Happily Ever After

When I think of fire, I think of the sun

When I think of fire, I think of the sun

“The best thing you could do is master the chaos in you. You are not thrown into the fire, you are the fire.”
― Mama Indigo

I’ve started a new project recently.  Today’s the official Day One.  It’s about being happy in my life and with my husband.  Basic stuff really.  And yet both have been rather out of my reach for a few years.  In many ways this writing space has helped me with that and so perhaps I’m simply stating the obvious.  But sometimes that’s a good place to start.  That and a little knowledge of why.  I’ve spent too many therapy sessions to count sorting out the why – I’ve got a fairly good handle on it.  So I’ll keep this announcement brief and to the point.

I’ve asked for help from a fun lady who also happens to be a highly-skilled Marriage and Family Therapist, Megan Kelly Smith.  She’s giving me daily assignments for 21 days.  These assignments are meant to help me shift my perspective to reveal the reality of my life for what it is right here and right now:  my own personal happily-ever-after.

I’m pretty excited about this because it’s clear to me that Megan’s got a strong handle on the process of building a truly happy self.  And I know that I’ve been doing years of prep work to launch myself far from my current point of departure.  I’ve completed my Foundational Assignment and my Day One and will be sending them off to her shortly.  I’ll definitely report back here at Day Twenty-One and maybe sooner if something really wants to be written.   But the truth is that I’ll be doing a lot of journal writing off-blog so a Final Report may well be sufficient.

Here’s to reaping the many benefits of self-mastery and fire-safety!

Do you Believe in Magic?

happy birthday

Just eight days shy of three years ago I opened this space with my first post.  It was raining in July and that hardly ever happens in Oakland, California.  I took it as a sign.  

Today, once my newly 4 year-old son finally gave into falling asleep for his nap, I stepped out onto the porch to grab something and realized that once again water is falling from the sky in July.  I took it as a sign; time to return to this space for a little check in.  Just because (to borrow my child’s most common justification).

I haven’t been here much because the personal work that I’ve been doing is of a new sort and requires that I shut down many of the tendencies that would bring me to write it out.  The ambition that drove me for so long has been almost completely dissolved.  The mechanical impulse to intellectualize everything that happens to me has been significantly quieted.  I am now a seeker of contentment above all else.  And, for perhaps the first time in my adult life, I believe that it is within my grasp and I actually experience it (dare I say?) frequently.

A few things of note led to my new approach.
1.  A major health crisis in two stages which was clearly a result of my work style.
2.  Reading of the book that every woman in western society owes it to herself and the world to read Yes, I’m serious ladies.

I do not know what the future brings for my writing hobby.  I only know that I’ve enjoyed having this space and I’m not ready to close it up even though I haven’t been here much.  I do know that I have a renewed appreciation for magic and all her machination thanks to my personal priority shift.  For now, that and some long neglected craft projects are enough to keep my days more than full.

A Timely Reminder

Proof that I don’t always rock the boat

I wrote the following piece with the editorial help of an online magazine.  After a couple rounds of working with my embarrassingly crude initial draft, the editors rejected it.  I’ve never known why they put in so much work only to discard the results.  In keeping with the content of the piece, the experience taught me a lot and revealed just how much I stand to learn in the arena of publishing my writing.  That was over a year ago.  Since then I’ve thought about the points that I was attempting to share with a twinge of regret since they never made it out into the world.  In any given piece of writing, it is the content that matters more to me than other elements.  Perhaps that puts me in the minority and will ensure that I never become more than someone who writes for merely personal gains.  In the case of this piece, I recognize that the quality may not be great, but the points I was attempting to make were nonetheless important to me.  Furthermore, I’ve had enough glimpses into others’ experiences to know that what I say here doesn’t just reflect my reality, but also that of other moms working their darnedest to balance their professional and parenting ambitions.  Currently, I’m wrapping up another round of hard-won lessons in that very area, and my MFT reminded me that while I may have thought that I was working on a project based in this material world of ours, I was actually working on some spiritual growth.  I’m always grateful to have the trusted insight of another person to help me put together the story of my life because it can be tricky to craft a version that leaves me with no regrets in spite of what I’d aptly describe as failures.  I’m grateful to have this independent space in which to present a summary of that analysis that’s polished just enough for public viewing.  There is real healing for me in that multi-staged reflective process.  With that said, today is finally the day to stand by what I wrote, even if it’s not exactly what a couple editors deemed appropriate for their publication.   

Growth Notes
Since becoming a mom, relentless obstacles have been my daily routine. What had begun to feel like a continuous stream of suffering shifted into a discovery process as I figured out how to confront what challenged me. My process of reflection began in earnest when I realized that I was engaged in the unpleasantness of growing, and that the impetus for so much of what challenged me was the choices that I had made with respect to the very thing that I had wanted for so long, to be a mom. Once I was able to see that I had placed myself in each predicament expressly to learn and grow, I was empowered to do so. Along the way my understanding of the personal growth process deepened. I’ve gathered my principle insights, along with the strategies that either helped me discover them in the first place or to keep them in practice, into a list of notes to self. Because there will most certainly be a next time, and I’m hoping to make it through with a little more grace and a little less pressure.

Growth Note One: Hardship is a sign of hard work being done beneath the surface
Given that I often felt depressed and completely void of confidence in my early days of motherhood, it was no surprise that things in my life were not going too well. But beyond that simple cause and effect relationship, I came to see that there was more going on. I’m not sure that it’s important to extensively analyze our life’s circumstances, but I have come to see that it can be very helpful to remember that there is nearly always more at play than meets the eye. In the case of my foray into motherhood, I had built up a romanticized view of growth and parenting as principally positive experiences.

I was due for a reminder that growth is messy and painful.  Only then could I enjoy a reinvigoration of my self-discovery process that reminded me of my own personal tendencies, namely that I’m something of a personal growth enthusiast.  Once I realized that I was in the power seat, my sense of empowerment was primed to grow as I learned to fully inhabit the life I’d created for myself. I arrived at that clarity of understanding by continually changing my thought patterns around the situations that were frustrating to me. In short, I kept my mind moving. I have found that when my mind feels stuck, there is usually some other way to keep moving. Chores, taking a walk, running an errand, and visiting the park, have all been instrumental in shifting my perspective.  In all likelihood, I got the idea to redirect myself from my son, and the non-stop pace of engagement that so typifies us in our early years.  More often than not, he is with me when I’m feeling stuck and it turns out that he’s quite happy with a change of scenery too.

Growth Note Two: Change is Integral to Being a Parent
Becoming a parent initiated such a large degree of change in my life that it took me a while to get my bearings. Now that I have settled into my new identity as a mom, it seems so obvious that my struggles were par for the course, and that I could approach them with the same spirit of expansion that I’ve embodied throughout my life. Perhaps the enormity of the change that parenting brings is intrinsically disorienting, as to make us forget some of our most common strategies for responding to the circumstances of life. At this point, I’ve had enough fellow parents confirm my assessment to have established something of an expectation. Of course the content varies, but everybody tells me the same thing: your life will never be the same. Mostly I take this open-ended statement as a consolation and a reminder to be kind to myself. Whatever the inevitabilities of parenting are, we have a choice as to how we respond to them and I tend to think that kindness is a reliable guide.

Growth Note Three: Unlearned Lessons Get Repeated
I am enamored with the idea that through cycles of growth we are given multiple opportunities to work with our most private matters, the beliefs about ourselves and our place in the world that are so ingrained in our thinking that we are completely blind to them.  Being eager to shed whatever keeps me from growing, I’m inclined to honor my subconscious and work to remove the blinders.  It has become apparent to me that spending so much time with my son is a very effective means of doing this.  By witnessing my son’s progression through the many stages of development, I’ve found a way of uncovering what lurks in the recesses of my mind.  When I have a bout of what most of us would call negative thinking – feeling angry, defensive, anxious, argumentative, anything unpleasant – I’ve come to understand that a long forgotten memory is surfacing.  That’s an invitation to take a little more time and care with myself in order to figure out what it is and how to address it.  I believe that I have discovered and healed many personal wounds only because of the nearly constant companionship of my son, another person passing through the age at which I was originally wounded. No one else could trigger such insights because I’m not so close to any other person of his age.  Given the intensity of practice I’ve had in the past couple years, it has become easier to identify the messages hidden in my emotions and to recognize the influence they wield even though they rarely come to the surface of my consciousness. I’ve come to embrace the unpleasant thoughts when they arise because I have learned how to deflate them once I am aware of them.

Growth Note Four: We Each Have Our Time
I’ve come to see our family of three as a continually expanding entity. Usually one of us is in the growth hot spot and that designates the rest of us to support roles. While we do indeed grow the most in the earliest days of our lives, that type of growth is distinct enough from the more intellectual rigors of adult growth that the two can occur simultaneously. Perhaps some divine design is at play, I have often marveled at how I could be tending to my son’s needs with apparent success while addressing my intense emotional ones. In a way, I feel that it has been to our benefit that I was equally engaged with my own personal work as he was with his, it seems to have given us each a space of our own in close proximity to each other. As I finally catch my stride and anticipate slightly smoother terrain ahead on my own path, it seems reasonable to expect that I will be more available to support my son as he takes on his own increasingly complicated challenges. My practice of self-care has served me well, so much so that it has become habitual and the foundation of my career.  For me, self-reflection goes hand in hand with growing and having some space for that is essential.

Growth Note Five: We All Learn From Each Other
The general parenting idea that has yielded ongoing inspiration for me is the notion that we are all equal in the arena of learning. Just as my son learns from me, so do I from him. With respect to growing pains, little ones experience many: teething, the frustration at the slowness of the tongue in comparison to the quickness of the mind, the rage of disappointment when good ideas are not realized; and I am constantly reminding myself that growth and suffering are two sides of the same coin. In time I realized that my son’s growth experiences could serve as signposts to my own and that simply paying attention to what is happening with him can provide me with lots of learning opportunities. I cannot think of a better framework for learning than one of curiosity and enjoyment. And so it follows that the natural act of taking joy in my child’s company can set my learning in motion.


I’ve been a mother for a little under three years, and already I feel that I’ve undergone extensive transformation. I am currently enjoying a hard-won respite from the demanding lessons of recent years. In all aspects of my life, I seem to have progressed beyond what challenged me. I take this as validation of my interpretations, and a possible guarantee of future successes. I am now more comfortable with the reality that my continual expansion will bring me face to face with the inextricable pairings of challenge and triumph, anguish and joy. I’ve worked with these ideas enough now to have faith that the next time I’m overwhelmed by the mess and the pain of growing, the grace of a blessing is within my reach.

The Luck of the Early Bird

Sun rising over San Francisco's Palace of Fine Arts

Sun rising over San Francisco’s beautiful Palace of Fine Arts

Two little things.
1). Recently  I’ve been waking up absurdly early  – around 4a – and not going back to sleep.  My mind is brimming with tasks to complete, ideas to evaluate, and plans to confirm, all for Pilates Origins.
2).  Spring forward means my kid now gets up at 7a instead of 6a.

Those two things that could easily be cause for upset in my orderly mind have made day one of DST doable.  Surprisingly, I’m not complaining about spring forward.  Nor am I disoriented – at least no more than I was yesterday.  For the first time in my personally recorded history, I’m cool with DST.  I’m choosing to call that a case of good luck.  Furthermore, I’m choosing to mark my gratitude here so that if I change my tune in the near future, I’ll have some means of recalling my positive outlook.

It’s nice to know that through some strange twist of circumstance I can arrive at a different perspective on a topic that I’ve always seen the same way.  That feels like something of a mental breakthrough no matter how funnily it came along.  Perhaps my overall outlook on life is shifting toward the sunny side – that would be great.  Whatever it is I’ll take it, and enjoy it while it lasts.

With that personal note made, I’m jumping back into the fast lane.

My Thoughts on Self Promotion in the Pilates World

The Isle of Man looking far lovelier than as a prison

The Isle of Man looking far lovelier than as a prison

I started writing in this space for a few reasons.  A big part of how I chose to set up the space was to write under a pen name.  My husband has tried to convince me to drop the name many times over and yet I’ve stuck by it.  When I opened this space I was burned out on the Pilates personalities that I’d been working with.  Traversing the psychology of my teachers was an exhausting labor that I’d taken on in my quest for knowledge.  When I turned my attention toward being a mom, I no longer had the energy to hold other people’s stuff.  I am biased in believing that is what we ultimately do when we accept others’ personality quirks and stifle our own frustrations with them in order to complete some sort of task, be it learning or producing some sort of event in which we play host and organizer.  I also did not want to inflict my personality on others.  I wanted to have a place where I could share what I know and the insights that I’ve gained through experience without blatantly promoting myself.  I wanted the ideas to be enough.  Because I believe that while we must live out our lives in a series of actions and interactions, if we apply some analysis to those activities we can improve.  But the two things are often separate.  Having a space for ideas makes sense to me.  It gives me a place to put my thoughts so I can keep on living in the present.  And I hope that it offers others a place to do the same.

For what felt like a long while, I had very few people reading my posts.  That was fine on a couple levels since the space was in large part for me and my posts are sometimes more stream of consciousness than most readers would like.  But I am by nature ambitious and I wanted my ideas to be “out there”.  At least a little bit.  Somebody suggested that I post on FB and so I did.  And then somebody who had started another FB forum invited me to join it.  That is when I started to share my posts, only the ones that I felt were relevant to that community.  And people did start to read them.  I have little idea what they thought, but at least they stopped by and had a look.

Once I turned that corner, I came to realize that all bloggers with success engage in self-promotion to a degree.  In most cases, people are writing as themselves and so when they know people in the real world those people also know about their blog.  I had naively thought at one point that blog friendships could happen online.  Not so – they happen in the real world and are merely mentioned in the blogosphere.  I had effectively cut myself off from that avenue of promoting my writing through the nature of my blog.  Creating a space apart from the real world had some serious ramifications, as my husband had pointed out.

Following that thread of insight further along it’s fairly obvious that at a basic level we are all self-promoting.  Anybody who thinks otherwise is fooling themselves.  For a long time I held a romantic story in my imagination about how someday I would be noticed and supported in becoming something more than my lowly beginnings in the midwest.  It’s the story of fairytales and being “discovered” by some talent scout.  In all candor, I carried that romantic ideal into my adult life and my Pilates training.  It is in the Pilates world too – how many people tout that Romana or some other great teacher called them a star or honored them with some title of expertise?  Apart from the fact that I’m not that person, and perhaps because of that I had to learn through time and experience that I was the one that had to do the discovering of what I have to offer this world.  And then I have to have the courage to present it to the world.  No one is going to introduce me to the broader world, I have to do that myself.  Most of us do.  In reality even the stars do.  I’ve spent enough time in LA to see all the people clamoring for their moment in the spotlight to be seen and “discovered”.  We are all self-promoter in one way or another.

And finally, this discussion would be incomplete were I not to point out that Joe Pilates was a fierce self-promoter.  He traveled to a new country twice to do his work.  In NYC, he was a stranger in a new world, and for the second time he was living in a place that was at war with his nation of origin.  Germans were not popular in the US in Joe Pilates day, he had no choice but to self promote.  I think that’s important to remember.  The work of Pilates builds our confidence from the inside out.  It makes us into self-promoters because we become so impassioned about the work that has fortified us for living a productive and meaningful life.  While it is always important to temper ourselves and our tendencies and I believe in a constant process of self improvement which lends itself to being more cooperative than a purely self-interested person would be, I think it’s equally important to know our roots.  Pilates started with a passionate hot headed genius who carried out the work of his dreams in a sea of strangers who were bound to misunderstand him.  He did it his work and enough people got it to carry it on till today.  At some fundamental level, self promotion is the reason that we have Pilates today.

On one of the forums that I joined under my pen name way back when, there is currently a thread on the topic of self-promotion.   It hits a chord within me for obvious reasons.  I am very much of the mind that I want to participate in the community in a larger way than just promoting my own work.  But I’m bound by my choice to be anonymous and so I end up doing the very thing that I set out not to do.  I wanted to explain myself a little more thoroughly somewhere, and this is the place.  And to make a broader general point, that our actions are usually the result of complicated mental machinations.  We each have our reasons for participating in any given community the way that we do.  Which is all the more reason to practice compassion and maintain an attitude of curiosity.  We will learn far more from those perspectives than from quick judgements based purely on outward behavior.

Here’s to learning to accept the important role that strong individuals play in a thriving society even if that means accepting the reality of self promotion.

And to bring my point just a little further home, I’ll add a quotation from the Orson Scott Card novel that I’m currently reading because I love it when an idea I’m currently marinating on shows up in an unexpected way:
“‘I’ll tell you what I think, ‘ said Wiggin.  ‘I think you don’t grow up until you stop worrying about other people’s purposes or lack of them and find the purposes you believe in for yourself'”

My Plug for the Pilates MAT

open leg rocker

open leg rocker at Squam Lake, 2013

It’s time for March MATness again and I’m pretty happy about it because last year was the first time I caught wind of it and it was already underway when I did.  Not that I’m that much more on top of my game this year, but at least this post is going up on March 1st.  And I’ve already got a message out to my clients.  For me being an in-home mom and studio owner, it’s a great way to feel connected to the Pilates community “out there”  and I’m sure that I’m not the only one who is constrained in that way.  Hooray for the internerd!

For people who are used to taking mat classes but want to build a daily home practice, I’ve got just the videos, Pilates I and Pilates II are the mat exercises in real time without the official Pilates Mat (that’s why I perform a version of the roll up that I teach to folks with sensitive backs or no strap).

And if you’re looking for a little inspiration, here’s what my Pilates Mat work did for me back in 2013.

Let the MATness begin!

Pilates Plus Life

Sometimes the only choice is to keep on going.

Sometimes the only choice is to keep on going.

I read something online recently that pulled at my heart and mind.  It’s a notion that I’ve heard over and over again throughout my years in the Pilates world:  that we Pilates enthusiasts must embrace our lives beyond Pilates because there is more to life than Pilates.  On the one hand I say, here here!  On the other hand I sadly say that sometimes my life feels all about Pilates.  There are a couple reasons why, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone which is why I’m inclined to share.

I am not wealthy now and I never have been.  I grew up with divorced parents and lived with my single mom.  I left my home state when I graduated from college and moved alone to a place where I didn’t know anybody.  It happened to be one of the most expensive places to live in the United States of America and I’ve been hustling ever since.  I have always been determined to follow my dreams.  Dreams first, everything else second.

This has meant that pretty much all my resources have gone into my Pilates training and little studio.  I don’t know from experience, but I imagine that wealth affords us a bit of distance between time and money.  We can luxuriate more in the fun of life because we don’t have to be earning every available moment to cover our bills.  For me, the link between the time and money has always been pretty short.  It’s meant that I haven’t had the spare time to build community around other pastimes.  I’ve done my best and have had pockets of fun here and there with dance, tennis, and other interests, and I do love my craft projects, but these days life is mostly about work.  And family.

Aside from work, I did also manage to find a mate out here in the wild west and we have a son.  My husband has his own business.  Between our businesses and our child, we are packed schedule-wise.  I don’t like it at all.  In my head or out loud, I complain about it most days.  Which I realize is a personal problem that I can address.  But there it is.  Dreams first.  Neither my husband nor I is ever ready to throw in the towel at the exact same time that the other one is so we keep on going.  With time I do believe that we have become more tenacious which is a blessing and a curse.  As a means of emotional survival, I keep working my mind to find the little nuggets of joy that sparkle up my days.

I tend toward the introverted side of the scale and along with that goes being sensitive to my environment.  I noticed something back when my teaching practice was really full and I was talking for several hours a day all the while engaging in the peculiar brand of relationship that Pilates instructors have with their clients (I call it intimacy with strangers).  I stopped listening to music or NPR in the car (I love music and have always listened to the radio) – I needed the quiet.  The fullness of my teaching practice and my sensitive nature demanded that I retreat when I wasn’t working.  Which was fine, but where were the fun social activities?  There weren’t many.  That could be fine for a span of time right?  We all have different phases of life.  I also live far from longtime friends and family so I don’t have those regular social interactions happening around me as I would if I lived back in Michigan and I have a sort of wacky spread out family anyway.  All that adds up to even less social time.

Then I became a mom and I tried to do it my way.  I was determined to keep my work with my little studio right under our home, and even more than that I was determined to keep connected to my son.  My dream of being a mom has always been my biggest and dreams come first.  I’m glad that I’ve done it my way even though it has been the most difficult thing that I’ve ever done – by far – and I’m not even four years in.  Compounding the challenges has been the extreme loneliness.  I never joined a moms group because I didn’t have time – I work when other parents play with their kids.  Unlike working moms who still have their colleagues, I work alone and I’ve become much clearer on the boundaries between professional and personal relationships thanks to a few instances of professional relationships gone “bad”.  Bottom line is that it’s hard and lonely to do things in an unconventional way.

Looking back I can see how it all fits together to create the life that I’m currently living.  The life that frustrates me.  My singular focus on following my dreams no matter the cost, the challenge of building a life far from my original home, how I needed to respond to the particular demands of my work, and how that all set me up for being even more isolated as a new mom than I would have otherwise been.  It’s true that it’s my design and that I have the power to change it.  But it is also a rather tangled web of desires and knowing which thread to pull free in order to loosen it all up is difficult.

I’m trying my darnedest not to feel pitiful, I’m trying not to whine.  But I’m also trying to understand.  I’m trying to figure out why I’m not perfectly happy living the life of my design because clearly this was not the plan.  I’m pretty sure that I’m close to cracking it, I’ve got almost all the pieces perfectly in place.  In the meantime I mull over the ideals and compare them to my reality and try to stay positive.

When I read that same old idea, one of my guiding lights in putting together my life I felt sad and compelled to dig a little deeper into the topic and shed some light on the complications that make setting up the perfectly balanced life such an involved project.  Against the odds, I do believe that we can all get there.  Sometimes writing it out serves us toward that end.