luck.

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This is one of my most favorite photos of Moses.  He is about 12 months old here.  There’s just something about the way he’s walking with such purpose through our backyard.  Like he knows where he’s going.

I’ve been thinking about the trajectory of my life these past few days.  Where I’ve been.  Where I’m going.  And it’s been interesting to notice how I’ve experienced such highs and such lows and at each moment of joy I’ve thought, “Wow!  This life is amazing!” and at each moment of sadness or fear or depression I’ve thought, “Life is a great tragedy.”  Highs come and lows come and you can be sure they won’t last forever.  If there’s one thing we can count on it’s that things never stay the same.  This is where the principle of detachment comes in.  As a kid I used to think it sounded horrible to practice being “detached”.  I remember someone trying to explain Buddhism to me and I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out why anyone would want to be a buddhist if they could never feel joy or pain.  It wasn’t until much later that I began to understand the power of detachment and that it’s not at all about never experiencing emotion.  It’s about not attaching to those emotions.  It’s not about walking through life like a zombie.  Quite the opposite actually.  It’s about living each moment fully and completely and then allowing it to pass like clouds in the sky.  Holding on…  gripping with a closed fist…  this is our great undoing as human beings.  This is where suffering is born.  Recognizing that each moment is a gift and then allowing that gift to fade in its own time is living life with grace.  It takes courage.

A few years ago one of my yoga teachers shared a powerful zen teaching in class.  I’ve never forgotten it.  The story goes like this:  There was a farmer out in the fields, tending to his crops when his horse ran away.  The neighbors shook their heads and said to him, “What bad luck!”  The farmer smiled calmly, shrugged his shoulders and responded, “good luck, bad luck, who knows?”  The next morning the horse came home and brought with him three other beautiful, strong, wild horses.  The neighbors clapped their hands together and said, “What good luck you have!”  The farmer smiled and replied, “good luck, bad luck, who knows?”  The next day the farmer’s son attempted to ride one of the horses.  He fell off and broke his leg.  The neighbors sauntered over and sadly said, “Oh my…  what bad luck…”  The farmer shook his head, “good luck, bad luck, who knows?”  The day after this fall, the military showed up to draft the farmer’s son.  Once they saw the condition of his leg they left without taking him with them.  The neighbors, of course, congratulated the farmer and expressed their relief, “What good luck!”  The farmer, once again, smiled.  “Maybe”, he said.  “Maybe…”

It’s easy and natural to go through life in a reactionary way, like the neighbors.  We jump up and down when things go our way and we cry and hide under the covers when they don’t.  We attach to our blessings and are destroyed when they disappear and we wallow in our suffering and give ourselves permission to carry it with us wherever we go.  This is attachment.  It’s a wild, wild ride.  Some may say, “But that’s just life!”  And it’s true.  It’s the great drama of life that we go up and then we go down and then we go up again.  What we sometimes forget, however, is the power we wield within us to stay grounded and calm amidst the chaos.

Recently something really cool happened in my life.  I spent 24 hours in shock and awe.  My boyfriend, however, was utterly calm.  He was unmoved.  I wanted to shake him.  “What’s wrong with you?”  I said.  “How are you so calm?”  He smiled and then attempted to explain to me how he views the world and how for every high there’s the possibility of a low.  He explained how with great blessing there comes great responsibility.  I was brought back down to earth.  I was humbled.  I still feel joy but it’s quieter.  It’s settled down into my core and my feet feel planted.  There’s work to be done.  We haven’t arrived yet.  We’ve never arrived.  One foot goes in front of the other in the pursuit of our dreams.  Action is required.  Good luck, bad luck…  who really knows?

I was 14 years old and sobbing.  My dad had just told the family that we were moving from Canada to Ohio.  The world was over!  I remember sitting in my closet with the door shut and just letting my heart rip open in that way you can as a teenage girl.  Sometimes I wish I could cry like that now.  Floodgates open.  Heart laid bare.  Entire being trembling.  I would have to leave my beach and my friends and the love of my 14 year old life.  I would have to leave it all behind.

Fast forward:

I was 17 and a senior in high school.  I was dating a really good looking 21 year old guy.  He was world-travelled and hilarious and smart.  He was a backpacking, mountain biking, creative hippie with intentions to change the world.  I was smitten.  During our dating relationship I travelled to Scotland and Egypt and was gone for 5 months but we stayed together.  When I returned home at 19, he proposed and we were married 6 months later.  We moved into a century home in Cleveland and remodeled both the upstairs and the downstairs which we rented out to friends.  I was young and happy and free.  Life was just beginning.

Fast forward:

I was 23.  Walking through my house, I’m throwing things in a bag to take with me.  I pause in the bathroom catch my breath.  Hot tears are streaming down my face.  I’m leaving and I’m broken into a thousand tiny pieces.  I love him but I’m young and I’m afraid and for so many reasons I can’t even put into words…  I have to go.  Life is over.

Fast forward:

I was 27 and I signed up for yoga teacher training.  I started a part-time job and spent the next 4 months training with 18 other brave and beautiful souls.  Life was just beginning.

Fast forward:

I was 29 and pregnant.  It wasn’t planned.  I wrestled through months of confusion and pain and created my own suffering by resisting reality.  Who would I be as a mom?  What business did I have raising a tiny human?  How would this change me?  Could I support myself and someone else?  Life is over.

Fast forward:

I am 31 years old and I work for a company I love and believe in.  I teach yoga, I’m a manager, I am a full-time student and I love my home and my family.  I am blessed beyond words and I wake up every day grateful for the life I’m living and fully aware of how one day…  one moment…  can change it all.  It doesn’t put me in a panic.  It doesn’t cause me to hoard or close my fists tightly.  It makes the sweetness of it all that much sweeter.  I’ve known pain and I’ve known sorrow.  Much of it I created with my own two hands.  I also know happiness and freedom and peace.  Much of it I created with my own two hands.  Life is just beginning.

Each of us could create our own timeline that probably looks similar – highlighting the “life is over” moments which are inevitably followed by the “life is just beginning” moments and it becomes so crystal clear that we’re on a roller coaster and we just need to hold on and enjoy the ride.

The weather has dragged on and been particularly cold and hostile this winter in the midwest.  Many of us have complained and felt depressed and daydreamed of the sunshine.  I can’t help but wonder, however, what will happen after the first week of hot, muggy, Ohio summer.  Will the same people who hated the winter be hating the heat?  How much energy do we expend focusing on the stress, anger, fear, frustration, lost opportunities, betrayals, jealousies and more?  How much time do we spend building ourselves up, building up others, smiling, being thankful, focusing on what’s good and not on what’s bad?  Focusing on what’s right and not on what’s wrong?

Choose the positive because, honestly, even if you’re not feeling particularly positive, it will come around once again if you wait long enough.  I can promise you that.  The truth is, some of the seemingly “worst” situations of my life have been giant blessings.  You have no idea what’s on the other side.

It’s grounding to remember, while you’re jumping up and down, that you’re one breath away from disaster and when you’re in a heap of tears on your bathroom floor, that you’re one breath away from dancing.

People who win the lottery usually end up broke.  People who get sick often get well.  People who are well often get sick.  Beautiful weddings may end in bitter divorce.  Bitter divorce may be the start of a beautiful life.  Jobs lost can mean new and better jobs found.  New and better jobs found can be taken away in a heartbeat.  Life is fleeting.  It’s beautiful and it’s fleeting.  Savor, sip, breathe…  and keep your feet on the ground.

There’s work to be done and we’re the ones who have to do it.

Good luck, bad luck…  we never, ever know for sure.

xox

Sindy Warren|Mom Truth Bomb

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Tell us about YOU!  

I live in Shaker Heights. I have one daughter, Olivia, and she is ten. I also have two stepkids: Ezra (28) and Amanda (25). Ezra has two kids, Dante (3) and Penelope (6 weeks), so I’m a grandma too. I’ll focus on being Olivia’s mom here.  I am an employment lawyer by background and have an HR consulting business that I run from my house. When I need to see clients, I go to them. For the most part, my schedule is fairly flexible and I’m usually able to be home with Olivia before and after school. Not always, but a good percentage of the time.  I love having my own business; I’ve worked hard to grow it and it’s a pretty steady workflow, though the ebbs and flows are inevitable. I love the flexibility my career provides me with. And because the flexibility is there much of the time, I don’t often feel guilty when work takes center stage for a while.

Do you ever have Mommy envy?

Don’t we all? I stand in awe of friends who have more than one child and work and stay in shape and are committed to personal growth and relationship building. I wonder how they do it all. I have one admittedly easy child; I am so blessed. Of course, she hasn’t hit her teens yet so I could absolutely be in for some rough times.

Give us a ‘day in the life’?

Average weekday: get up early and work until Olivia comes down for breakfast. Get her ready for school, pack lunch, etc. When she’s off to the bus, I either continue working, go for a run or hit a yoga class. I exercise most days. Then more work, taking care of house, dog, food shopping, etc., until Olivia gets home from school.  Drive her to whatever activities she may have. Make a nice dinner. Sit with her while she eats and then have a date night with my amazing husband when she’s getting ready for bed or finishing up homework. After she goes to bed we often watch some TV, get in bed to read, and call it a day.

What’s your favorite part of the day?

Dinner; catching up with my family.

What’s the toughest part of the day?

Those hours b/w 3 and 6. My body always wants to nap!

What I wish was a staple in my day:

Meditation! I often intend to and then I let my “to do” list get in the way.

What seems to come “easy” to others that you struggle with (from your perspective)?

Being all-consumed with “mommydom.” I’ve always been the type who needs to put my oxygen mask on first – take care of myself so I can take care of my loved ones. I’m selfish this way.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Right now I have an amazing relationship with Olivia. We were on a walk recently and she stopped to tell me “Mom, I think we have a really special relationship.”  I hope she feels that way in five years and beyond. I also hope my work situation stays pretty much the same – interesting work, a business I’ve built myself, flexibility, an income where I contribute to my family’s well-being and serve as a good role model for Olivia.

The truest thing about being a mom:

You can’t imagine how much you will love your child(ren) until you have them.

Funny mom story:

Olivia has always been a deep thinker. She ponders issues such as the meaning of life and whether there is a God and why. It is part of her nature.  Once, when she was no more than five, we were driving in the car and she said, apropos of nothing, “Is this real or is someone else dreaming this?”  My jaw dropped open.

Do you feel supported by other moms?  What does this look like in your life?  

I do feel supported by other moms that I choose to spend my time with. Having said that, I think there is some judgment out there about moms who make different choices (stay at home v. working). Maybe this is nothing more than “cliqueness” that exists to some degree in many social circles.

Do you think you’re a good mom?

I think I’m a really good mom. I’m not a mom who makes everything in my life all about my child. Many mom friends do that and to them I might seem not as good.  But I actually think it’s better for my daughter to see me as a complete person, not just her mom. Of course, anything she needs, I’m there. But she sees me put time and energy into my marriage, my friendships, my health, my work. I think this is the right balance to model for her. (Having said that, I sometimes have self-doubt about this).

What has surprised you the most about being a mom?

I’m not actually a “kid” person by nature. As a teenager, my friends would stop and ooh and aah over cute babies. I never really understood that. Instead, I had that feeling when I saw a cute dog. But when it comes to my daughter, I am all in. Totally in love.  I love to just stare at her when she sleeps, reads, does her homework.  She’s got my heart, completely.

Sindy, thank you so, so, much for taking the time to write about being a mom.  You are beautiful (stunning!) inside and out and every time I see you at the studio you light up the room with your smile.  Your dedication to your yoga practice is inspiring and from where I’m standing, you truly are ‘superwoman’ with your family, career and commitment to health and well-being.  Love and light to you!

xxx

I believe|In Magic

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When I was a little girl there was a horse who lived on the main road.  I would sometimes steal apples from the fridge and ride my bike over to visit him.  I would cross the street and hang over the fence — calling him to me.  Clicking my tongue until he sauntered over, mane blowing to the side, eyes blinking and bright.  His hot breath felt humid on my palm and his teeth and nostrils seemed so large and scary if I thought about it too much.  But usually I didn’t.  I just trusted him.  He took it nicely from my hand and let me pat his nose between his eyes.  His bangs felt like straw but his soft coat felt like velvet beneath my fingers.

And those few moments with that horse would be the highlight of my entire day.  I dreamed of my own horse one day.  Falling asleep on his back while he grazed beneath the afternoon sun.  Day trips through the woods with a backpack full of picnic lunch items.  We would stop for a break by a forest stream.  I would pull out my sandwich wrapped in wax paper and my apple and my trusty side-kick would sniff around the path and flick his tail from left to right happily.

Recently I walked up to a horse and I was actually kind of terrified.  I couldn’t believe how big he was and I didn’t trust him at all.  He came towards me and I backed up.  My heart beat faster.  I considered that if given the option, I may choose not to ride him.  So high up!  So unpredictable!  People break their necks from falling off horses.  People get kicked!  It honestly didn’t feel like a magical moment.  It felt like one where I had to muster up some courage just to be in the same area with this potentially life-threatening beast.

Those feelings and that moment came back to me this morning.  Such a dichotomy:  that little girl with nothing but trust and dreams and this much bigger girl who keeps one eyebrow raised.

When we grow up we kind of grow small.  Our light sometimes dims and our hearts often build walls.  We focus on the dangers instead of the dreams. 

It’s a protective mechanism.  When we’re kids we don’t know about everything that can go wrong.  We don’t care.  We’re young and happy and free and every new thing is an opportunity to say, “Hey!  Look at me!”

When we grow up we leave wide open spaces and fluffy white clouds and naming every stuffed animal “Cocoa” and “Rainbow”.  We walk away from candy bracelets because they’re too sticky and full of sugar.  We don’t watch Disney movies and think, “That could happen to me someday”.  We know life doesn’t work that way.

We get wise.  We get smart.  We get worried.

Do you remember the first Christmas you realized it wasn’t really all about you anymore?  The one where there were smaller kids around and your joy came from watching them and you got a few gifts but the piles of wrapping and bows were not all bearing your name?  The one where you wanted to sleep in just a little longer instead of jumping up and getting dressed and running downstairs with anticipation?  That Christmas is always a tough pill to swallow.  You kind of start to embrace that you’ll never feel exactly the same again on Christmas morning.  I mean, sure.  It’s cozy and fun and gifts are great to give and receive.  And I’ll always love my Mom’s cinnamon rolls and eggnog and the same Amy Grant Tennessee Christmas album playing for the ten millionth time…  but it doesn’t feel the same.  The magic is a bit less sparkly and bright.  The joy of it takes on a different form.

Cultivating magic in the everyday is one of the great secrets, I think, to happiness.  Noticing what’s around us and approaching it all with openness and a brave heart are some of the ingredients to a joyful life.  The snow on the evergreens, the golden sunlight bath your backyard takes between 4-6 pm every afternoon, the soapy, honey smell of your baby’s hair.  Pause and breath.  Pause and remember.  Be transported through time in as many moments as possible.

Be in wonder of it all.  Live in a constant state of wonder.  Curious.  Open.  Creative.  Looking for the magic wherever it may be.

More and more, as the years tick by, I have to increase my efforts in this area.  I refuse to accept that candy bracelets are too sticky and pizza should be eaten with a fork.  I won’t accept that Christmas is for the kids and far-fetched dreams are a waste of time.  Walking barefoot outside is not dirty and patting my purring cat is not a task to be hurried through.  Rainbow and Cocoa and Snowball are most excellent names for animals and cartwheels on hot summer days are not only for the enjoyment of eight year olds.

My sister and I practiced headstands and handstands and cartwheels this summer at our parent’s house on the 4th of July.  Everyone played Frisbee and Bocci and drank iced tea and we went around to the side of the house and laughed hysterically at our attempts as we rolled in the grass and flipped upside down and felt like sweaty, filthy, grade schoolers again.  Waiting for our Mom to call us home from long summer days spend on bikes with banana seats and games of soccer baseball in the neighbor’s yard.  I’m 31 and my sister is 29.  We kind of suck at cartwheels.  But we’ll probably do them again next summer.  It was one of the best times I’ve had with her all year.

Owning a horse is on my dream list again.  It’s a revived childhood dream and it will happen.  I won’t be afraid.  I’ll be in love.

I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure this happens and every time I saddle up that beautiful, imaginary horse of mine and take him for a ride…  me in my levis and boots and braid and him with his mane blowing in the wind…  I’ll feel freedom instead of fear.

And he’ll know and I’ll know that he is a tangible token of that promise.  He is the power that is large and scary and beastly and he is the power that is wide open spaces and forest walks and picnics by the side of the stream.  He is a reminder to steal apples from the fridge and sneak away.

He is magic.

xxx