Apr 2, 2014

Is THIS Why People Label Their Lunch?

I always laugh when I see lunch in the office fridge labeled with the owner's name. I mean, if someone's going to steal your lunch, I feel like knowing whose lunch they are taking would give them even more pleasure. I've had my lunch stolen and I don't think that having my name on it would have made a difference. But it occurred to me today that labeling lunch may be for the owner's sake more than the rest of the office. 

Here's the thing—I have a terrible memory. Last week when I went to get ice out of the freezer for the soda I shouldn't be drinking, I noticed a Jimmy Dean breakfast bowl and paused wondering, "Is that mine?" I quickly let it go realizing that other people probably like and purchase these things just like me. But today I came back from running errands and went to throw a Jimmy Dean breakfast bowl in the freezer, saw the other was still there, and realized it's a very real possibility that it's mine and I just forgot that I had it in there. Had I labeled it, I would know.

So now what? Do I leave a note? "Fellow office mates, I cannot remember if this is mine or not, so kindly write back if it's yours." Do I give it another week and if it's still there eat it and hope it was mine in the first place? Do I eat it and leave a note that I have eaten it because I thought it was mine but if it wasn't I am sorry and let me know I'll give you $2? Do I try to forget about its existence in those moments I am super hungry in my office at an odd time? See, this all could have been avoided if I had just labeled my lunch, or if I didn't work in an office in the first place. But seems the former is the much more viable option at the moment. (Clearly though, I did not learn my lesson because I didn't label the new one I just threw in there either.) 

This is likely why I will never create world peace. I'm too busy trying to remember if I bought myself food. Well, that and the laziness. To eat or not to eat? THAT is the question.

Mar 23, 2014

Stay Present. Staying Sane. (A Repost from Tumblr.)

I started a Tumblr. account a few months ago because someone said I just had to. He was so adamant I figured I'd look into it. I decided I'd use it for shorter blog posts and mostly yoga musings. Shorter posts, okay, but longer posts, well this site has been my brain dump for a lot of years, so I feel that this particular post so live here. So here's a post from about a month ago that actually ties in nicely to the dharma talk post I just put up. Or maybe I just talk about the same things. Either way...here you go:

“If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.” ― Laozi

Yoga philosophy talks a lot about staying the present moment. It’s part of yoga’s basic purpose - to stop the fluctuations of the mind (yoga chitta vritti nirodha). It’s a fact that this is pretty hard to do, but like many lessons in life, they are only truly learned when experienced. You can tell me all you want that I should stay present, that living in the past or the future is not going to do anything to help my mental state now, but last night, for the first time, I really truly felt this. (Not to say I am going to be any better at it, but the universe painted a nice picture for me.)
Battling an epic week of the ever-fun PMS, last night I sat across from a man that I am in love with, in tears. There was no rationalizing away the emotions, my hormone-soaked brain was going to do as it pleased. But when I woke up this morning, I realized that the two things I was upset about were not happening right now. I was anxious about something that happened in the past and sad about something looming in the distance. (So, opposite of Laozi’s quote, but same-same in the end.) If I had just stopped at looked at my present situation, I would have seen everything was good in that moment. 
We can’t control what the future holds. We can try to affect it, be the best people we can, and hope for the best, but that’s different than attaching yourself to a certain outcome. Life is going to hand you what it hands you and it’s how you deal with it that makes who you are. And hey, not every present moment is good. So it’s not to say that if you can manage to live in the moment you are always going to be a perfectly happy person. Sometimes the present is hard. But it’s where you are and it’s what you have. The past is gone. That doesn’t mean it’s forgotten, but it’s not meant to be clung to either. 
Hormones aside, I could have saved myself a bit of heartache last night. But the best part about life is that we get to try again each day. :)

My First Dharma Talk

I’ve been doing a lot of reading on the ideas of non-attachment and non-possessiveness. They talk about how suffering comes from clinging to possessions, people, or even a thoughts; how you’d like something in the future to turn out, or reliving how something in the past did turn out. These things, people, and emotions can start to define who we think we are. And when life changes and circumstances change, as they always do, it’s this attachment that causes us to feel like we’ve lost something, that we’ve lost a part of ourselves, or that we are somehow less than we were before. And we suffer.

A lot of depression is said to come from looking to the past and anxiety from anticipation of the future, which is exactly why the right now is so important. What we should try to do—which is difficult at best—is to let go of expectations, of the idea that if we get the next iPhone or a new outfit that we will be happier, or that someone else can make us feel complete. Sure, you might feel a sense of excitement after a shopping spree, but as time goes by you find that those things that at one time made you so happy just don’t anymore.

Non-attachment does not mean to stop caring but it does mean to not depend on someone or something external as a necessary condition for our own happiness and contentment. But the great thing about that is that everything you actually need to be happy is inside of you. I read a great quote that sums all this up succinctly, “Detachment is not that you should own nothing. It’s that nothing should own you.”

So take a moment and think about something that is owning you at the moment. Your job? A relationship? A new car? A fight with a friend? As you in inhale think, “let,” and as you exhale think, “go.” Let. Go.

Mar 20, 2014

It's Just...I Mean...Really?...I Can't.

It's been awhile since I've done a Jen-rants-like-a-lunatic-post, so yea, we're due. Here's the thing. I have a lot going on in my life right now. Like big life change type of things. Not like, I need a pedicure and I hope I get to yoga later. I'm sure (hopefullly sooner than later) it will all sort itself out and I will go skipping into the sunset yelling, "Weeeee! Life is just dandy!" and then I'll do a dropback into a backbend because that would just be pretty freaking awesome. But that's not now. Now is me having a near meltdown in a Verizon store.

But what did Verizon do? Let's go back to...yesterday. Yesterday I decided I no longer wanted my work phone and personal phone to peaceably coexist together. So I requested my phone number back from my company. Easy. But they informed me that I would need to pay full price for a phone since it's the same contract and I'm not due for an upgrade until July. Le boo. I called Verizon this morning and they told me that's not the case, it's considered a new contract and I could get the new contract pricing. Yay!

At lunch time I trucked on over (well I Honda'd on over) to the Verizon store where they informed me that the lady on the phone was mistaken, I would have to pay full retail price. This after he assured me that there's no way a company would so easily hand over a phone number. Well Negative Nancy, or well, Josh, was wrong about that one. But not about the price thing. He checks with the manager who says the same thing. I figured I would just get a new phone number which is a big pain in the butt, but hey, sometimes change is good. Let go of the past, right? But first I called Verizon back to see if they could help. And then did. Yay!

Back into the store I went and Josh (I don't even know if that's his name but go with me here) says, "Just because they added something in the notes doesn't mean I can do anything." Why so negative Josh? Why? But alas, my upgrade date was changed and all was right with the world again. Then I had to spend twenty minutes on the phone with another gentleman who was helping Josh transfer over my number because he stuck. 

"Do you want insurance?" he asked.

Ok done. Onto phone selection. I wanted the iPhone 4s 16gb because it'd be cheap. And I like cheap. Josh tells me no bueno, not available. After some mulling it over, "I just said, eh screw it, let's do the 5s." Josh then informs me about the Verizon Edge program. Except, 90 percent of the details he gave me weren't even a little bit true. His fantasy version sounded fantastic, so I went with it. Now I've got a new phone...hooray! 

On the drive back to work, I realize both of my phones are working, which is, weird at best. So when I got back to the office I called Verizon to find out why. The first thing the guy says to me is, "You've got insurance, great!" 

"Hold up there - I specifically said I did NOT want insurance."
"Oh, well I'll take it off. It will go into effect next month, so you'll just pay the first month."
"But why would I do that? Why would I pay for something I specifically said I didn't want?"
"Oh, ok, I'll give you a $10 credit then."

After being transferred twice, the nice lady on the other end knew exactly what was wrong—they never told me to shut down the first phone when they set up the second. Easy fix. Great. I asked her to confirm the insurance had been removed. It hadn't. I explained my previous conversation and she agreed, "That makes no sense, I will just delete it." Great. 

Fast forward to getting home from work and me sitting down to make the new iPhone just like the old iPhone (part of the reason I stuck with iPhone, easy peasy). While I waited, I started thinking, "Hmmm...I'm paying $17 a month for Verizon Edge. Sure I can upgrade after a year but I will have paid $204. If I keep it for two years that's $408." (You like that quick math?) That's when I started to realize that for someone like me who would just as soon still have her old Nokia and be playing snake, Verizon Edge is fucked. 

I once again call the 800 number and explain that Josh didn't so much base any of his information in reality and I'd just rather pay the $200 and be done with it. Sure, she said. But I'd have to go back to the store and return the phone and start over. Ugh. So I walk on over to the store near home and tell them the situation. What do I encounter? Another Negative Nancy. But we'll call him Joey, because he's got that thick New York accent and he's just probably a Joey. Or Anthony. Tony, sorry. Joey Tony tells me this is a big hassle, it's going to take him like two hours to complete this. Straightfaced I said, "Ok."

This is when manager steps in and tries to explain to me all of the reasons Edge is great. And look, I get it. I know people who upgrade wheneverthefuckpossible. Or pay out of pocket because they just NEED the newest phone. As I previously mentioned...not me. So this "discussion" I will call it, went on for about ten minutes. Now I'm just so frustrated I am near tears and just softly asking him to make it stop, I just want a regular contract.

After he agrees, he continues to try to sell me insurance. The woman behind the counter started the process and informed me I'd have to pay a restocking fee. How about...no? Yea, no. So she figured out a way I wouldn't have to after I asked why, why, can two Verizon employees not tell me the same story? Why? She continued working. But here's where they got me. Here's where I felt like I was absolutely going to lose my mind. After an entire day of dealing with misinformation, miscommunication and some bad math on my part, the manager says to me, "Do you have an iPad? Because we are having a really  great sale on iPads right now."

Seriously? You're seriously trying to sell me an iPad after I tell you the day I've had with Verizon, after you argue with me about cancelling Edge because Joey Tony doesn't want to I don't know, do his job and help me out, try to charge ME fees for the happy Edge story Verizon gave me, then you're going to try to sell me an iPad. What. The. Fuck. 

The lady behind the counter got it all sorted it out. I paid for the phone. And one last time manager reminded me I had thirty days to buy insurance. (BTW Joey Tony, it only took 20 minutes to get everything sorted. Not two hours.) I headed out and thought, if there's a god, I will NOT drop my phone in the toilet tomorrow and have to go back to Verizon. 

Mar 10, 2014

The Best Thing I've Seen Yet

I had the unique honor of watching one of my best friends give birth this past Friday and photographing the event. I wasn't sure what to expect and definitely had no idea how my body would react (Would I pass out? I've never fainted before. Seems like if ever there was a time I could potentially faint, this would be it...). From the quiet moments before to the changed lives after—I don't really have the words to describe what it was like to see a new life begin, other than to say it touched me in a way I didn't anticipate and will never forget. 

Congratulations to the Falk family!

Jan 28, 2014

Boobies, Boys, and Bitches

This past weekend in teacher training I learned that I am still not quite doing downward dog correctly. Granted, I may have been overcompensating because it had been pointed out before, but anyway, still not right. Seems I round too much in my thoracic spine, which is pretty much the exact opposite of what I thought I was doing. I also learned that this arch is a good little indicator of osteoporosis and becoming a little old hunched back lady. So that got me walking around for the rest of the day with my shoulders rolled back and standing tall. 

After a couple of hours with proper posture, I realized it's not just uncomfortable because of how the muscles have weakened from not being engaged, but it's also uncomfortable because I feel exposed. That's why in yoga backbends are also known as heart openers. They help you practice vulnerability. When you're in a backbend you're leading with your heart, not tucking it away. But practice this enough and it can make you more emotionally open and more compassionate. But if you've spent years protecting your heart, it's not so easy to just let it shine. 

I remember a few years ago trying to get into camel. It was too much for me and I would panic. My heart would race, my breathing would become shallow, and I'd have to come out of it. One day my teacher said to me, "Just drop back. Nothing is going to happen to you." I realized he was right and the pose became one of exhilaration instead of a place of fear.

We all live with a lifetime of weight from spats with our friends, spats with people who aren't our friends, relationships that came and went, job stress, and for some of us, the unique challenges that come with boobies. Seriously. I remember them being pointed out from the second they made their awkward little appearance on my chest. The first instinct then is to round the shoulders forward and try to make the chest look flatter. Well, it was mine anyway. But all of that, life in general, can make it hard to not want to protect yourself, which can physically express itself as rounded shoulders. Couple that with sitting in front of a computer all day, like many of us do, and there can be a lot of work to do on that heart opening. 

I can't imagine a better time for me to be in teacher training and to be exactly where I am in my life right now. I think about the other times I considered getting more involved with yoga and they just weren't the right times. I wasn't ready. So while my downward dog could use some work, I've realized it's the perfect time to work on it because life is good. In fact, life is pretty great. I am safe and I don't have the negativity that used to seem to hover everywhere—you know, all that stuff that the hunched shoulders were trying to keep out. 

What about you? Take a moment to sit up straight. Lift your shoulders up towards your ears and then roll them back and down. Sit. Breathe. How does it feel? Are you uncomfortable? If so, why? 

I think a lot of us can work on this. And then maybe we'd all be a little nicer to each other and to ourselves. :)

Jan 23, 2014

Sometimes Things are Exactly as They Seem

We got a lot of snow this week. Aside from generally sucking, it makes parking in the Hoboken/Weehawken area something that takes the stars aligning to accomplish. But yesterday, I headed up the boyfriend's place around 10 p.m. and got parking right in front of his building. Awesome.

It was also garbage night, and oh boy, was it piled up. So, while parking, I managed to dislodge a bag from it's pile and it got stuck under my tire. After expressing my concern about the snow and the garbage and whether or not I'd be able to get my car out in the morning, my wonderful boyfriend helped me get the bag of garbage out from under my car.

"All the snow everywhere and you manage to run over garbage," he noted. Well, yea, welcome to being Jen Minchin. But whatever, garbage issue solved.

This morning, I was leaving for work and my car was making a weird new noise. My car has been through the ringer the past year so I just assume weird things are going to continue to happen until one day I am driving and it just falls apart around me. Then I'll be all Fred Flintstone like pushing a car frame down Route 3 with my feet. Anyways, so my car is making this weird noise. I texted my friend and described it as, "metal scraping the pavement." But I figured since it's been, I don't know, all of 7 degrees out, there was probably ice stuck somewhere and the whole thing would just resolve itself. I turned the radio up.

Traffic today was horrendous, which, in retrospect was fairly convenient. As I was sitting in traffic a woman stopped next to me motioning to the back of my car, but then drove away. I shrugged and kept rocking out to T. Swift. A couple of minutes later a guy in a white van pulled up next me and motioned for me to roll down my window. So I did.

"You have wire ALL OVER the back of your car!" He warned.
"Interesting," I thought.

Then dude jumps out of his van and tries to get it off of my car. (That's where the aforementioned convenient bumper-to-bumper traffic comes in.) But alas, the wire wasn't going anywhere. He told me to try a gas station and see if they had wire cutters. So, I did. When I pulled into the gas station and got out of my car I laughed at how ridiculous the situation was. There was like four feet of tangled up barbed wire-like coils hanging from my muffler trailing behind the car like a metal wedding veil. But, good to know my sound deduction skills are dead on. It WAS metal scraping the pavement. (What the hell was in that garbage I ran over last night??)

Here's an artist's rendering of the situation:

I managed to get the wires off of my muffler just as the guy from the white van pulled up behind me letting me know he found wire cutters. (See, there are good people left in this world!) I discarded the strange coiled wires in the gas station's garbage and I headed back out into the standstill traffic...which was no longer convenient.

Dec 23, 2013

I Made It Through

In yoga class yesterday, my teacher wrapped up class with a dharma talk about having good years and bad years. It's possible that you had a great 2013, but that won't be every year. It's possible you had a terrible 2013—that also won't be every year. But it's the years that are hard, that rip you open and make you raw, where you can learn the most. I'd say, without a doubt, this is true in my case. 

As I laid there listening to her talk, before I knew it, I was in tears. Thinking back on this year is overwhelming, not just because of the bad, but because of how it all was able to turn around. 

The four months leading up to Grams passing were an absolute pressure cooker, and when it finally happened, it just blew the lid off of everything. There was definitely a period of shock. I remember thinking immediately afterwards, "I think I'm ok. She's out of pain. This is a good thing." I was numb. And when that wore off there was the deepest grief I have ever known. 

After a few months, when I was able to pick myself up a little and breathe, I knew it was time to lay to rest all of the shit that had been just sitting in my head for years. So I entered a period of intense introspection and rebuilding. And I took steps to do more of things I wanted and make myself feel more whole. One of those steps was starting yoga teacher training, which has been an absolutely transformative experience. 

Everything started to mean a little more and shine a little brighter. And it's all because in losing her, I could see clearly what really mattered, what was worth holding onto, and what wasn't. I will forever be indebted to her not just for everything she did for me my entire life, but for giving me that one last gift of learning how to let go.

Now, as I look back at the year, I can't believe it's almost over. I cannot believe it has been almost a year since that night in January when I felt like I had lost everything. I also can't believe that a year that started so incredibly terrible could end so very well. I don't think I've ever been happier than I am right now. So I am taking 2013, the good and the bad, the pain and the happiness, and am offering it all up to Aggie and all of the lessons she taught us, and those we still have yet to learn.