Sunday, August 13, 2023

And now I am 54

We're at family camp on Moose Pond in Maine, one of my happy places on this green earth.

This is my first birthday without my mom in my world.

In two days, she'll have been gone three months. 

This is, apparently, half the lifespan of an adult dragonfly. And one to two months longer than the life of an average worker bee.

I don't know what average dragonflies or worker bees are like.

Average, I guess. I mean, what are exceptional ones like?

But three months is a tremendously short time in the grieving process.

And on a side bar, we stopped into the Honey Exchange while we were cat sitting for my dear friend Pam in Portland. We were enchanted. We watched bees in a hive with a glass side. We discussed beekeeping and tasted freshly-de-hived honey.

Being me, I left determined to become an urban beekeeper upon return to DC.

Which is how I am. Sometimes the endless topic is rabies, sometimes it's killer gees. Right now it's honeybees.

When their queen dies, they pick a hearty little bee and start feeding it royal jelly and it grows and becomes the new queen.

Also! If the queen is mean--like if you have a hive of really aggressive bees--her daughters will be, too. So if you're going to bee keep, you want to research and get a hive of gentle bees.

But listen to this! You can change the temperament of a hive by switching the queen.

But you have to monitor, because sometimes when you put in a new gentle queen, the mean former queen's daughters will kill the new queen and make their own.

It's very fairy tale, isn't it? Or maybe real life in olden days.

But back to my birthday.

Shortly after my mom left us, and the hospital staff came in to turn off the monitors and express condolences, I told my brother we were orphans.

Orphans may sound rather young and war-torn, or sooty and Victorian, and as my brother said, I don't know that we actually qualify as orphans as adults.

But immediately, I was no longer anybody's child.

My entire identity changed the instant my mom's heart stopped beating.

I was always her kid, her girl, her, well, her anything. Hers.

I don't know if I'd have thought so much about it this way, except that my kids are mine. My girl. My boy. Pieces of my heart, actually each somehow my entire heart, walking around outside my body.

But always my babies.

And even though I was bigger and stronger than my mom, and I did so many things for her because they had become too hard or in some cases impossible for her, she was always my mama.

When I got sick, she'd bring me ginger ale. She would baby me.

When I was a kid, when the biggest number I knew was five, I would tell her I loved her five. FIVE. The most imaginable.

And she would say, "I love you more."

That's what she would say to me up to the end. I'd say, "I love you," and she'd say, "I love you more."

I would hear India and her saying that back and forth. "I love you more."

Who doesn't want to be loved more than the most imaginable?

Mother's day was, in my mind, about my mom. Yes, we shared it, but for me, it was about her.

And now I'm the mom. The Mom.

It's weird to suddenly have no parents. To be the parent, with nobody who preceded you in parenthood in your family.

I used to have someone to ask. And now I don't.

I recently wore an Indian silk outfit that was my mom's in the 70s, that she'd given to me years ago. I was trying to figure out if I could hand wash it, or if it had to be dry cleaned. My first thought was to ask my mom.


So I dropped it off at the dry cleaner, just to be safe.

At family camp, we see people we haven't seen since last August. We ask each other how our year has been.

For me, my year was pretty great. Until April.

And then it was the worst year of my life.

I can now talk about my mom without crying about 50% of the time. If you catch me off guard, or in a low moment, then all bets are off.

I've teared up in the dining hall, on a mountain hike, at the lake.

But I'm not like I was, weeping on a brand new acquaintance who I didn't yet know would become a dear friend at baggage claim.

I've gotten lots of hugs, because I have a lot of friends here, even if they're annual friends. It's a wonderful community.

So it's been a weird year. I'd have said the year from 53-54 was quite good, because mostly, it was. But then when you have the worst thing in your entire life happen in that year, it kind of dominates.

And now, whether it's grief brain or menopause--which everyone, by the way, should be talking about, because it's going to happen to over half our planet at some point--I don't actually remember much prior to May.

Thanks to conversations with my friend Fiona, I'm booked to see an HRT specialist in September. Assuming my boob scan next week is clear.

If so, and I fervently hope it is, maybe hormones could improve my memory. Or my persistent hip pain. Or my patience. Or a plethora of things I had no idea were depleted hormone-related.

Yesterday we hiked Pleasant Mountain with a group from camp, and one of the counselors said he was talking to Jordan early in the season, when they'd had rain for days and Jordan was low and tremendously homesick.

He asked Jordan how he was doing, and Jordan said, "I miss my mom." He was incredibly sad.

And this lovely guy said, "I"m 23, and I got all teared up. And Jordan asked me why I was crying, and I said, I miss my mom, too."

And I guess that's how it is. 

I'm OK. I'm doing well, actually, all things considering. Sometimes I'm doing great. I'm happy and filled with gratitute.

And hey, I've way outlived every worker bee and firefly that's ever been born.

I feel blessed to be here, in such a beautiful place, with people I love so much. 

I'm joyful and devastated, loving and loved.

I'm 54, and I miss my mom.

Tuesday, August 01, 2023

You had me at hello

I have myriad things to say about my physical, emotional, and spiritual journey to yoga teacher training on the other side of the world and back.

The group was filled with incredible people. I felt lucky to be among them. The teachers were so accomplished and incredibly generous with their time and knowledge.

But I feel like this first post has to be about my Bali bestie, Fiona.

In week two, we bought matching outfits and wore them on the same day. We didn't set out to buy matching outfits, but she tried on the blue and I loved it so much that I asked if she minded if I got the same one.

And then we were all, "Ooh, let's both wear them tomorrow!"

Which of course meant we had to head out to the rice paddies and commemorate the twinsieness.

During the training, we learned a lot about anatomy, which turns out to be fascinating. I'd never thought I'd be interested, but now I want to learn more and more.

We learned about activating the parasympathetic nervous system. The importance of breathing and postures--and the use of specific breathing techniques--to calm the body.

In the morning, there was black tea and hot water but no coffee available in the shala, as coffee was discouraged.

I hadn't heard of the no coffee and yoga rule, but apparently it is known.

Fiona said she'd been at a yoga retreat and had nipped out with a friend to grab a coffee. She was carrying it back, and the head of the retreat saw her and said, "I see you have a nice cup of anxiety."

He had a tone. He gave her a look.

Apparently, there are energizing poses that can invigorate you in the same way as coffee.

I like coffee, but grew up drinking tea, and for me it's the most comforting way to start the day.

We had electric kettles in our rooms, and I could make tea, but was complaining to Nick about the fact that we only had these stupid little hotel coffee cups. I just wanted a big mug.

Nick said, "I believe that dream is within your reach."

So the next time I went to Bintang supermarket, I bought myself a big glass mug and a box of shelf-stable milk for my fridge, and it changed my whole morning, every day.

There were delightful coffee shops close by, and it was easy to head out for a nice cup of anxiety mid-morning.

(Also learned: if you yourself love coffee and struggle with anxiety, apparently waiting until 10:00 am to have a cup is extremely helpful.)

Ooh, I'm so full of tips and tricks today!

For an arts- and humanities-brained person, not only do I blithely pass on scientific tid-bits I've heard as absolute facts, I seem to have many scientific theories of my own.

I have zero percent interest in testing them, nor do I particularly care if I'm right. 

Because I can remember in school having to come up with a hypothesis and then you had to test it and then you had to draw conclusions and it was all so tedious and I was like, if we're testing stuff that people already know comes out one way or the other can't we just skip the testing?

No. Because the boring old process was the point.

I've long known that as a "more is better" person, rather than a precise one, I would, in fact, make a terrible scientist. 

This is OK with me.


This theory is about friendship. 

And I think the only way you could test this theory was if you had a Roald Dahl sort of device that measured sounds made by trees that would measure people's frequencies.

The teacher training had a WhatsApp group, and people wrote ahead of time to share rides. Fiona and I knew we knew that we were arriving in Denpasar late on the same flight, and had agreed to share a car.

I thought we might connect at the gate in Dubai, but I spent my one-hour layover frantically sprinting, taking elevators, trains, and finally jumping on a transport to my gate at the far other end of the terminal, arriving late in the boarding process.

Holy cow is Dubai airport stressful!

We messaged each other upon arrival in Bali, and I told her which visa line I was in and that I was wearing stripes. And suddenly I was being hugged, out of nowhere.

"I spotted your yoga mat! You look just like your photo!"

I was so grateful to be together. It was brutally and inexplicably difficult to leave the airport. It took a full two hours.

Fi had been organized enough to do her visa online ahead of time, but then the official told her it was wrong and she had to fill out a new one.

I was already on the other side, and couldn't go back, so I hung out while she found an ATM, returned to the visa guy, handed him the cash. Which he may have pocketed.

Then there was customs (I think? Or another immigration line?.) The check-in agent at Dulles had made me complete an online form, so I was set, but once again, I was on the other side and Fiona was detained. 

Then my checked bag took an hour. She and I covered a lot of ground in that hour. I cried on her about my mom. She hugged me.

By the time we arrived in Ubud after the hour ride on winding roads in the pitch black rain, we basically knew each other's life stories.

Sometimes it is like this. 

And on a side bar, I was initially envious of Fiona's room, which had so much more light than mine, even though her bathroom was open to the sky and she was worried the people next door could see in when she was using the toilet. 

But then she had a huge humidity problem, and an ant infestation. The near final straw was when these frogs were mating really loudly night after night in her wall.

The people at reception told her to come get them, no matter what time, and they'd throw rocks at the frogs.

Ultimately, the persistent sogginess of her clothing made her ask for a room change.


I often use "resonate" to describe how I feel about people or ideas, but it wasn't until some of our teachers used singing bowls or percussive instruments, and I actually felt energy flow from my heart out to my hands (seriously--my hands felt like they were full of balls of spinning energy) that I decided that it's about frequencies.

I mean, we're mostly made of water, right? And sound waves alter water molecules.

I'm still not sure how this explains personal frequencies, but I really think it's all connected.

Fi and I went to a sound healing session at Pyramids of Chi.

I'd never done anything like this. You lie on a mat, with a blanket and an eye pillow, and you're immersed in a variety of sounds.

We literally staggered out of the experience. I felt both completely relaxed and a little sick, like I was drunk.

It was extraordinary. 

They have amazing food, so we ate, which helped. Pretty much everywhere in Bali you can buy a whole coconut. They hack off the top and hand it to you with a straw.

Coconuts, incidentally, are simultaneously the most convenient and inconvenient portable beverages on the planet. 

On the one hand, a coconut is a self-contained drink and snack. You have this delicious, hydrating beverage in a biodegradable container. On the other, if you're walking around and it's hot and sunny and the sidewalk is crowded, your drink weighs like 20 pounds. 

I don't even think this is an exaggeration. I read that more people are killed annually by falling coconuts than sharks.

Anyway, we had snacks and drinks and then I was all, "If you're feeling any better...I saw some really good shopping on the way up."

So we went to the market.

The sound may have penetrated our very souls, but let's be honest: we had very little time in which to purchase gifts for loved ones and possibly ourselves.

What I think now is that we all operate at slightly different frequencies, and this is why, immediately, some people are so easy. 

You resonate with each other. The same things make you laugh.

Some people you can settle into if you need to. Like a colleague who doesn't feel exactly right but you can get along with well enough to chat with in the kitchen or work on a project. But when you make a weird joke that cracks you up, they don't laugh. And they aren't the ones you seek out when you're having a hard time.

Some people you never resonate with, which doesn't mean you dislike them. They just feel like effort.

I personally think the laughter trigger may be the deepest and most powerful. The one that forms more connections. More so even than crying.

Maybe laughter and a feeling of safety. Feeling safe is tremendously important to me.

Laughter and trust.

Washed down with a nice cup of anxiety and a biscuit.