Super Sized Sentiments

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I’m a sensitive person by nature. Feelings flood my body without warning. Maybe I lack emotional dams… or I’ve had a lot of rainy weather internally. Regardless, every sentiment is super sized (my boyfriend is reading over my shoulder laughing … you can imagine what this means for him).

My super sized sentiments have blessed me with some amazing experiences and memories. I remember when I climbed up Yosemite Falls, and glanced over the edge. My heart jumped off the observation point and soared across the sky with a hawk. Every cell in my body expressed proteins of peace and love (yes, I’m a little crunchy), and I felt like giving the world a giant hippie hug.

On the other side of the coin, I can hurt and fear with an undesirable level of intensity. For this reason, I sit on my yoga mat everyday. I breathe and (I attempt to) rein it all in. On the days I feel the sickest, I tend to catastrophize. Fear carries around a giant megaphone (with great acoustics) telling me “you better throw in the towel because it’s just going to get worse from here.” Oh God, I think. The first day of the REST. OF. MY. LIFE. I better get used to feeling weak and miserable (oh the drama).

But guess what happens instead (and I forget this every time I feel like crap)? The pain, the weakness AND the fear fade away. I inevitably circle back to a good day or a hopeful thought that lifts my spirit. Then I remember that every sentiment is temporary. Life and existence are fluid, as are the difficult experiences. Goal: Maintain super sized perspective on bad days.

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Patience And A Random Bighorn Sheep

ry=480Patience is as hard as the gravel that bighorn sheep is traversing. I don’t know why I chose him for this post … but here he is (or she … sheep sex identification isn’t really my forte). I know I’m a product of Western culture. I’m why Starbucks is still in business. Shameful but true. I want everything at the snap of my fingers, despite knowing that if my wish came true my life would end atop a bowl of bitter-tasting accomplishments.

BUT … BUT …

Everything feels like such an arduous process when patience is at play: fighting to get better, finishing nursing school, finding the right job, washing my hair … ugh! I’m climbing (metaphorically climbing that is … ) a million flights of stairs, and frankly I’d rather schedule a demolition and replace that shit with a giant elevator. You push floor “2” or “20” and you fly up effortlessly past all the painful crap in between … and surprise. You’re here. Oh hey there smiley greeter. Welcome to your destination. Hope the ride was smooth. Here’s a hot towel for your face.

I get it. I really do. I know I can’t take a shortcut (Adam Sandler’s oscar-worthy performance in Click illustrated this point beautifully). I just. want. to.

(I’m going to channel Veruca Salt for a minute.) I want to wake up with a detailed user-friendly instruction manual. At 6:30 am, instead of my iPhone alarm chiming, I’d prefer a message from My Life In Checklists application. A push notification would show up (vocally narrated by Regina, Siri’s smarter cousin from London): Good morning Sarah. Your daily checklist has arrived. Here are the things you need to accomplish today in order to obtain joy and inner peace.  Now start by making yourself a delicious cup of coffee on your new french press. And don’t forget to use lactose free milk. We don’t want any tummy aches now, do we?  

I love how this plays out. Smooth as pie. I’d have so much extra time on my hands without needing to contemplate the big questions … or even the small ones (like should I eat that extra piece of delicious, calorie-packed bread?). I could forget everything I worry about consistently. I could spend my time gardening, or join an a cappella group. I could re-watch episodes of Lost while making a scrapbook for my mom.

I’d check off the necessary tasks to cure my Lyme infection instead of trying something new, being patient, and waiting to see if it worked. Make sure to take the little blue pill, Sarah. That one is bloody important (Regina means business). I’d be guided to do all of the right exercises, eat all the right foods, take all the right herbs or antibiotics. Unbelievably easy! Doesn’t matter if you get sick … EVER … just download the app to get better. What? You haven’t found your soulmate yet? No problem. Here are the steps you should take to find him or her. 10 daily steps to happiness. And another 15 steps to accomplish your life’s mission. Each checked box would feel so good, so right.

Patience would be redefined. It wouldn’t be practiced while floating in the dark waters of the unknown. Instead it would be a light feat that you could easily manage on par with waiting for water to boil or charging your iPhone. You’d know your goal was attainable and approximately how long it would take to get there. I could handle this kind of patience.

Unfortunately this world, with its checklists and the lovely Regina, doesn’t exist. So instead I’m stuck inserting dialogue boxes into pictures of bighorn sheep to illustrate how random I feel my life is right now. Siri will put me to bed, and my alarm will chime tomorrow. I will take my pills with a glass of lactose-free milk (I didn’t need Regina for that one). And I will gracefully wait. Because patience is a virtue. Right?

Love, Acceptance and Peanut Butter

What does it mean to love yourself? I feel like I’m on a cheesy Jenny Craig commercial … but, seriously, what does that look like? Back in my old yoga cave, my teacher was pushing us to love ourselves in every pose. I gave myself a couple awesome-sauce-pats-on-the-back until I attempted an inversion, knocked my water bottle over and thumped onto the ground. I didn’t accept the failure very gracefully. I sighed, frustrated that I didn’t stick it. Then I got mad at myself for being frustrated, which totally defeated the entire purpose of the exercise. Welcome to my life (can’t shut it off).

I got home and accomplished some more overthinking (yay me). If I can’t love myself in yoga as part of an exercise, how am I supposed to accomplish this in real life? Because believe me, I’ve tried. Also (just to tack on another question here), how do I love my body when it doesn’t cooperate? Because it doesn’t. A lot. And not just when I try to do an inversion, but for basic stuff like breathing comfortably. Inversions happen on “good days.” I always want to do AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE on the days I feel decent. I put more pressure on myself on those days because I don’t know how often they are going to present themselves.  

I don’t know about you, but I personally eat a lot of bread with peanut butter when I reflect. I like how it sticks in my throat and I can’t swallow it down very easily. I work out my thoughts, while I work down my peanut butter. So, as I was struggling with a particularly big bite I realized what made the peanut butter go down easier (besides milk). When I relaxed and stopped swallowing incessantly I made a lot more progress. Worked like a charm. Now ultimately this isn’t my goal because I like battling nut butter, BUT a lightbulb did go off: I needed to just. let. go.

Yeah yeah, you are thinking. But hear me out. You can’t force self-love. It’s not like slicing bread or memorizing a speech. I think it’s a passive process. My problem is that I always develop a plan of action. First I’m going to fight every negative thought with a positive affirmation … then I’m going to write down what my strengths are …  finally I won’t use humor to deflect my insecurities …  you get the picture. I could probably make some sort of portfolio of all my plans, including a lengthy section on how to love your body despite its shortcomings.

Clearly the plans of action aren’t working. So what am I going to do instead? Not a lot. I am, however, going to take a deep breath (even if it’s uncomfortable) and let my mind calm itself. I’m going to accept that there isn’t a checklist that will lead me to a place of self-love. I’m sure I will fight against letting go. But that’s fine … to be expected, in fact. I’m just going to try to “be.” And I think, for now, that’ll be okay.

Until I am not me.

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One word: isolation. It sings to me, tempting me with grand ideas of uninterrupted time and space. It leans into me, hooks me with quiet fingers and makes me shut the door. Beautiful isolation. Or so I tell myself.

Myself, three hours later, splayed out on the couch with Netflix. Sick to my stomach drowning in unaccomplished goals that weren’t even that important to begin with.

To begin with I was on fire, pacing around my home in caribou flannels, blaring Alanis Morissette, dumb 90s flicks on mute, writing my to-dos. I will practice guitar. I will reorganize cleaning products. I will write a book. I will use oils to paint the cover.

The covers drawn up around my cheeks. I ignore my cell. I watch it ring. I listen to theme songs designated to people. I hate people. I hate callers. If I answer I have to muster enough energy to form syllables, and syllables make words, and words lead to sentences. Dear God, make it stop.

Don’t stop the roll ONTO THE FLOOR, stuck between bed and dresser, legs overhead, kneecaps suctioned into ears. Enough blood in my brain to grab a mat, drive 8 miles. Isolation: shut down.

Shut the door behind. Until I sweat with the loud and the crowded and the lonely. Until public pools form. Until they flow uninterrupted. Until I am not me.

Cycles

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Today in yoga I sat down on my mat and noticed the same sensation that has been haunting my limbs on and off for the last while. It’s an odd tingling that makes my knees feel like buckling; similar to the feeling you’d get after an insane workout followed by a bunch of squats. I rocked into a plow pose with my toes next to my ears in order to calm my noisy nervous system.

As I focused inward my teacher started talking about “cycles.” She sweetly conveyed that many of us come to the studio, we cycle through our poses without thinking, then we do it all over again when we return. She suggested we try to break the cycle today and be mindful in every pose. If we live every moment, she said, every moment can become a unique experience even if our actions repeat themselves. Every moment is sacred.

It hit me: a cycle is only a cycle if I let it become one. Through mindfulness and respecting the divinity of each moment, I can break what I perceive as an inevitable repetitiveness of experiences.

Lyme goes through complex life cycles inside its human host, leading to a bunch of predictable weirdo symptoms. Yesterday I’d felt burning and aching in my spine, which I knew would be followed by the tingling in my limbs today. The tingling leads to chest tightness and pain in my lungs, which I always dread.

I sat on my heels and realized that I’d been giving lyme’s cyclic nature energetic power. By awaiting foreseeable symptoms, I’d lost focus on the present and let bypass the daily series of moments that accumulate to form my life. Today I created an intention to break this cycle and focus energy on the unique experiences of the present. And in this moment I feel free.