Sunday, December 4, 2011

Ho Ho Ho, I Guess We Reap What We Sow...

Every year, right around Halloween, I start looking forward to Christmas.  Then, as it gets closer, the familiar feelings begin again.  The feelings of inadequacy.  Yup, here's what I do best - throw myself a big ole pity party.  I should be thankful for my health and well-being.  Yup, this is true enough.  So, other than reasons of pure selfishness, what exactly is my problem...

I can't muster up the desire to decorate my house or bake anything.  I suppose if I really, really loved all of this, I could just do it for myself.  Who else cares, I wonder?  Not Bill, who can't seem to leave the house fast enough these days.  Between his side copper and metal jobs, car restorations and the four or five odd hobbies he's involved in, he is never around.  Mandy won't be home until December 23rd.  She just sent me an e-mail containing links to several websites.  My task is to order specific items for her to give her cousins and friends for Christmas.  Hmmm... so much for the hours spent at the Galleria and Boulevard Malls...  It didn't hit home until she presented me with all of these cyberlinks.  So practical, so necessary, so....  from a distance.  Internet shopping - I guess that's a task I can handle., something that I'm actually good at.

"Task".... sometimes a word that I've grown to hate.   Is it possible that at the end of my life, I will be judged not by kindnesses bestowed or courtesies extended, not by the love in my heart  or by the love others feel for me, but rather by a long and tedious list of tasks spanning my entire life?  I'm pretty sure I will be in big trouble, if that's the case.   Every year at this time, I see everyone around me moving in a perpetual whirlwind of preparations.  I hear about it everywhere, read about it on Facebook, and I guess I don't know if I'm jealous or what.  Jealous that I don't have an ounce of creativity in me to actually do anything interesting, jealous that I just can't seem to muster up a reason to do any of these holiday "tasks".  I do an excellent job of pretending that I'm on this Christmas who-ha bandwagon.  Nobody would ever guess that I'm going through the motions and doing as little as possible to keep up appearances.  The really interesting thing is that I feel like I have so much more free time and so much less stress than everybody else with all of their tasks, but what am I supposed to do with all of this glorious free time?  Who am I supposed to be spending it with?  Do task-driven people ever actually really enjoy the holiday season?  Or are they just relieved when they can sit down and breathe?   Isn't there a happy medium somewhere?

So Christmas is really depressing for some people.  I guess every year, I get bit closer to understanding that than I did the year before.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


So I'm all ready for this 90 minute "Hot" Yoga class this morning.  Well...... to be honest, I had some work to do to get myself psyched up for it.   After all, Mandy was home.  We were up until 1:00AM gabbing, etc, etc ....     Imagine my reaction when I walk into the studio and find out that I am the only person in the 9:00AM class.  Yup - me, myself and I.   I looked at the instructor and I think I said something like "do you do solo acts here?".    She asked me if I felt comfortable being the only person in the class.  I thought about how it costs $100 for a scheduled private instruction, and that pretty much made up my mind.

As per usual, the sweat was pouring down my face at about the 2 minute mark of the class.  It was kind of cool  - sort of like a choreographed duet.  The instructor stood next to me instead of in the usual instructor spot facing me.  Choreographed.... in that I have taken the Hot class enough times to know all of the moves and follow her with minimal vocal direction.  A mostly silent practice.  I felt more in control than I thought I would.  Somehow I was able to push myself more than usual without pushing too far, maybe because I've reached a certain comfort level with all of the instructors.  I know that none of them are judging any of us in their classes.  I also found out the difference between the Hot classes and the Flow classes.  The primary objective of the Hot classes is to improve blood flow to our core and internal organs.  The Flow classes are designed more for improvement of muscle tone.   The instructor who had advised me over a month ago to alternate Hot and Flow classes had hit it right on the mark.  So many people go to primarily one or the other for various reasons........ BORING!    More and more I am reading that the key to integrating exercise into your life is to not allow it to become routine or too familiar.   The Hot classes don't change much,  but the Flow classes are different because each instructor is allowed to design their own class.   I believe this equates to.......FUN!  No need to elaborate any further...

Now that I have all of that sorted out (it only took 3 months!), I can expend more effort toward the mental challenges posed by Yoga.   Clearing the mind, focusing on the practice, etc...   Oddly, the silent practice today did little to advance my development in this area.    The weirdest, most random thoughts started popping into my head this morning.   As I laid on my back, supposedly concentrating on my breathing and heart rate, I started making a mental list of the names of all of the Bee and Metro newspapers in Western New York.    Ummmm..... what the hell?????

Baby steps...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Exercising or Exorcising?

One of the important facets of Yoga is a clear, focused mind.  You are to remove the events of the day and focus inward.  Sometimes I seriously doubt my ability to accomplish them.  Today was one of those days.  I entered the studio and sat cross-legged on my mat.  As I focused on my reflection in the mirror, all I could see was something resembling a blowfish.  Every part of me appeared puffy - face, stomach, arms, legs and  most of all, my eyes.    Terrific.  Focus.  "Inner Demon, are you there?  Time for you to leave.... or if you plan on staying, at least be productive and help me concentrate.  Thanks... so much."

So, what, you might ask, is my inner demon?  Well, I have this overwhelming self-centeredness that seems to take over my entire being, and I seem not to be able to stop it.  This is why I know that my daughter is a better person than I am.  She is inherently good, instinctively empathetic, and almost always puts others before herself.  This is the child who has spent her entire allowance/paycheck/bank account balance on  - (choose one:  birthday gift, Christmas gift, or my personal favorite - Friend In Crisis and Needs a Pick-Me-Up Gift) since the age of eight.

I'd like to think that I am gaining control over this demon as I age but then when it strikes, I feel like nothing has changed and I'm back where I was in my twenties  when I was living every moment of my existence like this.   When it happens, it's almost like an out-of-body experience.  After I realize that it has happened, it is actually physically painful - like being punched in the gut or having your heart twisted - or both depending on the identity of my latest "victim".  I've spent a long time trying to figure out what has made me this way, and finally I gave up and just thought I'd better do something to control it.  I think I'm doing better than ever before.  I shouldn't be so hard on myself, but it just hurts so damn bad when it happens.

So, on days when my inner demon has won a battle, Yoga seems to remove the pain and self-hatred from my mind.  Peace is restored, at least temporarily.  The question then becomes - am I doing this for self-improvement or is it the ultimate act of self-indulgence?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Random Thoughts of the Day

So I guess my employer isn't ALL bad.  A bit naive and unfocused, perhaps.  But not all bad.  Last week, I attended Session 3 of a 3-session "learning and development" series.  Things with those titles have always turned out to be deadly dull.  Not so with this one.  At one point, we discussed stress management and job burnout.  I thought I knew about job burnout....that it occurred when someone had been working at the same place doing the same thing for years.  I didn't realize that the symptoms could build and span more than one employer.  Disillusionment was a major symptom, plus total withdrawal from friends and family -among other symptoms.  As I stared at this list on the power point presentation, it hit me right between the eyes - this was me two years ago at my peak of whatever it was that I hadn't been able to put a name to.  Finally, it all made sense.

I was thrown to the curb by an employer of 19 years who, when I was hired, had been referred to as "Mother Marine" because people who were hired there tended to be lifers -  me and people who I had viewed as my second family.   My new job turned out to be an unsatisfactory substitute.  I was withdrawn from my family.  My husband and I were barely civil.  Job burnout.  There it was staring me in the face.  Is it ironic that I was in a session being run by the very sub-par employer that had failed to measure up to my lofty standards?  Perhaps this place isn't so bad after all.  Today they brought in someone to help us with stress on the job.  She has a website entitled "laugh".  She is hysterically funny.   And I think she helped us - a lot.  So while I feel like the future of my department is still somewhat questionable (yes, here we go again), at least it feels like someone might actually care.  I clawed my way out of that job burnout (with a lot of help that came along at just the right time), and even if something happens to my current job, I feel so much more empowered than I did three and a half years ago when this all started.

The only thing I need to keep myself from doing is getting emotionally attached to the people I work with and the notion that this place was my savior when I seemed to be hopelessly unemployed.  This is what got me in trouble before, I think.  This job is not my life.  These people are not my life.  My life needs to be what happens when I'm not there.  Is this even possible?  I don't know if it's in my nature to be detached.  I seem to have a long history of getting way too attached to people who ultimately let me down.  I guess I have this subconscious need for .... not sure how to put this into words.... validation, I guess.  Someone for whom I am a #1 priority.    Shouldn't my husband be this person?  Yes, he should and he is, but this never seems to be enough.  I just don't think he really "gets" me sometimes.  I love him more than life, but I just want to spend time with someone who gets me.  When I look back, I guess I've been looking for this my whole life.  I didn't find it at work, didn't find it with my family.  I guess the hubby is still a work in progress.  I won't give up on him yet.   I suppose I have a lot more living to do, employers to work for, experiences to have - before I pack it in.  According to the laugh academy lady, I'm a Tigger.... and Tiggers  bounce, bounce, bounce...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Another yoga class in the books.  This time, 60 minutes in a 90 degree room, followed by a 30 minute meditation period.  I almost skipped out on the meditation.  I have this awful fear of falling asleep in public.

There's no delicate way to describe my issue with this..... I snore.....loud.   When they fixed my deviated septum 13 years ago (13 years ago... really... ?  I remember watching the Nagano Olympics at 2:00AM because I couldn't sleep with those tubes stuffed up my nose to high heaven.... but I digress), I thought my snoring issues would stop.  When I got down to 135 pounds by running 15 miles a week 9 years ago, I thought my snoring issues would stop.  Wrong on both counts.  The only thing that stopped me from snoring was that medieval device known as the C-PAP machine.  Of course, part of the reason that I didn't snore was that I couldn't fall asleep, on my back, with this crazy mask strapped to my face.  So much for that.

So, anyway, I tried this meditation class.  By this time, if I was going to humiliate myself, I figured I would have done so already...numerous times.   The idea is to sit cross-legged or lay in corpse pose (love that name) and focus totally on my deeeeep breathing for 30 minutes.  The mind should be completely cleared.  If a thought enters the mind, you are supposed to "acknowledge it and move on...".    I'm guessing that my husband would say that it should be easy for me to maintain an empty mind for 30 minutes.....<har, har... insert laughter here>. 9:00PM after a busy day, this is not easy.  Easier if you've just finished the 60 minute class.....   But, once I cleared my mind and focused on breath, I found myself in a strange state of calm.  I did NOT fall asleep... I hope....  Yes, this I will definitely do again.   Soooo amazingly relaxing!   I love this studio and the instructors.   Each one brings something different and useful to the class.  Thank you to whatever force it was that decided that the old Remington building in North Tonawanda should be the next hot place for trendy businesses.   Hmmm... that might actually be my husband, on the Board of the Chamber of Commerce of the Tonawandas....  <sigh>... the Lord works in mysterious ways...

Saturday, October 15, 2011


I sit here feeling somewhat satisfied with myself, as I have just completed my second yoga class in three days.  This class was entitled "FLOW" in an 80 degree room.  So I'm thinking that this is probably the easiest class they offer.  Wrong again.  This was much more like the DVDs in my TV cabinet, the "flow" part means that we flow from one pose to another for an hour and 15 minutes straight without stopping.  I guess I was deceived by the relative coolness of the 80 degrees.  I really liked the class.  Afterward, the instructor told me that the best thing to do is to alternate between HOT, WARM and FLOW classes..... ah, yes, the wisdom of yoga.

It's amazing how philosophical you become after sweating profusely while twisting your body into various geometric shapes - in a room with upwards of 10-15 other people, mostly women.  I have developed a theory that women over the age of 40 really get the short end of the stick in this country.  It is so easy to buy into the idea that physical beauty and youth are what really define us as being "beautiful".  For all of us who are "of a certain age", it is much easier to settle for the idea that beauty is something to be referred to in the past tense than to go through the mental gymnastics that would invariably be involved with the dreaded "self-assessment".  Perhaps it is that residual Puritanical mindset that forces us to adopt this humble and self-deprecating view of ourselves.  I'm as guilty as the next person - I know it.  I could produce a list of my physical flaws that would be as long as your leg.

 I know for a fact that I see and interact with many women who are my age and older who I have grown to view as beautiful.   What I have come to realize is that it is our life experiences and how we allow them to affect us that transform us from one type of beauty into another.   For instance, someone may have this or that physical limitation because of..... whatever.... past surgeries, metabolic changes, degenerating this or that.  How this person choses to approach her physical limitations and how she allows her life experiences to shape her attitude is what will define her beauty - not  the arch of her eyebrow or the firmness of her jawline or the perkiness of her.....(fill in the blank).

The frustrating thing is that these beautiful women have mostly all bought into the conventional wisdom that equates youth with beauty.  They are essentially incapable of seeing themselves as even "attractive", let alone "beautiful", just as the anorexic looks in the mirror and sees someone who is fat.   There is certainly nothing wrong with admiring the physical beauty of younger women  -our daughters and their friends (who, ironically, have their own set of body image issues).   But let's not kid ourselves that their beauty and our beauty are one in the same.   Perhaps it should be mandatory for all women "of a certain age" to take yoga classes and visit (and participate in) an clothing optional beach.  Sometimes you have to come face to face with the notion that everyone is capable of their own full potential, and reaching for that potential is a beautiful thing and is the real definition of beauty.

I've decided that one of my goals in life will not only be to tell these women who are of a certain age that they are beautiful, but to also begin to believe it of myself.  It will not be easy to erase 40-plus years of self-depecating, puritanical humility - nor will it be easy when I have Madison Avenue's definition of attractiveness pushed in my face at every turn.   But .... only when we ladies all embrace our real worth and really view our whole selves (inside and outside together as one) can the collective mindset of our world be changed.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


The one-word title will suffice.  Yoga.  What is it about yoga?  My TV cabinet is crammed with yoga videos and DVDs.  Problem is, doing the same tapes over and over in your living room is.... what's that word........ oh yeah...BORING!!  Imagine my delight when a yoga studio opens up five minutes from my house.  Not just any studio.... the evolation yoga studio, featuring Bikhram yoga.  This is yoga in a hot room.  Fascinating.

So, off I trot, to the 60-minute session in an 80 degree room.  It was challenging and I was indeed warm.  Of course, I could not be satisfied with this for very long.  Oh no, not me... I decide to go for the gusto.   The HOT class.  That's right - 90 minutes in a 105 degree room.   Swell.  Tonight, about 20 minutes in, I thought I saw my life flash before my eyes.  Standing poses..... sweat pouring from every pore in my body, I was positive that I was about to throw up or pass out.   Finally the logical side of my brain took over and said  "DUMMY!!  STOP AND BREATHE!!"  So I did, and believe me, it wasn't like I was the only one. Let's see...yes, ok... grab my heel from behind with my hand twisted in an unnatural position...then pull my leg up behind me while bending forward with my other arm pointed at the sky... in(of course) the 105 degree room.  I'm supposed to be focusing on my face, and ONLY my face, in the mirror in front of me.  It's hard to miss - it's that odd, purple-colored, bulging-eyed thing on the front of my head which, for some reason, looks way too big for my body...  this must be some sort of voodoo room.

So, the upshoot of this "experience" is that the outdoor air felt so incredible when I left that I almost didn't mind that a certain husband was late picking me up.  I sat on a bench by the canal and let it waft over me.  Nirvana.   Plus, these are the only times in my life when a cold shower is actually pleasurable.  Go figure.  Now I sit and recall the class, and I am feeling calm yet energized, like I am totally in control of my destiny.  It's amazing.  After all of that, I will definitely do it again.  Maybe next time I'll make it through 90 minutes without the bobble head hallucination.