29: purposefully defiant

Standard

you know, I  was a little more than disappointed when I realized my birthday was going to be on a Wednesday this year…until I realized that basically gave me the weekend before AND after to celebrate because it’s directly in the middle of those two things. I have debated about what to do and where to go because I always make a big deal out of my birthday, but this year? Nothing. Not a shred of interest in planning. I couldn’t land on a specific taste bud or wish or thought. I knew I wanted to blast Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj all day while driving to and from things, but that was it. Normally, I could honestly care less about any other holiday or break or whatever — I just want to celebrate the hell out of my birthday; every year, always have, always will. This year was different; I felt…underwhelmed. I’m not sure if it’s the idea of rounding the corner to thirty that’s scaring me or if I just don’t care about a number that seems so lame…either way, I didn’t really give a fck about my birthday until everyone else did. That’s never happened. I have people in my life that give a shit about me. ……..weird. right?  I seriously hope some of you are out there experiencing some amazing friendships and love BECAUSE IT EXISTS, Y’ALL. I could expound, but we’d be here until I turn thirty.

I have hit the stride in my life where the people who don’t want to be around aren’t and the people that give a shit are. I heard from all of the major players today before 10am; I’d say that’s pretty good for a bunch of millennials that don’t have normal working hours, most with children, most still in school and balancing a millennial’s worth of work. I am beyond impressed with where my friends are and what we’re doing and accomplishing for a generation that seems so lost to the rest of society. Yeah, it’s hard. It’s ridiculous, it’s a circus; it’s far too emotional and involved than it should be, but that’s the way the cards fell. We’re the Jetsons; we’re creating everything and displaying everything and gathering humble credit by the heap. Sometimes we make it purposefully difficult for ourselves, but that’s everyone I think. For the push, for the drive, or just out of sheer laziness. I’m closer to thirty and honestly no better than the rest of the world at making decisions or choices. I keep thinking that I’ll hit thirty next year and just know what the hell I’m doing; those that I know over thirty hear that and laugh. “We make it up as we go,” a friend says in a reassuring voice, and I know it’s true.

twenty-eight led me to doing more and seeing more and waking the fck up….way more than I thought. I taught 115 (maybe more, maybe less) yoga classes. I traveled to several places in the US and visited Mexico; put on more miles than since my father was alive. I tried new foods, read new authors, explored new religions, and music and ideas. I discovered this whole new me I didn’t know was there, but felt familiar once I found her. I am a more open version of myself; less judgmental, more rational, understanding and willing to forgive. It’s a hard thing to know you don’t want to forgive a person, or situation or moment…but once you do. Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeew. Wowzers. The introspection is ridiculous and the clarity is unparalleled. Seriously. Approach thirty and get over yourself. It’s amazing.

entering year twenty-nine has made me realize a number of things. I made this list as I laid in bed with my best friend last night (I slept on a giant, fluffy, pink unicorn after laughing my ass off about nothing at all.) I was fearful I might not remember by morning, and I may still be leaving some things out, though these are more observations than anything else::

  1. [most] my tattoos are ten years old. they have been on me and part of my body for an entire decade. I remember walking in to the old location of Speakeasy (a place that does not even exist any more) and thinking, “Okay. One down, 100 to go.” While I don’t plan on have 100 tattoos…I don’t regret them yet. I think they make me unique and I like the idea of maybe one day having to be identified by the treble/bass clef on my right rib cage.
  2. I cannot handle a hangover. Though it does not keep me from testing my limits every now and then. (Last Thursday night was proof, though worth it. Laughter always is. Laugh hard, deal with the hangover, keep going.)
  3. when I am tired, that’s the end. there’s no going back, no second wind, no hope. I am a lost cause to the room I am left in and lets hope there a blanket and a contact case with solution in it.
  4.  i constantly miss my father. the ten-year anniversary of his passing sifted right before my eyes this year and all i could do was blink to acknowledge it. it can’t possibly have been this long. how fast does time pass? is there a way to measure grief? i can’t possibly be continuing on without my best friend, but that’s what I’ve been doing because that’s what he taught me to do; I’ll do it for ten years more, I suppose.
  5. I am finally able to find the humor in abysmal situations. I feel like I could elaborate on this, but if you know me, or if you’re over 25, you know what I mean.

twenty-nine years has really gone too fast. ten years since my dad passed, nearly eleven years since highschool, still in college, no kids, no husband. But I am whole. I am learning, growing, connecting, disconnecting, reflecting, and moving forward. Social formalities seem to allude me.

I know it’s normal to make New Year’s resolutions, but I always wait until my birthday to commit to things. There’s something about being a January baby that just makes your commitment to the happenings of the new year more connected and final. I am aware that everyone has 364 days between their birthdays, but I feel like it’s much more refreshing in January. (and how appropriate for the most OCD star sign, the Capricorn.) This year, I have promised myself to be  better to my mind and my body; to make selections on what I do, drink, eat and etc. that will have only positive effects. I have committed to being purposefully defiant. It’s in my nature to go against the grain, to feel and empathize with minorities, to always be way outside the box and color outside the lines. This year, I’m following the rules to get where I need to be; I’m defying myself — in the sense that I’m reinventing/reshaping what once was — and isn’t that refreshing?  It isn’t always easy for me to say “yes” to what is expected, but sometimes, it’s necessary. I’m following along certain paths to make my dreams easier to reach, and I feel confident certainty is the most adult gift I could ever give myself during this pivotal year. “Thirty, flirty, and thriving,” doesn’t happen over night. I cannot disappoint Jenna.

As I close my eyes to sleep tonight, I am fully aware that:: I am focused, loved, happy, driven, subtly eccentric, and smart. I’m a weirdo, I’m wired backwards..and I wouldn’t change a damn thing. Happy new year and happy birthday to me. May the rest of this twenty-ninth year be full of discovery, travels, and nothing but daily celebration of breath and life.

 

 

EDIT:: I would like to make a note that after I posted this, WordPress notified me that this was my 100th blog. I believe in coincidence and milestone. happy birthday, indeed.

oh baby, i was bound for mexico.

Standard

I’ve been home two weeks and just managed to get my suitcases off the floor. All of my clothes from the trip have been washed and dried several times; I put some back in the open-face suitcase just so it looked a little fuller, the rest have formed a nice body pillow on my bed. It’s like I can’t mentally let go of this trip. I feel that if I really unpack, put my clean laundry away and store all of my tiny, TSA approved toiletries, the experience is over. I can’t deal.

In my mind, I see the low, burnt, orange peel of a moon that guided us from Alexandria to Shreveport, through to Dallas and on to the bright, freshly squeezed sun of Cancun, and I smile. I should have known that the rare moon symbolized how unique and unpredictable the trip was going to be. The group trip, my first real trip with more than my family and a few friends, to Tulum, Quintana-Roo was new nostalgia, permanent memories that have only crossed me in my dreams ever-so often, but not quite enough.

Last night I stuck my mouth under the cool faucet for a rinse after brushing my teeth, a feeling I reveled in like never before. We couldn’t do that in Mexico, not where we were (though I wouldn’t recommend doing that anywhere. I think my stomach is still pissed for the few sips that seeped in.) That refreshing swish reminded me of how easy we have it in America, the simple luxury that is pure drinking water; we’re spoiled. The word germophobe seems like the most asinine term in the dictionary; we know nothing of germs, disease, or real poverty here. In Tulum, I had to wipe and throw my toilet paper in the trash, as there is no real sewage system. As you can imagine, this wasn’t pleasant for the first day or so, but we all got used to it. Well, kind of.

The simple act of being unable to flush my poop humbled me, though I was humbled over and over throughout the trip, and thought constantly of how I hoped my attitude towards the place I call home would change.I am here to say, my perspective has been thoroughly and forever reshaped; the United States, and the people in it, will never be the same in my mind. It’s one thing to read about countries like this, it’s another to see it; while we definitely do have an impoverished, homeless population here, the face is totally different from the one I saw in Tulum.

Our Riviera Maya AirBnB surpassed spectacular, though I wasn’t positive I was going to feel that way getting there. I’ll admit it, I was being judgy. After arriving in Cancun, we had to find transportation to our home in Tulum, which was about an hour or so away – technically two but there is one speed in Mexico and that is fast: the speech, the food, the taxis. All the speed of light. We drove through Cancun in all of its over-sized, Americanized, touristy glory. We drove past dwarfing entrances to exclusive resorts, spas and – what I assume to be – rehabilitation centers. And then, just as I was nodding off, weary from thirty hours or so of awakeness, we entered Tulum.

The roads were dirty and only lightly peppered with people, a sight I am always happy to see, especially when traveling; crowds aren’t really my thing anymore. We zoomed through what I mentally labeled “Bohemia” and eventually slammed in to the residential area that backed up to the jungle – yes, you read that right. I didn’t know what to think, so I surveyed the area in a decaffeinated haze: overcast sky, trees everywhere, many stray dogs. Isn’t it supposed to be sunny? Where’s the beach? I was promised beach!!! A faint stench in the air filled my nose – trash and salt, mostly – not a great smell but my senses adjusted quickly. Late twenties early thirties men stood at all levels, working on various houses. Some looked on with friendly faces, others whistled, while the rest just stared and laughed at the group of Americans trying to count pesos. – We didn’t get very good at this until the third day of the trip. And by we I mean everyone else, because I would just melt in to a weeping, margarita puddle every time we had to figure out what we owed. I learned I am not good with currency exchange.

Our host greeted us a few minutes later and upon opening the door to the casa we could only stand with our jaws on the floor or meander around in wonderment. The house was three stories high, ground floor hosting two more than reasonably sized rooms, a large kitchen and dining space, and a patio/swimming pool to boot. Second floor was the master suite, which include a giant office/multimedia room, and the top floor was designed for open-seating and hammock swinging. We were in paradise, and we hadn’t seen the beach yet!

I immediately tossed my bag on the floor and began exploring the house…the massive, amazing space I’d only seen in my dreams or magazines on airplanes. Our host, a lovely Scottish chap, completely designed the place himself and lived a few doors down in an equally impressive casa. I could do nothing but drink it all in; two hours in to Mexico and I’d already mentally filled half of a notebook with observations.

WP_20160608_15_16_57_Pro.jpg

third story swingin’

 

After we’d settled in to our spaces, the seven of us set off in search of tacos, because what else would we want after landing in Mexico? We found tacos, we found the best tacos straight out the gate at a little hole in the wall, La Chiapaneca. I think everyone was picturing dinner at a beautiful, patio-style restaurant with a menu pages and pages long. Instead, the seven of us huddled around a table just big enough to fit us all, were served drinks with no ice and ordered tacos by the plate, which were served plain. I was so excited I got to decorate my own tacos with: hotter than hell Habanero sauce, cool jalapeno sauce, lettuce and sliced radishes. I was in taco heaven.

I promised myself I would eat fifteen tacos on the trip, though only made it through five; I had to branch out and try some other things. Authentic Mexican fare was just too good to pass up.

IMG_8508.JPG

Other fresh delicacies that couldn’t be missed? Local markets that were filled with amazing fruits and vegetables that we would eventually chop up and snack on all week.

I have to take the time to mention the freaking spectacular mojitos at a local bar named Batey’s (Ba-tay.) Seriously, if you’re ever in the area, this is a must. We were ushered in by the friendliest staff in town and served mojitos so fresh I looked around for a mojito tree. The large glasses of the sweet drink were packed with homegrown mint, fruit of your choice (I chose watermelon, for the first few)and completed with a raw sugar cane. Can you say perfection? The evening was just beginning as our first round of drinks arrived and Maria and her husband – a 60+ professional flamenco dancer/guitarist duo – took the stage. We were entertained by the charming couple for a few hours; long enough to catch a thick buzz that would lull me in to the sleep of the dead.

WP_20160608_20_04_38_Pro.jpg

 

Our first morning in Tulum was cloudy and gorgeous. I was surprised when a cool breeze hit me in the face as I walked up the steps for an early swing in the hammock. Everyone else slept while I took in the quiet sounds of morning. I rocked back and forth and thought about how just hours ago I’d been on American soil, feeling overwhelmed by the arrival and passing of summer. Life is constantly pushing us forward, and sometimes, rather quickly.

Through my contemplation, I heard the arrival of the men building new houses in our neighborhood. I heard one talking loudly, a voice so close I thought he was behind me. I said, “Hola,” to the faceless voice and heard nothing, then out of nowhere, a tiny hat and pair of dark brown, smiling eyes popped up over the edge of the house and the voice greeted me, “Hola, senorita.” I smiled back, waved and headed down the stairs as the hat disappeared.

Other voices were exchanging random dialogue as I meandered back in to the house in search of coffee. Here’s a thing about Mexico that I don’t like: instant coffee. Though I didn’t understand why then, it has donned on me since that instant coffee uses less water for preparation; makes perfect sense now, though I still don’t enjoy it. To satiate my coffee craving (craving = addiction) my loving boyfriend and his sweet sister took me to find a cup of hot coffee. We walked through the quiet streets scouting out potential supper spots, noting where to rent bicycles, and who had the best vegetarian menus. I popped in to a few small Bodega in search of “non-preparado” coffee, with no luck at all. They really drink this shit like this?! Impossible! I’m coffee snob, no matter what country I’m in.

IMG_8518

the perfect macchiato. i’m still drooling. 

 

The night before, on our short trek home, Krishna pointed out a little spot, Burrito Amor. I made a mental note that we should try it out, “how bad could it be? The word ‘burrito’ is in the name!” I’m so happy I love burritos so much and can be lured in so easily; it was hands-down the best decision of the trip…well, maybe. There, Neil found an iced coffee, Krishna an iced latte and a hot macchiato and a bag of coffee the size of my forearm for me. I was so so so pleased that I didn’t have to “suffer” through instant coffee for the rest of the trip. We brought burritos home for everyone, which we quickly consumed before heading to the beach.

Here’s where the trip becomes one long series of sunrises and sunsets for me. I don’t remember much of the details of each day because I was in such bliss. Our cab ride to the beach filled me with such wild anticipation, like I’d never seen a beach before or something; really, it was slightly ridiculous, but I didn’t care. The beach, any beach at all, is instantly my happy place. There’s something about the cohesiveness of it all: the sights, the sounds, the smell. I take it all in for as long as I possibly can, like a vitamin. This beach, Tulum, was no different; in fact, it was more.

FullSizeRender.jpgWe were dropped at a public beach, which if you’ve ever been to Pensacola or Destin, is beautiful but slightly overwhelming because of the crowds, nearby resorts, etc.

This beach was completely untouched, and I mean that when I say it. No resorts, no restaurants, no nothing aside from the small tiki bar that was serving up coconut drinks and fresh fish all day; talk about glorious. Upon walking up, it took everything in me not to drop my things and immediately run in to the water like a child. Sand, whiter than snow, ocean, bluer than any ink or paint I’ve seen on a palette. I close my eyes and think of it now and all I can do is sigh. How something like that can seem ordinary to anyone is beyond my comprehension.

IMG_8562.JPG

The next few days were filled with long strolls through the jungle of Tulum to get from point A to point B, separate cab rides since vans were hard to come by, and random explorations of different parts of the city. I ate gorgeous fresh food, drank exotic coconut drinks and slept better than I have in years. It was equal parts vacation and work and I loved it. Working for your fun is totally worth the semi-headache.

WP_20160611_17_53_46_Pro.jpg

 I’m really a mermaid.

 

I think my face was actually in water more than it was out and I’m pretty positive my hair was only dry while I was sleeping. I snorkeled in a cave! A CAVE! I did yoga in the middle of the jungle, taught by a woman who spoke more Spanish than she did English and then, I snorkeled some more. I felt like a living mermaid the entire trip and really gained some perspective about what’s been going on in my life and the world around me. It’s easy to feel small when you’re floating above a stingray that could cover you like a blanket.

FullSizeRender (3)

post snorkel snap

 

 

Mexico, for me, was about understanding that we need less than what we have and that we should be thankful every damn day that we’re immeasurably blessed with more. Growing up, I always stayed in resorts and had every little thing handed to me when I wanted it. I adored traveling that way, but even then I felt like I was missing part of the puzzle of these amazing places I was experiencing, and I was. I wouldn’t trade those memories for the world, but I’m glad to have to opportunity to immerse myself in different cultures in a fresh way.

One thing I can’t get over: when we went grocery shopping, we filled an entire basket full to the top with all kinds of things I knew we’d never eat in four days. What would have cost $150+ here was a whopping $70 there. I think about this every time I go to Wal-Mart/Target/wherever now. There were people just waiting for us to leave so they could go through our trash to see what could be salvaged. Could you imagine doing that? I know habits can’t change overnight, but this part of the trip humbled me in a way I can’t explain, and I am definitely making a conscious effort to clean my plate when I eat.

I realize I’m leaving out so many parts of this excursion of a lifetime, but I couldn’t possibly write it all down without it being lengthier than it already is. Tulum will always be this dream trip, where I swam with exotic fish while holding hands with the love of my life. It will be me looking over my shoulder on the ride back to the shore and seeing the Mayan ruins staring back at me. It will be the schoolkids buying tacos and ice cream from the cart outside their playground. It will be the long walks to nowhere and back, in the sun and in the shade. It will be sunsets, sunrises and the freedom, promise, and gratitude of more.

WP_20160610_18_55_39_Pro.jpg

WP_20160611_14_05_32_Pro.jpg

coconut dreams at the dive

 

FullSizeRender.jpg

happiness is real. 

IMG_8571.JPG

more. 

 

WP_20160613_10_09_08_Pro.jpg

until we meet again…

the light bulb is going to go off. 

Standard

I look at the empty space in my room where my mat used to lay. the carpet there still holds its shadowed outline, but only because I haven’t taken the time to vacuum in here. It’s been too long since I’ve had a private practice; I really need to check in. 

My diet has been better, though my cheat days have become more frequent and I feel even more shame for them because I know what those sugary, fatty ingredients are doing to my body. I need to find consistency. 

I’m not quite sure why, but since my cleanse, I’ve been super introverted. I can’t imagine that my fits with insomnia have helped – I’ve tried to grip sleep and sanity during the week because of my awesome new job, but those luxuries escape me once the weekend arrives. I didn’t even realize it’s been nearly a month since I’ve written, which is completely abnormal for me. This thing is pretty much my diary, I have no idea where my thoughts have been going. 

I don’t particularly see anything wrong with flowing in between states of social or anti, but I took it to the extreme by nearly – okay, let’s call it avoiding – going anywhere, seeing anyone. Though I may claim to be equal parts introvert/extrovert, I teeter  on either extreme on any given day. 

I’m not sure why I’ve been reclusive, I’m still working that out. that’s as honest as I can get about it without really breaking shit down here, and I haven’t had coffee yet. I can feel the light bulb about to go off….or may burst. 

during my period of introversion, I began writing a new book – a story completely separate from The Anchor and The Bridge, though I am still actively pursuing representation for my first novel. I also got hooked on Breaking Bad, which I finally finished and DAMN. If that isn’t exemplary of stellar writing, acting and production, I’ve obviously never seen it. 

I want to have breakfast with Bryan Cranston. His voice makes me so thirsty for coffee I doubt I’d even have to drink any to feel satisfied. 

This story, the new one, is next-level different from the fluffy southern love story that is The Anchor, this book – the one that had a working title, then a different one, and now none – may just be that book for me. There’s a certain magic it to it when I’m writing. I set the story in New Orleans so I could recount so many specific moments and memories, and that really fares well for the kind of story this will end up being. 

Now don’t get me wrong, I feel the same way about my first ever book, but this is unique in the sense that I am an inexperienced science fiction reader writing semi-young adult sci-fi. Challenge was self-inflicted and accepted. 
For a time now, and I’m not sure where I heard it, but I’ve abided largely by the idea that, “you must relinquish control to gain it.” I haven’t always been clear on what that means exactly. do we just completely let go and assume that the universe is going to do right by us if we play by her rules? Or does this mean, after a summer of sitting hidden, that it’s time to emerge from crisp grey sheets and say, “Hold up, I’m here. I’ve got this!” 

I’m going to assume that that’s the direction I’m supposed to take. 

This is me, starting today, assuming control of every minute of every day of my life. I’m going to get up and greet the day with gratitude and immediately celebrate on my mat. I’m going to nourish my body with water and whole foods; really show gratitude for a body that works so hard to serve me. Working tirelessly at my new job will be easy, but I’m going to give it an extra 110% because I’m capable of that. I’m making the promise here and now to not rush the writing of this new book…new beginnings deserve nurturing. 

The above sounds like a pretty decent list of things for me to do while I wait for the light bulb to go off. 

luz

Standard

I have to write a brief post about the practice I had last night. It was beyond.

As mentioned in my previous blog, I’d had a nice round of drinking with a girlfriend on Monday and I knew what I’d be facing on Tuesday: trying to somehow talk myself out of going to yoga at the gallery…and the thought crossed my mind several times over the course of the work day yesterday.

I had my mat and clothes to change in to, consciously ready for this practice that I was unenthusiastic about taking. I didn’t quite feel hung over, but remnants of drinking on an empty stomach even after a filling salad at lunch had me feeling less than awesome, on top of not much sleep.

Let me say this: the practice you feel unwilling or hesitant to take is the one you need the most. 

I got to the gallery, headed upstairs and rolled out my mat. I had a good twenty minutes or so before the practice started, so I took the time to go through my bag and see what all had been left since my last outing with my mat. Missing pants, missing bra (yay!) and a little pink tank. AND THEN! Two rings I thought were lost forever…right there in the bottom of my bag, wedged in the corner. I wanted to cry I was so happy, I thought I’d never see either ring again. First was a silver spoon ring that I’d purchased in New Orleans that I knew I could replace, but I still don’t like the idea of having lost a piece of jewelry, it irritates me. The second ring was one I’ve worn since the seventh grade, a single row of sapphire hearts; a gift from my father. I was so happy and grateful, in that moment I knew I had no choice but to be present and happy with whatever the practice was going to give to me.

Because I decided to change my attitude, I was able to really give myself to that hour and a half on my mat. I opened my heart and closed my eyes, and let my spirit go in that cold, beautiful, sunlit, museum room. When you really allow yourself to unwind, to clear your mind and surrender to the practice, the best things happen. I practiced with my eyes closed and let B.’s voice guide me through each asana. I needed this so much more than I could possibly ever find the words for. I didn’t realize how much I’d been holding in during my two weeks of no practice, due to injury (aka my own clumsiness.) I haven’t had a practice quite so renewing and rejuvenating in what felt like months, though I feel pretty happy any time I’m on my mat.

What was better than the practice? The meditation that followed. B. says, “our meditation tonight is on gratitude,” and I thought I was going to burst into tears, right there in savasana. Gratitude is a conscious decision, one we can make every day if we allow ourselves to do so. I know it’s hard, we don’t always see the reason to be grateful, especially when we’re presented with nothing but complex, bullshit, adult decisions. I am not the best with this, especially lately. BUT! If gratitude is in the forefront of your thinking, the rest will unfold as it should.

I left the gallery in a daze, my mind completely devoid of clutter and my body was actually completely relaxed…absent of stress. I followed this most cleansing hour with a hot bath, a book and early slumber. I slept in my rings, which I never do, and dreamt of nothing; it was epic. I am thankful for days of this kind.

just had to share.

peanut butter and honey

Standard

I heard the trickling of creek water and it stirred me enough to wake me. “Mmm coffeeeee,” I groaned. I batted my eyes a few times and saw beautiful, dim sunlight spreading through thick green leaves when I finally felt brave enough to open them wide. I took a deep breath in and smelled the salt, the pine and a pinch of that delicious wood ash from last night’s fire, my nostrils opening with sensitivity to the smell. I rolled to the side and pushed myself up, leaves crunching under my elbow and then my palm. I was bewildered in the wild. “Oh, right.” I wasn’t in my giant comfy, fluffy bed as I thought; I was wrapped in a forest-green, plaid sleeping bag, still in my swimsuit and shorts from the day before.

Too much beer, I thought.

I finally sat up, rubbing the back of my head, sore from sleeping on the ground and took in my surroundings. The good ol’ Whiskey Chitto…a childhood favorite, and now, an adulthood pleasing pastime. I l-o-v-e being in the great outdoors, though as a child, you wouldn’t have believed that. Sure, I was athletic. I could pick up anything with a bat, racquet or ball and be decent at it. But I was no granola girl, not at the time.

I looked around for my parents – my mom and step-dad, that is. My mom was NEVER much for the outdoors until Vince came along. Now she’s in to fishing and four-wheeler riding…a true sight to behold. (The woman starches her camo for crying out loud.) I finally spotted her, full-face of make-up on, bright red tank top,  down by the bank with Vince, sipping on a mug that I was sure was full of coffee.

“I don’t know how you drink it like this Tiff, black as night,” she said to me as I walked up. I grinned at her and snatched the mug from her hands and took a huge chug of that black elixir. “It’s heaven in a cup, mom.”

“Well, I miss my creamer. Do you want some eggs? I think that family over there is making breakfast.”

“What? I can’t just go ask them for breakfast mom, people don’t operate that way.”

“Well I do! I started talking to Lynn while I was making coffee; we traded. That’s them over there; Lynn, Jackson, her husband, and their son, Jake.” I surveyed the area…there were several families packing up their camping gear, getting ready for the last leg of the canoe trip. The Whiskey Chitto is only an eight-mile trip, but is split nicely if you choose to stop at each fluffy, white sandbar which is every mile or so, and spend the night under the stars. Really romantic, unless you’re with your mom. I thought about this for a moment and was glad I’d driven up separately.

I walked over and introduced myself to Mrs. Lynn and her family, taking note that Jake was exceptionally cute and wondered if I could sucker him in to abandoning his canoe to row with me. I’d spent the better part of yesterday canoeing from the middle of a three person canoe with all of my camping gear…and my mom’s…and Vince’s.

“You must be TiffanyJo! Your mom said you’d be over once you’d figured out someone was making pancakes and eggs.” I blushed a little and Jake slide over on the sand to make room for me; welcoming, warm and inviting…I liked him already.

We talked for a few minutes over hot coffee and breakfast, making conversation about the interesting people we’ve seen out here. The man collecting every snake he saw and throwing it in a bucket was at the top of both of our lists; I mean seriously, who does that? Jake told me that he was positive he saw a few alligators on the banks that were roped off. I gave him a few of my classic eye-rolls, but made sure to bat them just enough that he found them cute. Hopefully.

My mom eventually called for me and I thanked Mrs. Lynn for the breakfast and headed across the creek to my canoe. “Jesus, I’m glad you two think I’m strong.” My canoe was completely filled in the front and back of the canoe with sleeping bags and ice-chests and all sorts of other odds and ends that my mom insisted she bring. “I’ll see y’all at the next sandbar.” I plugged in my headphones after lathering on some sunscreen and headed off, leading the pack, though no one was behind me.

About an hour or so in to my trip, I came across a sandbar that looked like no one had touched it in weeks, which was odd since this place is flooded with people during the summer. I thought it would be the perfect time to catch a little day time yoga in celebration of the first International Day of Yoga…fitting since it’s the longest day of the year and beginning of the Summer Solstice. I was happily flowing through up and downward dogs when I heard something rustling in the greenery nearby. I didn’t think much of it and sat down to eat my peanut butter & honey sandwich…my favorite. I suppose the heat had zapped my appetite, because I couldn’t finish it. I stuffed the plastic wrap in my backpack and left the sandwich on the sand, figuring a bird or something would snatch it up. As I stood, the rustling grew closer and louder. I took this as a sign to get back in the canoe and finish the trip.

Since I was rowing solo, without another person in sight, I decided I’d challenge myself a little and stand on the middle row of the canoe, paddling like I was just off of some tropical island on a kick-ass paddle board. The water moved heavily under the paddle. I blamed my difficulty pushing on all of the shit my mom had thrown in the canoe. I eventually found a slow rhythm I was happy with and pushed on. The creek curved a little to the left, my canoe easing through the turn on the smooth water. I was smiling from ear to ear; the sun illuminated everything. “Instagram would kill for this filter,” I thought to myself. The water was shimmering, like a thousand coins under the hot sun; it almost hurt my eyes to look at it. The greens were vibrant, almost dream like. Surreal in a way.

I looked down at my arms and noticed how browned and freckled they were getting, compared to my forever stark-white legs. My legs rarely tan in the summer, and this bums me out to no end. When I looked back up, I notice that the creek was moving faster than I knew how to handle, the weight of the camping gear pushing me faster than I wanted…or could paddle. I was traveling solo on a path I’ve taken many times, I’m not quite sure why, but I was little worried. I focused my vision on the surface of the water, still standing, paddling as best as I could this way. When I felt confident enough in my strides to lift my gaze upwards, it was too late. My head met a huge, low-hanging branch and that was it, lights out.

I came to mid-stream and realized my arms were around someone’s neck. I forced my vision clear to get a good look at my rescuer. As his face was coming in to focus, I realized I hadn’t studied Jake’s face enough. Were his eyes this brown? I thought I’d made a mental not that they were blue like mine. His hair was definitely brown, but not this dark…and I didn’t remember him being the hairy type. My vision finally returned and it was all I could do to silence my scream. My little brown arms were wrapped around the neck of a giant Louisiana black bear.

The bear shook my stunned body off it’s back on the next sandbar and went back in to the water and plopped down, watching me. “The rustling, the peanut butter and honey,” I thought to myself. This bear had been following me the entire time in search of a bigger, tastier, blonde snack.

I started to speak but bit my tongue. “What the hell? Do you expect him to answer you? The heat has taken over your brain. You’ve gone mad.” The bear hunched down even further in to the water as if hearing my thoughts. My eyes never dropped its’ gaze; I was nervous to blink. There was something….understanding and familiar in his eyes. Something I’ve noticed before in strangers passing me on the street on my way to the mail.

Moments later I spot my canoe, floating languidly down the creek. “SHIT!” I managed to yell at a whisper. As if sensing my fear and dismay at losing all my things – including my mind – the bear made its way to the center of the creek and steered the edge of the vessel with the side of his huge body, thankfully towards the beach,  where I lay paralyzed with curiosity at what I was seeing. I’d never encountered an animal of this size before, not this close anyway. I’ve only ever heard horror stories about bear encounters and how menacing they are. But here’s this giant black bear, Jake, I’d named him in my head, rescuing me and my canoe.

The bear paused and watched my canoe slide on to the shore, then returned his gaze to me.

I drew in the heaviest of breaths and laid back on the sand, closing my eyes. I figured if Jake was going to maul me, he’d have done it already. I looked up once more at the sky, thankful for my life and this gorgeous day and the kindness of a bear.

***

My alarm rang so loudly that I sprang out of bed, looking everywhere for either Jake. I looked down…no tan, no swimsuit. I looked around….no sand, no canoe, no bear. I fell back on my soft, fluffy, white pillows in sheer disappointment and laid there, paralyzed with curiosity about my dream.

I’d hit the snooze button, but I was too awake to lay in still silence any longer. I stood and realized I had a hunger, a specific taste for peanut butter and honey.

what once was

Standard

there’s this really embarrassing part of me that no one really knows about; a secret that I’m about to spoil: I am far clumsier than I care to admit.

you’re dirty. you thought it was going to be sexier, didn’t you?

I took a bit of a spill in my kitchen last week after yoga. I am clumsy and short, a combination that doesn’t serve me well, especially in slippery, neon pink yoga pants. I hopped backwards on my counter – a maneuver I’ve done a million times – to reach a bowl on the top shelf. Thank to the lovely pants I was wearing, I slipped, hitting my tailbone hard on the top of the counter, then to protruding lip of the dishwasher. I wanted to scream it hurt so bad, but I was in the middle of talking to Tory and I didn’t want to freak her out, so I just kept moving. I tried the move again, this time with success…and thank heavens. At first, the fall didn’t seem too terrible, just a bit of a throbbing, stinging sensation like when you give someone a stellar high-five or something. A few hours later….it hurt to move my legs, and by morning this feeling was all over my lower half. Uncomfortable tingling, numbness in my lower back and my legs were tight with every step I tried to take.

I called in to work that morning and tried to work the following day…worst idea ever. I was seen by two different doctors, the second informed me that had I fallen any harder I’d have cracked my tailbone and been in REAL pain. I on-the-spot started mentally counting my blessings. I can’t imagine how people can endure that kind of pain, and I have, what I like to consider, high tolerance for it. I was put on bed-rest for the weekend and told, “no work, no yoga, no fun.” Great. No yoga? Well there goes my mental stability. I knew what I was facing, and no outlet for release.

After I left the doctor’s office on Thursday and dropped off prescriptions at the pharmacy, I had another stop to make before I could return to my bed and heating pad.

I powdered my face again, put on some lipstick and pulled myself together as best as I possible could; preparing myself for an inevitable flood of tears and heavy breathing…Elizabeth Taylor would have been proud. I pulled up to my lawyer’s office and breathed in my heavy heart. The parking lot was crowded. Jared was in the passenger seat next to me and politely offered to come in with me. “No, no thank you. This is something I need to do solo.” I grabbed my ivory Michael Kors bag, an anniversary/birthday/Valentine’s present (go figure,) and headed in to make the first of many signatures…my life revolves around everything in ink. I walked right in, rang for the office clerk and smoothed my dress, forcing a smile. She came around the corner and returned my half-ass excuse for a grin and told me who to make the check out to – some things just really come down to brass tacks. I was a bit relieved at the icy nature of the situation, it kept me from becoming a blubbering mess in the office in front of the notary, who seemed less than thrilled to be inking his Johnny Hancock on an under-30-something divorce.

The whole thing was over in less than five minutes and I was out the door.

“Mrs. ….uh…Po…Ms….would you like a copy of the errrr….paperwork?”

Sure.” I hesitated but I sort of wanted to read it…in the privacy of my own room. Let me say this: there is no grandeur in divorce. It doesn’t read like a poem; there is no flow or subtlety or flair. It is what it is and that’s all there is to it. Just a bunch of words printed on to a page, legally dissolving what once was.

I totally cheated on my cleanse and had a great big strawberry-coke Icee. I refrained from a cigarette that I subconsciously wanted, but only to give my hands something to do. I know my tell-tales well enough to know that I just wanted to be occupied so I wouldn’t cry, which I did plenty of later in the hot menthol bath I took. (And the shower the next day. And over cereal the following night.) From Thursday night forward, the remainder of the weekend was heating pads and hot baths and avoiding muscle-relaxers for as long as possible because they make me feel weird.

I will say, this particular time away from the world gave me a chance to really look at the things I was hoping to notice during the cleanse. I could do nothing but lay in bed Thursday-Sunday and I’m actually kind of happy about it.

Week #2 Cleanse Observations::

Sugar is still a struggle. I had no idea how much sugar is in everything and how addicted we all are to it. My case may be special because I loooooove sweet things, but nevertheless its wild how many sweeteners – artificial or not – are in EVERYTHING we eat. Though sugar is in most of the things I’ve eaten lately, I have said no to all desserts during the week. My mom made blueberry cobbler on Sunday and there was obviously no way I was saying no to that. My portion was small, but well worth the splurge on something sweet. My skin is clearing up tremendously, thanks largely in-part to the lack of added sugar and no cigarettes whatsoever. Nastiest not-actual habit I’ve ever acquired.

I’m learning a few new songs on the guitar and it feels great. I am no doubt more of a percussionist than anything and I’m thrilled about that, but picking up the guitar a few times over the weekend while I was comfortable enough to sit up longer than fifteen minutes was great. It’s an entirely different form of music therapy. I normally just beat the shit out of my drums and feel instant relief. The guitar is more soothing and pulls out way more emotion, in my opinion.

Clean eating options are available everywhere, you just have to know how to order and be confident in that choice. The salad you ordered may not look as appealing or taste half as great as the mountain-high pile of fried fish, shrimp and fries your step-dad got, but it will make your insides cleaner and make you feel better!

Alcohol is a non-issue, except I know I will want to drink socially when the cleanse is over. A big bottle-sized glass of pinot grigio sounded perfect after signing, but I opted for a nine-hour nap instead and that served me well.

Speaking of….I think the cleanse has made me an insomniac. Is this normal? I’m not sure why, but I have more energy at the wee hours of the morning after three or four hours of sleep than I do during the day. This makes no sense! I’m somehow functioning through it, though.

I’m dealing with my emotions, even though I want to shut them off. For as long as I can remember, the second I feel the sensation to cry I immediately shut the tears down, forcing them back inside my eyeballs and in to my skull and beat myself up for being weak. I won’t go as far as to say I’m comfortable enough to really let it out and cry in front of another person at this stage, but I’m definitely okay with giving myself that time when I’m alone. I almost feel like I’m pushing myself to cry it out. I’m trying to read books that will trigger all kinds of emotions and listen to music that does nothing but send me reeling. This may seem like emotional torture, but I am finding this very, very cleansing. Purifying.

Week #3 Cleanse Goal::  I’m keeping it stupid simple – keep it up. Learn from the last two weeks and appreciate the clarity. I know I’ve grown more thus far in 2015 than I ever imagined, and this cleanse has demonstrated that in ways I never thought possible. Had I filed for divorce in January, I’m not positive I could have handled it or followed through; my subconscious wasn’t strong enough, the encouraging voices in my life weren’t loud enough…but I’m there now. I can see that relationship for what it was now and I hear everything that Mark was trying to say to me loud and clear.

When I feel strong enough to do it, I will write about that experience in grave detail. Until then, I appreciate anyone who reads these ramblings and takes them for what they are: an account of what’s happening and little flashes of what once was.

the restoration period

Standard

I had a flawless weekend. Let me tell you all about it in the greatest of detail – way more than you need but it was sooooooo perf I have to allow myself time to gush.

I kicked Friday night off right with a hot shower after work and put on an outfit I’ve been dying to try. My style is really tailored and classic, so stepping out in a geometric peach-grey number that buttoned all the way to my clavicle with metallic wedges was really, really pushing my fashion limits. It went over well I think; I felt sassy and chic, and though I immediately put on yoga pants and a tank a few hours later, it was great to feel mega-girly for a minute.

To continue on with the girlishness of Friday night (and the entire weekend,) I spent the night with one of my best friends. We just laid around all night, watched The Interview and talked until we passed out at the very late hour of midnight – we’re old, okay?

Saturday morning we were up and at it! First on the agenda was blackberry picking at Inglewood Farm. I think could pick berries all day, every day…I seriously loved it. I thought about pies and cobblers and ice cream the whole time; it was heaven. Tiffany (the friend I was with all weekend – it’s really difficult sometimes to have a BFF with your name, but convenient at others) brought her adorable son along for the fun and I know he had a blast too! Kids just make everything more fun. I’m glad I’ve got so many friends with kids to light up my life, for real. We bought these really interesting melon-cucumbers and some crazy mint-cucumber jam and other delicious, local, organic things, then headed for lunch…which was also tasty and perfect and al fresco. After that? Poolside for a few hours to soak up some sun before having the yummy taco soup Tiff made for supper. – I told you….I had THE PERFECT WEEKEND.

After we realized we were worn out and sleepy from all the fun we took showers and said, “live music? why the hell not?! SAUCE IS PLAYING!” So we dolled up a bit and walked to this little dive bar that’s close to my apartment and watched our friends jam for about an hour. Nothing feeds my soul like live music, except watching live music with my friends, being played by friends.

We then conceded defeat to our sleepiness and headed home for what can only be described as the best couch-rest I’ve ever had. But before we were allowed sleep…cobbler had to be made. So in our glasses and pajamas we made blackberry-strawberry cobbler and begged it to hurry up and bake. When it was finally out of the oven, we scooped some out in to coffee mugs and let our tastebuds dance all over the kitchen. It’s no surprise that I slept harder and more peacefully than I did all week long. I was beyond satisfied and happy.

Sunday was productive in the morning and lazy in the afternoon. Fresh sheets, clean towels; all of my laundry is done. YAY! I visited with friends then went out to the pool for more hang time, and definitely caught some sun! I haven’t had a summer in what feels like a really, really long time so I am loving all of this outdoor action. I mean, I’m actually catching a little tan and everything (no worries, lots of sunscreen!) Though, I think I may be forming an addiction to vitamin-D….I suppose there are worse things to find addicting.

The best part about this weekend? I was with my friends the entire time. This weekend was very remnant of those few and far between days I got to do this last summer with my NOLA crew. I can’t wait for my sets of friends to collide at some point this year, it’s going to be a riot.

I feel like this cleanse (and that glorious weekend) has helped me breach that weird limbo I was in. Now, don’t get it twisted. I still have no idea what’s going on in my head really, but I’m happily focusing on the day-to-day and that is legit as shit. I suppose it’s safe to call this my restoration period, and it’s been a long time coming.

What I learned from my first week of cleansing:

Sugar is hard to give up. Sugar is in EVERYTHING…e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. I can’t even explain how much I’m noticing and it’s just been a week and I cheated with sweets twice….I can only imagine how my body will feel after the next 12 days.

Regular oil-pulling is really helping whiten my teeth and get rid of all those dumb stains that cigarettes were giving me.

I don’t miss alcohol, unless I’m in the pool; and only then do I want some sort of umbrella drink served to me by a Mr. Hottie McHotterton that is also offering to cover me in coconut oil. English optional.

Making time to read is really, really challenging. Between work, popups and the random little things that come up in between, I just don’t have the energy when I get home. I’m also trying to get in bed and asleep at a decent time during this cleanse (in hopes for discipline) and it really just falls to the wayside. It might have to do with my selection. Dune is wonderful, but it’s heavy. The sunshine is beckoning me to pick up something light-hearted and funny, so maybe I’ll swap out for a little while and revisit Dune at a different time.

Life without all of the coffee I want is miserable. “I can’t even.” The headaches are bearable but I miss that part of my ritual. I did cheat a little by going to Tamp&Grind after yoga on Thursday afternoon, but I had a delightful cup of Oolong tea with hibiscus leaves and it satisfied my craving for something hot.

Raw foods/clean eating is a breeze but I feel hungry a good bit, so it’s time to incorporate EVEN MORE water, if that’s possible. I feel like all I did last week was pee, but hey. I guess that’s the name of the game. BTW, the clean eating is easier than you think. It’s all about conscious decisions (like everything else in life,) though I know that’s easier said than done. I know that I want my mind and body to feel better, so I use that as motivation to keep me going and it works!

I had a beautiful practice yesterday morning and it reminded me how much I love doing yoga solo. I can make the session as long or short as I want. I can take an inversion in the middle if I’m feeling it and long savasanas. It reminded me of why I wanted to make active gratitude my New Year’s resolution and why I wanted to participate in the cleanse.

Soul Cleanse, Week #2 Goals:

Learn a new song on the guitar. I don’t play nearly as much as I should because I’m so super obsessed with playing my drums (especially my beautiful new djembe!) and that’s awesome, but my guit-fiddle needs some love too. Gotta get on it.

Give more hugs. I didn’t realize that not being touched affectionately for almost a year really turned me off to being touched at all. I feel like my space is being invaded or something and that makes me really sad because I used to be super touchy-feely all the time. I made a conscious effort to hug my friends this weekend and there is such restorative power in that sensation.

No extra sugar, at all this week. I splurged a little with my mom on Tuesday last week after our trip to the law office, because let’s be honest, chocolate fro-yo is a lifesaver. Then…the cobbler of all cobblers. Though Tiff and I sweetened it only with light agave nectar, I knew I was being bad. None at all this week! No treating myself to sweet cheats.

Long story made short – she says after over 1,000 words – I feel like hope has been restored in fistfuls and I am absolutely in love. I know the days might be hard and the nights might be long, but I understand that tomorrow is coming and that I’m in control. Once you get your grip on that, you’re golden, baby.

Who knows, my Golden Era may be approaching.