Friday, August 26, 2011

Insufficient Funds

Science class was never my thing in school. Dissecting frogs, knowing what molecules made certain compounds, discovering what happened when you added heat to a situation... all of these things were lost on me. However, the one thing I do remember, and it still sticks with me to this day, is the law of matter: nothing is created or destroyed. It simply takes on a different form. Hydrogen can make water, and then evaporate into something more. Compost can become earth again, if you add enough time. A life can recreate life, if you add chemistry. Or something like that.

This morning has be thinking of life's giant checking account, where things are added and taken away... added again and then taken away... and the cycle continues. Or so it would seem. However, on this beautiful Friday morning, I feel like my own personal bank account has big red lights flashing, telling me to slow down, don't put anything else out there until something comes back in. I feel depleted. Spent. Overdrawn.

If every action has an equal and opposite reaction, then when does the act of giving turn to recieving? When do you get back what you put out? Does chemistry, physics or the law of matter have a time limit? Or are we just to keep acting, keep putting it out there, until the tides turn and we are no longer thirsting in the desert?

Tuning in is never a bad thing, but often it's a sad thing. As turning in, means there's no one reaching out. Which often means that the 'equal and opposite reaction' is not happening.

If only life could be a bit more cut and dry like science class. If only there were rules we all abided by. If only there was a guarantee that what you give out, you get back easily. But life is seldom simple, and rarely ever easy. But maybe its the complexity of life that makes it more wonderous than science, as you never know what you will get until you get out of bed and get out there to see what happens. At some point, something has gotta give...right?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Anatomy of an Artichoke

Living back in the South, one of the things I have thoroughly enjoyed is having a proper kitchen. You know the kind with a full-size fridge, stove (used for cooking, not storage space), 4 eyes that actually work and counter space for slicing and dicing vs being used as a book shelf. I swear, living in a Manhattan studio makes you look at everything differently.

With all this kitchen space, I get to do one of the things I enjoy most: having dinner parties. That could be for two or twenty, but regardless of number I love cooking for people, drinking wine while preparing, chatting about anything that comes up and just 'relaxing' at home and allowing others to enjoy my home.

Last night was no exception.

Having realized the summer was slipping away and I had not put my kitchen to good use, had me hosting an intimate soiree with recipies I had learned at "scuola di cucina" in Tuscany. One of my favorite dishes 'Penne ala Carciofi', required the dissecting of four overgrown artichokes I had picked up at Trader Joes over the weekend.

While my dinner guest picked at the cheese and charcuterie laid out before him, I stood on the other side of the counter picking apart this flower-like vegetable, petal by petal, leaf by leaf. Given the monstrosity of the ones I had picked, getting to the core was no small feat. Which obviously required some effort as my guest asked several times, "you okay over there?" To which I replied every time, "of course, keep talking..." all the while gritting and grimacing and wondering at what point I just cut the darned thing in half and extract the heart that way. But this was the way Mario had instructed us, and when in Rome...

(I will say in my guests defense, he had been banned from my kitchen space as I was cooking for him, vs us cooking together, as he is usually right in there doing the dirty work, too.)

As I got to the final layers of the prickly flower, I realized that the heart of the artichoke was missing... or based on my knowledge it was. I immediately called a group inspection, as my guest knew way more about this stuff than I did. And he confirmed, no heart. I started pulling apart another one, and learned the same thing, no heart. And then two of us dug around in a frantic pace at the remaining artichokes to see what we could find. And again, the dried up remnents of a heart. Nothing worth saving, nothing that was edible, and into the bin all four went.

We divided and conquered the next step of meal preparations. He went to Publix for replacements, leaving me in my 'cucina' to continue preparing dinner, and in a place of solitude mentally allowing my thoughts to simmer along with the olive oil and garlic I had just added to the skillet.

So many layers of an artichoke, so much work to get through, and then there was nothing. It was sad in a way. Had I purchased these veggies with the idea of steaming them and eating the petals, these would have been perfect. But since I had not, they had been deemed as useless. As is typical with me in these moments, I began making mental correlations from artichokes to life and back again.

As humans, we have all this 'life' we are doing constantly. From work, to play, to family, to hobbies, to friends, to all the countless things we get caught up in. At times, I know my life is a borderline zoo at times with as many balls as I get going in the air. Doing, doing, doing... going, going, going... Never stopping. Workout... work... friends... family... home... hobbies... travels... play... Its constant motion from the moment I wake to the moment I crash. And most people are like that. But in doing so, are we adding more layers to our lives, more structure and security externally, further burying what lies within? Are we adding more to the facade that someone must dig through to get to the real us in order to understand who we are at our core?

Are we really all just versions of an artichoke, with all these layers to protect our hearts and feelings from the outside world that has hurt us before? And the more layers, the more we've been hurt? The more we have to hide? And perhaps, maybe, as in the case as I witnessed just moments before, secretly hiding the fact that our hearts are dried up and withered and no use to anyone?

As the door opened, and more artichokes were procurred from the grocery, dinner preparations resumed... the conversation came off 'pause', all the while my 'artichoke thoughts' continued to sautee in the back burner of my mind.

There are so many layers to who I am, not to mention who I want to be. Having spent so many years in different places vs. my hometown, there are so many bits that add into the puzzle, the friends, the dreams, all the details that make me me. But having lived in a world where you don't say too much too soon, you keep personal things personal, and business is business, there is a lot of added layers to my personal artichoke. Lots. Maybe, just maybe, there's a part of my heart that can still be found in all this stuff. And maybe, just maybe its still open, it can be softened, and can be fruitful and found of use to someone...I certainly hope so. Unlike tonight's cooking experiment, these things can't be bought at the local grocery. You only get one heart... you gotta treat it right.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mapmaker, Mapmaker, make me a map...

This past weekend was a relatively low-key one. I stayed around Cartersville, with side trips for yoga and drinks on Friday and a long bike ride on Saturday morning. Lots of time focused on being quiet, meditative even, as a I consider what it is I want most in this upcoming 34th year of life.
Friday's yoga journey was one of my best classes ever. Despite the heat, my mind was at peace, and as Jeff led us through the 26 postures of the Bikram series my thoughts flowed smoothly. My body held the poses, and my mind held the rythmn of this meditation. One step, then the next... one pose, then the next... one breath, then the next... and then finally one last deep breath, namaste.
As I left the room, drenched in sweat, yet feeling refreshed (oddly), I kept returning in a mental sense to the yoga room. When I got to the class, rolled out my mat and lay down with my eyes open, I knew exactly what would happen when class began. I knew the deep breathing exercise before the first 3 standing poses. I knew the physical steps of this journey. But I did not know where my mind would go in the next 75 minutes of being caught up in some sort of overdone heatwave.
Maybe that is the way it always is in life. Knowing the steps that need and will be taken, yet the mental and emotional component is always up for grabs.
As I thought about my pending travels to Europe this fall, I thought of the quick itenirary taped to my desk with the number of days I will be in each of the 8 cities I hope to see. One city, then the next... one step, then another...
The steps laid out, separated by trains or quick flights to here and there, and yet the mental journey of 'traveling' is what is unknown. How will each city make me feel? What will meeting up with old friends mean? What thoughts will be explored as I explore parts of Europe I have never set foot in?
Of course, that is what makes life 'life'. A series of many steps, a series of many breaths, a series of plans where we know where we are going, but we don't know what we will think or feel along the way. That is the surprise, that is what elevates 'an itenirary' to 'a journey'. An opportunity to explore ourselves in a new way. To put more thought into what we are doing... whether that be a Warrior I pose or raising a stein to good times in Munich.
What is it we hope to gain by taking the steps we take? What is it we hope to gain by following the path we have laid out in front of us? What is the goal of going here or there?
In coming to yoga, the goal was to breathe deep and let the past week go. In planning a foray to the other side of the pond, it's to let go for a while, reconvene with good friends, and have fun seeing a few cities I have yet to explore.

But what next? Where are all these little 'series of events' leading? My mind continued to wander, until I had wandered beyond Europe and found myself in the present ready to leave the yoga studio. On the way to meet up with a friend, I let the map of Europe expand to the map of my life -- what I want most, and how to make it happen.

So many plans to put into place. So much life to live. In daring to think what I wanted in this life, I more or less felt like I was unlocking an abandoned cupboard and all these old thoughts came raining down on me. How easy it was to breathe these thoughts in, how welcoming they were to my searching being. Thoughts that had been waiting for me to pick them up again... kind of like the book you start, but put down when life gets too busy... And here, were these dreams, these desires for life, ready to be pursued. In many ways it felt like digging in an old trunk, pulling out an old dress, dusting it off...smoothing a few wrinkles, and trying it on to see if it still fit.
And of course 'it' did. Our innermost desires seldom change. These desires are the keepers of us, the keepers of our hearts, the fire that gets us going so that our life can be what we invisioned, what we truly want. Its the voice of 'knowing' that this is the path you were meant to follow. Its the voice of guidance that tells you it will be okay.
I had not allowed this voice to be heard in quite some time. I had tuned it out, as I focused more on what others said I should want, or what would be best for me. As a result of listening to a caucophony of voices, I had gotten so far off track from what I wanted. My 'map closet' was in a true state of disarray. If you could even get the door open, you would find about 6 different maps spread out and all jumbled together. All of which I had explored in the past year. All of which led me no where. Or at least, no where I wanted to be.
Somewhere between a bike ride on Saturday, a long run on Sunday and quiet time later that afternoon, I got my map closet in order. There is only one map in play from here on out. Its the one that is etched in my heart. The one I know and feel the steps to take, the path, the pit stops along the way.
For in this life, we are all going somewhere... to yoga, to work, to Europe, or maybe just home. But in order to to get to where we want to go, we have to know where that is -- where it is we are wanting to go. Once that is decided, then the journey begins. Choose the path, choose where your next footprint will fall... and then let it all go. Let your mind wander, along with your heart...for its the story told by your mind and heart that allow a 'map' to lead to a journey.
Just like with Friday night's yoga, and the unexpected meditation. Or the many trips I have taken, and returned home on the brink of discovery. One step always leads to the next. One breath always leads to the next. But the true adventure happens when we let it all go, when we let our hearts and our spirits wander along with our feet, and dare to see where we will end up.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Chalking it up to Ideals

My life isn't the only life that has been thrown a curve ball or two. Although, when it comes to my days on this Earth, it does seem I am getting closer to 1/2 a dozen or so hiccups, where everything was thrown up in the air, time to regroup, restart and replan the rest of my life. I won't complain, as each time this has happened things sort themselves for the better, I become stronger, more independent and more focused on what I truly want. Its definitely for the positive.

2011 started with a hiccup - a BIG one - but not one that everyone did not predict or see coming. As the year has progressed and I have moved forward, I have often looked back and wondered 'what was I thinking?!', how did I get so far down this path - almost to the point of no return - when I simply wasnt happy, and never was going to be if I continued such path?

Then the other day, it all became clear, quite unexpectedly. A friend of mine and I were driving by a crowd of people, and I saw a guy who resembled my old beaux. I commented out loud, "That guy looks like such-n-such but with darker hair...It kinda looks brown." My friend practically stopped the car, exclaiming, "IT IS SUCH-N-SUCH AND OF COURSE HE HAS BROWN HAIR!!!"

Really? I always had thought it was blonde. As I looked back at the crowd, it was definitely my old friend. I recognized the same polo-shirt from last summer, same khaki shorts and same old flip flops. Yet it was him - his being - I hardly recognized. My old beaux definitely had brown hair, not blonde. And I was the idiot of the day for not seeing it.

Such a simple realization sent my thinking mind a churning and I had to wonder outloud as we continued on our drive. Is it possible, that maybe I was just 'too in it' to ever recognize the real him, to see him as he was? That I was so focused on making the situatation work, to make it what I wanted, that I never allowed myself to see the situation for what it truly was? Maybe if I hadn't been so focused on "the ideal situation", the "happenstance of life", the "need to find purpose in the whirlwind that led me back to Cartersville", I would have seen the light... the truth... what was real, and what was not...way before this random summer day? Not because of his brown hair, but because we never saw each other for who we were as people. The 'ideal' was there, but the reality was a bitter bite. Maybe had I seen clearly prior to now, the frustrations, the angst, the unhappy memories of the previous year wouldn't exist.

But they do. And as a result, I will never know the person in the crowd with brown hair, and he will never know me as I truly am. And it is sad, but it is real.

Long before this summer day, I had asked myself (and several girlfriends) if a yoga-mat-carrying, subway-riding NYCer who voted for Obama was capable of finding happiness with a truck-driving, sub-division-living GA-boy. Somewhere in the past 18 months I had figured out the answer, but it didn't ring crystal clear until now.

Somehow the ideal of 'making it work' outdid the truth of 'different strokes for different folks'. But we... or at least I... know now. Time to wipe the fingerprints and smudgies off the 'glasses of life', focus on what is real and say 'c'e la vie' to what isn't. Learn from the mistakes of yesterday, and move further forward.

Let 'ideals' be what they are, something to hope for, something to wish for. But let life and reality be what we want, what feels good, what we would choose if our eyes and our hearts are wide open... and what we recognize as real from afar (or up close), no matter how much time passes.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Making a List

One of the greatest joys of living in Georgia after an 8 year hiatus, is being around to witness the young years of my nephew's life. While there are times I question if Ramsey has any love for his aunt, I never have to question adoration I have for him or the beauty of being around for his wonder years.

My favorite Ramsey story of late, as told by my mother, goes something like this:

Ramsey and 'Nama (my mom) are making cookies, and in doing so they used the last of a key ingredient. Ramsey looks at Nama, and says 'you better put it on the (grocery) list.'

As my mom wrote the item on the household grocery list, Ramsey looks at her and said,
'Now if your good, you just may get it for Chwistmas.'

Ah, the connections made by a three-year-old!