Yoga sparks my creativity. I’m sure there’s some scientific/spiritual rationale of which I’m unaware, but for me, the proof is production. With all my Unhappy Wife marketing, it became challenging to write anything new, so I decided to engage in seven days of yoga. Consequently, I attained more than creativity.
Monday, October 31st (Yoga Den, Mandarin 7:45-9:00 P.M.) It slipped my mind that today was Halloween, so I almost didn’t make it. I wanted to pass out the four bags of peanut and peanut butter M&Ms that Dwight’s eyes had signaled was too much. But I’d promised myself attendance at Sun Flow Yin. I would have to rely on my nonsocial daughters to take the lead. One little boy showed up right before I left. Turns out he was the only trick-or-treater we got this year, so I didn’t miss anything and my daughters didn’t have to interact with people.
Today’s Lesson: Follow your instinct.
Tuesday, November 1st (LA Fitness, Kernan, 9:45-10:45 A.M.) I slept like a six-month old baby snuggled in between co-sleeping parents. I’m attributing a good night’s rest to the previous night’s yoga. However, practicing back-to-back made me nervous. My anxiety floated away once I noticed a guy doing downward facing dog in his drawers. I was slightly distracted, not because anything showed, but because I kept wondering if those were indeed his skivvies. They were. The bright blue band around the top gave it away. I didn’t think my yoga crew noticed because there were no side eyes or eyebrow raises. He and I walked out together and he engaged me in conversation. Underwear guy’s name is Joe. He’d lost his wife seven years ago in a drunk driving accident. She left him with a set of twin boys and a daughter to raise. Without yoga, he believed he would’ve died too.
Lesson: You never know what someone’s gone through, so treat them with kindness.
Wednesday, November 2nd (Yoga Den, Mandarin 6:30-7:30 P.M.) I loathe Wednesdays. On this day, I drive two hours to teach one class that lasts an hour and fifteen minutes. The angst of the drive begins Tuesday night and settles into my consciousness, making for a stressful morning and grumpy day. But today felt a little different. Maybe back-to-back yoga helped me maintain peace. After class, I usually drive to main campus and participate in a meeting, work in my office until 5:00, and then leave. The chair cancelled today’s meeting, so I graded papers until 3:45 and made it back home just in time for Mind-Body yoga. To be honest, I chose this yoga because the time was appropriate. But the lesson about mind-body connection was also what I needed to hear. Hopefully, I can put it into practice this coming Wednesday.
Lesson: Everything begins in the mind.
Thursday, November 3rd (LA Fitness, Kernan, Jacksonville, Florida 9:45-10:45 A.M.) Welp, my yoga crew did notice that Joe and his undies. They were in a circle discussing it as I rolled out my mat. By the time I returned from the restroom, someone had approached Joe about it. I came back just in time to hear this:
Joe: Y’all shouldn’t be looking at me anyways. Yoga is supposed to be a meditation. Y’all should be meditating. Everybody in here should be able to do yoga naked ‘cause we should all be so focused on ourselves.
Mrs. Gail: That’s what I tried to tell ‘em Joe!
I politely stretched into child’s pose and minded my own business.
Lesson: Focus on yourself.
Friday, November 4th (Yoga Den, Mandarin, Jacksonville, Florida 9:15-10:45 A.M.) I almost didn’t make it today you guys. The bed was so warm and cozy. And I thought to myself, KG, you’ve already done four days. Isn’t that good enough? Then, that same nagging feeling I get when I make self-promises began to surface. It’s familiar. I cannot tell myself I’m going to do a thing and not follow through. Off to yoga I went. This isn’t any old type of yoga. The instructor begins by playing a banjo and we all chant Om Namah Shivaya. Then, we chant three OMs and begin our practice. It’s intense. Today, I almost threw up. I know that’s not a good yoga practice if you almost hurl. And it certainly goes against what you’re supposed to be practicing in the first place. I thought I was done overachieving, but this proved otherwise. Every now and then, I still unconsciously overextend myself; yoga is no different. I’m working on it. After Savasana, she plays the banjo again and we do three more OMs. This particular practice is my favorite one, but it usually doesn’t come behind four other yoga days.
Lesson: Be true to yourself by honoring your word. Be mindful.
Saturday, November 5th (LA Fitness, Lakewood, Jacksonville, Florida 11:00 A.M.-12:00 P.M.) On Saturdays, I wake up sans alarm clock. I lie in bed, blog a little, write a little, and then decide what I’m going to do. Not today. Friday afternoon, my goddaughter texted to inform me that the local bookstore had run out of copies of The Unhappy Wife.
“So I can come Monday?” I asked Jen, the owner.
“We’re open Saturday and Sunday at 9:00 A.M.” she replied.
I broke my usual routine and was at the bookstore by 9:00 A.M.
“Thank you so much,” she started, “Really appreciate you.”
“No. Thank you,” I smiled.
We were helping one another. Because of her, I didn’t have to sell books out of my trunk, and because of me, she was gaining more customers and revenue. This was the win-win I’d heard so much about.
Afterwards, I went to yoga.
Lesson: If you want something, you have to be willing to break self-made traditions.
Sunday, November 6th (Walk with Dwight) By this day, I was tired of yoga. My shoulders felt as if I’d been lifting weights all day. My core was a bit tighter, but hurt when I bent to the side. My legs felt as if I’d done 100 squats each day. So Dwight and I took our usual Sunday walk.
Lesson: Know when to listen to your body, as opposed to your mind.
My creativity is back, but quite honestly, three days worth of yoga is quite enough for me.
*©2016 K E Garland. All Rights Reserved.
Today’s answer comes from my friend, Tarra. Her body of work can be found at tarraconnerjones.com:
Today’s answer comes from JC of An Unexpected Muse:
On this day, we hear from Mek, at Work In Progress.
Two years ago, I wrote Rethinking Cancer Awareness and the South Florida Times published it.
I’m pleased to say my attempt at raising consciousness about this debilitating disease has been re-published with The Coil. Please be sure to check it out and comment there or here.
Somewhere in between all of that driving I had to ask myself what are you doing? While I believe in hard work, I’m also a firm believer that life shouldn’t be hard work. There’s a difference between a challenge and an uphill battle. Facing challenges in order to attain goals is expected. However, uphill battles symbolize something else. They’re signs that life has become harder than necessary. And for me, it was. The rate of return for my “hard work” was minimal. I intuitively knew that I was no longer walking in passion and purpose.
I began a closer and less stressful job in August. But it seemed that I had all of these revelations too late. I should re-phrase. These a-ha moments were too late for my physical health.
My hands would swell every time I ate. Sometimes it would happen over night. At one point, I couldn’t remove my wedding ring. And when I did, there was a big brown bruise underneath. After finishing dinner one time, my belly looked like I was four months pregnant. Aside from that, the lethargy that rested behind my eyes was enough to send me napping. This continued for months. I figured I could get to the doctor after I returned from Japan. But I had a summer conference in Philly. I’d go after that. Then, my father passed away. Damn. I’d go after that. It was October by the time I decided to visit Dr. Kristy, a holistic practitioner and chiropractor.
Dr. Kristy performed nutrition response testing. The results were astounding. Apparently, my adrenal glands were weak and in need of repair. I had overstressed my body to the point where these very small organs didn’t know if I was running late or running from a bear. They functioned in a stressful state most moments, and consequently, released cortisol most moments. What did all of this mean?
“There will be a minimum of 12 office visits at $40 each,” the doctor began.
Additionally, she had a list of several supplements totaling about $90 per month.
Come again Dr. Kristy?
Like many people, I reverted to my free professional go-tos: Google and WebMD. Also, I was in the midst of a 21-day detox. I’d noticed that removing coffee eliminated bloat. Google confirmed it. Ridding your body of caffeine is a huge factor in controlling adrenals. Diet, in general, is a way to manage these organs. With my professional Internet information, I told the good doctor that I would first work on my own health. I’d be back in a few months.
Since then, a berry smoothie has replaced my daily java. I eat more vegetables and lean protein. I’ve kicked CrossFit to the curb. Yoga and low-impact exercise are a part of my new lifestyle. One of my yoga friends recommended something called adrenal repair. The compound of vitamins and extracts seemed to have done exactly what the name claims: restore my adrenals. My energy levels have increased and I’m sleeping through the night.
Holiday cookie baking and snacking also revealed a slight sugar and gut sensitivity. Dwight suggested using Kefir in my smoothies, instead of Silk. The 12 additional probiotics have helped balance my belly’s good and bad bacteria, further reducing bloat.
Every now and then, I mentally abuse myself for pushing myself past my own limits, but more so for ignoring obvious stress signs. Then, I acknowledge the feelings, say something more positive and true, and go take a walk, talk to the birds or write something inspirational.
I promise I’ll never be overstressed again. And this time I mean it. The alternative is not worth the achievement.
Part I and Part III
It was 2009. I was conducting a study, analyzing data and giving job talks in a few states. The interview process itself was an unexpected stress. One interview lasted three full days. After talking with search committees in five states, I secured a position at a liberal arts college in Georgia. It seemed perfectly aligned with my vow to avoid stress.
There were a few challenges, though.
The institution promised to support my husband in finding a job. They never did. We still had our Florida house to sell. The girls lived with me; Dwight stayed in Florida. It was a three and a half hour drive. So while my job wasn’t stressful, the weekend commutes to have some semblance of normalcy was. For me, this meant packing up the kids and dog, and then trekking up and down I-75 every other weekend. We did this for two years. The cycle was relentless and taxing. I went back on the professor market.
To say I was desperate to move back to Florida is an understatement. My pre-teen daughters were well-behaved, but with the absence of a father, they had gotten a little lippy. We were also sustaining two households. But I didn’t feel as stressed as I had before. I mean there was no chair of a doctoral committee determining the balance of my life. As a matter of fact, I had lost weight and felt more energetic. Still, the situation wasn’t ideal and we needed to move back together, under one roof.
When the next prestigious university called me in 2012 and offered me a visiting professor line, I was overjoyed. However, I had no intentions of moving to Tallahassee. The point was for our family to reunite. I chose to commute.
“Tallahassee is a long way,” Dwight warned.
“I know. I can do it,” I said.
As I type these words, it feels arrogant. I know. I can do it. I can drive 320 miles twice a week. To be fair, droves of people I knew and didn’t know called me crazy. The truth is I really did think I could do it. It’s an innate part of my personality. I truly believe I can do anything I set my mind to. Or am I just an overachiever? The line is fine and sometimes the two collide to blur my judgment. Either way, I did it.
The job was supposed to last only one year. It was visiting. Instead, they were soooooo impressed with me that they found a way to offer a tenure-track line. One year turned into three. Teaching classes, mentoring graduate students, advising a couple of doc students, serving on two committees, running into unexpected microagressions, conducting research, presenting at national conferences, writing, getting published in the “wrong” place, seeking grant funding, and getting rejected publications from the “right” place made for a stressful job. The out of town commute twice a week was just bonus stress. Some days I would cry all the way to the university’s parking lot. Other days I would pray all the way home for answers. In between, I looked for jobs. Nothing surfaced.
It was six years of doctoral work all over again. There was no chalazion or sleep paralysis. But I was ignoring other signs. Although I worked out whenever I wasn’t on the road, it didn’t matter.
“You run with your fists clenched,” a trainer observed. “Are you angry about something? You have to calm down and then work out. Open your fists.”
I hadn’t noticed it before. But now things made more sense. I had run a 5k, consistently practiced yoga and maintained a restricted diet, but gained 20 pounds in three years.
I made time for my family and me: movies, vacations, cookie baking, you name it. Life looked balanced, but it wasn’t. Not really. This was the most imbalanced life I’d ever lived.
But I ignored it.
Only thing about disregarding things is that they don’t really go away. My body had had enough. It was overstressed.
“You can rest when you die” ~ advice from a former professor
I used to feel stress and ignore it.
There. I’ve said it. What’s so bad about that you might ask? Hopefully, you’ll keep reading to find out.
In 2004, I began doctoral work at a research university. Some programs require that you work in a cohort or group, but not this one. Not this program. At this institution, you attain a PhD the old-fashioned way, independently. Whether independent or collaborative, doctoral programs at research universities begin similarly. Your first few years include coursework. The next few years are what separate the high achievers from the overachievers. This phase includes qualification exams intended to move you from doctoral student to doctoral candidate. If you make it through this proverbial hoop, then you propose a study, conduct a study, and become Dr. so-and-so. For me, this last part took three years. Here is where I endured, and subsequently, ignored the hardest stress in my life.
The first sign is familiar. It’s how we know that being president of the so-called free world is stressful. One day I noticed a slight tint of silver. Is this lighting? I thought to myself? Oh my God! No, there’s a gray hair! It was true. I was 34 and ill-prepared for what is called “new-growth gray.” That means every time my hair grows, it’s growing in gray, right in the front of my head, where everyone can see it. Oh, no, no, no, no way. Luckily, I had a great hairstylist who could mask this horrid sight. But once I went natural, boxes of Dark and Lovely became my friend. Because my hair grows quickly, dark brown dye is necessary every other week.
“Why is your hair so black?” My aunt once asked.
“It’s not. It’s dark ash brown. Or at least that’s what the box says.”
So my first sign was a vanity stressor. But not my second. It was 2006. I was still teaching high school English and attending graduate school full time. And being a wife and mother. Although doctoral candidacy is the expectation, it’s not always the result, especially not at UF. I’d heard horrible tales of students failing their exams and leaving with a Specialist degree instead. This would never be the fate of an overachiever. There was one re-write. But I passed. I also developed a chalazion under my right eyelid. Chalazions can appear for several reasons. However, each points to a type of illness. I’m rarely ill. If I am, then it’s because I’m stressed. My body was screaming out to me. This time an ophthalmologist rid me of this sore. Once again, I was able to cover up and ignore a sign.
The final marker of stress happened repeatedly. It only occurred at night or early in the morning. After a deep sleep, I wanted to wake up. So my eyes would pop open but I couldn’t move the rest of my body. The room was dark. I could see everything in it. My dresser. The TV. The door. But I couldn’t open my mouth. I would try screaming for help. Nothing came out. My mind raced. Sweat trickled. After a couple of bouts, I learned to calm my mind down and tell myself that everything is okay. It’s called sleep paralysis. Some believe it’s your spirit leaving. Others say demons are entering. Medically speaking, it’s something that happens when you’re under a lot of stress, which I was. Five years in and my study wasn’t being approved. My chair was offering little help. I was working full-time. Life was difficult. But I ignored it.
Part II and Part III