House search

I already wrote about the mice in our current house. We’ve also had an electrical fire (turned out to be very minor THANK GOODNESS, though no less scary) and broken glass that was in the yard when we moved in, which the management company never had cleaned up, in spite of promising for 9 months that they would. We eventually cleaned up the glass, and the outlet that caught fire was replaced, but coping with the poor to non-existent communication that has underscored our entire lease term has been pretty terrible.

Our initial lease term was scheduled to end at the end of July, but I’ve been on the lookout for something else since the electrical fire in November. We also considered buying a rundown duplex in our neighborhood as an investment strategy (live in one half and rent the other), but that didn’t end up making any sense. Someone did buy that duplex though, and on dog walks and on my way to yoga, I’d been peeking in the windows and monitoring the renovations that whomever had bought it seemed to be doing. Last Sunday, I decided to put a note on the door of the duplex introducing me, Hubs, and our pets and asking if the duplex owner needed any renters. He called me back within an hour and invited us to come look at the duplex he was redoing, as well as at a nearby triplex he was renovating also.

Well, we loved the triplex and the price is right (it will save us probably $500 a month in rent and utilities), so we’ll be moving mid-April. (It’s not yet clear what will happen with our current lease. We are manifesting that someone else will come along to rent the place starting in May, at which point our management company has said they will let us out of the lease.) Until we found the new place, I had no idea how much our sketchy house was stressing me out. Now that I know that it’s settled, I feel so much lighter.

Plus the new space is smaller by probably 700 square feet, which provides an incredible opportunity to simplify. Coming soon: a huge purge accompanied by a garage sale pre-move, and ruthless culling of anything that we don’t absolutely love post-move. I can’t wait!

Contentment

I confess that the scholarly part of my yoga training—reading and reflecting on yogic texts—didn’t resonate with me at the same depth as the physical practices of breathing, chanting, and moving or as the practice of satsang—discussing yogic philosophy in community—did. During my teacher training, I completed (and even sometimes enjoyed) the assigned readings and wrote reflections, and I am thankful for the intellectual base that I now have for cultivating my own practice and for the understanding of the context of the texts that I am sure makes me a better teacher. But I don’t really ever get the urge to just sit down for some study time with Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras or Hatha Yoga Pradipika.

The beautiful thing about a yoga practice is that sometimes you have a need filled that you didn’t know you had. One of my favorite teachers has been leading us through part of the Yoga Sutras that refers to the yamas (good things we do for other people) and the niyamas (good things we do for ourselves). I always appreciate the teachings around these concepts in a sort of vague, the-class-starts-at-6-am way, but this past Tuesday, her words cut sharply through my early morning haze.

Santosha, one of the niyamas, means contentment. Contentment, my teacher said, can be described as “falling in love with your life,” but not the kind of honeymoon-ish love where all the ducks are in a row and everything seems perfect. Santosha is falling in love with your life in the way that you love a partner or a friend and, in doing so, accept what this person offers every day no matter how well it aligns with your idea of how his/her behavior should look. You commit to finding contentment there regardless. Contentment isn’t a perfect life that’s easy; it’s a commitment to a practice.

Enjoying lately

In weather: spring-like temps and finally gone snow. I feel my shoulders relax (rather than tense against the cold) when I step outside. It’s been cloudy, but at 65 degrees, I can’t be bothered about the sun.

In TV: Friday Night Lights. The whole series is on Netflix, and it’s an amazing combo of real-seeming relationships, poignant musical scoring, and Texas high school football, which takes me right back to my marching band days circa 1999-2003. We are huge fans of Parenthood, which recently aired its evocative final episodes, and a friend shared with me that the two shows share their executive producer/head writer—Jason Katims—and suggested that we might like FNL (thank you!). Hubs and I tried it out on a snow day, made it through 11 episodes in one sitting, and finished season one last night.

In books: I read Wonder this week on the suggestion of another dear friend. This book is quick and emotional juvenile fiction with enough struggle to be believable and enough resolution to be extremely satisfying.

In blogs: Erica at Laddventure has been writing beautifully lately about her and her husband’s journey to adopt from foster care. I’ve been both educated and moved to tears by her posts, and I feel so excited for their family as they move through the process and so thankful that she’s been sharing it with the interwebs.

In podcasts: I regularly listen to podcasts on my bus commute to avoid motion sickness that I sometimes get from reading. My two top podcasts of the moment are:

  • Dear Sugar Radio with Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond, two writers who have each served as online advice columnist Sugar at The Rumpus and now teamed up to read Dear Sugar letters and give advice in podcast form. The podcast includes literary references, guest advice-givers, and a lovely conversational tone. Strayed also published a collection of her Dear Sugar columns as the fantastic Tiny Beautiful Things.
  • The Girl Next Door Podcast with Erica Ladd (see blogs above) and Kelsey Wharton. These two next door neighbors chat about their lives, and topics range from light (neighborhood news) to weighty (how to know if you want to quit your job). Before I listened to this podcast, I didn’t imagine that I would love it as much as I do. Extremely likeable hosts, well-planned, yet natural conversations, and good sound quality combine to make me download this one immediately every time a new episode comes out.

My yoga

I have my friend Linds to credit with beginning my yoga practice. I was well into graduate school, and she and her husband moved across the parking lot from us and had memberships to the YMCA. Folks, they drove me to the Y every Tuesday and Thursday, so that Linds and I could take yoga with the silver sneakers crew (senior citizens). It was a perfect way to begin yoga because the teacher was really focused on alignment and it was gentle. We practiced there together until these dear friends moved away, and then after a Creepy interaction with an old guy at the Y after a different yoga class I stopped going to the Y.

I found my practice again at a studio in Nashville, dropped it and picked it up again in Chicago, and then found my yoga community here in North Carolina, which has been invaluable in this state finally feeling like home. But as much as the people in my community of teacher trainees and studio, what I so appreciate about my practice these days is the relative ease with which I can access it.

My mom practiced yoga daily for years before I finally got into it myself. When you practice something [mostly] every day for even just seven minutes—the minimum time our teacher used to define how we should think about our daily practice—your ability to refer back to it increases exponentially. Yoga is so much about taking a moment to pause and connect with my breath and myself that it makes a huge difference in my ability to do that, and get through the day with greater equanimity.

I went into my teacher training with the idea that I wanted to deepen my own practice and probably not really teach, but my feelings on that have changed, based on the profound change that yoga has made in my life. I am definitely not perfect, but I am so thankful that the emotional reactivity that I’ve struggled with my whole life feels much less a problem now than it ever has. After just seven minutes a day.

PHinisheD

After seven and a half years of it hanging over my head from varying heights, I received this email:

2015-02-05 12.37.29 pm
Somewhat anticlimactic. I haven’t worked in the lab since May 2013, at which point lack of funding, opportunities to move into science writing, and Hubs moving to NC all combined and I left. Because I was just so close to finishing that it felt silly not to, I continued to be associated with my scientific work throughout my paper and dissertation writing, my defense last April, and my paper’s acceptance by a peer-reviewed journal last month. (It should be said that I owe quite a lot of the successful end of the story to the labmate who is co-first author on my paper and to my grad school boss). While I’m lucky that I could start a postdoctoral fellowship without officially having the doctorate, the unfinished PhD was ever-present in my mind over the last year and a half. I am incredibly relieved to be finished, but I don’t think I quite believe that it is over.

My adult life has been defined by being a graduate student, and I feel exhausted in the way that I imagine someone ending an eight-year relationship might feel. And the PhD process was so like a relationship. I gained friends through my PhD, as well as experienced great joy, immense frustration, and huge emotional growth. I sought the answers to questions like, can I continue to depend on what other people think of me? What do my values say about how I want my work and career to look? Is it wrong to put so much time into something and then leave it behind as it becomes more and more clear that it doesn’t serve my highest good? How do I define professional success, and in what ways does my personal life intersect with it? I don’t regret anything about my PhD experience because of what I’ve gained in self-knowledge, understanding, and experience. And in the same breath, I am so thankful to move forward, degree [finally] firmly in hand.

Looking forward: Simplify

The word I’ve chosen for 2015 is simplify. I want this year to be the one in which I figure out exactly what I need to do, and do nothing else. I want to fill my calendar with fewer commitments and enjoy more spontaneous social and relaxation time. I want to deepen the friendships I have. I want to think carefully about what my work life will look like at the end of my one-year postdoc contract in July. I want to prioritize family. I want to move into a smaller, cheaper place. Inspired by my friend Sarah, I want to take the first part of this year to get rid of all.the.stuff we don’t use, from kitchen to furniture to craft supplies. I want to spend less time mindlessly and more time mindfully.

It’s already begun. I spent an enforced last three days in bed with a nasty cold virus, and it’s a wonder how much of my hectic life I didn’t miss (and didn’t miss me). I’ve also started a Facebook diet where I check it once a day (or less) and deleted the app from my phone. I am being really careful about not committing to too much in the evenings, so that Hubs and I can spend that time together. But I am already feeling the pull to do more, have more, buy more, so we’ll just have to see how it goes.

What is your word for 2015?

Looking Back: Peace

My word for 2014 was peace. I’m not sure what I had in mind when I picked it, and I don’t know if I can say that I “achieved” it over the past twelve months, but I definitely feel as though I live more of my life in a peaceful state than I did a year ago. What helped me get here?

YOGA. In March 2014, I started a 200 hour yoga teacher training program at my studio in North Carolina. Leading up to the training, everyone who had done it before told me it would change my life. I politely nodded to these folks, but didn’t expect the transformation that has manifested itself in every aspect of my life. Thanks to a daily asana (physical poses) practice, my body is healthy and strong, and my physical self-image is the most peaceful its ever been. But more than that, learning ancient yogic philosophy (some of which really resonates and some of which doesn’t), combined with growing awareness of and love for my physical body and a daily practice of devotion through breathing, chanting, and asana, has lowered the level of emotional reactivity on which I typically function and led to much more equanimity and peace in my daily existence. Drop (and break the dishes of) two quiches in the parking garage stairwell on the way to an office brunch? Oh well, better stop at Dunkin Donuts to have something else to bring. Possibility of a move to various far away locations based on spouse’s job? Just wait and see. These are just two (fairly trivial) examples of how I feel greater peace in my life. As a highly sensitive person, the level of emotional reactivity with which I have functioned throughout my life has been exhausting. I am so relieved that these yoga tools came into my life in 2014 in such a big way.

TIME. I blogged about our emotional move in October, and the peace that I now feel in our current home is certainly due to time. Having more distance in time from other challenges (my parents’ 2013 divorce, graduate school, rough spots in own my marriage) continues to be something that I can rely on to bring greater peace into my life. Not doing so well with something? In time it will be over; time will pass and the hurt will be less immediate and, almost certainly, less intense.

RELATIONSHIPS. Some relationships have been less peaceful this year, it’s true. But the vast majority of the people with whom I choose to interact, the contacts local and non-local that I keep, are a huge part of feeling peace in my life. Whenever an unsettling event happens, or work is shitty, or I need some perspective, I have it in the form of dear family and chosen family for whom I can reach. My deepest relationships always offer me peace in the midst of whatever other stuff is happening. I am so grateful for all of these people.