My first solo trip, I am in the Bay, San Francisco and Berkeley to be exact, and I’ll be honest, I am not totally alone, staying with my cousin and visiting my daughter, but I flew here and am navigating the cities myself. I have used Lyft, Uber and BART. What started out, as a scary unknown has become a familiar luxury, and an interesting adventure.
These amazing sunflowers were taller than me!
The Lyft and Uber drivers have been pleasant for the most part and some have been really interesting. I have been able to view the city without worrying about navigating it myself so I have seen amazing architecture, bustling streets, people walking, biking, taking dogs for a stroll and the many homeless people here.
BART is like a ride at Disneyland complete with the voice announcing incoming trains and the stops along the way. Interacting with the other riders is pleasant and people aren’t afraid to strike up a conversation. It is so different from the solitude car culture of L.A. that I am used to.
Walking around Berkeley is relaxing and the homes and gardens charming. The climate brings out the best in both vegetables and flowers. The front gardens are sometimes tame but usually haphazard, with a variety of flowers and whimsical decorations. Walking gives me time to think and I don’t distract myself by talking on the phone, or listening to music. I want to hear the world around me and notice everything.
This first solo trip gave me a lot of anxiety as it was approaching, but I feel like I have crossed a hurdle and can relax a little, at least in this one new experience, and hopefully in the other new solo areas of my life.
This was the week. My Hay House calendar for Tuesday said “Today is the beginning of a positive turning point for me.” I decided to take that seriously and get up and go out into the world of my former life. I went for a 2 mile walk and felt pretty accomplished, a little out of shape, but happier. I considered it a meditation walk, contemplating the houses, trees, birds, dogs out for their morning walks and listening to the sounds in the neighborhood and in my head.
Wednesday I decided to take the big step and return to yoga. I haven’t been since early March, unable to face the introspection and solitude on my yoga mat, but my body craved the stretch, the familiar asanas and the quiet reward of the savasana at the end of class. I walked into the studio and was asked if I had cancelled my membership. No, I’ve just been gone for a while. I’ve had some stuff going on. I have seen the payment going out of my account each month. No problem. Walking into the room I run into a teacher I know who is a member of my community. She knows everything and gives me a hug and encouragement, “It will be good, just what you need, really.” I hope so.
Laying out my mat, I assemble the familiar props, foam blocks, blankets and a strap; I lay down, breathing in the calm. The teacher is smiling and positive, speaking slowly and demonstrating every new posture and walking around the room helping to make small adjustments. The bamboo floor is smooth and lovely, the blue walls are tranquil and the view out the windows is of children playing on a leafy climbing structure. I breathe, arms circling up and folding forward, then fingertips to shins stretching out and folding down again. Stepping back into plank, the most difficult for me, I breathe into the rigidity of the pose and then down, chaturanga dandasana, pushing slightly up to a low cobra and elevating into downward facing dog. Stepping forward on my mat, arms circling, reaching up, I look up at my hands and then bring them to my heart center. There is nowhere else to look, except in my heart.
Today I went to yoga, the second day back was not as dramatic, no questions, just smiles and hellos by name. I settled in and welcomed the calm, the warmth of the room and the returning familiarity of sun salutations. Today we work on balance. Triangle pose and preparation for half-moon, standing on one leg, lifting the other straight out and up using the foam block for support. I need practice on balancing, my leg wobbles and I am glad for the support of the block but it still doesn’t guarantee an easy balance. It still takes work, repositioning and focusing on the breathing through it all.
It was a good idea to meet up with my friend and her dog to walk the lake today. The weather was perfect, crisp, slightly warm from the weak winter sun and the winds hadn’t picked up yet. We walked briskly, catching up and keeping up with her dog Pink. Ellen and I have been friends since we were 13 and that’s saying a lot. A lot of time and water under the bridge. We have been in and out of contact and manage to stay connected somehow. We chat and observe the people, old immigrants, young children still on winter break, men fishing or playing with remote-controlled boats on the lake. We pass the different areas; the playground, the bridge crossing the tumbling water, the bird-filled trees that sound like an aviary as we pass underneath and the benches inhabited by people reading, talking, resting and daydreaming. We see children frolicking as they run from the large geese and tease the smaller birds with crumbs. We hear people speaking many languages. What is that? Russian, Spanish, Italian? There is a melding pot of people all out for a day in January, starting the New Year with a stroll, a walk hand-in-hand, in workout gear, new sneakers, old walking shoes and jackets, with arms pumping and quick breaths, with hands holding canes to steady plump bodies breathing slowly. For this hour, we walk in this moment in time. Old friends sharing, enjoying the beauty that exists within a busy city.
Last weekend I walked 26 miles through the lovely town of Santa Barbara with 2500 women and men, only 2 of whom I knew. We walked as part of the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, raising a minimum of $1800 each, most walkers raised more, to help in the fight against this horrible disease. I walked for the first time last year with my friend who is a survivor and the entire event was so motivating that I signed up again for this year.
I walk for a few reasons: breast cancer has touched many women I know, I want to improve my health and walking is a great way to do that, the event itself is a very uplifting experience and I love the feeling of being part of something bigger than myself.
At the finish line!
My experience with breast cancer began when I was a little girl and my favorite aunt, my mother’s sister, was stricken with the disease. She suffered from a horrible, long illness and passed away when I was 10. I had grown up with her in my life and my two cousins are like brothers to me. My mother was devastated by the loss of her sister-who was her closest confidant and supporter. I felt the emptiness with anger and sadness. Through the years, my friends have also received the diagnosis, but fortunately most have survived. I am walking for more prevention, a cure and the eradication of this disease.
I am walking to improve my health, build strength and stamina to improve my own chances of a long and healthy life. I want to be there for my daughters future, to share time with my husband and to continue on my adventure in life. I want to be strong, healthy and take challenges like the Avon Walk as opportunities to push myself to a higher limit.
I walk in honor and in memory of those touched by breast cancer.
I enjoy the camaraderie of the Avon Walk from the participants to the event coordinators, volunteers and crew. Women and men of all different shapes and sizes, ages, races and social classes walk together in a big cloud of pink through cities around the country to bring awareness and make a positive statement: We are walking for a cause that we are determined to win.
A very motivated group of 2500, ready to start the first day of a two-day walk!
Our lives are filled with egocentric thoughts, activities and experiences. Participating in the Avon Walk is a chance to put myself on the back burner and to do something for others. I am not the star, the biggest fundraiser or the fastest walker. I am one of many, and that feeling of being a part of something bigger than myself, is humbling. Raising money for this cause, walking for two days with 2500 selfless participants and survivors through a city that comes out to support us, fills me with love, positive energy and determination to continue.
- Walking with Lezlie, my friend of 25 years, and her daughter Courtney, who I have known since she was 2. Three days before the walk, Courtney’s best friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. The day before the walk she had a double mastectomy. She is 27 years old. It can happen to anyone at anytime.
I have already signed up for next years walk and I am in training again.
Houses were decorated to welcome us to neighborhoods throughout Santa Barbara.
The real me.
The day starts out gloomy and gray but I get up early, committed to the 5k I’ve signed up to walk in today. My feet are hiding in my sneakers, nestled in my extra-cushioned peds, my exercise clothes hugging my newly thinner body. I am motivated and slightly excited as I meet up with my group to begin our walk and more than pleasantly surprised by the ease of the walk after my weeks at the gym. We finish the walk and I head home, thinking to myself that my shoes felt a bit flat and confirming the need to get a new pair of sneakers for next week’s 10k.
Through all of this, my toes ache for summer’s warmth and flip-flops. I give in to temptation and the desire to feel a warm foot bath, foot massage and splash of color. After my pedicure, my toes smile up at me with their extravagant flowers. Sure enough, the sun peaks out from the clouds and when I exit the salon, it is actually warm. I figure it is a little early for painted toes, but I kind of like the idea of the little secret in my shoes. As the school year winds down slowly, and the work piles up, I can imagine the purple toes with flowers and the warm months ahead when I can slip on my flip-flops and head to the beach.
OK, it’s official and I really never thought that I would say this, but I am addicted to exercise. If you knew the family I come from, you would be equally shocked because I grew up without an exercise role model and was not encouraged to take pricey after school dance classes, or to participate in athletics at school. I have had to learn on my own. As I have mentioned in a previous post, I have committed to a 10,000 Step a Day program in the quest for improved health in 2011. I have found it nearly impossible to acquire the required number of steps without a good solid hour walk, on the treadmill, or outside, weather permitting.
As I left the gym this morning I was smiling and had a jaunty little bounce in my step. All that walking seems to have a positive effect on me. I know the endorphin theory and I am a believer, but this afternoon when I pondered a second trip to the gym, or perhaps just a walk around the block, I knew I was hooked. I am craving it!
As addictions go, exercise is a nice one to admit to. I don’t think there is even an organization for exercise addicts-haven’t heard of Exercisers Anonymous. I am just going to continue to bask in the sweaty after-glow and contemplate the addition of running to my regime. I am considering the Disneyland 5K. Join me?
Change can be empowering, frightening, enlightening, depressing, difficult or exciting. Often change is all of these emotions at the same time, which is possibly why so many of us are hesitant to voluntarily take change on. Usually change happens “to” us, or we are forced to change against our will.
I have always been emotional during life-stage changes such as children growing up and entering new phases of their lives, weddings, births, deaths, and moving on, either to a new home, new job, new place in my life. Change does not come easily because it places us in an uncomfortable unknown place and we crave the familiar.
At some point though, we begin to crave change. We look in the mirror and say “enough!” Or we see an opportunity to grow intellectually, spiritually or to improve our health or our surroundings and we say “yes.” We initiate the change, and that is a huge step to insuring its success. Change embraced is change most likely to be effective.
I am embracing change. I have three areas that I will focus on: health, spirituality, and responsibility. I will change my health habits to protect my body and to assure my health by exercising daily walking, with yoga, strength training, pilates and Qigong (my new-found exercise area of interest.
I will focus on spirituality through meditation (One Moment Meditation), connecting with people I care about, and those I want to help and self-reflection.
I will focus on responsibility by taking responsibility to educate myself about the things I need to take care of myself and live the life I want to live. Those include financial responsibility, staying connected to those I care about, performing my best at my job, challenging my intellect and being there, emotionally and physically, for my friends and family.
Change is not something that comes easily to me, it is an area that I chose to work on. My life is not stagnant and my self-initiated changes are more likely to have a positive impact on my life.