Being Love

Words and Stories from a Beautiful Life

A quick note about Curt Schilling

What happened with Curt Schilling could teach republicans about what’s happening in their party right now, if they choose to look up from the chaos, and pay attention.


Here’s a middle aged white guy slash former professional athlete who, largely because of those descriptors, has been able to do and say whatever the hell he thinks and wants to his entire life.  I genuinely believe him that he doesn’t understand why he’s being punished and that he doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong. He’s doing and saying the same way, and same things, he’s been doing and saying forever without consequence. I get why it’s weird, or uncomfortable or even baffling that what went essentially unnoticed two, or three, or five years ago, is suddenly a cause for not only negative publicity but losing his job. It has to be a weird experience to be a particular way for almost 50 years and then wake up one day and suddenly be unemployed because of it.


But here’s the thing: We no longer live in a world where it’s acceptable to be outright racist, and homophobic and sexist (thank goodness). Mainstream culture has tipped just enough towards progressive for us to collectively generate a value system that prioritizes inclusivity, and equality over the ability for people to say and do whatever the fuck they want without consequence (thank goodness, again).


Not only that, the doing and saying of all sorts of horrifying and offensive things is no longer insulated, or easily contained to a person’s intimate circle of college buddies or misogynist co-workers. It’s safe to assume that if you have even so much as a big toe in the ring of public life, everything you say and do will be broadcast everywhere, pretty much as soon as you say or do it.


By the way, now is not the time I intend to debate the myriad pros and cons of this fact of our modern, bizarre, life. For purposes of this unsolicited advisory, I just accept it.


So, republican party leaders and conservatives in general, here’s the deal: You can continue to long for the good-old-days when: gays were living marginalized, less-than-full lives in the closet, and women were just happy to have a seat at the table and therefore not going to push any boundaries by asking for equal treatment (and pay), and all of us who have never been young african-american men in an encounter with a law enforcement officer had no access to what that experience might be like (I could go on)- and continue to be ignored or outright rejected by a new majority of people who have moved on with the evolution of our country’s culture.




you can acknowledge what’s really happening, and adjust your words and behavior and policies and practices to embrace the world we really live in and the people who are really living in it.


You are the metaphorical 49 year old man who has been making off-color jokes for 30 years and is finally being punished for them.


This is not the world you grew up in. It’s not even the world you lived in a year, or six months ago.


For god’s sake, TMZ was the first news outlet to break the news that Prince died.


TMZ. Not your local news anchor, not the New York Times, not even CNN.


By the time you read about it in the paper tomorrow, something else will have already captured our national attention.

The world will have moved on. And so should you.

27: Healing

I haven’t written on my blog since the week Brian died. Six months ago. On December 27, 2015, inspired by a feel-good article I read on the internet about Mark Zuckerberg, I resolved to write, every day, in 2016.

When I moved to Detroit on January 11th, I’d missed 10 days in a row.

I frequently compare myself to Mark Zuckerberg. We are the same age and graduated the same year from high school and college. He and his Harvard friends were inventing Facebook 3,000 miles from where me and my UCLA friends were transforming the lives of under-served youth, one game of freeze tag at a time.

Mark and I were on pace to contribute equally to humanity until he took a company public and became a billionaire before I got my first job with health insurance.

I’m the dark horse, but still believe I’ll catch up.

And the resolution to do something for 365 days in a row, just like he does, was bound to kick-start my comeback.

It’s been a less-than-inspiring start to my year of writing. I’ve channeled my limited energy for it through Facebook posts about my journey as a lifetime Californian, plucked from home on short notice, and planted in the middle of a Midwestern winter during the coldest month of the year. My cultural transplant adventure has all the elements of experience I love to write about: humor, irony, unexpected life lessons in ordinary, every day occurrences.

Despite the joy I feel from the encouraging messages and loving replies from my social media friends and family, my lack of motivation to dig into the deep stuff continues to plague me, and keep me from writing.

This morning, I’m thinking about the year I’ve had.

12 months ago, I was hobbling through my life with a mangled right knee and a stubborn refusal to acknowledge what I needed, physically and emotionally. I pushed forward through pain and frustration and anger and fear and resentment. I didn’t have the patience to slow down and take care of myself. I wanted the healing to be over before it even stared and my resistance, to everything, showed up all over my life.

I shudder when I think about the casualties strewn across my unintended war path.

11 months ago, I was at work an hour and a half before I went into surgery. My doctor recommended I take four to six weeks off. I compromised, and took four days. I remember bouncing around on crutches in my mom’s kitchen 36 hours after I got home from the hospital, gleefully declaring I’d be the fastest recovering ACL patient in history. By the end of the night, I was curled up on the couch, delirious and nauseous from medication and exhaustion. Those first two days were both a metaphor and a foreshadowing of the year I’ve had navigating recovery.

Bursts of energy and hope unexpectedly and dramatically upended by a setback. Over and over again.

5 months ago it was Thanksgiving. The peak insanity of a year-in-the-life of a retail manager was in full swing. I hustled around the floor of lululemon on Black Friday with the familiar agility of my pre-injury condition. I climbed to the top of the “big ladder” for the first time since March and logged more than 10,000 steps on my fitbit with limited soreness and only a twinge of hesitation in my turns and pivots. I was feeling healthy, but not healed.

My body was stitching itself back together but my heart was broken.

The morning of Brian’s death I was wearing speed shorts and tank top and the high support running shoes I bought in Boston because I was finally feeling capable of moderate physical activity and extra responsible for taking long-term care of my body. I was about to leave my breakfast spot for my physical therapist’s office when I got the devastating phone call from my mom. I’d planned to get serious about my “return to sport” plan and lock down a date for my first game back to adult soccer- planning for anything ceased immediately when I hung up the phone.

I spent the next three months mostly surviving. My primary concern was making sure my mom got up every day and decided to keep living. My secondary concern was the health and growth of my business and my team at lululemon. My personal well-being was barely an afterthought. I lost my appetite and mostly sidelined my otherwise aggressive recovery plan. I never made it back into the gym before I cancelled my membership completely. My butt got flat and my right leg once again looked dramatically skinnier than the left one.

All signs of the unexpected setbacks, upending my forward progress, once again.

Before I moved to Michigan, I pictured myself here, struggling at everything. I anticipated barely making it, reluctantly shoveling snow and waddling down slick sidewalks, late for everything and cold constantly and regretful of the impulsive decision I made to move  here.

“Dammit. My mom was right.”

Instead, the combination of a mild winter and significant alone time has brought me a surprising amount of peace. I have space to breathe and permission to feel and a bunch of new yoga classes where the unfamiliarity of the pace and the poses and the voices calling them demand that I stay present in the room and my body.

I have more unstructured free time than I’ve had since before I was in Kindergarten and I’m determined to get back on the soccer field before the first day of summer. I’ve been running and weight lifting and doing all of those ridiculous movements we do in barre class that make me feel like an idiot but magically, inexplicably, produce results.

My right leg is still smaller than my left one, but it’s barely detectable now and I can finally see the faint outline of my hard-earned quadricep, a muscle that all but disappeared shortly after the tackle I entered with too much enthusiasm, over a year ago.

Healing has been an uneven process. I’ve had to adjust my relationship with time and progress. I’ve had to accept that feelings of discomfort aren’t always a signal of failure or a prompt to bail from what’s happening. Treadmill sprints sometimes leave my knee feeling stiff and my post-workout walk looking a little lopsided.  A sweet memory of Brian sometimes leaves a sinking feeling in my stomach and deep sadness in my heart. My instinct has always been to escape those sensations as quickly as possible, to skip the pain and messiness in the middle and move straight to a clear resolution.

As much as I hate to admit it, there may not be such a destination. The neat completion of the healing process I’ve been looking forward to, likely, doesn’t exist. My body will never be the same as it was before my knee surgery. My heart is changed from love and loss and love and loss again. My body is not the same as it was yesterday, or three hours ago, even. My heart is constantly at risk of hurt and constantly in the process of healing. It’s all happening now and in the future and overlapping with other parts of me that are breaking and renewing and repairing all at once.

The only thing I know about healing is that I’m still learning how it happens, and then doesn’t, and then does again. I can’t force it but I also can’t ignore it. Instead, I dance in the space between commitment and obsession, forward motion and present circumstance. Patience. And Peace.

Over and over again.

26: Timing

Dancing. Defense. Yoga. Litigation.

My life of constant perfecting and relentless over achieving is propelled by good timing. I’m not wildly talented at any one thing but I am a persistent student of the game. Games, actually. All of them. Students make observations, notes and assessments. Their central purpose is to learn what is right: The right action. The right language. The right time to speak up, settle down or listen in. They learn when to push forward or hold up or turn around.

Timing, is everything.

At 9:05 a.m. last Friday morning my phone rings and a picture of my mom from her 61st birthday flashes on my home screen. Today, is her 65th. Initially, I’m surprised. It’s a weird time of day to hear from her but we’ve been hustling plans for a celebration later so maybe she has an urgent update. Or request.

As soon as I pick up the phone I know what’s happening. I hear her elevated heartbeat and breathless panic before she even gets a word out.

Her boyfriend. Her soulmate. Her partner of eleven years, is gone.

I stand up and close my computer screen. I catch my backpack on a metal chair as I race out of the coffee bar, stumbling, then straightening out, breathing heavily and trying to stay focused on the three or four phone calls I have to make in the 15 miles to my mom’s house. She’ll need my full attention when I get there.

Minutes earlier, I was lost in the formulation of a to do list for my day off and a strategy for my business. I was launching my next career move while simultaneously planning for my work trip in two weeks and writing eight or nine emails in my head. I was agonizing about an upcoming visit with my best friend from law school, preemptively trying to squelch the related emotions.

My brain was almost at capacity when the phone rang.

And in 12 seconds with fewer than three sentences exchanged between me and my mom, everything evaporated.

The only thing that mattered was getting to my mom.

In August, Brian, my mom’s partner, was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and given six months to live. It was devastating and heartbreaking and I felt a complicated sadness, feelings of grief mixed with a desire to stay present. My own sense of tragedy overlapping with my mom’s emotional experience. All of us wanting to cherish our time together, doing our best to save the pain for when it wouldn’t interfere with the joy we could still share as a family.

Time slows down when someone is dying. We are suddenly more attentive to how we invest our time and the way we treat each other. We map out our lives in moments, instead of weeks, or months or years. Our priorities are effortlessly rearranged and we pause to consider why it is that they need rearranging.  With a finite timeline, we move forward with purpose, and intention.

My intention was to make sure Brian knew what he meant to me before he died.

I pictured a private conversation, maybe in his room, by his bed side. I’d hold his hand and get teary eyed. We’d both cry softly so my mom wouldn’t hear. I’d start by sharing my gratitude for who he is for my mom. Her loyal companion and partner, a source of unconditional love and unrelenting support. A resurrection of her faith in partnership and a reminder of the type of devotion she is worthy of. A man who stands by her. And with her. And cares for her, mostly by letting her care for everyone else.

Next, I’d be funny, because it’s easier for me than straight-forward vulnerability. I’d joke about nightmare step parents and how my brother and I routinely celebrate Brian’s special approach to his sometimes ambiguous role and unique relationship with both of us. He is generous but unobtrusive. He is family without force. A provider of wisdom and advice with no attachment to whether we heed it, or not.

I’d admit that I never made it easy on him. With my demands and preferences and my unapologetic consumption of my mom’s time and space.

It’s the space that I’ve always been most grateful for, the way he honored by mom by making space for me, and our relationship.

Space to be a grown up. Space to be a child. Space to just be.

Softened by our conversation, I’d tell him I love him. That I’ve always loved him even though I never said it out loud. I’d apologize because now it sounds ridiculous. To love someone without telling them. To hoard the words because of how they might sound.

I’d close by promising to take care of my mom. To make sure she heals enough to be happy again, the type of happy that she made him. He’s worried about leaving her and I reassure him that she is strong and brave and resilient. I can’t imagine loving her more, or harder, but I will try to love her twice as much after he’s gone.

The time for our talk never came. The night before he died I missed another opportunity to tell him I loved him because I knew I’d see him tomorrow. My well articulated plans for “goodbye” unraveled in the way time shortens, and changes, unexpectedly. 6 months became two months, overnight.

Time feels infinite until it isn’t, and six months was only an estimation, a perception, all along.

Dancing. Defense. Yoga. Litigation.

Rhythm and patterns and steady measured, breaths.

Predictability and routine give me a sense of control and comfort. Repetition gives me the security that the chance, the moment, the feeling will come around again.

It’s an illusion of regularity, a distortion of how time, and life really moves.

Six months and ten years and five decades all break down into a series of present moments that only last as long as we stay connected to them. Time is only measured once the moment is gone.

I see how my obsession with timing interferes with my experience of time. My desire to be in my next job prevents me from experiencing the love I have for my current one. My anxiety about the future of my relationship obscures the joy I feel from it right now. I think about how many times I’ve said “it’s not a good time,” because I was waiting for a person or salary or state of mind that never arrived. I see how I lean into the “sure thing” and the “safe bet” even though life is teaching me, over and over again, that neither exists.

There is no bad time to: tell someone you love them, share yourself generously or say yes to something you want even if it’s scary or uncomfortable or uncertain. There is no bad time to be who you are, or who you want to be, or who you intend to be in the future. There is no bad time to regroup, re-set or apologize.

There is no bad time to let go of the idea that there is such a thing as bad timing.

what was I thinking? (and other reflections on 10 weeks on the road)

What was I thinking?

Nine days after ACL (and LCL) surgery, I sat on the couch in my living room trying to position my stiff and swollen leg out of view of my computer screen camera but only so uncomfortable that the pain and frustration I felt, almost constantly, wouldn’t show up on my face. It was 15 minutes before a Facetime job interview and I was determined to appear relaxed and confident.

Tense and awkward is not a good first impression.

It was a weird idea I had, looking back. As if two people sitting in a conference room 600 miles away, staring at a 15″ screen version of my tiny head would even be able to detect the physical condition of my limbs, let alone care about it.

But in those days, the whole world revolved around my right leg.

I took the job, described primarily as “traveling around North America all summer.” I got the offer while standing in the back room of my store balancing myself between my crutches and squeezing my phone between my cheek and my shoulder. I was getting pretty good at the normal-people-every-day things but my job was still near impossible to do and I left every day exhausted and sad. No matter the immobility and long-term recovery and general limitations of my current state, I enthusiastically accepted and agreed to be on a plane to Vancouver, May 31st. 4 weeks post-op.

I hoped my new manager couldn’t hear the fear and doubt in my voice.

Have you ever packed for a two week trip without using your legs? There’s a lot of lower body work involved when moving underwear from a drawer to a suitcase. Even with considerable help, it took me over an hour. When I returned from the trip, half of the neatly folded clothes remained untouched. The challenge of getting in and out of clothes inclined me to wear the same thing for three or four days in a row.

I started to cry in the airport when my mom passed me off to the nice lady at Delta airlines who wheeled me to my gate.

I pictured the worried faces of my surgeon and my physical therapist when they forced excitement through what I could tell were hesitant “congratulations.” In just a short time, they had come to know that when I set my mind to something, I can’t be stopped.

And, as my dad, who has dedicated his entire life to sacrificing his health, well-being, social life and relationships for his career, put it- You never know how many times you’ll get to say no to opportunities before you stop getting them.

Three “steps” off the airplane in Vancouver and I’m staring down an especially long, especially steep, staircase. A poetic beginning to a 10 week journey where I often felt like I was doing exactly that, over and over again.

I felt a swift “what was I thinking?” wash over me, before I sucked in a deep breath and bravely moved forward.

my ideal self

My ideal self is 5’10” tall because at that size with my god-given determination I could’ve been any type of college athlete I wanted to be. My ideal self is exquisitely put together. I have a chic haircut and an expensive closet full of classic, but always on-trend clothes. I don’t wear a lot of makeup and women around me wonder how I always look so effortlessly polished. Graceful and elegant but unadorned.

My ideal self says yes to all new and fun things. Hip restaurants and intimate concerts and parties with friends of friends of friends. My ideal self makes homemade dinners and drinks wine with my girlfriends and documents my enviably cool life on instagram with hilarious yet thought-provoking quotes and captions.

My ideal self is a world traveler. A young professional always-on-the-go. I thrive on new adventures, people and projects. I am at home away from home.

My real self is 5’3″ but only because after 6 years of yoga, in my late twenties, I grew an inch. I am now confidently an athlete, but when I was younger I was undersized and underweight and just afraid enough of everything to hold myself back. I am almost never put together. So much so that when my hair is straight or I’m wearing makeup the people I see most frequently barely believe it’s me. I have a closet full of expensive clothes because I have an addiction to shopping for them. I wear  a nice top, maybe once, before it spends a year untouched on a hanger, then is worn proudly by one of Amy’s teenage nieces. I don’t wear a lot of makeup. See above.

My favorite thing to do on a Friday night is a yoga class then dinner, still sweaty, with my best friend. On Saturdays I go see my mom and her dogs and hopefully watch the Giants on her cable tv. There are cool things going on all around me and I’m the number one advocate of how awesome it is to live in my hometown except I get tripped up on the specifics because I haven’t experienced the awesomeness myself. My instagram account is filled with pictures of my mom’s rescue dog, Toby, who is my spirit animal, and also the most photogenic person I know.

I mostly forget to take pictures of important events and milestones. I rely on an excellent memory and hope many days in the future I still remember them. I don’t drink wine because it makes me feel sleepy, and hungover, even if I only have half a glass.

My ideal self is terrified of flying and pretty terrible at traveling in general. I get bad anxiety and I don’t want to eat, then I feel awful because I haven’t eaten anything. I like to practice in my home yoga studio, drink coffee that I make in my kitchen and look forward, at the end of a long day, to falling peacefully asleep on my couch. I feel joy and comfort in the familiar. And weird and uncomfortable in the unknown.

All summer, my ideal self was warring with my real self. My ideal self shamed my real self for all her sloppy, unsophisticated shortcomings. Before every trip my real self recommitted to being more like ideal self. To loving the adventure and the newness and embracing the unexpected. To walking off the airplane excited and open-instead of exhausted and burnt from the stress of the trip. I’d get up a little earlier every day to style my hair and put on the cute outfit I packed. I’d ask the locals where to eat and order a fancy appetizer with my wine.

Inevitably, I’d spend at least one night eating a room-service peanut butter and jelly sandwich on my bed, watching the food network.

I’d arrive home depleted and dejected about another failure to live up to my own expectations.

logistics and needs

My family used to take the most outrageous vacations. So many flights and even more rental car miles and a hotel, in a new city, every night. My dad planned all of it, meticulously, with the level of detail I didn’t even have the patience for in my law practice. To me, his endless paper trail of boarding passes and itineraries and hotel reservations, securely fastened to the metal piece of a wooden clipboard were mostly just an annoyance. He’d play these games with us where he’d give away a tiny hint on a single document and we’d have to guess the next destination, or name of the hotel, or most famous confederate general whose burial site we were visiting.

I just wanted to watch my favorite show and take a nap in my own bed.

This summer I lived in the logistics. What time do I need to land and how far away is the store where I’m training and what’s the most economical way to get there. Where can I get coffee before 7am and is there vegetarian food within hobbling distance because I still can’t walk right. All but one of my twenty flights were delayed or cancelled. Every trip landed me in a city I hadn’t before visited as an adult. I couldn’t believe the work and focus and pure luck that went into making a successful trip out of a series of change-suscetible steps in an inflexible sequence. The time it took me to plan and execute each training added up to a separate full time job.

I can’t believe what my dad accomplished. With three other people. When he worked 90 hours per week.

Before the internet.

While my dad captained the ship my mom held the crew together.

I drove her crazy with my incorrigible eating habits and terror-stricken flying face. She packed all of our suitcases and made sure we were fed and bathed and happy. While my dad was caught up in the execution of his many, elaborate plans, my mom was constantly circling the group ensuring everyone’s needs were met.

As an adult, on the road, I was almost constantly thirsty, hungry, tired or otherwise inconvenienced by the circumstances or environment around me. The endless stream of my own demands interfered with the ease of just about everything and I thought about the joyless, thankless job my mom performed every minute of her so-called vacation.

broken home

During the last two months, I spent about 40% of my work time in airports. The summertime airport scene is crowded with families of all kinds. I shared planes with new moms and dads desperate to quiet and comfort their disgruntled babies. I noticed how well behaved my eight-month old nephew is and what good parents my brother and sister-in-law are. Bless those who travel with anyone under age 10.

I waited patiently for my boarding group to be called among hundreds of families of four. An athletic looking mom and a nerdy dad, buried in a hardcover book or fascinated by his ability to track the location of the inbound aircraft from his phone. Two kids, a boy and a girl, about two years apart. Ordinarily leading separate lives but bound together by the limited social interaction of family vacations.

I wondered how family vacations have changed since the arrival of texting and snapchat.

Early in my travel I looked longingly at them, sometimes getting teary-eyed from both happiness and regret. Joy-filled memories collided with real-time shame. I was reminded of the era where my family was so normal it scared me. I used to wonder how and when the fairness of the universe would balance out the ridiculously good lot I was handed at birth. My perfect family, my perfect life. Nothing was perfect, ever, really. But when it all came unraveled and everything felt worse than I could have ever imagined, it looked so bad in every direction except backwards. In my memory, it was still perfect.

On the later trips I felt gratitude for the time we all spent together before the yelling and threatening and ugly fights. Before the sleepness nights and week-long arguments and rehab stints. I’m clear now that the enrichment and adventure and shared experiences all helped us survive the rest of it, together.

By the end, my perspective shifted again. I felt love for the family I have now, different as it is from when I was a kid. We’ll likely never vacation again, the four of us, but I know my brother and I will carry on our family traditions with his kids.

My dad and I have traveled many miles together but we didn’t have a relationship until I was all grown up. The next time we have time together, I’ll show my appreciation for his humor and attention to detail and outrageously precise planning skills. I’ll agree to go to Scotland with him to discover our heritage as long as he books all the flights.

Someday soon my mom will hover around her grandkids as we trek through an airport, then three or four national parks. When the scenery gets dull, my brother and I will relive and retell our heroic thousand-mile car rides for the entertainment of my nephew and niece.

Years from now my brother and his wife will stand in an airport with their flight delayed, watching over their son and daughter who’ve become on-the-road best friends. Nearby, a frustrated traveling professional will soften, just for a moment, when she meets their gaze.

my body is a fucking miracle

I had no business doing what I’ve done for the last 10 weeks. ACL recovery is no joke and I am no Adrian Peterson. It is the hardest thing I’ve ever been through, physically and emotionally. When i made the decision to take this job and committed to what it required of me, my body did not have a seat at the table. I decided for both of us what it was capable of.

In and out of airplane seats and up and down jetways. Hustling to make connections and hoisting baggage up to and down from the overhead bin. Bent knees for 6 or 7 hours followed by long days on my feet.

Little or no rest for a couple of weeks at a time.

And, at the end of all of it, I’m back on my yoga mat and learning how to run again. I can almost feel the touch of the soccer ball when I practice swinging my right foot back and forth. I’ll be on a spin bike by September and will be stand up paddle boarding on Lake Tahoe to celebrate labor day.

My body is a fucking miracle.

It takes on the thankless, endless task of carrying me through my demanding, unpredictable, insanely fast-paced life. It mostly doesn’t talk back and it pretty much does whatever I tell it to, all of the time. When I over do it, I ask for forgiveness and it obliges, typically, right away. It bends and sweats and moves and sits and falls and gets back up again. I sometimes judge the way it looks and say harsh words to it when no one else is around. But every morning, it wakes up again to exist purely so I can be who I want and need to be for the world and the people around me. With no boundaries or expectations.

My body is a fucking miracle.

And so is yours.

fear will hold you back or move you forward

The choice is up to you.

I am terrified of flying. I hate every minute of it. I’m indescribably jealous of people who feel positive or even neutral about the experience.

The fear is real to me.

I chose to fly for a living this summer because I choose my life over my fear. I choose my goals and I choose my career and I choose myself in the face of it.

I choose to move forward, through the fear.

Or at least to the middle of it.

Maybe someday to the other side.

25: The way back

Thick mist makes the road invisible and dense clusters of small trees blur the boundary between pavement and marsh. It’s eight or nine p.m. but the night has settled into a singular darkness that will last until sunrise. When I look out the window, it could easily be midnight.

An hour ago my mom and I left a bay area restaurant, headed for our home in Sacramento. Both of my parents grew up in the bay area and I have two full sets of grandparents that still live there. We’ve made the drive between there and home more times than I could possibly count. I know the route like I’ve walked it every day of my life.

But it’s never looked like this.

Every so often I glance over at my mom who is doing her best to look calm and confident. Once or twice I catch her eyes darting from her side view mirror to the rear view and back again. She has the distinct look of barely holding it together. Inside, I know she’s panicked.

The repetition of darkness and the absence of city-driving landmarks traps us in a cycle of uncertainty and fear. 20 years from now, our phones and watches can pinpoint exactly where we are and tell 2,000 of our closest friends. But right now, driving alone on the Sacramento river delta, it feels like we may never get home.

10 years later I’m hiking in the San Bernadino mountains with twelve urban teenagers and my best friend from college. We’ve been walking in the wilderness for four days, each carrying 50 pounds on our backs. Prior to our trip, most of the kids hadn’t spent more than 5 consecutive hours in the outdoors. They are mostly clad in jeans and low-support, trendy tennis shoes. I can feel blisters forming between my toes that are covered in eighteen-dollar wool socks and two-hundred dollar hiking boots.

I appear to be the only one in pain.

We are singing and giggling uncontrollably, completely delirious from a combination of exhaustion, dehydration and the type of uninterrupted joy that emerges from the collective triumph of a bonded team. Yesterday, we climbed to the summit of the highest peak in Southern California. Today we make the victory march back to base camp. Too caught up in connection and exhilaration to notice anything but each other, we miss the sky darkening and the wind intensifying. Someone mentions the weather change just in time for us to look up and see the momentary illumination of a lightning crack immediately followed by the loudest crash of thunder I’ve ever heard. A sixteen year old boy, who is six feet tall, jumps into my arms and a couple of the young women shriek in terror. Then, together, we experience a long pause, a palpable suspension of breath. The silent acknowledgment that a giant electrical storm is right on top of us.

In an instant, the parade of laughter and lightness dissolves into a chaotic, desperate scramble.

My memory is blurry in the details between “oh shit” and finally making it to our destination. There was collaboration followed by evaluation and ultimately executive decision-making. There were pros and cons of charging forward at full speed and attempting to wait it out. There was sharp, critical thinking mixed with total confusion and dysfunction.

I remember thinking I’m not old enough or mature enough for this much responsibility.

The return trip seems seems like it should be easier than the journey required to get there. It’s familiar and predictable and there are encouraging signs along the way that you’re “almost there” or “on the right track.” Even when the road there was a surprising adventure, the road back is a retracing of recognizable steps.

Unless it isn’t.

Right now my life feels like an endless series of trips home. I’m finding my way back into my body and back into my life. After ten years on a yoga mat, a three month hiatus feels like I’m brand new again. Except my body is different and the ease I found, even back then, is replaced by tightness and hesitation and discomfort. Most of my work is done from hotel rooms and coffee shops and lululemon stores where I don’t know any of the employees. Thursday nights or Friday mornings are spent negotiating airport security lines and glaring at “departures” monitors wondering why no one ever wants to get to Sacramento on time. I’m texting my mom about the latest travel debacle and checking the weather report across the country to accurately anticipate the severity of turbulence on my flight.

Each time I’m caught off guard by the effort it requires. All of it.

What I should be learning, or know already, is that the way back is sometimes, many times, more challenging than the rest. I arrive to the trip home with a armful of expectations about how it will unfold. I’m attached to a certain sequence of events, experiences and sensations. “I’ve been here before” lulls me into a knowing comfort, a predictable security, a false sense of control. I settle into the celebration of “making it,” take a deep breath, recline my seat, then look up and see terrain I don’t recognize, or the undeniable signs of a thunderstorm.

When I woke up groggy and disoriented in the recovery room after my surgery my heart was beating so fast I almost told my nurse I was having a heart attack. As my pulse slowed I realized where I was and found relief in the observation that the thing I’d been dreading for two months was finally over. Soon, they’d let me go home.

During the car ride to my mom’s house I felt the type of nauseous where you pray you throw up everything you’ve eaten for a week just so you can feel better. It was not the peaceful, gentle, graceful arrival to healing I had hoped for.

As it turns out, it never is.

24: Good days and bad days

March 1, 2015. I’m having the best weekend of my life. I wake up in my new apartment, back in midtown Sacramento. It’s everything I wanted- walking distance to Zuda yoga with a washer/dryer in-house. I drive out to my women’s over-30 soccer game. I am the unofficial but undisputed MVP of the league. It’s my morning warm-up for the two other games I’ll play that day. The air is cool and sharp on my face in the first half. It’s 9 a.m. and it feels like the sun is barely up but I can feel the warmth of summer on the horizon.

When I get home I walk to breakfast with my boyfriend. On the way home I grab a green smoothie and a seat on the small, metal chairs outside the local, organic juice shop. I soak up everything I’ve been manifesting.

For 18 months my life has steadily ascended to everything I’ve ever wanted. Beginning in September, 2013, when I left my lawyer job and came to lululemon, I can’t remember an unhappy day. I can’t even remember an unhappy moment. It was good and then it got better and then it got better, and better, again. I play sports on the weekend and practice yoga every day and have a job that is so fun and rewarding I can’t believe I get paid to do it.  I challenge everyone around me to find the same joy and fulfillment in their careers. My best friend can’t get through a dinner, or a text message thread without being subjected to my subtle, sometimes overt, persuasion to come work with me. I thrive in the fast pace of jam-packed days and unwind through slow, exhausted nights. I rarely take the time to acknowledge the miracle of how I’m living but I can feel, all-over my body how lucky I am.

March 1, 2015. I’m having the worst weekend of my life. My upper body is covered in blankets and my lower body is buried in a pile of frozen peas. I’m trapped on my couch watching the minutes tick by on my Ipad screen as I pretend to read the previously awesome book I’m no longer interested in. My new apartment is freezing and dark and empty and uncomfortable.

I did not manifest this.

I remember falling asleep that night to the peaceful relief of a hard day ending. I remember waking up the next morning to the fear that it was only the beginning.

June 12, 2015. I’m seated across from my orthopedic surgeon, forcefully smiling with sweaty palms and an accelerated heart rate. My life without a daily yoga practice is plagued by anxiety. The persistent sensation of fear and worry is amplified by the uncertainty of surgical recovery. Every tiny tweak or small pain sets off a surge of panicked, irrational thoughts.

I am at once two versions of myself. My bold and confident self-assurance listens for the green light to resume my regular life at full speed. My nervous, distracted mind ticks off a long list of worst-case scenarios.

My surgeon is pleased with my progress but skeptical of my patience. “Go slow. This is a big deal.” Not what I wanted to hear but better than “You’re totally fucked,” I guess.

My mind starts racing again so I only hear every fourth word he says for two or three minutes. I catch up to reality just in time to hear “what to expect next.”

Ah yes, I’ve been waiting for this part.

“You’ll have good days and bad days. That’s totally normal right now.” He makes a slow roller coaster motion with his right hand, “Up and down, like that.”

This office is a fortress of disappointment.

I was seeking something definitive. Measurable. Specific. A barometer by which I can evaluate my progress. A way to win at this.

There is no arriving in yoga, no crying in baseball and no winning at orthopedic recovery.

Only slow progress towards the vague goal of “returning to normal activity.”

Patience. And rest. And patience again.

Early in my recovery I developed a clear explanation for my persistent unhappiness. I repeated it as a mantra to myself, daily, and delivered it confidently to anyone who asked how I was doing.

“My body is broken and I can’t do anything that brings me joy, therefore I am miserable.”
Between the lines is my chosen truth that I will continue to be unhappy until I can do every, single thing I could do with my body before my injury. Because I prioritize trying to control my experience over actually experiencing it, so long as I still have bad days, I refuse to have good days

July 11, 2015. 75 consecutive minutes in my body and my breath. The mid-summer, early morning sun on my face, back and shoulders. The comforting rubber scent of my yoga mat. A perfect, gentle breeze. Yoga, finally.
Later I’m climbing in and out of empty hot tubs being ridiculous with my two lunatic best friends. My legs are carrying me up, down and around the California State Fair and it’s the first time something I’ve done before feels relatively the same as it used to. An active day that started early ends late with a triumphant walk up the stairs to my apartment, one foot at a time.

I climb into bed and acknowledge: today was a good day.

In the morning, I hesitate to get out of bed. I’m attached to the success of yesterday and apprehensive in the uncertainty of today. I only want to ride the rollercoaster if I know it’s going up.

Today, I feel the first, minor inkling of a breakthrough. An awakening to my responsibility for my own suffering. A realization that my life isn’t on pause until I heal completely. This is my life.

We are all recovering from something. A heartbreak, a job loss, the struggle of a morning, or a meeting or a conversation that didn’t go the way we planned. A tough week at work, a difficult relationship with our parents. The onslaught of challenges from the last six months. Or the last 20 years. We are all in the process of healing from something, or many things, at once.

I am recovering from knee surgery. I am also recovering from severe anxiety and compulsive over-achieving. I am recovering from the anorexia I had in high-school and the break-up I went through in college. The process is the only constant.

There are good days and bad days.

My work is to stay in it. To ride the ups and downs of a life that is sometimes exhilarating and sometimes terrifying. To savor the experience of ascension and cultivate patience in the descent. To recognize the degree to which I am choosing what type of day, or week, or life I’m having.

To shift when I need to, breathe when I need to and try to enjoy the ride.

23: 6 weeks on crutches.

When I walked into my follow-up appointment, one week after surgery, I felt strong and confident. Many days earlier, I pre-determined the outcomes for all six months of my recovery. I would wow and impress my surgeon and dazzle my physical therapist. I would be so inspiring to my friends that they would tell their friends about my mind-blowing accomplishments, and sooner rather than later, I’d have fan mail from the far reaches of the Internet declaring me to be an orthopedic rehabilitation guru, the woman whose progress and grace would forever be the benchmark by which all others be measured.

As I hobbled down the hallway on my crutches, unconcerned by my persisting awkwardness, convinced of their imminent disappearance from my routine, I proudly celebrated stage one of my hero’s journey complete.

Lesson 1: managing expectations 

“Because of the nature of your repair, I’ve decided you’ll stay on crutches for six weeks.”

My instinct is to turn and look out the sealed glass window because he can’t possibly be talking to me.

“6 weeks?” I repeat, my disbelief tempered by distant hopefulness. My dad is a surgeon and when I was a kid he was often so tired he “couldn’t remember his own name.”

There has to be some mistake.

“6 weeks on crutches, yes.”

“Do you have any other questions?”

Uh. Yeah. What the fuck and are you bloody kidding me and do you even understand who I am?

My inner voice is still strong and confident by my actual voice is silenced by deep disappointment.

I stagger towards the lobby to meet my mom’s anxious gaze. She recognizes immediately: my recovery goals have not been met and she’s in for a doozy as soon as we’re alone together. 20 minutes later, I slide across her passenger seat and burst into tears.

Lesson 2: shave your legs in the bathtub and do everything else your mom tells you 

I’m 31 and before I consult the Internet about anything I call my mom. Can I eat this food that’s been in my fridge for three weeks and will I die if I consume warm yogurt? How many cups are in a gallon and why are my cookies spreading and what do you think of this blog before I post it?

When I was younger my mom would occasionally squeeze in twelve minutes of “alone time” to take a bubble bath. I’ve always needed her unwavering  attention so more often than not, her alone time included ten minutes of entertaining my needs and inquiries.

Especially, “why do you shave your legs in the bathtub?”

To me it was only practical and possible to shave my legs in the shower. Long strokes from my ankle bone up my thin, repeated methodically In a circle around my leg. When showering became less a satisfying hygiene ritual and more a death defying act of grit and courage, my legs went unshaven for over a month.

Then, from a hotel bathroom in downtown Vancouver, shameful and desperate, facing an imminent poolside gathering with my new coworkers, I attempted my mom’s lifetime ritual and discovered ease and satisfaction.

Of course.

In the soft, soothing, warmth of the moment I am reminded that my mom is my spirit guide. That in the four weeks since my surgery she has answered every call, catered to every whim and supported my recovery in physical and emotional ways I both knew, and didn’t know, I needed. In the meantime, she took care of her own dying mother, babysat my sixth month old nephew, maintained her demanding volunteer schedule and put dinner on the table, every night.

She is a living miracle, as all mothers are.

Lesson 3: the kindness of strangers

I hate asking for help. I am stubborn and relentless and egotistical and anyone who has worked for me, been in a relationship with me or stood within three feet of me in a grocery store could tell you I am fiercely independent and determined to do “it” myself.

My perception of my limitations on crutches was something like, “I can’t walk.”  My reality was something more like, “I can’t do anything.”

Enter strangers. Many of them. Leaping up from their seats at coffee shops to grab the door as I struggled through it. Holding the elevator and offering to carry my groceries and appearing out of nowhere to support my slow progress  everywhere. It was remarkable. Even on the last day of week 6 I continued to be surprised, and moved by it.

In my gradual return to normalcy I am aware of the immediate change in my relationship to the rest of the world. Where I have been open and vulnerable and exposed, I am quickly returning to the narrowness of my own experience. My head is down and my pace is as fast as my recovering legs will carry me. I am not available for assistance.

The strangers are the same. I am different.

It’s clear that our ability to work together and collaborate is determined by the extent to which we soften, and accept help. If we seek connection, we must slow down, look up, and open to it. We are only as available as we are vulnerable.

Lesson 4: (try and) stay grateful

but give yourself a break when you don’t.

My life is a self-development paradise. I’ve been practicing yoga for almost a decade, I am a yoga teacher and I live in a city where there is an equal number of yoga studios and bars in downtown. I work for lululemon, a company that is casually making extraordinary athletic clothing as a side hustle to providing the tools, space and resources to help everyone who touches it live their best life.

I can’t see a sunset without confronting a conversation, quote, insight, friend or situation that challenges me to be a more powerful, compassionate, enlightened version of myself.

In the last six weeks, I have been repeatedly overwhelmed by the generosity and support of every, single, person in my life. Humorous anecdotes about the shared struggle of resting an injury; loving offers to help me: travel, shop and feed myself; wise words about patience, grace and the beauty of stillness.

I welcomed, and appreciated all of it.

But sometimes I just wanted everyone to shut up and let me be miserable.

Allow me to indulge in self-pity and struggle and deep, deep sadness. Tell me it sucks, and it’s so hard and let me feel normal for the anger and frustration I felt all  over the place. When I got sick of hearing “it’s only temporary”, I wanted them to just hug me and say, “I know, it feels like forever”.

Gratitude, even more than patience and lightness and happiness, escaped me, over and over again. When my body achieved a new milestone-like bending my knee or standing on two legs- I experienced a wave of victory, however gentle, and fleeting. In moments of laughter, I felt swept up out of my broken body and into the wholeness of my spirit, lifted by joy, and hope. Occasionally, I observed the smallness of my injury in the vast, terrifying, scope of the human experience and felt grounded in a healthy perspective.

But gratitude, evaded me.

And the harder it was to feel grateful, the worse I felt about myself. Ingratitude transformed into judgement and anxiety and the fear that my heart, like my right knee, would never work right again.

On the other side of, what I hope to be, the worst of it, the gratitude is creeping back in. As I’m challenging myself to be grateful, I’m also letting go of measuring how much and how often. I see how everything in my life, including my spiritual practice, requires energy, and that even I, especially right now, have a finite amount of it. If I choose to channel my energy to my job, my friends, my recovery, I lose the bandwidth to focus on everything else. Gratitude is not a permanent result of a long-term yoga practice, or meditation ritual or journal keeping. It is a daily, hourly, dedication of time and focus. It is not a reflection of who we are as much as a reflection of how we do things.

Lesson 5: remember, you are beautiful

Week 5. I’m sitting in a plastic chair on the sidewalk of a busy Vancouver street. It’s the middle of the day, during summer, on a weekend. People, mostly families, are charging past me, intent on swiftly reaching their next destination. In front of me, an old man appears. He materializes from thin air and is gliding towards me as if strolling through sand on a quiet beach.

He asks me about my leg and I tell him what happened. He asks me how long since surgery and I want to tell him three lifetimes.

“Almost 6 weeks,” I choose instead.

“That’s a miracle! Look at you!”

I know he’s right but I’ve trained myself to believe my progress is uncommonly slow. I’ve spent several months trying to protect myself from disappointment.

He tells me a short story about his long life and I recognize immediately he is tender and wise.

Before he disappears, he grabs my hand, looks me straight in the eyes and says:

“Remember, you are beautiful”

For six weeks I’d been feeling weak and helpless and burdensome to the people around me. I’d felt ugly and incompetent and like I was running a marathon against my former self, weighted down by 100 extra pounds.

He held up the mirror I’d been avoiding. Just in time.

Lesson 6: my brother is (still) my hero

8 years ago my brother paralyzed his right arm in a motorcycle accident. I remember he spent two weeks in a hospital bed in the front room of my dad’s house then promptly returned to his normal life.

I see now that the transition he outwardly made effortless must have been excruciating, and maddening, inside.

The world is built for the able-bodied. I am not acknowledging this for the first time, but I am experiencing it that way. I feel, not see, how life on the margins is invisibly difficult, in ways I never imagined, because I didn’t have to.

I have been in awe of my brother before. Today I don’t have the words to describe my admiration.

22: The hard way

When I was a kid I loved learning about pioneers. I mostly hated reading but I devoured real-life accounts of wagon trains and gold miners and the Donner party, especially. I remember climbing the paved roads through the snowy Sierra Nevadas in our family mini van trying to picture the journey 150 years before. I wondered whether I would have made it through the winter or died of something like dysentery, miles earlier on the trail. I was captivated by the toughness and the struggle and the miracle of it all. I was particularly moved by stories of female heroism and survival, young girls who became wise, old women once they made it out west. The weirdest, most fascinating part of that piece of history was the terrible decision-making that shaped it. Ambitious settlers aware of the many challenges and abundant, life-threatening obstacles standing between them and the pacific ocean could not be deterred.

At least as far as it’s retold in California public schools, the story of westward expansion is one of few, intermittent successes strewn together by many more complete failures. Every person that left the middle of North America to find the west coast had to believe they were special in both physical and spiritual ways. They must have been convinced of their uniqueness and superiority and used some pretty powerful self-talk to motivate their journey.

Or, it’s possible, that all the advice and insight and experience of others is powerless against the will of the self.

The morning after I injured my right knee, I walked to get a latte at Peet’s coffee, seven blocks from my house. My entire right leg was swollen to twice the size of my left one and I couldn’t bend it, or move it, in any direction. I had the presence of mind to swap my well-worn flip-flops for a sturdy pair of tennis shoes, but took no other precautions. I dragged my right foot behind my more mobile left one as I limped and hobbled down the street. It was the week before daylight savings and the sun wasn’t up yet and when I went to cross S street I had a few, fleeting thoughts that I might be in danger as I’d struggle to get out of the way of even the slowest on-coming traffic. I looked both ways, just in case, then continued on as fast as I could.

Day 1 was the worst expression of my old-west stubbornness but the twenty-eight days since have unfolded like American history in the 19th century: small victories emerging from patience and self-discipline scattered among a greater number of difficult set-backs, brought on by my ego and lack of self-acceptance. When I think about the other episodes of my life, especially the challenging ones, it’s clear this one is more a continuation of, than a departure from, those that came before it. I’ve spent a lot of time, on my couch, reflecting on my lifetime refusal to embrace obvious lessons, and adjust my behavior to accommodate their truth.

I picture the first week of law school when I knew, without question, that I could never be a lawyer. I remember crying, inconsolable, on the phone with my mom early in my second semester, feeling like, already, I was trapped. Back then I had twenty-thousand dollars and six months committed and felt completely daunted by the idea of abandoning my career path. When I finally surrendered, four years later, I had one hundred eighty thousand more dollars and forty-eight more months invested. The weight of my financial and emotional debt was magnified by the haunting feeling that I could have pushed open the escape hatch, years before.

There were the four years, or approximately one hundred dinners, where I refused to give up the idea that my best friend was, any minute now, going to realize he was in love with me. Tiny glimpses of (mostly self-generated) hope were sprinkled among many overt, and even more subtle, signs that he wasn’t. Still, it took a four-hundred mile move, a year of intense self-development and nearly destroying our friendship before I finally had the conversation I’d been rehearsing in my head for almost half a decade.

When I was a teenager, I starved myself, nearly to death. The not-eating and eventual purging continued through multiple useless interventions from my mom. She’d beg me to start counseling and book unproductive appointments with any doctor who would see me. My body got skinnier and my lies more elaborate until suddenly I felt winded running, when I shouldn’t be. I started eating again, just a little, after I caught myself staring at a pale, scrawny, ghost-like classmate in the bottom corner of a group dance picture and realized, it was me.

It’s not that I didn’t know better. Acting better was hard.

Today I’m reliving the anxious looks and cautionary words of every person I’ve encountered since my injury. The anecdotal warnings and explicit instructions and the familiar fear in my mom’s voice as she hesitates to suggest I get help. I tend to believe I’m outside the influence of conventional wisdom and experience, that I am somehow special in both physical, and spiritual ways.

A week ago, when I struggled and squirmed into the driver’s seat of my car -short winces of pain followed by decreasingly persuasive reassurances of my wholeness- I cracked open, just a little. My left eye welled up and I could feel the pressure from the surge of tears my last bit of will power was barely holding back. I called my mom, a temporary release valve, but as soon as she answered, the crack deepened, and everything came pouring out.

Three days later an MRI reveals all sorts of injuries I’d been fearing, and denying. A revelation that felt less like a surprise and more like an unpleasant, forced acceptance

I’m trapped in a high-altitude blizzard, I all but knew was coming.

Since then, I feel a mix of relief and deep depression. Grief waves in and out, swirling together with hope and dread and regret. Where I would be slathering on the “I told you so,” the people in my life are compassionate and understanding. Where I want to be grateful and optimistic, I am mostly resentful and angry and worried.

Where I try to be patient and present for the lesson, I find myself wishing that I learned it, already.

But then, I remember, the learning is often the hardest thing, for me.

Before it’s even begun, I can tell recovery is the type of teacher who holds up a mirror in silence and let’s the reflection do the talking. I see that in this process, there is no escaping myself.

21: Three-legged dogs

I’m moving. Again.

It’s Saturday and the sun is still down and I’m bending over boxes in my kitchen wondering where I put my keys. I’ve been out of bed for less than five minutes and already I feel behind on my day. Coffee is a 15 minute drive from here and the tools I need to make my own are sealed behind flaps of cardboard in one of the five boxes I’ve marked, with lawyerly precision, “kitchen.”

Because, of course, I’m moving.


An hour and a half later I’m speeding from east Sacramento to my new home in midtown, wondering why everyone drives the speed limit on H street. I’m ahead of schedule but assuming I’ll be late because the smoothie making at my favorite shop is executed with all the speed and urgency of a desert tortoise on a hot day. I mentally run through the parade of consequences that follow from my inevitable tardiness: My dad has to meet my new boyfriend without the aid of my social orchestration. My best friend has to run interference on my divorced parents and fails to keep them apart just long enough for one or both of them to be pissed off for the rest of the day. My dad surveys my packing job and takes out his frustration on Amy’s defenseless husband who has been his unofficial sounding board during my last, four moves.

I come back in to the moment just in time to notice the sky is darker than when I left my house this morning and that there are  droplets forming on the windshield. It hasn’t rained in Sacramento since before Christmas so naturally, it’s raining today.

It’s become apparent that I am, as we say at lululemon, below the line.

Below the line is that place where everything I think and say and act on is a negative interpretation of my environment. It’s the land of judgement and ridicule. Ego and frustration. I typically take up residence there when I don’t get my way or something (or someone) interferes with my plans. When I feel out of control of my own schedule and routines or my expectations are left unfulfilled. I like to think I have a high threshold of misfortune before landing there, but once I’m settled in, it’s difficult to get back up.

Today, I’m moving. But I feel stuck.

Resigned to a late arrival and a bad attitude, I dive in to my mental to-do list. Somehow it’s three times as long as it was two hours ago and just as I start to wonder how someone else is adding tasks to my imaginary agenda, my attention is pulled away.

To the left side of the street where a jump-suit clad couple is walking their three-legged dog. There he is, small and white and blissfully happy. Floating down the street with such grace and ease  that it takes me more than thirty seconds to notice his missing hind leg. His bright, sharp teeth are showing, signaling the pride and joy he feels in his early morning routine. There is no sign of struggle or resistance. He is scampering along, completely un-phased by his disability, maybe even unaware of it.

I roll my eyes and slink lower in the driver’s seat.

“I feel like an asshole.”

I love dogs more than just about anything else in the world, but I love dogs with deformities and disabilities the most. I spent hours and hours in law school lectures scouring the internet for pathetic rescue dogs with severe physical limitations. I dreamed of having a whole farm of rehabilitating animals who would daily remind me of how good I have it.

I shake off the shame and recommit to gratitude and remind myself of the four, working limbs I’m blessed with and the countless other fortunes that shape my insanely happy and abundant life.

Here’s the thing about three legged dogs: They don’t just hobble dejectedly through their lives until they see someone, or something who is worse off than they are. They leap to their three feet with every opportunity to move their bodies and are happy and content no matter what the circumstance. They don’t need a reminder to be grateful and open and loving. And I’m guessing, though, I’ve never asked, that they don’t ever question how and why they ended up with three legs when their friend down the street has four.

A day later, I’m flat on my back on the sideline of my adult, co-ed soccer game sick to my stomach. Fifteen minutes earlier I’d put my entire, tiny body behind an aggressive tackle and wound up in tangled mess on the turf, shocked and scared.

Because I always bounce back up.

This time, I was slow to my feet and a little disoriented and I had just enough sense to think, “I need to sub out.” Nothing feels right and this could be bad and holy shit what if I never play soccer again? The stream of anxious thoughts continue as I struggle to the sideline to take a seat. And collect myself. Trying to figure out what’s next.

Everyone is looking at me with fear and hesitation because, I always bounce back up.

When the shock subsides, the nausea sets in and the only thing that makes it tolerable is to lay flat on my back. So that’s where I go, and stay, until the game is over. Ice packs and tylenol seem to be helping and when I finally stand up I’m hopeful I’ll feel bouncy and recovered. I stand on my left foot and drag up my right and the feeling is, devastatingly, worse than before.

The anxious narrative comes pouring in again and my only defense is forced, deep breaths. I want to cry and call my mom and I just keep cringing, doing my best to hold it together. It’s only been 60 minutes since I came off the field and already I’m frustrated and I want my old body back.

That was 12 days ago. And I’ve been been able to do, pretty much nothing*, ever since. There’s a deep indentation in my couch where my butt lands when I put my legs up the wall. There are three blue ice packs in my freezer and half-full bottle of Motrin on my kitchen table. I’ve taken more pills in two weeks than I’ve taken the rest of my life, combined. Everyday tasks of coffee-making and laundry-doing take three times as long as they usually do and I’m fiercely impatient even though I have all the time in the world to do them.

I feel angry and frustrated and can’t quiet the voice repeating my new favorite mantra, “is this over yet?”

I’ve cried only twice in 2015. Once when I left my team in Roseville, and once when I read my mom my blog about my nephew to my mom. I’ve cried about my knee, at least once a day, already. I’ve cried about the immediate pain and limitations of my injury. I’ve cried out of fear of the permanence of my condition. I’ve cried because I’ve lost control of what’s happening and all I want to do is get it back.

I’ve cried during repeated, failed attempts to channel the three-legged dog.

In the struggle, I am aware of how ridiculous I am. I think about my brother who is highly functioning and rarely in complaint despite losing the use of his right arm entirely, eight years ago. I think about the heroic Sacramento woman, a victim of the Boston marathon bombing, who, just weeks before my Sunday afternoon collision, decided to amputate her right leg in order to live her life with more peace and comfort.

She, was a soccer player, too.

I pile on shame and disappointment and judgement to the mounting volume and variety of discontent I’ve been dwelling in at the big piece of land I purchased way below the line.

I am aware that my gratitude practice is missing. That my ability to breathe through challenge is missing. That grace and patience and acceptance, are all missing.

My entire yoga practice, all six days a week that I “do it”, is missing.

The lessons from facing the ceiling with my right leg in the air for the last 192 hours are many. I am learning how to be still and uncomfortable and soften around my resistance. I am learning how gratitude is not a daily or a weekly practice, but that it is cultivated in every moment that I choose it, or not. I am learning how much more work I have to do on my yoga mat and seeing, for the first time in months, that “doing it” requires more than just showing up to the yoga studio and moving through the poses every day.

I am learning what it feels like to: walk slowly, with intention, from place to place. Experience life without a packed agenda. Watch the light get dim in my living room as the sun sets every night. Read more and move less. Be still. Be grateful. Be graceful, patient and accepting.

To find peace and comfort in this body, in this life, the way it is, right now.

*By nothing, I mean on day 3 I went to yoga and on day 4 I tried spin. Everything felt “fine” because from a seat of pure denial everything feels exactly how you believe it does. When, on day 5, my knee swelled to the size of my head, I consulted a doctor and I’ve been (mostly) flat on my back (again) ever since.

“Please do not feed the fears”

It’s Monday, I think.

What used to be my life has deteriorated into a repetition of sun-ups and sundowns wherein my tiny, soft cotton shorts are increasingly stuck to my ever-sweaty skin. Los Angeles is hotter than normal and I am grumpier than usual and for no real reason at all, I refuse to use the air conditioning in my apartment.

My apartment. Where I’ve eaten, slept, studied, read, cried, practiced yoga, called my mom, baked cookies, and devoured family-sized packages of pretzel M&Ms, pretty much without leaving, for three months. I recently read an article about the complexities of life at the international space station. How everything feels and moves and acts different in “zero G.” How the adjustment period for an astronaut is sometimes six months, even when their mission is three. How they have to re-learn how to do everything earth dwellers take for granted and even after years of preparation some of them, never adapt.

My life, studying for the bar exam, is orbiting in space.

By Friday, I’ll be back in the gravitational pull of the ordinary- brushing my teeth upright and sleeping flat on my back. Eating more than one meal a day and spending fewer than eight hours at a time in front of a computer. Crying only during Oprah’s Lifeclass and the occasional youtube video my mom sends me about a heroic service dog.

All day I’ve been simultaneously wanting to speed up time and stop it entirely. Torn between the intense anxiety of the impending exam and the anticipation of relief when it’s finally over. I’ve developed this habit of mindlessly looking at social media when I need an escape from the many sensations in my body.

“Please do not feed the fears.”

My friend, mentor, attorney-goddess and pro-bono life coach, Anne Collins posted a picture on Facebook of the above words, just in time. Just in time for me to abandon my newly formulated plan to blow off the exam all together and spend the next three days in Disneyland charging churros on my mom’s credit card and watching back-to-back showings of Captain EO, while contemplating whether or not my J.D. will help or hurt me in landing a gig as a Jungle Cruise skipper.

The fears have been creeping in on me all summer, but accelerated their approach about three days ago when I blanked on all  112 of my criminal procedure notecards during a mid afternoon review session.

“I’m going to fail this exam.”

I immediately retreated from my bedroom into the kitchen where I set out to bake three dozen chocolate chip cookies and plan the rest of my life.

“Maybe I’ll go to culinary school.”

I’ve been perfecting this pattern of (anxious) thought, (dramatic) reaction, since I was five years old. An uncomfortable experience or conversation sends me into a spiral of doing and fixing. My contingency plans have contingency plans and I can re-route my entire life purpose in seconds. I’d get in a fight with one of my girl friends and have the next five years of my social life mapped out before she even realized we were fighting. My dad swears when he looks at x-rays of our family members we have prehistoric bone density. For 31 years I’ve been navigating life like a cave man cornered by a saber-toothed tiger. I worry that it’s in the genes.

My fears are relentless, hungry beasts. They travel in packs, sometimes in disguise. They hunt me day and night and I am especially vulnerable when I’m alone, sitting still and quiet, for an unusual length of time.

I move around a lot.

After almost a decade as a single woman, adjusting to a new relationship sometimes feels like a space station mission I didn’t get to prepare for. Like my life was training for six months on a submarine and without warning I’m hurtling through the galaxy wishing for gravity to pull me back down to earth. I am upside down and backwards and helplessly trying to grasp at a  vacuum dried sandwich that’s floating in mid air.

There are moments where it is calm and easy, but then, even a small challenge launches the fears into the orbit of my imagination.  When they land, I’m in survival mode, swift into action on my plan to eradicate the sensation before it can settle in. I feed them old stories of disappointment and heartbreak. I toss them my self-sufficiency and complacency with being alone. I give them a hearty dose of how easy my life is without a partner and let them feast on my discomfort in feeling vulnerable and opening up.

The more I feed them, the more powerful they become.

Sometimes, in the frenzy, I hesitate. I pause to consider that the conversation in my head is not an accurate reflection of my reality. In my mind, I’ve been running, with my head down, as fast as I can move without looking up. When I pause, my legs stop, then I shift my gaze up and my eyes meet the warning sign I’ve been ignoring.

“Please do not feed the fears.”

I both hate and appreciate the reminder that I’m creating this myself. That there’s nothing wrong and nothing to be afraid of and that even when there is, dwelling in the anxiety of what might happen does not change whether it will, or not. That my version of the future is no more certain than the real one that can only be unknown.

I hate flying because I can’t see where I’m going. From the driver’s seat of my car the road is clear in front of me. And even though I know from both logic and experience that my vision in one direction does not prevent intervention or accidents or the unexpected from coming up on all sides of me, it gives me the illusion that it does.

And I feel safe.

My move to action in a perceived crisis is the same type of illusion. Even, or especially, when I play out the worst case scenario I feel comfort in seeing something even if I don’t like what I see.

My fears are a fuzzy outline of the uncertain. I feed them until they are strong enough to take shape.

Lately, I try to be still long enough to pause, and look up. To catch myself in the reaction before it becomes reality, to me. To sit in the discomfort of not knowing and not seeing. Of floating through zero G. To find acceptance. And peace. To adapt to a new environment. To take it in and take it on and give myself time to make the adjustment.

To know that I cannot keep the fears away from me, but I can open up the space and allow them to leave.


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