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It’s been 25 days since I woke up in Las Cuarentas, Nicaragua, to the symphonic sounds of a small village wiping the sleep out of its eyes and rolling out of bed. An army of roosters crowing back and forth to each other across the misty hills and valleys–their calls vacillating between a salute and a one-upping competition. Balancing out the screechy soprano of the roosters’ calls is a bass beat that shows up slow, steady, and rhythmic: my host mother meets the dawn with a melody she knows by heart. Behind the heavy wooden door of the kitchen, she slaps and pounds the homemade tortilla dough into shape before anyone else in the house is even conscious enough to know that breakfast is approaching. Outside, the bullfrogs add to the melody of the morning with a chirpy belch that sounds like a synthesized backdrop. A horse neighs once, twice–and dogs bark here and there like a stray cymbal crash.

In the rural mountains of Nicaragua, there is no marimba-style phone alarm going off. No Al Roker telling you what the weather is like in your neck of the woods. No brakes screeching outside the window or early morning honks to illustrate that road rage does not discriminate against the dawn. But there is also no silky sigh–in and out–coming sweetly from my son’s crib like the breeze blowing through the trees. No complementary snores echoing back and forth ridiculously between my husband and my dog.

I guess every place has its music. You just have to tune in and listen to it.

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I walked quickly, recklessly on the dirt path–ignoring the dips and rocks along the way, more focused on distancing myself from the group behind me as I fought back tears. The more the tears welled up in my eyes, the more my stomach and jaw tightened. I was confused and frustrated by the emotion welling up inside of me because I could not articulate its source and that scared the hell out of me. So it seemed in the moment, if I could not explain why I was out of control emotionally, I was going to isolate myself so I could hide it. As I navigated my way back to my host home through a cloudy haze of tears, I heard someone call my name behind me, “Lindsay!” When I turned to see my friend and roommate, Lizz, I didn’t expect myself to soften, but I did. I let my tears out as I explained what was going on with me the best that I could and she listened and held that space for me. I guess it was fear that initially made me want to run for cover and hide, but it was connection that made me soften and let go of the tight grip I had on what was happening to me.

As Lizz had done so many times before for me, she walked beside me and saw and heard me for who I was in that moment, imperfections and all (the definition of connection, for all of your Brene Brown devotees). She showed me that whoever I was and whatever I was holding onto in that moment was okay. Looking back on that moment in Las Cuarentas, I think I have some idea of what was happening then–although I’m still working a lot of it out. I think that the source of the tears was fear–I was scared shitless by the depth of emotion I found in that village and in the people who lived there. I knew rationally that I had committed to this trip to be of service to others, but here’s the thing: you can’t really prepare yourself for the emotional part. What happens during an experience like this is an all-in, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, vivid, raw emotional adventure that you can’t wrap your head around until you’re waist deep in it. And even then, as illustrated by my emotional breakdown, you don’t even really know what to do with it.

I think my fear came from a place of knowing that this experience held so much potential for deep emotion–the heart-opening, fiery love kind and the heart-wrenching, jagged-edged despair kind. But you can’t just open up to the first one without opening up to the other. What I had clearly found in my time prior to that walk down the dirt path was unconditional connection, acceptance, and love from the people of Las Cuarentas, but what I struggled to open my heart to in that moment was all of the other stuff: the tug I’d feel in my chest in seeing the poverty and the lack, the urge I’d feel to want to fix things, and the despair that would grip me when I had to hug my host family and friends good-bye.

I am still struggling with this gamut of emotions five days after returning from Nicaragua and trying to wade through all of it. In my head, I understand that EVERY part of my experience contributed to the exquisite beauty I found there, but my heart is still working on knowing that. Rumi says, “Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames.” I am so thankful for the group of women I traveled with to Las Cuarentas (Maura, Brittany P., Laura, Lizz, Shannon, Charly, Kristie, Michele, Brittany W., and Sarah) for going all in with me even when you were scared too–for inspiring me and fanning my flames. And to the people of Las Cuarentas (Janeth, Jaiyder, Josselin, Jackson, Yericson, Fernando, Rubell, Lester, Irving, Jamil, Thelma, Orlando, Sarita, Johnny, and so many more), I hope you feel my gratitude across the miles even though you won’t be able to read my words. You lit up a spark in my heart. I’ll seek to fan that flame for the rest of my life.

 

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There’s nothing like having a kid to make you grateful. Giving birth has a way of putting things into perspective for you. It’s funny that this big transition of becoming a mom is this life event that typically makes you feel like a real adult, while simultaneously providing this new, curious, childlike lens through which to see the world again.  I think part of this gratitude comes from seeing this little human you created and feeling like you finally did something indisputably worthwhile in your life…being in a place of genuine fulfillment. And part of it might be how parenting can be so freaking hard sometimes that when you get the chance to catch a little break, the relief changes what would typically be ordinary into something extraordinary. I’m not saying that I walk around counting my lucky stars everyday because some days, I still get down on myself. But all in all, I appreciate my life more…from my son’s laughter to my husband’s support to having the chance to take a nap or even sit on the toilet in silence (because toddlers tend to follow you everywhere).

Recently, I have had the chance to work on a project that has brought me the kind of ultimate fulfillment and gratitude that you can never anticipate until you’re in the middle of it. As many of you know, I have been working with the Beyond Asana Yoga Teacher Training group to raise funds through the non-profit, BuildOn, to travel to a rural village in Nicaragua in February 2014 to build a school for the children there. Although I have not made the trip to Nicaragua yet, my journey thus far with this group and my own community during fundraising has made me feel incredibly lucky. In April, I set out to raise money for a cause I felt passionate about and it felt amazing to commit to creating positive change in the world. But what I could have never anticipated was the love and acceptance I would feel as a result of diving into this project. Telling people about my intention to raise this money was like putting all of myself out there–most of all, my heart–and remaining present in the moment despite the risk of rejection from those around me. What I found throughout this journey was that my community of friends, family, colleagues, and acquaintances came from all directions to deliver a message to me: “We believe in you and what you’re doing.” In spiraling into my own heart to connect with my passion of working with children in a positive, supportive way, I was able to spiral out into my own community to spread the word about my intention in a grounded and authentic way. And their response was so incredible–they invested in my efforts and cause, boosted my belief in myself, and gave me more strength to go out into the world and live on purpose. And the group of Beyond Asana Yoga Teacher Trainees and fundraisers continue to amaze me, as they are a group of individuals of all different backgrounds who come together with the same intention of creating positive personal, local, and global change. And on top of all of that, they make me feel seen and heard for who I am.

There are tons of people to thank for many things: for their belief in me, for their kind words and vibes, and for their generous donations. Below is a thank you card to show you just how many people helped me along the way:

gratitudeThank you to everyone who helped to make this experience a life-changing one for me thus far…and to think what the trip to Nicaragua will be like! Please know that I will carry you all with me in spirit as we break ground on a village’s new school. Although I have reached my fundraising goal, our group goal is $105,000 to be reached by October 31st. If you did not get the chance to donate or feel the very generous urge to do it again, all additional money raised on my page will go toward the bigger group goal that will enable our group of 24 to travel to Nicaragua in two separate groups to build TWO schools for two needy and deserving villages.

With love and gratitude,

Lindsay

When I came home from my yoga/fundraising meeting Friday night and my husband asked me how it went, I purposefully didn’t go into the details. I just said: “It was great.” If I had plopped down next to him and told him all about how amazing I felt after a night of Kundalini meditation and discussion of personal transformation and social change, he would have burst my perfect, freakin’ bubble. He would have looked at me sideways with some shit-eating grin that would have propelled me into a defensive stance, warning him to back his conservative ass off of my special bubble. And that’s not good. So I said: “It was great.”

I reserve special bubble talk for certain people to protect myself. The work I do in yoga is highly personal–it’s like therapy for me. It’s my time to spiral into myself, to challenge myself, to regenerate myself so that I can then reach out to others in a more genuine and present way. And it’s reserved for people who are down with riding that kind of funky wave with me….which is where my girls come in.

I call them my “Board of Directors” because they are the women in my life that I imagine sitting at a long, rectangular board room table in my head giving me honest feedback on my life decisions in a loving, non-judgemental way. If I’m throwing the deuces up at a crappy job that sucks the life out of me without a plan for a new job, my BoDs aren’t questioning the rashness of my decision–they’re rooting for me as I walk away from a place that doesn’t serve me. If I’m depressed, they shine a light on the good things about me and serve up a typical BoD prescription for healing: a listening ear, raucous laughter, good food, and beer. If I’m making questionable life decisions, they grip me up by the shoulders and give me a little shake and say, “No girl, you’re better than that.” If I need to shake some shit off, they turn up the volume on the music, stand up next to me, and twerk like it’s their job. And you know a girl’s got your back when she’s willing to twerk like it’s her job.

At nearly 33 years old, I have come to realize that a healthy marriage to a husband requires an additional, intimate relationship of a different kind with a circle of outrageous ladies who all at once ground me and encourage me to fly a little closer to my dreams. Thanks for holding it down at the board room table of my life, ladies. Nothing but love for you.

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Step-touch. Step-touch. A sideways shuffle. My son looked up at me with anticipation as I recited the verses from memory. As I held his hands and guided him in a circle dance, his steps seemed instinctual and beyond his age.

“Ashes, ashes, we all fall down!” As I lowered my tired body to the ground, he hesitated–smiling–still standing and looking down at me. At 16 months, he had wobbled and stutter stepped and clung to couches with all his might in order to keep himself from falling. Standing was the goal, so I understood why his eyes questioned the fun in falling. But after a few more times through the song, he was letting his bottom bounce to the ground just like me.

Somewhere in the echoed verses of “Ring Around the Rosie”, he had let go of the lesson that falling was bad. He had quickly replaced an action symbolic of failure with fun and he laughed. Kids are flexible. They have a way of reminding adults that change can be as easy as letting go.

The past few weeks have been hard for me. Like where-is-the-positive-lesson-in-all-of-this-shit hard. These days, I seem to find the message in the mess at the most interesting times. Here, it was with my toddler teaching him an old song that lead to this lesson: letting go enough of the familiar to fall down can be fun.

Because we all fall down.

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anniv2“I just want to have fun with you. I wanna talk about more than our to-do lists and parenting crap,” I said to you as we laid on the floor of our dining room turned play room.

We had finally gotten our toddler down for a nap that Saturday afternoon and were so exhausted that we did what came naturally once he stopped crying: just laid down right where we were. You were enduring the kind of one-sided conversation that is so frequently revisited when I want to talk about my feelings, a conversation I am not sure you knew you would be having so many times three years ago when you married me. You often try to fend me off when I invite you to join in this kind of conversation, referring to my profession, “Sorry I don’t get paid to talk about my feelings Lindsay,” which inevitably lengthens the conversation as I have to then process my annoyance over you using that excuse again.

That afternoon, like many, we tried to wrap our heads around how to do a good job of working full-time jobs, being decent parents to our little boy, and participating in a healthy relationship all at once. Most times, I talk and you listen. I worry out loud and you reassure me. I catastrophize and you bring me back to earth. We reminisce about the old days seven years ago when we met and how we used to do fun things like sleep and relax. Things are a lot different now and despite our best efforts, sometimes date night is just wishful thinking and we spend a couple days straight communicating in fragmented sentences about dishes, laundry, and schedules. Sometimes keeping up with everything seems pretty freaking hard.

I’m not a perfect wife, mother, professional, or homemaker (please stop laughing about the last one), but I keep trying to get better because of you. Because I know I’m lucky to have found you. And you make up for my imperfections–which is why we are better as a pair. Where I am impulsive, you are a level-headed decision maker. Where I get caught up in emotions and the what-if’s, you anchor me with your calm presence. Where I spend money, you save it. Where I want to stay up dancing with our wild child until way past his bedtime, you remind me that toddlers need schedules. Where I jump to conclusions, you weigh out other options. Where I reach for the take out menus, you cook. Where I stay mad, you apologize–even if it wasn’t your fault.

You’re an awesome father and husband. Sorry I like to talk about feelings so much. But, maybe in this instance, it’s okay–since I’m talking about feeling lucky to have a guy like you.

Here’s to 3 years and many more.

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It’s been nearly fifteen months since my son was born and 363 days since I went back to work. Maintaining a full-time working mom status is like a life sentence of feeling like your half-assing everything. Sorry to be a Debbie Downer, but it’s true. There is a hell of a lot to do and not much time to do it.

My mornings are like wrestling with multiple personality disorder until my husband shoves me out the door for our commute. There’s my egocentric teenage personality who we’ll call “Lizzy” (because adding a “y” to the end of any name makes it egocentric-in case you didn’t know). When my husband turns on the light in the bedroom at 6AM or my dog does that annoyingly loud shimmy shake while I still have my head buried in the pillow, “Lizzy” wants to tell them to get lost. There’s my playful, snuggly, maternal side who we’ll call “Lindsay” (because I wasn’t going to assign my own name to a negative aspect of my personality-duh). “Lindsay” just wants to huddle with her adorable son on the couch and sing the theme song to “Little Einsteins” at the top of her lungs and call work to report that she’s developed a last minute case of something terrible. And then there’s my driven, independent, career-focused side who we’ll call “Lynn” (because one-syllable names aren’t messing around). “Lynn” usually tells “Lizzy” to get her lazy ass out of bed and reminds her to make the bed once she’s out of it, then notifies “Lindsay” that if she doesn’t get herself and her son dressed and out the door, “Little Einsteins” will be nothing but a memory because the cable bill won’t be paid.

Like any goal-oriented, hopeful woman, I strive for a balanced, integrated personality, but most days, it just doesn’t happen. Tricks I use to present the façade of balance and integration include a healthy layer of make-up, an outfit that matches, chocolate, and a smile. In addition, if I’m going to cry or bang my head up against the wall, I try to do it in the privacy of my own office or quietly in a bathroom stall.

In any case, these days, when I happen to strike a balance, it is a matter of pure luck. But at least I’m trying (and faking it) as much as possible.

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