Get On The Bus

I have my favorite quote by my favorite writer (Hunter S. Thompson) tattooed on the left side of my body.

It says “Buy the ticket, take the ride.”

Those familiar with his writing will most likely recognize it as this line appears fairly frequently in his work. He uses it whenever it’s time to take initiative and go for something, which is usually some highly illegal in his case.

I’m not a political journalist or an ether enthusiast, but I love this quote because to me it means take control. These words are close to my heart, both figuratively and literally, and serve as a reminder that I have the ability to take charge, take a chance, and take the ride.

As simple as this quote is, my darling mother could not remember it for the life of her. She would frequently ask me what my tattoo said and then quickly go back to forgetting. One day she said, “What’s your quote again? You know, your tattoo…Get on the bus?”

Yes mom, I have ‘get on the bus’ tattooed on me.  But I have to admit it was fairly close.  It gave both of us quite a laugh and it’s still something we’ll say to each other to lighten up a “what am I doing with my life?” crisis.

As my beloved yoga teacher training beings to come to an end, I’ve been reflecting a lot on all of the different things I’ve learned about myself, yoga, and life, as well as all the questions that have come up during the past few months. I couldn’t have asked to do this training at a better with time with all that’s been going on in my life and, you know, the world falling apart.

I stopped reading and watching the news after it was named President, but it’s not just him. It’s the suffering in Syria, the corporate greed that caused physical violence on a domestic flight, the endless shootings, the crippling fear that we’re on the brink of WWIII…

Yikes.

Did your blood pressure just spike too? Sorry about that. My point is that I could go down that rabbit hole, I could only see the horror and feel completely hopeless because I know I can’t directly make an impact on any of these atrocities. I could choose to ignore everything going on around me and bury my head in the metaphorical sand like an ostrich (if you didn’t know that’s legit their defense mechanism — you’re welcome for the fun fact you can bring up at dinner parties). But that doesn’t seem like a great idea either. Plus I’d have to become a hermit to fully carry it out because people talk about just as much as we post about it online. But that’s not a bad thing, people definitely need to vent. What’s bad is getting so caught up in everything that it takes away from your ability to function or be around certain people, especially those who disagree with you. So now what?

There’s a third option — you can let it go.

I know, easier said than done, but it’s really the only option that gives you the only thing we really need to remember that we do have control; freedom. When you can accept something for what it is and without assigning it a judgement or label, you can let it go. And that’s really the only way we ever be really free. It’s something that I aspire do to as second nature because right now it’s pretty damn hard.  When people support things that make my skin crawl, I feel like my head it going to explode.  But then I realize that my head exploding only hurts me.

I’ve noticed that when I’m able to let go of hurt, anger, or frustration, it feels like one of the giant elephants sitting on my chest got up and wandered away. Then I can breathe a little better and work on getting the next elephant off me.

If you feel hopeless or powerless, remember that you can control how you feel – or least you can try your damn hardest.  So get on the bus, and live your life.

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What it All Comes Down to is Everything is Gonna be Just Fine

I saw my psychiatrist a few weeks ago so he could tweak my meds. I was feeling more depressed than “normal” and having the most fucked up dreams, so I figured I’d ask a professional. Vivid nightmares is a common side effect of my SSRI, so that with the extra 15 lbs that mysteriously added to my body convinced me it was time to get off and just stick with lithium. But my lithium levels were WAY too low so we had to up that dosage and now have to wait to see if it’s all good before we can wean me off.

I hate not having control over what goes into my body. Giggity.

Aside from the meds, I’ve been so consumed in my yoga teacher training program that sometimes I even forget I have a mental illness. That’s right — I’m on the path to becoming a REAL yoga teacher. It feels like I finally found my calling.

Yoga makes me feel so fucking good. It feels like my mind, body, and soul are being massaged by God, or the Divine, or whatever you want to call that energy force we can’t quite explain. It’s the ultimate mind/body experience and I’ve been devouring everything I’ve been learning about reiki, chanting, mantra, Sanskrit, the Hindu deities, and everything in between.

It’s brought a sense of purpose to my life that I’ve been hopelessly searching for. I can’t even describe the feeling of working with someone in a restorative pose; it’s magical. Being able to assist people in a “real” class while watching seasoned, dedicated instructors work makes me feel so happy, peaceful, and alive.

It makes me feel like I have a real ability to help people. You can feel when someone needs to be touched and when they need positive energy. It’s truly amazing.

You can think I’m a crazy hippie or whatever, but I believe in this and it gives me a sense of being and purpose that I’ve never felt before. It allows me to help others and it also allows me to help myself.

When I’m in the yoga studio, I’m not bipolar, I’m not someone who hates their job, I’m not someone with the insecurities that plague most of us; I’m just me. I’m me in my rawest form…and it’s amazing. When I sit on my mat during our closing meditation I feel like all of the labels that have been plastered on me by society and by myself slowly peel away. Every time I practice is a new start.

On Friday evenings we have a class where we discuss our readings and really anything else that comes to our minds. The other week mental illness came up and I felt like the wind got knocked out of me. It was like all the feelings and resentment I hold about having bipolar disorder came flooding back. Because as much I want to be free flowing, positive, and free spirited, I still have bipolar disorder and sometimes it gets in the way.

There are days when I want to get up and start the day with a sun salutation and meditation, but I end up spending the whole day in bed because I’m too depressed to get up. It makes me feel like like I’ve failed my yogi self and that I can’t truly be what and who I want because of bipolar disorder.

But that’s not true. Bipolar disorder is just a work around — sometimes I won’t feel like it’s there and other times it will make it’s presence very known. And that’s ok. It’s ok to have good days and bad days, you just have to remember that having a bad day doesn’t mean you’re letting yourself or others down and that you’re still you.

As long as you have faith in yourself and keep trying, everything will be just fine.

Yoga Is Not Just For Pretty People

A few weeks ago I went to a free info session about becoming a yoga teacher.  Unfulfilled and frustrated with my current career (this statement is reason #234234 I’m not friends with my boss on Facebook), I decided to explore some other options.

I decided to look into becoming a yoga teacher because I thought it would be a good career for someone who tries to lead a life in a ball of positive energy…and is completely intolerant to any sort of stress or anxiety.  I found a few programs that cost about as much as a semester at my college, but I decided I should check it out anyway.  If it could help lead to a new career then it might be worth the enormous check they would have to pry from my hands, so off I went to a studio in SoHo.

I changed at work since I wasn’t sure what the bathroom situation would be like, which proved to be a horrendous mistake because the yoga pants I brought were now two sizes too small.  The entire train ride I had to keep pulling at my crotch and readjusting to ward of the back rolls that had magically appeared.  Safe to say I got a few awkward looks on the train.  Although that’s not really new since I usually keep my sunglasses on which makes me look like a drug addict or douche.  Or both.

As I walked up the the stairs to the studio I thought, “God I hope this class isn’t full of anorexic ballerinas,” and opened the door to find what? AN ANOREXIC BALLERINA.  Who also happened to be one of the instructors.  And French.

Super.

I wanted to sit in the front to show the instructors that I was very serious about my practice and becoming a teacher, but a very gay man doing a full split and a girl wearing just a sports bra and no body fat had already beat me there.  I awkwardly wedged my mat to the side while I tried to avoid getting kicked in the head by the elastic man practicing his splits.  All I could think of was, “where do the balls go?”

The instructors introduced themselves and then asked if anyone had any injuries.   I suffer from back problems, or ‘grandma back’ as I like to say (which the instructor did not find funny), so I raised my hand.  The french toothpick came over and instead of me just saying, “bad back” and smiling, she asked me more questions than my physical therapist does.  None of my answers seemed to please her and she avoided me for the rest of the class.

During the class I could feel her death stare on me when I struggled to get into a pose, which was caused by me fidgeting with my pants while trying to balance.  The glares combined with my newly formed FUPA was making me anxious, as was the fact that I was WAY to close to the wall and kept punching it, so when I tried to take a deep breath and relax my body decided this was an excellent time to fuck with me and…I farted.

Worst of all, I laughed at myself.  I was the only person who laughed.  Because clearly I was the only one who was not an adult.

The other instructor came over, humiliated for both of us, and asked me to move my mat back since I was too close to the wall.  Back of the room for me.

The rest of the class was basically me trying to relax and get the most of the experience with the instructors glaring at me or trying to adjust me. Normally I’m fine with they adjust me.  But this instructor was a ninja and would come out of no where, which scared the shit out of me and make me yelp and fall over.

This happened at least 6 times.  It was awkward for everyone.

So, that happened.  At first I thought I had made a huge mistake going and wasted my time, but then I realized that this experience made we want to be an instructor even more.

Yogis have this image of being skinny, beautiful, and inhumanly flexible – but that’s not real.  The reality is that some yogis are like that but most are not.  I’ve been too intimidated to go to classes before because the students and the instructor seemed insanely perfect.  But I want to teach people that it’s ok not to be perfect.  Yoga is an incredible way to get in touch with your spirit and your body – no matter what they look or feel like.  Yoga is about your individual practice and deepening your connection with the earth and the energy that surrounds it.

I want to be a yoga teacher because I want to give people the time, place, and guidance they need to do all of that.  That’s what yoga is to me.  Not some blonde barbie doll wearing Lululemon leggings and judging me for a having greasy hair (it was an off day bitch, leave me alone).

Yoga is a wonderful gift to give to yourself and to others, and I strongly encourage you all to try it.  Especially when I become an instructor.

So that yoga studio was not the one for me.  But that’s ok – I found another one.  An affordable one.  In Queens.

Suck it Manhattan.

Grattitude

*Note: I am aware “Grattitude” is actually spelt “Gratitude” – there’s a sign near the city that has is spelt this way because gratitude is really about your attitude.  See what I did there?  Let’s move on…

As I’m sure you’re aware, this past week was Thanksgiving.  My fiancé, or ‘fiancebabe’ as we like to call each other and he shall hence be known as, spent Wednesday-Saturday (technically Sunday morning) with various combinations of our family members.

While I’m sure a lot of people might think “Jesus. You must have wanted to shoot yourself,” we were thinking “Jesus. We’re REALLY lucky.”

I have an unconventional family that we refer to as our “modern family” and I love every single one of them, no matter how we’re related.  I also have an incredible future family-in-law that I would seriously choose to spend time with.  Not many people can say that.

Instead of raging the town at some bar in the city, we spent pre-Thanksgiving doing what every good Italian family does; eating.  As we went around the table and shared what we’re thankful and grateful for, I reflected on the many blessings in my life.  I went for the sappy road and shared my gratitude for my beloved fiancebabe and my soon-to-be in-laws.  But here are some other things I am (and lot of us should be) grateful for…

  • I’m grateful for the $8.17 organic chicken bone broth (with added organic bone marrow) I bought for lunch because it means I have a stable job and salary that allows me to enjoy such extravagances (once in a while).
  • I’m grateful for the many empty whiskey and wine bottles in my apartment because it means I have good friends who helped us drink them.  And even better friends who brought them.
  • I’m grateful for my insanely sore thighs because it means I am healthy enough to use them, and that I was able to treat myself to a Soul Cycle class.
  • I’m grateful for the medication I take every day because it means I have health insurance, a good doctor, and a country that’s finally recognizing the importance of mental health.
  • I’m grateful for the hangover I had on Saturday because it means I had a great time and that my mom can still out drink me.  It also means my body has a checks and balances system in place that makes me say “I mean it this time – I’m only having one glass of wine tonight.”
  • I’m grateful when my phone blows up from a group text because it means I have friends who want to stay connected to each other.  Plus it means I have a phone and my phone is super helpful, and it entertains me on my way to work.
  • Most of all, I’m grateful for when I feel uncomfortably full, for when I’m so comfortable I don’t want to get out of bed, for when my face hurts from smiling, and when my stomach hurts from laughing because it means that I have a good and plentiful life.

I almost forgot to mention something else I’m grateful for, or should I say someone else – I’m so grateful for my fiancebabe. Because of him I get to share all of the good (and the bad) things with someone who loves me in such a unique and powerful way.  He’s also not too bad on the eyes (wink).

I hope everyone found something to be grateful for this year, and I hope you find even more to be grateful for next year.

Oh, one last thing – I am also grateful for Pumpkin Spice Lattes because they are amazing and they mean it’s fall and I am NOT SORRY ABOUT IT.

It’s Not to Late to Make the Right Choice

Before you don’t click or read all the way through, please know that this is NOT A POLITICAL POST.

I’m tired of talking about politics.

I’m tired of reading about politics.

But most of all, I’m tired of politics sucking every ounce of energy I have left.

That’s my energy.  I practice religiously to keep it positive and light even when the world tries to take it away or inject negative smog into it.  Apart from using the word “religiously”, I have no connection to any sort of religion.  I was raised Christian and like bits and pieces from various other religions, but I don’t really believe in any of it.  Instead, I believe in the energy of the universe, which comes in two flavors: positive and negative.

I do my best take positive energy in, let negative energy out, and spread the good to other people.  Think about someone in your life that is kind, gentle, and loving.  Think about how you feel when you’re around them.  Probably pretty good, right?  That’s because you’re feeding off of their positive energy.  It’s not something they actively have to ‘feed’ you, it’s just something that good people do automatically.

Conversely, if you think about someone you hate, I’m sure you would agree that they make you feel…unpleasant.  Negative energy is toxic and spreads through the room and infects others, like when someone had too much dairy cuts one.  No one is happy.

In our overly-digital age, you no longer have to be physically present to spread negative energy anymore.  Now we have the Internet and with the Internet came trolls.  I’ve had to ban myself from Facebook, Twitter, and any site that talks about current events.  Fortunately Instagram is safe as I mainly follow guinea pigs and french bulldogs.  But it’s not so much the content of those other sites that bothers me, I accept the outcome of the situation.

It’s the comments.

The poisonous, disgusting garbage that people say to each other has enough negative energy to strangle an elephant.  Which is fucked up because elephants are endangered.  But I digress – seeing friends, co-workers, and family members turn against each other was just too much for my sensitive mind to take.  So you know what I did?

I logged off.

I deleted Facebook and Twitter from my phone.  I closed all my browser tabs.  And I refocused my energy.

I can’t change the world.  I’d like to, but unfortunately I can’t.  But I can change my world.  I can be a good person.  I can show kindness, understanding, and compassion to others no matter what their gender, religious, sexuality, or race may be.  I can choose to see the good in the world.  I can be the positive person in the room.  All of this is a choice.

And you can choose it too.

Don’t read the nasty comments.  Don’t engage people who breathe negativity like dragons breathe fire.  Don’t bury your head in your phone and convince yourself that the world is going to shit.  You let the bad guys win when you do that.

When it comes down to it, we don’t have control over most things in our lives.  But we always have control over how we handle them.  And if you really feel like you can’t control yourself, then message me.  I’m a great listener and I have the name and number of a fantastic psychiatrist.

So put down your phone and go outside.  It will be ok.

 

Double-Sided

I know a lot of people think astrology is bologna, but I don’t.  I think our signs reveal a lot about our personalities and our character.  Notice I said personalities instead of personality; that’s because I have more than one, for I…am a Gemini.

Wait, come back!  Still here?  Super.  A lot of people don’t want to talk to me and physically move away from me after I tell them I’m a Gemini.  Why?  Because Gemini is the sign of the twins, which gets misinterpreted as sign that someone is two-faced.  I’m certainly not two-faced, although I can’t speak for all Geminis, but I definitely think my personality is double-sided.  Especially considering the fact that I have bipolar disorder.

I am notorious for flip flopping how I feel about basically everything in my life.  It’s fairly harmless until I get manic and quit my job, but fortunately that only happened once and I was 22.  Ok, it happened twice but the other time I was 19.  Anyway, the only time my “other side” becomes a problem is when it manifests into anxiety and depression.  I say that I have my regular side – silly, free-spirited, and generally laid back.  But then there’s the other side, the bipolar side, whose sole job is to thwart my success, happiness, and mental wellbeing.  Other side is a dick.

Thanks to a lot of self work (and medication), regular side is usually in control and that’s the me that people know and love.  Other side mainly comes out in my head, but that can then affect my behavior which makes people confused.  I’ll give you an example:

Right now I’m sitting at my desk, pretending to work, while an Oktoberfest party goes on in my office.  Now anyone who knows me knows that I love drinking Oktoberfest AND drinking at work.  People are also decorating pumpkins, which may be one of my favorite things ever.  But I’m not doing any of those things, instead I’m sitting here all alone pretending to be busy.  Why?  Because the other side won today.  This is how the thought process started…

I don’t really know anyone in my office seeing as everyone I work with is in a different part of the country.  But I should go to the party anyway.  It will be fine, this is how I made friends at my last job.  People like me.  I’m fun and I make people laugh.  Bitches love to laugh.

But then the other much louder side of piped up –

Nope, all those people will HATE YOU.  They’ll ignore you because they think you’re weird. Especially all the girls that give you judgey looks.  They definitely think you’re fat.  Which you are by the way.  I can’t believe you cancelled your spin class.  You are the worst.

And now I feel bad about trying to talk to people AND not going to spin class.  These type of internal conversations go on about EVERYTHING.  It’s exhausting.

My point is that I know I’m not the only one who experiences this.  I’m not the only Gemini and I’m certainly not the only one who feels double-sided.  I wish I could tell you that I got it together and went to the party and had a great time…but I didn’t.  I have my bag packed and the second I hit publish I’m going to go home.  The regular side doesn’t win every battle against the other side, but it wins most of them.  And that’s good enough for me.

So you win this round other side, but that doesn’t mean you’ll win tomorrow, or the next day, or even the day after that.  Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to head home for a little self care: meditation, cooking, and Drag Race.

Don’t Stop Believin’

Every so often I like to take a moment to stop and take everything in.  Mentally, that is – I live in New York City and if you stop in the middle of the street you will get trampled by tourists and commuters.  Also you are an asshole.  And there’s a strong chance that where you’re standing smells like garbage or pee.

Anyway, yesterday I caught my reflection in the one of the Macy’s windows and I couldn’t help but laugh.  No I didn’t look like a homeless person (that’s only on the weekends…or after aggressive happy hours).  I looked…like an adult.  A NEW YORKER adult!

I looked at my non-ancient iPhone I was texting my FIANCÉ (ah!) with about planning our engagement party. I looked at the incredibly beautiful and thoughtful engagement ring on my finger.  I looked at the designer sunglasses on my face, the designer bag on my shoulder, and the pricey headphones on my head.  I’m not trying to sound like an asshole – I was just in awe of myself.  Not that long ago I could barely get out of bed, let alone get out the apartment and go to work.  I could barely pay rent, let alone buy myself a purse (my mom had to insist I throw out my old purse because it had too many holes in it), and I was convinced I would die alone surrounded by cats.

Designer clothes and expensive “adult toys” aren’t what matter to me; it’s the fact that I now have the ability and capability to get them.  I bought that purse after I got my start date at my new job because I got a huge raise.  My dad bought me those sunglasses for Christmas because he’s no longer swamped by my medical bills.  My amazing fiancé bought me those headphone because they’re noise canceling and he knows how sensitive I am to sound.

I’m able to have all of this because I fought to get my life back.  Mental illness was taking my life away from me and after a long, grueling battle I finally did.  For a while I let it win because it was too hard to fight back.  I didn’t realize how many resources I needed to fight and a lot of the time it didn’t seem worth it.  I didn’t know that I could have a life like this.  I didn’t know that I could have a successful career, a loving partner, and a comfortable lifestyle that I earned.  My mental illness told me that I couldn’t.  It told me that I was confined to my bed, wearing the same dirty sweatshirt for weeks, isolated and alone because that’s all I deserved.

But something inside me told me that wasn’t true.  Even when 99% of your mind is polluted by darkness there is still that 1%, maybe even 0.01% that holds on.  If you don’t think that you have it, trust me you do – if you didn’t, you wouldn’t be sitting here reading this.

You can have the life you dream, in fact you can one that’s even better than you could ever imagine.  But you have to fight for it.  Even if you don’t have a mental illness holding you back, there’s plenty of other things that plague our minds and lives and convince us that we don’t deserve the lives that we want.  Don’t listen to that voice.  Believe that you’re worthy and capable of love and happiness and eventually it will find it’s way to you.

For many years I didn’t think I deserved love or happiness but here I am, sitting in my office writing this post with a diamond ring on my finger.

Keep fighting the good fight.