Thoughts I Have During Yoga

Sometimes the biggest challenge of taking a yoga class is staying present. I move into my first sun salutation and suddenly my mind is running laps as if in the next hour it’s responsible for solving all of the world’s great problems.

For instance, how many times a year does Zara have a big sale?

Despite practicing yoga for ten years now, I still have classes where my mind is anywhere but with my yoga mat Alfred (named after the butler in Batman). Suddenly, with a little time to myself, I begin to process every thought/feeling/ponderment that has ever crossed my path. Health insurance packages, to do lists, awkward social interactions, philosophical debates, the meaning of last night’s nightmare (seriously, can ukelele music  be sinister?), Anna Farris and Chris Pratt splitting up, the last time I took a vitamin — the list is endless.

On one hand, yoga is a very emotional activity. By moving through its familiar poses, I’m often surprised by the waves of emotion that wash up. Old regrets, insecurities, long buried grudges or cringeworthy memories. I let them wash in and out like waves before giving myself permission to set them down. They’re just unnecessary to keep carrying around.

On the other hand, the practice of yoga is quite mental. Yes, you’re working to build a strong body, but more importantly, you’re training yourself to be present within a given moment. But in the age of hyperconnectivity, it’s a hard one to shake off. It’s something I’m actively working on in class because when my mind starts to wander, it’s hard to reign back in.

And while I haven’t yet mastered the art of meditation, I thought I might as well share the random yoga thoughts I’ve had over the years. Because no matter how many crow poses you accomplish, you’re still never above the worry of crotch sweat stains. 

How does my yoga teacher make it here at 7am with such pep? I can barely drag myself across the street. Oh shoot, did I brush my teeth?

Did I put on deodorant?

I should run a 5K. Wait, it’s winter, so maybe after that? Do people still run in the winter? That’s kind of overachieving of them. I bet they also match their underwear and their bras everyday AND get weekly manicures. Yeah, that’s too much, I’ll wait till spring to reevaluate this.

I am a warrior.

Am I on Instagram too much?

You know what would solve all the “Riverdale’s” problems? Better communication! Christ, I’m not getting on this Betty and Jughead breakup train yet again when all this could have been avoided if the pair had just talked about Betty joining the serpents.

Wait, wait, back to my intention. What was it again? Being present? No, maybe something about opening my heart. Yeah, yeah, open that heart!

Am I a good cat mum?

Am I doing enough? Writing enough? Everyone else seems so much more accomplished.

I wonder what Muppet I’d be … (haven’t solved this one yet).

If I have over 100 unread books in my house and I make the goal of reading 50 per year, then I should be through them in three years. But do I get more books in between then? Maybe I should just quit my job and become a professional reader.

Am I pitching enough stories? And why aren’t any getting picked up? This might be worse than asking people on dates and getting rejected.

Am I dripping sweat on my yoga mat or is the person next to me? When did they take their shirt off? Unnecessary yoga nudity! Flag! Penalty!

Are soul mates a real thing?

How long can you keep a pair of socks for? What if they’re cool socks, can you keep those longer?

Do I have enough ice tea at home?

Wow, toes are so weird.

If the teacher rubs oil on everyones’ heads during savasana, is that hygienic? What am I saying, I ride the subway everyday, if I’m going to get viral meningitis it’s totally from there.

Who will be the next James Bond? Please let it be Idris Elba.

I should really do more sit ups. I should also really get a donut after this.

Where do people buy nice looking wool coats? There are so many requirements for winter, seriously, boots, jackets, scarves, mittens, beanies — people don’t have to live like this!

What would I do if I was in Mia’s shoes in the book “Little Fires Everywhere”? Sweet muffins that was a good book.

Is the fact that my backpack and my snow jacket match a little … too much? Or the fact I now own two pairs of metallic books? I vote nay and since I’m the only one taking this poll, looks like I win.

I don’t love the sock boot trend no matter how many beauty vloggers try and shovel it down my throat.

What is my great life purpose?

Are there llama rescues? If so, when I grow old, I want to have a small cabin where I have lots of animals and foster dogs, cats, and llamas. Maybe even the occasional raccoon. I should probably buy more plaid in preparation.

Wasn’t I supposed to write a blog post about yoga yesterday?

Wow, that woman next to me just did a spontaneous head stand. How is that possible? She’s probably found her center. Oh yeah, stay centered.

^^ I found so many amazing yoga cartoons, I couldn’t pick just ONE for this post. Obviously this is Fitz and me everyday. Except neither of us is this flexible or own leg warmers. ^^

 

 

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The Moments That Matter

Last summer, I published a piece about loss and healing. I had just heard about the loss of my friend Zabie’s baby and in the wake of that sadness, I couldn’t help but reflect about the loss of my uncle. Over the years, my loss has evolved from an elephant superglued to my back to a bag of marbles I carry around in my pocket. It’s always around but like me, it too has changed over time.

Tonight, while walking down 7th Avenue, under the weight of my overstuffed raspberry pink backpack, I wanted nothing more than to be at home curled up with my cats. This week has felt endless, with my to do list piling up and all the little details of life jostling for top stress position. Many months ago, Zabie quietly shared that she was pregnant again, and following her announcement, we — the world who adored her — held our breath for the arrival of this rainbow baby. Standing on 7th and Morton, I opened Instagram to find the first pictures of Hudson Yamasaki surrounded by his family. He’s perfect — a seven pound beacon of love. I was starstruck, crying silently with happiness and relief and awe at this little human, my Zabie’s little human. It was a moment to top all moments and while I can’t scientifically prove it, I think time might have stopped just for a second as I stood there.

As someone so constantly stressed by their own to do list, I frequently find myself nose to the ground, sacrificing tiny joys for another pitch letter. But it’s moments like these that make me step back and see what’s really important. It’s not the endless details I pile on my plate, it’s not the stress to be published, or the pressure to be doing more. It’s these simple, contagious moments of love.

It’s moment like Hudson that are so big even the noise of New York City fades away. It’s my best friend getting the dream job he worked his ass off for the last six years (Churro bear — love you 🙂 ) and the laughfests I have with my friends late into a school night. Those are the ones that put everything else in their place. So to everyone carrying marbles (or elephants) of loss, I promise, someday it will get easier. Someday, you too will be dumbstruck by a moment so blindingly miraculous that all you can do is stand back and appreciate its beauty.

Things I Hope Never End

It’s official,  we’re deep into fall here in Brooklyn. The air is crisp, the sweaters are plentiful, and my bed becomes harder and harder to get out of in the mornings. Especially when the cats are infinitely hitting snooze and I’m stumbling around trying to put an outfit together without a full length mirror (I know, I know! I’m working on that!). The real dilemma is having to leave my new couch everyday. I mean, did everyone know how amazing couches were, because they’re the best. THE BEST. Now the cats and I can all spread out but still sit on the same piece of furniture. At this exact moment Fitz has squeezed himself into the armchair I’m currently writing on which I have to admit isn’t really built for one and her 15 pound cat. But like the old saying goes, “Love is patient, love is kind, love means sharing your chair even when the couch is fully open next to you.”

When I do finally pry myself away from the perfection that is this couch, I get treated to what I like to call the “subway transformation.” You leave the house looking like a perfectly together human being and somehow in the 44 minute commute, when the elevator doors finally open to the 6th floor, and I tumble out in a heap looking like a giant wind as blown me from Park Slope to Chelsea. So to all the coworkers I see first thing in the morning just know … I tried. And as another season comes to an end, I’ve been contemplating all the things, little and big, I hope never do.

Mo Welch‘s comics.

Mariachi bands. More specifically mariachi bands playing behind tables in restaurants and people trying to compete with the overwhelming crescendos to finish their stories. They never win and it gives me such joy.

Disneyland’s Christmas decorations.

Phantom of the Opera and Wicked being on Broadway.

Oprah being the cover star on every edition of her magazine. I mean if that doesn’t say you’ve made it, what does?

James Bond movies. Though they could have more conversations about consent and stronger female characters. Just a note.

The pumpkin cranberry muffins at Blue Sky Bakery.

My cats letting me use them as pillows when I wake up from a nightmare.

The Graphic Novel Bookclub at the Brooklyn Library. Since I work Saturdays, I’ve never been able to make a meeting and I’ll be damned if I never cross that off my bucket list.

Yes, I’m putting this on record, I hope my dad never stops singing (more like tunelessly yelling) “Drop of Jupiter” even though he gets half the words wrong.

Susie’s Senior Dogs and the amazing work they do raising awareness about senior dog adoptions. #adoptdontshop

Netflix’s long archive of detective shows. Please, PLEASE never stop acquiring these!

Harry Potter jokes.

Unsweetened black ice tea. My heart of hearts.

Campfire and pine scented candles.

Leslie Jones being a SNL cast member.

Ian McEwan, John Irving, and Toni Morrison’s ability to create literary masterpiece after literary masterpiece.

Free yoga in the park.

The unlimited bread rolls at Miceli’s.

The Little Bakeshop staying open until 11pm every night.

Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell’s joint interviews.

Nail saloons and hair dressers offering booze.

The 2/3 train aka my New York lifeline.

Puddles the Clown singing covers of “Hallelujah” during his live shows. That and Clair de Lune are the two songs guaranteed to make me cry two notes in.

Starbuck’s inability to spell anyone’s name.

The Muppets.

Billy on the Street.”

Bars serving free popcorn or pretzels to your table. Is there a nicer thing than that? I vote no.

Chapstick. After the lip burn incident of 2005, I’ve never depended on a product more than chapstick.

The postal service.

Peoples’ drives to make the world better, even when the conversations feel impossible and hopeless. It’s this unrelenting drive to never settle for anything less than equality and freedom that makes us stronger. Lucky for me, I have incredible, passionate friends, coworkers, and mentors who keep me active and inspired everyday.

The cinnamon cookies at Google.

Man Attends 15 Weddings in One Year and Lives to Tell the Tale

A Note: I originally wrote this piece last year after my coworker G casually mentioned he was going to his 15th and final wedding of the year. This piece originally had a home before getting dropped and has been pitched and pitched and pitched. While it never found a fancy, editorial place to settle, I wanted to share it here because G, as the realistic romantic he is, set me up with some key advice for the wedding seasons ahead. Thank you G for letting me tell your story, I hope did you proud. 

I actually didn’t believe my coworker the first time he casually mentioned his wedding number.

Just months before he had convinced me he’d spent his 28th birthday at Chuck E Cheese so it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume this wedding count was a bit over exaggerated. As it turned out, Gianfranco wasn’t lying and each Monday when he’d arrive into the office bleary eyed after a red eye from France or Minnesota or Martha’s Vineyard, I couldn’t help but pester him with questions about surviving the “Hunger Games” of love.

Not only was I curious, but there was something about Gianfranco — a 6’2 Queens-native with an affinity for a perfectly timed sarcastic joke and a mindset that borders between realist and pessimist — being a real-life Jane Nichols in “27 Dresses” that just delights me. Hence how he became my touchstone of wedding advice without even knowing it.

“I’m 29, I’m at peak wedding season,” Gianfranco told me during our interview. “Not only do I have my friends, but I have my girlfriend’s friends and we’re plus-ones to each others weddings. I just went to my 15th and last wedding and I was so happy. I celebrated at the wedding more that I didn’t have to go to any more weddings than the marriage of the people.”

If you’re in your 20s, the next couple of years are about to heat up in the wedding department. First, there is the wave of people from your hometown who will tie the knot. Then the couples who met in college before finally, one by one, your friends will start referring to their partnership as a party of one. And since we don’t all have a slightly grumpy wedding expert sitting across from us in marketing meetings, I present to you the Wedding Commandments of my marathon matrimony expert who has literally traveled to the ends of the earth in the name of other people’s love.

***

Budget if you can.

As reported by The Knot in 2016, the average American couple will spend at least $32,000 on their wedding — not including their honeymoon. But it’s not only the couple whose bank accounts feel the brunt of their nuptials, but the debit cards of their guests as well. “All my weddings were long distance,” shared Gianfranco. “One was in France — and if you hear anyone complain about going to France for a weekend, smack them! I’ve very grateful but it’s really expensive! You’re not going to France, you’re taking a red eye on Thursday, then taking a four hour train to the top of France, going to a rehearsal dinner and the wedding, and then back at work on Monday. I haven’t taken any vacations besides weddings this year.” This on top of Gianfranco attending four bachelor parties left him traveling everywhere from Martha’s Vineyard to Normandy, France to the Watergate Hotel in Washington D.C. While some people might not have this opportunity, Gianfranco recommends lining the weekends up with work trips or if possible, buying tickets and booking hotels way in advance.

But along with travel and room and board, wardrobe can also be a stressful expense. When asked to be a bridesmaid or groomsman, individuals can be expected to pay for a new suit or dress that in reality they will never wear again. “I wore the same suit 11 times and if you have to go to a black tie wedding, you should buy the tuxedo,” counseled Gianfranco who wore his tux four times this year. “I had to buy two more suits upon the groom’s request but I’m never going to wear it again. It’s like the chatzky your from your grandma you put in the back of your closet that you can’t throw out!”

 

No one needs a $300 bowl.

“I never get gifts on the registry. It’s an opportunity to buy a bowl you don’t need and no one will ever use,” Gianfranco explained. “It’s rude in my opinion that you would ask me to buy a suit to be your groom’s man, go to a bachelor party, come to your wedding wherever it is, buy a hotel, and then buy you a bowl you shouldn’t own. I always give money which I’m sure isn’t going towards that bowl!” I imagine crystal bowls and egg holders will continue to haunt Gianfranco’s dreams for years to come. The last time I saw an egg holder in use it was by Anjelica Huston in “Ever After” and coming from someone whose family plays croquet at birthday parties, if anyone is going to be using them it’s probably us. But Gianfranco’s point holds true. No longer are couples being married in family churches down the street where the only expense on the guest’s part is exchanging a gift for a free meal. Now it can cost thousands of dollars just to spend the weekend at a close friend’s nuptials. Along with cash, Gianfranco also suggests something more personal that won’t break the bank. “One thing I do — I’m not a photographer by any means — but I have a nice camera and I take pictures at the bachelor parties and I make little books for the groom,” shared Gianfranco. Personal and long lasting — 20 somethings take note.

 

Be your easiest self.

Weddings are beautiful but stressful events. As Gianfranco reminded me, it’s our jobs to be the easiest wedding guests possible. “On the day of the wedding, just be happy to be there. Don’t talk about people’s dresses or who is in the bridal party or who just broke up with their boyfriends. Every time I hear that bullshit I just go do shots,” Gianfranco shared. While it seems self explanatory, I think we’ve all been to a wedding where family tensions or past grudges resurfaced in ways that felt immature and petty. It leaves you questioning, why did you come in the first place? So if you think maintaining a smile throughout the event will be too burdensome for you, politely decline the invite and save the couple the $40 they would have spent on your dinner. As a guest, your only job that day is to not hit the open bar too hard and make the newly wedded couple feel as good as possible.

And if you think that you might be asked to give a toast at the wedding, take it upon yourself to write it ahead of time. “When the speeches come around, I judge the shit out of people,” Gianfranco admitted. “This is not a moment to take advantage of. Even if you’re bad at putting words together or you are nervous about speaking in person, if you invest energy into the speech and you care about this couple, your efforts will be quickly recognized and appreciated.” Gianfranco put his own advice to the test this year during his best man speech. He even decided to take it one step further and wrote a handwritten speech for a close friend which he simply handed to him before the wedding.

 

Finally, the talk.

If almost ¼ of your weekends in 2016 are spent at weddings, you’re bound to collect research on the things you love, things you’d lose, and things you’re judging but would never say out loud. Music selection (Pitbull always shows up, even if he isn’t invited), indoor vs outdoor, BBQ on the menu, photographers, Save the Dates vs emails — when you’ve been around the wedding circuit a while you’ll be surprised the notes you start to make for your own special day.

But I believe Gianfranco’s greatest advice from his year of research is this. “I always knew I wanted to get married. If anything, everyone getting married so early stresses me out because I don’t want to get married right now,” Gianfranco shared. “But if you’re in a relationship and you’re going to a lot of weddings, you will be forced into understanding how serious you are in your relationship as your partner watches their ten best friends get married. The talk is coming so just be ready.”

Wise words wedding guru, wise words.

A Contagion of Kindness

Last week during my weekly muffin run, I was in line behind a mum and her 1-year-old daughter. Clearly a bit flustered, the mum set her daughter down to wrestle change out of her overstuffed bag and as you can probably guess, the minute her tiny feet touched the ground the cries of abandonment began. Almost instantaneously, the owner of the store, folding boxes nearby, got down on his knees and just started chatting with the little one, offering her a box and asking her muffin order. She was mesmerized. For about a minute. But in those 60 seconds, the mother clearly relaxed seeing that people understood. It was such a tiny moment of sweetness, a stranger coming to the aid of a parent, but standing witnessing it so close, I realized how rare these little moments of kindness can be.

It often feels like in order to survive life in New York City, we surround ourselves with tiny invisible shields. With the millions of people living on top of each other, it would be entirely overwhelming to engage with every person and every situation — many that are less than ideal (Yes, I’m talking about you guy who threw his pee at passing pedestrians last month). But in this protection we often disconnect from one another as well.

Last week, as the larger world felt like it was burning to the ground (wait, hasn’t that been all year?), I kept bumping into tiny moments of kindness throughout the city. My yoga teacher giving me a huge hug last night for no reason other than it was Tuesday. My neighbor calling to me across the playground to introduce me to his granddaughter. I saw strangers go out of their way to hold doors for strollers and neighboring yogis lean across their mats to hear how my day was going. It was almost like I was suddenly more aware of all these acts happening around me, and more determined to replicate them.

These things weren’t huge or groundbreaking, but they have been mighty contagious. Watching others make these brief, kind connections with others has inspired me to find ways to do the same throughout my day. I’ve become more bold offering directions to people clearly lost, and made it a habit of asking cashiers about their days. I’ve opted to shop at local bookstores and chat with the owners instead of defaulting to the Amazon. I’ve written just because notes to friends and coworkers, and spent five extra minutes chatting with a grocery teller about being a cat parent. Not only have these tiny acts made me feel more comfortable going out of my way for people, but they’ve honestly (and selfishly) made me feel more connected to the people in my neighborhood.

My third grade teacher once told me, “If 1000 people were doing what you were doing now, would it be okay?” I forget why she’d decided to share with me this little nugget of wisdom, probably I was opting out of math problems to read “Harry Potter,” but over the years this nugget burrowed deep into my subconscious. In situations when it would be easier to be lazy or detached, Ms. Orr’s voice will chime in, propelling me to walk the extra feet to the recycling bin or spend ten extra minutes re-wedging someone else’s clay at the end of the pottery. Why? Simply because it is always the right thing to do.

While sometimes it can feel like I’m not doing enough, this week reminded me that we do not need to be doing huge things to make a difference. Sometimes all it takes is a tiny gesture of compassion to make an entire day. So here I am, spreading the bug to you! Go forth, phones down, chat with a stranger! And if nothing else, just buy more muffins. That’s just a personal form of kindness that cannot be replicated.