The Perfect (re)Treat

“You need to come here and get a break. Everything is optional. You could just sit in your room the whole time if you wanted to. There’s a hot tub and a sauna there.”

The prospect of a hot tub was tempting.

My dear college friend lives and works at the Shoshoni yoga ashram, which is less than an hour from my house. For years, I assumed the ashram was for people who thought a good time was yoga and meditation. That was great for some people, but my idea of a vacation involved a beach, happy hour on a patio, and copious light fiction and/or true crime novels. That was before I had two kids. Still, I had reservations.

“I’m not really into yoga and I’ve never meditated for more than 10 minutes at a time.” I said.

“Imagine it, though. You could just come here and be alone in your cabin. You could sleep the whole time. You could even wear a badge that would mean you were being silent and no one should talk to you.”

The silent badge actually sounded tempting, though too extreme for me. A night of uninterrupted sleep sounded better than winning the lottery. My friend suggested I come up for a night, so I promised myself that if I meditated every day in December, I would book the retreat. I meditated 30 out of 31 days of December, which I think is close enough. I couldn’t bring myself to make the reservation, though.

Dan was totally on board for it. It’s unfair because I nag him about making sure the car seats are not tight enough and leaving his breakfast dishes on the table, while he nags me to spend a night alone at a retreat. I felt guilty leaving my kids with Dan and babysitters so I could do essentially nothing. I didn’t think I deserved it. I kept saying I would, and then “Call Shoshoni” would inevitably sink to the bottom of my To Do list.

Six months later, it occurred to me that I had survived the baby’s first year and dammit, I deserved something special.

No one was crying or asking me for anything in the seconds it took to decide to call, locate my phone, and dial.

The ashram had an opening.

Childcare presented itself almost magically in the form of in-laws and a babysitter.

Obviously, the universe wanted me to go to the ashram for a night.

As I headed west up the canyon, the air began to change. It’s not just that it’s thinner, it feels lighter, and you can’t help but feel a little lighter, too, as you get farther and farther from the traffic lights, the people, and the noise of the city. I turned onto the ashram’s dirt road and felt lighter still. It was raining lightly when I got my keys, a map, and a schedule. When I got to my cabin, I lay down on the bed and listened to the rain. It was coming down hard, and I could hear rolling thunder. There was a yoga class in 20 minutes but I had no plans to go.

Instead, I sat on my perfectly made king size bed and stared up at the rich blonde and brown swirls in the wooden planks of the ceiling and listened to the storm. Storms are different at 8500’. Lightening electrified the sky as thunder cracked down just a half a breath away. I wondered if it kept up like this, whether it would be safe to walk to dinner with my umbrella. That’s the kind of thing that Dan knows, but I couldn’t ask him because my phone had no reception. Wi-fi wasn’t available on my phone either, so Google was out. There was no one to ask and it was glorious. What was even more glorious was that no one was asking me for anything.

I wrote in my journal. I read my book. I shut my eyes for a few minutes. I simply put my shoes and jacket on and walked to dinner. It’s hard to explain the quiet joy of leaving the house so easily and so quickly, walking slowly to dinner, and arriving perfectly on time.

After dinner, there was chanting and meditation at the temple. I had never chanted before, but I was game to try it. The temple looked like a pagoda with a blue tile roof. It was in clearing, surrounded by woods. Inside were neat rows of square cushions and matching pillows, and what I believe were Hindu representations of various deities. There was just me, another guest, and the guy leading the service. An hour went by quickly. After dinner, I read on a comfortable couch in a common area and I sat in the sauna. I read some more. I pumped. I showered. I went to sleep.

In the morning I went to a 5:30am service. I could have slept, but I really wanted to know what was happening at this service that my friend had been going to every morning for the past ten or so years. There were about 20 people, each sitting atop a pillow on a square mediation cushion. I later found out I was the only guest. Most people don’t wake up at 5am when they aren’t on a schedule, apparently. My eyes were glued to my prayer book, and I did my best to keep up with the Sanskrit, which was transliterated into English. I wondered if this was how Dan felt every time he did something Jewish with me, as I bumbled along, recognizing a word here and a phrase there by the time we got toward the end of the service. Afterward, there was a silent meditation. It was a lovely, grounding way to start the day. I could see the appeal of doing this every morning.

After breakfast, I went for a walk. I was nervous because the map said, “You must stay on the marked path.” I don’t really do maps or paths. I’ve tried, but my talent lies in getting miserably lost. Since neither Dan nor Google Maps were available to me, I did the best I could. I found the path, I stayed on it, and I took in all the trees and wildflowers around me, the clouds hanging low over the mountains in the distance, the feeling of the squishy, moist ground under my feet, and the cool, humid air on my face. I heard the sounds of the birds and the crunch of twigs and rocks underneath me. I took my time. I had nowhere else to be. Unless you count the appointment I made with myself to visit the hot tub at approximately 9:15.

After a relaxing Hatha yoga class and a short meditation and lunch, it was time to leave. I drove down the canyon with space in my head and lightness in my heart. My only regret was is that I did not give myself this gift sooner.

A Happy Anniversary

Each year, Dan and I take turns planning our anniversary. Last year it was his turn to plan, which was good, considering I was four days postpartum and in no position to plan… anything. We did it lower than low key, at home, while my mom took Sweet Pea out to dinner. We were “alone” with days-old Lady Bug, doing our best to make our kitchen feel like a very special place. I wore my best pajamas, and I might have even traded my glasses for contacts. Dan picked up a box of miniature artisanal cupcakes in flavors like lavender-basil and macchiato. They were only partly smushed on his bike ride home. We drank Prosecco. We toasted to four years of marriage. We had no idea what this year would be. I think it’s better that we didn’t know.

After the fancy cupcakes, there was upheaval.

There were long days, as I recovered from the birth in my bed, while Dan took Sweet Pea all the places I wanted to be instead; the park, the library, the farmer’s market. When I was ready to put on a real outfit, the first place I went was the doctor, then immediately to the hospital for an MRI. I was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy. The right half of my face was paralyzed. I was scared and sad. There was no way to know whether it would get better, whether it would fully resolve, and how long all of this would take. A year later, it’s a lot better, but not back to normal, and I’m starting to accept that I might never see my old face in the mirror again. Obsessive Google searching confirmed the best thing to do was to rest. Except I had a fussy baby who was an awful sleeper, and a toddler to take care of. My face looked like a creepy Halloween mask. I felt ugly, anxious, and self-conscious.

Sweet Pea was thrilled to have a real live baby doll in her new sister. I felt like I was supposed to be thrilled, which I sometimes was, but mostly I was overwhelmed. Lady Bug always had something going on; thrush, reflux, eczema, congestion that made me leap out of bed in the middle of the night when I heard what sounded like her drowning in her own secretions. It felt like everyone needed me, all the time. I was giving kisses, hugs, snuggles, breastmilk, sippy cups, potty treats, breastmilk, warnings not to touch the baby’s head, special creams, probiotic powders, homeopathic drops, prescription lotions, final drinks of water, final-final drinks of water, and more breastmilk, all day long.

Much of my free time was given to acupuncture and physical therapy, in my dogged, if not entirely fruitful pursuit to get my face back to normal. Trips to the park were pushed off till tomorrow while I shushed the kids or hid in my room on the phone with doctors offices, pharmacies, and the insurance company for Lady Bug. Entire mornings and afternoons were taken up by trips to the doctor, the naturopath, the dermatologist, the allergist, the craniosacral therapist, and the anthroposophic physician (yes that’s really a thing). She was diagnosed with allergies; severe, potentially life-threatening allergies to eggs, milk, peanuts, and tree nuts. Another chunk of my time was devoted to searching Pinterest for dinner ideas that would accommodate our new diet.

Many days, after the kids were down, I have had to fight the urge to collapse, myself.

I thought I had done the whole “Who am I now that I’m a mom?” thing after having our first child, so this year has felt like a sneak-attack. This must be how my three year-old feels when the baby destroys the tower she so carefully constructed. Her whole body convulses in great, heaving sobs, as she cries, “She ruined my tower, Mama. I have to start over. “ I know, honey. I know. It’s exhausting to have to start over from the very beginning and create something new.

It was my turn to plan our anniversary this time. I leaned on Dan a lot this year. I’ve complained, I’ve cried, I’ve yelled, I’ve vented, and he has listened. I have been mean, sarcastic, and critical. I’ve been apologetic and he’s been forgiving. He read an earlier draft of this post and felt I was being overly hard on myself and that it is only fair to mention that I, not he, was the one to wake up with the baby two to three times a night, every night, until about two months ago. See, he’s really nice like that.

I started scheming months in advance and surprised him with an overnight getaway for our anniversary. When I asked him if he had any idea what I had up my sleeve, he told me he wasn’t even thinking about it. “I’m just trying to get through the week, ” he said. Our favorite babysitter was available and willing.  Our dear friends had a beautiful, empty home with an impossibly gorgeous mountain view and a hot tub, which they were happy to let us use. A fabulous local restaurant delivered a delicious meal that accommodated all of my many restrictions, along with a wine pairing.

There was nothing low-key about our fifth anniversary. We were really alone this time. There was a delicious meal on a tranquil patio with a stunning view on a warm, clear summer night. We took an after dinner walk. We stargazed and danced in the street to the faint sound of “Come On Eileen” that wafted through the otherwise silent neighborhood streets, coming from a party on someone’s lawn.

We took our time getting up in the morning. Meaning, at 6:40 I rubbed sleep from my eyes while Dan was in the kitchen, doing last night’s dishes. We took a meandering walk in the morning sunshine on nearby trails. We took a dip in the hot tub. We took only 45 minutes to get from the hot tub to the shower to the car… I thought that I had a severe life malfunction that prevented me from getting out the door in an efficient manner but I realized it’s not a malfunction, it’s just a baby and a toddler. We had a leisurely brunch at one of our favorite places. There was abundant coffee and I drank it while it was still hot. There was conversation about important things and not much at all. There were humorous remarks and references to old jokes we’ve shared.

And, there was us. Beneath the chaos and the rubble and all the harsh words born out of frustration, sleep deprivation, and as Dan likes to say, resource contention, there is still us. I think we’re going to be ok, assymetrical faces, life threatening allergies, and sleepless nights notwithstanding. What a happy anniversary it is.

Happy Anniversary

You Can Go Away Now, Impostor Syndrome

Catching up on the phone with my best friend on the phone other day, I told her, “I’m writing a book… I’m kind of embarrassed to tell you that. I feel like such a fraud. But you’ve known me forever so I can tell you.” Dear old friend that she is, she told me “Of course you’re writing a book. It’s the natural thing for you to do.” She reminded me that all women, (including herself, a physician with three young children) tend to feel like imposters when we take on something new. Men, on the other hand, tend to overestimate their skills and abilities when taking on new responsibilities. Don’t ask me to cite the exact source of this information, but it’s definitely true because my best friend and I both read it in Lean In. Also, if you live on Planet Earth then you have surely observed that in general, women tend to be much more insecure than men about going after what we want.

Worrying that the rest of the world sees you as a fraud is a big fat waste of time. I can say that with some authority, having felt the fraud thing and then gotten over it a number of times now. When I signed up for an ironman triathlon, at first I was embarrassed about it. I told myself, “Who am I to seriously tell people I plan to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and run 26.2 miles?” Even though I had run several marathons, and completed plenty of other, shorter triathlons, even biked my way across the Rockies, covering nearly 500 miles in one week, I still didn’t think of myself as an athlete. I told people my friend and I had talked each other into this race, and I had promised that I would sign up if she did. Which was 100% true. But it was not the whole story. I left out the part about how this ironman was something that was really important to me, something I felt compelled to try.

When I hired a coach to give me objective feedback on how to train for said ironman, I was embarrassed to tell people about that, too. Coaches were for serious athletes, and it had only just occurred to me that maybe I might be an actual athlete. I didn’t want anyone to get the idea that I thought I was special or important or, god forbid, serious- about triathlon.  Looking back, this is laughable. Of course I was serious. I was training six days a week, anywhere from two to seven hours a day, including runs that sometimes began as early as 4:30 am, and swims that didn’t get me out of the pool until 9pm two nights a week. I spent $500 just to register for the race. Some days, I showered twice a day. I did about three loads of laundry a week (It doesn’t sound like a lot to me now, but this is a lot of dirty clothes for a single woman with no kids). I was not kidding around with this triathlon stuff.

And now with the writing- it is nearly as hard for me to say the words “I am a writer” as it was for me to say, “I am an athlete.” I have been blogging since 2007, but I needed Dan to practically jump up and down and yell at me to sign up for the BlogHer conference last summer. I’m writing a book, and I can barely admit it to my best friend who has known me since I was seven. WTF? This impostor complex is not doing me (or you, if you are a fellow sufferer) any favors!

Dan read a passage at our daughter’s naming (a Jewish ceremony to celebrate the birth of a baby girl) that I think accurately identifies the source of the impostor complex:

 Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. –By Marianne Williamson

Here’s to letting our light shine…

I’m writing a book. What are you doing that is equal parts scary and exciting?You Can Go Away Now, Imposter Syndrome (6)

 

The most meaningful 800 words I’ve written

I alluded to the article I wrote for Colorado Runner Magazine a couple of posts ago, and I think we need to come back to that. I am excited about it not just because it’s a thrill to see my name in print. And not just because I got paid to do something I love to do. My little article’s appearance in a small magazine was something I worked really hard for. Maybe it could have been easier, and maybe it could have happened a lot sooner, but it if was and if it had, it wouldn’t be such a big deal to me.

Years ago, I told a friend who was a freelance writer that I was interested in getting into that line of work. She told me my blog was cute and that it was a very hard industry to break into.  Me being me (eg way too sensitive), I thought she was telling me not to bother and I was embarrassed for even bringing it up. I kept blogging and I enjoyed writing but I stopped entertaining the idea of getting paid to write. Meanwhile, Dan, my mom, and my sister were telling me that they loved my writing and why couldn’t I be a writer, and as much as I appreciated and still appreciate the encouragement, I was also was like, “Whatever, you are related to me/married to me, not the New York Times Book Review editor.”

Then, last year, I co-produced Boulder’s Listen To Your Mother Show and I had the opportunity to connect with the other producers and directors of Listen To Your Mother Shows across the country, many of whom write for a living. I met these women and other inspiring people at the BlogHer Conference in 2013. And I decided, for reals, I wanted to get paid to write.

I don’t know what it’s like for other writers, so I am speaking for myself here. Writing, particularly submitting your writing for publication, can be very scary. I fear I will have nothing to write about, or nothing that anyone else would be interested in reading. I fear I will set aside precious time to write and I will dither it away on Facebook, shopping on Amazon or deleting some of the 1241 emails sitting in my inbox. I fear I will fail to start to write.  I fear that if I start, I will fail to finish. I fear even saying the words “I am a writer” will make me sound like a fraud.

So, my little piece on treadmill running is more than just an article to me. It’s something that was published in a real, albeit small, magazine seven years after I started this blog, which was born out of a desire to write. The check came in the mail six months after I decided I would like to get paid for writing. This article is validation of my desire to get paid for my writing.

This article is a big fat middle finger to my fears and insecurities.

A Good Problem To Have

Today at the coffee shop, the barista said “Um, there’s a mocha that’s been sitting here on the counter for a while?” I had no idea my mocha has been sitting there by its lonesome. I hissed at Dan, “What’s with the attitude!?” He assured me there was no attitude. I swore there was attitude. Whatever. The real problem was my panties were in a bunch over the barista’s possible (probable) ‘tude when I should have been rejoicing over the fact that circumstances found Sweet Pea in daycare while Dan and I were working (ok, he was working, I was checking Facebook- which every blogger knows is the heart of any creative process) at a coffee shop on a weekday afternoon.

I was obviously hurting for a big dose of gratitude. So, thanks to the FTSF (Finish the Sentence Friday) Blog Hop Goddesses who came up with this prompt “The best part of my day is….” I couldn’t pick just one. The best parts of my day are…

Snuggling with Dan first thing in the morning. Or more accurately, coming out of a deep sleep coma while he spoons me.

Watching a grin break out on Sweet Pea’s face when I come into her room in the morning to get her out of her crib. Or, alternatively, relishing a few more minutes of sleep when Dan kindly goes to her.

Stepping into the shower after a morning workout while nearly everyone else is just getting out of bed.

Checking another item off my to-do list. Even if the item is “Take Shower.”

“Finding” Sweet Pea when she’s “hiding” in the closet. She has a little routine where she goes in our closet, shuts the doors, and knocks from the inside. You open the closet doors, pretend to have no idea how she got in there, and she dissolves into giggles. Repeat. File under Things That Would Have Made me Throw Up In My Mouth A Little Before I Became a Mom.

Finding myself with an empty basket when all the laundry is folded and put away.

Cuddling up on the couch with Sweet Pea, a blanket, and a story on a cool, gray afternoon. Saying yes when she asks for “my bewk?” (more book).

Arriving at the bus stop at the moment my bus rounds the corner.

Hitting “Publish” on a blog post.

Turning out the lights after the last dish is done, the phones are plugged into their chargers, laptops are put away, the mail is hidden from view in the mail drawer, and the toys are in their basket, with the hum of the dishwasher in the background.

And, those are the best parts of my day. I can’t pick just one. Which is a very, very good problem to have.

This post was brought to you by the Finish the Sentence Friday (FTSF) Blog Hop.

Finish the Sentence FridayT

The Sentence was “The hardest choice I ever made was…” Please visit the FTSF blog hop hosts:

Stephanie at Mommy for Real, Kristi From Finding Ninee, Janine from Janine’s Confessions of Mommyholic, and Kate at Can I Get Another Bottle of Whine