Better & Bolder the Blog

Still Breathing

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Better and Bolder: blue

I saw a woman walking in my neighborhood last week. She was brunette and had dyed some of her hair a beautiful dark blue. That seemed fun. I asked my daughter, who knows these things, whether I could do that, too.

The process delights me. See something, get inspired, talk about it, look at pictures for more inspiration, make a plan. I am delighted to put my head of hair in my daughter's hands: go for it, baby.

Also -

Kyle Rittenhouse murdered two protestors and is out on bail where he's hanging with White supremacists and flashing their White Boy gang signs. This should not be. Veterans clean up the trash left by the mobs last week at our nation's capitol. This is a beautiful thing to see.  I teeter back and forth: I want desperately for all of us to witness and to continue to wake up more fully to the depth, range, and inevitability of White Supremacy in the United States. I want desperately for all of us to take a break and dye our hair blue or read a book or take a walk.

Here is the thing that makes me feel strangely hopeful. I'm reading opinion pieces that remind us that there is no reconciliation until there is reckoning and responsibility. We don't unify without holding people accountable for dangerous and illegal actions. Someone doesn't get to beat Capitol Police with flag poles one day, saying, "We're doing this for you!" and then the next day say it's time for peace and unity. We all know now what to call that, which is gaslighting. It's an attempt to replace our reality with theirs. It's manipulative because they know we do want unity and peace.

I'm hopeful because I'm seeing this message over and over, and I know our children are watching. I know that women are hearing that we don't get back together with an abusive human until that human says they are sorry and they have a plan to change. They are sorry and have a plan so that they won't do those terrible things again. That plan is concrete, not only hopes and prayers, but a series of actions to take.

Ultimately -

If we are to do the work of being anti-racist, we are in this for a long, long haul. This week has felt monumental, and it has been, and it also is absolutely business as usual. Georgia has happened. Keep remembering that. We are about to have a multi-cultural, multi-racial female Vice-President with a broadly diverse Cabinet behind her. Keep celebrating that. Keep your eyes on the prize.

Better and Bolder: MLK Jr Day

As he protested the Vietnam war, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, "There can be no justice without peace, and there can be no peace without justice." King was urged to focus on civil rights only, and his anti-war stance lost him supporters. It turns out, we can focus on the pandemic, civil rights, accountability for everyone who has committed treason, and whatever else we need to do, all at once. They're all related to our health and well-being as a nation. Watch us. Watch us handle this.

Alice Walker titled her 2010 book Hard Time Requires Furious Dancing. We're feeling this, and also: be gentle with yourself and loving with your body. Allow yourself to feel everything -- happiness, grief, rage, disbelief, righteousness, relief -- whatever it is that is flowing through you.

It's okay to feel joy:

the joy of being alive in a body

the joy of communing with nature and music and others

the joy of each breath

the joy of hoping in a future that will be better.

Your body does not deserve this rage. Your body does not deserve to feel beaten down. Your body wants only to help you live with pleasure. Your body is designed for breath, movement, rest, and pleasure. We have work to do, yes, and we are called on to witness and act. We must care deeply and well for ourselves and each other as we do this.

Let whatever you do to help the world be enough. We each do a part, and those parts fit together like puzzle pieces, like nestling next to each other at the end of a long day. Keep working, keep breathing, keep dancing.

New Year

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I panicked last night.

It had been a perfect New Year's Eve, really, starting with an outdoor Nia class that was connected and vital in all the right ways. I went for a run with my dog Zee. I finally after too many weeks got between the sheets with my husband. I enjoyed a cold, sunny walk with my daughter and her pup, the happy-maker Mukha. Hugh and I watched a lovely movie, Mary and Max, with my dog comfortingly sleeping on me. This is a sweet claymation movie about human connection and the immense value just one person can have for another, and I had a nice little cry.

Then, I couldn't fall asleep. I became more and more anxious. The neighborhood was alive with fireworks. I journaled and got more anxious. I cried some more. I finally popped an Ambien and asked my husband to cuddle me while I shook and sobbed.

My mother was alive in 2020 and not in 2021, and it felt wrong to leave 2020. I am still reeling with the shock of 2020. There are important relationships I have had to let go, and the relief isn't there, not yet. It all has been too much, and I haven't even begun to process it. I have a roomful of gratitude for the support I've received in 2020, and the year feels to me sacred. It has been transformational except I haven't actually transformed yet. I'm still out there on the boat on the journey on the water.

I have a small goal for 2021, which is 30 minutes of stretching or Yoga movements every week, not counting what I do in a Nia class. I can do it in one shot or spread out, which is less than five minutes a day. A bigger goal is to include strength training, and, honestly, I'm not ready to focus on that. Soon, I hope, but I have no timeline.

My big plan is to become a less anxious person. These are anxious times, so that's a big ask.

As of today, January 1, 2021, I am no longer a full-time employee at CNM. That should free up a bunch of energy and time right there. My primary job is a fitness instructor/Nia teacher. This is the first time since 2001 that I haven't held at least two (often three) jobs. I wonder if the fewer responsibilities I have, the more I will sense the anxiety that has fueled my working life. Sense it in my body. Know it for what it is, a pervasive being on alert, a constant mind chatter, and a depressant.

In the process of becoming a less anxious person, I intuit that I may have some times like last night when I am lost in a panic attack, and my coping skills lead me deeper into the anxiety. I may need to do the boring, difficult work of feeling not great as the glacier beneath me melts.

I also leave open the possibility that today I will dance, and later I will light candles and smudge. I will say more goodbyes and feel the sorrow. I will make room for good things and believe I deserve them. I may wake up tomorrow just a little bit less of an anxious person and more my authentic self. Just a little bit, and every bit brings me closer to shore.


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Better and Bolder: Grace, November 2020

I. I quit therapy today. I was a bit emotional, which I hadn't expected. A whole lot got processed and transformed in the past six months, and the guidance and support of this therapist got me there. I'm grateful.

In our last meeting today, I felt the sweet sensation of love-filled grief -- missing my mother -- and it was unencumbered by all the other history of our relationship. I felt the shape and trueness of our love, and it was enough.

II. Four years ago in November, I adopted our sweet girl dog Zee. Did I say sweet girl? She was a mess. She was stressed and reactive. She would jump on us and play so hard that she often drew blood. Really, my husband has scars.

I honestly didn't know if I'd be able to keep her. I took her for walks twice a day and told myself again and again that she'd settle down a bit once she was older and had been at home with us longer. It turns out, she's a daddy's girl and has become a good and necessary companion for my husband. If I'm very patient, she'll calm down enough to lay her head on my lap when we're on the couch. I just have to wait for it.

III. I assigned my CNM students to write about their signature strengths. I adore this assignment because it asks them to tell me stories that show their strengths. I get to see them shine and I know that they are seeing themselves shine, too.

In my video message to them about the week's assignments, I noted that optimism and gratitude come easily to me, but I have trouble with forgiveness. The minute I said it, I realized it was no longer true. I used to have trouble forgiving. I would ruminate. My hurt would be so wide that I couldn't let go. Now, I'm quick to be compassionate, and forgiveness follows pretty quickly. 

IV. Grace is more than being thankful. Grace requires our attention. There is no gratitude without awareness. Once we bring the gift of our attention, we receive the gift of grace. As I age, I become better at the things that have been most difficult for me: being patient, being forgiving, being loved. I gift myself with attention, with gratitude, and with grace.

Better and Bolder: happy sad, December 2020

After Nia class last week, I told everyone on Zoom that on December 12, we'd celebrate my retirement from CNM. I don't feel much like celebrating.

That's because I'm happy and sad. I got that from Chaya, who recently retired. Like me, she'll keep working (I am not retiring from teaching Nia). Like me, COVID played a part in her decision to retire now rather than later.

"Have yourself a Happy and Sad Christmas" is definitely not "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year." It's honest, though, and maybe even a small relief: no big parties, no getting in the spirit. This unusual December invites us to be more quiet and to rest. It also reminds us why we decorate and party and eat eat eat. When it's dark and cold, we want distraction and comfort. We want something to look forward to.

Perhaps this holiday season, you feel unsettled, as if things are not quite right, as if you don't know where to put your feet that feels safe and stable. I've been describing what I feel as disequilibrium as I leave one place and move to the next, but when I put it all together, all the 2020, the sensation I have every day actually is more like, what the fuck. What the fuckity fuck.

We miss hugs. We miss being together. There are no substitutes for these. It makes sense if you're feeling a bit desperate. Hold on. Please, hold on. We'll make it through winter. Sometimes there's nothing to do but feel the feelings and breathe in and out and wait for what's next.

While my official first day of retirement is January 1, 2021, my last term teaching at CNM ends this coming Friday, December 11. What I need on the 12th is to exhale. I have completed a huge cycle in my life, and something new and unknown is opening in front of me. I need the ritual of transition. I need permission to cry.  I need to dance out my big big Big gratitude for the teachers I worked with and the students who came through my classes.

Maybe you, too, would like to exhale. Maybe you've made so many shifts and adaptations since March that you're not sure who exactly you are in the world and where you go next. We'll spend winter regaining our strength, resting more than usual, squinting into the winter sun, and watching as the days again grow longer. We'll feel happy sometimes and maybe also sad, even at the same time. We inhale all that we're grateful for, and exhale out all the fuckity fuck.