Friday, May 25, 2018

Friday Five @ 5

The Greenway, Wednesday night, right before it rained.
1. I saw the Barefoot Contessa do something like this on Instagram last year and I've been craving it since. I made this for dinner last night and it was so easy and delicious. Try this. In a bowl throw: a bunch of chopped up grape tomatoes, fresh basil, one garlic clove, salt, olive oil. Mix. Take a ball of fresh mozzarella and rip it up with your bare hands. Throw that in the bowl. Mix. Set aside. Don't refrigerate. Boil some pasta of your choosing. Put the hot cooked pasta in the bowl on top of the tomato/basil mixture. Add a little pasta cooking water and maybe a bit more salt and some pepper. Mix. Throw a towel over the bowl. Let it sit for a few. Uncover. EAT IT ALL.

2. I never knew I needed lip polish until I impulse purchased some one day when I was feeling sorry for myself and needed a treat. The world is not in the best place right now, so I guess I shouldn't say I "need" lip polish, but boy is it a cheap and quick way to feel prettier and more fancy than you were three minutes ago. I am in love with this French Girl Organics one from Follain. It gets rid of any sort of chapped lip-ness pretty much immediately and makes your lips look fresh and pink and awesome. You barely need lipstick at all after this. Go get some, you deserve it.

3. On Tuesday night I made a new friend. A girl around my age who lives in my neighborhood. We exchanged numbers, said we'd meet for coffee. Yesterday I was having breakfast at The Thinking Cup and this new friend appeared at my table. We chatted for a few. I told her I'd just come from a yoga class and was headed out for a longish day of work and teaching, hence my enormous bag. She said she was meeting another friend for breakfast. We made plans to meet up for coffee early next week. Fine. As she walked away, I noticed myself thinking, "Well thank goodness. I actually look like a person who takes yoga in the morning and who reads library books and brushes her hair and drinks good coffee and gets up early and leads a busy life and is nice to people when she runs into them in public. Phew! I'm so relieved she saw this person and not me." I frequently find my brain doing this. I did get up early and go to yoga. I was reading a library book. I did brush my hair. I was drinking good coffee. I did all of those things. I was the person sitting there. So....? Yeah. I struggle to see myself as I actually am and believe it and have confidence in it. Prom Date introduced me to one of his friends a few months ago. I immediately liked her and thought she was smart and stylish and totally on-the-ball. She referred to this as a "leftover thought process." I think the professionals call it Imposter Syndrome. For YEARS I was in and out of really unhealthy relationships and friendships, in and out of jobs, drinking too much, spending too much; I wasn't in a good place. I wasn't getting up early, sometimes I wasn't getting up at all. I've moved on from that phase, but my self-perception and confidence is lagging behind. Do any of you ever feel this way?

4. Onto happier things. The new Queer Eye on Netflix. I'd heard people talking about it and finally gave it a shot and OH MY GOODNESS it is good. You WILL laugh, you WILL cry. You'll cry in a joyful, hooray-for-transformation/acceptance/love way, not in a This Is Us way. This show just makes you feel good. I was puttering around my apartment earlier this morning and I found myself smiling just thinking about the episodes I watched last night.  Gas up your Netflix and watch them all.

5. I'm so thrilled it's a long weekend. Is it me or was this week especially long? Was this really only five days? Oof. I'm excited to eat more tomatoes, finish reading this book, and try on my summer clothes to see what still fits and what doesn't.

Happy Friday, you guys.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Now You Just Get To Dance

Coolidge Corner, Brookline
I take class at North End Yoga several mornings a week. I love it. I love it so so much. In fact, last week the owner alerted me to the fact that I've taken 246 classes there. I'll hit 250 on Wednesday  next week. This thrills me. I love North End Yoga because the quality of instruction is TOP of the line and because I feel very comfortable there. This week I decided to push myself out of my North End Yoga comfort zone and try something new.

I noticed the studio excitedly promoting the fact that Saraswathi Jois was going to be in Boston as part of her US tour. I had no idea who she was to be honest, but they seemed PUMPED. She was going to be teaching Mysore Style Ashtanga classes there in the morning this week and some of them were open to all, not just the superstar regular Mysore people. (I take vinyasa yoga classes. Mysore classes are offered every morning in the big beautiful front studio at North End Yoga by Boston Ashtanga Shala and they are a totally different ballgame and one I've never felt totally confident I could play.) I looked into it. Turns out Saraswathi Jois is a big damn deal. She is THE damn deal.

"The 'Mysore Style' Ashtanga method is named after the city where Shri K. Pattabhi Jois lived and taught, and now his grandson R. Sharath and daughter Saraswathi continue his teachings at the Shri K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute." 

Well, okay then. I registered and showed up. It was pretty exciting. When I got there the vibe in the lobby was totally different. It felt like something was about to HAPPEN. It smelled different. There were REAL yoga people walking around. A little less Lululemon and a lot more billowy linen. I felt totally totally clueless and it was refreshing. I chose a spot way off to the side in the back because I truthfully had no idea what I was doing or what to expect and that felt refreshing too. When the class began I noticed that, unlike me, everyone else knew exactly what they were doing and what to expect. They all knew the opening chant. They knew what everything Saraswathi was saying in Sanskrit meant. They knew when to face the back of the room (slightly jarring since that was my hiding spot) and the front of the room, and I knew nothing. I recognized some things from my vinyasa classes, but the class itself was totally different from anything I'd done before, two hours long, and really really challenging.

I left the studio feeling two things: first, I was a special kind of sore. They don't call it Mysore for nothing. (Sorry if that was offensive, I couldn't resist.) Second, I felt peaceful and genuinely happy and had a strong desire to bust out of my comfort zone more often, both on AND off the mat. Here's why:

About three quarters of the way through the class I realized things were moving to a very advanced level, one that was way beyond what I'm capable of physically doing at this point in my yoga journey. Maybe someday. Anyway, I knew that Led Mysore was taught as a series of postures and that once you hit the point where you couldn't really do something, you were to stop. So I stopped and tried to look respectful and calm and like I was meditating or gazing peacefully ahead at nothingness. But I wasn't. I was watching the rest of the class do these really challenging upside down twisty magic trick poses and I was totally blown away. I felt a little jealous and a little bummed that I couldn't join them, but then I realized that there was a strong possibility that some of them might be freaking out. These are serious yoga people who probably have far greater control of their thoughts and emotions than I do, but come on, this was the world's top Mysore teacher watching them do this, they had to be feeling a tiny bit of nervousness. 

My mind wandered. I realized that when you're a "regular" somewhere - a fitness class, a running group, a writing class, a community or religious group, a coffee shop, a commuter rail train, whatever - there's a comfort and a familiarity, but there's also a certain level of internal and sometimes external expectation. You do this all the time, you know the drill, and you should do it correctly. When you're new, you just kind of show up and do your best. There's a kind of freedom in that. Sometimes when I'm in class in the morning we'll hit a point where, to be honest, I'm just tired or my legs aren't having it or my back feels weird. I know the option exists for me to take a break, grab a sip of water and hang out in child's pose, but a little voice in my head always says, "Come on, Ann. You do this almost everyday, you're in the front row, stop whining and make it happen."

On one hand, I LIVE for those moments. I love movement and exercise and yoga because I get a strong sense of personal empowerment from meeting a physical challenge. Anytime I start to think I can't do something, I push back really hard, I do it full out, and when the instructor says it's time to come out of the pose? I hold it just a second longer. I like knowing that I'm strong because there were a number of years where I really really really wasn't.

On the other hand, it was so lovely to feel like I could move and breathe and just BE in the class yesterday simply because it interested me and I wanted to try it. I felt pure enjoyment the whole time I was moving and trying to do the poses and follow along, and then I got to just sit there and marvel at what my fellow classmates could do and observe as a master teacher did her thing. There was no pressure to prove anything to myself or anyone else and no pressure to do anything perfectly. It was just fun.

Sometimes I tell people who are new to the BodyJam classes I teach that all you have to do to succeed in class is show up. Once you show up, you've done it. Now you just get to dance. It felt wonderful to adopt that mentality for myself yesterday. I don't make it easy on me. I can be a real bully. I've been talking about this a lot lately with my nearest and dearest. I frequently feel that in order to feel happy things have to be perfect and that all the "shoulds" need to be met. I should eat this. I should wear that. I should get this much sleep. I should have a nicer apartment. I should travel somewhere this summer. I should hit this yoga pose. I should lift this weight. I should be rid of my debt by this date. I try REALLY hard all of the time. It felt so nice yesterday to just enjoy and see what happened. I felt happier than I'd felt in a long time. I don't think I did anything all that well technically, but I did the absolute hardest thing for me perfectly: I didn't worry. I didn't push. I just showed up. And it was great.

Happy Friday, you guys. I hope you all give your internal bully a couple days off and show up and try less and have lots of fun this weekend.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Friday Five @ 5

Public Garden, earlier this week
I guess spring isn't THAT bad
1. Hi. I missed you. Yes, you. I've been a deer in the headlights for a few weeks. Anxiety going full throttle. Schedule WAY too full. Very minor (but annoying) health crap to deal with. And hay fever. SO MUCH SNEEZING. How have you all been? This time of year is always a little tough for me. I know I'm supposed to be thrilled that winter is ending, but I tend to feel a little "meh" during this transition to spring. I can't breathe through my nose and I can't figure out what to wear. Is it too soon for sandals and everyone will be in boots today? Or will I look like the angel of darkness if I wear boots? Is it okay to wear pantyhose because Kate Middleton wears them and my legs are terrifyingly white? Are my toes ready for primetime or are we not showing our toes because it's before Memorial Day but we should wear a less wintry shoe? I woke up a couple weeks ago and it was cold and gray and rainy. I put on a sweater and jeans. I went for a walk at lunch and it was sunny and warm and I saw a woman walk by me in a floral dress and nude pumps. Did we wake up in the same city? Does she have a crystal ball? I enjoy a more decisive season. It's cold. It's hot. Clarity. Spring is too much of a drama queen.

2. Have you seen Amy Schumer's I Feel Pretty? I took myself to see it last week because I really needed to sit in the dark by myself and eat salty snacks and not talk to anyone for two hours. I figured this movie would be entertaining enough. It's not going to win any awards, but it was very amusing. I know that half the internet is screaming about this movie because they think the message is that a woman would have to be delusional to have self-confidence. I can sort of see it? But I really don't think that was what the movie was saying. To me it was about self-perception. I don't think the other characters were shocked by her temporary confidence in the movie because a woman who looks like Amy Schumer should not be confident. I think they were shocked because (a) it came out of nowhere and (b) when was the last time you met a woman who was unabashedly confident? Every time someone pays me a compliment I immediately try to talk them out of it. Them: "You have nice hair." Me: "It so needs to be cut, I have so many split ends." JUST SAY THANK YOU. But I can't. Earlier this week I was walking home from a Pilates class carrying my mat. I had the obvious look of a person who had recently exercised. In my head I was thinking that everyone on the street was probably looking at me and feeling sorry for me. "Oh look at that awkward creature carrying her mat. Too bad she was probably the worst in the class. It's so sweet that she tries."  I shouldn't have felt that way. I was in the front row in class, I did all the high options, and the teacher told me directly that I was doing a good job more than once. I'd also taught two classes the night before. I think I can walk around feeling like a person who legitimately exercises. But that's where my self-perception is. I know I'm not alone here. How do we change this without bumping our heads? 

3. A few weeks ago I stumbled on this blog post from Follain about switching to natural deodorant. In the post they say natural deodorant is one of the "gateway products for people looking to make the shift to clean beauty." I made the switch to this one from Meow Meow Tweet and I really love it. It smells great, it's very gentle. That said, I don't think this is for everyone. You DO sweat and initially I wasn't used to that. But now I'm used to it, and I like the idea of letting my body do it's thing and no longer slathering a bunch of toxic chemicals under my arms every morning. Follain was right that natural deodorant is a "gateway product" because now I'm on a mission to make the switch to non-toxic products across the board. I never realized how much crap was in every single thing I was using. So far I've changed my shampoo, soap, cleanser, day and night moisturizers, and some of my makeup. My skin is a lot less irritated, and investing in some high-quality self care products has felt really nice. I look forward to my morning and evening routines in a way I didn't before. It feels good to take care of my physical self and that feeling is starting to spill over into other areas of my life. Follain is a beautiful store and you Bostonians should check it out. It's a woman-owned small business with locations in Beacon Hill and the South End. Their owner Tara really knows what she's doing. So far my favorite products are this shampoo, this cleanser, and this eye pencil.

4. As I mentioned above in #1, my anxiety has been booming lately. Naturally, I shared this very personal struggle on Facebook last week and heard from several people who feel the same way. Many of those people recommended I read Dan Harris's 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help that Actually Works. I want to do all of those things, so I went to the Brookline Booksmith and bought it. I'm hoping to read it in the next week.

5. What are you up to this weekend? I'm looking forward to dinner at Crudo with Prom Date on Saturday night and celebrating Mother's Day with my family at Monica's on Sunday morning. Happy Friday, you guys.