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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Inner Birkenride 2010, Making Peace with Anxiety

Two months before the MS 150 Bike Ride, I bought a bike and began training for the two day, 160 mile bike ride (I wish they would call it the MS 160, but story is, the route changed, just not the name). I knew choosing a ride for charity would inspire me to reach my goal of completing some sort of event where I wore numbers on my body (because how cool is that?) and it did. I raised $1,080.00 for multiple sclerosis, $80 over my goal. Not only did I support those living with MS, I learned a lot about myself along the way.

My female friend T inspired me with her own past riding accomplishments and my male friend T, with years of experience, served as my coach, riding with me at a turtle's pace until I could go it alone. To these two people, I owe an abundance of gratitude and to my husband, I owe even more, because without his competitive spirit, I don't think I would have ever have been so determined to complete this ride in the way that I did.

Before beginning my training, the anxiety I had been living with was almost debilitating. Not many people know the intensity of the anxiety I have battled for years, being that I teach yoga and appear to be so grounded. The truth is, an anxious yoga teacher is simply a contradiction to the stereotype. In any case, I had reached the lowest point I had ever felt before, driven by a constant feeling that the rug was being swept out from underneath me and the constant roller coaster was mostly on the downhill. The asana, pranayama, meditation, and medication were no longer enough and I needed something more. At this point I was seeing a Reiki Master often and she asked,"Do you ride a bike?" Amazed I said,"I just bought one yesterday." She said,"That is going to be good for you." She was correct, it's one of the best things that has ever happened to me and it has changed my life.

After T got me comfortable on my bike, I started training on my own, 30 miles at a time alone, just me and my bike. Some days were easier than others, some seemed more uphill than downhill and some more windy and unyielding, but still, I kept on, alone, by myself, no one watching, receiving no approval or encouragement except for my own. For once in my life, I was enough. I do have to admit, however, I did feel very cool when I saw other riders or was surrounded by traffic.

The morning of the ride I was tired, I hadn't slept, but I was ready. I had all of my gear organized and I was on my way towards the completion of something which required me wearing numbers. My number was 887 and 7 is my favorite number, so I felt things were going to go my way. My friends and I started preparations to leave when I noticed my bike shoes were missing and all I had on were some Birkenstocks from 1993. I raced back to the luggage truck to try and find my black bag amongst the 100's of other black bags that looked just like mine. I selfishly prayed I would find my bag, my heart raced, my limbs started to go numb and I thought,"This can't happen." One of the event organizers said,"Mam, you can just ride tomorrow." I thought, "No, No, NO!" I thought of the people with MS and how some of them can barely move and then I heard my husband's voice,"No way you are actually going to train for this AND complete it." I turned around and male T was standing there and he said,"Well, are you just going to meet us in the middle and ride tomorrow?" I said,"Fuck that shit, I'm riding in my Birkenstocks." No doubt we laughed and no doubt I looked like a total Tool, but I wasn't giving up. Sure, you bet there were comments along the way. My favorite was a man who looked down at my feet and said,"OMG, are those Birkenstocks? I have been riding for 16 years and have NEVER seen that." I rode the first day, 86 miles, in my Birkenstocks, my feet felt great, the Birks survived, and I was proud of myself for sticking it out.

Day two I was even more exhausted and the hills and wind were almost too much. At one point a man came up next to me and he said,"Sit up straight so you can breathe!" I laughed at the irony of someone reminding ME, a yoga teacher, to correct my posture and breathe. I did what he said and managed to get up that hill with still a few curse words to spare for later. By the time we were at the last break point, I had exhausted all of my curse words and it was no longer fun. I just wanted to be finished. The rest of the way I thought about eating something other than power bars, pickle juice, and cookies and I thought even more about those living with MS. When I saw the Finish Line I was excited to see my family and my friend M who's mash-up picture I am posting here. I had crossed a finish line wearing numbers and could check another life goal off of my list.

This journey was an amazing one and the love I have for riding my bike is like breath to me. While my anxiety is still there, it no longer drives me or my actions, as I am in better control. The freedom I feel on my bike reminds me of childhood, an escape into the more playful part of my spirit. My next goal is to ride a Century (100 miles in one day) and who knows, I might even do it in my Birkentocks.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Vatsalyam "A Mother's Love"

Listening to Alicia Key's Superwoman, I retreat to days of living with my beautiful, most fabulous, Superhero of a Mother. Some days I wanted her to go away forever and other days I wanted to crawl onto her lap and never leave.

I'm not sure many people know, or even if my Mother knows, but my Mother gave me permission to fall in love with the ancient practice of Yoga. Coming from Oklahoma, thick in the heart of The Bible Belt, Yoga was top secret stuff and I knew exactly NOBODY practicing yoga back when I received a book in early 1993 from my Mother. That book gave me the permission to explore what I already knew deep in my heart, as a five year old, sitting in the Southern Baptist church pew being told I was imperfect and unworthy of God's love. The name of the book eludes me now, but it catapulted me on the journey of self love and then to the acceptance that I believed differently than most people in my "home" state. With this acceptance and new quest for knowledge, I was truly at home in my heart.

A mother at age 16, my mother always made sure I looked nice, ate well, and performed well in school. Like other kids I had parties, sleep overs, and extra curricular activities such as dance and swimming lessons. I had my first child at age 28 and still, at age 37 I have a hard time getting my kiddos to all of their activities without complaining and I often think of what a hero my mother was to have done all of this at such a young age and I really had no idea at the time. Because my mother was so young, we were often mistaken for sisters and to this day you can see people who meet us for the first time going through the math in their heads when they learn of our ages. In the 70's this was not as acceptable as it is today, but my mother held her head high and forged through making a better life for both of us. My mom and I grew up together and I often joke that I was in college in the late 70's and early 80's. When my mom met the man who would become my father, she asked me for permission to marry him. The only objection I had was the fact that we would have to eat meat more often, other than that, I was down with it. From this Union came two little sisters, two more little girls to cloth, feed, and more working through girl-drama. My mom sacrificed and we all thrived.

My mother is an artist, a chef, a model beauty. My mother is classy, adventurous, but prefers to plant her flowers and stay home awhile. My mother can dance like Tina Turner and make a home comfortable, no matter where it is. My mother is freaking amazing. My mother is just now, with all of her little girls happy and healthy, able to live her life for herself.

So, whenever I touch people with the gift of yoga and they thank me, I have to give props to my mother for giving me the permission to express what was stuffed inside of me until she gave me the book that sent me soaring on my way.