I Hide My Chocolate

Midlife observations

Tag: August

The Pause

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Before What Is Next

Well. Here we are. Already. August. End of Summer. End of his childhood. The pause after the exhale before the inhale. Before September, the new school year. 12th grade. Before he begins whatever he will be beginning a year from now. Because we don’t know.

Our vacation this summer was a quiet week in Vermont, just the three of us. I missed my daughter, but it felt important to have this time with him. It was sweet to be away from our routine and entwined together, synchronizing our lives to be focused on each other, if only for the week. We listened to music together, impressed that he had such eclectic taste and appreciation for “our” music of the 1970’s. (Thank you, Guardians of the Galaxy.) We adventured together, zip lining down Mt Mansfield and rock climbing a wall. We walked in the woods, read by the pool, and found restaurants with wings for him, pasta for my husband, and vegetables for me. It was a delicious, restorative break, nothing fancy, and I am trying not to be too sad that it is over.

17 years. Over.

I stare at him. Often. He hates it. He thinks I am judging or noticing something he wished I wouldn’t notice. He is self-conscious. Embarrassed. My gaze is really more about wanting to connect. Wanting him to know, to really know deep down in his soul, that I love him and want him to be happy and to know that he is enough just as he is. I want him to know that I am sorry for all the times I do judge and nag and wish for something to be other than it is.

I spend a lot of time judging and nagging and wishing for something to be other than it is. Like the end of August. The end of summer, the end of vacation, the end of childhood. I don’t want it to be over! Hell, I’m just figuring out how to do it … and it’s over?

So. Instead of clinging and resisting, I am trying – trying! – to be patient with the pause. Open to possibility. Open to change. With not knowing what is next. With not rushing to the inhale, but fully and completely exhaling all the air out and pausing. Appreciating the breath. Appreciating the boy who is becoming a man. Gazing at his graceful shape, searching for eye contact with his soul that is embarrassed to be seen. Trying not to be frantic about the college application process. Trying not to grieve for the time that is gone. Trying not to regret all that I could have done differently. Trying not to regret that I’m not a different mother, but to accept that I am the mother I am. Just as he is enough, I am enough.

We are here. Abiding in the pause. Open to what is next. Because we don’t know. Now is enough. We are enough.

Wisdom

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Or Maybe I’m Just Lazy

August is here. My favorite month. Slow. Heavy. Delicious. It’s like Sunday – a pause before the busy, busy, busy-ness kicks back into high gear. September used to be my favorite month. When I was young. I loved the start of school. A new year full of hope for reinvention and ambitious achievements. My ambition is quieter now. I’m a little less jealous of other people’s success and wealth, a little less determined to achieve some kind of fame or greatness, a little more comfortable with me.

A little.

So when I woke up this morning and thought about my usual Sunday activities (Yoga! Laundry! Grocery Shopping! oh my!), I felt tired. And a little sad. Anticipating the end of August before it’s hardly begun. I’ve been operating at my usual relentless pace and along about now, August to be exact, my body and my soul say STOP! I used to get migraines – forcing me to get into bed and slow down. Or I would get depressed, crying and overwhelmed, unable to get out of bed. Now, I feel the warning before it gets too bad. Slow down. Change up the routine. Do something different.

I decided to take a Restorative yoga class. Slow. Heavy. Delicious. You sink into props, focus on your breath, and float. Savasana all the time! What could be better? I felt guilty. Negotiating and arguing with myself. What’s the matter with you, you lazy slacker? Where’s your enthusiasm for Downward Dog and multiple vinyasa’s? You’ll get fat! Come on! Get out of bed and go to yoga! NO. My body and soul said. I need rest. I need to give myself permission to rest.

When I got “into” yoga, at midlife, in my mid-forties, I latched onto Ashtanga yoga. It was the perfect practice for an aging ballet dancer Type A personality. I loved the vigor, jumping back and forth, flinging myself upside down, contorting myself into twists and binds. I adored my teacher Constanza. ADORED. Like a loving, but stern ballet teacher with a whip, she would insist “You must put your whole palm on the floor!” Lying on me to get my head to my knees or pressing my arm clasp to the floor behind me or wrapping herself around me to get my arms into the proper bind. Exhausted, I had no breath to chant the closing invocation. I would collapse, drenched in sweat, into Savasana at the end of class. Emotionally drained, I had a few sobbing savasanas. Midlife was hard. She would hug me, look me in the eye. “Sally, (which she pronounced “Solly” in her low voiced Colombian accent) you must breathe. Yoga is a breathing practice.”

With some regret, I decided Ashtanga yoga was not good for my chronic neck pain and I gave it up. But I can’t quite give up an athletic practice. However, I am now so tuned into potential neck pain, that I am more and more the person in the class who rests in child’s pose instead of striving for another vinyasa. These athletic classes are filled with ego.  Filled with many younger-than-me people ambitious to be thin and strong, to achieve a high level of skill in the pose, to win praise from the teacher. Oh yeah, been there done that. When one of the younger men in the class said to me something like: “It must be good to be your age and know when to rest.” I was flummoxed. My age? Surely I am no older than you? But, the truth of the matter is that he is easily 10-15 years younger than me. Wisdom? Enlightenment? Self-knowledge? Or maybe I’m just lazy?  Or worse, OLD.

At the same time that I discovered Ashtanga yoga, I also discovered Restorative yoga. It was a January and the studio was filled with new years’ resolutions yogi’s. The active vinyasa class I planned to take was full. My heart sank. I rolled my eyes. Oh okay, I’ll take Restorative. I reluctantly placed my mat, annoyed, waiting to be bored and unimpressed. Instead, one of the wise “old” people in the class was friendly and introduced me to my now-favorite yoga book, Meditations from the Mat. Then class began and I floated off into bliss, not boredom. Reminding me that you learn something from every yoga class, every yoga teacher, if you listen. I still hear Constanza’s voice, “Yoga is a breathing practice!” But more and more, the teacher’s voice that I listen to is my own.

Slow. Heavy. Delicious. Breathe and enjoy August.

August

August photo at the beach

Anticipation

The shift happened.  Did you notice?

After the heat wave where it took energy just to go out and pick up the newspaper.

(Yes, I proudly read and relish my physical copy of the newspaper.  Saving longer articles to read later.  Bringing recipes home, so sure I will be inspired to try something new over the weekend.   Lugging entire sections around in my chaotic bag for days to share with anyone who is in synch with my sensibility:  You have to read this – it’s funny, fascinating, horrifying!  My energetic optimism for potential reading eventually ends up in recycling.  Besides, I can always find it online.)

After the days and days of drenching rain where I actually took the subway across town (something I never do, preferring to walk), multiple times, because I was fed up with soaking my sandaled feet in the puddles and fighting with the other umbrellas.

After the June first-burst of roses faded and the black-eyed susans took over, the shift happened.

The sound changed.  Did you notice?  Last week.  The cicadas are brurzing.  (One of my father’s invented words.)  The tree frogs are singing.  I heard geese honking the other day.  Flying south already?  Too soon!  I am not ready for September!  It can’t be!

You see, I love August and can’t stand the thought of it ending.  It hasn’t begun yet, but I am already preparing myself for August to be over.  For the Summer to be over.  Kind of like how I both love and dread Sundays.  Or life.  Instead of living it and loving it, I am anticipating my sadness at being at the end of it.

I love August.  The anxious transition to Summer is behind us.  The kids are settled into their Summer.  There is no homework.  Unless you count Summer Reading.

(Who thought Atlas Shrugged was a good choice for Summer Reading anyway?  I am encouraging my daughter to read the Cliffs Notes and don’t care if anyone accuses me of being a bad mother and a defiant English Lit major who should be ostracized for disrespecting the canon!)

The days are still blissfully long.  Minimal clothes.  No shoes.  (Well, I go barefoot year-round.  Thank you Yoga.)  Work slows, a touch.  And we have our vacation week on the horizon.  Resting, reading, writing, walking, cooking, connecting with my family and friends at the beach, free from routine.  I can’t wait.

Then it is over.  September.  The relentless pace will be back.  School, activities, deadlines, pressure to perform.  The kids are in the next grade.  I am another year older.

I get depressed in August.

Last year, I forbade myself to get depressed.  As if by sheer force of will, I could control my mood.  Deny my mood.  Instead, I launched full tilt into two enormously demanding, challenging, and creative projects.  I began teaching yoga consistently once a week.  I started my blog, writing consistently once a week.  (More or less.)  Determined to not quit, I persevered even when my confidence waned and my enthusiasm was shaky.  I find myself looking back on those early yoga classes, those early blog posts, with a blushing mixture of pride and embarrassment at their amateur quality.  Because, you know, I am so sophisticated now.  Beware the sophomore year.  Beware the pressure to perform at a higher level.  Hang on to beginner mind.  I teach because I love sharing yoga and how it makes me and my students feel happy.  I write because it is my way of understanding and revealing who I am in a way I have never had the guts to do before.  It is not about how many students I have, how many followers I have.  Process not results.

This year.  What?  What shall I do with this seasonal pause?  The sabbatical before September.  How can I stay in the present moment and enjoy every minute of this long wonderful month?  I do think one can make choices about ones’ mood, or at least how one reacts.  I can choose to be sad about Summer ending or I can choose to be grateful that my favorite month is here.  I choose to be grateful.  To live and love my life.  Every moment of it.  Every person in it.

It is tempting to set myself an assignment.  To get through August with GOALS.  I will begin to meditate!  That’s it!  I will meditate EVERY DAY in August.  I will post something I am grateful about EVERY DAY in August.  I will connect with one friend EVERY DAY in August.  I will look at the moon EVERY NIGHT in August.

All worthy ideas, but the pressure to perform them makes me feel depressed.  And anxious.  Well, to be honest, the ideas kind of jazz me up to a manic achievement-oriented state.  YES!  That’s how I am going to handle August!  I am going to do ALL of those things!  The depression comes later.  Either when I’ve done all those things and still feel sad or I haven’t done all those things and berate myself for failing.  And still feel sad.

To hell with good intentions and impossible-to-achieve resolutions.  Perhaps I should take a cue from the seasonal pause of nature.  And let myself pause.  Pause and breathe.

And maybe, just maybe, do something completely out of character, like watch Sharknado, with laughter instead of my customary derisive judgment.  Laughter with my family.

August with my family.  I can’t wait for it to begin.

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