Thoughts I Have During Yoga

^^ Art by Gemma Correll.^^

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. 

^^ Art by Sarah Andersen. ^^

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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Book Clubs: My Summer Reads

I have been on a massive book kick recently. And rather than buying a ton of new books (I won’t lie, there are like 60+ in my apartment that I still need to read), I’ve been binge watching BookTube videos about book reviews. Yes, I am that person who is watching stationary haul videos in their entirety.

(Should this also sound up your alley too, my favorite channels include Jen Campbell, Ariel Bissett, Jean Bookish Thoughts, Books and Quills, Peruse Project, and Sophie Carlon.)

This year I set a goal of reading 27 books in a year — not including comic books or kids books — and am really proud to say I’m nearly there! And it’s only August! This summer I’ve been making reading more of a priority throughout the day. The time away from computer screen, immersed in someone else’s imagination, has become both energizing and relaxing. At times I feel a bit guilty for ignoring my long to do list of actual responsibilities and instead, curling up in my brown leather chair and reading the hours away. But I’m learning to be a bit more selfish. I’m thinking of trying to read 40 books next year? And do a 24 hour reading marathon just for fun? I saw all the BookTubers doing it and any excuse to read with cats is fine by me. But enough blabbing, onto the books!

Due to the amount of books coupled together here, I’m going to try and keep my thoughts brief. Well as brief as possible because book talks are the funniest conversations to have. Am I right?

If you’re a fan of Meg Cabot or the “Bridget Jones Diaries” series, “Sofia Khan is NOT Obliged” will be right up your alley. Set in modern day London, Khan is a Muslim hijabi juggling writing a Muslim dating book while trying to find love herself. As you’d expect, her quest doesn’t go exactly as expected, but what drives this novel is the supporting characters who bring out Sofia’s cheekiness. It’s the perfect quick, fun summer read that you can still follow after a couple margaritas on the beach.

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If you love reading the blog Cup of Jo or religiously follow the Instagrams of artists Mari Andrew and Cindy Mangomini, then Susan Branch’s “A Fine Romance” is about to capture your heart. Susan Branch is a very famous artistic author who publishes personal journals and cookbooks full of anecdotes and hand drawn illustrations. In this book, Branch documents her two month dream trip across the English countryside with her husband. I was so enamored with this book. It was beautiful, fun, heartfelt, and as a reader, left me inspired to better appreciate life’s delicious little moments. For a friend who loves to travel or if you’re just in need of a literary pick-me up, I highly recommend this memoir.

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By now you’ve probably heard about George Saunder’s “Lincoln in the Bardo.” It’s been the talk of BookTube and was just nominated for the Man Booker Prize. If you’re a fan of “March” or innovative historical fiction, “Lincoln in the Bardo” is going to be your book of the year. The novel is set during the Civil War and follows the death of Willie Lincoln. The narrative alternates between reality and the purgatory in which Willie is stuck within. Willie encounters hundreds of souls trying to right their past sins and is being urged along by a handful of ghosts concerned about his delayed state between life and death. For the chapters on Lincoln and the “real world,” Saunders uses real newspaper clips to describe Lincoln’s 24 hours after Willie’s death. While not a perfect novel, it’s an extraordinary piece of work I greatly enjoyed spending time within.

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“The Interview” is a graphic novel by Manuele Fior set in 2048, Italy. The story follows two characters who believe they can communicate with aliens during a time when humans have completely lost personal contact with one another. Drawn entirely in black and white, this novel is a beautiful look at what it talks to stay connected to those around you, and why technology isn’t the best answer to everything.

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If you’re a fan of unconventional narratives and characters, these two novels might be your next great subway companions. Both left me thinking about them long after I’d turned the last page and questioning what I inherently expect of main characters.

In John Burnside’s “A Summer of Drowning,” 18-year-old Liv lives with her reclusive artistic mother in the Arctic Circle. When two boys drown in one summer, Liv begins to question the world in which she’s grown up –caught between her reality and the myths that drive the island. Creepy and very introspective, the power of this novel is that it feels like something is always just around the corner, even though most of the action is internal.

In this way, the novel had a very similar feel to “A Separation.” Both Liv and “A Separation’s” narrator — whom is never named or described — are the reader’s only eyes and ears for the entire story. We hear their assumptions — mostly unconfirmed — and watch how in many ways they’re unchanged from start to finish. In “A Separation,” the narrator goes to find her faithless husband who has gone missing in Greece. The pair have been secretly separated for months and upon agreeing to bring him home, rather than confront her in-laws, the narrator uncovers more than she anticipated chasing her husband’s ghost. I was a fan of both books but believe they’re for a very specific reader. They’re dense, unique takes on the “summer novel” genre, but the pursuit is worth the reward. If you enjoyed “Beautiful Ruins” or “The Vacationers,” I think you’d really like these as well. Must pair with a large ice tea for best reading results.

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And lastly, my favorite of the pack, “State of Wonder” by Ann Patchett. As we all know, I’m a very big Ann Patchett fan (see here and here). I’m currently reading her writing memoir “This is the Story of a Happy Marriage” and so enjoying being inside the mind of a writer. In “State of Wonder,” one of her six fiction novels, readers follow Dr. Marina Singh, a 40-year-old scientist sent to South America to bring back the results of her department’s rogue doctor and the next great fertility drug. Marina is the department’s second choice, but after her laboratory partner is killed in the jungle, Marina volunteers to take his place. From the first 100 pages, you are rooting for Marina in a way that doesn’t negate her faults. She’s impatient, unconnected to others, tormented by nightmares, but as time passes, she begins to open herself up to the possibility that she may want more than a quiet, tiny life. And the ending, THE ENDING! It’s the best part of this adventure. Marina’s story is as emotional and personally fulfilling as it is adventurous, and will leave you questioning, what would you sacrifice do to save the life of someone you love? And when it comes to science vs. nature, who really wins in the end?

 

And Summer Begins in NYC

The best — and I admit, sometimes, hardest thing — about living in a place like New York City is there are always a million things to do. Museums, theaters, food, pubs, mermaid parades — my bucket list since moving here has only continued to multiple like a pack of rabbits. So today, in the hopes of escaping jet lag once and for all, I set my sites on abandoning any form of normal routine and visiting the Cloisters instead.

If you’re like me and didn’t know anything about the Cloisters until this year (or perhaps even this moment), the Cloisters is a branch of the MET Museum that houses Medieval European art. Located on a 4-acre park (Tryon Park) in Washington Heights, the Cloisters resemble a medieval church and are filled with art, architecture, and artifacts made between the 1100s to the 1400s. It’s pretty incredible and to really get in the mood, I took a friend’s advice and hummed the “Game of Thrones” theme song while walking up the drive.

Unlike the black hole that is the MET Museum, the Cloisters don’t take long to get through, and with benches surrounding the courtyards and balconies, it’s a brilliant place to bring a book/sketch pad and enjoy the views. My two biggest takeaways: One, the incredible amount of detail that went into everything from unicorn tapestries to amber-carved chess boards. As all of these pieces were considered offerings to God, it’s the level of detail and care craftsmen put into their work that allowed them to stay so well preserved all these years later. Two, medieval religious artwork is intense. It takes little imagination to understand why people living during this period were so concerned (obsessed?) with escaping eternal damnation. With few people in Medieval congregating being able to read, this artwork served as a connection to understanding religious stories and instilling (or intimidating) messages of right or wrong. There is a lot of fire and brimstone, and the enormous statues of saints even made me feel a little intimidated. But all in all, this escape to the Cloisters made me feel like I wasn’t even in New York City anymore. And the best part, it’s totally accessibly by subway!

^^ Found this little lady across from Lincoln Center waiting to take her bows. ^^

I decided to make an entire day of it and instead of taking the subway all the way home, hopped off at 59th street and made my way to my favorite tea parlor, Alice’s Tea Cup. I then took my scone and tea to Central Park and ended up stumbling upon Strawberry Fields where I watched people sing along to the musical troubadour who calls this specific spot his own.

I’ve been in need of a long meandering New York walk lately. The kind of walk where you walk for so long that you go between thinking about everything to thinking about absolutely nothing. So off my backpack and I went from Central Park down to 14th Street where I caught the subway home just as the first thunder clap sounded and people began realizing it wasn’t A/C fluid sprinkling from above.

^^ Life in my neighborhood has been pretty beautiful lately. I mean a double rainbow right outside my door?! WHAT! ^^

I still constantly pinch myself that I live in New York. I mean, sitting eating a scone at Strawberry Fields? Going to the MET twice in four days? It’s such a neat balance to go between having a new adventure, absorbing the life of the city, and then coming home to my own little sanctuary within all the chaos. It’s days like today that help me reset my compass a bit, and come home excited to write. They are often the days I am most thankful for.

PS. Here is a picture of Fitz because I’ve taken about 162 in the last six days since coming home from California.

Book Recs for Your Summer Holiday

One of my favorite parts of packing for any trip is the books. I am the definition of a book overpacker. For six day trip to Montauk, three books seemed in order. But then I bought three more books while there and had to lug them all home. For my upcoming two week trip to California, is six books too much? It’s the longest part of my packing process as I like to weigh how the subject matter will fit into the mood of my trip. For Montauk, I was feeling particularly creatively drained and so loved taking along books like “Big Magic” and the “Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck” as a little pick me up. And after the enormous amount of birthday book generosity my family sent my way, this upcoming trip to California, I’ve got A LOT of choices to choose from.

But should you be scavenging to figure out what to take as your carry-on companion, here are a few I recently finished that might just be up your alley.

All We Shall Know by Donal Ryan – If you’re a fan of unique narrative structures, this book is one for your bedside table. Not wanting to give a lot away, “All We Shall Know” is set from the perspective of a woman whose life completely changes after getting pregnant from a secret, and illegal, affair. What makes this novel great is the realistic, flawed character of the narrator, whose past secrets and present actions collide as she attempts to become a better person. I ordered it after hearing one of my favorite Booktubers Ariel Bissett rave about this tiny novel for months and after starting it, I couldn’t put it down.

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How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran – A famed journalist in the UK, Caitlin Moran’s feminist memoir is chalk full of advice on how to grow into yourself, understand and embrace your body, and make decisions that aren’t easy but right for you. Moran uses her tell-tale wit and humor to discuss topics of obesity, love, marriage at a young age, periods, birth, abortion, and the experience of being the only woman at the table. If this seems up your alley, “Eat Sweat Play,” “Dear Sugar,” and “What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding” are also great feminist pep talks.

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“The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck” by Sarah Knight – If you feel like your life could use a little bit of a tune up and a hint of emotional decluttering, this book is a fun and super helpful guide for discovering where and who you want to give energy towards. It’s worth it for the worksheets alone. I’m also excited to read Knight’s other little book “How to Get Your Sh*t Together.”

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Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert – This book was the pep talk I needed at the exact moment I read it. A must for anyone pursuing a creative endeavor, “Big Magic” is Gilbert’s musings on motivation, passion and how to stay open to inspiration. Gilbert uses her own life as a canvas to show that it’s only when you’re taking care of yourself, pursing curiosity, and enjoying a project that great things will happen. Also mentioned in this book, which I read after, was Ann Patchett’s “State of Wonder.” Set in the Amazon rainforest, an Indian American doctor from Missouri goes on the hunt for her lost coworker and a famed doctor working on a game changing fertility drug. The book is like a well-tuned clock, moving beautifully between the action and the interior life of the narrator. But in true Patchett fashion, what shines most in this novel is the complexity and depth of the many characters whose actions cause the reader to ask: What would I have done in this situation?

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Any book recommendations you have in mind? I have a couple more here if needed and am almost done with “Lincoln in the Bardo” which everyone has been raving about. Will return with a full review soon!

Happy reading,

C

 

Seasons of Creativity

It’s been quite the blogging minute hasn’t it? This is actually my fifth attempt to write a post in the last month and for a hot minute I thought I’d just lean into the writer’s block, upload a photo album of cat pictures, and be done with it. But today while walking home from Starbucks, I started writing a post in my head — this post actually — which was my cue that it was time to get out of the dugout and swing.

Life lately has been the calm after a storm. A few weeks ago I got a feature pitch chosen for Psychology Today but with the condition that the first draft be done in a week. 13 interviews, 4,000 words later, I popped out of my apartment on a Tuesday morning in search of a caffeine IV and hoping for nothing else than to spend the rest of the week sleeping more than four hours a night. The feature dives into how YouTube is changing the way we understand and view mental illness, and is an idea I’ve been shopping around for about a year now. Upon turning in the final edits, I immediately started crying from a mixture of relief and pride. Five years ago when I first started freelance writing, I had no idea what I was getting into. It takes real stubbornness and heart to not let the stampede of rejection letters (or worst, never hearing back) damper your determination to continue. Having this opportunity was all built upon years of writing tiny pieces, each a brick laying a solid foundation to pitch to magazines I could only dream about. So should you have an interest in YouTube or mental illness or just want to put a magazine on your coffee table to impress your suitors, my piece will be on news stands in the May edition of Psychology Today. There even is a picture and quote in the front! I mean, what! It’s a pretty long way from the piece on limo lights and buses I published when I was 19.

^^ This is my family and I toasting the piece being officially done! Man, they were champs fielding many a late night phone panics and constantly checking in to make sure I hadn’t just decided to run away. Bless them. ^^

Post- Psych Today feature, it’s like the day after graduation where you go home, hang up your cap and gown, and realize the laundry and dishes still need to be done. Despite the fact that for 30 days I’ll be able to walk past the tiny Chelsea Market news stand to see this May edition, I still have to keep pitching. Keep enjoying those rejection letters and not taking it personally when people don’t call back (It’s them, not me! Right?). It’s taken a while to find my equilibrium again and though my list of ideas continues to grow, my desire to write has gone into hibernation.

In a video by musician Tessa Violet, she cautions viewers against placing their value in the things they produce as some seasons are for creating and some seasons are for enjoying other people’s creativity. One of the scariest things for me as a journalist is the fear I’ll forget everything. I know this is crazy but bear with me. Because writing is something I so deeply enjoy, it can be really hard when it suddenly stops motivating me. I fear I’ll become irrelevant, forgot how to put sentences together and ideas I want to pitch. Yes, this fear can propel me forward in the short term, but long term it can cause extreme stress and burn out.

I’m learning that it’s okay, and needed, to take a step back after long, hard projects; to trust that one day again, I will be walking home from Starbucks and start crafting stories in my head. But I have to enjoy all the moments in-between because when it comes to writing, this love affair isn’t going anywhere. If we can make it through underpaid profiles on fitness gurus and nail art, we can make it through just about anything. So cheers to the summer’s of creativity to come and an ever growing trust and enjoyment of the journey in-between.