On Re-Entry

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Amazing to see this mountain again.

So, we’ve landed back in the States. The flight was easy enough, even with the three felines and the toddler (who slept almost the entire way, bless his heart). We arrived sleepy and smelly and completely confused time-wise, but none the worse for wear.

Now that our internal clocks have almost completely adjusted we are more able to focus on getting settled. None of our things have arrived yet, so there is little we can do in terms of physically settling. Mentally and emotionally settling are all we can attempt right now, though I can’t help but think that having the things that are familiar and comfortable surrounding us would certainly help.

Sleeping on an air mattress while in the third trimester of pregnancy for over 5 weeks and counting has been a particular challenge. Entertaining a toddler with the same half a dozen toys has required immense creativity. I came down with the flu within hours of landing and our son injured his foot within 10 days. It’s been spectacularly rainy and cold. All this to say, we’re overall totally fine, but it’s been rough. Add these difficulties to the completely overwhelming sensation of being a stranger in a strange land, which seems an odd thing to say when one is returning to the place of one’s birth, but the culture shock has indeed been more pronounced coming this way. Doubly true for the little guy, who has never lived here and only visited once when we was just months old.

It’s one thing to feel like an outsider in Korea, where I was indeed an outsider. It’s another thing to feel it in your own country. I know it will pass and I know it will get better. Our things will arrive, we’ll get into a routine, we’ll feel settled and comfortable again. All this will happen. In the meantime, our current circumstances are wearing thin.

Lent began yesterday and as I was reflecting on my lenten practice last year I was reminded of something: every thing we have, every moment we experience, is a gift. Lent calls us not only to seek justice and heal our relationships, it also calls us to see the reality that all of life’s blessings and challenges are gifts when we allow them to be. When we seek justice and beloved community, this truth becomes obvious.

So, my practice this year it seems will be about trusting that as physically, mentally, and emotionally uncomfortable as I am right now, as long as I focus on what matters – my relationships, my community – all the pieces will fall into place. And in the meantime, rather than waiting for things to arrive and the house to be organized to feel like I can start living here,  I need to just start living.

Namaste, yogis. Thank you for reading my ponderings for the last three years. It was a great adventure.

This will be my last post on this site. I will continue to write on my other blog I Don’t Know and can be found on Twitter @MsVKH. 

Gratitude and Generosity

So, it’s December. Already. A_yogi_seated_in_a_garden

After a prolonged illness during which I spent much of September, all of October, and most of November bedridden, I have emerged, having missed an entire season and feeling a bit out of it, among other things.

As I readjust and reacquaint myself with life beyond the confines of my increasingly-uncomfortable-the-longer-I-spent-in-it bed, I am filled with a sense of gratitude. I had never been incapacitated that long, and while I am grateful for my good health now, I am also retroactively grateful for all the good health I’ve enjoyed much of my life.

When I was a young teenager, my sister-in-law, the mother of my two toddler nephews, became suddenly ill with a heart condition that necessitated more than one heart transplant, multiple hospital stays, and a lifetime since of precarious health. At the time, as an inexperienced kid, I was simply incapable of understanding what it must have been like for her to be so ill at a time when her children so desperately needed her. Though I understood the situation was dire and difficult, I did not comprehend fully the emotional turmoil that she and her husband and children must have been experiencing.

My experience pales in comparison to the severity of the situation of my sister-in-law, but I did spend a lot of time thinking about her as I recovered. Being sick is hard. Watching someone you love suffer through illness is hard. Being incapable of caring for your young child is excruciating.

I think it is also hard to be honest about just how miserable we are, so great is the pressure to “stay positive” and “get well soon”. Modern society tends to be uncomfortable with discomfort, with dis-ease, with any forced reminder to be in our bodies, vulnerable as they are. And so we tritely tell folks to focus on the positive and to take good care, reassuring them it will all be better soon.

I have certainly done this with others and I caught myself doing it to myself as well. The first few weeks in bed were spent in disbelief and irritation that I was sick at all. The next few weeks in anger. Finally, as I was forced to accept help and generosity from those who love me most, I was able to feel some compassion and empathy for my own suffering. I could see these things in the eyes and feel it in the hands of those who showed up to care for me. Seeing how willing they were to bear my pain and to hold my hand through it, without saying the things you’re supposed to say, I was finally able to accept what was happening.

It feels impossible to fully express my gratefulness for this lesson and for the people who showed up to teach it to me. It feels impossible to fully describe their selfless giving of spirit, heart, and time. And in this season of thankfulness and sharing I am filled to the brim with both my own gratitude and their generosity. I am grateful to have been forced, once again, to inhabit my body fully and to find acceptance there. I am grateful for the humans who surround me with their love. I am grateful for lessons learned. I am newly aware of how generous life is in its ability to constantly surprise and teach us. I am present to the generosity and kindness that exists in the world.

There are no greater gifts I could ask for this holiday season.

Wishing you and yours a holiday season filled with gratitude and generosity, dear yogis. Namaste.

Ought To, Got To, Like To

In a letter to a little girl dated 3 April 1949, C. S. Lewis wrote:

“Remember that there are only three kinds of things anyone need ever do. (1) Things we ought to do (2) Things we’ve got to do (3) Things we like doing. I say this because some people seem to spend so much of their time doing things for none of the three reasons, things like reading books they don’t like because other people read them. Things you ought to do are things like doing one’s school work or being nice to people. Things one has got to do are things like dressing and undressing, or household shopping. Things one likes doing — but of course I don’t know what you like. Perhaps you’ll write and tell me one day.”

Reading this I had to ask myself: what are the things that I spend time doing, not because I ought to, got to, or like to, but because other people do or because I am expected to? And what is it that I like to do? As the mother of a young child I also realize that it has been a while since I have asked myself what I would like to do as there is always plenty of things I’ve ought to and got to do.

Of course, having a lot that needs to be done is hardly a good excuse for not doing what we like, what makes us happy. And in fact, not doing what we like to do because we have so many other things that we need to do is a bit of a recipe for disaster. It is very tempting, as a mother, to throw one self onto the sacrificial altar of duty. After all, we love our children and want to be everything that they need, even if that means ignoring our own needs. What children need, though, more than anything, are happy and fulfilled parents who can set a good example of self-care.

A good friend said to me yesterday: you can’t foster your child’s creativity and nurture their gifts if you are not fostering and nurturing your own creativity and gifts.

I really needed to hear this. Through my yoga study and practice and through my life experience I know this to be true. Our stores of energy need to be replenished regularly if we are going to have enough for others.  Parenting requires vast amounts of energy, more than anything else I’ve ever done. To be fair, it also fills me up in a way I didn’t know I needed, so it gives much more than it takes. But, obviously, it doesn’t fulfill all of my needs, nor should it. It would be very unfair to my sweet son to expect all of my happiness and fulfillment to come from the privilege of mothering him.

I have been aware of this from the moment I discovered I was going to be a mother, and I have done my best in these past 14 months to nurture myself, but this has been a good reminder for me. The little one is becoming more and more independent of me, and more able to spend time with others away from me, which can free me up to do more things that I like to do.

I often find that when I have a few moments to myself I end up doing things on the “got to” and “ought to” lists, rather than the “like to”  list. I think it’s time to change that.

What do you like to do?