Tuesday, March 27, 2012

peace, love, courage: a yogi's mindful approach to birthdays

My birthday falls on the first day of spring, and spring is my favorite season, but not for that reason.

Spring has that ecstatic sentiment of new life to it—the rejuvenation of life—but also a tender, almost vulnerable, skinless feel to it.

Some spring days have me flying high, and I've been known to take my birthday celebration seriously. But this year I wanted a more mellow observation. Something sincerely true to where I'm at in my life right now. Which is a mixed bag.

Professionally, I really am flying high. I have a book coming out this fall; I got a new job; and I've been invited to give talks and readings from my book this fall in places around the world, including in Mexico, Norway, Germany, and England. I also have found more balance in my life, with more hours for me to work, and more opportunities for dates. I even got an extra special early pass at the gym, so my time working out there won't interfere with my work-work time.

Still, I'm at a very mellow, skinless, raw kind of place these days. Murking around in the hurt of the past, while also going through the diagnosis process to see if ADHD is a contributing factor to it all. On top of this, I am also dealing with my apparently impossible attempt to get pregnant. To achieve that amazing miracle of conception, which ought to have all who conceive in awe.

So I wanted a mindful observation of my birthday. Not a big party. No big surprises. Not this time around.

With one little surprise tucked in, I essentially got what I wanted.

Since I fell apart on Christmas, I've been sticking these little post-its around the house with words to keep me going. Countless self-helpers preach this approach all the time, but I've never tried it. Until a friend the morning of that Christmas eve encouraged me to write this one word down—PEACE—and return to it throughout the day to help me through. Later on in the day, she texted me: "Remember peace: peace, breathe, love." So I added those words to my sticky note:
A few weeks later, I made another note:
Revisiting these simple words help me when I go dark about the past or anxious about the future. They help me regain perspective. These simple words hold strength and calm.

Then now, for my birthday, I got professionally made little cards to place around the house, and to bring with me as I go about my day, capturing the essence of both sticky notes:
My poetic, playwright husband made these cards for me. And he gave me a yoga birthday card with a detachable namaste magnet, to stick somewhere and remind me of our interconnectedness. He wrote:
we are one — which doesn't mean we've lost our individual identities. But we are one and find life in each other and give life to each other. And to a certain extent we are dependent on each other. ... be reminded that at least two people need you and are not whole without you. Thanks for being a part of our lives, and having us in yours.

And I got flowers, beautiful spring tulips from a dear precious friend who, until we both became moms of kids the same age, I knew only as a fellow yogi at our local yoga studio. She, with her daughter, was my birthday surprise.

I've been told I go through life as a fatalist; perhaps that's true. I don't know. But I do look for meaningful patterns in my life. My now dear close friend slash former yoga buddy suggested on the day before my birthday, during a rock mamas playdate in the Arb, that I read this book:
Poser: My Life in Twenty-three Yoga Poses

It's the memoir of a Seattle-based woman's self-journey as a floundering attachment parenting mother and modern spouse, structured around her (at first reluctant) love affair with yoga. — I think my friend knows that I'm currently into memoirs that speak to where I'm at. Next thing I know, I unwrap another gift from my husband, and it is this very book. And he had bought it and wrapped it up WEEKS before she mentioned it to me.

The misty grey weather I got on my birthday was just as it should be that day. Enclosing a completely meaningful and connected day.

The following day, I got to look at my brain waves. At length. The EEG, explained the psychologist expert, picked up on inattentive patterns with pronounced mental lapses, a high IQ level (in case you wonder how else I made it to here), a hard time with visual processing, anxiety, and more.

So. My romantic date that following Friday night, a date to which I had so looked forward, turned out frankly not so great. I just couldn't quite shake the thoughts, or up the volume of my mood. I simply couldn't be present.

But then, what a gift: a do-over. Everything was right about this particular day. A Sunday. Misty cool at first, before breaking into sunny warmth enveloping our lunch at one of my favorite restaurants (Good Earth), followed by a movie date for just Leighton and I while Lilly went off to play with her uncles.

Eating a meal out; watching a film out: it all really does make a difference. Food deliciously prepared and presented to you by someone else. A film delivered on a wide screen, the volume up, distractions reduced.

In Norway, we have this saying describing big, significant celebrations: to celebrate three days on end. I got that this year. From mellow and misty to sunny and hopeful, with tears and laughter, and friends and family.

And all through my birthday, was the cheerful sound of Lilly singing "Happy birthday to you, mamma!" And that was just one of her many gifts to me on my day:

A rainbow for my birthday,
surrounding a blue sky.

photo accompanying closer: new york times book review of closer: Chasing Virtue


  1. I didn't know it was your birthday! I'm glad it was how you needed it to be.

  2.  Yes; thank you! And I would like that!

  3. Happy belated birthday, Anne!!! If we could ever get mutual kid-free time, you and I should really go out for coffee together. I have been in need of little reminders of peace, courage, and calm lately myself! A lot going on, for both of us, and this post just shows how even with lots of good going on, there are often (always?) challenges as well. Some of us do go through life "skinless", and we ultra-sensitive types always struggle more emotionally as a result. But we can stick together, and also rely on those who love us (and need us) to help us see what really matters in life!


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