Yoga. Your Travel Hangover Cure.

Today I woke up with a pretty intense travel hangover. Most people call it jet lag, but I think travel hangover is more accurate. It’s that achy, dizzy, out of touch feeling you have when your body is confused about the time zone and your brain is confused about your general existence at 7 am on a Thursday morning.

Like any responsible working adult, I attempted to fix my fogginess with caffeine. I considered wine, but it was 9 am, and I was too groggy to justify such a bad choice. When the 12 oz. dose of caffeine didn’t work, I figured I should have more. When in doubt, always choose more. That’s not really my mantra, but today I couldn’t come up with a better solution. Of course the solution didn’t work. So I spent the majority of the day in a haze, stuck somewhere between contemplating life and getting through all of the work that piled up during vacation. The travel hangover is an odd headspace to be in.

Since all that legal stimulant didn’t work, and more than two cups of coffee makes me start to shake, I did what I always do when I feel off. I went to yoga.There’s still a small part of me that clings violently to my past and the Catholic ideology of punishing yourself, even when you already feel bad, so I went to hot yoga. My assumption was that it would be sort of like hell, only with better music and some aromatherapy. But doing core work and power yoga in a heated room is difficult even on the best days, and I knew how intense this class could be. Despite all of that, I also knew that I was guaranteed to feel better the second I was done.

The class was hot, but not unbearable, since it wasn’t packed full this time. I didn’t even slide or slowly slip out of downward facing dog because of the layer of sweat on my mat. (Yea, create that mental image. It’s not pretty and now it’s burned in your mind forever. You are welcome.) But, as predicted, I felt wonderful after class. I was human again. My mind was clear. My body knew what it was doing, and where it was going. When yoga is done right, it has this amazing ability to sync breathing, movement, and mindfulness all at once. It creates a mental and physical state that is focused only on the present second at hand. This is its secret. And when you feel it, you realize it is one of the few things you can count on to bring balance back into your life. But of course, if yoga doesn’t work, you could always try throwing back some wine.

Who’s Perfect?

I have created a challenge for myself. Or rather, copied the challenge of someone else. Which I’m ok with, because imitation is the highest form of flattery. The challenge is to write for 30 minutes, every day, and post what I write. It sounds so simple, so easy. The entire point of it is to force out the words, and make it hard to go back and painstakingly edit everything that was written. Great in theory. In practice, it’s maddeningly frustrating.

I am so easily derailed. My focus gets interrupted, I start to doubt everything that I am writing, or I wander off topic completely. And then I look at the clock. Oh, look at how much time I’ve managed to waste. What was I doing the last five minutes? How can I salvage this? THIS CAN’T BE SALVAGED!

Then, as always, it becomes a race to perfection. A race that I know I won’t win. And every time, I wonder, why am I doing this to myself? Why am I beating myself up over something that was originally intended to be a great exercise in writing, and turning it into a way to find and criticize my shortcomings?

It’s helpful to remind myself that this post won’t matter in a year. It won’t matter in six months. It probably won’t even matter tomorrow. Which is good. It takes the pressure off. Sometimes I worry so much about falling short that I fail to try at all. Or I set goals that are too easy because they are clearly attainable. But, like I mentioned in another post, done is better than perfect. So I am going to continue rambling on, and at some point, I bet I come up with at least one awesome piece. Or at least a better one. And even if I don’t, no one can say it was for lack of trying. And failing. Repeatedly.

Do you have a problem with perfectionism? What helped you kick the habit?

Courage

In the pauses of music streaming through my headphones, I can hear dice being thrown. The man behind me raises his voice to make a point and someone starts coughing. I’m on a train headed to Scotland, the second part of a vacation that I’ve had planned since April, which started in London late last week. As I sit, watching the countryside fly past me, and an unreliable internet connection repeatedly kicking me off of service, I wonder how I’ve gotten here.

It was all a conscious choice, but with some huge changes in my future I sometimes wonder how the universe has aligned. At the beginning of next year I’ve decided to take a well earned break. Three years of back to back stress and life changes has worn me out, and stifled my creativity. I know I have so much to give, so much I love giving, but am too tired to dig deep enough to find it. I want to do work that is fulfilling and enjoyable. But first I need to decide where I’m headed.

So in an attempt to figure that out, I’ve decided to throw myself head on into the chaos by taking off about a year to travel. And when I made the decision, I had a sense of calm and peace that I’ve gotten to know well over the last few years. I know it’s the right choice, because I can feel it in every part of me. When I told my friends and family, they were overwhelmingly supportive, and not that surprised that I would choose this as a next step. They’ve come to terms with my brand of crazy. What hasn’t been so supportive is one small voice in the back of my head.

She’s the fearfully guilty one, always insisting that I do things the “right” way, although I’ve never really been interested in that. I’ve always been more concerned with doing what makes me happy. But on days like this, where I have little distraction other than drawing, music, and writing, her voice becomes clearer.

“What if this doesn’t go like you planned?”

“What if, in a year, you somehow become completely unemployable? You don’t want to be destitute.”

“It’s very irregular to take breaks like this. You are a hard worker. You should be working towards something.”

A few years ago, I would have sat with her, listened to her, attempted to assuage her with rationality. Sometimes I would win. And sometimes she did. But now, after years of her worrying inside my head I’ve finally learned how to shut her up. I hear that she’s scared, worried for my safety and well being, but I also know that a person never regrets an adventure. Life is the most beautiful adventure, and not taking action out of guilt or fear is the surest way to live a life of regret.

So I hear her, and I tell her, “No.” She doesn’t get an opinion in this conversation. Not anymore. I’m glad that she’s there. I’m cognizant of her fear, and I want it. I want to know where my limits are so that I can challenge and break through them. Without her, I am fearless, which I’m not interested in. In the absence of fear there is also an absence of courage. I welcome the opportunity to be scared, and to overcome it. So she can sit and whimper, wondering what will become of me, but she can’t stop me. And when I do go, it will be with courage.

We all have inner voices. How have yours hurt or helped you to find courage in your own life?

One Touch Away

Tonight the sky is dark
And the clouds congregate angrily

But I see you always
On a sun-filled day
With blurred edges like an old photo
Squinting through your smile
And loving the camera
I see you in front of our table
Filled with breakfast pastries
All of which we will finish
Along with two cups of tea

Then I open my eyes
And see the night
Holding tightly to the last bit of earth
Refusing to give way
I see the clouds
Hardened on the edges
And full of contempt
I close my eyes

And we are sailing through the water
Hiking on a moon-filled trail
Dancing and laughing and
Making so much noise
That people can’t help
But laugh along with us

I open my eyes
To rain falling softly
Smelling so strongly of earth and life
That I begin to fear
The death of hope inside of me
I close my eyes

And I can almost see
Your lovely features
The color of your skin
The wonderful smell that lingers
On your pillow
Your pale blue eyes
Or perhaps green, or brown
That smile
Even when your mouth does not
Your pale skin
Or perhaps your dark tan
I can almost see you
But then again
Maybe not

I open my eyes
To a room filled with bright
Incandescent light
I close my eyes

And you are
Holding me
Loving me
Wanting me for all that I am

I open my eyes
And you are always

One
Touch
Away

Freedom: A Note to Myself, the Readers, and the Universe

I have recently been having a mild to moderate bout of existential breakdown. Its symptoms have included moments of intense terror considering the future, followed by a panic of “WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE,” rounded out by a subtle yet steady mantra of, “It will be alright.” That’s when the doubt kicks in and says….maybe. Cue the intense terror.

 

But, at the beginning of my yoga class yesterday, our teacher asked us to set an intention. Intentions still don’t make much sense to me, even though I’ve read articles on them and talked to some of my teachers about the best way to set an intention. Whenever I hear that word, I think crazy thoughts like, “I intend to levitate,” or something equally impossible and hilarious (seriously though, that would be awesome). So I’m sitting there, mulling over an intention, trying to not giggle as I imagine myself slowly rising off the floor in half lotus, when I stumble over something in my brain.

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about freedom lately, and how important it is for me to feel freedom and flexibility to do my work. What work? Good fucking question, I don’t know the answer to that, and I’m still a little touchy about it. But anyway, it’s a thing. A thing I want. And as I was contemplating that, I realized that I don’t actually allow myself to have the freedom I claim to need.

 

I don’t allow myself the freedom to make mistakes. I don’t allow myself the freedom to try something new and hate it (at least not without feeling badly). I don’t allow myself the freedom of a break. In fact, I’m barely even giving myself the freedom to finish this post because I don’t think it’s good enough.

 

But that has to stop. Done is better than perfect and constant internal criticism of my choices and actions is paralyzing. I can’t keep constraining myself when I’m sure I could be more. So, even if I’m not doing it quite right, my intention will just be to allow myself the freedom to try. And once I master that, I’ll journey on to levitating.

 

Adventure on wayward travellers!

 

Marisa

Say Anything?

Ah maaan, I think to myself, as the coins tumble out of my hand, clanking onto the counter. The man at the service desk murmurs a half-hearted apology and watches me fumble to pick up the change. Don’t mind me people, I’m just attempting to get laundry quarters. I should just keep buying more clothes and stop doing laundry altogether. I have what – three weeks worth of underwear? How hard would it be to get 344 more pairs? I could get them all on sale at Target. Laundry’s the worst. How do we send people to the moon but no one can figure out a better way to get my clothes clean? But apparently I’m ok to NEVER wash my Levi’s again, so that’s pretty cool. I should probably get a year’s worth of those, too.

 

I am always trying to be inconspicuous, disliking the stares of others. I usually assume I either have something on my face or a stain on my clothes when people look at me. You know, they see something that I can’t, but no one bothers to stop and say, “Hey did you notice you spilled strawberry ice cream ALL down the front of you?” But, in actuality, my ability to be inconspicuous only works when I’m in a busy place and manage to get stepped on. When I’m in a line with people behind me, of course, I drop all my washing machine quarters loudly.

 

My brain continues, stressed by the unexpected noise. This wouldn’t happen if I didn’t have such little hands. Why are my hands so creepy and child-like? Someone could definitely do a horror movie based on that. Little kids are always terrifying in movies. Like ‘The Orphanage’… holy shit that movie was scary. Creepy kids.

 

What I don’t realize though, as all of this is happening, is that my mouth has given me the opportunity to let everyone know what I’m thinking. I hate when it does this. So, what I end up actually saying, is “Ah man… it’s ok. Don’t worry about the quarters. This wouldn’t happen if I didn’t have such creepy child-like hands.” Wait – what??

 

As soon as I finish the sentence I look up and meet his eyes. Please laugh, pleeease just laugh, damnit. I giggle, making sure to smile generously, that way he knows that I’m letting him laugh at my weird thoughts.I’m giving him permission to make fun of me, and dismissing my own awkwardness. This is going to end up being funny for both of us. I know it… I just know it.

 

Nope. Nothing. So… this has reached a level of awkward I’m not comfortable with. Dumb quarters, stupid mouth, silly man behind the counter who obviously is devoid of humor and lives a laugh-less existence.

 

As I pick up my last quarter and drop them all into my purse, I’m not sure which is more unsafe… the odd thoughts that circle in my mind, or the mouth that clearly can’t contain them.

Vodka in Blue

We are having a drink at a fantastically swanky bar. I really like this place, from the color of the dark stone walls to the music in the background. I’m drinking something blue, and it reminds me of drinking a tropical afternoon on the beach. It smells vaguely of flowers and passionfruit.

I do not want to be here. I have ordered this concoction under duress, with the pretense of “getting together for a drink,” a.k.a – a date. In fact, I am loathe to be here. I want to drink my glass of alcoholic fairy water as quickly as possible, but with all the vodka snuck in there, that would mean I would need to eat something…. Which would mean I would have to stay here longer.

I force a grin and look down into my glass. It’s so damn blue I want to swim in it like a spring.

You smile at me and start talking; interested in connecting. I hear what you are saying. I’m listening. I participate. But my heart’s not in it. I’m too busy trying to figure out what’s wrong with you. There is obviously something wrong with you because you chose me. I can’t figure out what it is though. In the absence of obvious malice or malady, I simply assume that you are crazy.

That would be the logical conclusion, right? Like a depressing math equation: Boy + Certain Girl = Insane Boy. Sounds about right to me.

The bartender must have given me more than a pint of this blue goodness, but I can’t force it down any faster than I’m gulping. I throw in a few anecdotes about myself, deciding exactly how much information to give you, as you are clearly a maniac, while simultaneously wondering if I should make up horribly ridiculous lies just to see your reaction.

Seriously, how long does a date have to last? I’m in the middle of a book called “Hild” right now and am really desperate to get home and see who is winning the war with the Celts.

You are talking about your job, your last hiking vacation, and the time your mom came in to town to visit. I am trying not to make erroneous, shallow, or otherwise unfounded judgments about you. I am failing. You seem so nice. You have a gentle smile and eyes that laugh as loudly as you.

I hate the pitiful emptiness that gurgles out of my finished drink. You ask if I want another. I tell you I can’t because I’m driving. I mention the time and you acknowledge it’s getting late. I talk about a morning meeting tomorrow and how hard it is to have calls with Europe so early on a Friday. You dutifully agree that mornings are pretty much hell and I impress upon you that I really should leave and get home. I have to get out of here. I don’t know what’s wrong with you, nice man with the kind smile. I have no idea what your problem is, but have a strong feeling that it might be me.

Mermaid

I was a mermaid once. In fact, it was only recently I became human. I have always been something else. And I prefer it. I remember feeling the warm water rushing over and under my hands, flowing its way through the spaces in my fingers. I would examine my fingertips, wrinkling with excess moisture, slowly touching my thumb and each finger together, one, two, three, four….

Eventually, my head would sink under the waves, eyes barely above water, and I could feel my hair, suspended and flowing outward. My fingers combed through my hair, slick and long, twice as long with its curls now relaxed in the water. I would sway back and forth, feeling each tendril play against my cheek, and listen to the water bubbling in my ear as I swayed, left then right. Left then right.

I would close my eyes, and my tail would shine, the scales iridescent against the light, glittering as a reflection of the stars. My ocean was dark. A vast expanse of space under the blanket of a moonlit sky. With my eyes closed, it expanded on forever, but every time I opened them, my ocean was contained, crashing up against four white ceramic walls, glaring against the bathroom lights and boxing me back in to this reality. I was a mermaid once, when magic was real.