Sunday, January 27, 2013

Everyday Magic

Most days, when I wake up, I don’t think about whether to put on my “sensible hat” or my “crazy hat.” Truth is, hats—and perfume—give me a headache. But some days, I feel logical, rational, and practical; other days I feel like a floating cloud. I suppose it’s no secret by now which kind of day I like best.
            Yes, although I am surrounded by quite a few friends and family members who do not subscribe to my “magical” view of life (as well as, thankfully, quite a few who are on the same page) I find that it’s my preferred approach to dealing with reality. And I’m not talking about magic “tricks” like disappearing pennies and rabbits that come out of—ahem—hats.
            I’m talking about everyday magic like finding one solitary peppermint tea bag in a box of black tea in the cupboard when your stomach is bothering you, even though there isn’t a single box of peppermint tea anywhere in the house. I’m talking about the phone ringing precisely when you are thinking about that certain someone, or a sign on the road that says “slow down” just when you were thinking of speeding.
            Some people attribute this stuff to God, the “Universe,” angels, leprechauns, or any number of sources. I personally like to think of it as everyday magic, and I don’t really care where it comes from, as long as it comes. In fact, these days, I depend upon signs, signals, and mantras. I’m done with a world where everything is supposed to add up or be explained. If I can’t explain it, all the better (not that I’m against science!). But who would like to explain to me why—when I was just 24 years old—my husband-to-be found us an apartment in New York City exactly one block away from my childhood best friend whom I had lived exactly one block away from all my life (he had no idea, btw, that this friend was even living in Manhattan). This is the sort of thing I mean.
            Or why a yoga studio opened on the corner of my street the very same year I decided to try doing yoga (which completely changed my life)? Or…why every time I’m deeply missing my mother, a butterfly seems to pop up (it might not be a real butterfly, especially in winter).
            I’m sure you have things like these in your life, magical happenings that you can’t explain (coincidence? karma? a chemical reaction? the "Intervening Hand?"). Whatever the case, I am extremely grateful for what I don’t understand. I, for one, believe in—nay, absolutely rely upon--the gift of magic, every single day.

Monday, January 21, 2013

That's Amore!

What is it about pizza? Okay, so maybe it’s not the healthiest thing on the menu, though I’ve heard it’s not the least healthy, either (tomatoes contain the antioxidant lycopene, after all). Whatever, I’ve had a love affair with pizza for many years, and I don’t intend to give it up.
            It began when I was a child. Pizza was the only food item (other than ice cream) that my parents ever “brought home.” Back in the day, my parents didn’t order take-out food and never went to restaurants. The one concession they made was pizza, so every couple of weeks my dad would go to the local pizzeria and bring home a pie. What a delicious break from the meat-and-potatoes fare of every other day!
            Now, of course, just about every teenager adores pizza, so it’s no surprise that pizza was my favorite adolescent snack. And when I first began seeing my husband, going out for pizza was our favorite date; I was the only girl he knew who could easily devour four slices without flinching. We made it our goal the summer that we fell in love to test every pizza parlor within a twenty mile radius of our hometown (in upstate New York, there were a lot of pizza places!).
            After college my first job was at an Italian restaurant, where I took orders for pizza all day long. At night, I would often dream of pizza, yelling out in my sleep, “One large pie with peppers!” or “Small pie, extra cheese!” Even with this pizza saturation, I continued to love the stuff. Though my goal after college had been to become a newspaper reporter, I felt sorry to leave the waitressing gig (which came with all the pizza I could eat) when I landed a position at a local newspaper.
Pizza may not be for everyone, but for me, it’s like coming home. In fact, when my husband picked me up at 1 a.m. at the airport after I’d been on a week-long yoga retreat in New Mexico last spring, he had a pizza in the back seat of the car. Okay, so maybe I’m easy to please.
Now let me be clear: I don’t eat pizza often. I realize that to eat pizza often would be the cheesy kiss of death. But I do enjoy it on occasion, and especially on special occasions. When my family asks what I would like for my special birthday dinner, they know that quite often my response will be “just a pizza will be fine!” 
 They say that nothing stays the same, but I’ve been in love with pizza my whole life and I don’t see the relationship ending any time soon. One caveat: Hold the anchovies, please!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Heart Like a Wheel

According to the ancient yogis, age is measured not by years, but by the flexibility of the spine, which naturally degenerates over time (this is good news for me since I just became a year older, and my spine seems to be in relatively good shape). However, there is a pose called wheel—a rather intense backbend—that I still find quite challenging if not darn near impossible (there's a lovely supported version that I can do handily, however). In this pose you basically plant your hands and feet on the ground and lift up into the shape of a wheel (you begin on your back face up toward the ceiling; check with your neighborhood certified yoga instructor for details!). Not easy! I’ve heard tell that the venerable BKS Iyengar as a young man (master, appropriately, of the very popular style of yoga called Iyengar yoga) used to practice this asana (or pose) on discarded tires.
            Well, that's all fine and good, but I would like to add that in addition to the flexibility of the spine, the thing that really keeps folks young is a flexibility of heart and mind. As I see it, those who embrace life with an openness and grace of acceptance and flow, are those who seem to do better in terms of aging. A sixty-ish fellow I know, for instance, just keeps racking up physical problems and diseases. Divorced, he won’t date a certain kind of woman (only slim blondes need apply), will only eat a certain kind of very bland, American food, and heaven forbid would never even consider entering a yoga studio for fear that someone might be chanting. In the meantime the problems just keep multiplying, and the more ailments, the more meds. The man appears much older than his sixty years. While I feel compassion for this fellow, he’s also a frustrating bloke to spend any time with.
            With all due respect to the ancient yogis, who certainly knew what they were talking about, I would like to submit that while a flexible spine is an advantage it’s the open heart that’s the ticket. But I will also concede that the yogis knew their stuff—it’s virtually impossible to do a backbend without simultaneously opening your heart.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Reach for the Stars

To start off the New Year, one of my dreams was smashed to smithereens. I won’t go into the gory details, but let’s just say something I’ve wanted for a very long time is clearly not going to happen (at least not in the way I planned).
            This got me thinking about the message I’ve been giving my kids all these years (and quite likely, if you’re a parent, you’ve been doing the same thing). Telling them to reach for the stars, encouraging them to be anything they want to be, cheering them on when they say they want to be a rock musician, a famous architect, or fly to the moon. As parents, we seem to think it’s our duty to be the yes-sayers rather than the naysayers, to tell our kids “Yes you can!” (as long as it’s something good).
            So at what point do we start telling the truth, do we start saying, “Your wants and desires may never be fulfilled, you may work all your life only to fail at the one thing that you’ve ever really wanted?”
            Well, that would be pretty harsh, wouldn’t it? And I don’t think it’s really the way to go. But sometimes I think we’d do our kids a favor if we’d point out that not everyone gets to be number one. In many paths of life there is only ONE number one, and if you miss that mark, you’ll have to re-focus on something less, or different.
            I’ve "failed" so many times in my life that I’m not really that crushed any more. I may drag around for a day, week, or perhaps even a month before I wake up one morning and say to myself, “So what! So your plans didn’t turn out as you hoped. Get over it and move on.”
            In fact, maybe if I’d had less disappointment in my life yet another knock-down would be harder to take. Maybe I wouldn’t be able to, as my best friend describes it, “re-frame” the picture, so that I could look at it in a different way.
            I’d like to think that in 2013 we’ll all get exactly what we want, but I know the chances of that happening are pretty slight. Maybe, as the lyrics go, we’ll get what we need. Or maybe we won’t get what we want or what we need, we’ll get something even better.
Sometimes I recall how disappointed I was when I didn’t get the house of my dreams (but the house I did get turned out to be right next door to a wonderful woman who became one of my very best friends). I didn’t get the job I wanted at a swanky women's magazine (instead, I ended up at a wonderful photography magazine). My second baby wasn’t a girl (as planned). He was a boy who turned out to be an amazing blessing (as were my first and third boys). And so on….
Sure, I’ll keep reaching for that star (and telling my kids to). But when I miss the mark, I must remind myself that there are an infinite number of twinkling lights in the universe.