Saturday, November 24, 2012

Turkey Day... without the Turkey

As I type I am watching the sunrise over the Gulf of Mexico on a small island in Florida. This Thanksgiving was anything but typical. My aunt rented a beach house in St. George Island, Florida months ago and I had planned to bring my Nanny along. We would meet my Aunt, her husband, and his daughters in Florida. I had made these arrangements months ago and I was satisfied with my new life set of alterna-Turkey Day plans. 

I set out on Sunday to pick up my Nanny half way between Chicago and Dayton and quickly got frustrated as I took a wrong turn when I wasn't paying attention (I have made this drive millions of times). Then my fancy new phone wouldn't work properly and I couldn't get back on track (yep the new IPhone 5 maps are just as bad as they say). Then I was soon honking and cursing frustrated that my Thanksgiving was so different. I shouldn't be preparing for a 4am departure on Wednesday morning with my grandma in tow, I should be talking to Matt about when we are going to head to Wisconsin or Ohio. Him prodding me to leave on time, not pack too much, and have Lila's things ready. 

Nanny and I made the journey successfully and arrived in Panama City unscathed and thankfully uninterrupted by the Chicago fog. After we arrived, we stopped and had lunch at a wonderful seaside restaurant and then stopped by the local fish market to pick up Thanksgiving dinner; shrimp and grouper. The trip was off to a more than successful start! We headed to the beach house and were pleasantly surprised by a beautiful house, steps away from the beach. We enjoyed the rest of the evening and then woke on Thanksgiving Day.

I was sad to miss some of my favorite pre-Turkey Day workout extravaganzas but was lucky to walk with my Grandma and Aunt on the beach before running back. Then I laid on the beach reading in my swimsuit for a few hours before getting ready and enjoying some wine poolside. Next was preparation of the dinner, prepared and shared by all. 

After dinner, we enjoyed a game of catchphrase including my Nanny which Matt would have loved to see. She was pretty good too! As we were playing I turned on the CD player for some music. Last post I mentioned cosmic coincidences and what I am about to tell you was surely one. The CD that had been left in the player by some other guest was, the "Eat, Pray, Love" soundtrack. I am sure most of you have heard of this book/movie. I recently read and watched both as I am planning my own Eat, Pray, Love journey to none other than Bali (more on this to come in another post). Strange. I instantly recognized most of the songs and was surprised by a few including Eddie Vedder's voice. After we were done playing I looked up the soundtrack and found the song, "Long Run" by Eddie Vedder. I was shocked by the lyrics and quickly downloaded the song. Below are some highlights from the song (copied from So fitting. 

And I wished for so long, cannot stay...All the precious moments, cannot stay...It's not like wings have fallen, cannot stay...But I feel something's missing, cannot say...
Holding hands are daughters and sonsAnd their faiths just falling down, down, down, down...I have wished for so longHow I wish for you today
We all walk the long road. Cannot stay...There's no need to say goodbye...All the friends and familyAll the memories going round, round, round, roundI have wished for so longHow I wish for you today
And the wind keeps roaringAnd the sky keeps turning grayAnd the sun is setThe sun will rise another day...
We all walk the long road. Cannot stay...There's no need to say goodbye...All the friends and familyAll the memories going round, round, round, round)

The Thanksgiving was so different that at first, it was hard to realize it was the holiday. There was no turkey, football, or sitting around my Nanny's house so it was all unfamiliar. Then as I was sitting poolside enjoying a glass of wine, it hit me. I didn't care about the holiday or what day it was...I just missed  Matt. His absence was palpable as I looked at the lounge chair next to me. Matt loved a good beach vacation and he would have especially loved this one. Thanksgiving by the beach with family, Matt would have been pleased! I could see him in his ratty beach shirt and swimming trunks urging me to get up and play Frisbee with him. He always wanted me to play. Sometimes I would indulge but I am more of a lay on the sand and read type of gal. Why didn't I play more Frisbee with the guy? I didn't get up and play every time but I can say I am a pretty decent Frisbee player at this point. Sadly, I forgot his Frisbee this trip, typically I still bring it along. 

On Black Friday, there was no mention of door busters or early AM shopping trips. Well, I guess now they are PM shopping trips on Thanksgiving evening. I was so glad not to hear much about it, frankly this year it has made me sick. I don't need one extra thing in this world and I don't have a lot of people to buy for this Christmas. I again went for a run and laid by the beach all day. We also rented some kayaks. I enjoyed kayaking in the late afternoon sun. I could definitely feel Matt's presence and I know he would have been so proud of me in that kayak in the sea. 

I am left with a couple more days to enjoy here and I am really trying to live in the moment and take it all in. I am so thankful to spend the holiday here with my Nanny, Aunt, her husband and his family. I am truly blessed to have the luxury to take this vacation and spend the holiday as I see fit and forge some new traditions. I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving this year, however you chose to spend it... hopefully with friends, family, and some good laughs! 



Monday, November 19, 2012

The Meditating Widow

I had certianly heard about meditation prior to going to the Ashram in December 2011 but my experience with it had been minimal. I had never really sat down and tried to meditate on my own. When I arrived at the Ashram with my Aunt we arrived late in the afternoon and made it in time to attend the evening services, Satsang. I knew Satsang was from 8 - 10pm but that was about it. We arrived and there was hushed chatter before the Swami belted out an "Ommm" and dimmed the lights. We were left to our own devices to meditate but for how long I wondered? They hadn't told me? Would it be the whole 2 hours? No way, I couldn't do this for 2 hours! My back hurts! Why didn't I sit in one of those chairs!

Thankfully another Om pulled me out of my meditative panic about 30 minutes later. This was a full bellyflop into meditation. Luckily, there were three workshops on meditation while we were there given by Tom Spector. I eagerly attended the first workshop and ended up going to every single one. I learned several techniques on mediation and found the one that was right for me and an optimistic plan to mediate every day.

Additionally, it seemed as if I was brought to the Ashram at this time in my life to meet Tom Spector. Tom was involved in pharmaceutical research for cancer. He also helped cancer patients and their families with meditation and helping to put them at ease as they moved into the next realm. Tom's book, Our Two Gardens: How to Cultivate Healing, includes a section on how to best vist with cancer patients. I told him why I was at the Ashram and he immeaditly gave me a big bear hug. Tom shared that he strongly belevied in cosmic coninciedneces and encouraged the group to always reach out to someone if you feel you should. Well this was definitly a cosmic conicidence for me.

After visiting the Ashram,  I went back with a plan to meditate everyday right after I got out of bed. I had explained to Tom that my mind was jumping all over the place all the time. I wasn't able to focus on anything and my mind was always elsewhere when I was at work/home/etc. He promised if I continued with my practice this would change. I thought, it's worth a shot!

But as life got continually difficult, my practice fell to the wayside. I would pick it up and drop it again and again. Last week, I decided to take Deepak Chopra's 21 Day Meditation Challenge. It was all over Facebook and I signed up looking forward to finding my practice again. Now, I have to say I don't condone all of Deepak's beliefs (he is Oprah's guru) BUT he has gotten me to meditate every day for the past fourteen days.

And guess what? My mind isn't as jumpy! With all that is going on and all the plans I am trying to make, my mind was hopping around like a crazed monkey. Oh yes, Monkey Mind at it's finest. So I am a beleiver and will be continuing this challenge. It's not too late for you either! Check out the details here...

Just thought I would pass along my experiences with meditation, everyone should at least give it a shot!



Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Calm After the Storm

So I am writing which means I made it through another milestone. How did I fare? It went okay. It actually gave me some renewed hope for what is sure to be an emotional holiday season.

Friday I attended the mass to commemorate All Soul's Day. The church invited us to bring a picture of our loved one and I brought the picture of Matt posted below. This was taken on the sunset cruise in Aruba. I have to say, Matt had the best picture. It was sad to hear his name read especially given the rest of the church goes who probably lost their loved one at a more "typical age". I had dinner with friends afterwards and it was a nice way to spend the evening.

The following day, I went to my Zumba event and it was great and I learned a lot! Afterwards I went to a mall in the suburbs I had never been to before. Living in the city, I love a good mall. It didn't turn out well though. The juxtaposition between what I was going through and the material consumption was too much. I made a quick exit and had a breakdown in traffic on the way home. Traffic just has that effect. And mostly, I could hear Matt wondering why the hell I had gone to a mall in the suburbs on his birthday. He would have shaken his head in disbelief wondering what I was thinking. Not because he cared that's what I had chosen to do on his bday but why I thought it was a good idea to go to a mall in the suburbs on a Saturday afternoon.

That's the thing about Matt. He never felt a sense of obligation to this or that or doing what the world thought he should. He was true to himself and did what made him happy. Throughout his bday I wondered what Matt would want me to do? He would want me to do what would make me happy. He wouldn't want me to do this or that because that's what I should be doing. He just liked to see me happy. God love him. I am so lucky to have this example in my life.

So today is 8 months (or it was when I first drafted this on Friday, November 9th). After preparing for last weekend, I didn't have the energy to agonize for another. Right now, I am thinking it's just another day. Eight months doesn't seem that significant but when I think about nine that means more than half a year, almost a year! As I mentioned, after last weekend, I am feeling a renewed sense of hope. I was able to more positively reflect on good memories on this milestone instead of being incapacitated like I was on our first anniversary. I enjoyed making a list of birthdays celebrated and focused on happy memories. I can't describe how much this puts me at ease for the holidays. I know they will still be hard but at least I was finally able to move past the horrible deliberating sense of sadness to reflect on the positive. When you are in the first couple months of grief, it's impossible to find or see. You are simply to sad and stricken to see anything but that. People tell you at least you had so many good times and you just want to puke and tell them I am not done with the good times! Again, I will still need to prepare and take it easy on myself for the holidays but they seem much more manageable with some warm memories amongst the sadness.

I have also been making some exciting plans for the future which has kept me energized and looking forward to each new day. More to come on this. I will also be hosting a Zumbathon to benefit the American Brain Tumor Association on December 1st. Please find all the details here Putting effort into throwing a successful Zumba event for the ABTA has been an excellent way to channel my energy and I can't wait to see how it all turns out! The support that I have received from family, friends, and students has been amazing and inspiring. Thanks to all that are willing to travel to this event and volunteer your talents. Hope to Zumba with you on December 1st!