Short and Sweet

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

I’m in the midst of final exams, which means I’m up to my elbows in essays. Truthfully, it’s fun for me. I love seeing students strut their stuff on paper, and I purposely design final exam prompts to extract as much enthusiasm as possible. With this noted, I’m taking a break from the madness and I need help. So in the spirit of blogging and brand-building, I’m asking for help with a writing project. Specifically, I’m hoping you’ll share this short and sweet request with as many women as possible in an effort to help me gain further insight into your hearts and heads.

I’m writing a piece on the much publicized and proliferated question of “can women have it all?” In looking at this question, I ascertained I couldn’t find or focus on an answer because I lacked proper consideration of another fundamental question, which is “what do I want?” So, in a short and sweet sentence, what do you want? I know this is a complex question, so feel free to answer in a few simple sentences. If you’d prefer to remain anonymous, I completely understand. I created a survey in an effort to remain organized and efficient. https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/9ZJJYVV

Many thanks in advance for sharing!

Yoga in the Garden

“A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new”  ― Albert Einstein

I love trying new things. Discovering dreams, pursuing passions, and life-long learning are personal priorities. With this said, I’m about to embark on an exciting expedition, and I hope you, readership, will benefit from my endeavors. I’m going to “beautify this blog” and I couldn’t be more excited. This summer I’m launching into writing workshops and personal projects that will help me re-define my vision for success. As I’m working on mission statements, marketing, etc. I’m filled with anticipation and awe. The awe is coming from places I didn’t expect, so I’ll begin with my new mantra: “yoga in the garden.”

Growing up I was athletic, but somewhere between college and my thirties, most likely due to inconsistent exercise, I became stiff and clumsy. So when yoga was introduced into my life I eagerly accepted it, but with some skepticism in the deep, dark hallways of my heart.

My first lesson was beyond awkward. If the instructor asked me inhale, I exhaled. If I was supposed to move to the left, I moved to the right. I was my own opponent. My second lesson was even more awkward. I remember being surprised by my relentless and unforgiving perspiration, and amidst the silence I heard myself grunt and/or groan while holding a plank. Furthermore, my “tree” pose looked more like a shrub. Truly visualize this to imagine my horror.

Essentially, my list of insecurities was endless, my embarrassment beyond measure, but I kept going back. Despite being a novice, I was navigating nirvana. My happiness was directly tied to my humility. I lacked knowledge, skill, and discipline, but I was addicted to the pure peace I found in knowing nothing and embracing everything.

Insert terrible transition to gardening. I never understood gardens, or gardeners for that matter. My mother loves gardens and transformed my childhood home’s backyard to her personal paradise. Now that I have my own home, with a small space of green, I long to see if I inherited gardening genes. Like yoga, I lack knowledge and skill. One trip to Home Depot and one adult tantrum later, I have oodles of seed packets and plans, so here’s hoping my soil is rich and the sunshine spectacular.

I’ve gained some confidence in yoga, but I’m going mad over the garden. When I started to think about these hobbies I realized the lessons learned so far, along with the challenges confronted and/or conquered, add greater value and vivacity to my life. So my new mantra is “yoga in the garden.” While it may seem strange to some, it makes perfect, awkward, uncomfortable, rewarding, fun, and challenging sense to me.

An Ordinary Tuesday

Yesterday was awesome. Throughout the Body Project’s six week transformation I’ve been waiting for “the” moment. Whenever I teach Katherine Mansfield, my favorite author, I always center discussion on her use of epiphany. Perhaps my obsession with Mansfield’s epiphanies is founded upon my own personal enjoyment and experiences from moments of realizations. I love the “a-ha” opportunities provided by life, which seem to ground me in one capacity and propel me forward in another. It should be noted nothing extraordinary happened yesterday. An epiphany doesn’t need to be gold and grand. For me, the best epiphany is simple and strong.

I woke up and worked out at 6 a.m.  Then I went home, ate breakfast, drank coffee, graded, wrote a few stories, and headed to class. Throughout the day I noticed an increase in my energy, an appreciation of attitude, and a general enthusiasm for every day efforts. It was an ordinary Tuesday. It “looked” normal but “felt” different. I couldn’t stop smiling about the “feeling” I had regarding life and its plans. Rather, I had plans for life. Slowly, an idea appeared…

I was living life like I always imagined it.

Toward the end of the day I took a moment to think about what I did throughout my morning, afternoon, and evening. Secretly, I wanted to bottle whatever mood I was in and save it for the dreariest of days. After careful contemplation “it” arrived: my epiphany. Yesterday I did everything I’ve been told and asked to do regarding my eating and exercise. I drank required amounts of water, worked out, ate consistently and consciously, relaxed accordingly, etc. I followed the plan and the path was paved.

Cue today. I know that feeling I’ve been searching for is possible, palpable, and powerful. I’m no longer looking for it because I’m living it.

The best part of this realization is that I’ve only just begun.

“Could we change our attitude, we should not only see life differently, but life itself would come to be different. Life would undergo a change of appearance because we ourselves had undergone a change of attitude.”   –Katherine Mansfield

 

The “You” Factor

I’m at the start of week four in Body Project’s six week transformation and I can’t believe how quickly time flies.  To begin, the adage “man plans and God laughs” couldn’t be truer.  I envisioned a delightfully calm six-week transformation. Specifically, I planned grading, writing projects, personal obligations, etc. around workouts, meals, and so on. In short, everything went awry. I had to adjust my expectations of a clear calendar and embrace the chaos. In the end I think it’s better this way. I’m learning to live a healthy and balanced life amongst the backdrop of challenges and the “unexpected.” If anything, this is “real life.”

Last week I attended a seminar focused on adrenal fatigue and nutrition. In the past I’ve looked to experts for suggested meal plans and nutritional balance without success. I’ve explored various routes and diets only to find frustration at the outcome of each experience. In attending this workshop I walked away with much more than a meal plan. I absorbed the health coach’s lecture, but I also acknowledged the common factor in each participants equation:  the “you” factor. I’ve heard the word “you” a lot throughout this transformation, but I wasn’t listening to its intention.

What works for some may not work for all. It’s about you and your body. It’s an endeavor as opposed to an ending. There’s no quick fix, miracle food, life-saving vitamin, or perfect prescription.

I know the above sounds cliché but often the most poignant and sage advice is simple to say and difficult to decipher. I heard my fellow BP sisters ask how to prep appropriately, inquire what to eat, what to drink (please don’t take away our coffee), when to seek medical assistance, etc. Each of us is desperate to find our solution, but sometimes we’re unaware of the exact problem. I left knowing we are similar in our struggle, but our specific journey can’t be measured or compared. This is where the “you” factor is essential. I constantly compare myself to others. To deny this fact would be an outright lie. When I’m at the mall I compare myself to the mannequin, whereas when I’m amongst friends I might compare myself to the group. Comparing ourselves to someone or something is a natural circumstance in our culture. However, we lose control in comparisons because we surrender focus and faith in ourselves. I’m selfless in many areas of life, but I firmly reserve my right to be selfish in my health and happiness. Life presents changes and challenges and so will my body. What’s working now might need re-visitation in the future. This is about me.  We preach patience to others but fail to preserve it for ourselves. The “you” factor won’t materialize overnight. It’s best to prepare for and accept change based upon the constant search and sustainment of the “you” factor.

This isn’t a quick fix scenario. I need to build a foundation in order to house healthy choices. My commitment to health and happiness isn’t temporary, so my attitude and actions must reflect this ideology as well. I need to look and listen for my “you” factor more carefully. In essence, celebrate the passionate pursuit of what works for “you.”

I left my heart in San Francisco

To begin, hello! Whenever I blog I imagine the reaction of readership. I envision someone taking the time out of their day to read my thoughts and share in my experiences. With this said, I’m sending you peace and love on this fabulous Friday.

This was my first full week back to work since vacation.

We started our trip in heavenly Healdsburg, California, which was oozing charm and character at every corner. We savored the best of Sonoma’s wine and drank in the majestic mountains that surrounded us. We also ventured to Napa, which was equally serene and sensational. Ultimately, it was the perfect place for us. We tasted wine, walked, biked, explored, shopped, etc.  Our only agenda was to enjoy ourselves, and we excelled at relaxation. Our final leg of the trip was a stop in San Francisco.

Tony Bennett sang it best as I certainly left my heart in San Francisco. I had never visited northern California so I came to San Fran with no expectations or pre-conceived notions. Each hill, neighborhood, or attraction made me more excited for the next, and this northeastern gal envisioned herself as a Californian. From the landscape to the culture, I was fascinated with the pace and presence of San Francisco. Our final day was my favorite as we walked to Coit Tower, which provided a breathtaking view of the city, its neighborhoods, and the coast. I stood atop the hill feeling wonderful, blessed, and at peace. The latter was comforting as the pace of life often makes peace difficult to establish, retain, and relish.  This vacation provided me with countless memories and experiences that I’ll forever cherish.

Now it’s time for reality, which is okay by me. I have new places to recall, experiences to reflect upon, and dreams to delve into.

Focused for Forty

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday. During Lent, we’re called upon to sacrifice as penance and remembrance. As a child, I’d give up pop a.k.a. soda, french fries, candy, etc. At the time, it seemed like a deep sacrifice, but throughout the years I’ve come to understand the seriousness of the season, so I aim to select something more challenging and colorful.

This Lenten season I’ve surrendered my right to complain. In truth, I do not complain as much as whine, but rooted in the simplest complaint is the dark and dangerous symptom of selfishness. Sometimes when I complain about my life, and its demands, I fail to understand and appreciate the needs of others.

Below is my complaint corner.

I don’t like when I complain about being busy. There are a lot of people in this world who yearn for an active and adventurous life. I’m blessed to be busy.

I don’t like when I complain about family. So many members of my big and beautiful family are scattered throughout the country. In the past, I’ve been frustrated over familial obligations that occupy weekends or demand complex coordination of the calendar. Ultimately, someone in this world is praying for companionship and love, so I’m determined to exert more effort and appreciation in honor of the family.

I don’t like when I complain about household chores. This is my greatest offense, but I’m passionately optimistic about eliminating it. I no longer want to complain about cleaning, laundry, or dishes. When I look at my home I think of the hard work it took to earn it, the promise it holds, and the love that sustains it. I don’t want to complain about duties. Instead, I want to celebrate and cherish my home, especially since many people struggle to find shelter and warmth for much of their lives.

For the next forty days, I’m focused on this Lenten commitment, which if executed appropriately, will change burdens into blessings, complaints into praise, and selfishness into selfless and soulful love.

Transformation Time

I have no idea what I weigh, and for the first time in a long time, I’m not focused on the numbers. About a month ago I told my husband to hide the scale and not to surrender it to me for any reason whatsoever. For the first time in a long time I’m determined to emphasize how I feel and not how I look. By no means am I implying I shouldn’t care about weight or appearance, but frankly it can easily become an unhealthy obsession.

In December of 2013 I joined a new gym, Body Project Fitness Studio in Robbinsville, New Jersey.  Upon meeting with C.E.O. and trainer extraordinaire, Lindsay Vastola, I recognized a serious error in my failed previous approach to fitness; specifically, I focused on short-term goals instead of long-term fulfillment. Ultimately, my story is like many others. I dropped weight for my wedding, starved myself for a friend’s wedding, and found temporary thinness in the fitness fad of the hour. I sought temporary solutions for a long-term problem: consistency.

There was nothing consistent about my previous fitness and nutritional experiences.  Until I began contemplating starting a family, I didn’t accept accountability for mishaps and misfortunes regarding my health and happiness. Today I’m on the path to consistency, which is inevitably the key to success. I’m not counting calories and I haven’t forgone chocolate or wine. I journal what I eat and trace and track my moods based on the foods I consume.  I work out five to six days a week and because I keep my routine filled with fun in the form of barre, yoga, cardio, etc. , I’m not bored. In fact, I am challenged and inspired. At the gym I’m held accountable. While I submit myself to the scale at the gym, I also partake in a body metric analysis, which allows me to understand “all of me.” This is a “whole person” process, so I’m determined to focus on the experience and its revelations.

I’m about to partake in a six-week challenge that is centered upon transformation.  This snowy and cold winter has been unbearable to most, but in my heart it feels like spring. I’m on the verge of a re-birth and I can see, feel, and hear myself in a new light. Like a caterpillar sheds its cocoon, I’m eradicating the former image of myself. This transformation is not solely centered on the body, but rather it exists to extend and empower itself to every element of my life. I’m excited to embark upon the adventure.

Fittingly, this transformation aligns itself with other significant events and activities in my life. To begin, I’m off to celebrate and cherish time with my husband. The opportunity to restore and renew love is just as magical as its initial blessings. It’s also almost Lent, which is the season of penance and remembrance. Finally, spring itself will be sprung.  This season of growth offers time for reflection and rejuvenation.  I never imagined consistency could be so attractive and awesome.  While the body is a work in progress, I feel the first transformation has already transpired. My heart is full of promise and potential.

“Lasting change cannot occur without transformation of the heart.” –Nathan Morris.