Well, the truth is I never really, truly left. Physically I was here, nestled into my little home in Venice Beach with my husband and our furry daughter. But my heart left for a little bit.
When I first moved to California, I felt like I’d found a piece of me that was missing. Like a soul mate. I fell madly in love with the year round farmers markets, the barefoot wetsuit-wearing fathers in the coffee shop early in the morn, the sunsets that looked like melted Crayolas.
I got kinda grouchy spouting off things like “there’s too much traffic” and “it’s too expensive.” Yeah, those things do kinda suck but I was speaking from a lack rather than an abundance. I had my blinders on to living one mile from the ocean. Blinders to the unbelievable family we have here. Blinders to the fact that we have our windows and doors open all year long.
Then I took a super early yoga class with a few of my closest friends. And we walked on the beach. For several miles in fact. The light was gleaming off of the waves. I had my feet in the sand and in the frigid water. There were seagulls and surfers everywhere. And I remembered:
California, you’re my soul mate.
And sometimes things change. And we might move eventually. But right now, we’re here and rather than bitching and moaning and pretending I’m not hopelessly in love with you, I’m going to soak it on up.
Three years ago today I had my first real date with Matt. I say “real date” because there were a couple of false starts, but I’ll reserve that for another blog post.
We sat at a community table at the Tasting Kitchen, the perfect little corner spot so we could sit with our knees touching, and ordered up oysters, an arugula salad, a cheese plate, a 32 oz. bone-in rib eye steak, an array of desserts and of course, two bottles of red wine. (Matt claims that the moment I ordered that steak, like any good Iowa girl should, he knew we’d spend our lives together. I just had to agree first.) He definitely knew the way to my heart was through my belly, and there was a kindness in his eyes and a sureness in his demeanor that instantly put me at ease.
I had another date later that week but went to the bathroom and cancelled it halfway through dinner.
“Out of all the guys, you’re my favorite,” my girlfriend Nicole drunkenly slurred to Matt on a particularly fun Jameson-fueled night at Chez Jay a couple of weeks later. Matt laughed, thank God. Later that night, I’m pretty sure I told Nicole I was going to marry him and she said “Jesus, I know… But not yet, okay?”
There was the moving in and learning that odd dance of living together.
The fumbling and missteps of one sink, no washer/dryer, “Why’d you get half and half and not heavy cream?”
And the moments where he was Patrick Swayze and I was motherfuckin’ Baby and things felt exciting and scary and nesting was fun.
There was the meeting the families coupled with a bit of culture shock, a whole lotta wine and often laughter.
There was an English bulldog named Rosy that softened us like warm butter.
And a almost a year ago, a wedding under an oak tree where began with Van Morrison and ended our vows with “Foreva Eva.”
So Mr. Aporta, what I’m trying to say is, Thank you.
Thank you for loving me so unselfishly. The beautiful parts, the dark ones, the in between.
Thank you for believing in me beyond what I could even see for myself.
Thank you for bending, not breaking, and always being down to do the dirty work a strong relationship needs.
My wish for us:
Let’s always stop to enjoy the view. Choose blue skies, fresh air and good people. And let’s keep laughing. Even if it’s at my expense.
“We are told that people stay in love because of chemistry, or because the remain intrigued with each other, because of many kindnesses, because of luck. But part of it has got to be forgiveness and gratefulness.”
- Elena Brower
“Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt the people doing it.”
- Chinese Proverb
This week taught me to believe in magic.
The magic of twenty-two strangers showing up in Mexico to learn, sweat and create.
To get uncomfortably vulnerable.
To celebrate being silly and alive while flowing to Motown, Tupac and Jose Gonzalez.
The magic of creating something that did not exist prior to us dreaming it up and making it happen.
Of collaborating with another woman.
A woman that inspires the shiznit outta me and helps me be better.
The magic of yoga and goals.
On a mat, on a paddle board, on a beach.
The magic of leaning back on one another.
Feeling someone else’s sweat, skin and breath in a way that simply feels humanizing and beautiful.
The magic of karaoke, shedding layers, Mexican beer and laughter.
The magic of being truly seen.
And truly celebrated.
A week ago, just before I left, my friend Tyler texted me:
Mary Beth five years ago would be so happy if she knew what she was doing now.
She would and she is.
I lost my right wedge sandal on my first night of college after three too many Solo cups full of cheap beer.
I lost the phone number of my dreadlocked, heart-full-of-gold roommate almost immediately after our summer in London and have never found him again.
I lost my contacts in the Caribbean Sea.
I lost my grandmother, her hats, her books of rocks and birds and the smell of Carmex.
I lost my wedding ring but then I found it.
I let go of hundreds of coulda, woulda, shouldas.
I let go of the idea that there are things I must do. No need to stand awkwardly at a party when you’d rather go home and read.
I let go of relationships & friendships that always feel like swimming upstream. Exhausting.
I let go of the idea that my body is anything but perfect. After years and years of fighting it’s shape and curves, I shed some tears, ate a grilled cheese and never ever looked back.
I let go, and continue to, of the people who vex my spirit and make me feel tired.
I let go of doubt. I embrace trusting, laughing and drinking wine with people who feel right.
I let go of “I’ll be happy when ____”.
I let go of the idea that I’m going to be a runner. Or a surfer. It’s simply not happening, as much as I try.
I let go of feeling bad because I’m just not letting go enough.
I once tried to build a two-story lemonade stand on wheels and another time I attempted to knit a circus net that would catch me after I flew around the house several times impressing the neighbor kids. I was seven and convinced that I held as much magic as the world around me, skinned knees and all. I knew I could fly. I ended up on crutches most of that summer, unable to participate in games of tag and hide and seek. I sat on the porch swing, the very swing I launched myself from convinced I’d be lifted right into the bright blue sky, and called the neighbor kids names. That was the summer I first became aware that I could lose, and that there was a lot of “letting go” in life, that didn’t include leaping from the swing.
We lose and it hurts and we want it to stop. We learn to let go a little slower, with more grace. We stop building two-story lemonade stands, but if we’re lucky, a couple decades later we might pick it up again. We hold hands tightly, we sometimes hear last breaths, we sometimes dance til midnight.
We let go.
We become lighter.
We learn to unfurl our wings, at first a bit matted and clumsy.
We keep moving toward the light til’ we do what we are born to.
“Anything I cannot transform into something marvelous, I let go.”
- Anais Nin
“But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.
This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.
It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.”
- Billy Collins, from the poem “On Turning Ten”
This post is part of the Let it Go Project: a collection of stories leading up to a beautiful releasing ritual, hosted by Sas Petherick on the 30th of January. All the details for this free event are over here — join us!
As I’ve reflected on what I truly want in 2014, it all centers around getting intentional.
Last year’s word: Leap.
Leap into my every opportunity that comes up. Leap holding my husband’s hand. Leap with my eyes wide open.
Three years before: Learn.
The lessons really just would.. not.. stop.. By the end of that year I was begging for a reprieve but I emerged with a heart that was broken wide open, a strength that had been dormant and a lot more humility.
The year before that, and the couple prior, the word may have been Margarita but I’m not sure. It definitely wasn’t the Year of Intention.
And I never picked a word at the beginning of the year. Instead I set the same resolutions I do pretty much every single year – something along the lines of sweat more and drink less red wine – and only in reflection saw there was a bit of a theme going on. Lightbulbs and ah-ha moments but only in retrospect.
So why intentional?
My favorite moment in yoga class, whether I’m practicing or teaching, is the moment we get clear on an intention and what we are creating for this sacred time on our mats. I began taking it off my mat, setting intentions all day long. In traffic, in my relationship, with my writing, as I walked down the aisle nervous with excitement. Little paper airplanes sent right up to heaven with a wish written inside.
Intention brings color to all we experience.
By creating our intention, we create our universe.
And now I’ve been doing this living thing for thirty years now – sometimes fumbling, sometimes dancing, sometimes making big moves – and the word is no longer Margarita.
Instead it’s a time to get intentional in my work, intentional in my writing, intentional in my relationships, intentional at healing my body. Intentional in what I want and what I really don’t. There are no hard and fast rules. There’s simply noticing where you feel supported and where you feel joy and where you don’t.
Keep your gaze toward the light and keep moving toward joy.
What we strive for
is not what turns us
into the lit angel
and then nourishes
— David Whyte
Whenever you start guiding yourself by caring about how you feel, you
start guiding yourself back into your Stream of Source Energy, and that’s
where your clarity is; that’s where your joy is; that’s where your flexibility
is; that’s where your balance is; that’s where your good ideas come from.
That’s where all the good stuff is accessed from.
What would you tell your twenty-year-old self?
To eat more kale? To never ever skip Pilates? To make sure “thank you” cards go out exactly on time?
Highly unlikely, unless you are a young Martha Stewart or some sort of alien.
When I was twenty-two I took a job that I knew I’d be miserable in. But it was at a “prestigious” magazine and according to the talking heads of the world I really needed a 401K and health insurance. About a month into the job I started a two year countdown in my notebook and I quit right around the day. When I told people I was quitting my job to be a yoga teacher and a freelance writer I got a lot of bewildered looks and a whole lot of “But are you sure?”
Well, not feeling too sure when you are looking at me like I told you I wanted be a Unicorn.
And I made a lot of mistakes in the seven years since – like getting into to debt then getting out then getting back in again, sleeping through a couple of 7 am classes I was supposed to teach, telling my students to pull their shoulder blades in toward their farts (yes, seriously) – but man, I am inspired by what I do. Like every damn day. What a gift. Now when I make a mistake or do something seriously strange (I opened my mouth to exhale while teaching 50 students and a strange Teradactyl-sounding noise came out of my mouth) I just laugh. Like truly, truly laugh until my belly hurts and theirs do too.
As I reflected on the past year there were so many things to celebrate – leaps in my career and personal growth, getting married to a very rad man, traveling all over the world – and those things didn’t happen because of a diligently planned schedule. And all of those things weren’t easy either. Matt and I’ve had some epic blow outs. I’ve had moments when I felt like an imposter while teaching or coaching. And I was slightly hungover the morning of my wedding. And I wouldn’t change a damn thing.
Matt and I fight because we’re still learning how to create a partnership and a home. I was nervous while teaching and coaching because I wanted to deliver something perfect, and that’s a joke. And I was hungover because I had 175 of my favorite people ever in the same room and we were serving the best wine ever. Obviously.
My twenty-year old self would likely high-five my thirty-year-old self. Because I’m comfortable in my own skin, doing what I love and still a whole lotta fucking fun.
No need for the word “mistake.” How about experience? Learning? Moment in time? A truly funny sounding noise?
I want to move forward with grace, playfulness and a great sense of humor.
I want to laugh til I cry when I do something weird. Which is likely to be often.
And when I make mistakes, I want to bear hug anyone I’ve hurt, and if it’s just me, I’m gonna wrap my arms tight right around myself.
Looking cool is boring.
Go out and make some mistakes.
Then own them.
And above all, be sure to laugh (a whole lot).
I’ve decided 2014 is the year I start writing like J-School taught me. No more of this lil’ kid lowercase schtuff. Time to write like a lady.
My resolutions aren’t very normal this year but for me, they are inspiring because I really mean business. So besides this uppercase nonsense others include:
- Absolutely no gluten. Like zippo, zero nada. I was recently inspired by little brother who hasn’t touched it in a year and it has done wonders for his stomach and well-being. So no matter how good that double chocolate stout looks, I’m gonna say no.
- I’m off Facebook. I still have my yoga page up but as for personal use, I’m outta there. There’s nothing like Facebook for wasting tons of time and energy. I already can’t believe how much time I have saved and how very little I miss it. I will however be Instagramming and tweeting so meet me over there.
Besides that I’ve got some radical goals in the works and plan to do a lot more writing. I’m spreading myself a lot less thin this year and focusing on the activities (writing! biking! yoga!), the people (husband! Rosy! best friends!) and thoughts (joy!) that feed my soul and inspire me.
2014: Much Less Bullshit because I Don’t Have Time For It.
This might be my favorite year of resolutions yet.
this year, for both thanksgiving and christmas, we’ve opted to stay put. i’ve just finished addressing our christmas cards. the turkey and the ham are ordered for thanksgiving day. and monogrammed stockings have been ordered for the mantle, with our bulldog rosy included. you’d thinking i’m a regular martha stewart here, which is laughable if we’ve ever met, but with this being our first christmas together as a true family, i want so much warmth.
i remember thinking what a pain in the ass it must be for my parents to lug ten boxes of christmas decorations down from the attic every year and then have to put it all away three weeks later. you take it for granted when you are little. “this must just be how it is.” but no, that’s not the case. it’s about what you want to create.
so here’s what i want to create – i want a hodge podge of friends and family filling our living room, a fire rumbling all afternoon, glasses full of red wine and hot toddies. i want those ridiculous claymation christmas movies and to eat stuffing topped with cranberry sauce for days after. i want a full belly walk to the ocean and an afternoon nap. i want to start creating all the magic my parents did for us.
but we will start with just one box.
on a call the other day with my coach, she asked how my relationship was.
answering truthfully i said, “this week it feels really hard.”
i felt ashamed saying that and she could hear it in my voice.
she responded: “why is hard a bad thing?”
such a simple question with a profound impact.
she followed up with, “how do you feel after a really hard yoga class?”
i pondered it: sweaty, free, content, inspired.
“and getting there takes some work right?”
i always have the comfort of knowing that a big, juicy shifts occurs after some sacred time on mat.
do i always wanna go? absolutely not.
do i make it there? yeah, the majority of the time.
am i 100 percent present the whole class? oh, hell no but i am certainly a lot more present then how i walked in.
why then do i have this notion that for something to be “right” it must be easy? as i get older i truly look forward to “the work” in all areas of my life. every conversation, every argument, every adventure, every dilemma presents me with endless opportunity to get to know myself better, to become more fully me in the best of ways.
my generation is pretty spoiled. we don’t like to be uncomfortable so we squirm and move and we don’t stay still to learn. sticking it out is when the work gets done. hate our job this week? quit. our partner annoys the shit out of us? leave. this town is boring? let’s move to bali. sure, there’s times when we should do just that but when a “grass is greener” mentality shows up everywhere maybe it’s not everybody else that’s the problem.
my new chosen thought: hard work equals freedom.
ah, that feels good.
i’m sitting at my makeshift desk with a candle burning and a hot mug of decaf. it’s sunday. by far, my favorite day out of the week. i slept in, hit up a sweaty yoga class with two of my good friends and have bought myself the afternoon just for me.
it was a tough week. i made the decision a few weeks ago to leave a yoga studio i have been teaching at for four years, a studio where i have truly grown into myself and have been lucky to have unbelievable students. i made the choice because i wanted my evenings. after a full day of teaching, coaching and running around, it was taking quite a bit of caffeine and sometimes a personal bribery of coconut ice cream to get me rallied to get there.
leaving the studio is scary to me. i rarely spend any time in my comfort zone as of late. what i’m up to demands me to live outside of it, as desired otherwise i would’ve always stayed put, but it can be pretty damn exhausting. what i know though, is that to give a lot to others, you’ve gotta take the time to fill back up.
at the end of my very last class at the studio last wednesday night, i took a moment to look around at so many of the students who have been there every week for years. our relationship has deepened beyond the time on the mat. i feel committed to their growth and happiness, and i think they feel committed to mine. i was determined not to cry until i heard a hiccup of a cry out of one of my students irena. immediate waterfall of tears from me. it’s almost funny – it’s not like i’m moving to alaska, i just won’t be at this studio anymore – but it’s also total proof of our powerful and vulnerable our time is on our mats. in fact, these relationships that i’ve built is precisely why i do what i do. it’s the truly yoga – a deep connection with others where we see ourselves in them and they in us.
as we said our goodbyes, irena handed me a package. i unwrapped it to find a tank she made me that said, “blisscrafter” on the front and “practice joy” on the back, as well as a card inscribed with a quote i read in her very first class:
“all is well, and you will never get it done. life is supposed to be fun. no one is taking score of any kind, and if you will stop taking score so much, you will feel a whole lot better – and as you feel a whole lot better, more of the things that you want right now will flow to you. you will never be in a place where all of the things that you are wanting will be satisfied right now, or then you could be complete – and you never can be. this incomplete place that you stand is the best place that you could be. you are right on track, right on schedule. everything is unfolding perfectly. all is really well. have fun. have fun. have fun!”
when she handed me that card i remembered the night i read it, i remember the extremely painful time i was going through, i remember trying not to cry.
but now i’m gonna cry, i’m gonna be vulnerable, i’m gonna be right outside my comfort zone if you are trying to find me.
because all is really well. have fun. have fun. have fun!
lately it feels like there’s not enough notebooks to hold my ideas.
enough time to tuck away in a coffee shop with my laptop, headphones and an americano.
to road trip.
but the beautiful thing is that there’s plenty.
i find i’m most inspired when i am actively creating my day, my week and, in turn, my life.
waking up early + taking rosy on a walk to the coffee shop + clients i love + time to write = a beautiful day.
a few hikes + a coffee shop date with a best friend + sweaty yoga classes + acupuncture + time to read at the beach + teaching classes = a fulfilling week.
and these equations of “what works,” or more aptly, what inspires me, shift as i do. ebb and flow all the time to accommodate my constant changing.
if you notice your equations aren’t adding up to equal bliss, ya gotta ask yourself – why aren’t you doing what you love?
fill up your day with people who uplift you, not drag you down.
eat foods that fuel you, not make you wanna nap all day long.
do pilates because it makes you feel radiant and strong, not because you think you have to. (if you feel that way, find something else! there’s so much to choose from.)
create, create, create.
create your day. create your life.
finding a pause can be revolutionary.
when you hit the fifth red light in a row, in the middle of a hot-and-heavy argument with your beloved, in the middle of teaching.
our true lives happen in the moment of the pause. the deep breath. the smell of the sea, fresh cut grass or fall leaves.
in fact, it’s sacred.
how many times have you charged ahead through an hour, a day.. hell, a whole month? then you have a moment where you truly pause and it’s like meeting yourself all over again.
oh, hi you. welcome home.
you want to hold onto that moment for dear life and never let go. the deep knowing, the feel of being fully present, of being home.
i recently came across a book from tara brach where she speaks about the sacred pause and a few days later, while browsing through my first yoga teacher training notebook, i found notes i’d scribbled about it.
a few words of wisdom from tara herself:
“we fill our days with continual movement: mental planning and worrying, habitual talking, fixing, scratching, adjusting, phoning, snacking, discarding, buying, looking in the mirror.
what would it be like if, right in the midst of this busyness, we were to consciously take our hands off the controls? what if we were to intentionally stop our mental computations and our rushing around and, for a minute or two, simply pause and notice our inner experience?
a pause is a suspension of activity, a time of temporary disengagement when we are no longer moving towards any goal. the pause can occur in the midst of almost any activity and can last for an instant, for hours or for seasons of our life.
we may pause in a conversation, letting go of what we’re about to say, in order to genuinely listen and be with the other person. we may pause when we feel suddenly moved or delighted or saddened, allowing the feelings to play through our heart. in a pause we simply discontinue whatever we are doing—thinking, talking, walking, writing, planning, worrying, eating—and become wholeheartedly present, attentive and, often, physically still.
through the sacred art of pausing, we develop the capacity to stop hiding, to stop running away from our experience. we begin to trust in our natural intelligence, in our naturally wise heart, in our capacity to open to whatever arises. like awakening from a dream, in the moment of pausing our trance recedes and radical acceptance becomes possible.”
i was in a yoga class several years ago, not long after i started practicing, when the teacher said: don’t believe everything you think.
it had honestly never even occurred to me, and better yet, how could it be possible? and by god, sign me up. my mind often resembles a ping pong match.
here’s a recent and rather tame inner monologue:
“yoga on the patio or at the studio?”
“you should go to the studio. you haven’t been there in awhile.”
“the studio will be too hot.”
“and wouldn’t it be nice to practice under the blue sky?”
“i should definitely go to the studio.”
“maybe i should practice three times a week at the studio and three times at home.”
“you’re not disciplined enough for that.”
“look how disciplined joe schmo is. you’ll never be like that.”
ugh, gross. and not very inspiring right?
i know i’m certainly not the only one who has the maddening roundabouts with themselves. it’s part of being human, and it’s also what has driven so many of us to end up on yoga mats, meditation cushions, self-help aisles and bar stools. the present moment is perfect and beautiful and whole, but our minds seem dead set on sabotaging that.
in yoga we refer to this sabotage as avidya. it’s a bit like walking around on the sunniest day with these terribly dark sunglasses that skew the color and are completely smudged. those glasses are avidya, which means delusion, and they wanna mess shit up. thoughts are just thoughts. they come and they go like clouds or waves or anything else that’s just passing through. we are the ones that seem dead set on keeping them sticking around.
through my life coaching training, i’m getting pretty good at kicking my thoughts’ asses. karate chopping right and left. truly no thought of mine is safe right now.
thought occurs: i am overwhelmed.
flip it: i am busy and fulfilled.
find evidence that supports that i am busy and fulfilled: my email inbox is full of opportunities, my schedule is full of dates with friends/events/classes, my house looks lived in.
once you’ve caught the thought and flipped that shiz, you have take away a lot of the thought’s power. now “i am overwhelmed” is no longer true. being busy and fulfilled feels good. and when it stops feeling good or feeling true, i’ll flip it again. flip flip flip.
it certainly takes time and work but the truth is : you get to create your reality, and if your reality is currently experiencing some major suckage, it’s highly likely your mind is the culprit.
do some spring cleaning in the mind and pick a beautiful reality. spend some time in silence. listen. then listen.
then flip it.
i used to love me some sick days.
it started when i was younger. every once in awhile my mom would grant me a “mental health day.” a day to hang with her at the house, baking cookies and watching oprah and reading books. the solitude-loving sometimes introvert in me lived for those days. no need for trying, putting in a face and braving the halls of whatever grade i was in. hell, no need to even get outta my pjs.
but tuesday afternoon when the marriage fairy granted me the most painful UTI i have ever experienced, i was not excited. we tried all the natural remedies first – gallons of water, vitamin C, cranberry extract, a V-steam at my local spa (don’t even ask), antibiotics – and nothing worked.
besides the extra snuggle time with rosy and the guilty pleasure of watching every kardashidan episode possible (i really like them. i’m sorry, i do.), i am super over laying around and feeling like crap. you’d think having a few days off you’d be the most productive person on the planet but that never seems to happen. just kardashidans and homemade nachos. for days. ugh. (UTIs don’t exactly bring out the best version of yourself.)
in spite of all of this bitching and moaning, feeling as i have this past week i also feel extremely, extremely grateful for all of the amazing things my body is capable of and once it kicks in high gear, i can’t wait to get back to it -
sweaty yoga class followed by laying in your own puddle savasana.
home practice on the patio under all of our flowering trees.
hiking toward the smell of the ocean.
running the hill by my house. endorphins + extreme soreness = makes me feel very pleased with myself.
oh, and sexy time. which is exactly what got me here in the first place.
and the reason i don’t like missing out on my daily life anymore?
because i love it. i am blessed to do what i love, to live by the ocean, to be surrounded by amazing people, to have a mostly very healthy body.
and that girl that wanted to miss out on school and daily life every chance she could get?
she doesn’t live here anymore.