Originally written December 30, 2019
I used to consider the arrival of a new year as akin to shaking an Etch-A-Sketch — a time for a completely new start. The more solar miles I pack under my belt, the more I value the cyclical nature of life and I now see the change on the calendar like the addition of a novel new layer on a rich, complex cake. The flavors are diverse yet complementary and the layer below informs the one above.
Maybe I’m just in the mood for cake.
I’m back in Santa Cruz after almost a month on the East Coast with family and friends. It was an elucidating time — a time of forgetting and remembering. The activities that have filled my life and informed my identity this year — bodywork, yoga, permaculture — were Etch-A-Sketched away on my first day in Virginia when I severely injured my right thumb while cutting apples on a mandoline slicer. (I won’t go into detail, but those of you who have worked with one of those kitchen manglers will get the gist!) Fortunately, I was with my mother who, a fellow massage therapist and a force of nature in the kitchen, has plenty of experience in dressing hand wounds and doctored me beautifully. If the hands comprise a team, my right thumb is the quarterback and with that integral member decommissioned, my plans to offer sessions, practice yoga, and work in the dirt were scrapped, radically altering the nature of my time on the East Coast from how I had anticipated.
I was asked to let go of my sense of self and just show up to the moment. I can’t say that I accomplished this with effortless grace; truly, I was more like a newborn foal stumbling through old emotional patterns as well as physical ones. The puzzling chronic muscular issue that years ago led me to yoga, and eventually on to teach mindful movement, started to return since I had practiced only 3 times in as many weeks. But some beautiful things arose from this redirection…
I was able to focus on my wonderful community of family and friends without the distraction of “doing.” I didn’t feel like I had to be anybody other than who I am, raw and unadorned. We embraced one another in our perfectly imperfect states.
The few times that I engaged with mindful movement were profound: I took a yoga class from my inspiring friend Ronit (with whom I went through yoga teacher training and share a home state), I worked with my parents who have both been struggling with frustrating physical challenges, and my mother and I even devised a way to perform resistance stretching on each other’s left legs simultaneously while literally embracing one another (because, wouldn’t you know, we share the exact same puzzling chronic muscular issue).
With only a few simple exercises, both of my parents reported marked improvements in their physical comfort, mobility, and stamina. Yes, I know that parent testimonials are prone to bias, but it delights me that the strength- and range-of-motion-based movement therapy work that I champion benefits my dearest ones.
This past month I forgot who I thought I should be and remembered who I am and with this remembering came insights into how I can improve my quality of life as a perfectly imperfect person. Who do I want to become and how? Would I have felt more emotionally resilient if I had included 5 minutes of breathwork into my day? Very likely yes. Would I have felt more physically comfortable and strong if I had practiced yoga for 10 minutes a day? Oh, absolutely. Would feeling resilient, comfortable, and strong allow me to be more present with my loved ones? Yeah. Big time.
With these lessons in mind, this coming year I am committing to a daily 15-minute practice of breath and movement as well as receiving bodywork at least once a month. This practice is for the days that I am not teaching or planning classes — the days when life promises to “get in the way.” I am making this commitment to myself for me as well as for the others in my life, and that includes you.
You’ve now heard a whole lot about me — what about you? Who do you want to become? Looking back at the year you’ve lived, what small practice or change could yield big improvements in your quality of life?