Living Your Dreams


Stanford University Quad Sky

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Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything—all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”—Steve Jobs – Stanford University Commencement Address, 2005

Jobs gave what is arguably one of the best launch speeches ever in his 2005 commencement address to Stanford University students. Filtered through his own intimate acquaintance with mortality, he boiled it down and handed it on a platter to kids who’d only ever received anything sans much struggle anyway, so it’s doubtful – given their age and relative privilege compared to most – that any of the young adults in attendance that day took Jobs’ words and ran with them. 2005 was still “booming times” with “limitless growth potential”.

And I would guess that anyone who did give his words more than a cursory second thought misapplied the advice in a material Jeffersonian “pursuit of happiness” way that is typical of Americans and those who follow the model. Following one’s heart is not about “happiness”. There are more important things that simply being “happy”.

Happy, like sad, or satiated or angry or blah or anything that a person can feel is transient. It’s like weather. Wait long enough and it will change – for better or worse.

What is truly important boils down to surprisingly little when one is willing to measure it against the finite amount of time we are alloted. Love, giving more than receiving but also not giving just to receive. Knowing our true self well enough to realize that it is the only true north compass we have. Realizing that we are ultimately more than the shells we inhabit and the stuff that supports our shells. Being thankful for everything because the universe didn’t owe us any of our experiences but gave us the opportunities anyway – to learn from or not as we chose.

Mostly though what is important is the fact that we are the authors of our lives. Dramas, romantic comedies, tragedies. We dwell in the narratives we’ve written for ourselves.


Hot Tub Time Machine

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Of course, I wouldn’t have a hot tub because they are unsanitary skin flake stews marinating in secreted bodily residue, and traveling through time shouldn’t be done when damp or barely dressed because that is asking for a more awkward than necessarily fish out of your own time zone experience than landing somewhere in your own past would be otherwise,

I’ve been pondering 1986 on and off since Rob and I snuggled in to watch John Cusack‘s Hot Tub Time Machine. Destined to be another non-classic in his mid-life crisis collection along with the equally phoned in 2012, it begs two questions. What would you do if you had a pivotal weekend in your life to live over and what kind of mid-life hell is Cusack going through to have not only starred in but produced such a puerile piece of a complete time suck like this?

The first question occupies me more than the second though it is hard to watch yet another movie in Cusack’s slow fall from watchable to just another movie star cashing a paycheck. The movie for all its seriously lowbrow reach focuses on the question of going back in time to “right yourself”. The main characters are Al Bundy off-track and stuck so firmly in the weeds they’ve wandered into courtesy of poor life choices and the plain old drift that most of us allow to direct our course. You know what I mean. We paddle furiously until we find that sweet spot in the river and then allow the undertow to do the rest. We figure that the channels we’ve chosen should simply flow along, carrying us to where we want to end up, but the reality is that this only happens for those yellow plastic ducks in wading pools at carnivals. The kind that bob in an endless loop, waiting to be plucked for possible fabulous prizes.

I find that back to the past stories fall into two categories. There is Ray Bradbury‘s “butterfly effect” where any deviation from the original past, no matter how slight, spells doom for the future. Or there is the big fix that puts everyone into a utopia ala the McFly family‘s hunky dory happy ending in the first Back to the Future. The possibility that the past can’t be altered because it’s fixed (as some scientists theorize) is never entertained. It’s never like Emily Webb trying to relive her 12th birthday, stuck in a play where ad-libbing isn’t allowed.

“Where were you in January of 1986?” I asked Rob after the movie was over.

“Mick had just turned one, and I was in my first year of university,” He said.

Rob was already righting his path. An old married man of 24 going back to school to secure that better life.

In January of 1986 I was living in an apartment near the TKE house in Iowa City. Challenger was a couple of months away from blowing up. I was finishing up course work to get ready for my student teaching in the coming fall. It was a crappy winter. I was feeling sorry for myself because everyone had a boyfriend but me. Not having a boyfriend was a huge drama-rama thing for me though the reality – that I never bothered to really acknowledge – was that I did next to nothing to actually remedy the problem. Prospects abounded and one that I was even interested in a more serious way (that being relative to who I was at the time), I let slip because the truth (not something I was big on admitting) was that I didn’t want a boyfriend. My ambivalence couldn’t have been higher or more plain but nothing is as blind as 22.

But if going back to 1986 were an option, what makes us think that the outcome will be horror movie or happily ever materialism after? It’s like people who believe they’ve lived before are only ever victims of great historical tragedy or famous people. There is no ordinary. No average option.

Time travel theory – the serious shit – postulates that traveling backward is the only option. The future doesn’t exist and you can’t travel to somewhere that isn’t yet. Back is done. It’s like photos in an album or stepping into a home movie and wandering about like visitors to a re-enactment of a historical event. The outcome has already been decided. Nothing left to see there but the details that you’ve forgotten or altered as you’ve aged and waxed nostalgic.

My 22-year-old self would be too annoying and it would drive me crazy to be stuck inside her limited worldview.

Cusack and company naturally improved their futures in the superficial sense. They had money, goods and the women of their dreams. Presumably better attitudes and a little gratitude came along with the upgrade but the film doesn’t go there really.

I’ve gone over the side of the wading pool a few times in my life. Saw opportunity or took a chance. The only way to effect change is by going forward. The past has been and done.


The public radio, Studio 360, gave a recent audience one of those fill in the blank cards asking them what they thought they might be in their next life.

Katherine’s answer isn’t lofty or ambitious. In fact some might say she lacks vision or is afraid to reach for her potential, but I thought it was very yoga and almost enlightened . After all, how many of us are aware enough of our true selves to know when we might have already “arrived”?

Rob and I were watching another episode of the unlamented mid-90’s Marines in space fare, Space: Above and Beyond.

“It’s not as even as borderline watchable as I remember it,” he remarked back when we were barely two episodes in. But with just a half-dozen or so painfully acted installments to go, we are committed.  Or should be.

The recent ones have been character development with each of the show’s primaries taking a turn. Last night’s belonged to McQueen, an artificially gestated human who is the commanding officer to a group of Marine pilots/expendable ground grunts. His dilemma? “Who am I?”

He had determined that he existed for a reason and if he paid attention that reason would reveal itself and he could – in essence – fulfill his destiny.

As it turned out, his existence was narrowly focused but very important to the survival of Earth. And really not all that important for me to go into because the bottom line is that McQueen knew who he was in this life. The one he was living. He was not waiting for a do-over. He didn’t believe in that in any case.

Katherine, the English teacher, knows who she is present and future and I am betting past as well.

In my next life, I hope I will just “be”. The “doing” is immaterial. But I am not certain I am that enlightened yet.


Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted in one moment
Would you capture it or just let it slip? 

Lose Yourself by Eminem

Not quite the scenario I’ve been presented with but an apt lyrical representation in some ways.

The studio where I study and teach shuts its door at the end of the month. My friend and teacher, Jade, has chosen to step away and spend more time with her children and seek saner employment opportunities. She offered those of us who teach there the opportunity to take the studio over, and regretfully, I passed.

Timing is one of those serendipitous things. It introduced Rob and I to each other and brought Dee and I to Canada. It has afforded me with writing opportunities and yoga study and teaching opportunities that someone with my background shouldn’t likely have had. But it didn’t show up for this one.

I love the studio. It’s compact, elegant and well-situated. Sitting above a used bookstore (yes, the one I toyed briefly with buying) and sandwiched between a seedy pub and a liquor store, it fits the stereotypical ideal of city yoga studios everywhere. How often have you run across yoga springing forth from the seedy remains of crumbling downtowns like saplings stubbornly taking root in the cracks of sidewalks.

Even as strip malls and newer shopping plazas spring up on the other side of the highway, the town is determined to lure folks back to the former city center with a massive overhaul, repaving the streets, putting in wider sidewalks and creating a pedestrian plaza just a block away. The area improves with each year and there are signs that small businesses, at any rate, have taken notice and are moving into the empty retail slots at a heartening pace though not all have succeeded.

So location? The studio has that covered.

The rent, though I didn’t ask, is probably reasonable based in the information I acquired when I was checking out the bookstore.

And there is a need and a student base, but I am not naive about either. The former fluctuates with the weather, and the latter is a personality thing. Jade has a loyal following but it wouldn’t necessarily switch allegiance. When you are the product in a sense, you can’t “sell” that along with the physical aspects of your business.

Why not then?

Because any type of “fitness” oriented business is subject to the time constraints of those who use it. Shift work rules around here, so early mornings and evenings are prime time. I have a husband and child who expect me about in the early morning and evenings to accommodate them. As it is, teaching just three nights a week this past nine months has been strain enough. If I were to add more?

Rob’s enthusiasm factors as well and he couldn’t offer much when I told him about the studio.

“You’re not thinking about doing it, are you?”

He is my most ardent supporter, but he can be forgiven his self-interest. My working hinders more than it helps our bottom-line and that was never more evident than when we filed our Canadian taxes this year. And my not being around in the evenings shifts the burden of Dee’s activities to him alone in terms of carting her about and cheerleader duty.

One of the reasons behind Jade’s decision was the fact that she was missing hockey games and that precious four hours from the time kids get home from school until they are tucked in for the night. I know that many two income families live quite happily in the nano-bits snatched in the before and after school allotments. They pack everything that doesn’t conveniently fit into the week into a 48 hour weekend, but as I remember that life – it takes a toll.

And then there are the crucial factors. I don’t know anything about running a business, and freelancing more seriously this last year has taught me that the rules, which govern me from afar, are more complex and onerous than I knew.

Finally, I don’t know that I am ready to “be the teacher”. Sure, I teach yoga, but under the umbrella of the studio, which affords me credibility. I am unsure that I possess the experience and knowledge – or radiate the gravitas –  that one needs to in order to “be the studio owner” – to be THE teacher.

Regardless, it’s hard to let this one slip even though I know that there are good reasons for doing so.


Modified version of Image:Arnold Schwarznegger...

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Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver , the former Mr. and Mrs State of California, announced their separation the other day. News of the split splashed the web with typical “omg! how can a famous couple walk away from a marriage that doesn’t have to be measured in dog years to be an impressive run?”

They have a point. 25 years of marriage and 34 total (they dated 11 years* prior) is considered laudable anymore because in a society where most never make it to the altar at all, it bestows an air of powerful voodoo relationship magic on them that seems to elude the majority.

Maria has a YouTube stream – she was a reporter once and is a writer so its existence can be attributed to more than the usual narcissism that drives people to babble on personal YT channels. A recent entry asks her viewers to share how they deal with transitions. What spurred them? How did you cope? What do you wish you’d known going in? All the angsty good stuff.

Apparently what bothers her most is the end of busyness in her life. She isn’t a reporter anymore. Her kids are grown or nearly so and presumably able to function without her hovering over them. Her husband has left office, which effectively puts her out of a job too. And though he has projects in the offing, she does not.

Some of the news reports speculated that she is resentful. After all, she didn’t want Arnold to run for governor and it derailed her professional and personally when he did. She threw herself into her role of First Lady of Cali but that’s over now too.

Like her marriage.

I’ve been thinking about transitions. Why not? It feels sometimes like I have been swirling down river, bounced through the rapids or languidly floating for a good eight or nine years now. Never really getting to close to the banks and pushing off again when I do.

My personal life has come together in a way I couldn’t have imagined and it pleases me to no end, but that “career” thing I am supposed to want desperately and apparently need in order to be personally fulfilled – according to my feminist sisters – dangles above me like the apples over Tantalus. Unlike him, I don’t reach up. I just lie on the tire tube and marvel at the shadows they cast.

One of the last comments on Maria’s stream reminded her that it’s perfectly okay to just “be”. A yogi, I suspect. Because it is okay to “be”. Be content. Be still. Be aware. Be grateful. Be with yourself. Be with those who matter most.

I wonder if it’s possible for some to just be happy with life as it is? Are we so programmed to search and conquer and begin the process again that we can’t dwell in the space we call “transition” without feeling guilty about it?

Taking a break from Care2 has reminded me that there are other options – neglected ones and those just occurring to me – to explore. Transition at its core is really about exploration. I don’t mind that. Research and planning have always been my strengths. Execution maybe not so much but when it counts, I stack up with the best.

My advice? Be. And be mindful. Don’t worry so much. Take it easy on yourself. Forget about perfection. Don’t fret if you fall short or the goal line shifts from time to time. They say that life is a race, but it isn’t. They say that what we do defines us, but it doesn’t. They say to follow your bliss and you will be successful, but that’s not true if your definition of success is grounded in the material or rooted in competition and comparison.

If you are lucky enough to even be able to ask yourself how to transition, you are in a far better place than 98% of the others on the planet.

* I am highly suspicious of marriage length daters. It speaks to issues and ambiguity.


A yogi blogger I follow converted the side of an abandoned neighborhood building into a giant chalkboard that allowed the residents of the neighborhood to chalk in what’s important to them in the form of a fill in the blank asking them to complete the following sentence.

Before I die I want to …

The wall filled in over the course of a single day.

Not all the life’s “goals” moved the earth or are destined to  shake any foundations, but even the most simple have a basis in the human need to leave a mark.

Not in a “that’s gonna leave a mark” type of way, but in the small way that we all hope to be remembered for something by someone else.

Though my blog is not so public. I invite anyone who reads this to share an aspiration large or small or multiple.


How Yoga Teachers Hang Out

Image by sarahfelicity via Flickr

I resigned from my teaching position of twenty years in the spring of 2007. At the time, I had vague notions of rolling over my teaching certificate and working as a classroom teacher in Alberta. I still think about the license – need to get on that really – but the idea of teaching high school again doesn’t warm my insides.

So I semi-officially retired from teaching. I still read about the horror known as “reform” down in the states and I write about it (none too flatteringly which would make it hard to secure a teaching position down there again, methinks), but I don’t harbor any notions of returning.

When I left the building, I didn’t look back.

Okay, I still love office supplies, but that aside, I don’t miss the job of it. And it was a job. A thankless and mostly mind-numbing job as the years ground on.

I blogged. I wife’d the house, mothered the child and poured myself into myself and my husband. And life was very good.

But somewhere along the line, yoga arrived and then the urge to teach it followed, and now I am not exactly retired anymore. In fact, I am working – more and more.

What started with filling in at the studio here and there became an employment opportunity when I was offered one then two and now three classes of my own. Quickly on the heels of this came an offer to teach two nights a week at the community hall across the street. Add to this the fact that I’d already agreed to take every third Friday teaching a class for figure skaters in the next town over.

Between this and the Care2 gig – I am working again.

Not that I could pay the mortgage – which isn’t an issue because we don’t have one anyway – but it’s an exchange of skills for money. I haven’t done this in a while and it’s … interesting.

I had to shop. My yoga attire is not exactly Lululemon. I gave her up a while ago because the pants are too low-cut and the fabric doesn’t breathe enough for my comfort level. I am a capri’s and leggings type with long t’s and sweaters. Layers is the middle-aged woman’s best friend.

I have a lesson book. I write out sequence plans. It’s like the old days only everyone who shows up wants to be there and pays attention.

Not that many are showing up. It’s not my studio. People who come expect Jade. And why not? She’s good. So my classes have a couple of folks here and there. It’s a bit disappointing in the first few minutes but once I start to teach, I lose myself in the instruction and forget about the numbers.

The community hall class will be bigger. Nine registered officially and a few more who’ve verbally committed. Perhaps I can lure a few into the studio? It’s a goal; I won’t deny it.

Someday I will have a studio. Somewhere. I don’t think it will be soon or here, but the future – as Yoda pointed out to Luke – is a difficult thing to pin down for prediction purposes.

For now, I am a working girl again. That’s all I need to know.