Monthly Archives: January 2014

Resolved: I shall breathe more, and better, in 2014

Happy New Year!

Last week I went to my first yoga class of the year at my local studio, where I have found yoga bliss since summer 2012. And the place was packed! I mean, it was cozy, folks. So much so that I kept thinking, “thank god(dess) I showered right before coming.” Also I thought, WTF? They ran out of blocks, mats, and simply put, space. Then one of my friends, a fellow regular at our awesome beginner class, whispered to me, “obviously it’s a bunch of people making good on New Year’s resolutions!” Aha. Of course! It also explains why Whole Foods was abnormally packed at my usual Saturday morning hour last weekend.

I say, hurray for resolution-ers, even if the overcrowding challenges my comfort zone. On the other hand, it is true that resolving to overhaul eating and/or exercise practices rarely works. I read somewhere recently that small steps driven by loving oneself enough to want to be healthier always works better than any cutthroat, radical decision propelled by self-loathing. Common sense? You bet. Maybe it is so commonsensical that it’s often forgotten. And it’s the forgetting part that is at the heart of why New Year’s resolutions often fall by the wayside.

Goodness knows I was in sore need of returning to yoga after the great, big, mofongo binge during my trip to Puerto Rico with my husband and son. Mofongo is a sort of large fried dumpling made from green plantains, with lots of garlic and other yummy things. It’s usually paired with a stew or anything that’s heavy on moisture … and some more garlic. And I get as much of it as I possibly can every time I visit Puerto Rico. That, and bakery-fresh bread. Fresh Puerto Rican baguette-style bread is superior, that’s all.

 

Power to the mofongo

 

Happy. Happy. Love. Joy.

But another important reason why I was in desperate need for yoga upon returning to DC in the New Year was that I had left my sense of stillness somewhere in 2013, and it was time to slow down the tailspin before it really got out of control. Alas, I did not make it through the holidays this year without a meltdown. Or two…

Cookies baked by yours truly in the month of December? Hundreds.

I started the holidays early this year, with the idea that I’d be less stressed the earlier I started. Also, because I’m so excited at the first signs of the festive season that I’m eager to jump right in. I started my shopping in October because it’s a lot easier on my credit card to spread out the gift-buying than to do it all in one month. I had placed the order for our photo Christmas cards before we left on our Thanksgiving trip, and they had all been mailed out by mid December. By the time we rang in 2014 in my brother’s home in San Juan, I was feeling sleep deprived and burned out, and constantly anxious about doing and saying the right thing so that everyone had a good time.

A week or two into the New Year: Boooooom. Why did I lose control? Did I simply start too early? Maybe. But I still think the head start kept me from panicking somewhere around mid-December. What, then? Over-eating heavy foods. Poor sleep. No writing. Limited time for exercise or quietude. The stressors one typically associates with going back to spend the holidays in one’s childhood hometown. And some of the anxieties that are particular to my visits to Puerto Rico–they have to do with questions about cultural identity and fitting in, and I have a gift for making myself crazy with these questions (future blog post). It all just sort of got away from me. At some point, my center of gravity simply said, “Girl. I’m out of here.”

Arriving at my parents’ home on New Year’s Eve, we were greeted by music, dancing, and this bit Puerto Rican Christmas deliciousness in my mother’s kitchen.
I probably did too much, and gave up too much of my time. Isn’t that a wife and mother’s classic dilemma? Does it not make sense that it comes to a boiling point during an otherwise happy (very!) and uneventful holiday season?
Day 3 of 2014 found me flying a kite over Old San Juan
My husband and I spent the night of 7 January here–not a bad way to kick off the New Year, I would say
With this in mind, here are my resolutions for 2014: 1) Breathe more, and better. 2) Practice radical gratitude.

1) Whenever my yoga teacher says, “Don’t forget to breathe,” there is always a part of me that wants to say, “Um, hello? Who forgets to breathe? Wouldn’t I be dead if I did?” Of course, I get it now. Remembering to breathe is another one of those too-obvious things that make an epic difference. It buys me a few seconds’ worth of time, which in turn gets me a few seconds’ worth of perspective. Most times, those few seconds are all I need. Hell, there’s even a song about the value of remembering to breathe on my son’s favorite Sesame Street playlist. Simple monster wisdom, man.

2) Here are just a few of the things I am grateful for at the start of this bright new year. The smell of the Christmas tree in our cozy living room while Christmas music played throughout all of December. Hundreds of cookies enjoyed by many, many people I love. Mofongo. A new baby niece who has the sweetest face I’ve seen since my own baby was born. The beach. Coming home to my kitchen. Reliable heat in our little casa. Hugs, kisses, and cuddling. Slowly getting back to my book project–after abandoning the 300-plus-page manuscript for over three weeks. A hotel room in midtown Manhattan for $79/night next month (and a husband who says, “Go for it, honey.”). The 3-year-old boy in my house, who, every day, dances and sings every word to The Beatles’ She Loves You. Looking forward to getting a stamp on my passport this year, thanks to the generous gift of timeshare points from relatives who shall remain nameless here. My parents, Carlos and Norma. The health of my beloved family. Having the resources to stay healthy, and for happy reasons. The unmistakable feeling of promise.

Sticking to resolutions is challenging enough. It’s especially tricky when one is also working to slow down the tailspin after holiday turmoil, and during what–to me at least–feels like the world’s longest month, with such short, cold days. Slowly, I am recovering my center of gravity. And when I feel I am about to lose control again, I breathe, and I give thanks for those few seconds (and for the fact that January is almost over!). Then I acknowledge that seasonal affective disorder exists, and renew my vow to not bake a damn thing this month. Finally, I offer myself some kindness. Here’s to living and loving in 2014. Don’t forget to breathe!

O Magazine, January 2013

 

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