Monthly Archives: August 2016

Wakened Woman Week, Day 3

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For the first two days of my I-Can’t-Go-To-Burning-Man-So-I’m-Going-To-Celebrate-Where-I’m-At one woman festival, I focused on the principles of loving what is (self acceptance), and building your inward strength, as well as your outer.

All of those things are important to me. Just like Burning Man has principles that its community is organized around, I have principles that I hold dear…self acceptance and inward and outer strength building (spiritual and physical fitness) are two of them.

One of the Burning Man ideals that I love is the one centered on giving (I’m sorry, I refuse to use “gifting” as a verb–I just don’t…can’t say it).

I’ve talked about this past year being one of the worst and best I’ve ever had. One of the things that has made it so incredible is that I have been given many gifts…material and otherwise.

Materially, I mean I’ve actually had people give me money. I make no secret of the fact that when I left my marriage of over 20 years, I basically had to start life over, at about college student level. My three younger kids and I live in an apartment that’s about 800 sq feet, and although I’ve gotten two raises since taking on an office job (I started out freelancing), things are still tight.

It’s humbling, to have someone provide you with the funds to give your kids the ability to make Christmas cookies, and decorate your domicile. To help you get a lawyer. To give you a blanket when they know you hate the cold, and to provide you with the means to do something recreational.

The last one–giving someone the gift of recreation–is probably one of the most overlooked aspects of addressing poverty.

Someone limited in income needs food and shelter, yes, but we all need to be able to just have some fun, or do something that makes us feel good once in a while.

If you have a business centered on recreation…have you considered a “Pay It Forward” program? A process that allows those who can easily afford the pursuit you provide to give the gift of participation to someone who might not otherwise be able to take part?

I know people who do this–either formally or informally–and I’m telling you…it can be a game changer. Both for the business owner, for the people who are willing to share what they enjoy, and most radically of all, for the individual who will get to experience something that will make them forget for a moment that we live in a world that usually divides us into classes. Haves, and Have Nots.

One such place here in Oklahoma City is YogaLAB.

Yoga has become a bigger part of my life this past year, and it’s helped with so much of my physical and spiritual growth. I’ve been fortunate–blessed–to be able to not only have access to instruction on the Internet, but also through incredible teachers who have invested in me, and opened my eyes to a new aspect of living in the moment.

Some of it I’ve been able to pay for, and some of it has been given to me. Freely. With love.

While yoga has something of a reputation as a pursuit for white, upper class folks, there are many who are on a quest to change that, and bring yoga’s healing properties to the masses, and YogaLAB is on the frontline of that fight.

Located in the Plaza District, the studio is accessible to a wide range of people, and co-founder Martha McQuaid says that this is exactly what they wanted when they chose the spot.

“We love this area,” McQuaid says. “It’s a good area, but also lower income. We get people of all ages. ¬†There are a lot of people who are typically “classed out” of yoga, and we wanted to make it to where money was not an issue.”

“If it’s a question of eating or doing yoga, we want people to eat.”

And do yoga.

Hence YogaLAB’s “Pay it Forward” process.

Even though their classes are eye-poppingly cheap ($6/class), YogaLAB encourages those who can’t afford even that to come in…and enjoy a class on someone who has paid their way, through the means of a system that allows patrons to pay for someone else’s class.

If you want to provide a class for someone else, you simply add it on to your own bill. If you would like to take part and don’t have the money, you can take one of the sticky notes off the board that get put up when someone pays for another student’s way, and plop it down as payment.

It’s all good. Sticky notes, money, credit card…everyone sits side by side, and everyone gets to enjoy the peaceful strength of yoga.

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(My sister in law, Doll Face, at a YogaLAB class. Her first time doing yoga. Isn’t she adorable?)

If you haven’t got a program like this in place for your business, please consider it. I think it’s great for businesses–especially those that cater to pastimes that are generally only the province of the better-off–to provide sponsorships, or programs that allow the less-financially-fortunate to participate, but making it something that other patrons can help with not only lessens the burden on business owners, it builds community. (In my mind, anyway.)

And if you take part in something you think is awesome, and it doesn’t have something like this built in…you can always just do it, yourself.

Ralph Waldo Emerson talked about there being not just length of life, but depth of life. As important as it is to help others in need stay alive, it’s equally important to try and share the depth of life that fun and recreation can bring.

We all matter. We all love to play. We all need activities that help us feel connected, and/or give us a thrill and make us remember what it means to be alive.

For my 3rd Day of Wakened Woman Week, I’m grateful that I have people in my life who have not only given me material gifts, but those of fun and recreation, as well.

You’ve helped keep my heart alive, as well as my body.

 

 

Wakened Woman Week, Day 2

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Welcome to Day 2 of Wakened Woman Week, the celebration of consciousness for those who need a reminder of how good life is. (And who can’t afford to go to Burning Man.)

The picture above is one of me choking my good buddy A., at a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class. (It’s only one of several that we have like this. In fact, we could have an album of pictures of us armbar-ing and choking one another, if that were a thing people wanted to have laying around their houses.)

If you’ve known me for any length of time over the past several years, you know that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a big thing for me. I came to martial arts/fighting systems rather late in life–I was 40 when I started Krav Maga–but it was like I’d found what I was missing all along when I discovered it. There’s evidence that martial arts has a direct effect on ADHD–that might be one reason I cling to it like I do, and feel so amazing afterwards–and there’s no doubt in my mind that you bond with friends that you play fight with on a whole new level.

The only other thing that keeps me feeling so centered is running.

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Maybe you’ve noticed that both of these things–the things that keep me so centered, and feeling good–involve using your ankles.

Well, funny story.

A few months ago I decided that since I enjoy Brazilian Jiu Jitsu so much, and since I’m now a–drumroll–blue belt–maybe I should take it to the next level.

So I signed up for a competition.

And not just any competition…a submission only competition. You tap, you snap, or you nap.

Did you get what I just said? At 45 years old, I signed up for my first competition.

Guess what? I got hurt. (I know, you’re shocked. And no, I didn’t win.)

Now, for the past month, due to an injured ankle, I’ve been unable to grapple or run. Those two things that center me so much. And make me feel so good mentally and physically.

It’s been rough.

You might be thinking, “Hey, maybe that was a stupid idea, jumping onto a mat with younger folks who don’t have a bazillion kids, and a tight schedule. And…such an old body.”

And you might be right. (I’ve thought something similar, myself. Several times.)

But even if it was stupid, I don’t regret it.

First of all…I don’t believe in regret. I think that everything we do is an opportunity to learn and grow.

I also don’t think that you can live your life taking the safe road.

I wondered what would happen if I competed…and I found out. :-) I don’t have to wonder anymore! Now I know! You can get seriously F*&^%ED UP!

I’ve also had the chance this past month to realize something else…you have to have your inner sh*t together. Period.

Running calms me. Jiu Jitsu calms me. But when those things aren’t available (and when the Valium runs out), I really need to be in possession of a peace–or at least the tools that can help me limp towards it–that’s not dependent on outside methods.

The rubber has met the road this past month, in terms of my stress management in the absence of running and jiu jitsu, and quite honestly, the rubber has been found wanting.

It’s not bad to have things that calm you down, but…ideally, I want to be able to calm me down.

Deep spiritual ideas are more easily accessible when you’re reading them in the comfort of a coffee shop, with everything going well. When you can’t do anything that makes you feel good, however, and you have to go inward, it can be difficult to remember those things and put them to work.

I haven’t been putting them to work.

I’ve been grasping for other things to replace my usual things, and sometimes finding them, but mostly bewailing the lack of my two favorite pressure-management tools.

That’s not good.

I mean, it’s natural to miss them. I like them. But I need to remember that the world doesn’t hinge on them. First of all…there are other activities that can expend energy. (I can hear my jiu jitsu buddies collectively gasping, but it’s the truth.) Secondly… I needed to be reminded of the mental side of my spiritual life again. Being slowed down physically has done that. (Finally. It only took a month of feeling sorry for myself.)

It’s sappy to say that you appreciate things when you realize they’re not guaranteed, but it’s true.

So…for my second day of Wakened Woman Week, I’m going to be thankful for having my two favorite pastimes sidelined for a while. It’s made me appreciate them, and it’s reminded me to go inward and access peace, too, in addition to finding it through exhaustion. (Book recommendation: Peace Is Every Breath: A Practice for Our Busy Lives. Yes, it’s an Amazon link. All of the revenue earned during Wakened Woman Week is going to go to The Homeless Alliance in Oklahoma City. But on a regular week, your click-throughs help finance this rockstar lifestyle I lead.)

Do you have a plan to keep yourself centered? And…do you have a back up? Not a bad idea, but the ultimate idea is to have a source. Inside. To dwell fully in the moment, and love it for what it is.

“Fully available to the present moment, we discover that we already have enough conditions to be happy–more than enough, in fact.” -Thich Nhat Hahn, Peace Is Every Breath

 

 

Wakened Woman Week, Day 1

cheese

Why, hello.

You might be wondering what would compel me, after no blogging for…what, 3 months?…to suddenly post a picture of myself in a bathing suit.

Well, I’ll tell you.

About two years ago, someone told me about Burning Man. (Just…follow the link. Or Google. I’m not going to go into it here. Go ahead. I’ll wait, if you don’t know what it is.)

I listened, I read about it, and I thought…”Oh my God…I didn’t know there were people out there who believed in these–seemingly disparate, at times–things I believe in! That looks wonderful!”

And I bet it probably is.

To add another layer to what I’m about to go into, I’ll just let you in on another piece of the puzzle; the person who told me about it was someone I had fallen in love with. Someone who also represented the same surprise that my introduction to Burning Man did, at the time…I didn’t know someone like that even existed, someone who was this odd, beautiful combination of qualities that I would have never have thought would ever come together, in one human being.

And just like Burning Man was something I was amazed by, and couldn’t take part in, this person who struck a chord in my soul, was someone that I couldn’t be with.

At first, my happiness that there was something like Burning Man was just that; joy that it was even a thing, this event¬†where people tried to embody radical inclusion, self reliance, and the celebration of art. And also, at first, my love for the person who told me about it was just that…love. No expectations, just appreciation.

But by the time the next Burning Man festival had rolled around, life had walloped me a little. I’d been trying to get divorced for a while, and I’d been run through a financial and emotional wringer. And I realized something about myself that probably isn’t unusual; when you’re hurting, when you’ve had some basic comforts stripped away…you can get a little desperate.

Sadness and struggle, when they’re heaped on you, tend to make you grasp for things that make you feel good. And when those are in short supply, you can get a little, well…morose.

I wasn’t content with just knowing that this person I thought was so incredible existed, I wanted to be around that person, because they made me feel good. And I couldn’t.

It wasn’t giving me warm fuzzies to know that a festival took place out in the desert where people congregated in freedom among amazing works of art and lived out these principles that I felt so deeply connected with…I wanted to be there, too. And I couldn’t.

I’m still struggling, a year later. I still love the idea of Burning Man, but I have to tell you, when I saw the pictures online today, and realized it was time again, for Those Who Can Afford It to roll out to Black Rock City and live out the version of their lives that can really only take place there…I had a pang.

I barely make rent and groceries for myself and three kids right now. I don’t plan for this to be a place where we end up, forever, but I’m so far away from being able to do something like Burning Man, it might as well be a trip to the moon. Hell, I’m “Moon Trip” distance from being able to do something that requires driving a car that can be trusted for more than an hour on the road.

I have pangs quite a bit, actually. Pangs when people talk about the stuff they can do for their kids (I can do very little, materially, right now) pangs when people post pictures on social media of the restaurants they’re visiting, or the vacations they’re taking…I have pangs when I imagine the person I love finding the person he’ll love and settle down with.

Loss and struggle made me something I never, ever thought I was…a jealous person.

But I had another feeling today, after the pangs (I also had a couple when I saw this photo shoot of Emily Ratajkowski–both because I don’t have an ass like that, and because I’m not in Santorini)…I remembered something.

Almost a year ago, a while after the last Burning Man (when I cried after seeing photos online like this one), I was in my little living room, doing yoga, and a thought popped into my head like I’d been shot with a little BB of positivity…

“I have everything I need.”

I’m not sure when it happens, when that inner peace that I get built up, spiritually, gets toppled by desire and longing (and the daily grind), but I know I need to find a way to keep it up. To get back to remembering, daily, that I have everything I need, and I’m rich in every way that matters.

When events seem to spiral, when one thing after another happens, or I begin to feel stuck, I have to remember to open up, and let in, as well as let go. (I wish I could remember the yoga teacher who said that, but I don’t. But if I know yoga teachers–and I do, fortunately, a lot of them–I know that whoever said it won’t mind if I share.)

I can love the person I love for who he is. And I can wish him the best. (And if I really love him, I’ll mean it.)

I can love that something like Burning Man exists, and I can be happy for those who get to take part in it.

I can also remind myself that my life is an ongoing festival. Every day.

In this last year, I’ve had some of the roughest times I’ve ever had. And I really thought I knew about hard times. I had a horrible marriage, and I’ve gone through not just the death of loved ones, but horrible deaths of loved ones. I’ve seen things that I thought I’d never get out of my head.

But if having your heart broken is bad, having what feels like a soul break can feel almost unbearable.

And it can wear your happiness down, even when you get to the point where you can stand (literally and figuratively) again.

Here’s the thing, though; this has been one of the best years I’ve ever had, too.

Why? Because every time I’ve been broken down, something has happened to build me up. And I honestly think it’s made me stronger.

Friends have rallied around me like nothing I could have imagined. My children have not only survived, they’ve shown me that they’re tough little bastards, and although I didn’t think it was possible, I admire them more now than I did before.

And I share this because even though I do want to be sure that I stay aware, always, that I have everything I need, and I’m rich in every way that matters, I think it might be a good idea for me this year to mark off a week to make especially sure.

The same week that Burning Man is happening, I’m going to have my own festival, and I’m going to call it the Wakened Woman Week.

I’m going to make a post, with a pic, every day this week. (Except Sunday. I’ll explain later.) It’s going to highlight some aspect of what I have in my life that embodies the principles I hold dear, and it’s going to serve as a reminder to me–and hopefully, an encouragement to others–that ideally, you should live your life every day as an embodiment of your principles.

And you should have fun while you’re doing it.

I created the Live Small, Stand Tall category of this blog because I wanted to encourage people who don’t have a lot of money to keep dreaming. Yes, it’s important to help those who are in such desperate poverty that they don’t have homes, or access to things like the Internet and blogs for encouragement and support. (And if you’re in Oklahoma, I’d encourage you to support The Homeless Alliance to that end.) But it’s also important to remember that there’s a spectrum of need, and those who have the basics like food and shelter covered might be suffering because of what they perceive is an insurmountable gap between them, and the people who get to do things like Burning Man.

I want to (eventually) offer practical tips that can help people in that position find ways to enjoy the better things in life, but I also want to remind everyone that you probably have a good life, already.

So, the first pics of the week are my version of frolicking in the sun in a bathing suit.

mylegs

No, I don’t have Emily Ratajkowski’s ass. My legs aren’t the smooth, unlined gams of a twenty-year-old.

But these are pretty damn good. They get me where I need to go. My body isn’t pristine, but I have five beautiful human beings to show for it. Emily’s a gorgeous girl, and I’m sure that body and face get her a lot of attention, and I don’t want to begrudge any other woman any happiness she can get. I want to be happy for everyone, for every gift they have.

Because as a woman, I believe that just like her flawlessness is a gift, my flaws are gifts, too.

Being single at 45, with five kids, might seem like a nightmare to some women, but I don’t believe it has to be. I believe what seem like hurdles to some are actually pretty good filters; I’m not going to end up with anyone who is dazzled by my physical state, I’m going to have a soul mate, that loves me for my inner beauty. I’m not going to be saddled with someone who gets queasy when faced with a challenge, because before we even get involved, he’s going to have to first look at my life, with its circus train of baggage, count the cost, and say, “Yep, you’re not only worth it, I think this herd of children is awesome, too. Bring the chaos.”

Weaklings need not apply. ;-)

So, here I am, in a bathing suit. Not against a Santorini backdrop, but on the bright blue cushions of my apartment complex’s pool furniture. Pretty swanky, if you ask me. (Although, full disclosure; the pool was so gross I didn’t get in. But we’re celebrating the good, aren’t we?)

Get ready. I’m remembering what I have this week, and I’m shaking off the soporific negativity that’s hurt my heart in the past, and reawakening the knowledge that keeps me mindful.

So…Wakened Woman Week. You can take part or not…but I think you should. (Don’t let the name fool you–men can participate, too, just like women can take part in a festival called “Burning Man”. See what I did there?)

Time to wake up.