Sukhasana.

Sukhasana means simple seat or easy pose- how amazing is it? See. You can do yoga too. 

Truth be told- I haven’t practiced in months. Since it’s easier than having personal accountability, I’m going to place the blame on lupus.

Lupus got me down in the dumps- to keep this light. Lupus made me feel weak and it made me forget what brings me peace. When friends asked if I wanted to attend a yoga class, I said no. The reason? One thing that I know to be true about finding a dedication to yoga is that it forced me to reflect. Not going to yoga was for no better reason than the fact that I didn’t want to think about my feelings.

Depressed. It’s an icky word that we don’t like to talk about, but lupus will do that. Do I have your attention now? Why does that word provoke a genuine curiosity? Hearing that someone is depressed creates a mixture of equal parts fascination, equal parts pity. Recently, in a lupus group I’m a part of someone asked: Do you struggle with depression or anxiety? The discussion evolved into a chicken or egg conversation. Lupus will make you fatigued. Lupus will make you inexplicably weak. It will make you struggle to find the words to ask “where are my keys,” because your brain legitimately can’t string together a sentence. It causes physical pain. It requires sacrifice.

I couldn’t go to yoga and face this obstacle. I couldn’t face it by myself, I didn’t want to talk about it with others, and I sure as hell wasn’t about to breakdown on the mat. And then my friend invited me to her new yoga class. And I genuinely wanted to be there and present, not only for her but for myself. I craved what yoga provided me with for years- sheer joy.

photo 1.JPGAs I found myself back on the mat and laying in savasana I made deal with myself to continue my practice.

To keep this vow, this morning I pulled out my mat, got cozy on my floor, and stumbled upon Yoga With Adriene through her YouTube channel.

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Title: Day 1 Practice Ease. And as she spoke, and preached her mantra: find what feels good, I decided I can get behind this. Today I practiced for 30 minutes. It was slow, full of ease, and she left me with something I need to make my own mantra:

In yoga, we cultivate the good space. The more we practice moving this way on the mat, the more we will move this way off the mat. 

Having lupus requires daily effort, but it’s my fight and I don’t quit. Life is complex, but find yourself and your purpose within it – even if you get lost or distracted. Today, as I laid in savasana and found ease, I also found a piece of my heart that I misplaced along the way.

 

Year to See.

What happens when you have been flaring for nearly three weeks? Your mind goes haywire with thoughts and mind boggling ideas. Case in point, last week I had an appointment with my  ophthalmologist to get my eyes examined because of the medication I’m on for lupus (see here). Hydroxychloroquine, which is used to treat and prevent malaria, can also be used for lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. And for all that it does for my health, the yang to it’s yin is that Hydroxychloroquine can also cause retinal toxicity.

So there I am, sitting by myself with nothing but my thoughts – Never a good thing when you have an overactive imagination. Great when you are a kid. Terrible as an anxiety ridden adult. So I’m zoning out to the point of what-the-shit when a profound thought crosses my mind. Now I need to be transparent for a hot minute before I tell you about that thought. I have not gotten my eyes examined in four years. I am supposed to go every 6 months. Six Hail Marys…? Seven?

The thought that crosses through my mind: The doctor is going to tell me that I’m going blind. My mind instantaneously races on an adventure because now I’m focused solely on how my life will be different as a result of losing my vision.

I decide that I’m going to have to put in my notice at work immediately. They tell me that I can take a sabbatical. John will need one too so we are going to have to tap into our savings. We are going to explore the world and the journey has to begin tomorrow. Our first trip will start with that great United States road trip John has wanted to do since the day I met him but I kept postponing because life got in the way. We will map out a route and see where it takes us, planning only the hotels and motels in advance. Dog friendly only because our pooch rides with us.

“…Ta-lee-yuh? Tail-yuh?” – That’s my cue. For the record though, it’s pronounced Tal-yuh. 

I’m pulled out of my trance and into a dimly lit office with a man with an equally bright personality. We talk about my eyes, he dilates them for tests, I do some Hail Marys, and we praise my excellent vision- to no effort of my own, just genetics.

I walk out of the appointment with my vision fogged and as John drives me home I tell him about the question. I find myself exploding into a frenetic explanation of how our wedding would have to be changed. I tell him that it is going to be offensively bright. And by offensively bright, I mean to say that it borders on downright tacky. Additionally, I need to make it to China because I promised myself that I would. You can stay or you can come with. But I’m going. And I want to ride in a hot air balloon. Our conversation gets to a point where we are actually bickering about the logistics of my make-believe plans. The safest choice is to put the kibosh on the conversation and come back to it at a later date and time.

John expresses how he doesn’t understand my minds ability to operate at such a continuous rate of thoughts per second. I don’t fully comprehend this either because I really would find it preferable at times if my mind looked more like this:

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and less like this:

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All in all, the trip to the ophthalmologist taught me a few things about myself- For one, I recognize that I was challenging my health. This is something that deeply bothers me because I do not encourage it or advise it in any way. I was avoiding going to the ophthalmologist because I was fearful of what they might tell me. Going with the theme of transparency, I hated the prospect of someone telling me the very medication which I am dependent on could be hurting me. Avoiding getting my hair cut for a year to avoid a bad haircut experience only to wind up with worse hair because I refuse to get a haircut is one thing. Losing my vision because I don’t want to hear that my medication could be affecting my sight is another. And while the focus here is about my fear of losing my vision, it is really about losing anything.

Ultimately, the what would you do question could be applied to a multitude of situations and it had me thinking about my own life with lupus. When I was diagnosed I genuinely felt as though I lost something. The idea of giving up any other aspect of my health is what puts me in a tizzy. If someone had given me a years notice on this whole lupus thing, how would it have shaped me? Can we even live in a world of what ifs?

My trip to the ophthalmologist (and mental adventure into la la land) allowed me to reflect on how limiting we can be to ourselves in our adult life. Does it take a health freak out to appreciate what we have and what the world has to offer? We can’t avoid living because life will always get in the way of plans. And none of us can predict the future because we are not ancient Greek oracles. Maybe we have to ask ourselves questions that unnerve us to figure out what it is that we want out of our existence.

I part with this question: Why haven’t we gone on the Great American Road Trip that we keep talking about?

And this answer: We are going on this damn road trip!

And then one last addendum to the original answer: But after the wedding because I feel like I’m really busy until then.  Because I have to be slightly practical.

Reflect: You have one year until _______, what do you do?

Smile

Over the past two years I have fallen victim to the cult of yoga- I chant “shanti, shanti”, om, and listen to a harmonium… it looks a little an accordion and a mini piano had a baby. I wear yoga pants and yoga shirts, and I hate socks and shoes. One thing I love about a good yoga class is the inspiration you can take from it. Every teacher has their own practice and style, but I love a good story before a lesson.

In class today, my teacher discussed the nature of life in general and how it can have a propensity to become overwhelming. She’s a new mom and spoke to that, something I can’t fully embrace at this point in my life, but I’m sure it’s more challenging than a 30lb pug mix. It was an authentic dialogue and wonderful to hear from a yoga instructor when often they appear as though they have it all figured out – like life is simple once you find the balance and can hold a scorpion pose.

I recognize the ignorance in that statement, because who really has it figured out? I don’t want to butcher my teachers words, or put words in her mouth, but today spoke to me. When your life becomes overwhelming it is easy to half-ass (she didn’t say that, but see, you get the message) anything and everything. We become susceptible to falling victim of that crushing sensation and rather than fighting against it, sometimes we give into it. So what did she suggest today? Smile. Persevere, fighting through it, be the best version of yourself and give all of yourself to everything you do.

As the summer winds down and I transition from the easiest days where the sound of an alarm clock is sinful to days of actually having responsibility, I know i will have to fight against some anxiety associated with deadlines and grades and observations. So is life. It’s a generous reminder to myself that when I wake up in the morning I have to thrive and rise to the occasion. We have all had a woe is me moment, and actually, I’m not against wallowing in those waters for a little while. But at a certain point you do have to overcome. I write as a reminder to myself that I am a human, but I want to be the best version of myself that I can be as often as I can be. So let this be a reminder to smile – a mental note on a more taxing day.

Marmalade Skies

Why is it so challenging to capture a beautiful sunset?10982850_10101804355414242_7238045040149848758_nThe kind of sunset that made beach goers and volleyball players pause their games to watch the sky light up in bubble gum pink, fuchsia, and gold. Last night I wrote about the connection between those that go to Bikram yoga, despite whatever difference we have on the surface. When we stand under the same sky, as the sun sets over the seemingly endless ocean, I love the light in peoples eyes. It’s the same wonder we all once had as children.

I DEALT. I LITERALLY LIVED. FOR SERIOUS.

Class was coming to an end- thirty days: they flew and crawled all at the same time. Right as we laid in our last savasana, the instructor gave me a complimentary shout out and the class gave my a complimentary clap. Aw, shucks you guys! I had one of those I’m so uncomfortable, but I’m also loving every minute of this smiles planted across my face. There were times in class where I wondered if I was going to make it out alive- I understand that’s slightly melodramatic, but if you follow my blog you know the way I ride. If you know me personally, the blog does not represent a fraction of how much I love hyperbole. I didn’t cry last night, but I did smile, and as Jess and I walked out of class last night I was tapped out. Tapped out, but proud. Sweaty hugs went around.

A woman came up to me at the end of class to congratulate me and asked me how I did it, stating that she was on day 3. I told the truth:

  • I did what I could and if I couldn’t, I didn’t. I respected my body and it’s limitations of any given day and just because my body didn’t want to do something one day, didn’t mean I couldn’t give it a shot the next.
  • I never compared myself to others. If anything, what others were capable of became an inspiration to me every single day.
  • I was inspired by others- I’ve written about this before, but I love that Bikram caters to people of different genders, sizes, religions, races, ages… it doesn’t matter. We are all here for the same reasons, we are all here for different reasons. But we are all here.

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I don’t care if I’m not the best and that my back bend is not perfect. I did it! I do care that I was wearing that outfit on my last day. Definitely could have chosen some cuter gear.

So, now to my first day off. How did I spend my first day off? Feeling slightly lost, like I’m forgetting to do something while simultaneously feeling like I can challenge the world from my couch. My body wants a break, so my body gets a break! I thought about running and bike riding, so instead I went to Bed Beth and Beyond and bought myself a new comforter. Because my body deserves a comfortable sleep! I can’t say I haven’t gotten some kind of workout today-

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Life is exceptional.

I just wanted to say hi and tell you this:


Woohoo!

Time to be realistic?


My heart is smiling. And it has been for over one month. I’ve been meaning to stop by and say hello. Miss you, blog. I’ll be back around soon!

Death by Internet

On October 26, 2014, I thought I could die. Like, totally, literally, die. Exaggeration and melodrama for the excitement of the post, you all.

When the internet was first invented it was a place of excitement- OH, THE POSSIBILITIES. And by possibilities, I mean really, really, creepy chat rooms: a/s/l? My mom hovered over me like a hawk, what website are you on, are you on a chat room? And let me tell you, she had every right to be a helicopter. I recall entering a chat room about something completely age appropriate- my undying love of Lisa Frank. I entered into a generic conversation about something like, unicorns vs. tigers on our pencil cases. The norm. When out of no where things got real, real quick. The conversation ended by my exiting the chat, blocking the individual, and asking my mom what their screen name meant: orgy69, or something very close that any parent would want to crawl into a ball and avoid answering.

I got the point, chat rooms were not a safe place in the slightest, but the internet was an awesome source for other amusement: bullying kids in school.

Step 1: get an awesome screen name and if anyone else has a name that slightly resembles yours, it’s grounds for bullying.

Step 2: create a second screen name that is anonymous, so they don’t know it’s you.

Step 3: IM (that’s instant message, for any yunnins perusing these parts of this here inter-web) the person you intend on bullying.

Step 4: Bully away- the choice is yours, feel free to get as mean as possible, the internet is new and they are most definitely not going to catch you.

This was real life- the start of bullying on the internet. A place with so much potential for both good and evil. And things got evil very quickly- To say I have cried at the hands of mean girls on the internet would be the wholehearted truth and I am sure I’m far from alone. Shame on you anonymous internet. And today, the internet is worse- tumblr, twitter, facebook, instragram, yikyak, and the list goes on. So many forums for so much potential- and to think we only had to deal with a possible mean IM.

So I write this because when my blog was discovered by one of my students it was as though my deepest fear became a reality. #1 reason, my brothers torture me over the fact that I even have one. #2 reason, this is a huge part of who I am. Lupus. 27 years old (yes, I am now 27 and I didn’t even get to write about the big change). Living a normal life, despite also having a career. Yeah, surprise, surprise, I don’t live on a cot in my classroom. And I created this blog on one hand as an escape from my disease and on the other hand to promote awareness for a disease that is largely unrecognized. I wanted to create a safe haven for other people that feel misunderstood, because that’s exactly how I felt prior to, and following my diagnosis at the age of 16.

But didn’t you think that when you decided to blog about your life in a public forum that it could be found? You idiot.

I mean, technically I did. But ultimately, this little slice of internet heaven became another world for me. As soon as I realized my alter-ego was discovered I went into lock down. Delete. Private. Shut it all down.

But…I can’t do it- despite the unwarranted harassment I will continue to receive from tweedle-dee and tweedle-dumb (sorry brothers, you will have to figure out which one you are). Despite the possibility that the truth may be discovered: I have a dog, and that I go to the beach, and that I love (terrible) music, and have a personality, and I suffer from road rage, and that I adore my job, and I run. Despite sucking at it. You found me, I am a human. And if anything, you may find that I’m so regular that I’m not that interesting to read about at all!

I want to believe the best in all individuals, especially in my career where I work with young people each and every day. If we could be cognoscente of our words, our actions, and even our non-actions, we could create a community where people could feel secure and proud to be who they truly are rather than seek to impress those that in the end, simply do not matter.

With that, I open this bad boy back up.

Also, stay tuned- I never got to write about that time I ran a 5K that was supposed to be a costume race. I was the only person at the whole race in a costume. Fabulous. And also humiliating.

Hey, Girl, Hey

I’m still alive and here! I’ll give you a morning synopsis so you know it’s me and not my evil twin (a little Halloween spirit in the household!) I am still running. I had a rough three weeks following the extraction of my wisdom teeth- it was followed by a hardcore cold (allergies?) that lasted for weeks. The cough still hasn’t gone home ::cough:: welcome to fall/winter, body!

Last week John and I began our quest to run while most people, including ourselves, would be asleep… The dreaded 5 a.m. haul out of bed. We took Tilly on a few morning runs, the dog is a good companion! Who would have known those four little legs could carry her so well. Don’t worry PETA representatives, we know her limits. This morning we dragged ourselves up but the weather was like, no way… Don’t run out here… so we decided to hit up the gym spot. We made it to the gym only to find a pitch black building. A pitch.black.locked.shut.building. Seriously, gym! Does this mean that tonight I can say I already went to the gym?

No… It doesn’t work like that?

Since the gym wasn’t open and I made it clear that I am not diehard enough to run outside we decided to do the food shopping that we swore would happen over the weekend. We get to the supermarket, dedicated and ready to speed shop or at least get some kind of sweat on. Hopes dashed! Two workers eye me through the large glass windows as I repeatedly try to open the front door. They don’t even blink. Or laugh at my expense.

What is going on world?! At least laugh at my misfortune!

Now, at 6:20, I have enjoyed a cup of coffee (made using a napkin as a filter since filters were on the shopping list) and watched 50 cent learn about his heritage on a vh1 show about celebs revisiting their origins… Talk about racist old people, what the hell is a Mongolian Slave?! (See what I’m talking about)

On another note, things I need to purchase:

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(From here)

Simply because I’m positive that’s the exact opposite of how today is going for me right about now. I guess I’ll just go to the gym twice today. I can say that now.

Step Right Up

Have you ever woken up feeling more appreciative than you have felt about life in a long time? Warning: That was me this morning, so, I suggest you stop reading if you despise the happiness of others. And then quickly find a therapist or a hobby because you have some stuff to straighten out. 

To be cliche, I have always felt like life is similar to a roller-coaster in that it’s thrilling, terrifying, exhilarating, and sometimes nauseating all at once. It’s because of the ups and downs, isn’t it? I am an emotional person and I have always been an emotional person, but I love feeling it all, making me receptive to the good as well as the bad. At times when I’m feeling particularly wallow-y, I imagine myself as an artist feeding off my own negativity to fuel whatever creation I’m currently working on. And I can use my occasional cynicism to truly appreciate the loveliness that surrounds me as well. So you could say that I kind of revel in the twists and the turns and the unpredictability of it all. And that’s what takes me to where I’ve been.

With the start of the school year approaching, I felt myself getting off the ride of summer and it was like this insane adrenaline high that was disappearing. I felt vacant and the end of summer began to feel like a never ending Sunday. Dramatic, I know. But it did- because I felt unprepared and sensitive and nervous…and full of irrational fears such as: What if I forgot how to teach?! dun…dun…dun…

And so as the first week approached and then passed I was able to get back into the swing of life and predictability. And closed-toe shoes. Which completely suck, by the way. I met my students, and gave hugs to work friends that I haven’t seen since June. It was so easy to remember why I chose this profession from the get-go and how powerful of a career teaching is. And just like that I climbed out of my hole of insecurities. And, clearly, I did not forget how to teach.

 

This morning as I did monotonous tasks such as laundry and grading, I thought over the weekend I just had. One with laughs, friends, as well as a volleyball tournament in memory of Michelle O’Neill, a young woman, only 24 1/2 when she lost her battle to cancer (http://monfoundation.org/). A full day event, we spent the entire day on the beach with the sun beating down on us. I had forgotten my umbrella and two hours into the day I recognized I was being foolish for sitting in the sun. A kind group of people offered me theirs and I spent the remainder of the day when we weren’t in the ocean or on the court hiding from the sun. Once a month I allow myself to get angry at lupus- that bitch. A friend asked me earnestly, what is lupus? I explained the disease. Embarrassed that I was explaining something I live with to a person that is also a cancer survivor on a day that was for a young girl that had lost her life to her battle. And I was humbled. Humbled by his question and a discussion on life and appreciating the one we have and how envying the life of another does nothing for anyone because we all have our ups and our downs. Every person has their own story. 

And on this Sunday, despite the day on the calendar telling me that it’s still summer, I walked outside to a strong sun and a cool fall breeze. I took in the air as I temporarily stepped away from my work to turn over the laundry. I’m so fortunate. 

 

Curiosity Never Killed Anything

Whoever said humans are born evil never actually met a baby. Unless it was me, they did call me the demon fetus. What I can tell you is that the purest form of happiness comes directly from babies- and it doesn’t matter that they haven’t yet acquired language fully, their expressions and excitement for life are cross cultural. I truly believe we can see our connectedness as humans rather than our differences through country or culture when we look into the innocent eyes of a young child. In the life of a child two things are certain and universal: laughter and a curiosity for life. Somewhere along the line we lose these two beautiful things, but I would like to believe that many of us long for them.

This year I spent a lot of time thinking about the question: When do we lose our passion for the world? The joy, exuberance, and thrill of the little things becomes lost in mundane tasks and chores of daily life. This week I got to spend a few days with my beautiful, 15 month old niece, Ayla. And let me tell you something, that child appreciates life to the fullest. Or as much as any baby with two legs and a penchant to run can have.

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I am willing to lose followers by stating that she is by far the best and most intelligent child. In the world. And she’s so stinking cute too. But that’s just a perk. At 15 months, she took her little legs and exhausted herself as she ran from exhibit to exhibit at the Museum of Natural History. The excitement and wonder that we all wish we could maintain is alive in this child.

As much as I love seeing babies be babies, I want a piece of that excitement for life cake. So, in my endless effort to tap into my inner child, my friend Jess and I had the pleasure to see Fuerza Bruta, a performance show, in the city (New Yorkers call manhattan the city… Because it’s the only city in the world.) I’m not even sure how to describe this show other than to see it helps bring back the wow factor that kids still have. The show takes place all around you- above your head, on the floor, and with the audience. It’s unbelievable. In one portion of the show, a pool comes down from the ceiling and a performance takes place over your head in the water.

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The ceiling gradually moved closer to all of us as people reached out for the chance to touch the hand of one of the girls from the other side of the glass. Magical, ethereal, and at times a cross between a fantasy and a nightmare, this show had it all.

As the performance came to an end, a portion of the room began to pour- seriously, water flowed like rain as people danced underneath, quite literally becoming soaked through their clothing.

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We left the show beaming from ear to ear, like little kids. We never fully lose that wonder.

What makes you feel young?!