Sunday, January 02, 2011


A new year. I feel different. I've been reading Eat, Pray, Love, and it occurred to me this morning that my "About Me" section is kind of funny. I'm seeking God, and beauty, and stillness, am I? As Ketut says, it's same-same. 

I've never really thought about seeking God, not earnestly. I've wanted to be that kind of person, the Liz Gilbert-type, who tirelessly searches for evidence of the divine. But I've never actively done so. I think maybe I'd like to start.

Sometimes I miss how I used to feel. Not really contented, but at least grounded in some way. With a plan. There's a comfort to be found in living life passively -- reacting, never striking out on my own initiative. But it didn't get me far, or at least, not to a very healthy place. So I've been working on the healing.

Since last week, I've been participating in a psychiatric day program, and my favorite social worker there asked, penetratingly, "How badly do you want to feel better?"

How badly do I want to feel better? In the throws of distress, the answer comes easily, desperately: SO BADLY. So very badly. But when the anxiety dissipates and the depression clears, ever so slightly? Well, not quite so badly, it seems. It's too easy to become lax in my self-care practices when the need is less urgent. 

When I wake in the morning, I am compelled to follow my self-imposed schedule: two rounds of sun salutations (only two, but lordy, it takes it out of me), balanced breathing, then meditation. Then a shower. Then breakfast. Lying there, in a warm bed, I dread all of it. And so I ask myself: how badly do I want to feel better? And I peel off the covers, and force myself to just stop thinking, and do. There is no psyching myself up for this morning of rituals. There is just doing it. 

This morning, I woke up too late (way past dawn), took my sweet time getting downstairs to where my purple yoga mat sat patiently in the corner, and probably lasted about ten minutes in seated meditation before my back hurt too much and my right foot was just a leetle too numb to bear. So I compromised and meditated lying down. 

Maybe tomorrow I'll last eleven minutes.


  1. I've been thinking about you so much lately, Fancy. Last week, a friend said to me that discipline means freedom. I like that idea and have tried to be deliberate since that conversation in discerning what disciplined practices add to my life and which ones do I just think I should do because that is how I thought my life should look. I think I've figured out the practices that do add to my life and it's been nice so far to exercise the discipline to incorporate them, while also letting myself wade in (6 am writing? definitely need to wade in for that). sending you love and light.

  2. Oh yay, yay, yay. So nice to hear your sweet voice again.

    How often have I come upon the issue you talk about here, Fancy. I want nothing more than to be better when it's bad. And then it gets better, and, oooh, what's eating a pan of brownies or not going to a meeting or isolating myself in front of the tv going to hurt? The answer always ends up being "everything," especially "me." But alas, I suppose it takes us smart kids awhile to figure that out.

    Good luck to you, Fancy. I'm going to my first yoga class in years tonight. I'll think of you during our sun salutations.

  3. I tried for many years to "learn" to meditate. I gave it up and then, a couple of years ago when I picked up EPL myself, I decided to give it a try again. The sitting in a rigid position thing doesn't work for me, and neither does the clearing the mind thing. One can only sit uncomfortably mentally repeating "clear your mind, clear your mind" for so long.

    I've since given myself permission to jettison the traditional sitting/clearing business, but I've replaced it with something simple and maybe stupid that works for me. I lie in a comfortable position for five or ten minutes every afternoon, close my eyes, and listen. Have you ever noticed that when you're listening intently for something--like footsteps outside your window in the dead of the night or a soft, weird, scratchy noise in the wall that might be (God, no!) a mouse--your mind is suddenly completely cleared of thought? Fear or tension runs through the body, maybe, but in my experience I tend to completely freeze up mentally, and every part of my mind is trained on that sound, waiting for it to happen again so the process of thinking about what it might be can kick back in.

    When I finally asked myself what I wanted from meditation, I realized I just wanted some space to listen for the voice of God. Time to wait and see if He/She/It was there and would maybe talk to me. And at the risk of sounding like a madwoman, it does. Not every time or even all that often, but once in a while...not a voice from above, but some kind of directive that comes both from within me and from beyond me. Most recently, He/She/It told me to "Stop fetishizing dysfunction." Not those exact words, maybe, but that thought, the concept, the directive, came through intact.

    I know a lot of people who get great things from traditional meditation poses and practices. And I think sometimes we need to follow our rituals and make our small sacrifices as a way of honoring our beliefs and our ideas of God. But for me this practice of listening, which evolved at a time when I was literally too depressed and enervated to get out of bed anyway, works for me.

    I hope your practice is working for you and that this year is a bright one for us all.

  4. Rosie: I think of you so often too, friend! I keep hoping beyond hope that something brings you back to New England soon so we can meet face to face! And I think you're so right about discipline and freedom. I remember feeling drawn to a life in academia because it allowed me so much free time...gradually, though, that free time felt like a prison in which I literally could get nothing done. It turns out, though, that one of my greatest life lessons so far has been realizing that creating a schedule for myself is really the key to keeping sane. And I love that you're going to be writing at 6 a.m. I'll be meditating and sending you giant energy pulses filled with good luck and creativity :-)

    Kate: Yay for yoga! I went this morning (my anxiety came too and begrudgingly let it put its mat next to mine), but I didn't let it run the show, so to speak.

    As for the wonderful place you now find you remember back in March when we first reconnected... Just think of how far we have come! You, friend, seem so much more at peace, like you hiked the long, hard road and now -- finally -- can enjoy some respite. Of course there will be more hard times, but we're stronger now. We've been through the rain.

    Madame Academic: Thank you for sharing all of this...your practice is so beautiful, and really resonates with me. In fact, I think my most successful meditation "sessions" are when my mind stills briefly, and I feel and hear the throbbing of life around me. It is bizarre and wondrous and much too fleeting.

  5. EPL was a life-changer for me. I went from not believing in God to believing in God. And's ALL about the practice, not about perfection or preaching. And it doesn't look like anything you'd necessarily looks like it looks to you. And that's all that matters. Sorry I've been late in responding here.

  6. Thank you SO much for visiting my blog - and I am so glad to have found yours! You write so beautifully and emotionally. The world needs more you(s). :)

  7. Karen: Oops, I just realized I didn't respond to you. I like this: "It doesn't look like anything you'd necessarily recognize"...that really resonates with me because it means I don't have measure up to anyone/anything else. What a relief!

    Erin: Thank YOU so much! You're so sweet. I'm looking forward to getting to know you better :-)