Cry Baby

29 days to 50.

My sister Carolyn and myself on my 40th Birthday

My sister Carolyn and myself on my 40th Birthday

10 years ago, for my 40th birthday I decided to fly to Colorado to spend the night in Boulder with my sister. I had a fabulous plan. We would go to dinner at our favorite restaurant and spend the night in the famous Hotel Boulderado. I would always look at the Hotel Boulderado and wistfully think, IF ONLY I could stay in such a fantastic place one day. The hurdle was to get my boss at the time, the owner of the company, to let me have one day off the week before a major important baton down the hatches meeting. At first he said we were too busy. When I pressed him and told him it was important he let me go. But this entire journey with my boss, the no then yes was extremely stressful for me. My parents and my sisters found out about my plan and the entire family ended up coming to Colorado to celebrate with me. The restaurant was changed and the room in this hotel I had been dreaming about did not meet my expectations, but it was a great way to celebrate.

So, here I am 10 years later. My mother timidly asked on the phone a few weeks ago if we could maybe get the whole family together to celebrate my birthday this year. I have to say, it broke my heart a little. So I started contacting the various members of my family, who all seem to be thrilled at the prospect of having all of us in one place to watch me blow out some candles. My mother is beside herself with joy.

Once again, it is a busy time of year. The week after my birthday there is another major important baton down the hatches meeting. I have another boss now, so I e-mailed her to ask if I could take one day off. She didn’t answer. I e-mailed again. I get 3 weeks vacation, I’ve taken 2 days. It’s not about the time, it’s about the timing. Today I received an e-mail from her that told me that the day I asked for off is the last work day before this major important baton down the hatches meeting. She closed with the line- “I always want to say yes, fine with me but does this seem possible?”

I hate to admit this but I immediately started to cry. I was on a shared computer. My boss was in the room distracted by something else. I closed out, grabbed my sandwich and went upstairs to try to find a quiet spot to eat lunch and calm down. Our company is so crazy busy that there aren’t any quiet areas. I work in an open floor plan with absolutely no privacy. When I went through treatment for breast cancer 5 years ago I took every private intimate phone call in the the middle of a room with a dozen people listening. At first I spoke in quiet hushed tones, by the end I was blurting out all kinds of awkward phrases- “Radiation Oncologist! Breast Biopsy! Mandatory Colonoscopy!” This was much like the cancer journey itself. At first I was embarrassed to have everyone feel me up, in the end I would drop my shirt for anyone.

I did find a room that was not in use and half cried and half ate my lunch. This should not have been a situation that leads to tears. My boss basically said the timing isn’t good. It really isn’t. I hadn’t explained to her that I realized this or why it is important to me. I was sure when I explained the situation to her she’d be fine with me taking the day. So why the tears?

Because I immediately went to a place of shame. “I’m not good enough. I must be a terrible employee. I must be a bad person. Going to see my family for my birthday is a dream that I don’t deserve.” Then following the martyrdom- “I can’t believe this is the way I get treated after 11 years at this company. I’m almost 50 years old and I am being told I can’t do something that is important to me. I am such a LOSER! I’m going to be asking permission from somebody else for the REST OF MY LIFE! When is it MY TURN to make decisions on my own? Will I ever get to the point when life is FAIR? I want to be treated like I’m SPECIAL. I want to be treated with HONOR and RESPECT. If I ask for something it should just be GIVEN to me. I DESERVE IT.”

Granted, when it comes to my family I can come unglued rather quickly. We all live so far apart and we rarely get together anymore. We chose to separate because our priorities were all so important elsewhere and I know that all of us regret not being closer. The quickest way to get me to cry is to bring up my family. Still, I was overreacting today. I realize this birthday is mocking me. I think I’m keeping it together and doing this great thing by planning my method of attack- spending 40 days Preparing. Planning. Moving Forward.

But really, it’s freaking me out. I realize that the tears were a release of the fear and the trepidation I’m feeling about this birthday. I replied to the email from my boss (which really was not aggressive or mean or cruel) and explained why this is important and I’ve no doubt she will approve the vacation day. The reason I go to that place of insecurity and shame with anybody in a position of authority over me is another story. For now just know that I don’t have it all together yet. I have 29 days to get there. Fingers crossed.

Coach Foster

30 days to 50.

coschfoster

I work for a rather large accessories company. We have all kinds of events to teach our customers and our salespeople about our product. For the event today it was decided that we would make the theme that of a university, with individual professors and different subjects. Because of the product I was showing I was told I would be the gym teacher. So I went to Target and bought a dozen yoga mats and 2 dozen hand weights. The product I showed was all about how LIGHTWEIGHT it is. So clever.

I was told to dress like a PE teacher- which seemed to mean track pants and a whistle. I sadly don’t own a pair of track pants so I had to make do with yoga pants (a little overly comfortable for a professional situation) and a track jacket. I did go out and buy a whistle. It didn’t take me long to figure out how to use it. In the beginning it’s always hard for me to turn into the actor In the Actor’s Studio. But by the last class it’s no problem.

I asked all 4 classes if anyone got up to work out this morning at the hotel. Only one woman raised her hand. I could not have imagined that most of them exercise much at all, let alone do yoga on a regular basis. I started the first class with some bicep curls and then went straight into focusing on the product. I had a little extra time at the end of that class. I decided to go out on a limb and start the second class with a yoga meditation, they were sitting on yoga mats after all. To my very great surprise, 8 out of 10 women in all of the next 3 classes actually sat down on their mats, closed their eyes and meditated. The remaining women in both classes sat in chairs and also closed their eyes and meditated. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. None of them came to my class to do yoga. They were being herded around like sheep from one class to another. Yet they all without question followed my lead and practiced their meditation.

This shows me several things-
1. Meditation is far more commonplace than I understood it to be.
2. People are open and willing and hungry for new experiences.
3. I love love love teaching.

I didn’t keep them in mediation long, maybe a minute or two. But that minute or two changed my perception dramatically. Almost everyone in this world is open to change. Open to possibility. Open to the hope for a better life. Isn’t that beautiful?

There’s Something Wrong with My Neck

31 days to 50.

WildernessYoga

Last weekend when we were hiking back from the Bridge to Nowhere I asked my photographer friend to take a shot of me in a yoga pose so that I could use it for a header for my soon to be launched yoga website (since I am now a yoga teacher). My photographer friend and I have been on several exotic trips together, he’s at once incredibly supportive of my photography and also extremely critical.

He called me into his office today to see the shot he’s pieced together and used a fair amount of filters on and said, “What do you want to do about your neck?”

I thought, “Wow, what’s wrong with my neck?” I didn’t have my glasses on (it took me years to admit that I really needed readers) so I told him to leave my neck alone, that I didn’t want to be overly Photoshopped. I couldn’t wait to get home and open the file so I could zoom all the way in to see just exactly what is wrong with my neck. As I was leaving his office he started pushing my neck to the back of my skull with the liquefy tool (aka googly eyes tool) much to the delight of the gaggle of co-workers standing around his desk.

He made the photo into an illustration and it looks like he did some retouching. I do appreciate the fact that he spent time on this and that he is helping me but really, what is wrong with my neck? No, my neck doesn’t look like I’m a 16 year old girl in Glamour magazine. I see that my eyelids are also creeping dangerously down over my eyes. The thing is, I don’t actually see these changes in myself. Am I deluding myself? Do I need to realize that my neck is sagging? When I catch a glimpse of the skin under my neck I tend to stick my chin out so that it looks smoother to myself in the mirror.

I saw the HBO movie about Liberace last weekend. There were multiple scenes about plastic surgery. Scary scenes. I’ve always maintained that once a person starts with plastic surgery how do they know when to stop? If you think one little surgery will change your life why not just keep going? It happens all the time. I don’t want to be that vain. I don’t want my entire self image based on how I compare to the unrealistic images of women in our media. It is well documented that NONE of the images of women in our media are real. They are all retouched. Thin out the arms, lift the chin, remove the blemishes. We all compare ourselves to a standard that is a lie.

The problem is, no matter how much time I spend at the gym I can’t stop the clock. My neck will sag. My eyelids will droop more and more every year. My belly button may look like a frown for the rest of my life. Does that mean that I am dried up? Should I be put out to pasture? If I look to the media for guidance on this the answer would absolutely be YES.

But I don’t think so. I think that there are plenty of people in the world who will see the ME in me. Not just the outer shell. My challenge is and has always been to be OK with that outer shell. It is a struggle I work through every day.

I hope there will come a day when I can look in the mirror and not stick out my chin to smooth my neck. A day when I can see every part of me, the parts that are aging and the parts that have never been perfect and be content. I hope. I can. I will.

On Honoring my Body

32 days to 50.

Yesterday after our 10 mile 8 hour hike to the Bridge to Nowhere and back I was exhausted. But it was Sunday night and I had chores to do. So I did my yoga, cleaned the house, made juices (green AND nut) did laundry, etc. etc. I woke up this morning with exhaustion in my lungs. I know I’m either on the verge of getting sick or already sick. I got up and did my yoga. I went to work. (It is as usual a super emergency- baton down the hatches- the sky is falling situation all day at work)

Then I went to the gym and did the majority of a spin class and a yoga class with my favorite instructor (even though he made us once again do 10 minutes of jumping jacks). (Which I had trouble doing since I am SO SORE from doing 10 miles yesterday.) (Which brings up another issue- why didn’t we just do 6 miles yesterday? Why do we always have to be rock stars?) I got home after 10 pm. I am just now wilting greens for a salad and writing this post.

When will I reach the stage in my life when I can just honor the fact that my body is beyond exhaustion and come home after work instead of pushing it to do a class at the gym? I had to drive right by my exit to get to the gym. They are remodeling the locker rooms so every other day we have to change in a public restroom at the other end of the complex and we don’t have access to showers. This was boy locker day. I knew that. Still, I pushed myself to go.

Ultimately it didn’t make much difference that I chose to put my body second tonight. Which part of me did I put first? My mind. That part of me that needs to keep going no matter what. The part of me that wants to be the best. To be perfect. To defy the odds.

I’d like to start to make kinder choices for myself. I’d like to notice when my body is telling me to take a break. I’d like to fire my mind in those situations. I think that’s part of learning to be an adult (it is never too late to start). Learning how to honor all of yourself. Not just the chattering mind. I intend to make different choices next time. My body is important. I will learn how to listen.

Bridge to Nowhere

33 days to 50.

#WildernessYoga

#WildernessYoga

Today we went on a little 10 mile hike in the San Gabriel Mountains. The end of the hike was literally a bridge to nowhere. Evidently there was a road built to this bridge in the Thirties and a flood washed out the road itself, so they never went up to finish the road. So this bridge is still standing in the middle of the mountains. There is a trail up to it and it looked like a trail beyond it. It is a popular destination for bungee jumpers so we spent the better part of the morning passing and being passed by about 50 young hipster bungee jumpers.

Last September I went to Peru with friends to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. I am not a hiker. I’m not even an outdoor cat. So that hike was incredibly challenging for me. I feel like that hike really changed some things for me. I found myself chanting “The Long Time Sun Shine”, the song that ends every Kundalini Yoga class all the way up the trail. Once I hit the top I knew that the teacher training I was considering to teach that yoga was something I had to do. So in essence, stepping that far outside my comfort zone changed my life in ways I couldn’t have anticipated.

Being out on the trail today brought memories of that trip back. It also brought back memories of the multiple hikes my sister took me on in Colorado to train, and the many times my friends here hiked Runyon Canyon with me trying out 4 (yes 4) pairs of boots from REI before I found the right ones. I so appreciate everyone who supported me to get me ready to go on that trip. I appreciate the friends I hiked with today for getting me outside again. Outside is good.

Even if sometimes being outside takes you to a Bridge to Nowhere.

Gong School

34 days to 50.

I’ve been training with a gongmaster in Orange County. I know this might sound odd. The gong is a large musical instrument similar to a cymbal. They are often used during relaxation in Kundalini Yoga. The premise is that the gong’s noise is so disruptive that the thinking part of the brain- the part that wants to make a list of all the things you need to do at the end of class- go to the grocery store, pick up the dry cleaning, etc.. can’t function properly when the gong is played. This allows the body and the mind to truly relax and go into a meditative state. I have personally had extraordinary out of mind experiences during gong mediation.

A friend of mind from Kundalini Yoga teacher training has been in gong training with this gongmaster for over a year. She introduced me to him and encouraged me to join his program. We meet once a month and talk really diverse topics in spirituality, from numerology to Tantra. Then we each get 5 precious minutes playing one of the gongs. Gongs used for yoga or sound therapy are associated with the planets, they each have a certain frequency and personality.

Last month was our first time playing. We played the largest of all the planet gongs, the Sun. To say I loved it is an understatement. Playing that gong was beyond fun. To sit right in front of it and feel the vibrations running right though you is truly delicious. Our gongmaster says the gong is a mirror, the way you play it reflects the way you handle situations in life. I have a background in mathematics and classical piano. So I tried to find patterns in the gong. Hitting it high, then low, looking for the right rhythm to make it really sing. We all critique each other afterwards, most people had really nice things to say. The gongmaster, however, had a different take. He simply said, “You are really good at manifesting things, but you don’t know what to do when you get them.” Just like that. I was stunned. This is, of course, true.

Today we played Mercury, this gong is geared towards the mind and communication. I took a different take today. I didn’t try to control every movement and every strike, I tried to play from my heart. The gong really responded. So much so that I would stop and let it settle down. I was afraid if I kept going the sound would somehow crack, that it would get too loud. During critique a few people said that the when I stopped it was really disruptive and they didn’t really connect with it. Once again, the gongmaster said that I can make things happen but when I get there I don’t know what to do, where to turn, so I just stop. Basically the same comments as last week. Again, all true.

At the end the gongmaster plays for all of us. Just like me, he also really got the gong going. Very loud, full rounded vibrations. But rather than stopping to let the gong settle down, he just kept going. The gong does not overwhelm itself. The sound does not crack. What happens is that the main slightly scary swell keeps going for awhile but another swell comes up underneath it and eventually takes over. The fear I had of losing control of the sound doesn’t exist.

The gong is a mirror. I’m focused on trying to let go of the fear and just keep going.

The Teacher Within Me

35 days to 50.

Tonight I taught my first Kundalini Yoga Class to someone who didn’t have to love it because they love me. My massage therapist decided that she wants to change her business into more of a women’s wellness center and she approached me to offer private yoga classes for some of her clients. She first suggested this a few months ago, and much like my first instinct when I was asked to go to Africa for the first time, I screamed (with my inside voice this time)- OH NO! I don’t DO things like THAT!!

But this yoga training has changed me. Instead of offering to find someone who would be interested I took some time and thought about it. They say when things are flowing the way they should that opportunities fall into your lap and your path is easy. Well, this was easy. So tonight I met with her to give her a class so she could really understand what this yoga is all about. Kundalini is unique. Most people are familiar with forms of Hatha yoga- in the west that usually means practices that are focused on movement combined with breath to build muscle or flexibility. Kundalini is about raising your awareness. Aligning your heart and your soul rather than just your breath and your body.

I was a little nervous before I got to the studio. But we sat down and the class just flowed out of me. She didn’t do every posture accurately. She understood some instructions and not others. It was not perfect. But it was perfection. I felt that I was a channel and the yoga was working through me to impact her. I didn’t do the easiest set. I kept her in a chanting meditation for 11 minutes. I did a pose where she held up her arms and clapped her fingers against her palms for 4 minutes. She loved it. I saw her transform through the class.

I can do this. I can teach this practice to people who really need it. I can be of service.

I will do this. I will teach this practice to people who really need it. I will be of service.

Spinning

36 days to 50.

Tonight I went to one my favorite spin classes of the week. I’ve been spinning (going nowhere on a stationary bike in a roomful of exercise fanatics with dance club music and a disco ball) for almost twenty years. This is not my first exercise obsession. It started with high impact aerobics in the eighties. The instructors would put an LP on a record player (yes, a record player) and we would all jump up and down and hope the record wouldn’t skip.

After a few years I fell in love with the next exercise phenomenon, step aerobics. Step aerobics was all about complicated dance moves while constantly stepping up and down up and down on a rubber step. I did each of these for years.

Then I discovered spinning. I knew right away that I LOVED it. I still have yet to find a 45 minute class that gets my heart rate up as high for as long. Is it hard? Yes. Does it hurt? Every time. Do I want to get off my bike and walk out of the class? Almost every time. Like Kundalini Yoga, staying on the bike when it is difficult is like staying in complicated situations in life. I just stay on the bike. I know I’ll get through it. The fact that I am still doing this is a room full of 22 year olds is amazing to me.

I found out tonight that one of my favorite spin instructors is leaving to go to a spin studio where they pay a lot more. Studios tried to seduce him a few years ago and he didn’t go. We lost a few great instructors then but I was so thankful that he decided to stay. In our gym, as in life, people leave. They move on. They get married, move to Vegas, become engineers. It used to really upset me, to lose a great instructor. I always feel a special connection to anyone who can consistently give so much of themselves. I know how hard it is to stand up in front of a group of the elite exercise fanatics in the competitive city of Los Angeles and give them everything you have. I’ve always been distraught when we lose an instructor I love.

So I know that I have grown when today I just went up to my spin mentor and thanked him for all his years of service. “Congratulations”, I said, “I am so happy you are moving on to something that will be better for you. I’m just grateful that we had you here this long.” He put his hand to his chest, I’m sure he will hear a fair amount of complaining from people, his new studio charges $26 a class. I’m not complaining, I am happy for him.

I’ll find something else to do with my Thursday evenings and my Sunday mornings. I may even skip the gym altogether once in awhile and go have brunch with friends.

Higher Education

37 Days to 50.

Tonight I went to an open house for the M.A. Program in Spiritual Psychology at University of Santa Monica. I have a very close friend who went through this program but I didn’t consider it for myself until a friend of mine in Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training told me how the program had changed her life. I’ve been thinking about how to continue learning and growing on the spiritual path that Kundalini Yoga put me on. I’ve also been thinking about how even though I LOVE Kundalini Yoga with all my heart I think it’s just a piece of a larger puzzle. I feel myself being called to be of service. People come to me with their sad sad stories because they gravitate to me. I am a teacher. I need to use my skills and my life to give back in a way that uses the best of me.

Of course their program is exactly geared to people just like me. Even though I certainly wasn’t the oldest prospective student in the room I felt the old dependable fears rising up. I’m way too old to go back to school. Who do I think I am going for a Master’s degree at this stage in my life? Why am I doing this- am I just looking for a safe place to hide for a few years? Is this about delaying change in my life? Is this the scared insecure little part of me’s desperate attempt to try to find stability for a few years?

I graduated from college at 24 instead of 22. I made some mistakes that delayed my college education- up to and including getting expelled and joining the Army National Guard to prove to the administrators at my university that I was willing to turn my life around. I had some shame about graduating so “late”. When I graduated with a degree in Mathematics I knew that my soul really wanted to be a fashion designer. My plan was to get a job as an actuary in a big city like Chicago or Newark and go to fashion school at night. My mother asked me when I graduated why I didn’t just go straight to fashion school full-time if that was my dream. I looked at her incredulously and told her that I was WAY too OLD to start over. How would I handle myself in classes with 18 year olds? I interviewed for actuarial jobs in both big cities, Chicago and Newark. When I saw what actuaries really do- sit all day behind a computer and crunch numbers, my heart sank and I knew that I would suffocate in a job like that. Eventually I did become a fashion designer, and I still really love it but I know that I am being called to serve in another way. To give back with my skills in a way that isn’t quite clear to me now.

I just don’t want to be that same 24 year old girl who jumps to denounce an opportunity because I’m too “OLD”. I bet when I’m 70 I’ll look back at 50 and think the same way as I do now about that clueless precious 24 year old girl.

The Definition of Exciting is Changing

38 days to 50.

Yesterday was a thrilling day. I received the Vitamix blender I ordered last week. I have been anxiously waiting for this to arrive. I bought all kinds of exotic produce last weekend knowing that I could blend fabulous green smoothies all day every day when it arrived. I used to get excited about shipments of shoes or art supplies or outdoor gear for some fantastic adventure. Now I get excited about shipments of ridiculously overpriced kitchen equipment.

Vitamix

In anticipation of this big birthday I got on the scale some months ago and decided I need to drop this dreaded last 10 pounds so that on the big day at least I will be thin. Someone asked me recently if I think that losing weight will make me younger. Well, of course I don’t think that. Then why oh why when the issue of age comes up do I always think I can manage it – IF ONLY I am just a little thinner. I’ve been gaining and losing the same 10 or 20 pounds since I was seventeen. I really would have thought that I would have all my body image issues under control by now. When it comes to weight I am still definitely still a work in progress. This is a big topic for another post.

In order to drop this 10 pounds to gain control over the pending doom that is 50 I bought 2 separate juice cleanses through an online discounter. I love to eat so I knew that restricting myself to a juice cleanse would make me take this whole thing seriously. I had no idea how transformative the whole process would be. I started with a 5 day cleanse. I work out. Kind of a lot. So I did end up supplementing the first cleanse with lettuce and protein shakes but it forced me to be aware of how many times during the day I would reach for food. I work in an office with candy on every desk. People in this country inexplicably link sugary fatty foods with love and appreciation. So to catch myself reaching for a mini candy bar every single time I had an uncomfortable feeling was shocking and humbling.

I also discovered what hunger really feels like again. I realized how long it had been since I’d truly experienced hunger. Hunger is uncomfortable. Hunger is a basic physical condition that overrides most other feelings. As human being animals, hunger feels like an urgent emergency every time we feel it. The issue is, the majority of Americans rarely feel it. Feeling hunger put me more in touch with myself as a human being. Depriving myself of constant entertainment through food made me reconsider what and why I was eating.

The second cleanse went much the same way. I went to a party at a friend’s house where all my close friends were drinking crisp dry rosé and enjoying fabulous party snacks. To sit with a glass of sparking water and abstain from the rare cheeses and other delicacies was difficult but ultimately fine. My friends will still love me if I don’t indulge in inappropriate foods with them. I’ve found that my tastes have changed. I don’t find myself craving sweet salty toxic foods anymore. Hence the undeniable excitement over the Vitamix. Here’s how you know you’re really a grown-up- you spend more on a mixer than you’ve spent on shoes in a year.