Category Archives: Living Passionately

The Best Halloween

This year we did Halloween right. It’s been quite a few years since I really felt/ believed/had the right to say that. It wasn’t the biggest most extravagant holiday ever. It wasn’t the fake, store bought costume that G begged for. We did have three weeks of baking/decorating/parties. But it was the best for a long time. Now, Halloween is my favorite holiday. As a kid I used it as an excuse to do the things my parents didn’t want me to do….wear fake red nails, don high heels, etc. When I got to college I was suddenly shy and didn’t really do much but use it as an excuse to drink, but when I had kids? All bets were off. And sometimes we didn’t do as well. L  remembers the year she was a kitty for Halloween. Fondly. It was the year my husband and I broke up and I was completely distracted and bought her a headband with ears and a tail and she wore a black turtleneck and black leggings. But it was the one time I caved and bought her a store bought Halloween costume-or at least parts. So the lesson there was clear, but I didn’t learn it. I didn’t realize that you want what you want and despite all my best efforts other years all this perfection-oriented kid wanted was to fit in and have store bought pieces parts. I also didn’t realize till right now that it was the last holiday that we lied to her. We all went trick or treating together and acted like everything was fine. Even thought it wasn’t. This year was good for all of us for totally other reason. My ex and I got along and when I was distracted this year and told him that we needed a costume he came through. It was a rush job, but he sewed a Jedi costume that was beautiful. (Okay I should probably stop here and explain that we didn’t actually break up then. Well, we did. We ended up, three years later, getting back together. And that’s how G calls my ex Daddy even though it would seem we broke up years before he was born. Because we did.) But back to the story….It was ASAP because G’s school told the parents last minute that the kids could wear costumes to Fall Fest TWO weeks before Halloween and only ONE week before Fall Fest. We were in a scramble. It was last minute because the principle hates Halloween, but the PTO and the teachers finally convinced her to let the kids wear them to Fall Fest. Not the actual day, but it’s a start. So I was in a mean place when I complained and yelled that he never helps, but he came through and I’m completely grateful because G got to be what he really really wanted to be and he felt great and he looked great and that’s half the battle of Halloween. The other factor that made Halloween great was  that thanks to the bitchy-Halloween-hating principle G had his costume two weeks early and got to wear it everywhere. He wore it to the hippie neighborhood preschool’s annual Halloween Fundraiser where I ate gluten and sugar and left with a headache, but it was a happy headache. And then when Halloween finally arrived he wore it downtown for the march up Mass St for the merchant sponsored Halloween Trick or Treating extravaganza. We got to see faces we hadn’t seen in months and wave at a few everyday faces. Then he wore it to Pet World’s Haunted House. Let me just say, if you’re a Lawrencian and you’ve never done it, it’s awesome! It’s a fundraiser for The Humane Society earlier in the week, but we didn’t know about it then. We went on Halloween night and it was free and not at the pet store, but at someone’s house. I don’t have great night vision so I didn’t go in. In hindsight I should have because while I’m the bitchy/strict/screeching parent most times, during any holiday I’m the fun parent. We got there before 7, which was when it was supposed to be the age appropriate time, but both G and the ex came out very quiet and looking a little white. He wore it later in the evening for neighborhood Trick or Treating.  I live in an older part of town with big old houses and towering trees. It was the perfect night for Halloween. Our first block was dead and because it’s Lawrence it’s full of old hippies who were dressed as Jimi Hendrix and were drinking wine on the porch. I’m new, but I heard once they know you they hand out beers to the adults. And if we missed a house someone would chase us down with their bowl of Twix, Kit Kat and Snickers. Good candy. Not the cheapo stuff and sometimes there were full sized bars and sometimes they made him take two or three. After two or three blocks I walked back home to put the pizzas in the oven. I almost burned the house down, but that’s a different story. I made pizza and the boys showed up and we ate and we laughed and we told G about the candy, cause he’s a yogi’s kid and doesn’t know a lot about candy and he’s only six so he hasn’t experienced a lot in the world yet. He ate a full-sized Snickers and thought it was pretty good. G crashed pretty hard that night. But, then so did I. I don’t remember our bedtime stories or the songs we sang. It’s hard work being on your best behavior. There were so many times any one of us could have been catty or decided we didn’t want to go along with the group or any number of things could have come up from our past. But it was a peaceful and fun night. And the lesson we all learned that mid-week Halloween night is that our good behavior pays off. By remembering to bite my tongue, even from the little jabs that are so often conversation in our family we had a great/meaningful/fun time. We learned that being together is better than not, even if there’s no longer a marriage that binds some of us. Together we are a family. We may be a funny looking family. I have a new love. And my ex was my first love. Those two thing are true together. I’ve had another love in between. My kids have learned to look at many sources to find guidance/role models/love. There are others that parent our kids, many that care about them and lots that love them. It’s a blessing. And that’s what made it the best Halloween ever


People tell you who they are

People tell you who they are. Most people have patterns of behavior, repetitive habits that they usually tell us about. People tell us stories about how other people have done them wrong. How, other people didn’t understand. How other people behaved badly. They so rarely tell us about their part, though. Except, they do.

By telling us about the patterns in their relationships they tell us about their own behaviors. That girlfriend who always ends up with guys who cheat? The best  friend who always dates guys that can’t commit and break his heart? The uncle who makes bad business deal after bad business deal? Those aren’t accidents. We have patterns too. We have habits. We just don’t like to talk about ours. We talk about other people and we always complain that we didn’t see it coming. Which is really ridiculous. First of all we knew it was coming because they’re our patterns. Unless we make a conscious effort we’re bringing the same people into our lives over and over. If I’m attracted to someone new for the same reasons I was attracted to the last person chances are this situation is going to end much the same as the last. But more importantly we saw it coming because people tell us who they are.

A good college friend told me that a long time ago. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn the lesson then. I couldn’t just hear it and believe it. I had to learn the hard way. Of course. I wouldn’t be Melissa if I just learned things the easy way.

This year I was given two opportunities to learn to listen to people when they tell me who they are. And of course, this is all written in hindsight, so I didn’t get it when the opportunities arrived. To be honest I’ve probably been given opportunities to learn this one my whole life.

So, I had to work on it AGAIN. I had some drama.  And in the middle of the first drama with (let’s call her) Tracy,  I heard a new friend say it. Carrie said it in a group of friends and we all nodded and acted like we knew what she was saying. “People really always tell you who they are. Most of them aren’t even sneaky about it. They just right out and tell you. And we don’t listen.” And I thought she was so wise and I thought,  “Wow, that’s so true.” People tell us who they are.

But I actually didn’t hear Carrie when she said it, because I didn’t recognize that I was in the middle of a situation where I had been told exactly what I was dealing with. And I didn’t remember my old college friend saying the exact same thing 20 years earlier. So how well could I have been listening?

There seems to be a pattern, huh?

See,  I trusted, but I shouldn’t have because Tracy had a pattern and I knew about the pattern, but I wanted to believe that this time was different, that I was different, that our relationship was different. And of course, it wasn’t. Because people tell you who they are. Tracy had very few old friends, mostly new friends and she’d only been in town a short while. That should have been a big red flag. And especially for me because I really value my old friends. I have friendships that span 20-30 years and friendships that are only 5 years old, but having that history is important to me. So being friends with someone who only had new friends probably wasn’t going to work for me. And believing that her pattern was going to change was ridiculous. Because not only do people change less than I’d like to believe, but she believed her patterns were working for her. She had no reason to change. And she certainly wasn’t going to change because I wanted her to.

Luckily I got fed up before things got too messy. I admit it, I lost my cool. I don’t yell easily. Not unless you are very very close and few people fit into that category. Close enough for me to yell at is very rare unless we share DNA or our lives are intertwined. If we’re related, I have very little problem yelling. Okay, but that’s a different topic.

So, I yelled and I walked away from the relationship. Too late I recognized crazy and I don’t do crazy anymore. And then to top it off two people told me that they knew Tracy was crazy and had never liked her. WHAT?!? And then two more people told me they weren’t surprised and I should let go of my guilt for yelling. I’d apologized to Tracy. I’d walked away. It was over. WHAT?!?!

Now, I think I’m a pretty good judge of people. I think I’m good at reading people. Part of my job is being able to judge and assess. And somehow I’d ignored everything I was being shown. So I licked my wounds and I assessed where I’d gone wrong and I questioned me and although I’d let go of the relationship I couldn’t forgive myself. Was I such a bad judge of character? I felt I’d been tricked when really I just hadn’t listened.

Finally, months later I got a phone call. A mutual acquaintance who had had the exact same experience with Tracy called to tell me and shared that while she was sorry it had happened to me hearing about my experience with Tracy had helped her to let go of her experience with Tracy. Well, I guess that’s something. I’d known about her experience, but I hadn’t heard it in that way. See, cause I’d heard it from crazy Tracy and she hadn’t told the whole story. But the mutual friend could tell me details of her experience and they mirrored parts of my experience that I hadn’t told anyone. Holy Shit!

So, I was able to let it go. I was able to say to myself, you know what? This is not about me at all. She’s stuck in her own repetitve patterns, but I don’t have to be. I can learn from this experience and move on.

So, I did. I stayed away from crazy. I moved forward. I let it go and moved on. Or so I thought.

Then the universe smacked me again. I’m still not sure why the universe wants me to learn this so badly. It’s probably mirroring my own behavior in some way I don’t want to look at too closely.

This time I didn’t have to look for patterns or hidden messages or anything. This friend literally told me. Shannon literally told me that she wasn’t doing what she said she’d do. Apologized for it and then turned around and did it again. And I let her. I believed her every time she told me it was going to change. Every time I was hopeful. Every time I thought I was being helpful and understanding and a good friend and every time I ended up making excuses for her. I felt bad for her. She was struggling and I thought she just needed understanding. Ha!

And again I proabably should have recognized that she wasn’t going to change because she had no reason to change. It was working for her. She could tell me anything, I’d believe her and then she could behave however she wanted. There was no accountability.

Again, I didn’t listen. Shannon told me and I didn’t listen. I wasn’t the only place in her life she was dropping the ball. I wasn’t the only person she was letting down and I wasn’t the only person she took for granted.

I didn’t hear it, I didn’t see it, I didn’t do anything about it. Until I did. Finally, I wouldn’t let her do it to me anymore. And I was nice about it. I protected myself from her behavior. I made provisions so I wouldn’t get stuck cleaning up after her again. I created reasonable boundaries. (A rare thing for me, but I did it.) But this time when I wouldn’t let her start down the path to her excuses she wanted to talk. Oh, shit.

Cause I knew what that meant. I have kids. They only want to talk when they want to negotiate. And Shannon was no exception. I stuck to my guns though. I felt I’d been understanding long enough and I needed some boundaries. And I didn’t want to talk. I didn’t need to hash it all out. I didn’t need to worry about who was at fault or who did what. I just wanted to move on. I have my own stuff and finally I was being a little selfish with my time and energy. Someone who continually disappoints me doesn’t deserve a lot of my time. Wow, more boundaries.

As soon as I had boundaries, though, she disengaged. She made excuses about why my boundaries didn’t work for her. She wanted me to recognize that I had created this situation by setting boundaries. I actually laughed at that. Because here’s the thing about boundaries. If people are acting honorably they will respect your boundaries. They will accept who you are and they will respect you for having boundaries. The other people? They’ll argue, cajole, belittle, whine, yell and blame.

Eventually we did talk. She needed to know why I felt the way that I did. She wanted me to tell her what she wanted to hear and when I didn’t respond the way she wanted me to she was angry. She was accusatory and full of blame. Except for where her own behavior was concerned. When she asked me why I hadn’t told her how I was feeling I told her that since she was apologizing for her behavior I didn’t feel the need to point it out. I thought it was obvious. And around and around it went. And she was frustrated because I wouldn’t give her the answers she wanted. I didn’t have them in me. I didn’t feel the way she wanted me to feel. And she couldn’t accept that. She couldn’t accept Melissa. She wanted me to behave in a way unnatural to me and in a way that I wasn’t willing to behave. And so it ended.

And I’m okay with that. I don’t do crazy anymore, remember? I had to remind myself of that quite a bit as the conversation played over and over in my head.

So, the lesson has been learned. People tell you who they are. The growth is that I can fully accept it and not judge myself, but just take a look at my part and be okay with it. And I think that’s real growth for me. I don’t have to think of all the ways I could have done things differently or how I should have handled it. I handled it honestly and authentically. I was Melissa through and through. I didn’t dwell, plot or plan. I wasn’t manipulative or dishonest. I dealt with every aspect of it as it came up and I have a clean conscience.

So here’s to hoping that I’ve really truly learned the lesson. I know who I am. I can only be Melissa. I can only do things the way that I know how to do them. I’m okay with that. The people in my life who are okay with it too are keepers.

Now, the trick is to just listen when other people tell me who they are.

Reigniting the Passion

It’s Passion Friday.

Bet you didn’t know there was such a thing, but there is.  Now there is.

So my idea for Passion Friday is to get us revved up and excited about life. This is the one chance that we get. Today is it. Living fully means living in the present. Do not start thinking that life can happen tomorrow. Life is right here, right now. And whether you want it or not you already have a life that you’ve defined and other people identify as yours. I know, I was one of those 40 years wondering what I was going to do when I grew up too. But it’s here, I’m doing it and whether I actively chose or not, I made choices and I’m here well into adulthood, living life. The question for me was how do I stop passively making choices and take my life into my own hands.  Continue reading

Take a Breather-the wisdom of stillness

I’m a whirlwind.  A dervish. I like movement, fast talking, fast decision making. I like things speedy and I get frustrated by things that are slow, not fast or boring.

Okay, that’s a bit of the old Melissa.

I can be a whirlwind, a dervish, a fast talking, fast acting, antsy, over-stimulated yogi. Sounds like a contradiction, huh? It’s all about progress.

I do get antsy sometimes, but I have learned how to be okay with things that are different or difficult. I am learning, I should say. I won’t lie to you and pretend that I’m perfectly content and calm while the building crumbles around me. I panic and get angry, rant and rave (more to myself these days), but when that’s over I know that walls crumbling are the way of life.

May is the month we’re learning to just be. I’m learning to accept myself, learning that I’m human and flawed and that’s okay. It doesn’t have to change. Or it can. It’s up to me and me alone.

The lesson is to learn how to lean into the discomfort. The discomfort…the hard place, is where we learn and grow. If I can be okay with the discomfort then I can learn how to accept you and me and all those around us. I can make changes that serve me and let go of that which isn’t serving me.

The hardest lesson I’ve learned is that when I get uncomfortable, it’s okay. I can use it to change or I don’t have to, but the discomfort has a purpose. So often, though, we get uncomfortable and we run. We run the other way and leave the discomfort behind. And then we miss out on the lessons. And since we don’t learn, we’re going to be that kind of uncomfortable again. We will keep getting uncomfortable until we learn how not to be.

I’ve been a runner for years. I’ve picked up and moved. I’ve ignored difficult situations. I’ve messed up and messed up and run from all my messes. It seems the universe is asking me to clean up my messes. Play time is over and if I ever want another playdate, I’m going to have to clean up after this one.

I have a life that I like. Sometimes I even love it. Okay, when I really review my life I pretty much love it all the time. I can get hyper-focused, though, on this moment and forget the big picture. Sometimes the pieces don’t fit together in ways that make me happy, but it’s kind of like the walls crumbling. That’s just life. It’s up to me to accept the way the pieces fall together. Through acceptance I can learn how to just be.

And what’s so great about learning to just be?

When I can just be I can stop feeling so agitated, antsy and bouncy. I can settle in and create all the good things I want in my life. I can help the puzzle pieces fit together in a way that is pleasing to me. I may not be able to fit them together to make the picture I thought they were going to make, but they’ll fit and it will still look nice and it will be okay.

When I just be I can feel the energy and flow of the universe. I can be present in that power/light/love that surrounds me all the time. Sometimes I forget it’s there, but it always is.

So this month the work is just to be. Be still. Be present. Be accepting. Ne happy. Be love.

Living the Dream

Over the last few months I’ve gotten serious about the dream. Last year I would have told you that my dreaDreamm was only ever going to be a dream. The walls were too high, the distance too great. I just couldn’t fathom how I could have the life I wanted, be the person I wanted. If you read the blog back then I had a lot of yearning, a lot of big dreams and I could talk a good talk. I just wasn’t putting one Continue reading

Creating Community

I didn’t get where I am by myself. I’ve had therapists, and counselors, and mentors, and friends who have been 20 year constants in my life, an ex-husband I can still call any hour of the day or night and teachers. Lord, I’ve had teachers. People who have invested time, energy and hope in me. And now I have a love who has patience and the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever met. I am painfully aware of how much help I need to just walk through my life.

Painfully? Why do I secretly believe that I should be able to do everything all by myself?  Why do I think that having a team of healers and helpers makes me weak and not accomplished enough? Why do I avert my eyes every time I see my son’s principle sure that she remembers that I’m not on the PTO and the last time that I made cookies was when my 14 year old was in Kindergarten?

Here’s what I know. I know that even though I think I should give my kids’ teachers fabulous homemade gifts every year, run my busines till my take home will pay for my kids’ entire college career this year, pick my kids up every day from school, be fabulously sexy all the time, eat like I’ve never tasted a Whopper and work out six days a week, I just can’t. Even though I think I should be able to work every day, all day long without turning on the tv/radio or checking Facebook, it’s just too lonely. I know that even though I want to tell everyone my success is all my own, that all my ideas sprang from my frizzy little head unbidden and that every idea made me tons of money and hordes of devoted students, it’s such a fantasy.

Here’s what I know. It’s taken me community to get where I am. It’s taken me good friends, mentors, neighbors and family to help me raise my kids, have the confidence to follow my dreams and keep perspective. I absolutely need the people who teach me, make me laugh, open my heart and watch my kids.

I have friends who have taken my full-of-angst-fourteen-year old under their wings and look out for her and give her advice and tell her to give her Mom a break. I don’t worry about my scowling-dressed-in-black-tattered-clothes-but-secretly-longing-to-be-queen-of-the-world daughter because I trust these women and know they love and care for my kid. I can breathe a little deeper because they’re mothering her in a way she won’t allow me to right now.

She’ll be back. I’ve written it here before because I honestly believe it. She’ll be back and she’ll once again be the person I most want to spend an evening with and I’ll be her favorite person again. But for right now it takes more than just me to see her safely into adulthood. And really, how lucky is she? I wish that when I was alone and lonely and living with my crazy, dysfunctional parents wearing all black, listening to The Smiths and wishing I were anywhere/anyone else but secretly wishing I was Queen of the World (or at least a little more popular) that I had an adult who listened to me and really heard me. I wish I’d had someone who I knew saw me. 

And that desire, that yearning is one of the big reasons I’ve devoted my life to yoga. Because on the mat I can feel whole all by myself, but also I can help other people feel whole all by themselves. And when we feel whole we know that we need help. It’s not that we’re whole enough to be super-Moms. It’s that we’re whole enough to know that we can’t be everywhere, do/know everything all by ourselves, live on an island and raise perfect kids. When we’re whole we see/know/accept our limitations.

So this, too, I know. Not only must I sink into a community I create by my network of friends, family and neighbors to be the best Melissa I can be. But it’s also my responsibility to share. And the way that I choose to share I learned from one of the most influential teachers/mentors/friends I’ve had.

When my daughter was 2 and in preschool, I was ready to go back to work and I didn’t know what to do. I had worked in an industry in another state that wasn’t really open to me in my small town in Kansas. Innocently, at our holiday party one year I told my yoga teacher and she immediately asked me if I wanted to teach yoga. I couldn’t imagine a better life so I instantly said yes. (we’ll talk more about the wisom of going with your heart later)

And she taught me. She told me not to worry about how many letters were behind my name, that I should teach what I know and focus on the education/certification part later. So that’s what I did. I taught and I slowly took teachers training and workshops and special classes and I learned that what I knew in my heart matched what they were teaching me on paper.

I teach by example and apparently that’s how I learn too. Because she taught all of us yogis in our small town in the middle of the Kansas farmland how important community was, even if it went against the grain of the larger community. And I try, every single day, to teach what she taught me.

So, in an attempt to create community I teach yoga classes and workshops. I believe coming to the mat, opening your heart and learning to accept yourself is terribly powerful. And the experience with others around you is bonding, if you let it be.

So I hold workshops and I open the studio to potlucks and fundraisers and musical events. I encourage youngins to teach what they know and worry about the certification later. I draw a group of talented, like-minded holistic practitioners around me like a safety blanket. I use them to keep me sane and productive and running my best and I tell everyone I know about them.

And I host Final Friday Potlucks because that’s what my teacher taught me. She taught me to create a place where students and teachers can come together. She taught me to be open and available to my students and my teachers and the people who live around the corner. Because if I’m not teaching what I believe by my actions I’m not living my yoga. I’m not a yogini, I’m just a woman who teaches yoga.

This Friday is the last Friday of the month and on Final Friday Breathe Holistic Life Center hosts a community potluck. This month two of the new Breathe teachers will introduce themselves, tell their story-what they do, why they do it and where they’re going. It’s an opportunity to create community and have fun.

Living Passionately-Stay Focused with Accountability

So, we’ve gotten quiet, we’ve focused in and we’re moving towards a life that makes us so happy we’re giddy. We wake up ready to hop out of bed and get the day started. And then one day we wake up and that excitement isn’t there anymore. Something’s changed.

One of the biggest struggles we all have in living our best life is staying focused. It’s so easy to get sidetracked. How many times have we gone on vacation and thought “Maybe we should move here”. It’s the biggest downfall for small businesses too. We get great ideas that can make us enough to cover payroll for the month in one afternoon and we forget that it’s not leading us where we want to go.  We spend time and energy on the special event/promotion/opportunity and meanwhile we’re ignoring why we’re really here.  Continue reading