I saw a little girl in my yoga class yesterday - probably about 4 or 5 years old. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a child of this age in an adult yoga class. I wondered how she’d handle the 75 minute class. Her age predisposes her to a lack of attention and focus that most people find pretty normal in a child. But while her movements were unorthodox and sometimes she just lay on her stomach to chill out, she followed the class and did many of the poses. She barely made a peep.
Countless articles on child development/psychology and the way in which we raise and teach children have made their way into my consciousness, and I’ve read that the way girls and boys are complimented make a difference in how they perceive themselves.
Girls are so pretty. Very nice. They’re naturals — success comes effortlessly. They’re sweet. They’re good. Compliments directed at girls are more about BEING than doing.
Boys are strong. They work hard. They are tough - ready to face whatever situation comes.
I rationalized for awhile just because I wasn’t good at something naturally that it wasn’t really worth my time. My basement room in college comes to mind — I didn’t have a closet, so I just never put clothes away. I’m not good at organizing, so I won’t do it or dedicate any time toward it. This has been a difficult stance to maintain, not just for me, but for many of my roommates who have had to deal with my laissez-faire attitude. Nearly 6 years later, I find cleaning and organizing no less frustrating and boring, though I do live by myself now so as to not inflict my attitude on others. I do enjoy a clean and clear place though, so I’ve just spent the last few days cleaning my apartment, little by little.
Learning and playing the guitar also comes to mind. I spent quite a few guitar lessons gabbing with my 27-year old instructor, partly because it was fun and partly because it was better than exposing the minimal progress we were making given my lack of attention toward practice. It takes immense focus for me to learn something new on the guitar and play it for more than 15 minutes. It wasn’t until this past summer, in Nicaragua, bored out of my mind, that I finally learned and practiced and performed some new songs on the guitar.
It wasn’t until this past summer, consumed with anxiety and irritation and frustration, that I took the time to make some intricate, gorgeous drawings, feeling those feelings and expressing them on the paper with color and line.
My writing and sitting area is now swept and clean. It’s been painful, doing it. I’ve rationalized, felt depressed about how messy I am, felt proud about how good I’m doing, felt anxious and avoidant about continuing. Lots of thinking. But now, as I sit in my little area free of clutter and dust and trash, I feel so peaceful as I gaze upon my clear table. I worked really hard on this.
Today I also learned a bit of Sufjan Steven’s version of Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, which resonates with me and is a beautiful, classic, almost mournful tune. My mind wandered often, but I brought it back to the task at hand. Rewarding.
"How did you get so good at yoga?"
Her mom said, “Oh, she’s a yogi. She loves it.”
Being rather than doing.
I responded, “Wow, she must work really hard at that”.
She looked at me shyly.
”Yeah, she does,” said her mom.
my favorite song of the year.
These dark, cold days are made for reflection. We try to brighten them with lights and warmth and smells and tastes, but there is something real about the barrenness of the chilly grey sky. I intend to savor it. In these days, I seek natural light, which, if it deems the day worthy enough to appear, filters itself through the clouds. I rise early.
After opening gifts on Christmas and drinking a worcestershire spiked bloody mary, I convinced my brother to accompany Daisy and me on a long walk to the Point of Stone Harbor. Daisy needed no convincing of course. The feeling of walking in the cold is so energizing to me. The cold air enters my lungs and cleans them out. My face flushes.
We ran to a cliff in the distance, formed by absence of the sand taken by Hurricane Sandy. I saw other evidence of the storm in bilingual Department of Mental Health posters at the Arc, a thrift store and community organization. One night I decided to climb the broken stairs to the Pavillion on 101st street beach and upon deciding to descend found the path back more difficult — the wood steps had washed away. It’s a steep climb to get off the beach, the difference between the dune and sand significant. Daisy and I run up the small hills.
On Christmas, recent tides had brought a rich collection of shells to the beach. I lay down my scarf on the ground and collected some of the most beautiful specimens… perfect swirls and curves, so perfect other small mollusks had latched on, densely packing the inner entrance to the shell. Looking at them, fiercely attached like that, gives me goosebumps.
When the days started to get dark, I remained actively detached from the holiday season. I’ve never enjoyed Christmas decorating, a sore spot for a family obsessed with holiday splendor. Setting up rows of nutcrackers and porcelain houses and dolls just is not what gets me going, at all. I even take issue with the sacred beef tenderloin for Christmas dinner. So I maintained my distance. I’ve never been the instigator of holiday pomp, though I am a thankful recipient.
I surprised myself, then, when I walked into Whole Foods in early December and bought a Christmas rosemary bush and followed that up with a trip to CVS for small white lights. I set them up on my little table and enjoyed their glow in the dark mornings and evenings of the past few weeks.
I had never taken a walk on Christmas before. I felt dazzled by the beauty of the winter beach, with its small flocks of shorebirds and the ocean’s icey-blue water reflecting the sun. The gift of nature is freely given, expansive.
I’ve been reading a lot of Mark Epstein’s writings on desire - musings on the objectification of others to fulfill our own deep desire for one-ness, how that gap between what we wish to be and what we are is deeply unsatisfying. We aim to fill the gap with maneuvers, materials and substances. In the face of this pervasive unsatisfactory quality of life and habitual reactions to it, I find consolation in the present. In the bright sunlight, the shorebirds, the broken steps being a little bit scary, the glow of cheap plastic lights and the saccarine sweetness of a sugar cookie. In the snowy winds outside my apartment. In music and singing.
I have begun to enjoy poetry in the past year, and I received a copy of Mary Oliver’s A Thousand Mornings for Christmas this year. I read the first poem … I’ll share it with you here:
I Go Down to the Shore
I go down to the shore in the morning
and depending on the hour the waves are rolling in or moving out
and I say, oh, I am miserable,
what shall —
what should I do? And the sea says
in its lovely voice:
Excuse me, I have work to do.
My brain says to plan and plot what work I have to do. I have some small goals for the next few weeks. But the sea doesn’t plan — it just does. So that’s what I’ll do. That’s what I’m doing.
There’s a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. -Leonard Cohen
“You see this goblet?” asks Achaan Chaa, the Thai meditation master. “For me this glass is already broken. I enjoy it; I drink out of it. It holds my water admirably, sometimes even reflecting the sun in beautiful patterns. If I should tap it, it has a lovely ring to it. But when I put this glass on the shelf and the wind knocks it over or my elbow brushes it off the table and it falls to the ground and shatters, I say, ‘Of course.’ When I understand that the glass is already broken, every moment with it is precious.”
- Mark Epstein
Thoughts Without a Thinker
this is a recipe for a cold evening in which you return home relatively early from obligations, not too hungry because it takes some time.
1 large cauliflower
1 can chickpeas
1/2 large yellow onion (i found a beauty in my fridge!)
sumac or paprika
sriracha or korean red chili paste (I used the latter)
3/4 cup dried quinoa (i approximated)
1 - preheat oven to 400. my oven doesn’t notify me when it is preheated, adding a bit of delightful indifference to this and any other instruction that demands preheating.
2 - break down cauliflower. chop in half and then pull the florets away from the center manually. break down the florets so that they are bite size. place in large roasting pan (in this case, beautiful sturdy deep roasting pan my mom gave me) and drizzle with olive oil. don’t be stingy. or more positively, be abundant.
3 - roast for 45 minutes - 1 hr, stirring periodically. i took this time to make some yogi “calming” tea and read some articles for school.
4 - when the cauliflower has shrunken to half its size, condense it to half the pan and add a can of cooked, rinsed and drained chickpeas to the vacant space. season with a mixture of cinnamon and sumac. be generous! stir.
5 - in the meantime, in a large cast iron skillet, saute the thinly sliced 1/2 onion in olive oil. one thing i’ve learned is that spices benefit from cooking. I added a tablespoon of korean chili paste and 2 tablespoons of peanut butter and let them cook for a bit with the onion. I then poured in a good amount of quinoa, stirred, and added a wine glasses’ worth of water. Bring the whole thing to a boil, and then add more water when the existing water evaporates before the quinoa is finished. At this point, I turned off the oven but left the cauliflower/chickpeas inside.
6 - When the quinoa is tender, add the cauliflower/chickpea mixture. Combine everything! And you have a spicy, creamy, delicious curry-like veggie dish for dinner (I enjoyed with arugula salad and a glass of wine) and two lunches this week. By you I mean me.
I’ve been helping friends and family with college applications, job applications, resumes, essays and personal statements for as long as I can remember.
My friend Rob recommended that I make this service public to the world! I do love doing this work, and as a full-time graduate student, I’d appreciate the additional income.
I’m a Georgetown graduate in International Affairs (lots of writing) and a social work graduate student at CUA. I was able to successfully apply and work in two positions in political advocacy in DC. I know my way around a sentence, and I also know what employers are seeking. I know how to emphasize your strengths in an elegant, compelling way.
If you’d like a pair of trained eyes to look over your writing and make it work for you, get in touch.