So long, farewell…

Sunset over Grand Traverse Bay.

Dear My Sweet Hat Trick,

I am writing to inform you that you are being let go.

You were so good to me. I learned so much from you. You gave me a very safe space to practice sharing my story…and releasing it! Poof, into cyberspace my words went and I hardly ever knew what came of them. But, they are out there.

You came to me at a time when I really needed you. I needed a place to reflect on what it meant to lose someone I loved so very much and miss so madly. My dad. With each holiday and anniversary and birthday and little league game where he once stood, behind the dugout, waiting for just the right opportunity to give James an encouraging nod or ask Dan what happened in that last play, my heart breaks.

I can put the pieces back together now though. Funny thing about the heart – it regenerates. I’m sure of it. In the spaces left dark and cold by life and loss, love enters, settles in, and multiplies there. Hearts are really big. Much bigger than any of us can imagine. Hearts are resilient. They (literally!) take a beating day after day. Hearts are strong and tough, like warriors. At night, hearts restore themselves. If not at night, then in the daytime, or anytime when we are not looking. Our great big hearts bounce back from pain, fear, and hatred, and they make more room for love. And then, filled with love and forgiveness and gratitude, to ease the pain of all that hurts us, our hearts wait for our minds to catch up to them.

A heart’s love is abundant. A bounty, really. Believe me, I know. I tried protecting the open spaces in my heart, thinking there is not enough love for me, and sometimes even thinking that I was not enough – that I was not worthy of the love. Then, when I least expected it, when I thought I had it all figured out, the space filled with love again. Love doesn’t overflow from our hearts to the space that surrounds them. No, our hearts expand. It is true. For example, the longer I know Dan and watch the ways in which he gives of himself so generously and graciously, the bigger my heart gets. And, then there are the little hearts that came in to prove my theory. Three little, tiny, beautiful beating hearts – my original hat trick – filled the empty spaces right up and taught me that life is way too fragile, way too short, and way too fun to hold back. Even a little.

Thank you. I will never forget you. And thanks in part to my knowing just enough, but not too much, I think you may always have a special spot in cyberspace. You might have a new friend soon, like a blog sister or something. I’m not sure yet. There is something new coming, from me to the world, and while I don’t know exactly what shape it will take, I guarantee you that it will be about living and loving really super-duper to the moon and back BIG.

Take care my friend.
xoxo
Love, Anna

Please stop being so hard on yourself.

They eat chicken McNuggets sometimes and that doesn't make me a bad mom.

You know what’s funny? I was just sitting here thinking about how cool I am because I can honestly say that my percentage of time spent comparing myself to other people has dropped dramatically in the last year. I used to spend a lot of time thinking I was a bad mom, wife, sister, daughter, friend, volunteer, niece and so on because other women seemed to be so much better at all of it than me. Now, I don’t do that as much. Like, hardly ever. But I still feel like I’m falling short in a lot of ways. So here is what is funny: I now compare myself to an IMAGINARY Anna.

IMAGINARY Anna is a lot like me, but not so rough around the edges. All of her laundry is caught up and she makes nutritious, delicious dinners for her family every night, even on the weekends. AND, all three of her kids eat every last bite of these meals WITHOUT COMPLAINING. In fact, they tell her she is an excellent cook and make her promise to write down all her recipes so that someday they can replicate her delectable meals for their own children. She is fashion forward and she doesn’t have bad hair days. She wears high heels a lot and they don’t hurt her feet. AT ALL. She can do a yoga head stand. She never yells at her children or loses her patience. Ever. She weighs… well, let’s not talk about how much she weighs because it’s been so long since I weighed as much as she does. I can’t relate to her on that level, but I do envy her and the ease with which she buys clothing (especially bras). She ALWAYS adores her husband and jumps up to kiss and hug him and thank him every night when he walks through the door, even when it is WAY later than she expected him. She doesn’t even blink an eye when he leaves his dirty socks in random places, like the kitchen counter. She doesn’t nag. She is a saint, really. Everybody loves her. She has lots of friends. She is the President of her Book Club and she volunteers every day in each of her three angelic children’s classrooms. In her spare time, she knits blankets for cold people. She has coffee every afternoon with her mother, who is a widow like my mom, and never once gets distracted as her mother shares what is on her mind. She never says things like, “Mom, I can’t even follow you – you are ALL over the place right now!” She follows everything. She does it all. I know she is completely unreal, but I STILL compare myself to her. I think I might have been better off comparing myself to other women because occasionally I actually saw the human side of THEM and didn’t feel like such a loser.

What I’m trying to say here is, women are SO HARD on themselves!

Maybe men are too. Okay, I know they are. Sometimes. But I am not a man and most of my friends are not men so I am not as concerned about them and their well-being right this minute. I don’t hear how guilty men feel when they have to make a choice between showing up for one of their children at one event or another of their children at another event because both their children want them to show up at the very same time, but they can only be in one place at once. Did you follow that? I may have a future in writing story problems. I don’t hear how worried they are when their children are sick or sad or being treated poorly by someone at school. I don’t hear how conflicted they feel when a dear friend needs them desperately and their family needs them too. I don’t hear how sad it makes them to leave their children every morning and pick them up late at night. How they wished they could be there for every single big and little milestone their children reach. But they can’t because they have to work. And, I have never ever heard a man say he feels bad for doing something special for himself rather than spending quality time with his family.

To be clear, I am not saying, nor implying, that men don’t have the very same heartfelt concerns as women. I just don’t hear about it because, like I said, most of my close friends are other women and other moms and they are the people I hear from most often. Women are the people I most worry about.

I am putting out a desperate plea here to any woman (or man for that matter) who is reading this. PLEASE, pretty please with a cherry on the top, let yourself off the hook.

See, here’s the not so funny thing. If any one of my friends, or even a complete stranger, came to me and said, “Anna, I feel so bad for going through the drive-thru at McDonald’s last night to get dinner for my kids…”

I would NEVER say, “Wow, you’re a shitty mom. You’re so lazy. You totally should have cooked for your children!”

I would probably say, “Please. Your kids are fine. You’re fine. Let it go.” But do I ever say that to myself? Not so much. Imaginary Anna always cooks for her children. As long as I compare myself to her, I will keep feeling like a crappy, lazy mother. That is not funny. That is really sad.

I know I’ve said this before, but I’m going to say it again. As long as we compare ourselves to others or continue to have unrealistic expectations of ourselves, we will never measure up, and we will always feel bad about ourselves.

I am getting better at quieting the voice in my head – my inner critic – when she tells me that So and So is a way better mother than I am. Some of us are still working on that. Some of us aren’t even aware that she has no place in our heads. She is unwelcome. Kick her OUT. You work on that and I’ll work on kicking out my new inner critic who tells me all the crap that she tells me.

I know we all have moments where we feel guilty or ashamed or incapable of doing what we think we’re supposed to be doing. That is natural and normal because we are humans and humans have feelings. We need our feelings to help us move through life. Our feelings are like little street signs, letting us know what lies ahead or which way to turn. We have every right to feel guilty. But let’s not wallow in it. Let’s not live there. Let’s not let ourselves stay feeling guilty.

Let’s just notice our guilt, like a little sign saying Guilt Lies Ahead and move on, in a different direction, knowing that we are doing the very best that we can.

Then, let’s let ourselves off the hook because we are in fact doing our BEST. And guess what? Our best changes every day. Today my best is not as fantastic as it was yesterday. You know what Inner Critic, that’s OKAY. I’m OKAY. My kids are OKAY. I’m letting it go…!

I worry about each of the beautiful women I hear say, “I feel so bad about…” I worry that they will stay feeling bad and not see their very own radiance – the radiance that I see when their eyes light up when they see their kids after school each day. The radiance I see when I know they are doing the very best that they can in every possible way. I admire the way women try so hard. We do hard work. I trust it is worth it. I also trust that with as hard as it is, we don’t need to make it any harder. We can let ourselves off the hook. xoxo

‘Tis the Season to be Crazy. Not.

This Christmas will be the best Christmas I’ve had in years. Nope, I didn’t find the gift of all gifts for everyone on my shopping list. I’m not expecting anything unusual or extraordinary myself. It’s not even about Jesus or Santa Claus or cookies or candy or carols. All the usual cast and crew will be present, so no special appearances are planned. This Christmas is different because I am different. I feel different. I am operating differently this year.

I’ve been making some changes in the way I live life in the last year or so, but I didn’t realize how much I had changed until last Sunday. It was Day 8 of my husband, Dan, working in his office from dawn until way, way, way, (WAY) past dusk. I knew he would be busy, but I didn’t know how busy. I wasn’t at all prepared for him to be gone as much he was. It wasn’t that he jumped ship without discussing it with me, I just couldn’t wrap my head around his need to go missing when I was expecting him to stay put.

We hosted a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday and our first-ever Pierogi Day on Friday (a longstanding tradition in Dan’s family) and he left for work on Saturday morning and didn’t come back. Much. In the meantime, as soon as my 5 year-old son Alexander swallowed his last bite of turkey on Thanksgiving Day, he began asking if it was Christmas. He wondered where our tree was. He wondered when our decorations would go up. He offered to put them up. He noticed other people putting theirs up. He feared we were the only people on the planet without Christmas decorations up (which we know isn’t true, but he is 5 and lives in a world where everyone celebrates Christmas and refuses to believe me if I try to tell him something different).

I spent Saturday night with some of my aunts and cousins on my mom’s side of the family for our annual Secret Pal Getaway and gift exchange. I laughed so hard and for so long that my cheeks hurt the next day. I stayed up way too late and was exhausted when I woke up the next morning. Visions of coffee danced through my head as I drove home on Sunday morning. I was tired, but touched by the Christmas spirit. My sister hosted the Secret Pal gathering and her house was decorated beautifully. I wanted my own twinkle lights. I wanted to put our tree up. I wanted to see Alexander’s huge smile when I put it up.

I polled the kids earlier in the week. We voted to stick with our artificial tree from last Christmas instead of going out to cut a fresh one. I knew the box was in our basement. I imagined it was heavy. I decided I would carry the damn tree up piece by piece if I had to because I was determined to put up our tree. Anna of yesteryear would have created a story that went something like “Dan is not home to carry the tree upstairs. We’ll have to wait until next weekend to put up our tree.” With a huge dose of Woe is Me, My Husband Works Too Much and a sprinkle of What a Jerk, He is Ruining Christmas. She could be unpleasant.

By the time I had the tree upstairs, my mom arrived and my sister and niece arrived shortly thereafter. Right before my eyes, the tree was assembled and the stockings were hung by the chimney with care (I’m not kidding). Alexander carried our ornaments upstairs from the basement and soon my three kids and their sweet little cousin were decorating. We played Christmas music. It was completely spontaneous. I hadn’t planned for any of it to happen (like Anna of yesteryear might have). It could not have been more perfect.

Thinking about my ghosts of Christmas past makes me cringe. I was a 5’10” tower of stress. I wanted everything to be perfect. But because I didn’t know what perfect looked like, I drove myself crazy striving to attain the unattainable. It was a vicious cycle because no matter how hard I tried, or how much I bought, or how much I donated, or what I baked, or how pretty I made the package, it wasn’t good enough. I always fell short of my own unrealistic expectations. Nothing I did ever was or could be enough. I was never good enough.

I had visions of what our Christmas should look like. We should take a long drive out to a beautiful, snow-covered Christmas tree farm singing Over the River and through the Woods as we drove. We should take a hayride to a delectable Evergreen forest and select a fragrant fir for our home. We should enjoy hot cocoa by the fire afterward… The last time we went to the Christmas tree farm, we walked around for what seemed like hours. We were about to give up on finding our perfect tree, then spotted one at the last second. We were freezing, the kids were crying, and Dan’s arms were aching from carrying our little one. It was not picture perfect. I will give Anna of yesteryear credit because she was able to go with the flow in situations like that one. She saw the humor in how unpredictable life could be. She even had fun when things weren’t picture perfect. She adapted her visions of perfection and knew that what was perfect one time, might not be perfect the next time. I still think she might have filed away all that was imperfect somewhere in her heart or in her head. I think she used it as motivation to make everything else even more perfect.

Now I know that nothing is perfect, but those sweet, special, spontaneous moments that happen, not because I wait for someone else to create them or because I create them, but because those perfect moments occur naturally, all around me. I like that kind of perfection. Sometimes it is messy. Sometimes it means that all the ornaments end up on the lowest branches of the tree because that is as high as a kid can reach. Sometimes it means that not everyone is there as I would like them to be, and sometimes it means that people I never expected to be there, show up. Appreciating this kind of perfection requires me to let go of expectations or visions or yearnings for that other kind of perfection – the elusive kind.

I feel liberated. I still have my moments and it is only December 7th so there is a lot of time left to go crazy, but my motivation is completely different now than it has been in the past. I’m having lots of fun wandering around town admiring twinkle lights and listening to my kids laugh when Alvin and the Chipmunks sing their Christmas songs on the radio. I’m not attached to the outcome of Christmas. There is no voice in my head saying, “you should have bought this instead…she will hate that…he already has one of those…those cookies are burnt…that bow isn’t straight…those ornaments are too low…oh screw it, next year we’re going to Mexico for Christmas.” Nope, none of that. I’m doing the best I can. I know Dan is doing his best. I know my mom and my sister, while dreading another Christmas without my dad as I am, are doing their best. I’m not going crazy because I know that everything, in all its chaotic Christmas splendor is absolutely, positively perfect just as it is. My wish for you is that you know it too.

The Possibilities are Endless!

I’ve never been much of a “Let go, let God” kind of girl. In fact, it seems that as soon as I sense that I have no control in a matter, I bear down, gripping more tightly than ever. I am not one to gracefully release it. I squeeze it, I hold it, I try with all my might to mold it into something I can control. My lack of control transforms into worry, to fear, to anxiety, and even to obsession. I sometimes lose sleep and I drive a lot of people crazy. You might ask, “How is that working out for you?” And, well, to be honest, it’s not.

As I stood in the shower this morning, obsessing over whether or not our recent move to a new home was a good idea, I decided that this obsession was something I needed to release to the Universe. We moved, there is someone living in our previous home, and there is no turning back. I can’t worry about whether my son will make new neighbor friends, or whether I will make new neighbor friends. I can’t worry about anything like that because what is done is done and only time will tell what kind of friends we will make or not make as a result of this move.

So then I started thinking about the move in general (I know I’m not the only one who does her best thinking in the shower). It all happened really fast and it truly wasn’t part of the “plan”. It went something like this: Husband comes home from work and trips over kids’ shoes in the doorway. Husband tries to put his bag down, but can’t because all flat surfaces are covered with laundry (in the doorway). Husband says, “I hate that our laundry room is in the doorway! I can’t wait to get out of this house!” I smile sweetly and agree that someday we might consider moving to a new house. Husband shares other examples of why he hates our home. I smile sweetly, and nod for good measure. Husband decides to “research the market” and begins work with a realtor. I stop smiling. Dan, my husband, isn’t the kind of guy who spends a lot of time doing research. When Dan wants something, he goes for it. Sometimes he moves so fast, it frightens me.

We thought we might move in 2-5 years. We considered buying land and building a home. We looked at land (meaning we all piled in the car, met the realtor at the land and Dan got out and looked at it while I tried to keep the kids from driving off without him). Dan got serious. We actually asked our babysitter to watch our children so we could attend an Open House for a promising new home. It was a wonderful home. All it took was one deep breath with space to do so and I was hooked on the idea of moving. I was ready to make an offer.

Dan hopped online as soon as we got home to look at the house again (he was not ready to make an offer). After weeks (months?) of looking at houses and prioritizing our needs and desires, and coming to terms with the fact that the “perfect” house wasn’t out there and that a compromise or two may be necessary, a new listing appeared on the screen. There was an Open House there that day and it ended one hour from the time we saw the house online. From the virtual tour on the screen before me, it looked as if it was built for us. From the tile work on the back splash to the incredible timber framing on the ceiling. My dad was a timber framer. It felt like he had a hand in this, like maybe he had found the house for us.

I fully expected Dan to come home to tell me he just bought a new house. We all know, in the world of real estate, especially in Michigan, things don’t usually happen that quickly. So began the agonizing process…would it work out? I began to bear down in fear, in anxiety, and then I remembered that I was evolving and the new and improved Anna would recognize that there were many variables that she could not control. So, I took a plunge – I let it go. I waited. And in the end, it did work out and we all love our new home (I especially love the shower).

And the funny thing is, this wasn’t part of “the plan.” We took a detour. I love Emily Dickinson’s gentle invitation to “dwell in possibility” and each time I see this quote (which is often), it is like someone, Emily perhaps, is giving me permission to let go. To step. Away. From the plan. To open right up, throw my head back and my arms in the air, and look out at all the possibilities.

There are dreams buried deep inside me that I have long forgotten or given up on, and why? Because I’m not sure where to fit them in. Because I can’t figure out where they go in the plan. Because I’ve been so busy trying to control every little detail of my life from when I will get pregnant to when my last child will leave home, that I don’t allow space for things to simply unfold. From this moment forward, I am scrapping the plan. Who really knows what the future holds? Since my dad died, seven women I love and care very much about have lost a parent. Death isn’t planned. It sometimes comes when we least expect it. It jolts us. It breaks our hearts. Sometimes we have to start over.

Little by little I am learning to let go in ways that I never would have imagined. I was okay letting go of some little stuff, but now I think it’s time to let go of the big stuff. I’m sure Dan and I will still have to plan, but I’m playing it a little more loosey-goosey from now on. No more obsessing over the things I can’t control. Years ago, when I first heard the Serenity Prayer, it made so much sense to me. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. It sounds so simple, really. But for me, especially as I get older, it’s been really hard.

I think in some way, my tight grip on life is born of love. It comes from good intention. Somewhere along the line, I began to believe that trying harder and holding tighter was a sign of my love, or of my commitment to someone or something. Reflecting on life and death and what it all means, thinking about moving when we had planned to stay, and even seeing so many of my friends suffer through the loss of beloved parents – all of this is teaching me that letting go, even a little, and opening to possibility, isn’t a sign of loving less or caring less. I think letting go may even open a pathway to loving more. When you let go, it’s all out there. Rather than limiting myself by hanging on, I might actually find that I can love more deeply, more richly, and more truly by letting go. I’m still figuring this out. Maybe that in and of itself will take a lifetime. Maybe I’ll never figure it out. But I feel pretty certain that when I do let go, the possibilities are endless.

Dear Dad

Dear Dad,

Well, tomorrow it will have been one year since you left us. In some ways it seems like the year passed by quickly, and yet at the same time it feels like an eternity since I saw you last. It’s funny how time does that. Since you died on a Thursday, today seems more like the anniversary of your death. It’s dreary outside. The snow is melting, leaving patches of ice and puddles of muddy water in its place. It’s been rainy. The air holds the promise of Spring, but it still looks and feels like winter outside. We’ve changed things up a bit. James and Dan go to Milford Music together for guitar and piano on Tuesdays now. I’m so thankful for that. It would be hellish to spend the entire day comparing the similarities of March 11th last year to March 11th this year. I can see myself recalling your image in the door around 5:30 as you hustle James out the door to his lesson. I could torture myself, again, remembering our last hug. I might even go downstairs to run on the treadmill, trying to recreate the whoosh of energy that came over me around 8:30 p.m., the time I feel sure that you died. I may have even drug the kids out of bed late at night to ride to your house in the rain, to find mom in the backyard with you. Our lives were so drastically changed that night. Her life with you by her side ended in just an instant. So, wow, despite the changes we’ve made in an effort not to spend every Thursday night in the same routine, remembering the details of the night you died, everything that happened a year ago is still so fresh in my head.

I’m scared Dad. I feel like I’ve been living in a protective shelter this year. I’m wrapped in a bubble that says I’m grieving and I’m fragile, so be gentle with me because I might break at any minute. What happens when the bubble pops? Do I really have a breaking point? Or will I rise to the occasion? I never thought I’d lose you or Mom before you had the chance to watch my children grow. But now I know that death does not discriminate. It touches all of us at one time in some way or another. It hit me hard this time. I’m much more sensitive to the fact that it will hit me again. Sometimes I even catch myself holding my breath, fearful of what lies ahead.

Throughout this year, the unpredictability of how I will feel from one minute to the next has been a challenge for me. Other than that, it is feeling so vulnerable that troubles me. I feel so raw, so exposed sometimes. I am learning that I can be strong and vulnerable at the same time. Who knew? I am learning to accept whatever it is I feel as it passes through me. I don’t hold on so tightly anymore, Dad. I am learning to let things go.

I’m sure you’ve heard that we’re having a Memorial Service for you on Saturday. From what I understand, it can get very busy over there on the Other Side. I wanted to make sure to mention the service now so that you can attend. Will you give us a sign that you are there with us? Let me know what it is and I will look out for it. I’m hoping we can have the service on the beach. I know you’ve always had a thing for powerful women so I’m sure you’re all cozy with Mother Nature now. Maybe you can pull a few strings and get us some sunshine?

I still think about how much I would have loved to say good-bye to you, Dad. I know in my head that you left us knowing you were loved and I know you are feeling our pain as we miss you. My heart still aches for that one last anything though. A hug, a cup of coffee at my table, a holiday together. I know you live on in our hearts and I know you can watch my children grow, but how can I be sure they will know you?

I’ve been listening to your music a lot lately. I am so grateful for your voice, Dad. Couldn’t you have thrown in an “Anna” every once in a while though? We have some of your recording sessions on CD now. Mom copied them for us. I’m beginning to label them with things like “Dad’s laugh” and “Dad breathing.” Maybe that is morbid in some way, but I just don’t want to forget those sounds. Your voice is part of me now, Dad. Thank you for leaving behind the tools I’ll need to make sure my children know you. They say the funniest things like, “Papaw is already dead! Why do we have to have a party for him?” That was Alexander. All the way to school the other day he and Sophia talked about how dead you are. Last night I heard Alexander saying to James, “we all miss Papaw, especially Mommy.” I hope I’m not traumatizing them with my tears!

Someone asked me if I was okay yesterday. It took me two hours to answer because I didn’t know what to say (the question came via text so I could take my time, even Mom is texting now!). I am okay Dad. I guess I’m holding on to the possibility that I’m not okay, just in case I crack or something… But the truth is, I am okay. I am okay and I am a wreck. I know you are with me and I miss you desperately. I want to celebrate making it to this milestone because everyone said the first year without you would be the hardest, but I dread it too because the hard part is all I know now and I’m afraid of what’s to come. I know you know this, Dad, but I have to say it: If I’m okay and if I move forward, like I feel myself being pulled to do, it doesn’t mean I love you any less or I miss you any less. I think I can let my grief go, gradually, without letting you go. I can hear you now. You’re nodding your head with your sweet loving smile and you’re saying, “Far out, Anna. That is far out.”

Well, I better go pack the car now. And, well, pack my bag?!

Take care Dad! I will look forward to having you with us on Saturday.

I love you!
xoxo Love,
Anna

Forward Fold

I remember being a little girl and hearing my mom talk about yoga. It seemed like a very mysterious and beautiful exercise. She looked so peaceful when breathing deeply with her eyes closed, sitting cross-legged in the living room. I loved sitting there with her. As a result of these magical moments with my mother, the practice of yoga has always seemed sacred to me. Back in the day, as a recent college graduate living on my own in Alexandria, Virginia, I decided to enroll in a Hatha yoga class through the Community Education program. I loved it and since then I have attended yoga classes off and on and used videos to practice at home. But I didn’t move beyond a very surface, acquaintance-like relationship with yoga. We waved hello at each other in passing, but we never became real intimate.

Enter my Mind, Body, Spirit hat trick. Yoga was calling my name. Something told me yoga had the potential to help me on my journey, on my quest for inner peace and balance. I was a little apprehensive to jump right in though. I was definitely someone who tucked my mat into the deepest, darkest corner of the studio, took a deep breath, than wondered for the next 60 minutes, “am I doing this right?” while everyone around me seemed to move with ease and not a care in the world. I asked one of my most favorite yoga instructors, Lee Ann, if she would help me get started on my journey. We met for several weeks and discussed some of the many, many aspects of yoga. Studying yoga is fascinating. I find that yoga is indeed beautiful and sacred, but it is not mysterious as I had once thought. It is a science. I am in love with it now. We are becoming very intimate.

One of the first things I remember Lee Ann sharing with me was the symbolism of the forward fold. It’s all about letting go. Letting go has always been a challenge for me. Letting go of the expectations I had for my continued life with my dad by my side, that’s a biggie. Of course, that would take some time. But in the immediate future, I was often (okay, almost always) bogged down by obsessive mind-chatter. As I drove around town, I wondered if I had said the right thing to my friend when she asked for advice? I agonized over whether or not I bought the right dish soap. I couldn’t remember, did I pack a snack for my child? And if so, was it nutritious? Would he have time to eat it? Would the other kids laugh at it? Then, I would think, oh crap, I should have just cut up an apple. Why wouldn’t I just give him fruit for a snack? I knew that he didn’t even really care for Teddy Grahams. I would wonder, what kind of mother am I? And finally, I would decide that I probably never should have had children… Good God! I needed help. This pattern of crazy making self-talk and not being able to move past it was not serving me well.

Oddly enough, another not so fond memory from my girlhood was me sitting in gym class. Mrs. Price would yell out, “Pike positionnn!” And everyone around me would sit up nice and tall with their legs straight out in front of them. As we were directed to reach for our toes, and everyone did as they were told, I could barely reach past my knees. I was stuck, I didn’t fold forward. I’m not kidding. So the whole resistance to letting go thing, I’ve been dealing with it for a very long time. And I felt like a fool in gym class.

I told Lee Ann I had never been able to do a forward fold. Now, there is something to be said for bone structure in yoga. We’re not all built the same so we don’t all move in the same ways, it’s that simple. Lee Ann assured me there could be modifications. It’s been a few months now and a yoga miracle has taken place. First, I plop my mat anywhere, close my eyes, breathe, and sometimes forget that there are other people in the room with me. I can focus inward (cue angels singing from heaven above)! Second, so I’m not quite a nose-to-the-knee forward folder, but I can sit up straight and I can reach for my toes and sometimes, I actually touch them! And third, I am learning to let go! When the critical crazy lady in my head pipes in with her second-guessing and obsessing, I can now say, “Oh Honey, thanks for stopping by. I’m glad you care, but I’m good on my own now.” And she actually leaves. Sometimes she might even add an encouraging word on her way out.

I am amazed by the ways in which the connection between my mind, body, and spirit manifests itself through my yoga practice. I am not exaggerating when I say that with each inch that I move toward my toes (and I have very long legs), I can literally feel myself letting go. It’s as if every cell in my body joins a chorus in mind to sing, “I surrender!” It’s all very blissful. There is so much more to it too. I feel that I have barely scratched the surface of my yoga practice and that, in and of itself, is invigorating. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to do a forward fold.