As a modern Washington Irving,

A small part of me feels she understood how Rip Van Winkle felt when he awoke covered in dead leaves, wondering how long he’d been asleep. His body was stiff but otherwise seemed to be his own, albeit older and lacking the boundless energy supplied only by youth. He stretched–slowly–and made his way down the mountain from whence he came, back through the trees. He, like the rest of us,  was wholly unaware of what the future had in store, trailing only a distant memory and his long white beard.

Instead of leaves, I woke up from my metaphorical stupor surrounded by packed boxes and dirty clothes from a move I could barely remember. Was this my home? How long had I lived here? Nestled near my things were other unfamiliar items that I definitely did not own. A bicycle. A desktop computer.  Men’s underwear. In this new apartment, it slowly dawned on me. Someone else did live here too. My boyfriend.

I tried to remember the last time I’d seen my best girlfriends for a glass of wine or went to a yoga class. Where had I been all these Saturday and Sunday nights? I tried to count the days that I had come to think of myself as “missing”.  I had fallen asleep, dreaming only of algebra equations and grammatically correct sentences for over three months.  I immediately texted my friends and rushed into the bathroom to check my face. No beard. My phone started to buzz. My friends were alive and still remembered me.

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For me, the GMAT was a mentally exhausting, all consuming type of test requiring almost all my mental capacity and periodic personal pep talks. I have a newfound appreciation for anyone who decides to go the route of business school, tackling this immense hurdle way before acceptance letters arrive and classes begin. The only positive thing I can say about the GMAT is that is a wonderful excuse if you get asked to dog sit for a week or attend that birthday party so far out in Queens, it might as well be Long Island. The GMAT became my only excuse to abandon every part of my life except for work, food and occasionally sleep.

I missed writing. Day after day, I would rush home from work and open my books to practice yet another rate problem (Rate x Time = Work) or quiz myself on tackling percentages (If Sally bought a shirt for $50 at 35% off after a 60% price increase….). In those months of math, I desperately missed words. I missed putting them down on a page with my funny, half-cursive scrawl. I missed typing on my laptop long past my bedtime reminder had alerted me to brush teeth and turn out lights. I missed blogging even if this attempted travel blog had evolved into a dusty, unkept autobiography.

I want to go to the place of Rip Van Winkle, somewhere high in the Catskill Mountains. I want to scream, I AM BACK, to all the chickadees, woodpeckers, chipmunks and deer. And I want to thank you, dear reader, for making it this far down the page and taking time out of your day to include me and my words. Thank you Boyfriend Billy for single handedly unpacking all our belongings while I struggled at our tiny dining room table, trying to make sense of geometry and square roots. Thank you (thank you) friends for believing in me SO much more than I ever had the gall or belief to dream. And thank you parents for wanting me to do well only because it would make me happy, since that has always been your only wish.

We are capable of so much more than we may even know.

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Strangers on a train

I took the Amtrak train back to New York City yesterday afternoon. In the row ahead, I could see two passengers, one man and one woman, on opposite sides of the train aisle. The man looked to be in his late 50’s. I watched him spit into his hands before running them through his thinning white hair. The woman, possibly in her late 40’s, wore thin reading glasses and had one small suitcase. Periodically, she leaned against the window, eyes focused on the blurred Hudson River rushing by.

As the train pulled into Penn Station, these two strangers began to converse. I overheard the woman was apologizing for her earlier disinterest in speaking with the man. 

“This is my last ride back to the city. I just needed to be alone. To think,” she said. “I’m about to move out West and live with my daughter. It’s a good thing but to think I’ll never live here again…after all these years.” Her voice wavered.

The man leaned into the aisle and rested his arm on his knee. He tried to offer some general words of understanding. The man was visiting his son and mentioned a previous divorce and difficult family relationships. Based on overhearing an earlier phone conversation, I’d gathered that his son or the ex-wife wasn’t willing to pick him up  at the station despite all of his luggage. He had angrily hung up on the anonymous party. Well fine then, I’ll just get a cab. How’s that for convenience? He did not reference the call but spoke generally about the importance of family. Crazy Italian family, he said, over and over. 

As the train doors opened and passengers filed out, the conversation has escalated and the man had begun to cry. He was still speaking, interjecting with “but you know” after each breath, even though I don’t think the woman truly did. 

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A woman leaving her life to be with her child. A man trying to find his way back into a family with uncertain ties. And me, a stranger without a single word of encouragement to offer. 

A day later, I find myself thinking of these two characters who chose to share a little of themselves on a crowded train  I wonder about the type of people who easily open up to admit sadness and fear. Are they judged by their peers? Do they care? I admire their ability to let go. That sort of open confession has never been my way. Maybe I’m blind to the world, my world, as it is and as it should be. But maybe I don’t want to know. 

But recently, even without asking, I’ve received lots of advice and unwanted opinions. Humans are so quick to judge, to sum up a person’s complicated parts into one lump sum. They  offer up opinions as if  they were gifts to be treasured and obeyed. We forgot what it feels like to be on the receiving end of such “gifts”.

Listening to the voice inside one’s own head becomes harder and harder to hear above the fray. 

I want the courage to open up despite unknown reactions and unkind truths. I want to admit fear and distrust in my own decisions. And I should also stop giving advice so freely without a second to understand the weight of my thoughts on the hearts of others. Our words should be groomed, fed and well-tended before they are released from the gates into the outside world beyond. 

Perhaps, dear reader, we can try to be brave together. We can open up a little and let the world know that sometimes we don’t have all the answers. We have not figured IT out. The unknown can be beautiful too. 

Talk to a stranger on a train. Maybe I’ll sit next to you. And we can practice letting go together.

 

 

To those who fear:

I make dinner. There is a zucchini in the refrigerator from Monday’s farmers market and some rice in the cabinet. I cut the green vegetable into thick half-moons and listen to them sizzle in the oil, sliding over each other in the pan. The rice is boiling. Sporadic bubbles appear and are instantly gone beneath churning currents. I cover the rice and season the zucchini. It’s a warm and sticky Sunday evening, hours before another week. Tomorrow is another day.

There is little in the daily news that inspires hope. Recent personal events make me question the ifs and the whys in life; these two words have burrowed deep within my stomach. I feel the words beginning to rot, yet answers never come. Great trepidation for the future of which I have no control. 

What is this fear that seems to surround me? 

Zika. Terrorism. Death. The future. Family. Security. Money. Cancer. The “other”. Hillary. Muslims. Trump. Western thought. Death. Sickness. Guns. No guns. Climate change. The wrong choice. Betrayal. Loss of sanity. Loneliness. Inadequacy. Loss of love. No love at all. 

The zucchini is done. Using my wooden spoon, I gently flip each slice and check both sides have browned. The rice needs water. I use the electric kettle and add more steaming liquid before replacing the lid. My lunch for the week is nearing completion.

I wish we the inhabitants of the world could hold one another and ask forgiveness for all the things we’ve ever done or said and have yet to do and say. The longer I live in this world, the more I realize how the Many suffer.The Many have been abandoned by their parents, rejected by society or left to function with less than a whole self. The Many go to sleep wrapped in fury at those who have made them feel, in some way, less than. Less than loved. Less than smart. Less than respected. Less than human. 

The zucchini, rice and chickpeas are finished. I split the ingredients into two plastic containers: lunch for Monday and Tuesday. Snap goes the red lid. A mundane task completed for another day. Snap. A sound so complete. Snap. A moment without meaning. 

Snap and death, a thick black period at the end of a thought, a final punctuation on all that has come before. We lament the future that never will be. Now, we cry, when there is so much left unwritten? But the pen has come and accentuated the dot in permanent black ink. We watch it dry on the page and still we tear at the paper trying to erase what is already done. We think we need the story to continue. We weren’t prepared, didn’t have time to close to the book and place it on the shelf. We don’t know how we will go on.

Tonight before bed, I will imagine a bright star in the night sky, high above the street lamps and traffic lights. On this star, I will wish for the next president of the United States to have compassion, grit and superb listening skills. I will wish for all family members who have witnessed profound tragedy and grief to experience temporary freedom and peace. I will wish for a moment of clarity among the Many who feel life is cheap and tainted and unclean. I wish for you, dear reader, and all your precious beautiful moments that lay ahead. They will come again.

Tomorrow is another day.  

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The New Sneakers Feeling

(def.) New Sneakers feeling: the feeling that occurs directly after putting on a brand new pair of squeaky new sneaks.

As a child, it was the feeling of unwavering confidence that directly followed a trip home from the sporting goods store. I distinctly remember removing my new shoes from their box and tying the laces just like my parents taught me. Right there on the grass, I would jump and prance on the lawn before taking off down the gravel driveway and fly fly flying on shoes made for Hermes. I was the faster girl in the world and nothing could slow me down. 

After high school, the New Sneakers feeling was more contained. Instead of running circles around my dad’s legs, I would lace up and take an extra long run or get on a treadmill with seemingly untapped reserves of strength. But the feeling was short-lived. I knew better by now. Shoes weren’t magic; they were just shoes. And I was the same old me. 
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And then, the New Sneakers feeling began manifesting itself in different ways. I recognized it as the feeling that accompanied a big change or start of something new: the day before my trip to Europe, my college graduation, my 25th birthday party. At each of those moments, I once again felt like I’d laced up a new pair of cleats before the championship game. The world was my oyster and nothing could slow me down. 

Once again, I have the New Sneakers feeling. As of Friday, I’ll be leaving my current company for a new opportunity. And once again, I’m taking a risk and reveling in my newfound freedom. 

We spend so much time worrying about the future. We learn to fear change because of the unknowns that lie ahead. What’s the best move? What if we fail? What if we let someone down or have regrets?  I understand those fears. These fears keep us from making impulsive decisions and help us validate our current path. But these fears also keep us from the New Sneakers feeling we so desperately need to feel alive. 

Do you remember the feeling of your feet in new sneakers for the first time? There was no question of where to go, how fast or for how long. There was no fear of failure or defeat.

You already had the potential to fly

 

The Root Cause

I found my mantra for 2013 while bending forward over my legs inspecting the stubby toes that protruded from my feet. Sunday morning was here again along with my weekly power vinyasa class. A grid of rainbow mats extended in all directions, defining invisible boundaries of personal space. Brandon called out from the front of the room and we began a new transition in a wave of energy.  A forest of human spines erupting through space. 

Root down. Reach up.

In vinyasa yoga, movement and breath are connected through conscious intension. The mind is aware of the body and in turn, the body is aware of movement and air flow.This morning, in the ritual of sun salutation, I became aware of my emergence into the new year. I tried to define my challenges and goals. Brandon began to speak, to relate yoga to our daily lives. My mind drifted and returned as I struggled to maintain a focused practice. Root down. 

Roots prevent trees from toppling over during harsh winds and heavy snows. They pull water and nutrients up from the ground, pry sidewalks apart and grow together in tangled balls beneath canopies of green. Roots can give humans their history or take it away. My legs become one trunk and my roots push past rubber and wood, down through the studio floor.Children without roots wander aimlessly in search of family history and a place to call home. The ceiling fan blows warm air through my branches overhead. Reach up. 

yoga_treePeople who walk with eyes skyward often benefit from an uplifted disposition. The sail attached to a sturdy mast will always capture the wind. The whispering kite has a reliable base and taut string while individuals with continued success have built a grounded foundation. We cannot choose where our roots begin or where our stories start. But we do have the power to build our roots, strengthen our base and reach toward the heavens. Dreams are only limited by the fungal disease of our self-doubt.

I leave you with my motto for the upcoming year. I hope it provides you strength as you move forward in your own life.

“Root down through the earth. Reach up to the stars. Everything is possible.”