Here is the book launch reading from June 30, 2021. If you haven’t read Virtuous Sinner yet, this might tempt you to do so!
There comes a time when the facts are clear. Today was yet another one of those times.
I am not the best.
In the old days a tennis ladder was a way to encourage us to play officially against kids we wouldn’t normally play against, and to work on our game. It was also a tactic to keep us from constantly enjoying each other’s company while lobbing balls over the fence, to irritate the golfers.
The names of anyone interested in participating were written on cardboard tags hung on metal hooks on a triangular shaped board. The original pyramid was set by drawing names at random, after which you could challenge one or two people above you to play a match. If you won, you took their spot, and everyone else under, dropped down a peg.
Most of us knew who the better players were. There was usually a big gap in skill level between the McNealus clan and anyone else, however it didn’t matter…much. We were all equal when it came to getting yelled at.
Before my sister Dee grew taller than 36 inches, I could count on challenging her, taking her place, and staying there. Those days are long gone.
I received an email the other week announcing a new ladder, a grownup ladder. I’m not very competitive. I get uncomfortable with too much seriousness, focus, aptitude, skill, determination, or dedication.
Then again, maybe I am too competitive, and a sore loser and don’t want to play anymore if I get creamed too often. I signed up (without telling my sister) and decided to investigate my reactions.
Needless to say, after two rounds I hold the place of honor at the bottom of the board.
Some say “With age, comes wisdom“. I say with age comes the maturity to say to someone, “I accept the fact that you just cleaned my clock, and I’m okay with it.”
Often we don’t put ourselves in challenging situations because we know (or assume) we will lose or look ridiculous. Sometimes we should, so someone can say, “If that bozo signed up, I should too.” We might inspire someone to step back out onto the court, enter a competition, write a book, or take a weird yoga class.
We are all the best at something. Sometimes we want others to know what that is. Sometimes we don’t know what that is ourselves. Sometimes, that something is being able to say to another, “You are the best.”
Peter and I just got back from a road trip to Florida. We had 3 beautiful days of 90 degree weather with my grandmother. We sweated and complained about the heat. It was wonderful.
Surrounding that time we had 8 days of full on driving. We made 6 overnight stops, got a $128 speeding ticket, and a cracked windshield.
Peter did 97% of the driving. My 3% was 2 hours in the wrong direction in Georgia, 3 days in the Florida neighborhood, and an hour and 15 minutes from Troy, NY to Dorset.
Peter likes to drive, or used to. I like to navigate, or used to. I had my notepads, book and knitting with me but enjoying those pleasant pastimes is unfair to the driver, unless you are on an airplane.
I felt it was important for me to have the same blurry eyes as Peter at the end of the day. Actually mine may have been worse because I had to keep peeking at the speedometer without moving my head.
The days of AAA trip-ticks are long gone, just as is the simple beltway around Washington, D.C.
I followed the directions diligently via my Ipad and her voice announcing up and coming exit ramps. (Funny she never said a word when I was headed towards Macon, GA rather than Jacksonville, FL. Maybe she didn’t think I would listen.)
The problem with navigating with Google Maps was not the fear that we would end up driving off a pier, more so that when she said 1300 miles to your destination, she wasn’t kidding. Your arrival time may vary by a few moments (unless you get pulled over) but the miles stay basically the same. There’s nothing you can do about it.
There were many moments when I thought this was the stupidest idea ever. I wondered how many times I had crossed and uncrossed my legs. How much longer did we have to listen to Classic Comedians and hits of the 1940’s? Who knew that NPR runs out of new stories?
I was caught in the present. Here, folded into a car that used to be comfortable.
There was nothing I could do but sit. I had no control over the situation, except imagine ditching the car and jumping on a plane.
I became resigned to our (my) predicament. That’s the first step when dealing with uncomfortable situations, accepting that that is what it is, uncomfortable.
The second step is choosing how to react. Admittedly, at first, I sighed a lot, then I made up better scenarios, “Let’s pretend we are just leaving the house and are going to Albany. Once we get there we will turn around and come home. We can have lunch. I’m in the mood for a hotdog, two actually. Then we’ll just drive back to Albany!” That was better than saying, “In 2 hours we will have 4 more hours to go.”
There are situations much worse than willing the time to go by on a road trip. My friend Katie McKenna got run over by a truck. She had no choice but to accept the passage of hours, days, weeks, months, if not years, in bed, before her body would heal itself and she’d be ready for a driving excursion.
We can control how our mind works but we can’t control the passage of time, just as we can’t control the sudden appearance of a police car or the trajectory of a flying pebble.
Often the idea of letting go, or giving up, brings negative connotations, like one is weak or helpless.
Maybe we need some new phrases to work with, like “Donate your control” or “Take a break from the driver’s seat.” (Of course that’s easy for me to say.) The point is, we all will eventually arrive at our destination points. Sometimes it’s just not a scenic route.
I must say I saw an awful lot of Golden Doodles and Labra-Doodles catching the wind from back seat windows on Route 95. Rumor has it that dogs have a different concept of time than we do. They are either with their humans or they aren’t.
On the next trip I’m going to pretend I’m a dog. “Yippee: Road Trip! We are all together, what fun!”, and leave it at that.
Namaste, buckle up, we’re taking the bumpy way!
Peter and I have been catching up on the series “Blue Bloods”. It’s fun to see how often we say, to the hot-headed Detective Reagan, “Awwww Danny.”
“I have such a busy day tomorrow”, I said, keeping my eyes peeled to the TV.
“Wait. What?” Peter’s astonished response was very satisfying, (Thank you Lord for allowing me yet another successful dead pan delivery.)
“Kidding. I just miss saying that.”
It’s just about a month now that we’ve been here together 24/7. Make that 22/7. We spend about two hours apart each day. One of us is looking for porcupines and the other is trying to find the daggone leak in the roof.
I do miss making detailed lists for the days ahead. I have a crazy fantastic schedule…had.
I teach…taught…Aerial, Yin, Vinyasa, privates, exercise, dance and classes for kids. Every day something different. I have a calendar on my phone and by the phone. It takes organization to keep track of who, what, where, when, and how I’m teaching. Add to that my regular life duties including crossword puzzles, reading, writing, knitting and day dreaming: Busy, busy, busy.
Lists are essential so that the pieces of my life are jostled carefully, ensuring that nothing and no one gets short changed. Least of all, me.
These days my lists are different. Daily lists give way to an ongoing one.
* Make a better face mask, preferably one that doesn’t make my ears stick out.
* Find the necklace that was choking me in class six months ago.
* Clear out desk drawers. Do I really need four packages of blank CD-ROMs?
* Develop a porcupine yoga sequence for prickly adults.
* Go through photos. Maybe before and after haircut shots through the years should have their own album.
*Take wheels off my scooter and use them to replace the cheap plastic ones on my grocery bag cart. Then use the friggin cart.
* Check eBay and see if anyone’s buying vintage trophies for first place in the lead line class at the Bull Head Pond Horse Show in 1964.
Actually, I am kind of busy, but it’s different. The schedule isn’t as strict or mandatory. Taking care of the animals and watering the kale seedlings is about it.
I’ve been given the gift of time, the opportunity to contemplate what is making me feel anxious, impatient, sad or irritable.
How do I react when I don’t hear from family or friends, when Peter says “Dinner might be a bit later than planned”, when I think of those who are missing out on society’s major milestones, or when I realize that vacuum cleaners were made for a reason?
I’ve been given the opportunity to investigate my emotions, and to challenge myself to react and respond differently. What’s really important here? What is urgent? Urgency is slowly giving way to calmness, patience, compassion and understanding.
Like yoga, it is and it takes, practice.
The other night I had ridiculous dreams. Each time I woke, I sang silently Mary Magdalenes’ song from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Jesus Christ, Superstar”:
“Try not to get worried, try not to turn on to
problems that upset you, oh,
Don’t you know
Everything’s alright, yes everything’s fine.
And we want you to sleep well tonight,
Let the world turn without you tonight.
If we try, we’ll get by, so forget all about us tonight.”
Make a list of things that you can take care of eventually. Make a list of things that you can’t do anything about. Note how you feel, how you react. Is it possible to let the world turn without you tonight?
If anyone should sing that song, it’s Danny Reagan. Talk about being anxious, impatient, sad and irritable.
Namaste- let’s try and stay calm today.
I thought I had a book in me ready to print until this past week at the Institute for a Whole Bunch of Cool Things in Rhinebeck, NY. About 35 of us sat with the book we were born to write on our laptops, in spiral notebooks and binders.
There are educators, entrepreneurs, parents, preachers, therapists, teachers, life coaches, life savers, strivers, survivors, even a couple of lawyers.
People from every walk of life, with all kinds of stories, baggage, dreams, and hopes gathered together in an attempt to help transform lives.
How often does this happen?
Wait, what am I saying? This happens in the yoga studio all the time. Classes are filled with individuals on journeys hoping to change themselves and ideally the world at large.
Maybe change isn’t the right word. Understand? Expose? Enjoy? Accept?
How hard could it be to write a book to assist in this transformation?
Sure is a lot harder than I thought.
I found out I don’t know much about putting a book together. Don’t get me wrong, I understand basic rules of grammar and sentence structure but; developing a hook, crafting a book proposal, establishing a platform, these are all things that are so jumbled together now that I can barely remember my middle name.
It gets worse with this simple question:
“What is your book about in three sentences?” Now I’m f*cked.
It turns out I don’t know much about anything these days, much less what I’m writing about. I’m not sure I can explain the difference between yoga and yodeling.
The only way I can describe my new vegetative state is by the phrase “Word Salad”, a somewhat disorganized string of incoherent ideas.
Yoga, kids, creativity, teaching, dancing, telling stories, humor, sins, virtues, acceptance?
I pride myself on tossing together some pretty good salads but there is little chance Panera will put them on the menu.
Before anyone thinks I’m upset, in a funk, depressed or miserable, fear not.
Three years ago, I’d have been so discouraged I’d have skipped the tenth vegetarian buffet at the workshop and gone out for a burger and a Bud.
This time I stayed put.
This is where I am in my writing career, right here, right now.
Breath in. Breath out.
People spend years putting together recipes for restaurants and cook books. They know kitchen tricks that a lot of us don’t. It’s their profession, bailiwick, forté.
Just because I want to join in their professional circles doesn’t necessarily mean it will happen when I want it to happen.
We have to know what we don’t know first. Then we get back to work, measuring, mixing, adding, whisking, beating and learning.
Acceptance of where we are right now, is the bowl holding all of the ingredients. Let the feelings of inadequacy or disappointment hang around until the meal is over and then toss what’s left into the compost.
Learn from the aromas and flavors around us. Good or bad, they don’t linger long.
Namaste- it’s okay, time to play, it’s not a bad day, thoughts ricochet, come what may, just might end up with a book someday!
“Well here we are”, said Mom as we drove out of the driveway on Monday morning at 5am.
“What does that mean?”, chortled Dee from the back seat. Hysteria set in. I should have gone to the bathroom one more time before getting behind the wheel. We were on our way to Kentucky to see Mom’s sisters.
To say it was a command performance negates the fact that the 3 of us get along beautifully, but performance it was. Mom wanted to go and we wanted to be with her. Northerners, (in our family) have to perform for the Southerners at times. More like we need to prove the Northern relatives aren’t a bunch of dimwits, and power comes in numbers.
We have a hard time sitting and talking but we appreciate good stores and good food. Southern stores, Southern food.
We had our roles to play. Mom was the Big Sister (BS). Dee was the advisor (A). I was the driver (D).
The Advisor bucked up the Big Sister and the Driver spoke when spoken to.
“You are the BS, you call the shots”, reminded A.
“Wait…does that mean I get to call the shots with you?” asked D.
“Turn left for the mall”, said BS and A.
Funny how short that conversation was.
When the discussion got political,
“Not going there”, said A.
“Preaching to the choir”, added D.
“I wonder if it was wise to bring the girls”, thought BS.
“You are going to take off that awful jean jacket before we go to the party aren’t you?”, asked Sister T.
D nodded and wondered if her dress, without the jacket, would make her look fat. (Yup.)
BS ignored it all.
“I want chicken for dinner “, announced A.
“Not KFC I hope”, said the Southerner.
“Of course not”, said A, D and BS.
Luckily our cuz suggested a place started by the Colonel’s ex-partner. His contribution to the secret recipe may have included cooking the chicken until it was bone dry but it sure was good.
BS showed a sense of humor, diplomacy and kindness throughout.
A exhibited an uncanny ability to set up challenges. “Hey D, how many times can you include the word kale into the conversation”.
D focused on not having anxiety attacks while driving on 4 lane highway cloverleafs.
BS and D equate their ability to keep relatively calm due to yoga. A got it from osmosis. (Power in numbers.)
So what if you have nothing to talk about besides your children or kale?
So what if your outfit isn’t quite right?
So what if your dinner isn’t up to snuff?
So what if your flight gets cancelled and you are stuck at the Philadelphia airport?
Things happen and then then they are over.
Life is funny, I mean really funny.
When you take a moment to analyze impatience, insults, or irritation, you can always find humor.
Would you rather laugh or cry?
Here we are, but not forever.
Make the most of every moment.
Namaste- our Southern relatives are AOK!
The cosmetic store was pretty empty. Apparently I’m one of the few in need of some makeup help today. My friend Nadia’s teenage daughter recommended a bronzer as something to use throughout the day to touch things up. God knows I need something.
The young saleswoman who pulled the short straw came over to offer assistance.
“I’m looking for a bronzer”, I said with authority.
She took me over to a section that didn’t look any different from the one in front of us, just different containers. She handed me a Kindergarten sized crayon. I started applying it to my cheeks. “Whoa, this is a bit dark”, I murmured.
“You don’t put it on your cheeks, you draw a number 3 from the middle of your forehead, out to your ear, back into the cheekbone and back out and around your chin on both sides of your face. You accentuate where you want contour and definition.”
This takes paint by numbers to a new level.
“I’m not sure that I want to define anything. I just want to look…uh…(pretty, perky, pulled together?)…uh…more consistent.” She walked me to another area. How was she choosing our path? Why don’t I ask her? It’s like when the salesperson says “That color makes your eyes pop!”.
I recently read that when going for a make-over you should find someone with your coloring and age. I wish I’d known that when I got the last one. He was an attractive, young, African American, gay man. The only thing we had in common was that we were both wearing shoes.
I don’t think I was clear enough about that fact that I don’t wear much makeup generally, have no reason to, and tend to forget what goes where. It was more like a 40 year old’s rite of passage. He was quite pleasant though and deserved his sizable commission.
Yoga encourages us to accept ourselves and that takes steady and consistent practice. Change and impermanence is a given. Physical abilities, appearances and attitudes can be altered in a second. Anyone who has slipped on the ice knows that, especially if you land on your face.
Practice means we work to control thoughts in our minds that feed impatience, irritation and irritability. Sometimes we need help, kind words from a friend, advice from a mentor, palette recommendations from a makeup artist.
A new shade of lipstick allows the mind to say “Okay the color looks great. Now can we focus on what comes out of your mouth not what goes on it?”.
Applying bronzer takes practice. Applying patience, calmness, and kindness is, frankly, easier.
Reminder to self: You are not a beautiful, teenage redhead.
Namaste- I think pink is the shade of the day!