list. After years of running at maximum speed, my list was long. I would be able to select a project and choose any day of the week to get it done. And as soon as that task was completed, I would start another one. I saw no end in sight. I would work in the yard. I would write my blog and work on the book. I would clean out closets. I would hike and do yoga. I would catch up with old friends. As a friend suggested, I could make a list of all my accomplishments during this time so that I would remember all the positive that had occurred.

At first, I felt such relief for the gift of time. And I started out very productive. But as the days became weeks and the weeks became months, the less I got done. My world reduced in size by the day, and so did my ambition. At this point, it can take me three days to text a friend. And I have nothing to do. I have no reason whatsoever that I can’t take a moment to send a text.

Or do I? Could it be that sorrow and fear have taken the place of my happiness, which fuels my energy? I miss my loved ones. The constant stats and death tolls, sad stories from friends, worries at work, the masks at every turn, the empty shelves, the loss of jobs, the what ifs that there are no answers for, have taken their toll on my spirit. Every day I think of yet another person that I wonder about… how are they doing? (Do I send a text? Not lately. I did in the beginning.)

It seems there’s no limit to the number of people one can worry about. Kind of like there’s no limit to the love in our hearts. We always have an endless supply of love.

But my worrying bucket is full. And when I hear yet another sad story, I physically feel as though I can’t fit one more tragic story into my heart. Then I take a deep breath and realize there is still room for more. Yoga has taught me that the breath is magical in terms of moving into a new position or pose that you doubt you can do.

It’s time to practice nothing more than my breathing going forward. I will work backward, and instead of thinking about tackling massive projects with my free time, I will dust my desk. I’ll get that text sent, reminding others that I am still here and love them. I will allow myself to cry each day if I need to. I have much to be sad about. I’m pretty sure once I allow my tears, I will be reminded of all the things I have to be grateful for. Right now, they are blurred with far too much on my plate.

I will count on Rick to throw me down a line so that I can climb out of this hole I have created. At the beginning of COVID, it felt sort of protective and safe. But at this point, it’s lonely and dark down there.

It’s time to embrace life again, COVID or no COVID, cure, or no cure. I can still be careful, but a life lived in fear is not living.

If someone told me today that I had one week left on earth, how different I would feel! I’d embrace every single thing I loved with a fire in my heart. COVID has robbed me of that passion. It’s time to reclaim my joy.

The secret

Dear God, where are you now?

Religion is not something I write much about much. Perhaps I did not fall far from the tree. I am probably more like my mother than I realize. I only mention God in my writings if I talk about being thankful for my life or nature. I have strong faith, but I am not religious. I have tried religion in my life. I have also lived without religion. I find God in nature, which probably explains why I spend much of my time outdoors. I am happy with my feet in the dirt or the waves, walking under the trees, delighting in all that grows from the earth. Rain and snow falling from the heavens are the gifts that make me feel warm inside.  

Nature has helped me through this time of upheaval. And I’ve been waking up each morning with a Secret that helps me through each day. I spend a short amount of time upon waking to catch up with the world on my phone. But I limit it, and I’m careful about what I choose to read. After about ten minutes, I put my phone down. I can manage to get the headlines in, which provide me enough to understand that those who have the power to work on our situation are doing that. And the rest of us, our job is to shelter in place and spread whatever joy, hope, or love we can to others.

Once I update, I turn to something mindless, like playing games with my favorite game opponent (also known as Rick) on our computer. I usually whip his ass, which puts me in a good mood for the day to come. I think he secretly is a nice guy who gives me the win to help lift my spirits.

Once we are up, it’s not long before we are out the door finding something in our yard that needs tending to. By mid to late morning, we are tracking dirt into our house. We push ourselves physically, these baby boomer bodies, coming in late in the day sore and tired, and so thankful that we are not ill and able to share these blessings together.

I understand that living in dense cities prevents or at least makes it difficult to find nature. But even just going out your front door and looking up at the sunrise or the sunset or later when the stars are out, and spending time watching the show that nature is always putting on, will do the same as my yard does for me. Quiet, reflective time listening to birds, paying attention to the breeze, watching clouds, looking at what might be growing around you… all of these activities take only the space you’re standing in. Nature just needs your attention.

This morning I looked out my window (after limiting myself to the bad news) and realized that the trees have grown incredibly since I last looked at them from my bedroom window. They were so beautiful, displaying their new spring growth. Five years had passed, and they had grown up without me noticing. It’s all about taking the time to see the landscape around us, whether it be trees or our loved ones. It made me think that this Coronavirus experience, even though it has come at a high cost, might just be about slowing down to notice what we’ve created, what has been created for us and around us, and slowing enough to breathe it in. What’s the point of creating a life, a family, a yard, a career, a legacy— if we never slow down enough to bathe in the beauty of what we have created in our life?

I come back to God. I think if I was watching my children strive hard for their dreams, and I had to watch them racing through their lives never slowing enough to enjoy the fruits of their labor, I’d be having a chat with them. Likewise, I think God is having a conversation with us these days.

My mom had a hard life. I often write about her. She was not a religious woman, but I’ve come to understand that she nonetheless considered herself a child of God. I believe she felt shame for much of her life, which created turmoil around the issue of religion. I have some funny stories about her in her last days with the religious Hospice caregivers that visited her. She gave them a what-for in no uncertain terms. She wasn’t having their prayers… she would join hands, but she’d be saying her own prayer. Her prayer was simple, “Thank you, God. Thank you, God.” Enough said.

So today, when I pulled out a small slip of paper written in my mom’s handwriting that had been in the bottom of my basket for who knows how long, I had to wonder if maybe God and my mom were sending down a bit of wisdom in a hard time. I must have set this aside when I was going through her things a few years back. I can’t think it’s a coincidence that today I would pick it up and look at it.

“‘ The Secret’

I met God in the morning when my day was at its best,

And His presence came like sunrise, like a glory in my breast.

All day long the Presence lingered,

All day long He stayed with me,

And we sailed in perfect calmness

O’er a very troubled sea.

So I think I know the secret,

Learned from many a troubled way.

You must seek Him in the morning

If you want Him through the day.”

Thanks, Mom, for teaching me about God, and so much more. And dear God, I know where you are. You’re with Helen, my mom, a character if there ever was one. And I understand you were joined recently with another lovely soul, Billie Jean D’Anna, goes by “B.J.” She will get along great with my mom.

And sadly, for many here on earth, that party upstairs is becoming the gathering of the century.

Please help all those left behind to find “The Secret.”

I close each day with my mother’s prayer, “Thank you, God. Thank you, God.”

Coronavirus thoughts cont’d

I answered an email from a work colleague this afternoon. Before the coronavirus, he felt like a co-worker. Today he feels like a friend. Both he and his father contracted the virus. They had some touch and go moments over the last few months. He closed his email saying that going forward we would be living in a changing world. I responded that I agreed. 

There will be many changes in how we live and how we perceive the world. I have no doubt we will lose a great deal from this experience. But it’s important to really look at what we are losing. Sometimes our losses turn out to be gifts in disguise. And it’s important to note, that my thoughts do not apply to anyone who has lost a loved one to this virus. These are just thoughts about life changing around us each day.

My world is small these days. Because of that, I write from a limited perspective. But I’ve also been on this planet for just shy of 65 years. My world wasn’t always this small. I only comment on this, because what I write about are simple ideas, and what I foresee as some of the most important changes we can look forward to from this experience.

I am seeing some significant differences out my window each day. We live in a wooded rural area, a horse community with a town population of 4100 people. And we have a public trail adjacent to our property that is available to our association at any time. I look at the path from my desk. I’ve spent a lot of time at my desk writing the last five years. 

I’ve never seen so many people walking, riding their horses, walking their dogs, walking as families, strollers, people on bikes, you name it. Rick and I have spent hours and hours working in the yard, cutting back the berry bushes finally after five years. We burn them in the pit at the end of the day, sitting with a cocktail and something in the form of food to balance that. We have families that now greet us from the street as they take their daily walks. We’ve come to recognize them, and it’s fun to chat from a distance.

At our small market, everyone is protective, kind, and welcoming. It feels as though we all understand that we are all in this boat together. Kind of like Titanic, in the end, there are no cultural or social distinctions this virus will be honoring. We have united as one in spirit, a population that includes all races, making our way through a crisis. Nothing like nature to level the playing field and remind us of what a gift life really is, and also that, for all our differences, we are far more alike than we might imagine.

I mentioned in my last post that I felt mother nature was just summoning us back. I haven’t changed my thoughts on that. And yes, I agree with my co-worker that life will be different.

We will be forced to appreciate simple pleasures going forward. We will be reminded not to take for granted toilet paper, and more importantly, not waste it. Along with food and anything essential to our lives, we will from here on out, be mindful of the gift. 

My mother was a young girl during the depression. Her experience definitely left an imprint on her. She feared to be without food and essentials. I now understand the large wall cabinet in our garage housing canned goods and other necessities. I didn’t see the point up until this experience.

I welcome this lesson to help me understand my mother’s fears and to see that she was doing her best to care for herself and her family.

The virus has forced a significant “look at your life” reality. And I’m sure the lessons will differ for everyone. There are so many parts to this event, health fears, money worries, loss of our freedoms, missing our loved ones, and on and on. Some people are now isolated with loved ones that they are realizing they don’t even know very well anymore, and probably more significantly, don’t like very much.

Yes, in response to my co-worker, it will be a new day. We must remember that Mother Nature is always looking out for her kids. Trust her. Let her take you where you need to go. She always knows best.

Last night I dreamed about being able to fly. I’ve had this dream over the years many times. It’s my favorite dream. I can levitate and move wherever I want to go. But last night’s dream was a bit different. I could move and glide over the earth’s terrain wherever I wanted to go, and at incredible speeds. And I could choose, the localities were on a checklist. I traveled through the foothills over the rivers and streams, on to the ocean and finally to the mountains (all of my favorite places.) In the dream, I was worried about my kids, but enjoying the adventure I was experiencing. It didn’t take too long this morning to decipher my dream. 

Yes, I am worried about my loved ones every day. But on a personal level, I am beginning to soar. I realize I am actually enjoying the lessons I am learning day by day due to this virus. I am slowing down, and I become more grateful each day for simple things. I am putting my life into check, as opposed to the checklist it has been.

Here’s where I end up on what’s important. Number 1 and 2 are hard to choose between, but I realize that without my health, I can’t help or enjoy my loved ones, so in the end, it takes precedence.

1. Health

2. Family/loved ones

3. Sustenance

4. Happiness/vitality

5. Everything else

If I can maintain this understanding going forward even when the virus leaves, I will be forever lucky to have experienced this time.

Coronavirus thoughts

I’ve been wanting to write for days hoping it might somewhat quiet the noisy unpleasant chatter within. Not really sure if I thought writing might help me feel better or others… perhaps, in the end, it’s all one and the same. I can probably speak for most when I say that what I am facing has pulled the footing out from beneath me.

One beautiful thing about having been on this planet for so long is that I can look back on many times over the years where I felt genuine fear and see that life moved on, and in time I couldn’t even remember what I was so afraid of. That gives me some small comfort, but it doesn’t prevent me from waking up in the middle of the night fretting about the coronavirus and my loved ones. I’ve definitely lost sleep over this.

And the fear of the virus is only a part of what wreaks such havoc with my stress level. It’s also the changes that are occurring on a daily basis around me, the closing of schools and cancellations of events, the empty store shelves, the upheaval in the economy, and the uncertainty about the choices I am being required to make. There is sound advice arriving each day in my email, and there’s also utter nonsense. I try to raise my guard, but even the rubbish has an effect on me. I feel completely overloaded. It’s been a very long time since I’ve felt so out of my comfort zone.

I look forward to the day when my heart will feel light again. I long to spend time in my garden enjoying the spring scents and beautiful blossoms surrounding me with nothing more important than my flowers to think about. I understand that may be next spring the rate we are going, but that doesn’t mean this Springtime will not be doing her best to capture my heart for a few minutes here and there. And I will undoubtedly breathe deep to receive her healing gifts and try not to work too hard to feel better because that doesn’t work.

My spirits are low for a good reason, and it’s important to honor those feelings. I think the next few months will feel somewhat like maneuvering through a minefield for most of us. We must remember that this is temporary, and to keep an eye on the horizon where we will soon see the first glimpse of the end of this period in our lives. It will be slow to appear, but once it does, before we know it, the coronavirus will be a distant memory. We will once again be stressing about something totally ridiculous, not the welfare of our loved ones. When did I think that stressing about silly things would sound so great?

In the meantime, it’s essential to be kind to others, and maybe more important, forgiving of what we don’t understand about how another person might be acting, or probably more accurately reacting to this situation. Until we have walked in another’s shoes, we can never understand their motivations or the reasons for their behavior.

I learned that lesson at the airport working with the flying public. We had a joke among some staff members that some people seemed to check their brains at the door when walking into the airport. And it was true, I ended up with some interesting stories to tell. But what my boss taught me when I first began, and what I came to understand from my experiences working at the airport, is that you never know what someone might be going through when they board that plane. They may be flying to be with a very sick loved one, or they may be absolutely terrified to fly. There were a hundred and one stories I heard, and once I saw the big picture, their behavior wasn’t so crazy after all. I’m the first to admit that if I’m at a level 8 or 9 and I have to deal with something that’s only a 2 or a 3, I’ve been known to lose my sh–, so far be it from me to judge someone else without the facts. Everyone has a story.

I know people have been hoarding supplies and, in certain instances, stealing, and I would only say this. Not everyone deals the same with stress and grief. Probably the majority of the people with their closets filled to the brim with toilet paper would be the first people who would be sharing it with you. The problem is that in times like this, people are narrow-minded in their stress and not really looking into the eyes of those around them. They aren’t monsters. They are just individuals who are very afraid and grabbing supplies to help quiet the storm that is raging within them. I can relate.

This is a time we need to come together and to make it a point to actually look into the eyes of strangers we meet to share our collective pain, along with whatever we have in our baskets. As we stand in the shopping aisles, we need to picture our neighbor standing next to us and take only what we need leaving enough for them as well. Because regardless of whether they are actually standing physically beside us, they are there in spirit and will need their fair share. And most notably, we need to be sure our caregivers have the supplies they need to care for the sick among us. We cannot deprive them of their protection. The CDC has confirmed time and again that the general public does not need masks, but our caregivers do.  

In the past week, I have been making it a point to get outside, take a walk just to breathe in the fresh air, and get the endorphins working. I want to share a thought I had on my walk today. I’ve been fortunate to know some pretty lovely people in my life. And without doubt, the ones I have most wanted to emulate were the few that were beyond generous with whatever they had to share. Phrases like, “He would give you the shirt off his back,” or “she would share her last bite with you,” those are the ones I’ve always admired and wanted to be like.

I’ve talked often about my friend Julie. She certainly was one of these angels. She struggled monetarily for years, and yet her door was always open with a delicious homemade meal, and there was often a crowd around her table. Julie was generous in more ways than I could ever recount. She had the gift of knowing that God would always provide the abundance she needed to share whatever she had with others.

I believe we have to trust in something higher than ourselves, and secondly, we need to try our best to do the right thing. There’s such honor in that. I don’t think I will ever stop working to emulate the angels I’ve known. I still have a far way to go, but hopefully, I’ve still got time to keep working on it.

Last thoughts, a plan is always a comforting thing. And each person’s plan must be tailored to their lifestyle and their story. For now, my plan is to keep walking each day, spend as much time in my garden as I can, stay connected to others even though I work at home and am also quarantined, write often, help out when I can, and do my part to lay low and wait this out. We have a rain forecast for the next week or two, so I will have my fire going, my puzzles out, my books on hand. I will have more time to spend in the kitchen, cooking some great meals. I will be checking in on all those I love. And I will end each day with heartfelt thanks if my friends and loved ones remain healthy.

Nature has sent us a powerful message. We must honor her voice and discover what we each need to learn from this experience. The lessons will vary from person to person. But make no mistake, we will have something to learn, and every one of us will carry something positive away from this. I don’t think Mother Nature would go to this extreme without good cause. In my thinking, we have just veered a bit too far from nature caught up in our worldly concerns, leaving little time for our earthly origins. She’s just reminding her kids to remember what’s really important.

Stay well, live well, show the love within at every chance. Here’s to spring, whether it be this year or next.

Wayward yogini finally begins teaching

Extra Extra, read all about it! Wayward Yogini finally teaches her first yoga class! Get the story here!

This reporter was lucky enough to catch up with Sue on her first day teaching at The Healing Shala in Cool, CA. Between classes, we were able to sit together at Cool Beerwerks (amazing sushi, not to mention the beer) on the corner of 49 and 193, discussing the trials and tribulations of becoming a yoga teacher at the age of 64. 

Haha, no reporter interviewing me, and much sadder, I wasn’t enjoying that amazing sushi that Cool Beerwerks serves. Still, nonetheless, I was feeling incredibly proud of my 64-year old self to pursue and persevere with this goal of mine. For those who haven’t followed my blog Tales of a Wayward Yogini for the last two years, the quick version goes like this.

I had been devoting much time to my elderly mother for many years. After her passing a few years back, I made a promise to myself to devote the following year to regaining my health.

I returned to a love of mine, yoga. And somewhere in the following few months, I began to tell Rick I wanted to become a yoga teacher in our little town, putting one of the many vacant storefronts in town to good use. It was just a pleasant fantasy, but what I was serious about was getting back in shape. The studio I began practicing at had a yoga teacher training class scheduled the following February. Perfect. I figured regardless of whether I ever became a teacher, the class would provide a jump-start for this aging, somewhat neglected senior body. 

While I wasn’t clear at the beginning of the class whether I would ever teach, by the end, I did see my path, and it did include teaching yoga. I had some hurdles, though. I was starting a new job, which took priority because, oh yeah, it was paying my bills. Most jobs take about a year to hit your stride, and this job was no different. So I took any pressure to start teaching yoga right off my plate! Boom… gone! 

But… in my quiet moments, I often wondered if I was just making excuses because I was afraid to take that leap, and expose my soft underbelly (one of my favorite expressions). Even though I took yoga off my plate, I still definitely gave myself some grief over the subject of teaching. In the end, I told myself that I had legitimate reasons for waiting: 1) I was learning my new job, 2) I was working on my blog as well as my upcoming book, and 3) I was simply afraid. They were all excellent reasons.

Remember the vacant storefront windows in Cool I mentioned earlier? Well, seems another yoga enthusiast Jennifer had similar thoughts. And while I worked on securing employment and writing, she did what I would have liked to do. She remodeled one of them, creating a sweet little yoga studio. She was even kind enough to select colors and styles I like, new laminate flooring, soft subtle colors, and the cutest sliding door. 

I found it about six months ago. I attended a class, even spoke with Jennifer about doing karma classes on Saturdays to get started, and then I disappeared without a trace. Apparently, I wasn’t ready yet. I let that be okay. 

About a month ago, I decided it was time to find some yoga teachers close to home. I love returning to the studio I trained at, but it’s an hour’s drive, and I just can’t manage that often enough. I studied the web and found a studio just down the road in Georgetown, a ten-minute drive down our country roads. I read up on the teachers and saw a woman Lynette that sounded like someone I would have a lot in common with. I made my way to Georgetown and then spent 20 minutes driving in circles. Turns out, the studio no longer exists.

But Lynette still exists thankfully, and I found that she was teaching at, you guessed it, the new little Cool studio. I was there the following Monday to attend her restorative yoga class, and again the Monday after that. By the end of my second class, I had a plan in mind of teaching a second restorative class at the studio to compliment her class. I happened to hear a student asking if there was another restorative yoga class during the week. There wasn’t. By the following week, we were sharing a glass of wine in Lynette’s kitchen. Just as I had somehow known when I read her bio, we found much in common. The following Monday night, I attended a meeting at the studio and committed to teaching my first yoga class beginning early April. 

It was an interesting lesson for me. For two years, I have felt my reluctance had to do with fear. And it did. But after seeing how easy this went together for me, I realize that my hesitation had more to do with finding the right fit, which was a lesson about trusting myself.

I of course manipulated a few months to get ready committing to April 3rd, can you blame me? And Lynette, somehow already my cohort, changed that up on me and asked if I could sub for her earlier than that so she could go visit her ailing 90-year old father. Really? How could I say no?

So there you have it, I subbed for her and taught my first two classes. It was actually lovely. I had five students in the first class, which for Cool, is pretty good. I thought transparency was a good thing, especially in yoga, so I admitted to them it was my first class. They all rallied around me. So sweet. 

The drive to class, though, was thought-provoking. I had somewhat luckily calmed my nerves. But on that 10-minute drive, I felt like I had put on someone else’s clothing. More accurately I felt like I was in a very uncomfortable costume. It was a palpable feeling. I didn’t feel afraid so much as just uncomfortable. The saying “uncomfortable in your own skin” fit perfectly. I tried to shake it off without much success, but before I knew it, I was at The Healing Shala, and the feelings would need to take a backseat. It was time to teach.

The following night when I was supposed to be sleeping, I was instead writing this post in my mind during the wee morning hours. It was only then that I could take the time to process those feelings. Anything new feels uncomfortable. And it stays uncomfortable for a while. But there comes that day when you own it. Your body no longer feels the anxiety. Your brain stops second-guessing your every move, and you rock it.

I’m looking forward to that one day.

Thinking about hashtags for my pics on Instagram, I’m thinking #whatageistooold? #64onherwaytorockin’it and #plentyoftimeGodwilling. Positive thoughts welcome on April 3rd.

In search of…

This week I will walk through the doors of Sutter Health in Auburn for a meet and greet of sorts with my (possibly) new gynecologist. This is not an exam, just an appointment to meet the doctor. You see, my ob-gyn, Dr. Jordan Horowitz, retired last month, and I have the task of finding a new doctor who will need to fill some pretty big shoes.

I met Jordan when I was close to 30. And I mean no disrespect when I refer to him in this blog as Jordan, instead of Dr. Horowitz. It’s the only name I ever called him. Such a delightful, comfortable man to be around, a doctor who didn’t require any pomp and circumstance. He was just there to do his job, and he did it with humor and kindness and a genuine interest in his patients.

I met Jordan at the time I was trying to conceive my first child. It was taking longer than usual. I hadn’t exactly rushed into starting a family. I was 30, and perhaps my body was taking a stand since I had kept it waiting. I was referred to Jordan for a consultation. I liked him instantly and felt safe in his care, and also probably, more importantly, he left me optimistic that we would overcome whatever the obstacles were. He had a way of helping his patients look for the positive. Leaving his office after the first visit, I didn’t know when or how, but I knew with Jordan’s help, we would prevail.

I did become pregnant and welcomed my Amy girl into the world a few years later. I would become pregnant a second time, but would have to end that pregnancy in Jordan’s office early on. I had what is known as a blighted ovum, which means a fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterine wall, but the embryo does not develop. Jordan had the unfortunate task of informing me that my second pregnancy would need to be aborted. I remember in bits and pieces the day I had to go in for the DNC, but mostly I remember feeling cared for by him and his staff and my family. It wasn’t even two months later that I conceived again with my boy, Jordan, and Jordan Horowitz would again deliver my child. How blessed I was in all respects. I didn’t name my son Jordan in honor of the doc, it was more that I liked the name, but Jordan Horowitz definitely lent a good feeling to the name.

Over the many years since, I’ve had a few breast lumps, which turned out to be nothing, thank God. But still, no one wants to hear their doctor telling them he just found a lump. Jordan both times did it with such grace, and all the while instilling confidence in me that all would be well. And it was.

I only saw this man once a year, typically, but he was always someone I could confide in about the crucial things that I needed help on. I hate going to the doctors. But with Jordan, even being poked and probed in the most vulnerable of places fell into the background. It was just a necessity of staying well, and the day ended up feeling more like I had caught up with an old friend. Of course, he would always ask about Amy and Jordan, and what they were up to. I would volunteer all the latest info, and then he would offer up what his children were busy with. Year after year, our stories continued, and happily our children thrived, as did we.

Thirty-five years later… my last visit was in May of 2019. I knew he was nearing retirement. We chatted about when he might leave, he still wasn’t sure. It was on the horizon, but he hadn’t decided yet. I told him I would be making the trek down to San Francisco until he wasn’t there anymore. We laughed, but we also spoke about how special it was to have had such a long-standing relationship. In this world that we find ourselves in so many years later, the concept of a doctor-patient connection that stands the test of time in a throw-away society is pretty special and unique.

Nearing the end of the year, standing in my kitchen opening the mail at the end of a long day, holding an envelope from Sutter Health, I slid my fingers beneath the flap. Even before I could pull out the letter, I already knew what I would be reading. The tears were streaming down my cheeks by the first word of the first sentence, “I.” A personal letter from Sutter Health would undoubtedly be written by Jordan, announcing his retirement. I saw 35 years pass in an instant… my babies, my fears, my sorrows, my triumphs, my losses, and all those tests that, for the most part, came back with good news. I spent the following weeks letting go to allow for a new beginning. I am happy for Jordan to begin a new chapter and content to not be traveling all the way to San Francisco for my doc visit, but letting go feels a bit like I am relinquishing my youth, even though that left the building some years ago. The tears are never too far away when I think about these days of change. I’m not fond of change on a good day, but especially when I’m leaving someone or something I’ve really enjoyed. I want to hold on and never let go.

In recent weeks, as I’ve let the sadness wash over me from time to time, I’ve come to understand that these memories will never fade away. The days of my babies and my youth will always be the sweetest days I’ve known. And Dr. Jordan Horowitz will have played such a special part in it.

I wish for Jordan everything that he gave to me and I’m sure the thousands of women he worked with through the years. If he receives even a fraction of what he gave, he will enjoy his retirement years.

And Wednesday, I will meet a possible candidate to replace Jordan. As I said in the beginning of this post, whoever I choose has some big shoes to fill. But I’ve been doing my research, and this doctor sounds young and funny and specializes in menopausal women, that’s a plus. I’m sure I will walk in with a lump in my throat.

Endings, beginnings, and faith in the universe that has treated me so well up until now… wishing me and the new doc luck. And wishing blessings to Jordan Horowitz in his new life.

And lastly, coincidentally on this day my dear friend’s daughter Caitlin is in labor. Wishing a speedy delivery and a healthy son.

An important weekend for the women…

This weekend seemed to center around women, not necessarily by design, but due to the circumstances occurring around me. My boss scheduled our holiday celebration on Saturday night, a great idea after letting the hustle and bustle of the season fade. We were initially scheduled for a dinner party at Spin down in the financial district of San Francisco. At the last minute, there was a double booking, so we switched from ping pong to bowling.

Rick and I decided to splurge a bit and book ourselves for two nights at the Marriott Marquis right in the heart of the city between Market and Mission. We made dinner plans with our friend Paul on Friday night at a fabulous Mexican restaurant right next door. What we didn’t realize when the event was first scheduled, is that the Women’s March of 2020 would be taking place on Saturday, right in front of our hotel. The older I get, and likely also because I now live in such a rural environment, I’m not the biggest fan of large crowds. I cheer on the participants, but you will not likely find me amid the masses.

Rick and I decided it would be fun to be totally decadent and stay in our hotel room all day, order room service, bring our books and computer, play games and not even think about leaving the room until late in the day when the crowds had dissipated. As the weekend progressed, it turned out I couldn’t have been happier with a slow day to process my feelings.

Some of my readers may remember me writing about the passing of my friend, Carrie, a few years back. Our dinner plans on Friday were with her husband Paul, and a wonderful woman Lisa he has recently started spending time with. Even though it’s been over two years since Carrie’s passing, I still find my throat closing and my eyes welling up when I think of her. Rick kept glancing my way throughout the dinner, I’m sure worrying that I might not handle the evening well.

And he was right to be worried. I’m nothing if not emotional, and at times I don’t do the best job of masking my feelings. I could at times during the dinner see myself from a bird’s eye view, completely split emotionally speaking. Part of me still wants to rage at the injustice of my friend’s early passing, and yet here I was being called on to meet this new friend of Paul’s, who I must admit is an undeniably lovely woman. The battle that raged within me quieted quickly as I found myself genuinely enjoying the conversation and the fantastic food, and getting to know this new woman that I could envision as a friend. That’s when I knew that Carrie was not far from us in spirit and was sending her love our way.

We parted ways fairly early as they had another event they needed to attend that evening. Rick and I made our way back to the room to settle in. Rick continued to look at me sideways, probably still waiting for the dam to break. And of course, I did end up crying a bit, but they were just tears that still needed to be shed over losing my friend so unexpectedly. And I’m sure they won’t be the last. But with the prospect of Paul having such a wonderful new companion, there is at least a new light for me to consider.

We awoke Saturday morning, enjoying the comfort of a Marriott bed. They are the best! It was great not needing to rush anywhere. I yawned and stretched and slowly reconnected with the world around me. I knew that the streets below me were probably filling as I lounged. I was happily cocooned 29 floors up. Once I was awake, I opened my phone and received not one, but two disturbing messages.

The first was from our friend Janet telling us that our friend Ann’s mom was suffering from congestive heart failure and that they would be putting her on hospice care. God bless those hospice workers, God’s angels on earth to be sure. We exchanged texts and tucked the sad news in our hearts for continued prayers.

Next, I read my niece’s blog post about her sister’s breast biopsy that had just taken place. Within minutes I was texting my niece Wendy to send my support and love while she awaits the results. We, too, exchanged texts, and I tucked away Wendy alongside Ann in my heart. So much emotion and it was only 10:00 o’clock.

The morning progressed, and Rick fell back asleep, snoozing quietly beside me. I welcomed a few moments to myself playing solitaire on my computer, letting the tears intermittently slide down my cheeks. The thousands of women 29 stories below me lining up on Market seemed to offer up their strength. I kept thinking about what lovely creatures women are.

And I love men just as much, but that’s another post. This 24 hours had been a lesson about females, my friend Carrie, Pauls’ friend Lisa, my friend Janet passing along the news about my friend Ann fearing the loss of her mother Janet, my niece Wendy worrying about breast cancer, my niece Margie, the messenger. I had to take a pause to realize the women in my life are a force.

Feeling my own need for a bit of reinforcement, I texted my sister in law Lorene, not telling her anything about the day, but just saying I missed her. We both typically move at lightning speed, and it’s a toss-up whether we find time for a phone call, usually not. But within two hours my phone was ringing, and I can’t tell you how nice it was to tell her about my day. She, of course, offered her unconditional support, which can always be counted on, but more important than that, it was just good to hear her voice, to laugh and commiserate with my sissy.

I closed the afternoon out, texting also with my friend Colleen, positive subjects about babies on the horizon and our lovely daughters. 24 hours embracing women on the 29th floor of the Marriott, I didn’t even need to go downstairs to where all the action was. It’s a day I won’t forget any time soon.

Our holiday party was a great ending to the weekend. We enjoyed the comradery of my work gang, also headed by an amazing female. I awoke Sunday morning excited to get back home to write.

To the women in my life, past present and future, those who have passed and the new friends I see on my horizon, I love and thank all of you for being the amazing people you are. And to the ladies who marched this weekend, thank you for your efforts and your commitment to making the world a better place.

Release, part 2

This post seems to be a follow up to my last post entitled “Release.” Probably no coincidence, the ideas presented themselves to me this morning in my second visit to the restorative yoga class on Monday mornings at The Healing Shala in Cool. Last week with Christmas was far too busy to attend, but today I decided it would be a great way to close out the year.

We spent the weekend in our yard preparing our plants and trees for the winter ahead. We pruned and raked I believe what must have been a million leaves, and my favorite, burned the leaves, debris, and cuttings in our firepit all day long.

As I left this morning to go to yoga, I spent a minute looking at the trees and hydrangeas in front that we had pruned over the weekend. They seemed so bare, stripped of any of this season’s remaining beauty, cut back by at least a third of their height, and all deadwood removed. To the uneducated eye, one might think they had died.

As I situated myself on my yoga mat, our teacher Lynette, instructed us once again to set a mantra for the practice today. I decided it made sense to focus on closure and renewal since the new year is upon us. As my yoga practice ensued, my mind kept returning to the vision of my plants/trees as I left them this morning.

 I often return to nature, both in my life and my writing, to offer guidance.

The vision of my barren trees and plants made me feel so peaceful. Removing the remainder of their decaying leaves, resting after a busy and productive year, all that remains is their core. The plants can no longer hide beneath their leaves and blossoms. Their forms and the shape of their branches tell the story of their existence. Decayed limbs have been removed, allowing other parts of the tree to become productive and robust. They will rest through the winter, a time of restoration, gathering strength for the coming spring.

Are we any different? To remain healthy and grow strong, we, too, must spend time without our “leaves.” We need to turn inward to quietly replenish our stores. And we must cut the deadwood as it keeps us from becoming the healthiest version of ourselves. If a plant’s limb or branch dies and it is not cut away, the tree continues to try to send its energy and nutrients to the dead branch. This process, over time, damages the parts of the tree that are healthy, as they do not receive what they need to thrive.

Again, I ask, are we any different? Perhaps a human’s winter should also be spent in quiet restoration, looking closely at what serves us well in our lives, and probably more importantly at what doesn’t.

I look forward to the next few weeks, returning again to our yard to complete the necessary winter preparations, creating as many firepit sessions as I can squeeze out of that, and then moving inside for the duration… indoor fires, writing and reading, old movies, card games and puzzles, yummy stews and comfort food, and quiet reflection for the coming year.

Happy New Year to all of my readers. I wish you, above all, peacefulness in the new year.

Release

After spending a wonderful weekend with our friends, Janet and Lalo, I bid them farewell Monday morning with gratitude in my heart for the blessing of having friends like them. I’ve always been a crier at the end of anything that I’ve particularly enjoyed, relationships, visits, vacations, jobs, etc. The end of their visit was no exception. My throat closed, and my eyes welled with tears as I stood on our driveway waving goodbye.

I was reminded once again that we can’t hold on to life too tightly. We must let go over and over again and trust in tomorrow. That concept does seem to get more comfortable as I age, which I appreciate.

For the last few weeks, I had been researching yoga classes closer to home, and Monday was the day I was determined to try a new class right here in our little town of Cool at The Healing Shala, a sweet small yoga studio that opened within the last year. I had done a tiny bit of reading on the teachers and decided I would attend Lynette Masztakowski’s restorative yoga on Monday mornings. After such a lovely weekend, what a fantastic way to carry the goodness into my Monday.

Lynette, as well as the other members of the class, welcomed me with smiles and greetings, a nice benefit to a small group. I felt instantly at home. Lynette asked if I’d ever been to a restorative class, and I answered yes. I thought I had. Turns out, I have never been to a restorative class. I was in for a treat.

Instead of pushing and digging deep physically (which is also great), this experience was about releasing and going inward in a meditative way. I absolutely loved it and just wanted to share a few things that I came away with.

In the first few poses, we laid on our backs with a small roll beneath our ribs, our arms outstretched with palms up. The posture felt so unfamiliar, my head dropping back and my chest reaching for the sky. When I say it felt heavenly, I don’t mean that that it felt physically great, although it did. All those muscles that typically are contracting as I’m hunched over a computer or phone were suddenly stretching in the opposite direction. We would hold each pose for 8-10 minutes providing time to think and meditate. It felt terrific once my muscles settled in.

What I mean when I say it felt heavenly is that my heart was lifted toward the skies and the heavens beyond, open and trusting, my arms also wide open. There’s no hiding in that pose.

And I must tell you, the thoughts I had for the next twenty or so minutes were pretty profound. I thought about life and God, and surrendering to my fate, something I must do every day of my life, along with the rest of my brothers and sisters on this spinning planet.

Lynette had asked us to select a mantra or a thought for the practice, and I chose “release.” It seemed fitting this day.

As I lay lifting my heart, arms wide open offering whatever “release” resonated within me, I was bombarded by many healing physical feelings as well as a mind full of thoughts about what release actually meant to me. I won’t go into everything as obviously, some moments are mine for the keeping, but here’s what I will share.

What I saw as a vision during my mediation is that release is required over and over and over again in our lives. We don’t release people or subjects just one time. We must continue to release them again and again until we no longer feel the need. 

As I stated at the beginning of this post, goodbyes (which also could be considered releases) are hard for me. I have fought them the better part of my life. During the different poses, my mind shifted like a photo shutter showing me what has come of all my releases. And I could see that as difficult as some of them have been, it’s because of them that I have become solid and content and secure. I live my days in love with my family and friends, my home, my life, and maybe most important, myself. I am aware of my body to the degree that I’ve never been. I marvel at our nerve endings, which can produce such pleasurable feelings. And I understand that those same nerve endings can offer the opposite by way of pain, so I give thanks to the goosebumps I experience in a hot shower. What a blessing that is.

I finished my restorative yoga class, having covered quite a distance in my mind. I climbed into my car and drove back down our country road, with a thankfulness for releases and all the changes they offer, an anticipation of the final holidays of the year, and looking forward to many more visits to restorative yoga at The Healing Shala in Cool.

Life carries us like a river, and often times we can get displaced if the current moves too quickly. Moving back up the river can be a bitch. Find your way. Mine is yoga and the outdoors. But everyone has their own love, and there are as many choices as there are souls on this earth. No right or wrong. Just pay attention to what wakes up your insides… it’s a personal invitation from God. Accept it.