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I know winter is typically the season for hibernation, but for me summer seemed like the right time to let my blog sleep tight and go dormant.
This is not to say that I was in hibernation mode myself; quite the contrary, but I was faced with the age-old blogger’s dilemma of striking a balance between fully experiencing real life mindfully and that of perpetually living with a documentarian’s mind and sacrificing a portion of my brain functioning to taking notes for the future.
After I returned from the Virginia dance retreat in early July, things slowed down—a bit. Some classes went on hiatus for the summer, yet others kept on trucking, like the every-fourth-Friday 5Rhythms class in South Jersey.
During the July class—held just days before my birthday—a record number of students showed up—close to 20, when classes there normally brought in no more than 12. I was beaming for the full 2 hours, secretly convinced the universe had brought in all those people for me to dance with. Bless his heart, Richard, for continuing to make the drive from Baltimore every month to teach our motley crew, especially that night he got stuck in traffic for 3.5 hours.
And to take the place of some classes that paused for the summer, new offerings emerged, such as the monthly ecstatic dance classes I’ve been facilitating in central Jersey.
(I’ve actually been doing that since March but wanted to keep mum about it until I had reached a certain level of confidence in my leadership role.)
We started in a narrow yoga studio above an antiques shop and have expanded to an amazingly spacious karate studio with forgiving padded floors and a killer sound system. Each class is followed by a potluck dinner, and although I typically loathe the word “fellowship,” we have lots of it going on. And it’s pretty darn sweet.
I took my show on the road earlier this month and led a class at my friend Rhonda’s yoga studio—the studio in which I took my very first 5Rhythms class. I was honored to be invited to teach in a space that is so revered for me, and there’s promise that it will become a regular thing, along with opportunities here and there to work with children as well. Wow.
A few weeks went by where I had no 5Rhythms at all and felt its absence; then in August, my Philadelphia tribe held a full-day workshop with our group’s founder, Rivi Diamond, and recharged me. I danced intimately with a chair that afternoon, a sensual human-furniture friendship that emerged simply from me needing to get off my feet for a while.
And when I wasn’t dancing a Wave I was crashing into them; literally, throwing myself head-first into the salty sea caps that swelled from the Atlantic Ocean onto the Jersey shore. How is it that I’m 33 years old and never knew the secret of surviving big waves? Riding them out gets my swimsuit in a bunch and salt water in my orifices, whereas taking the wave head-on like a boss results in peace and tranquility. Seems counterintuitive, but perhaps there’s a 5Rhythms metaphor somewhere in there.
That all said, I’m banking on FlowtationDevices stirring from slumber in the next couple of weeks, emerging for air and ready to spill words forth onto these electronic pages.
It seems a fitting time, based solely on the fact that one of my last early-summer posts was about trekking to Virginia for a workshop with 5Rhythms teacher Amara Pagano—and now, 3 months later, I’m off to yet another one of her workshops with my home tribe.
A whole season, several steps, few words, and two Amaras. Full circle!
May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.
This was the quote I drew from a bowl full of folded pieces of paper that sat in the center of a circle of women gathered for the Embodied Meditation program I took last month at Kripalu. The quote, from Rainer Maria Rilke, brought a smile to my lips—here I am, author of Flowtation Devices, randomly selecting a verse about allowing my essence to flow.
I re-discovered this piece of paper this weekend, tucked inside of my wallet. It was good timing—it was my birthday weekend (today’s my actual birthday!), and it reminded me about all the flowing and growing I’ve done this past year.
When I started dancing 5Rhythms two and a half years ago, I never imagined it would become a life practice. It’s a little bit like what happened with yoga—I started taking classes because I danced and thought it would help with my flexibility, and soon I was trying to learn Sanskrit on my own and reading about the yamas and niyamas. With the 5Rhythms, I was looking for a cardiovascular workout that wouldn’t further damage my aching hip, and now I use the dance as therapy, a practice in interpersonal communication, and as a means of fostering connection with not only the people I dance with but the world around me.
I was so thrilled to take a pre-birthday 5Rhythms class this past Friday, a class during which my dance really felt like a 31-year-old transitioning into her 32nd year. I had strong eye contact with others. I laughed. I was spontaneous in my movement with others. These things were once so hard for me, because back in the day I just wanted to dance; I didn’t quite grasp the connection bit yet.
At one point, I partnered up with a female classmate who usually keeps to herself. I can see she always feels the music very deeply, but it is rare for her to engage. However, during Friday’s class, something opened up between us. It was a Lyrical song, and we were both still feeling the vibrations from Chaos. The dance that emerged was new for the both of us—a very sensual, feminine, sometimes intertwined-arms partnership, our eyes locked, our sweaty hair matted on our cheeks. It felt like a motion picture version of the Visions of Arcadia art exhibit. I wasn’t trying to force this connection, but I began the dance with an intention to be radically open—to let what I do flow from me like a river—and the result was quite rewarding.
Off the dance floor, I try to move in the same manner. For instance, every morning I go walking around my neighborhood before work. I frequently pass a woman who keeps her eyes straight ahead and never gives me so much as a half-nod when I pass her and say “Good morning.” But every morning, I keep trying. “Good morning!” ::silence:: It was tempting to just give up and greet her with the same muteness, but something clicked late last week—I got a return “Good morning!” Granted, it was rather mumbled and void of much emotion, but it was connection! (And I may have given myself a little victory fist-pump after I passed her.) 🙂
My greater commitment to conscious dancing this past year (attending more classes, classes in other areas, workshops) has been so helpful in getting the real me to emerge. Sometimes I say that the dancing has changed me, but I think it has just taken what has always been inside of me and transformed it into action.
For example, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been walking around with my iPod in and just wanted to break out of my stride and DANCE when a particularly powerful piece of music came on. Well, the other week, I did. I dance walked! Around the creek, with joggers and cyclists and dog walkers. I can’t tell you how awesome it felt to be outdoors, saying Yes! to dance when my body craved it so much. Instead of thinking, “Ooooh, how I love this song. It stirs my heart. Wish I could dance. Wish I could dance. Wish I could dance,” I just did it. I danced!
And then Saturday afternoon, there came a beautiful sun shower; well, a sun downpour, really. I stood in my upstairs hallway, hypnotized by the combination of brilliant sun and driving rain, soaking the tree leaves outside the window, falling on the roof. I had a sudden desire to run outside, naked, arms outstretched, and take it all in, the way characters in European avant garde movies do. The impulse was so strong that I ran to my dresser, pulled out my bathing suit (it was the closest I could get to naked without having the cops called on me), and dashed outside. Who is that girl in the Speedo, standing on her front walkway, arms outstretched? Me, and it felt amazing. Not just the sensation of standing in a downpour with the sun shining on me but the sensation of listening to the voice inside of me that craved so desperately to fully take in this meteorological display.
I have no reservations on my birthday today about “getting older.” With age comes practice, experience, and wisdom…and a few wrinkles and dark circles under my eyes as humble indicators of the ever-unfolding journey.
As a kid, I never liked having a summer birthday (no exclusive classroom celebration, and everyone was away on vacation when we tried to schedule a party), but as an adult I love the fact that my birthday is at the end of July. That way, when I take the day off work, I can spend my time down the shore! Being by the ocean is like escaping to another world for the day, and there’s no greater birthday gift than being surrounded by blue skies, sand, the roaring ocean, and the bustling summertime boardwalk. So that’s where Bryan and I headed this past Friday!
Although it’s a bit of a longer drive than some other beaches, Wildwood (also known as The Wildwoods, a collection of communities) is quickly becoming one of my favorite destinations. As I mentioned in my previous post, it’s where my parents, little sister, and I used to go every summer in my youth, and part of my love for the boardwalk is due to nostalgia. But get this! The Wildwood boardwalk was named one of National Geographic’s Top 10 National Boardwalks, along with Atlantic City. New Jersey pride!
Due to my sensitive skin and high burn risk, I generally don’t like to lounge on the beach, so Bryan and I spent our time walking the boards and taking in the sights.
The shore is supposed to be cooler than the mainland, but that was not happening on Friday. It was hot, humid, and 100% disgusting. My skin was so slimy that putting on sunscreen felt like rubbing oil onto wet skin. We tried to cool off by catching a breeze on spinning rides:
Trying to make it like “the good ol’ days,” I encouraged Bryan to go on some thrill rides with me. I used to ride the Condor all the time as kid; you sit in a hanging cage, it spins, and then–while boomerang spinning at the same time–the cars ascend a beam high into the air. “It’s like the Teacups in the sky!” I exclaimed.
What I soon realized as the cars began to climb several stories up is that I am not a kid anymore. As one who gets nervous walking too close to the balcony rail on the upper level at the mall, I should have known better than to willingly fly high into the sky in a suspended metal cage. Halfway up, I had to squeeze my eyes shut and attempt some deep breathing. The spinning was what was doing me in. Ugh.
I’m a roller coaster enthusiast, so Bryan and I patiently sat outside The Great Nor’Easter, waiting for it to open. The ride is a standard steel suspended looping coaster, the kind where your feet hang.
I love loops and corkscrews and all that jazz, and this is nothing new to me. However, what my body was not prepared for was the intense jostling this ride creates once you soar down the first hill. I wanted the ride to be over as soon as it descended, when it started to feel like I was in a car accident rather than on a roller coaster. My whole body was getting knocked around, and it was nothing like the smooth sailing of
Medusa Bizarro over at Six Flags Great Adventure, which is one of the most pleasantly thrilling coasters I’ve ever been on. The only redeeming quality the Nor’Easter had was its spectacular view atop the first hill; at the last clackety-clack, you felt like you’d be dropping straight off into the Atlantic Ocean.
But no, instead you endure about a minute of violent shaking, exit the attraction feeling like your car has just tumbled off a cliff, and you wake up the next morning with bruises on the back of your legs.
Needless to say, traumatized by two childhood rides, I opted to skip the terrifying Dante’s Dungeon (which I never even liked as a kid, because it incorporates live actors who pop out of the shadows). Besides, the exterior is frightening in and of itself.
Me: “I used to ride this stuff all the time as a kid. What the heck happened?”
Bryan: “You realized that you are mortal.”
Me: “Well, there’s a nice birthday sentiment.”
OK, so maybe at 31 I can’t stomach the rides that thrilled me at 10, but one thing that doesn’t change with age is devouring boardwalk pizza for lunch.
In Ocean City, Mack & Manco’s is the #1 pizza purveyor; in Wildwood, it’s simply Macks.
And nothing washes pizza down like some Kohr Bros. custard!
After being out in the sun for so long, Bryan and I beat the heat by escaping under an old pier, enjoying the shade and cool lighting.
We rounded out the day with a game of air hockey (I lost miserably, 7-0), miniature golf (I beat Bryan by one stroke!), and take-out back home from IndeBlue for dinner (because who doesn‘t want hot and spicy Indian food after a 95-degree day at the beach and a broken air conditioner at home?!).
As for my actual birthday yesterday? I woke up feeling more tired than when I went to bed (most likely from being out in the sun all day), answered the ringing doorbell at 8:30 a.m. wearing short shorts stained with tomato sauce and a tank top without a bra (hello, Sears air conditioner repair man!), dilly-dallied around all morning before finally going to the gym for some swimming, and then put myself together for a family birthday dinner at Bertucci’s.
Looking for a party trick to make birthdays better? Have someone take your picture as you do “raspberry” lips. My sister knows how to entertain.
Thursday was my office birthday celebration, which meant my manager brought in the treat of my choice (brownies!) and decorated my cubicle with the “Happy Birthday” confetti.
This time last year I felt anything but happy. I had never associated turning 30 with “getting old,” but then right before my birthday my hip situation worsened and an MRI revealed a torn labrum. At the same time, an x-ray of my leg revealed a mysterious “thing” in my femur, and I went for three agonizing months not knowing for sure what it was. Before I had a specialist deem it a harmless “bone island” (a true medical term, not the next FOX reality show, I swear), I spent my days making orthopedist and bone scan appointments, experimenting with antidepressants (which lasted for a week; I couldn’t stand the side effects), and having to take anxiety medication to go to sleep. The timing was awful, and I felt like my body was a cruel prankster, making everything break down at such a milestone year of my life.
Yet, even with those setbacks, being 30 turned out OK. The hip thing makes my body slightly more fragile, but I have learned to cope with it, taking my time getting in and out of cars, avoiding pigeon and related yoga poses, and always toting around an ice pack to strap on my side after a long day of walking or a cycling session at the gym.
I know I look older; I can no longer mask a night without sleep–the dark circles under my eyes give it away. I have a few more wrinkles on my face, and I am oh-so-crotchety. I am a 30-something, female version of the “Get off my lawn!”-yelling grandpa. Or a cuter version of Larry David. Either would be correct. Just ask my husband.
But, before I go grab a frying pan and yell at the local youth walking across my grass, here’s a look back at the high points of Year 30:
• I celebrated the big 3-0 down the shore with my sis. It was a great lil’ getaway; we went to Wildwood, a shore town we used to frequent annually as kids but then hadn’t been in years. We did some rides, strolled the boards, took goofy pictures, scared ourselves silly riding ducks suspended on an overhead track, took the “back roads”-way home to avoid an accident that left us thinking we accidentally drove into Kansas, and then sat our sandy and sweaty beach butts down at IndeBlue back home for dinner.
• 30th birthday celebration II: Surprise Riversharks baseball game with friends. Bryan coordinated the event with a respectable number of guests; any more and I would have cried. I made it very clear to him that I did not want any big birthday surprise parties!
• Birthday celebration III: Another outing with my sis, which included mango mimosas and omelets for brunch, a random African flea market, and a friend’s production of the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, during which I was asked to be a part of the cast!
• Birthday celebration IV: A trip to Atlantic City, to redeem Bryan’s birthday gift to me: Tickets to the Season 7 So You Think You Can Dance tour!
• One of the greatest moments of my 30-year-old life was visiting a Disneyphile’s Mecca: Disneyland! Walt Disney World in Florida is my home base, but our trip to California last September allowed us the opportunity to walk in Walt’s footsteps.
As an East Coaster my heart will always belong to WDW, but the trip allowed us to see lots of cool things original to Disneyland:
• Being in California also meant seeing some really cool sights in the LA area:
• My 30th New Year’s celebration included some awesome rooftop fireworks over Philly, which we may never see again now that our friends who lived in the high-rise apartment complex have moved.
• After maintaining a fairly private blog since 2003, I started this here Flowtation Devices in March!
• After being without a “yoga home” for more than a year, I find a studio right by my office–and a teacher whose classes I love!
• I took time to polish up my resume, reminding myself that I done good.
• I put on my big-girl shoes and drove to Philly by myself so I could start attending 5Rhythms classes in the city.
• 30 became the year of fanatic plane watching:
• My dad won tickets to a Phillies game–my first time at Citizens Bank Park, and some SWEET seats, too!
• I finally got to bang on my djembe a little more at some rockin’ drum circles:
• Bryan and I spend the evening with fellow NPR nerds at a live recording of Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me at the Academy of Music. Things get even better after Christmas, when Bryan gets me a shiny red iPod Nano and I can finally listen to the podcasts!
• I enter my first sporty competition and complete the swimming portion of a team duathlon.
• A railroad crossing near our house that has been closed since the dawn of time OPENS, meaning we can drive from one side of town to the other without having to make a giant u-turn. I consider this 30th Birthday Celebration V; it was a huge victory in our town!
• Bryan gets a new job that allows him to work from home–more husband time! And weeknight dinners together, too–a brand new concept for the wife of a former newspaper photographer!
• I supervise some kick-ass interns at work. It feels good to work with young, intelligent minds…and even help one score a full-time gig!
• Round II of physical therapy for my hip includes some odd moments (nothing like having a male PT assistant glue electric nodes to my “underwear” area), but I walk away from the 2-month endeavor feeling better and armed with some incredibly useful hip and back exercises.
• I take blogging to the next level by joining an online community. Ahhh, commitment!
• While delving into all kinds creative movement, I fall head-over-heels in love with Biodanza during an introductory workshop. (It’s returning to Philly in August!)
…So there you have it, kiddos. 30 was such an odd year for me, because I do the pee-pee dance when I see Donald Duck dressed as a pumpkin (and break down in tears when he walks away before I get a picture), yet I grumble and scowl like an old lady when kids go splashy-splash in the pool during my lap time at the gym. How one can be so much like Dora the Explorer and Dorothy Zbornak at the same time is a mystery…but–yes, thank you Lady Gaga–dammit, I was born this way!
I had an amazing time last weekend just being a kid again.
Two of my favorite people in the world, Emma and Peter, were in town with their 22-month-old daughter Gabriella. She is the textbook definition of “cute kid,” and I’m pretty sure if encyclopedias still existed (remember those things?), you could look up “ideal toddler,” and her picture would be pasted all over the pages.
It was a hot summer afternoon, and Bryan and I spent most of the day soaking up the cuteness that Gabriella had to offer. Of course we spent time chatting with our adult friends, but baby-watching was so much more entertaining than anything on TV.
It was hard for me to keep up with Gabriella’s endless imagination. Who knew that pouring invisible tea and eating plastic crumpets was so fascinating?
At the same time, watching a child’s mind run wild is so humbling. Remember those days when playing with a pot, a wooden spoon, and an old shoebox could last for hours? During our time with Gabriella, we watched her:
• Cook imaginary pancakes and eggs–and if you tried to eat them before blowing on the spoon, her eyes would widen and she’d wave her hands, crying “HOT!”
• Admire a blade of grass and handle it as delicately as a baby praying mantis.
• Contently dig her wet feet deep in a pile of dirt.
• Splash around in a baby pool, completely unaware of the chill of the hose water.
• Discover countless ways to play with plastic cups: throwing them in the pool, wearing them as shoes, filling them up with water and showering herself, tossing plastic ducks into them, wearing a cup as a hat…
• Stop doing whatever she was doing outside to look up at the sky and shout, “PLANE!”
…Which is a perfect segue into how Bryan and I spent the following day–Plane watching!
Even though I have a mortgage and pay taxes, I still like to think of myself as a kid at heart. Gabriella does the happy dance when an airplane engine roars overhead–and so do I!
Bryan, fully aware of my childlike obsession with big, loud flying things, drove me last Sunday over the bridge to Pennsylvania for some real plane watching. I’ve written here before about watching planes land from Red Bank Battlefield, but that is nothing compared to being right next to the airport.
Our first stop was Fort Mifflin, an historic site from the Revolutionary War era, that just so happens to be located right next to Philadelphia International Airport.
I nearly peed myself when we first drove up to the place. I get so excited when I see planes close up! As we were driving, a jet flew right over our car, and I scrambled like a starstruck fan trying to snap a picture of a celebrity. It reminded me of being in Los Angeles, when Bryan and I were driving in LAX territory and planes zoomed directly over the highway.
We hung around Fort Mifflin for a while, snapping fun photos of plane after plane descending into the airport. We didn’t bother paying admission and actually going inside the Fort; just because we’re adults doesn’t mean we have to pretend to be interested in historical stuff. We were there for the planes!
Things got even better when Bryan told me that if we drove to the other side of the airport, we could see planes taking off. I had no idea the public could get so close to the airport and that a magical access road surrounded the entire place. Him telling me this reminded me of when my parents would say, “Hey, let’s go to Clementon Lake Amusement Park tonight!” REALLY?!?!?!
Turns out we weren’t the only ones parked next to the airport. We saw several other people there for fishing, biking, (illegal) motorbike racing, and some older guy driving his convertible around the loop, over and over again.
I plastered myself against the chain-link fence and watched planes race down the runway. I swear, no matter how technologically advanced our society gets, there is still something jaw-dropping and amazing about metal tubes with wings flying through the sky, transporting 100, 200+ people across the ocean. (As Louis CK says, “You’re sitting in a chair…in the sky.”)
Moments like this remind me that age really is just a number. I may not be able to occupy myself for 20 minutes with invisible eggs and a child-size frying pan, but I can stare up at the sky for hours, pointing at the metal birds above, shouting, “PLANE!”
My birthday is in exactly one week, and so far the only greeting card I’ve received in the mail is one from the physical therapy office I attended more than a year ago. Hey, turning 30 last year was bad enough, but now that I’m officially entering my 30s, getting a reminder about how the body breaks down isn’t exactly the most pleasant punch in the arm (although if someone does punch me 31 times in the arm next Saturday, at least I know a place that can help me with any resulting shoulder injuries).
But actually, the sender of that first birthday card isn’t really what bummed me out–it’s the fact that it made me remember that my stash of birthday cards will be one less this year. As soon as I opened that envelope and saw the birthday greeting, my heart sunk. It’s July, it’s birthday time, and there will be no card from my Aunt Adzia this summer.
The cards Adzia sent me were never glamorous in any way; they didn’t come with birthday confetti inside, and they had nothing to do with any of my interests, the way Bryan selects cards with pugs or how my mother-in-law tries to find something Disney related. They were your typical flowery, butterfly-dotted, overdone cursive cards, the ones you can hardly read because the scripted font is so dramatic, the kind that start off with introductory questions, as though the card is making a high school graduation speech: “What is a niece?” I’m not particularly fond of these cards, but apparently my aunt put much thought into them; my grandmom said that whenever she and Adzia went to Rite-Aid to go card shopping, Adzia would stand in front of the greeting card display and open card after card, reading the messages, making sure they were “just right” for each recipient.
Sometimes I’d get two cards–one that was mailed, and another she’d pass along to my grandmom to give to me. This one usually came with a bow taped onto the envelope–and not just any old bow. We’re talking fancy, curly packaging bows, the kind that cost $1.99 at card stores. On days I was feeling silly, I’d tape the bow onto my shirt or in my hair, or just hang it in my cubicle for a week. Sometimes the extravagance of the bows meant more to me than the bank envelope of birthday cash she’d slip inside.
Before 9/11 and a sudden fear among my family that people might try to mail me anthrax disguised as a Hallmark card, Adzia never used to put return addresses on her envelopes. Still, it was no mystery which cards came from her. Maybe it’s because she went to Catholic school and perhaps was scolded by the nuns for bad penmanship, but Adzia would address every envelope by first penciling a straight line with a ruler, using the faint lines as a foundation for her trademark wide and bubbly cursive handwriting. The inside was no different, but here she usually erased the penciled-in lines after signing her name.
For a while, it was odd to see only Adzia’s name on the inside of my cards. I had grown up knowing my Aunt Adzia, her sister, and their brother–who had all lived together–as the gang of three. For most of my childhood, these cards–although in Adzia’s handwriting–would close with “Love Always and Forever, Aunts Adzia, Stasia, and Uncle Cas.” When Uncle Cas passed away, the signature shortened to “Aunts Adzia and Stasia.” Stasia died in 2007, and since then my birthday cards came from one person, with one signature.
Adzia was good with birthday cards–they usually arrived a week before the occasion, right in between the cards from my realtor and chiropractor and those from my immediate family. It would probably be in my mailbox today, in fact. But the cards have been dealt; the time has come for the perfectly aligned greetings to fade into history. I may never see Adzia’s freshly penned signature again, but at least her love is Always and Forever.