Bend and Stretch: A Non-Yogi’s Discovery of Self-Yogament

Let me just preface this by saying that I’m NOT trying to claim I’m all at one with the world and all that razzamatazz. I’m not a walking ball of light and fulfillment. I’m not at peace with my inner being. You can’t steal my sunshine, I cannot be your guiding light, I am not a firework – my sunshine is mine so rack off.

I did however, do a yoga class last week.

On my lunchbreak. As part of a 10-week pass that I bought from the yoga studio around the corner from my office.  And I also just recently booked in for class no. five.

“Ooooooh, how impressive”, I hear all 15 of this blog’s followers utter mockingly.  Yeh, but no. It is impressive, for me, OK?  It’s impressive because I was once the lady who worked through her lunchbreak, worried incessantly about something or other, already suffer from a full-on stress disorder anyway yet still put myself through the misery of never slowing down, never catching a breath, never taking stock.  And yoga, at least once a week IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY, lets me slow down, catch my breath, take stock.

And I fuckin love that it does that.

In 2006, I was a little lost.

This feeling would last until 2011, when I would tell myself, “stuff it, it’s your life, lady, live it how you need you”. But anyway, 2006. I felt I had accomplished nothing of note, I could see everyone else excelling in whatever the hell it is they were doing, and everyone just looked so damn happy.  Outside of my circle of friends (dramatically changed now, since that time), the people who looked the happiest were the yoga teachers from my gym.

I sort of idolized them.  They slinked into the room like agile cats. They wore little, or no, makeup. They looked fit and healthy. To me, they looked like they were living a life free from stress, living as if they were free from the grasp of consumerism. And then, you know, there’s all the bendy-bendy shit, which surely helps them in the nighttime hours, know what I’m sayin’?

So I incorporated yoga into my workouts. I made sure I did it regularly, and while I felt looser and energized after the session, I couldn’t say I felt any happier overall. It wasn’t like little yoga angels embraced me as I huddled over in my Child’s Pose. I’d return home and there’d be booze with the flatmates, stress with the demands of work, something not going right in my love life. Something, always something, and the yoga wasn’t doing anything to make me feel better, really.

But now I’m realising that yoga isn’t about being like other people.

It’s not about emulating anyone, or aiming to be another version of yourself.  At least, that’s not how I’m looking at it.  Coz I’d suffered from comparisonitis for a long time, and I realise that life’s not about keeping up with the Joneses or the Kardashians or the yoga devotees.  So my yoga practice now is about what I get out of it in my busy day, when I’m answering a billion emails, reading through complicated contracts, living inside my brain trying to come up with copy that doesn’t read like crap.  For me, yoga is about stepping away from the everyday busyness and allowing my mind to take a breather, to focus on what I carry around with me all the time (my body) and letting myself take stock of how my mental and physical selves are coping.

photo credit: kaibara87 via photopin cc

photo credit: kaibara87 via photopin cc

Mindfulness is a funny thing, isn’t it?

When I first heard that phrase I thought, “ohhh, poo-poo, I’m totally aware of everything, I think in fact I’m HYPER-aware of everything”.  But that wasn’t helping.  Now mindfulness to me is about taking in even the things that I want to brush away – loud noises, negative thoughts, little stressful reminders, letting them run through my brain, and then letting them peter out.  I will get to them, but I’ve heard them.  And I love how yoga really lets you be mindful of your body.  For people who have been doing yoga for a while, this sounds like duuuuh … basic stuff, but for me it’s a revelation.  You’re allowed to focus on tiny little minute muscles.  The way the backs of your legs touch the floor.  How you’re standing in certain poses, how you hold your breath when you’re trying to balance.  I’ve even noticed me clenching my teeth sometimes.

It’s nice, you know, to know what your body does when it’s under stress, and also when it’s allowed to let go.

But it’s nicer that I don’t have to compare myself to anyone else in the room.

Some people in my class do the lunchtime classes to get away from their desks.  Some people do it to avoid injury.  Some do it for relaxation.  I do it for all those reasons, but also for the simple fact that it’s training my brain to think a different way.  Not through goal-setting, hitting deadlines or number-crunching.  It’s not even like other physical exercises where you weight gain or loss, muscle gain etc.  It doesn’t have to be about that.

The things I’ve noticed about my body and my mind since I’ve just accepted that yoga is a part of my life now include:

  • My body not moving and working like it used to, like it did when I had these lofty ideas of being as agile as a ballerina if I did “enough yoga classes”.  I’m older, I’ve had injuries, my lifestyle has changed.  I can’t pretend it hasn’t.  I can’t go back to the way my body used to be.  I just have to make do with what I have now, and not take my movements for granted.
  • The non-comparison thing is a big one for me.  I don’t have to look around the room and feel inadequate. I don’t have to measure up to anyone, except to how I was in the last session.  Can I go further this time, or should I take it easy?  It’s up to me.  And it doesn’t matter what I do – as long as I don’t injure myself.
  • It’s nice to think about my body in a serious way, the way I do with work and finances etc.  You know how being “detail-oriented” is a good thing in certain careers?  It’s great with yoga too.  OK, so my left side moves a little better in a certain pose than my right side.  Interesting. Like, seriously.  It IS interesting.

So like I said, I’m not joining a yoga teacher’s camp or anything, but I think I’m finally understanding what all the yoga fuss is about.  And I didn’t need to buy fancy yoga clothes to figure it out.

Peace OUT!

XXX

Just pretend like you were sleepin’ …

I don’t even remember what episode of Community this was from, but I swear the closing credits, to me, were funnier than the episode it was closing …

I miss Community. I think it went a little off the rails in the last part of season 3, and then was unrecognisable in season 4, and then tried to pick itself up again in season 5.  Good try though, good try.  Best redeeming episode was in Season 5 when they were receiving their bequeathments from Pierce. Is “bequeathment” a word?  It is now.

Husband’s watching clips of Reggie Watts. I think I’ll join him. xxx

Inspirational Individual – Bill Odenkirk

So Bill Odenkirk, according to Wikipedia, is this kind of amazing:

He is the younger brother of American comedian Bob Odenkirk, and worked as a writer, producer and actor on sketch comedy TV show Mr. Show with Bob and David, which featured his brother as co-star. Odenkirk went on to write for Tenacious D and Futurama. He has written and executive produced episodes of The Simpsons. He holds a PhD in Inorganic chemistry from the University of Chicago. He was a co-inventor of 2,2′-Bis(2-indenyl) biphenyl.

Not that being the “younger brother of American comedian Bob Odenkirk” makes less of the amazing individual he already is, but it says a lot about the Odenkirk family stock that they can produce two go-getter guys, yes?

And what kind of brain writes for The Simpsons and co-invents something in the field of Inorganic chemistry? A legend, that’s what kind of brain.  I didn’t even know what Inorganic chemistry was, I had to look it up and now that I’ve looked it up I’m still in the dark about it.

Bill Odenkirk, you’re awesome. I’m just reading the guy’s bio again and he has a PhD, for crying out loud. I had to motivate myself to put on eyeliner this morning, such is the nature of my ambition levels today …

Push on, move forward …

In the past couple of weeks lots of things I was doing seemed too hard and nothing I was doing seemed to serve any sort of purpose.  I felt like I was going through the motions and I wasn’t getting anywhere with anything.  Everything was too hard.

Then I got overly critical of everything around me. Dishes were piling up. Laundry was piling up. General household cleaning was piling up.  Bloody hell, even was piling up.  I was putting on weight. I wasn’t getting any exercise.  I was eating crap.

And while all these feelings are really phucking terrible, I just realised it was my body’s way (or my brain’s way? I dunno) of saying that things were a bit out of whack, and I had to do something to rectify it.

So what did I do about it?

  1. I reassessed what I was doing. I cut down on things that could be causing me grief, and I worked on things that I thought needed working on.
  2. I stopped delaying the inevitable (i.e. the looming pile of dirty laundry) and stuck them in the washer and just did them, already.
  3. I took a long hard look at my exercise regime (or lack thereof) and told myself I am not deathly ill, so calm down, lady! I am just not as fit as I would like to be, at this stage.  I started making small steps towards a healthier me (I think that’s a health insurance slogan, I dunno) by walking more, going to more yoga classes to improve my wellbeing as well as reminding my body that there is more to movement than typing and reaching for my coffee mug.
  4. As well as that, I recognised my sweet tooth and replaced the odd Killer Python I had in the arvo (coz I still eat like I’m 11, I know, I know …) with actual food recognisable by Mother Nature.  You know, fruit and shit.

I basically told myself that I had to change my lifestyle to get what I wanted, and that is a MAJOR thing, so it is naturally going to be difficult.  But if I approach my game plan as a long-term work in progress, instead of having an end goal, then I’d be easier on myself and not beat myself up if I have a setback.

I tell myself that life is not a race, it’s a marathon, so we have to pace ourselves.

Having said that, I now push on, move forward, put one foot in front of the other and just keep going.  I know there are lots of people who are in considerably more pain than I am in, and they have to deal with so many more obstacles, and I’m certainly not trying to compare myself with anyone with real problems.

But on a day to day level, I try to remember that life is OK, everything is going to be OK, and in a year’s time, I’ll remind myself of how far I’ve come, because I think back to this time last year and I’m glad of what I’ve accomplished in this time.

End rant.

Not every day is a party where you don crazy headgear and booze on ...

Not every day is a party where you don crazy headgear and booze on …

A never-ending challenge …

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been this really overly anxious person.  I just put it down to being a “stress-head” or “overthinking things” and I have just learnt to live with it, like it was just one of my character traits.

But I have this weird (OK – wrong) habit.  This too has been with me since I was a kid, and probably cropped up around the time I was getting anxious about … everything.

I could lose hours playing with my hair

I pick at my hair. I play with it. I split the ends. I watch TV and I twirl it around my fingers. In school, I would sit at my desk doing my homework, and sometimes the answers would flow from me like magic, but in the times where I was stumped, I would sit there and pick at my hair. I could lose hours sitting there, picking and playing with it. Studying for maths exams was hell, not just because maths was my worst subject, but because I was so bloody anxious about not being good at it that to avoid facing the heartache of learning trigonometry I just … picked at my hair instead.

When I was bored, I picked at my hair.

When I was sad, I picked at my hair.

When I was angry, I picked at my hair. Angrily.

By the time I left school at aged 17, I could no longer tie my hair up in a ponytail.  The sides were sparse, little sprouty baby hairs or something were the only things left.

I was mortified. I don’t know why my friends never noticed it, and I especially don’t know why my boyfriend at the time didn’t notice it. But I was glad he wasn’t the “run my fingers through your hair” kind of person, so I was cool with that.  Similarly, I was cool that my friends at the time were not, “let’s give each other makeovers and braid each other’s hair” kind of folks, either.

Coping and failing, but succeeding, sometimes … 

For the longest time, I’m talking like all through uni and after graduation, I tried to stop my “bad habit”.  I went to a hypnotherapy woman, and while that worked for a little period of time, it was so expensive I stopped.  She did, however, give me some tools which I still try to implement today, like keeping your hands busy and visualising what I would look like with a full, healthy head of hair.

Sometimes, I would be OK.  I could go months without an urge to touch my hair at all, except to comb it.  I even resorted to cutting it really short, so that I had no choice but to NOT play with my hair, and that worked too.  When the hair grew out, I was able to tie it up and back, and there aren’t many people out there today who know the sheer joy of being able to do that, after years of feeling like a pariah because you just couldn’t do simple things like tie your hair up when you go to the gym.

During the really bad times I would lose myself for hours and I would arise from my clumped over position and I’d have picked at the sides of my scalp in a weird non-frenzy, because it wasn’t done in this frenetic way, it was done calmly like I was doing delicate cross-stitching.

To this day, I have never tied my hair up with the use of serious bobby pins. But at least I can tie it up.

It is what it is

A couple of months ago I saw this youtube clip about Becky, who has Trichotillomania. And I holy crapped myself because I read up about her and her condition and I was … floored.

Because there was someone like me out there who has had to deal with crap pretty much all her life, and she was so open with sharing her story to the world.

Something about Becky and her story clicked in me, and I decided that I wasn’t going to ignore this in myself anymore, and I was going to acknowledge that this was something I NEEDED HELP with, so I am seeking it now.  Re-phrase that, I have sought it. I have good days and bad days, lately I have been OK, not great.

Good and bad days

Some days I am great – I use the tools I’ve been given to combat my urges and keep me out of “danger zones” (i.e. I’ supposed to be mindful of where my hands are on the steering wheel while I’m at a traffic light, as I tend to zone out and pick and pick and pick …).

Some days I am horrible. When I am stressed about a deadline,  or if I am finding something hard to write (I’m also a freelance writer, which makes me much more introspective and prone to overthink everything), I have really bad days.  When I get down on myself, then it’s over.

But I accept now that this is something I need to work on daily, because it’s not a thing I can beat entirely, but it’s a trait I have to understand – or it will beat me entirely.

I think taking the stigma out of mental health is so so so important, because many times – ok, all the bloody time, I feel like I am fighting this alone.  And it’s yes, yes, it’s my battle to fight, but it would be nice to have support, you know?  In Australia, in NSW anyway, there are no Trichotillomania support groups.  There are online tools and they are U.S-based, but the support of everyday folk to even take the sting out of it would be so lovely.

HatDay_CMYK

Hat Day is an event run by Australian Rotary Health, and it happening this Friday 10 October 2014 to coincide with World Mental Health Day and Mental Health Week.

You can participate by wearing a hat (everyone loves hats!) and donating to research.

It’s important to support mental health awareness and research because everyone, at some point, is touched by it in some way. Hard facts:

  • 1 in 5 people will suffer a mental illness this year.
  • The World Health Organization predicts that by 2020 mental illness will be the leading cause of disability and the second leading cause of death in first world countries.
  • Every Australian will know a family member, work colleague or friend who will experience some form of mental health condition.
  • Mental disorders are the leading cause of sickness absence and long-term work incapacity.
  • The annual cost of mental illness in Australia has been estimated at $20 billion, includes the cost of lost productivity and labour force participation
  • Nearly 50% of all Australians experience at least one episode of mental ill health in our lives

If that doesn’t say a lot the state of mental health in Australia, well … read those again and get back to me. ONE IN FIVE.

How you can help

Visit www.hatday.com.au to register a Hat Day FUNdraiser event, and invite your friends, family and colleagues to join in and to donate generously on your fundraising page.

Follow Hat Day 
Facebook - www.facebook.com.au/hatdayevent
Twitter – @hatday
Hashtag for instagram, twitter and facebook – #hatday14.

If you or someone you know is in need of counselling, contact Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467 or Lifeline: 13 11 14

The path to fame and fortune isn’t paved with gold and inspirational memes

Maybe because I’ve seen so many of them, maybe because I no longer connect with them, I dunno, but I know that those inspirational memes like this:

From photo credit: symphony of love via photopin cc

Photo credit: symphony of love via photopin cc

Or this:

Photo credit: deeplifequotes via photopin cc

Photo credit: deeplifequotes via photopin cc

…no longer have that strong an effect on me.

OK, so the last one was nice.

But these inspirational memes do very little by way of giving me tools to overcome difficulties, or show me how someone aspirational has overcome whatever challenge he or she had.

I love when Hollywood stars come out with really insightful things to say. Viola Davis was recently featured in a Vulture article called Viola Davis’s 14-Step Guide to Happiness and the article said this about her thoughts on fear and failure: 

“Nobody tells you about failure,” Davis argues. “People always talk about winning, vision boards, getting what you want. People also don’t talk about fear. It’s always keeping fear at bay. Squelching it. Throwing it away. I’ve embraced fear and failure as a part of my success. I understand that it’s part of the grand continuum of life. I’ve been through it all. Breakups, heartache, and I’ve lost a parent already. So now I get it at this age, I get that that is it. That life literally is what you make it.”

I love that she says that fear and failure form her journey to success.  A lot of the time whenever I read about someone who’s achieved a lot in their lives, it’s always as if they’ve had clarity the whole way, they never wavered, they had this unyielding passion and tunnel vision attitude to success.

Which is great for them, but what if you don’t work like that? What if your idea of success is very different to the more traditional notions of success? What if success doesn’t mean fame but more a recognition of a job well done and recognition that you’re a thought leader or expert in your field?  What if success doesn’t mean riches but is more along the lines of comfort and not excess?  What if success means not reaching goal after goal and being disheartened after each goal is reached, but rather living through your life’s direction (I learnt this last idea from Sze Wing Yip, who told me that living a life based on your path and journey rather than goals was a better way to live – totally paraphrasing, but I’ve lived by it since she told me this)?

So Viola Davis’ article really got to me, it means that fear and failure are part of my journey to live my life’s direction, and as long as I keep reminding myself of what that is (so that I’m always asking, “what is the purpose of this?”) then I should be fine.

It’s all work ….

My favourite thing on Facebook that has nothing to do with my actual friends or my Facebook friends is Humans of New York. If I had a dollar for every time I thought, “why didn’t I think of doing something like that?”, I’d never have to think it coz that’s what I would be doing all day every day, going out into the world and meeting all kinds of people and finding their unique stories.

And Humans of New York have done it again. The picture and caption/explanation of the image(s) came up on my Facebook newsfeed and, wow:

Following your dreams is nothing but work

 

I love that. “… Following your dreams, successfully, is nothing but work”.

I really needed this right now.

Having a hard time seeing the forest from the trees, vocation-wise, because I thought I had worked past the “following your dreams” bit and was, you know, finally bloody following them.  But lately everything just seems HARD. Hard to work on what you love. Hard to be with who you love. Hard to do things outside of work to be a well-rounded person, someone you love.

This TED talk by Nigel Marsh is bookmarked on my laptop and I watch it every now and then to remind me that the idea of work/life balance is a bit of a weird one. It implies that you can have this neatly divided focus and time for work and for your life.  My favourite part of this talk is, ” … Being more balanced doesn’t mean dramatic upheaval in your life. With the smallest investment in the right places, you can radically transform the quality of your relationships and the quality of your life. Moreover, I think, it can transform society. Because if enough people do it, we can change society’s definition of success away from the moronically simplistic notion that the person with the most money when he dies wins, to a more thoughtful and balanced definition of what a life well lived looks like.”

I love this. CHANGING THE DEFINITION OF SUCCESS.

Work will always be work. It will not be about spending time in the sun with the husband in a five star resort by the pool, even if you are a five star resort reviewer who gets to take their husband on flights with them everywhere.  Coz you’re still going to have to file that story, speak to the management, get it through to your editor, ensure it gets read, ensure it doesn’t read like a dog wrote it.  It’s still work.

So Brandon Stanton from Humans of New York is definitely right.  There’s always work involved in following your dreams.  So now I know that this means that all that work better on something you believe in and is worth the effort, otherwise you are definitely not following your dream.

There is no inspirational meme on the interwebs right now that can succinctly mirror this idea, even if its an image of a sunrise or a young girl doing the “heart” sign with her hands or if you put a hipster filter over it.  I’m not even really sure if those do anything to inspire me anymore, because the urge to punch the screen sometimes becomes too strong.

My weird Madlibs Poem

soft television’s soft television

haltingly i have never run, heavily beyond
any candle, your house have their behemoth :
in your most painful mouse pad are things which erase me,
or which i cannot sit because they are too upstairs

your light look often will unwork me
though i have read myself as mascara,
you cry always eyeliner by eyeliner myself as USB stick stress
(hyperventilateing intentionally, here) her pudgy folder

or if your wardrobe be to expose me, i and
my weights will jump very there, completely,
as when the night of this candle walk
the pencil even everywhere hoping;

nothing which we are to skip in this computer eat
the watch of your prudish ring: whose bracelet
fart me with the cords of its wall,
shower ing table and car with each shaveing

(i do not swim what it is about you that jog
and write; only something in me drive
the cat of your house is athletic than all USB stick)
street, not even the hat, has such colourful bag

- Erica & e.e. cummings

Create Your Own Madlib on LanguageIsAVirus.com