Tag Archives: travel

The Lazy Perfectionist

I think an acupuncturist described me as such when I was in college after telling her about myself. I don’t know if I’d call myself a lazy perfectionist anymore. I think perhaps I’m lazy (can you relate?) but have developed habits that urgently push me out of bed in the morning and have learned set goals that keep me on track. And the simpler and shorter my goals and “to-do” list is the better…

Back in March some of you may know I signed up for a half-ironman.Seemed so exciting at the time…and doable!  It’s next Saturday. The training has not been as consistent or as hard-core as I would’ve liked, and I have also had some great moments.

For any of you other Lazy Perfectionists or  Type-A-Wanna Be-Neurotics you might be able to relate. Perhaps you you  don’t always wake up saying,”YESSSSS!!!!!TODAY I’M GOING TOTRAIN!  YESSSS!!!! or even, “TODAY I MUST TRAIN, AND I WON’T COMMIT TO ANYTHING LESS..” By the way, you can substitute work or any other goal (it doesn’t have to be training) and this entry still applies.

This mind of mine gets really excited about doing a large volume of training or a really fast pace.. But then And it gets really upset when I don’t complete that large volume or that really fast pace.

So lately I’ve started training my mind in a different way…instead of telling myself that we are going to train hard (anyone else have multiple personalities, ha!) I tell myself that we are going to train focused.

20160902_101910

Lake of the Isles, Minneapolis

I know that sounds strange. One of the delights of longer trainings is letting the thoughts drift. Getting lost! Exploring! And it is! But that’s not necessarily what I need for my day at that time.  And f I let my thoughts drift too much without feeling my body and my brain rooted in the training then I stop…and drift some more…

…..and knowing that sustained focus is something that I consistently  need to practice, why not do it during a time in which a repetitive movement is already built in to my week.

 

 

 

 

More Tea?

20141026_173950

Ray’s Teaset. Yogaville, Virginia

On February 14, 2002 I wrote in my journal, “Floating in the ocean with nothing better to do than stare at the bright blue  sky.” This was from the white sands of the beaches in Northeastern Brazil. It was my third year of college and this was my study abroad…I was studying the relationship between ocean and sky. I wasn’t, actually. But there was something that I was trying to grasp in that journal entry that I’m just finally moving towards twelve years later:  relaxation.

20140911_090049

The road outside my mom’s house. The start of the 40 mile biking adventure from the suburbs to Boston.

In that moment as in other vacation moments I’ve wondered how to bring that “floating” sensation to “every day life” or “the real world.” After leaving Mexico, where I taught 2nd grade for three years, I decided to take the year off from teaching.On purpose, with no job or home in place, I flew to Boston where I floated in between my parent’s homes  by bike, by car, and by train. Things just worked out. My dad gave me his old car for the price of a new muffler. I found a job substitute teaching very easily, and out of the blue came the email that my acupuncturist said I would get. Would you like to staff the Basic Yoga Teacher Training it read from my yoga teacher.

20141021_155606

The trails in Yogaville

And so I floated to Yogaville, an ashram situated in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Once there, floating was easy. My “work” was supporting a program that I truly believe in while I too practiced with the students. Work was learning the elements of Integral Yoga again, practicing yoga every day, and meditating. “Work” was getting to know participants and their floating lives, learning and conversing with the other interesting members of the staff. “Work” was hiking the trails,
long conversations in the dining hall with others’, and jamming to poetry and chants. While I was “working” the support and love I felt as a staff was the same that I had felt four years prior when participating in the program itself. Floating felt natural as I found that many participants in the program and others that were living in the ashram were also floating.

20141201_072314

The Dunes Trail. Arcata, Ca

From there, I floated to another retreat on the coast of Northern California.. While these two retreats were different they had a very similar effect on me and the message was clear: “Relax into love and you can’t go wrong.” The question among many of us was, “But how do I do that during every day life?”

Something in both places that was said resonated me. “This is every day life.”

IMG-20141220-WA0001

San Francisco in the Fog.

Living in community, acting with and discussing what it means to move with awareness. And most of all, learning to live in the in-between, because that is the only thing real that exists.”And yet, that is a very scary place to be, especially when living in a city; a city where“floating” doesn’t always feel acceptable because everyone’s always racing to get on the next train especially me!

20141026_181352

Yogaville, Virginia

Or where there are so many distractions  it’s hard to remember what feels true and to remember to give myself the time to stop and listen to the voice of love inside. And being in a city has brought up old anxieties and it’s hard to be patient with myself. I somehow feel that  because I just came from these magical places of conscious floaters that I should automatically be different and when I put that should on myself  I feel the fear of being in that “in-between” place creep up and from that fear tension grows.

And yet, also while being in this city,I have been lucky enough to float from amazing person to person, including loving family that has let me into their home.

The stories of inspiration, trauma, and  love that I have heard are incredible.No one has spoken of perfection or of lack of want. But everyone has spoken with an understanding of the importance of following one’s heart and understanding of that chilling fear when hearing the voice that says, I am lost. And yet, with patience and tranquility the answer of what’s next always comes.

Before I left Mexico, I had lunch with a friend. When I started telling him all of my plans and everything I wanted to do with all of my excitement he said, “Sarah, I see you as lost.” My face fell and I started crying. “You need to have a plan.” he said.

I heard a “but” creeping up inside me. What’s wrong with being lost? It said.

“Yes.” I nodded my head. “A plan.”

“And not just sit around and have long lunches and tea with people.”

“Right.” I thought.

And I left that lunch feeling miserable. Why hadn’t I voiced what I had heard? There was nothing wrong with being “lost.”. And besides, I love long teas!  I learned how to do that in Mexico!

20141026_174841

Tea Ceremony at Yogaville led by Ray.

Yesterday, I floated from one two hour tea date to the next. I was able to completely be with them in the moment because there was nothing else I had to do. Floating gives me the time to be still so that I can finally hear that voice within me that guides me to either go left, right, or stare at the blue sky while floating on the waves on the white sand beaches in Brazil.

I Don’t Really Wanna Say Good-bye

So, we left off in Mexico. In San Gil at the Water’s Edge where I swam 1900 meters in 37 minutes!

And then, things started to get hard. Friends came back to Mexico and it was so so wonderful to see them!  But they were all headed back to school. I wanted…I needed something to do and I knew it wasn’t school, but I didn’t know how to start what I wanted to do…and I found myself in that negative cycle of…but if I open door number one then what if door number two won’t open and then I’ll be stuck again and in the same place that I was before, and then there’s no point and… down the rabbit hole. I was completely stuck.

So many wonderful places to go and things to do, and I felt like all the stuff that I had spread all over the room that my friends were kind enough to let me stay were boxing me in.

20140826_000411

All My Bags are Packed, I’m Ready to Go

It’s time to leave, Mexico. I heard the voice over and over again say. No, no. Not yet! Just let me figure this out. I pleaded back.

And it wasn’t until I wrote an email to a friend thatI thought I wrote from the depths of my soul that I got a wake-up call. “Sarah!” he wrote me back. “Stop feeling sorry

Alexa (teammate), Mike (coach), and Me

Alexa (teammate), Mike (coach), and Me in Veracruz

for yourself. You are an independent smart woman. Do something about this! You are not happy. I tried to justify his statements. “Maybe YOU don’t like what I’m doing, but I’m perfectly FINE!” I snapped at him in defense. But I wasn’t.

I spent the weekend at my ironman partner’s Paloma’s house with her and her family.”Go home.” she encouraged. “You’ll see.” 

Waiting for the Important Guests

Paloma’s children watching for the dinner guests

Indeed it was the only place that came up over and over again…home, I know, ultimately is where the heart is, but in this case home…meant my mom and my dad.

And so I booked my ticket; . It goes without saying I hope, that I savored that time with the good friends and community that I was lucky enough to have in DF. Here’s a short list of activities:

  • got in a couple more walks/talks/and healthy food exchanges with a friend whom I’d been running with since arriving in Mexico three years prior.
  • accompanied a friend wedding dress shopping
  • held a “see you later party”
  • attended one more yoga class, and of course
  •  trained for one more triathlon, Veracruz in August.

It was a wonderful weekend, reminding me of why I had started with the sport in the first place. I spent the weekend, laughing my head off with athletes from both Endurance and Fortia,

Endurance and Forita Together

Endurance and Fortia Together at Veracruz Triathlon

and my coaches, who had become good friends.

IMG-20140824-WA0001

Coach Mike, Me, Coach Luisen, Coach Alejandra in Veracruz

Before my final departure in late August, I visited my acupuncturist one last time. “I can’t believe I’m going home.” I told him. “Well why are you going?” he asked.. “I don’t know. Something in my heart tells me that’s where I need to go.” I responded. “Well,” he said. “Go home. Relax. And you’ll get the email or phone call you need in two weeks.”

I’m sure my eyes widened at his words, hopeful and skeptical at the same time. “Could there really be something to this whole follow your heart thing?”  I thought. And with that I bid him farewell and headed to Massachusetts on the early morning of August 26th.

Stuck.

It’s 3 am. I can’t sleep, and I’m in the midst of getting over a cold. It started with a sore throat which some might say is a result of not expressing myself; there must be something I want to say, but don’t know how to say it. I’ll interpret it as a lack of keeping this blog updated for the past six months.

And where have I been? All over and under and in between.

What do I have to say? Thoughts are fleeting. I don’t have a story or an entry that can be neatly tied up with a bow, or something with a clear beginning, middle, and end.

Isn’t that what we’re taught and what I teach about story lines?

Those are all the reasons that it’s taken me so long to publish something. And yet so much has happened! But where to begin? I suppose, at where, I left off before.

Please be so kind as to keep reading.

The Water’s Edge


The weekend of May 23rd was the most fun-disasterous-ego-busting-laughing-learn-my-lesson the-hard-way weekend of the year . My friend Kate and I had planned to do a triathlon on the coast of Ixtapa. It really was one of those everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong types of weekends, but so fun that everything worked out in a wonderful way. Here’s a “Fortunately/Unfortunately” synapsis of our weekend:

Start of the race in Ixtapa. Our international crew.

Start of the race in Ixtapa. Our international crew.

10. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find cheap tickets to the beach.

9. Fortunately we decide to take an overnight bus! And then, Kate finds cheap tickets!

8. Unfortunately, she bought them backwards. And so we have to buy a new set of tickets.

7. Fortunately, they have tickets available.

6.Unfortunately, the return flight is for Monday. This means we have to miss a day of work.

5. Fortunately, we have to miss a day of work to stay at the beach another night!

Suffering at the Beach one more day.

Suffering at the beach one more day.

4. Unfortunately, our flight is delayed….and delayed…and deeelaaayyyeed. (we spent more time in the airport than on the plane)

3. Fortunately, they gave us food vouchers so we got to eat a pretty good meal at the airport.

2. Unfortunately, we were going to get in after packet-pick up and registration closed.

1. Fortunately, the owner of the race was on our flight and so they kept registration open and when we got our packets just as they closed the     doors!

On the physical side of things I had hurt my foot pretty badly the week before. “Tendinitis. Stay off of it for two weeks,” were the orthopedic’s recommendations. “MMmmm. Listen. I have a competition in a week. Let me do that and then I will rest for as long as I need to. And um, listen, I’ll just swim and bike if I need to, and will stay off of it for the run.”  I pleaded.

I did realize the ridiculousness of my negotiation. It  was as if I was six and my mom and I were negotiating how many more bites of broccoli before I could have dessert…only, I’m 33 and this is not about dessert this is about recuperating from an injury! What patience doctors must have working with athletes! It’s not like I can say to my foot, “Hey..pssst…just heal for now and then you can hurt afterwards.” [although admittedly, I did].

My most important rule about racing is that I cross the finish line with a smile. Races always have their moments, but I do this for fun.

“I really will just do the swim and the bike, and stop there.”  I thought to myself. Yeah..right.

Unfortunately, I finished that race… with a grimace on my face. I think I came in last.  What a lesson in humility, injury, and letting go. It was a great weekend-cheering on my teammates and spending an extra day at the beach with Kate.

Returning to DF I got a stern lecture from Coach 1, Coach 2, an orthopedic doctor, and my foot might-as-well… in which the message rang clear: OFF YOUR FOOT.

I asked my coach about his thoughts on this race.

“You did an ironman, Sarah. That’s awesome. But your ego made you do this race. And now you want to ride 90km on an injured foot. For what?” [I had just signed a teammate and I up for a ironman in July in which I was going to swim and bike and he was going to run] . Also, cut the bullshit. Start training.”

I was puzzled. “I am training. I’m training every day.”

Still not quite grasping his meaning another coach pointed out to me, “You come here tired and stressed.” Oh ,that’s true.

The thing that no one tells you about the aftermath of an Ironman is how long the let down is going to last and how it manifests itself. I knew that it was going to be hard afterwards. I figured two weeks. Maybe a month at most. And the most obvious part of it probably lasted two months (the first month after everyone wanted to talk about it still, so that was fun!). But then regular life settles in.

Paloma (my partner in Ironman) and I would talk about this periodically. She was able to identify more easily her struggles with the aftermath. “I’m fine.” I told myself. “I don’t have a problem slowing down. I’m still training every day. But I’m good!”  Or so I thought.

But really I wasn’t good. I was pushing at everything I was doing; I was afraid that I stopped pushing then I would lose all my strength, gain weight, and god-forbid, have no purpose! Enjoyment and ease of course did not even enter this conversation. I am an ironman. I am a long-distance triathlete. I must teach all day, tutor twice a week, teach yoga, complete a master’s program, and compete  90 kilometers on a bike because that’s what I do.

And so I pushed. I pushed at everything. And without realizing it I was just kind of physically present to whatever was there but didn’t have my whole being into anything in particular. And as a result: I lost strength, gained weight, and wasn’t sure for what I was training. And what pushed me to go and go and go? This idea that I couldn’t stop or else I’d be a total failure….look at all of the people around me and how fast they swim and their workload! Of course I can keep up…I have to keep up!

I finally hit bottom when I was examining yet another option for the summer and on the brink of taking it, I cried to my mom, How can I know what I want to do next when I have not even submitted grades yet. When my apartment is still a mess and I have to move in a week? My whole life I have been rushing to do the next thing and meet the next goal. I just need to be.

After that race in May I started counting my steps.Training was my godsend in the craziness that was going on and I showed up. Not always my fastest times or my “strongest” moments, but I smiled more. Started to become more conscientious of my body, my breath, my attitude, and the other people around me.

In the pool (where I was spending a lot of time since I couldn’t run) my coach badgered me. Every time I did a long distance work out he would say, Much better than Ixtapa, huh? 1500 meters in 32 minutes-not okay anymore.

Endurance sports are about personal bests for me.  32 minutes is an awesome time. So is 40. So is finishing! So is getting in the water and taking a stroke. . Everyone’s goals are different for them. So the time references here are not a general statement for what everyone should/shouldn’t do. For me I only use time as a reference because I know what I am capable of.  32 minutes is slow especially because I hadn’t been able to break that time in open water.

5:30am waiting to go to the start line for San Gil.

Sunday, July 13th I stood on the edge of the lake at the start of San Gil in San Juan del Rio, Queretaro. My race mate walked down to the start with me. I was freezing. It was 6:30 in the morning and the sun hadn’t risen yet.”Oh yeah, even in Mexico it’s cold when the sun’s not up.” I didn’t have a jacket with me.

Start of the RaceMy job was to swim 1900 meters in under thirty-eight minutes and then cheer on my teammates as they raced 90 km on the bike up a mountain and ran 21km for a strong finish. Nervous. That I’d get the route wrong and get my team disqualified. That I’d be stuck forever with the same speed in open waters even after two months of solid training in the pool practically every day.

Why? I thought. Why do I do this for so much anxiety. I don’t get money for it. Why?  Ni modo. Here I am. My teammate who walked down with me to the start said, “You are so brave to swim in this water so early in the morning!” “The air is colder than the water,” I reassured him. And I knew it to. But still what if I was wrong and it took me the whole swim to warm up?

I stood, at my coach’s suggestion towards the front of the pack, ready to jump in at the sound of the race. What if I get run over?Yellow buoys to the right and green buoys to the left.  Breathe.

The sound went off and so did we. Counting my strokes, listening to my breath, sighting the buoys. This was just like any other race. This was the pool…find the line, push the hand down in in the water, relax the elbow as it comes across…one, two, three…next buoy.

So why? Why do it?  Every time: as I stand on the water’s edge, the stage’s edge, whatever edge…always, why? Am I an adrenaline junkie…? Probably. But then I am there: swimming, acting, being.  And then the question becomes always, why wasn’t I here before?   All I know in that moment is that I forget about what or why and hear only my heart beating strong.

Lou just off the bike!

The cyclist on our team just off the bike

It it only when I pass another colored cap, or when another swimmer passes me does my mind come back and say Yessss! or Shit, what place am I in? …and then it comes back for a split second when the coach is at the water’s finish holding up a 3 and a 7. Panting, slightly dizzy, and disoriented I can only give a thumbs up about ohmygawd37minutes!!!  as I sprint up the cobblestones in bare feet to meet my cyclist who is waiting in the relays tent for me so that she can climb the mountain. With all the spectators clapping and yelling  animo! I am there giving her a big high five send off as I collapse ready to enjoy the sun for the rest of the day.

10500461_10204107474108890_735942701278521730_n

Enjoying the sun with teammates.

It is a relief to not climb 90 km up and down a mountain, nor run 21km in the heat of the day.  It is so fun to spend the day in the sun with the other athletes on my team and cheer on the cyclists and the runners. And it is then that finally I see  the results of my strength; the grin from ear to ear is back and it started the minute my teammates arrived the evening before and continued well into the evening of the race day and pretty sure it stuck when I went to bed that evening.

There will continue to  be bad races, annoying training sessions, maybe hopefully no more injuries (please!), internal battles, and ego checks.

Our Awesome Relay!

Our Awesome Relay!

I sometimes worry about my  adrenaline junkie. It’s not very heart-oriented and I worry that because of her I will continue to seek these very highs that then lead to the very lows. But then I think that perhaps actually she is what takes me to that unknown edge even when there is fear and anxiety, and then my heart is what steadies me when I’m there.  I never know what’s going to happen at the start of the race. Can’t control it. And that unknown space is the only thing that is real in this life.

 

Para “La Otra” (For “The Other One”)

La Gringa y La Otra

La Gringa y La Otra

Tired eyes.

I tell you

when I’m still

I feel the light

and I know my heart is right.

You look at me

I think maybe

I’ve given you the hope

of unicorns

and that is maybe what it is but better

because

your light is always there and

unicorns are maybe made up

 

An Almost Heroine

A little girl stands next to a water fountain. She thoughtfully looks over the glistening penny in her hand and focuses in on her wish. I hope my parents get back together she thinksas she whisks the penny into the fountain. She knows this is never going to happen and somehow she knows that it’s not a good idea, nor does she really know if that what she wants. So why wish it?

That is my adult analysis of my four or five year old self. My parents divorced when I was one, and I have no recollection of them ever being together. So it seems odd to me, having no memory of them ever being together, wanting that for myself. Could it be, so young, that I already was feeling that social conformity demanded that the family unit be a mom, a dad, and a child living under the same roof? Could it be that I just wanted things the way they were supposed to be according to what I saw around me? Quite possibly.imgres-1

During school (especially math class) I found myself in the front lines of a war torn country, being the key to reuniting the two lands,  or the heroine in a hostage story while my teachers droned on about adding numbers together. But I knew I had bigger things to conquer.

A psychoanalyst, I think, might have a field day with me: “Tell me about this unsung-heroism-fantasy of yours where you are off saving the world joining lands together?” Might this have anything to do with…your parents divorce at such a young age?

Or, is it just another childhood fantasy that I must be so unique in the world of divorced children that of course a psychoanalyst would find my case interesting?

We learn as adults that courage and heroism do not have to be grand gestures. It can be found in the every day random acts of kindness that we pass onto one another. And yet, there’s a small part of me that thinks that that is complete bullshit.  How glorious to save the world in some valiant manner, nothing short of a cape or a glistening wand or the halo that teeters above my head.

Immediately following college I enlisted in a workshop with a political theatre group . In exchange for some hours of labor we were given a workshop in which we learned some fundamentals of melodrama and comedia d’elle arte. Our final product was three plays, written and performed by us. Our play, of course, was about the failures of our education system (we chose melodrama). Having somehow a cast of all different ethnicities we played up our stereotypes (me being the white nerd whose parents sent her to inner city schools because they thought it would be safer than a suburban school where a random school shooting might take place). Through a cookie, the students became indoctrinated with the politics of No Child Left Behind and it was up to those who hadn’t eaten the cookie to somehow save the school from the evil superintendent!

And so we did! Harrah! And as writers, in a fit of idealistic flurry wrote an ending so beautiful and magical in which the school became the most perfect, performing, multi-ethnic-everyone-getting-along school-after, and we all lived happily ever after killing the evil superintendent.

We read the script aloud, and marvelled at our brilliance. Yes, kill No Child Left Behind and leave our emblem of emblems of schools! And yet… somehow we knew even as we read the script for the first time, that even for the fairy-tale/fantasy play we created we had to shut down the school.  With hanging heads and big sighs we walked over to our facilitator and broke the news. “We have to shut down the school.”

She looked at us with incredible empathy, and sighed.. “I know,” she said wistfully. We turned around, slumped back to our posts, and reluctantly began the sad business of destroying the school that we had created and had become so attached.   If that’s fiction, how  might we react to such scenarios when our ideals conflict with reality?

Just recently, I find myself in such conflict. The team that I have been a part of for what seems like forever (really since October) has decided to split into two. This occurred  right before I was to leave for the beach for a week.  Throughout this week,  I took walks on the long sandy beaches, gazed into the sunset,

Sunset in Puerto Escondido

Sunset in Puerto Escondido

and knew in my heart: that I, heroine-extravaganza, could  get both sides to see how important they were to me (oh, yeah, and everyone else) and then of course they would get back together.

Psychoanalysts get your pen ready!

Like the little girl at the fountain sure that the penny would fly like cupid into the hearts of my parents, and the playwright ten years ago, I wrote friends eagerly. “This could work, right?” “Yes!” they responded to me enthusiastically. “Yes! What a grand idea!” I planned my speech carefully-starting of course off  with an apology for my lack of mastery in Spanish. And then with incredible articulateness, wit, and empathy dove into how the team had served me. “Too much about me?” I thought. “Maybe so…” and then revised it as such to make it more about “us.”

Returning to the city, ready with my post inviting both teams to a place of mutual agreement, I called my good friend for back up. “This is a good idea, right?”

“Yes,” he responded.

“Not overly idealistic and ridiculous?”

“No. Do it.”

All right. Ready to launch.” Excited and nervous I copied and pasted my comments on the two FB pages only to find that…one member was already talking about different logos. My heart sank. I called my friend. “This isn’t a good idea,” I said. “

No,” he said.  “People have already moved on.” “

“Yes.” And sadly I  erased my posts.

I have spent all week wondering at my dissapointment. I have told myself I am not disappointed. I have told myself to stop being so emotional about it. I have told myself that I’m fine. But for some good reasons it is a big deal. And there is nothing I can do about it, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s sad.  And Goddammnit, as I make changes in my life It would be nice if just one thing stayed the same!!  But we all know that the only permanence on this planet is change.

And there’s another truth to this…a selfish-morbid truth:the heroine who at four DSC_0327was so sure that she, single-handedly, could be the answer to her parents reunion,  at thirteen  could be the re-uniter of two war-torn lands, and at thirty-three, as she danced on the shores of sunset while the waves furiously crashed around her, could join two teams as one,  would once again have to sink into the every-day reality of being just another human being.