Tag Archives: sculling

30 Days of “A Year of Living Your Yoga” — Day 21: Self Talk & I’m Mad at Elizabeth Gilbert


Welcome to Day 21 of my blog series based on Judith Hansen-Lasater’s “A Year of Living Your Yoga.”

I will try to keep these posts to about 500 words.

Here is the quote:

October 13 — How you talk to yourself matters. Our beliefs create a filter through which we see the world. To become free of their power, today pay attention to what you say. Instead of saying “I can’t” say “I’m having difficulty right now.” This will create a space between the present and your beliefs about the present.


I try to do this with myself but I find it’s harder when I’m not actually saying the words out loud. When I speak with others, I hear myself correct myself: “can be” or “might” or “have a tendency” or “can be difficult to do…” that kind of stuff.

The insidious self-damage comes of what we say to ourselves, when no one is around, or what we say silently to ourselves.

I’m a loser.

I suck at this.

My face is ugly.

I’m a fraud.

Me + this moment = failure.

Of all of these statements, I would say that the most nagging of my own, is “I’m a fraud.”

It’s a horrid statement. Yet I feel it deeply, and often. I can’t explain why; it’s primitive and very likely completely irrational and untrue, yet it’s there. Sitting in a chaise lounge beside me, with its fake tan, acrylic nails, smoking an e-cigarette, drinking a non-alcoholic beer, teasing its frosted tips, reading and highlighting a Cliff’s Notes on Hamlet; its half-eaten McDonald’s quarter pounder with cheese resting on top of the hour-old services invoice for a botox injection.

Who the hell is that? I don’t know, but I do know I want to base a book on her.


Personal example. I’m almost 47. I love to scull:

sculling: two oars, one in each hand.

sculling: two oars, one in each hand.

It’s a serene experience and it makes me feel free. It also does this to my hands:

yeah. ... i'm 46. can you tell where this discussion is about to go?

yeah. … i’m 46. can you tell where this discussion is about to go?

So for the longest time, I heard the dialogue “gloves are for losers” when it comes to rowing.

I even posted this image of my hand on my Facebook wall and a friend commented, “Gloves?” and I commented back, “Gloves are for losers.” Even though in my head, I knew that saying such a thing was complete bullshit. My hands were injured.

So, I believed this narrative: That gloves are for losers and I let it seep into my consciousness. Until later in the day when I washed my hands and they burned. And I tried to walk my dogs and my hands burned. And I tried to drive my car, and my hands burned. And I tried to do a downward facing dog and my hands burned.

Then I said to myself, “Self… you are almost 47 years old. You are a successful mother of three. You are NOT an olympic hopeful. You are NOT on a collegiate crew. You’re not even remotely interested in competing. You are NOT infallible. You’re hurt. You can’t even wash your hands without pain. Get y’self some damned gloves, y’damned fool…”

And so I did. They arrived today. If using these gloves makes me a loser, then I’m good with that. If the technology exists to make our lives easier and we can afford it, take advantage of the technology…

Anyway, we are hardest on ourselves. This quote above is from a yoga book, about yoga in daily life. The aspect of “Living Your Yoga” means to just be present and to be complete because “yoga” is the sanskrit word for “union” which to me means “complete” or “balanced.”

Eat Pray Love author Elizabeth Gilbert recently wrote on her Facebook wall a screed against the word “Balance” and how it’s become (in her mind anyway, so every freakin’ female incapable of independent thought should get in line behind her — baaah-aaaaah) synonymous with “perfection.”

Eff that. Eff Gilbert.

I couldn’t disagree more and here’s why: “balance” to me simply means: NOT FALLING OVER. It doesn’t mean perfection. It doesn’t mean “flawless” — it means maintaining your stability amidst the tempest. Not your BEST stability. Not your PERFECT stability; just freakin’ maintaining it: not falling down.

I’m really surprised by her take on this actually. It sounded so whiney. I believe, with all my heart, that achieving some semblance of balance — no matter what the context — is winning at life. It’s not “fake it ’til you make it” bullshit (which is absolutely the most horrid advice ever), it’s about standing in the storm and learning how to dance in the rain.

Heaven forbid Gilbert become the next Oprah. (I call dibs on first predicting this. I will be the Nostradamus of flawed popular prophets.)

Gilbert is far from self-actualized (and then I am too when I get mad about this) when she spouts off about balance.

Balance is our friend. Balance is our barometer. When you feel off-balance, you get to slow down and check out where you’re heavier or lighter on a matter. If you feel pulled-upon or put-upon. It’s good… Balance is … ugh.

Gilbert. NnnnNNNnnnnnn. Shut up.

Back to the quote (speaking of being off-balance): self-talk. Be nicer to yourself.

See if you can get yourself to speak the ugly things about yourself out loud. And then look around you at all you have and all you are and all you have achieved, and laugh at the ugly thoughts.

That inner talk, that ugly talk is garbage. Set it out on Tuesdays and Fridays and leave it for the truck. Seriously: write it down, then tear it up and leave it for the trash service.

Thank you.

(ps – this was way more than 500 words. i blame liz gilbert.)



Three Things Thursday 5 — Water: Boathouse, Beauty and Breathing



I started a post detailing and lamenting my situation with my parents, their ambitions to age in place, and their requests for consults and professionals (which I delivered) despite their patent and wholesale inaction, and total avoidance of meaningful change to make any of it possible. You can’t make a fish climb a tree. The gist of the post was about need for boundaries and how they help everything, which they do, but it was too much and I am too close to the subject matter to make it digestible. Let’s just say this: it’s FUBAR.

There’s nothing more I can do for them short of apoplexy-inducing betrayal, so I won’t do anything until they do, and that’s highly unlikely. We will have to stay in crisis-reactive mode as we resigned ourselves to be four years ago. For me to turn myself inside out to help them simply because of a sense of guilt is futile, ego-driven, vain and “fixer”-istic: unhealthy. Consider this: I would be doing & wanting more than they would to improve their situation. That’s toxic.

One of my favorite quotes of all time, by the amazing Marcus Aurelius is this: “The first rule is to keep an untroubled spirit. The second is to look things in the face and know them for what they are.”


The good news is that writing the-post-you-will-never-see was excellent catharsis. The bad news is that it kept me up until 2am. I’m ok though. But the birds are chirping outside, the sun is shining and so I am reframing: taking back my brain and changing gears.

Three things for our mind, body and soul. This is really simple and it has nothing to do with aging.

Mind: Boathouses

Rowing season has begun and I’m thrilled to be making a daily trek back to the boathouse to drive my oldest son and up to six of his teammates for practice. They are chatty, funny, smart and polite kids. Their parents should be proud because they’re doing an excellent job raising their children.

Yes, it’s cold as butt, yes. Last week, ice was forming on the hull (body) of the shells (boats) and the wind chills were likely insane, but rowers are insane and my son is thrilled to be back on the water despite his shivering when he returns home. The other night, we had 2″-4″ of rain fall during 38˚ temps and 20mph winds. He came home a boysicle, but he had a huge grin on his face. That’s all that matters. When we got to the boathouse yesterday, it was 15˚ warmer than the day before and the sun was sort of out. This kind of change in the weather enhances the mindset when you’re in the boat to such a degree that the difference can be as apparent as walking compared to crawling.

For me: it’s being back down there, if only for a moment to look down at this and know soon, I too will be back in my racing shell and sculling toward peace; leaving the bipeds and their noise behind.


this is my ride.

View from the Bow

this is a view from the Bow

Body: Breathing

So the sun was out yesterday and I went for a nice long walk with The Murph around the ponds after dropping the boys at school.

I used the “panorama” option on my phone to take this. I love the reflection so much. What a glorious morning.

My breathing intensified, my legs warmed up and so did my core. I actually had to unzip my parka, despite the 37˚ outside. I felt alive and “OK” — you know, peaceful, for the first time in a while. I almost wanted to run. I haven’t been able to do this very often because the kids being home. The walk did me some good because I was able to appreciate the …

Soul: Beauty

Of our physical world. No matter where you live: in the mountains or in a city; on the water or on a suburban street: there is beauty everywhere. And this time of year, the days are getting longer, the grass is turning green, trees are starting to bud, and the daffodils are coming up beside their friends the tulips. I saw some totally new ducks at one of the ponds — two pairs of these, they’re called “Hooded Merganser” ducks:

This one apparently has something to say. I will try to get my own pictures of them. I will have to go without The Murph because he scares them. from http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/PHOTO/LARGE/hoodmerg_gregschn.jpg

Isn’t this gorgeous? He was with his wife (male birds are hotter and all birds are monogamous) and another Merganser couple along with some Mallards and Canada Geese. It was really glorious to behold them all. Just doing their thing, y’know: being waterfowl. So, no matter where you live, establish some personal boundaries to take back your space and time for yourself first and get out and breathe to take in the beauty. No matter where you look, it’s there waiting to be appreciated.

I guess the underlying theme is water today. Go drink some, look at it and get in it if you can.

Thank you.

Communication & Filters

Communication & Filters

I always thought I was an excellent communicator.

Today I went out with my husband in the rowing double. He sits in front of me so I can stabilize the boat. So this means I see his back as his blades hit and move the water. That’s it; but it’s not nothing: I see his posture and his slide technique and so I can tell him (or whomever is in that seat) what’s up with the strokes, how to improve form and the rest. It’s not so much that I’m a genius, it’s that I’ve got experience and when you’re dealing with novice rowers in a double (the theories are different in larger boats) the more experienced rower sits in the bow seat, behind the stern seat.

This was our second outing and per the rules of the boat club, I can’t take him out any more; he’ll have to join. I’m allowed to take a person as a guest twice; I can take you if you’d like, but only twice. It’s fair.

It’s also a good thing that I can’t go any more to teach my husband.

I don’t know if our marriage would survive it.

The thing is, no man wants his wife telling him how to do anything; least of all anything athletic and as exquisite and responsive as a sport as rowing. Even though he rationally defers to my expertise, I suspect that deep inside he’s thinking, “It can’t really be this hard… I mean, she does it…” and this is not to paint a broad brush of antiman-ness: my husband is extremely open-minded about this stuff. It’s just that it’s an adjustment.

But in the boat, I’m not his wife: I’m a rower and a member of the club. The equipment is signed out on my name with my person being the responsible party.

What all this means in the boat and on the water is that I’m a coach to him. So I’m more technical, detached, professional and … intense. It’s not my $7,000 boat to screw around in. But as much as he benefitted from my teaching, he wanted me to be softer, more patient, more “here’s a sandwich I made for you”: more wifely.

No frigging way. Our chances of tipping were low because I was holding the balance with my blades flat on the water while he gained experience. Today we rowed four miles and were out for about 90 minutes. He liked it and when I was rowing us around turns, he got a few moments to watch the sunlight dance on the water as it just crested the trees while being rocked to the rhythm of my rowing.

My husband is smart, mellow and athletic, so his catching on to the work, technique and gaining confidence is simply a matter of time and he’s well on his way.

RICK! gave this print to me for my birthday last year. She is a very thoughtful gift giver. I can learn a lot from her. “Rushing the slide” is what happens when someone slides up to the catch (the beginning of the stroke, which is where they are all positioned) apart from the rhythm of the rest of the rowers. Superman, sitting in “stroke” seat, feels it most. It’s frustrating to Green Lantern in “bow” seat because Flash’s back might come in contact with the handle of Green Lantern’s oar if the timing is off. After a while, if you were to row in front of me and consistently mess up the timing, you’d probably end up in dialysis because I’d get tired of you being in my space when I’m prepping to take a stroke. While the sketch is cute, it’s Batman who would be most disturbed by Flash’s rushing although the entire boat would feel it. I wonder if that’s why they made me stroke last year because I was such a jerk to anyone who slacked in front of me by the fourth month of rowing together.

What I learned from our second outing is something I’ve always known, but it was made phantasmagorically obvious (despite our 22 years as a couple) in the shell: he’s nice and tender and I’m a bull in a china shop. I know the lingo, I know the sport, I know the effects of lifting one hand over the other and what that does to the boat’s balance. The first time we went out, we had only an hour when we planned on having two hours. We lost all that time due to technical difficulties with the equipment which resulted in our having to take the entire first shell out of the water and bringing it back to the boathouse and trading it in for another one. I was glad he was undeterred about getting the second boat because he was sort of playing hooky from work for that extra hour. That first outing made us both slightly more efficient and clippy in our chatter and the resulting intensity was not entirely welcome.

When we docked after that first outing, the head coach of a local university crew quipped, “Are you still married? How’d it go?” He knows how this can go.

Because I know the jargon, I take a lot for granted. My husband wanted me to not use the jargon or to use the jargon and then its street equivalent; he wanted me to tenderize it all for him a bit.

No frigging way. I learned with coaches saying “weigh nuf,” followed by the street “stop rowing” about three times and then I was on my own and people in the boat would yell at me with both versions if I didn’t figure it out. Same thing with “square and bury your blades. That means to put them in the water perpendicularly.” It was the same with “sit ready at the catch” (which means to sit all the way up the slide with your shins perpendicular to the water and you’re ready to press / slide back for the boat to move beneath you, as in the picture above) – I told him what it meant, but I wasn’t going to add, “honey” or “sweets” to it.

It can be overwhelming on the water: it’s wet, deep and murky and the air is cool now. You don’t want to fall in. You want to succeed and so much of what you’re learning is multi-sensory. But the number one thing that’s gonna blow it for you on the water is thinking, so just be.  I stated commands (he’ll probably tell you I barked them) and was clear about them. I could have been gentler, but he’s not a child and part of sitting behind the person is that I can’t see what he’s actually doing so my comments are based on evidence and results of his actions rather than the actions themselves.

At about miles two and three, things began to significantly improve. We did a couple stationary drills and some balance work and I was very enthusiastic about his progress: he really started to get it! And then…

At the end of the fourth mile, he was getting tired, his posture was fading, he was making old mistakes and becoming easily frustrated. It was time for a naaaap. We’d been out for more than an hour and we were both ready to head in (he’s heavy!). We had a successful outing and all of it –from my china shop bull to his love me tender– started to gel and sink in. For him, the action is a part of his muscle memory now and just needs more experience and time. And another partner. He can go with RICK next time and I’ll take her husband in my shell.

All this got me thinking: despite my best intentions, our communication is not as strong as I thought it was and this was slightly dismaying to me because we talk a lot.

And then there’s the filter, or the perspective or the perception of both parties: I had an unfair expectation that he was able to deal with the massive amounts of information on a physically unstable surface and he had the expectation that I was going to be wifely and kind and patient.

The same sort of disconnect happened last month for his birthday. He wanted these super-awesome TRX bands for his workouts and I ordered them for him. I’d never used them and he used them in his bootcamp last year. The thing is: they take a while to set up and then you’re supposedly good to go. He was so excited to show them to me that he opened the box and tried to demonstrate them. I am TRX-neutral: I don’t care and I probably won’t really use them as I have my own routines. The thing is: he wanted me to see how easy and awesome they are and he couldn’t because it took a while to set up and I stood and watched. In a lather of frustration, he ended up throwing up his arms and not being able to show me. I said, “I’m glad you’re excited and I’m sure they’re great…” and he took that as a dismissal. The thing is: there was no winning or losing for either of us. He was thrilled but he wasn’t prepared to show me and I waited in neutral for him to show me while he couldn’t get it to work. If I said nothing, I’dve been a jerk. If I said “yay!” I’dve been insincere.

.  .  .  .  .  .

These expectations and filters bring lots of thoughts and memories and personal experiences to my mind and I’d like to share a couple with you.

I’m reminded me of a demonstration I saw on a middle-school children’s TV show, “Zoom!” a few years back when my team still watched public television. The challenge was simple enough: instruct a partner to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. They had four pairs of the kids and each pair built its success / communication formula off the previous pair’s demonstration with not much time between sets. In each pair one person was the director and the other person was ops. The director was blindfolded and the ops person was not allowed to speak back or ask questions, the ops person simply had to do what it was told.

mmm. send me to the hospital. stat.

The first pair’s basically ended up with a loaf of still-bagged sliced bread crushed under the weight of a closed jar of peanut butter and a closed jar of jelly and then both ends of the bagged bread were pressed together. That was funny and it showed me how much we all take for granted when we communicate — these kids on Zoom! are supposed to be the creme de la creme of their peer group. The second pair improved but only slightly: two slices of bread were taken out of the bag and the jars were still closed, but the jelly jar was on top of the peanut butter jar and both jars nested between the slices of bread. The third pair took out the slices, spread the peanut butter on a slice of bread and then spread the jelly on a slice of bread and then stacked the slices, condiment side up so it looked like this from the top: jelly on bread, peanut butter on bread. The fourth pair got it figured out and enjoyed the sandwich. Their cups of milk were already poured for them and everyone learned a valuable lesson: slow down, use details, listen and watch.

Another example is holidays — personal, national, dubious (Hallmark) or imaginary: If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know that I look askance at New Year’s Day as a time for personal renewal: every day is a chance to change our lives. Valentine’s Day is a gimmick (to me) and I don’t get stupid drunk on St. Patrick’s Day.

In my home on birthdays, we make a cake and frost it and sing and give nice gifts. It’s not a full-bore blowout experience. In my family of origin, birthdays were special, but not considered reasons to have explosives and helium tanks and gunships. I used to know someone whose family of origin dwarfed coronations with their birthday celebrations: balloons at breakfast, the table festooned with used car lot flags, party hats, noise makers, the works. So when this person’s birthday came around and I was in the picture, I presented a card and a thoughtful gift. Sometimes I was late, but I never forgot the person’s special day and I’d call or send a note if I didn’t present the gift on time. The reception was frosty and any recognition was doomed to fail. This was based on both our filters: she was used to people taking out second mortgages to celebrate and I was used to people giving a hug, singing a song and life resuming to its normally scheduled programming. Even after we talked about our historical differences and expectations and filters, the experiences were never fulfilling for either of us. On my birthdays, she’d come over with a cake and balloons and her kids and they’d all sing to me and I’d be all like “WOAH” and “GetthefuckoutIjustwokeup!” and whatnot.

As I ponder all these experiences and examples of communication and filters and expectations, it makes me think of how to best survive on this big blue rock: have an open mind and have an open heart. I can do myself a favor by not expecting people to be able to read my mind and I can try not to anticipate what other people might have in their minds. I was at a wedding a few years ago and the celebrant said this, “My mother often reminded me as I grew up that I have two ears and one mouth for a reason. As our beloved couple embarks on their lifelong journey together as husband and wife and as we all bear witness to their union, I propose to all of us here tonight that we remember to use our ears more than our mouths.”

And I’ll add this: when we use our mouths, we do so with kindness and efficiency.

Sometimes easier said than done.

Thank you.

Marvelous Monday: Amazing Things

Marvelous Monday: Amazing Things

I’m easily amused most of the time.

Eventide is my most favorite time of day.

Last night I was on my deck as the sun was setting. It was a fantastic evening, after a previous day of scary winds, tornadoes in the area and torrential rain.

I have often marveled at something, but I’ve never really talked about it because I think it makes me sound stupid. I’m gonna go for it anyway, to remind myself, and anyone who reads this that life is about experiencing and when we fail to notice even the most seemingly inconsequential miracles, we’re missing a lot. We’re also missing a moment –even if it’s just for a moment– to get out of our own heads.

This is what I marveled at:

What? The sun? This might look like no big deal…

Yes, the sun. But not just The Sun.

Just seeing it in this picture actually makes my eyes water and squint. I’m sure I lost an hour of vision when I took the picture. But if you look to the lower right, that the sun has illuminated the cushion and armrest of the chair on the deck… that’s what blows me away.

The fact that that big mass of explosion, that orb (which is almost perfectly round — it’s something like just .00007 % away from being absolutely perfectly round) which is 45 light minutes away (so when I’d taken that picture, that light was already 45 minutes “old”… and the sun was mostly likely set) or 93 million miles on average  (149.6 million km) sent that sliver of its light all the way from where it is to my deck chair without an obstacle blows me away.

That’s why I’m afraid to say anything like this aloud, because people will look at me like I’m an idiot — do this in your best high school bully voice – but I’m gonna make the bully sound inarticulate because that’s how I roll: “Duh… what an doofus you are. What a idiot. Of course there’s no ostable … ocstabul … abstocle… thing in the way…. If there were an ocstabul, then you woulna seen duh sun.”

But here’s where that guy’s the idiot and I’m into a deeper train, more philosophical place of thought: “Yes. There is no obstacle. The sun makes it through, the sun lights the path. The sun, which is a gazillion (93 million) miles away Still Gets Through. And that stuff, that FACT, makes me happy. It makes me grateful to be alive, to see it, to notice it, and to feel it because that’s proof man, that 1) the Universe is freaking amazing and 2) that we can do anything. It just is.”

I just came in from a very pleasant row with my good friend and neighbor, my wingman, RICK. She was in a single and I was too, and the water we were on was a little choppy at times but when I’m out there, on that tiny boat, hearing the water slap-slap-slap the sides of the shell or hear my blades skiiiiiiiimmmmslapskiiiimmmm the water as I try to maintain my balance; or I feel the current pull the boat a little this way or that way; or the wind pushes me out to the center of the river, I sit amazed again because here I am: on this tiny boat, truly a “shell,” on the wavy water with these long sticks that I push or pull to make me go.

And even though my friend is 100 feet away, I’m all alone, without a care in the world. The water is not crowded, so I square my blades and get my water bottle. The only way I’ll move now is with the current or the wind. I take a few sips and I hear the crickets chirping, and I see ospreys dive after fish. On other days I will do this too, not just today, to sit and take it all in. It’s too much beauty to ignore. Sometimes I see herons whose calls belie their elegant appearance; have you ever heard a heron call? They sound like frogs with a smoker’s cough; their sound totally surprised me the first time I heard one bark.

Sometimes bald eagles are soaring. Last week I saw one sitting! on the bank of the river… no branch to make it look majestic, it was just sitting there and it took a drink. Sometimes I see them fish, which is amazing, because their bodies are the size of a loaf of bread. But today, just the ospreys.

Many times the ospreys are lucky and they come back with one in their talons. Today just as I got in my shell, a fish jumped for a peek at the rest of the world. All the time, at the end of a hot day the dragonflies will ride off the heat wafting off the water (and the water is warmer than the air today as the air temperature is 68˚) but every day, The Sun is there too showing me how to get back home.

Oftentimes the best time to learn something is when you’re letting the lesson come to you. It’s not just the sun, it’s The Sun.

Thank you.