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Monthly Archives: January 2012

Jotting it all down

‎”Fame gets you in the door but it doesn’t keep you in the room.” Madonna

If you are in any way connected to the writing world, chances are you have heard and/or read of the importance of jotting anything of interest to you down as soon as possible. What you jot down today can turn into something you write about tomorrow. With varying degrees of success, I have started jotting down all the things I’ve seen, heard, or read that interest me. While it is too early for me to say whether anything I have jotted down will materialize into a written piece, I believe the act of jotting things down here and there has made me more sensitive to my surroundings, and in many respects, has caused me to more deeply examine my likes and dislikes.

One of my favorite things to jot down are quotes. Profound quotes, funny quotes, sad quotes, joyful quotes, quotes from books, magazines, celebrities, politicians, you name it, if what was said has in any way captivated me, chances are I have jotted it down. The latest quote added to my list is one from Madonna. Madonna and I go way back. No, I don’t know Madonna personally, but the younger version of myself would have gladly volunteered to become the Hispanic Madonna sans the singing and the dancing. Growing up, I enjoyed Madonna’s music, but what appealed to me most about Madonna was the power she was able to amass in the time frame that she did. The strength and confidence that she exuded both onstage and off is something that I craved and aspired to achieve. Her level of fitness, then and now, has kept me in awe for years. Over time, I have drifted away from wanting to “rule the world” as Madonna once stated years ago. Today, I simply want to do that which I love. Following my passion is what I’d consider successful and that which I aspire to achieve. But I digress. As I was trying to decide what TV channel to keep playing in the background to help me drift off to sleep, I caught a clip of an upcoming appearance by Madonna on the Anderson Cooper show. To the question posed to Madonna regarding the Kardashian’s, Madonna stated that the Kardashian’s have time to develop into something, adding that fame gets you in the door but doesn’t keep you in the room. I couldn’t help but connect Madonna’s statement to events that have been going on around me lately.

Too often, people blur the line between what can be and what is, believing that they have truly measured up to the opportunity they have been given, but in reality can’t measure up to talent/skill wise. This is not to say that they can’t work up to the opportunity they have been provided, and in many regards surpass the opportunity, however, when hubris steps in, this becomes impossible. Hubris is a sneaky and deceptive little pest that commonly masquerades itself in the form of confidence. Unlike hubris, confidence does not egotistically stand by expecting that which there is no source or basis to receive. I cannot speak with respect to where the Kardashians are now, whether that be in the stage of hubris or of confidence. Admittedly, I do take issue with their entrée into the world of celebrity, but I’ll leave that alone for now. For me, the essence of Madonna’s statement rings true whether it be in relation to the world of celebrity or at the office, ‎”fame gets you in the door but it doesn’t keep you in the room.”

105 Degrees of Separation

I can’t remember the date I first tried yoga, but I do remember taking my first yoga class somewhere near Astor place in downtown Manhattan. Also of note were my dang cute newly acquired yoga threads. A few years ago when I first attempted to do yoga, I viewed yoga as a trendy fitness routine practiced by a “select few” granola chomping, vegetarian, health food store enthusiasts.  Having once been a vegetarian, and back when I could afford it, a vegan and health food store enthusiast, I argued that all that was missing in my life was a little dash of yoga. Accordingly, I quickly went out and bought the most visibly appealing yoga outfit and Zen looking water bottle I could find to take with me to yoga class.  All dressed up and ready to “ohm”” I walked into my very first yoga class believing that it was going to be a one hour journey into bliss and relaxation. In reality, it was a full-fledged workout with some “ohm” thrown on the side. All of the poses and stretches that I thought were gong to be easy as pie (non-dairy, gluten-free pie, of course) required coordination, focus, energy and stamina, all of which were powered from your breathing. Unlike the bliss and relaxation I was envisioning, the one that did not require any focus or effort on my part, the true bliss and relaxation that was to come from this class was to be achieved through careful and considerate attention to ones approach to the pose and their breath. Trust me, the tree pose isn’t as blissful or relaxing as it could potentially be when instead of focusing on your approach and breath into the pose, your mind is focused on how much sweat is accumulating on the yoga outfit you thought would still be in pristine shape by the time the class was over. Ironically, what I thought would be the focus of basically the whole class, mediation, was the most difficult for me to practice.

“Clear your mind, relax, and be in the moment,” my ethereal yoga teacher calmly said from the front of the room. With my legs crossed and my eyes closed, I was determined to do just that, clear my mind, relax and be in the moment. Nevermind that at that moment I was frustrated that I hadn’t nailed any of the poses and was upset that my new cute yoga outfit was sullied with sweat. Despite this angst, I felt prepared to relax, however, my mind had different plans. Like clockwork, my mind started bouncing from one thought to the next:  “Okay, so we are supposed to sit here, clear our minds, relax and be in the moment.. got it. Is this starting now? This seems like it is going to take a long time, I hope not. How am I supposed to sit here with my eyes closed and be in the moment? What does being in the moment look like? Would it be considered cheating if I opened my eyes for a bit? Wow, everyone is sitting here with their eyes closed? Wonder if some people had their eyes opened before? I hope no one sees me sitting here with my eyes opened. I bet someone opens their eyes soon. I bet the women sitting across from me won’t open her eyes, she is like some sort of yogi. I wonder where she bought the top she is wearing… Ugh, I can’t stand that I seriously suck at yoga, what the hell. I need a latte and maybe some sushi. I’m thirsty. Seriously, how can these people stand sitting with their eyes closed so long? I feel like the yoga instructor can read my mind. Yoga instructor, if you are reading my mind, please stop quiet time now. I wonder what would happen if I jumped up and yelled “Boo.” Alright girl, you are getting silly, you need to close your eyes, hush up and be in the moment. This class needs to end now… I suck at this class…….”  There was no shutting off my mind, and for years, there was no getting me back into a yoga class.

Now that I have settled into a cardio and strength training regimen, my lack of flexibility has become more pronounced and I believe is hindering what I have and can achieve in those fitness realms. A little bit older, wiser, and not wanting to sacrifice what I have gained fitness wise, I feel like now is the time to hitch another ride on the yoga wave, the hot yoga trail.  Hot yoga runs through a series of poses in a heated room with temperatures close to 105 degrees. Arguably, the heated environment facilitates stretching, something this flexibility challenged gal is very interested in exploring. Thankfully, my gym offers hot yoga classes and I was happy to discover that one of my favorite instructors teaches several sessions at the gym. After running down a brief history of my failed past yoga life to my gym instructor, she stated that I needn’t worry about my lack of experience with yoga. People of all fitness and flexibility levels sign up to take hot yoga, and as with most other types of fitness classes, there are modifications participants can opt to take, along with sitting out certain poses. With that information in tow, I was off to buy suitable hot yoga clothing and a yoga mat. Additionally, I stopped eating 2 hours prior to taking the class and I made sure to drink tons of water prior to taking the class (and after the class).

Hot yoga is tough, but doable, especially when you are guided by a knowledgeable instructor who is there not only to cheer you on, but to make sure that you are performing the movements safely and at your level. This type of instruction and guidance is crucial for beginners and experts alike as our what our bodies can achieve tends to fluctuate from time to time. It should surprise no one that I didn’t nail every pose, I didn’t get all of the breathing cues, and my mind still raced when it was time to be silent. Moreover, the tendency to try to control what the outcome would be next time I attempted yoga was still alive and kicking. But what I eventually realized immediately following my second hot yoga class (I took another hot yoga class at a different gym location with a different instructor 2 days after my first class) is that what I most need to work on is the flexibility that comes with surrendering to the movements. The idea of surrendering to the movements is something that the instructor in my first hot yoga class stressed to me after class but I was too closed to absorb. The importance of my instructors words became real to me as my second hot yoga class started swinging into full gear. Neither the heat in the room nor the flexibility required to execute the poses matched the landmines I was inserting in my own path. The idea of surrendering is not an easy one for me to swallow, but interestingly, is one that I look forward to attempting. Perhaps the fact that I have experienced significant losses in such a short span of time, maybe that is what has prepared me to accept this challenge now. I don’t know. What I do know is that this road will not be easy, change is seldom easy, but usually always worth it.

 

Unleash the Dragon

 “I was born to catch dragons in their dens and pick flowers

To tell tales and laugh away the morning

To drift and dream like a lazy stream

And walk barefoot across sunshine days”

Sunshine Days and Foggy Nights

James Kavanaugh

As a young child, I remember watching what felt like an endless stream of Godzilla movies shown almost every Sunday afternoon. I was too young to appreciate any of the significance devotees of Godzilla swear are in each Godzilla spectacular, but do recall how each Godzilla flick kept my older brother and my butts firmly implanted in front of the television set, providing some leeway for my mother to clean and cook. Godzilla was not your ordinary, run of the mill monster, no, he was the perfect hybrid of multiple creatures blended into one. And do I even have to comment on Godzilla’s awesome atomic breath. Only in the recesses of my mind would the memories of this creature mesh with the start of the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Dragon. Godzilla is a Japanese creation that has absolutely nothing to do with the significance of the Dragon in the Chinese calendar. But therein lies the way my brain functions in the early morning pre- coffee hour, and thus my launch into learning about the Year of the Dragon.

 The Chinese New Year is complimented by an animal zodiac which is determined by a 12 year cycle. Each animal in the zodiac carries its own particular attributes and strengths, along with containing some of the five elements spotlighted in the Chinese zodiac, fire, wood, earth, metal and water. Traditionally in Chinese culture, the Dragon is revered as a symbol of good fortune and power that is made up of the elements of water, wood, and the earth. Unlike in the U.S. where the dragon is generally thought of as a monster to be conquered, Chinese tradition positions the Dragon in almost divine esteem. Individuals whose birth year fall under that of the Dragon are said to be passionate, confident, fearless and innovative people. This year of the Dragon is said to be one that will be marked with a spirit of perseverance and progression.

As someone who does not follow the Chinese zodiac, I was intrigued by this traditional Chinese approach to the calendar. Specifically, the connection between the different animals in the Chinese zodiac in relation to the five Chinese elements. Most cultures, I think, have a general understanding of the elements, albeit, a different approach, respect, and appreciation for each of the elements. The Chinese calendar flips this basic understanding of these elements and expands it in ways that are both thought-provoking and fresh. For followers of the Chinese calendar/zodiac, the relationship between these two entities not only provides a glimpse into the personality of bearer of the specific animal/element in question, but also provides a roadmap for the year.

While I don’t necessarily gel with everything the Chinese calendar/zodiac puts forth, it was entertaining to see how colorful the celebration of the New Year is among the various Chinese communities in the U.S. and abroad. Much like our New Year celebration here in the U.S., the Chinese New Year celebration is one filled with anticipation and determination. The spirit of perseverance and progression that is said to mark the Year of the Dragon is a spirit I believe is required in the ever-changing political, social, economic, and environmental landscape that is being experienced around the globe. May this New Year provide the world with an abundance of the perseverance and progression that it is so desperately crying out to receive.

Swimming Lesson

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Is there anything that scares you so much, something that you dread doing for fear of embarrassment and validating the negative thoughts you have cultivated for years, something that the mere thought of doing has you running towards the nearest exit? I don’t know about you, but I typically tackle these situations by trying to present a well- crafted rationale to others as to why I should hold off or completely abandon an idea. A decision that has been plaguing me for what seems like a lifetime but in reality has only been a few weeks is whether I should take an introduction to magazine writing course. I love to write and I think magazines would be a great platform to get my writing juices flowing, so what’s the problem. Well, the problem (or what my neurotic mind has perceived to be a problem) is the second week of the class. By the second week of class students will have been expected to thumb through some magazines, picking out some of their favorite articles and coming up with 4 to 6 ideas for stories they would like to write. Thumbing through magazines, no problem, picking out some of my favorite articles, piece of cake, coming up with 4 to 6 story ideas, hold the phone. I have to come up with, and eventually draft, story ideas to be written, rewritten, and potentially pitched to magazines. What the heck! Couldn’t we just be assigned topics to write about? I would be a phenomenal paint by numbers magazine writer. But no, this instructor actually wants students to dig into the recesses of their minds and come up with story ideas that make some modicum of sense, haven’t been done to death, and most important, that an editor of a magazine will pick up and print. Cue insecurities, writer’s block, fade to black.

What story ideas could I possibly come up with? Really, what story ideas could I possibly come up with? I am not an expert in anything remotely sane and any story ideas that I could come up with have either been done to death or are what the publishing world would consider gibberish. I realize that this is not exactly the type of attitude that I take with me into the class. This sort of frenzy will do nothing for my creativity, my confidence, and my non- refundable tuition fee. At this point, whomever is reading this blog post has either reasoned that their time would be better spent browsing Amazon, or they may be asking “Er, what did this chick think she would be asked to do in a magazine writing class, knit?” I would like to learn how to knit but am aware that a magazine writing class is not the venue to learn that skill. Obviously, writing is the centerpiece of this course, what I blinded myself to is that along with flexing my writing muscles I’d also have to tap the part of my being that can think of a marketable idea for a magazine article. Does this part of my being exist? The answer, I don’t know. The concern, I’m scared of maybe finding out that not a trace of this ability is housed anywhere in my DNA.

Worse case scenario, I don’t possess this skill and I’m out a good chunk of change. No, that will not be enjoyable, and yes, I will be crabby for many, many months to follow. Yet, there is no escaping the fact that the best way for me to find out if I can hack it in the freelance writing world is to discover whether I am willing and capable of engaging in all of the heavy- lifting required to get my foot solidly in the writing door. This includes, but is not limited too, being able to write well, come up with fresh story ideas and/or new twists on old ideas, pitch my idea and style of writing to an editor, get rejected a thousand times, then a thousand times more, and resist the desire to set both my computer and hair on fire. As most freelance writers will eagerly tell aspiring freelance writers, initially, you will get shot down more than you are picked up. Translation, if you can’t hang by the deep end of the pool, get out of the water. Hanging by the deep end of the pool is a no- no for the girl who never learned how to swim, but acknowledging that I have to jump into the pool at some point is something that I know is necessary in my journey towards the deep end of pool. What will be waiting for me at the other end of the pool I can’t say, but I think it may be time to get more than a few toes wet.

3, 2, 1…

 

It’s here, 2012, the year the world is supposed to end, well, according to the Mayan calendar anyway. The end of the world notwithstanding, the beginning of the new year marks the start of a ritual practiced by thousands across the nation; making New Year’s resolutions. “The tradition of the New Year’s resolution,” writes Gary Ryan Blair, “goes all the way to 153 B.C. Janus, a mythical king of early Rome was placed at the head of the calendar. With two faces, Janus could look back on past events and forward to the future. Janus became the ancient symbol for resolutions and many Romans looked for forgiveness from their enemies and also exchanged gifts before the beginning of each year” ( http://EzineArticles.com/245213). For decades, people have started the new year pledging to improve their life in one way or another. To that end, the resolutions that usually top the list for most people are losing weight, exercising more, and quitting smoking. Back when I engaged in making resolutions, I too included losing weight and exercising more as my top resolutions (thankfully smoking was never a habit I struggled to break). Learning to speak Italian and taking more photographs were not too far below my top resolutions. Needless to admit, I don’t speak Italian and I usually get to caught up in events to remember to take photographs. Proudly, I have been exercising more and as a result have lost some weight, but this has everything to do with relieving stress and getting stronger than some long ago failed and forgotten resolution.

For me, making New Year’s resolutions was not only futile, but it was also strewn with grandiose and unrealistic goals given where I was at in my life. Ironically, since giving up on making New Year’s resolutions, I have unwittingly achieved some of the goals I was once feverishly tried to check off my resolution list. Most noticeably, during the past several months I have been exercising more which has resulted in my being able to fit into clothes that have been hiding out in the back of my closet for ages.Where I once wanted to exercise to achieve a check mark next to a list, today exercising has become an integral part in the way I relieve stress, gain strength and achieve clarity. There is no resolution list for me to keep up with or beat myself over the head for not sustaining, instead, the increased strength and joy of experiencing my body change is all the impetus I need to continue exercising. Although I may hem and haw at times over going to the gym, I am always better for going, and yes, fitting a little more nicely into clothes doesn’t hurt either. No doubt when I get back to the gym it will be littered with an increased volume of people who have pledged to reach the strength and clarity I have been fortunate enough to experience while working out. Some of these people will be successful, while others will fail. Of course, while this race to the resolution finish line occurs, frequent gym goers like me will have to try and navigate the increased traffic that makes going to the gym anything but pleasant.

Just because I no longer engage in making New Year’s resolutions means that I think any less of those who do, nor am I advocating that people not make resolutions. I am not the Anti- Resolution Maker. I wish all the best to those who have resolved to change something about themselves in 2012. When positive, change is a beaming energy source that lights our paths and touches the lives of those around us in ways we may never fully realize in this life. Resolutions have never been the source of this sort of change in my life. My drive to change has typically come from an introspective crossroad in my life that fell sometime before or after the start of the new year. Perhaps the new year is when that gust of introspection appears in your life, or perhaps the new year is when you have the time and the presence of mind to participate in such introspection. Whatever the case may be, may I recommend the following prior to committing to a resolution:

1. Why are you making this resolution?

2. How will committing to this resolution change your life and the life of those around you?

3. Do you have the resources, tools, and wherewithal to realistically achieve your resolution?

4. Are you ready for the distractions and obstacles that will appear in your journey towards achieving your resolution (otherwise known as life)?

Whether you make resolutions or not, I hope that 2012 is a happy, healthy, joyous, and peaceful one for us all. Happy New Year!