Wednesday, February 24, 2010


My mother has Alzheimer's. She started to repeat herself over and over, forget things and be disoriented ten years ago. As her symptoms progressed, Ifelt the mother that I knew as my mother fading out of the picture more and more. My mother and I were very close. She was someone I could talk to about anything. She was an avid skiier past the age of seventy and had many friends. She participated regularly in her synagogue activities and was very generous to many charities. She was a warm loving woman. She also had this edge to her. She wasn't a person to be messed with. She could be critical and mean. She was smart and could use that intelligence to know exactly what to say to me that I would feel flattened by. One of my greatest life challenges was to learn to set clear boundaries with her because she could also be interfering and controlling if I let her. When I was a child I had two mothers:
One was eager to listen to me and interested in my life. She could show up emotionally and physically. I felt loved by her. The other mother would appear unexpectedly. As I grew older I began to recognize a certain tightness in her jaw as a sign to look out. She would be nasty and critical and mean-spirited for no apparent reason. She would slap me across the face. In therapy in my middle twenties I first realized that her raging had nothing to do with anything I actually did. Until then I believed that I had caused her anger and if only I was good enough and tried hard enough she would be happy and my other mother would return.
It was always confusing to me because I didn't know which mother I would get. I remember coming home from school with my stomach tied up in knots. I learned to be hyper-vigalent about her slightest unhappiness and to work really hard to make her happy. I learned to follow my father's example and stuff my anxiety under food. I learned to manage my discomfort by picking my nails and judging myself harshly.
After years of therapy, I learned to separate from my mother and to understand I couldn't make her happy. I learned more about where I left off and she started and about setting healthy boundaries to take care of myself in our relationship. She mellowed with age and seemed to realize that she couldn't guilt me into being happy according to what her pictures were of what happiness would look like for me.
As she aged she seemed to mitigate whatever pain had caused her raging and although she could still be very critical it seemed we were respecting each other's differences. We could be playful and have fun together much more easily. She had a silly side which meshed with mine and our little girls inside could play together and be goofy. We shared similar political views and a committment to service. She was my assistance at theLaughter Yoga Club I led at her independant living facility in Colorado Springs. As her symptoms worsened she moved to assisted living and then three years ago to an alzheimer's facility in New Mexico where my sister lives.
In the past few weeks Mom has been anxious and miserable and combative and angry. She is hitting caretakers and spitting out her medication. It is as if as part of her disease process, whatever defenses she was using to keep the rage in check have dissolved. My sister is exhausted from all the energy it is taking to deal with my mother's condition. She took her to a new doctor yesterday to try and get her medication stabilized. I feel guilty and helpless being far away and so grateful to my sister for all she does to care for my Mom. It's hard to see my Mom like this. I feel so much love for her and so sad that she is in so much pain. I try hard to be there for my sister and sometimes I just wish the whole thing would go away and I don't call my sister back as soon as I could. I feel guilty that my sister has so much of the burden of caring for my Mom.
What is all of this about for me? It's easy to trust in the universe when things are going well. It's way more challenging when I'm dealing with something I don't understand. Maybe this is about being present with all I am feeling and letting myself feel compassion for myself. That's quite a stretch when I am thinking about wishing my mother was dead. Did I really say that? It's quite liberating to admit that is true sometimes. When I really let the pain of all of this in I feel overpowering grief about losing my Mom and having her still be alive. The challenge is to feel it all. As I breathe into my sadness and the tears flow I can feel my heart expanding to make room for this. There is room in my heart for all of this-even this. Letting myself grieve really helps. When I let myself continue to cry and be with myself and allow myself to feel what I am feeling instead of stuffing it all under food, it really helps. That is my intention. Thanks for listening. It really helps to be heard, too.
Is there something you need to feel to make more room in your heart? Something you need to grieve or to let go of? Would you be willing to be with yourself and breathe, or write about it or talk with someone who cares about you? It really helps.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

New things

I get to take yoga classes for free at Whole Yoga because I teach there. All of the teachers were trained by the same group of people from the lineage that runs Shoshoni Yoga Retreat. Although all the teachers bring our own personalities and experience to our classes, I know I can expect quality classes with a spiritual perspective. I take one class a week and learn so much from the other teachers. It is nourishing for me personally and I get good ideas to use with my yoga students.
In the past month I decided to branch out. I have taken two workshops and a class with other teachers. My superb yoga teacher in Ylapa is strongly influenced by anusara yoga and since coming back I have wanted to learn more. This branch of yoga was created by John Friend. Anusara means stepping into the flow. I took a workshop in Boulder on fundamentals of anusara. It is a stretch for me to be a beginner again. In beginning to learn a whole new system, all of my stuff came up about doing it wrong. Many of the participants in the workshop were anusara yoga teachers or teachers in training. It was easy for me to feel like I didn't know what I was doing and criticize myself. Although my inner critic was alive and kicking, I noticed I also felt curiosity. It was progress that I was able to begin something new with the sense that there was a way that I really didn't know what I was doing and that being there to learn was OK. I came away from the workshop feeling a bit overwhelmed and confused and excited to try new things. The teacher was patient and clear and very good at demonstrating. I am going back for another workshop in two weeks.
Yesterday I went to a yoga class with another anusara teacher in Denver. The studio was dark and had no windows. There was loud heating that came on frequently that made it difficult for me to hear. I communicated my difficuly hearing. The teacher rarely demonstrated the poses and instead almost exclusively used verbal cues. This experience was very frustrating. Once again it brings to mind that the teacher of whatever the class is, whether it be yoga or underwater basket weaving makes a huge difference in the quality of the experience. This person was passionate about yoga and I learned some valuable things about alignment. I also learned more about what works for me and what doesn't.
It is good to know that I am in a place to be able to see difficult experiences as learning opportunuties more and more. I also took a zumba class and a Yin Yoga workshop. Zumba is aerobic dancing to envigorating latin music and Yin Yoga is a style of yoga where you hold sitting or reclining poses for five minutes. Both were very positive experiences and I recommend them. I am leaving for Sedona on Friday for a week and I look forward to taking the many yoga and zumba classes that are offered where we are staying. I hope I can be gentle with myself and enjoy myself and forgive myself when I don't. I learn so much from trying new things and believe it keeps my brain and body flexible and supports positive aging. It seems important to challenge ourselves to stretch into areas that may not be safe and comfortable, as well as participating in activities that are familiar and nourishing. Taking care of ourselves is an ongoing balancing act. It is crucial to notice our progress even if it seems small. I probably won't write next week because I want a week off while on vacation. I look forward to sharing with you when I return. What have you been wanting to try that you have been resisting? Invite your resistance in for tea and listen to it with compassion. Honor your fear and breathe into it. See if it is a fear you want to move beyond or not. If you do what would be the first step?

Thursday, February 4, 2010


I have done many fun things this week. Gary is out of town at the Gem show. I have been missing him and enjoying doing whatever I want. I have been thinking about how easy it is for me to take care of myself when Gary is out of town. When he is here on the weekend I think I need to defer to him. This isn't his idea. He is always supportive of me doing what I want to do. I have this idea that since we only see each other on the weekends that we should spend the weekend doing things together. That translates into convincing him to do what I want to do or not doing it. In this culture women are socialized to set themselves aside and defer to men. I grew up in a matriarchy masquerading as a patriarcy. My mother would pretend my father was running the show and actually she was manipulating him to do what she wanted to do. That was my model. Directly expressing what she wanted and needed wasn't part of the game. I think she didn't believe it was OK to want what she wanted so asking directly was too pushy or too much. She was a strong woman and mostly got what she wanted using guilt. I am aware that I want to do it differently. I want to learn to balance autonomy and intimacy. I want to learn to go inside and get clear about what I want by listening to my intuition and then communicating it directly. It seems when I am alone, it is easier to nurture myself. I can be the "queen of self-care" when I am by myself. Around Gary it is a challenge for me to call a friend and have a good relaxed talk without worrying about him. He isn't worrying about him. He is on the computer enjoying himself. Probably if I spent the whole day on the phone he would notice and be perturbed. I defer to him in my own mind by telling myself I can't do what I want to do unless he is willing to do it and then I resent him.
This drama is going on without his knowledge. It is I that feels like I have to cram things I want to do that he doesn't want to do into the weekdays. He has been much more willing to do active things on the weekends which I appreciate. Sometimes I fantacize being with a partner who would initiate doing active things and push me to be more active. On our vacation in ten days I am going to make space for Gary to be that person and give him the space to make suggestions before I jump in. I'd like to give my victum/resentment pattern a run for its money. Being on vacation together has always been a challenge for me. What would it be like to trust that I could do what I want to do and he could do what he wants to do and that sometimes we would be together and sometimes not. I'd like to do it without making proclamations to protect myself. One vacation I said I wanted the mornings to myself and that helped. Yet it seemed too rigid. What if I let my boundaries be supported by my intuition rather than erecting walls? What if I trusted that he was on my side? What if I trusted that I was on my side? Being on my own side would be trusting that what I want and need is important and communicating that directly and clearly and letting go of my attachment to the outcome. That would allow more of a flow about controlling what happens or doesn't happen. I think I could actually have way more fun. This self-care art is a balancing act. So I remember my spiritual path. Trust in the universe(listen to intuition) do my part( ask clearly and directly for what I want and need) and let go of the outcome ( let go of control and be willing to embrace what is)
Today I was reading a wonderful book called The Mermaids Chair in which the main character marries herself. She says ," I take you Jessie, for better or for worse to love and to cherish." That was inspiring to me and I did my own marriage ceremony with myself. Maybe that marriage to ourselves is the most important one we as woman will ever have, whether we participate in marriage with another or not. Have you thought about marrying yourself?
If you are a man have you thought about marrying yourself? Whether you are a man or a woman what are your thoughts about all of this?