Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Day 268 of 365: Bleeding Heart Libertarian

This blog and my ramblings might beg to differ, but I don't consider myself a political person. It honestly feels like whatever knowledge and level of opinions I have should be the bare minimum to be an acceptable human being. To me, I'm not scouring CNN and watching congressional hearings and reading every single line from every single bit of legislation, therefore I'm not "political".

My lack of fervor might be due to the fact that there is almost no political party I actually adhere to or root for. I root against what the modern-day GOP has turned into, but I'll delve more into that in a moment. I'm socially libertarian, but my poor bleeding heart cannot handle the more radical ideas of libertarianism. I believe in capitalism, but I also believe that "trickle down economics" is b.s. and that unregulated capitalism will eventually subvert democracy (and, if you've read up on the new Princeton study, it already has). I believe in social services, but I also believe that we handle hunger and homelessness inefficiently and in a way that is a breeding ground for abuse. I recognize our government is bloated and incredibly inefficient, but I also recognize that solving the problem is going to be a lot more complicated than just "voting for the other party".

So what does that make me -- bleeding heart libertarian? Can such a thing exist?

It frustrates me that politics have become a package deal. You can't be pro-gay-marriage and pro-second-amendment. You can't be against the gun ban as well as against an abortion ban. Much like you can't be a moderate and have strong opinions about things. Well, you as an individual can, but God bless finding a single candidate who'll even hint at the more moderate or mix-n-match attitude.

I love my blue-stated Massachusetts. I love that we were the first state to legalize gay marriage and to introduce the idea of universal health care (don't get me wrong; Romneycare is just as flawed as Obamacare, but that's for another time...). But I don't love the overpaid state politicians and bureaucracies for the sake of bureaucracies. I don't love the attitude that a gun ban will solve everything (because apparently no one sees a link between that idea and what happened with Prohibition).

But what really ticks me off is that I feel -- especially now that I live in a swing state -- that I have no choice but to vote "not that guy". I voted for Obama purely because he was "not Romney". I voted for Kerry because he was "not Bush". The same way people voted for Romney or Bush. It's to the point that we vote out of sheer spite for the other guy, not recognizing that the person we're voting for is only a slightly less smelly form of bullshit.

These days, even the hardest of hardcore Republicans tend to stay away from the GOP. Why? Because the party is a parody of itself these days (the Democratic Party isn't exactly a shining emblem of stability either but that's for another day). Gone are the days of fiscal responsibility. In its place is a conservative party, ready to wage war on whatever marginalized population they feel is interrupted the right way of life.

Which, if I were a Republican (and, in some ways, I am: apparently my attitudes on the government are on par with Republicanism circa 1960s), I'd be pissed. There are few things are fiscally irresponsible as saying, "I will spend countless hours and tax dollars making gay marriage illegal." From what I gather/remember, the old idea used to be that the government shouldn't concern themselves with people's personal lives. And yet that seems to be all I hear about these days when it comes to the GOP.

So maybe, someday, we'll see an emergence of smaller political parties -- new faces, new ideas, new platforms. And not just in the form of a libertarian running as a republican or a Green Party candidate running under the Democratic Party. Because what we have right now is a parody of what government should actually be, and you have to wonder just how long it can hold out.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Day 267 of 365: Weather and Plans

I had a photoshoot scheduled for today. Everything was set: the location (the picturesque Crane Beach in Ipswich), the time, the theme, and so on, and so forth.

And then, weather dropped to barely above freezing.

Even though the shoot entailed jeans and yoga gear, the cloudy weather, the threat of rain, and the cold air called for a rescheduling. Part of me was less than thrilled: as someone who is more or less self-employed, every deal that gets rescheduled is essentially one gigantic raincheck on the, well, paycheck. But, by 10:30 (aka when I would've had to leave for the shoot), it became apparent that not having the shoot was probably the best thing I could do. From trying to get on top of coursework, to trying to keep housework at bay, to just feeling all around icky (I think I've been battling a micro-cold for the last two weeks. Not enough to make me stay in bed and eat soup all day, but enough to give me a slight fever and just drain my energy), being at home instead of the beaches of Ipswich was a surprising Godsend.

So I'm choosing to look at this cancellation of a gig as an opportunity to get a lot of stuff done this week. It's been and will continue to be a busy week. From workshops to classes, to the classes I teach. And then there's that pesky half-marathon coming up in less than a month, where training to hit 13.1 in under two hours seems to have ground to a halt (I went on a 6-miler a few days ago with favorable results, so I'm hoping whatever lag that is going on is coming to an end). I'm appreciating the change in plans.

You can't control the weather, the same way you can't control if or when you get sick. Sometimes you just have to have faith that the things you can't control will inevitably act in a way that is vital for you. Or something like that.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Day 266 of 365: The State of Education

As part of my yoga training, I've been taking a few online courses. The primary one has been on yoga anatomy, which I cannot praise enough. Anything that breaks the movements down into hard science and uses that to say, "There's a lot of bullshit things yoga teachers say. This is why you shouldn't say them," is a-okay with me.

But I've also been taking a few supplementary classes -- free courses that are "highly recommended" but not required. Of course, the required courses aren't free, but, hey, such is life. One of these courses is through Princeton University, called "Buddhism and Evolutionary Psychology". I finished the last lecture last week and have been dragging ass on doing the final. But don't let my procrastination fool you: this class was incredible and I'm a bit sad to see it end. The class affirmed a lot of the stuff I've been saying for years about the human mind (but had nothing scientific to actually back it up). It was also net as all getout to learn a little more about Buddhism, as my yoga training tends to eschew any religious connections or affiliations (because, for all of the criticism that yoga has become too "western", people still assume you have to practice Hinduism or Buddhism in order to actually do yoga).

Another course is on the brain and the neurobiology of everyday life, through the University of Chicago. Again, I love when I'm given empirical data -- this situation creates this reaction and a release of this chemical -- when talking about things like yoga. Show me the lobes of the brain that get activated during certain breathing techniques. Tell me more about what sets off the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system. Let's have a nice long chat on operant conditioning and synaptic connections and neural pathways. Give me this shit, because like hell if my hypothetical students will care if I prattle about chakras and third eyes.

A lot of schools have been doing this, posting courses online for free, allowing unlimited downloads of lecture slides. In the age of information, a lot of these schools -- especially the top tier, supposedly exclusive universities -- are going, "No, y'all need to learn some shit."

It got me thinking about the state of education right now. There's this really weird dichotomy in place now: thanks to the internet, you can learn downright anything. If you're curious, there's a tutorial, an essay, a free course -- anything. Granted, the self-learning comes with the lack of someone to tell you when you're veering off course, but that piece of information doesn't seem to bad when you look at the other side of this coin. There, you find what I call McBachelor's -- schools that bring in and churn out students like a factory. These kids go through a high school career with an inefficient education and inflated grades and then put into whatever college will take them to get that necessary bachelor's. Classes that are taught by professors who barely speak English, papers that are graded by overworked TAs who just want to get the damn thing done. Suddenly, you're essentially teaching yourself, only with the added bonus of not knowing what grade you'll get (because we've all had the professor/TA who grades inconsistently and arbitrarily, and you genuinely don't know if you got them on a good day or a bad day).

Obviously there's a good amount of middle ground between the two, but it's still worth noting that, in a world saturated with college education, the emphasis seems less on "education" and more on "college". Can you take some tests, apply for student loans, and hold onto a piece of paper that will do nothing more than keep your résumé out of the trash bin for 5 more minutes? Who cares about what you've actually learned; who cares if your professors actually cared about enriching your brain or if you got a McEducation.

I could rant forever about McBachelor's and the state of learning these days, but this post is long-winded enough. Besides, there's a final exam that I desperately need to do and it's about time I actually did it.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Day 265 of 365: Frozen and Fetish

I finally saw Frozen a few days ago. That movie embodies the concept of "infectious": I watched the movie, enjoyed the story and the music, but walked away not getting the hype. Within minutes, I'm YouTubing the various songs. Twenty-four hours later, we buy the soundtrack. Seventy-two hours later, "Let It Go" is blasting from our speaker system. This is just one of those clever and intelligent movies that makes me have faith in the future of entertainment.

I was talking with my best friend about Frozen, which quickly morphed into our generation's ultra-fascination with Disney. We're not talking about owning the Frozen soundtrack or paraphrasing Mulan whenever it's time to get shit done (1. Get down to business. 2. Defeat the Hun). We're talking about friends who become Disney princess fanatics, who unironically shop at the Disney store (if you ironically shop at the Disney store, you also have issues, but for different and douchier reasons), who save up to go on group vacations to Disney World and get their picture taken with Cinderella (again, unironically).

In short, they fetishize Disney. And why? Because all of this is the childhoods we never had. Most of us had comparatively good upbringings (none of us had to escape to the city to avoid getting kidnapped and forced into child armies, so, yay for that). But they weren't perfect. They were far from perfect. And this less-than-perfect upbringing only gets compounded when we go into the real world and recognize how exhausting and frustrating and tedious it can be sometimes.

In this situation, you have two choices: you can reconcile with the past, deal with the present, and strive for a more productive and healthy future -- or you can idolize childhood and essentially relive it every chance you get.

I'm not saying that every person who is nuts about Disney is fetishizing their lost perfect childhood (that kind of sweeping gesture is better suited for the Freuds of the world), but it is interesting that a whole generation that has been lost and devoid of proper meaning has this hyper-fanaticism to something meant for children. This ties a little bit into my "not gaining meaning just from traveling the world" attitude, but turning to all the trimmings that childhood can offer isn't going to assuage much. At the end of the day, you're still going to have to pay the bills, deal with unfair bosses (or clients), sit in traffic, and come to terms with whatever happened in your past. Getting your picture taken with a guy in a Goofy outfit is not a solution. It's not even a band-aid.

Regardless, Frozen has proven to be more intelligent than half of the movies out there for adults right now in the first place. And Idina Menzel (or, depending on how many quaaludes you've taken that evening, Adele Dazeem) is absolutely flawless; one of the few singers who could sing me the phone book and I'd be hooked. I'm impressed by Kristen Bell's ability to belt out a note and I'm always happy to see Josh Gad getting work (1600 Penn was an underrated show and unjustly canceled, thank you very much). But I recognize that, even with "Love is an Open Door" playing for the 1,000th time, I'm still an adult and it'll eventually be background music as I send out yet another query or yet another email to a potential student who'll probably never show up for a class anyway.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Day 264 of 365: Man, Am I Tired

I'm rounding the final lap of this project. I'm basically 100 days away from finishing of 365 posts.

And boy, am I tired.

Some days, I am filled to the brim with opinions and shit that I just gotta say. Other days, I'm just trudging along to write something and call it a day.

Today is one of those days.

Maybe it's because it's been a busy weekend. Maybe it's because of the dreary weather. Maybe I'm still exhausted from submitting to the ABNA contest and releasing my ebook (and attempting to finish my third manuscript -- I'm three chapters away, dammit!). Who knows. All I know is that I had to kick myself into actually writing something before leaving for a UFC fight night with my friends.

But yet, here I am. Butt hath been kicked, words hath been written. They're not always going to be winners, but as long as I actually get something out, I'm doing my job. It's why we do these writing exercises in the first place. Rewiring our brain, reminding ourselves to let the words flow. Getting rid of the contrived and going straight for the genuine (or trying to, at least).

So, yeah. Words. And sentences. Grammar and spelling and syntax. Tomorrow is Day #265. Keep on keeping on.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Day 263 of 365: Human Behavior

If you invalidate gender inequality by pointing to women calling other women "bitches", you don't know the first thing about human behavior.

There are a few go-to responses when talking about gender inequality. Some include outright denial of any gender inequality (even though women still making 75 cents to every man's dollar). Other include extreme takes on what equality means ("If women are the same as men, that means I can punch women in the face, right?"). But one of the most popular responses is, "Well, look at how women treat women! Obviously women are to blame for this problem."

People who turn to this woman-against-woman behavior are people who either have no clue how human behavior works (or is willfully ignorant of it). Woman calling other woman bitches, enforcing impossibly beauty standards, even undercutting each other at work in front of their male counterparts, is just one tiny example of the oppressed turning in on itself.

You see it everywhere, from places of extreme poverty to reservations -- somewhere along the line, some of the prisoners start doing the job of the guards. Somewhere along the line, things that were started by the captors are perpetrated by the captives.

And why? Because, at the end of the day, our brains are wired for survival. It can be as overt as fighting for food and it can be as subtle as turning on the weak link in a meeting. There is something downright instinctual about inevitably throwing whoever it is that we need to throw under the bus. So suddenly, we get women calling other women sluts and whores. We get women who are the first to point out all the reasons why a woman "deserved" her assault. We get women who are quick to reinforce what it means to be attractive in our society. We get women who will be the first to step up and talk about how they are not like "other girls" (which I've ranted about already).

And the killer is that no one wakes up and decides, "To save my skin, I am going to cheerlead the confines that society has put on me!" It's much subtler than that. It's always much subtler than that.

Which is why I make such a fuss about all the subtle shit. Calling women "girls" and saying, "we're not like other girls." Because we don't see the reasons when we go broad. We can't see trees because the forest should be made of something else entirely. We don't recognize that we are products of our environment and the tiniest little things enter our schema and shape an entire way of doing things.

It's just exhausting to hear people brush off inequality, citing this as their very reason, not getting that all they're doing is reinforcing the locks on the penitentiary, all the while denying there are guards in the first place.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Day 262 of 365: Investing

Being a teacher means using your free time and money to do your job. I remember going all out with this: I worked 50-to-60-hour weeks (while getting paid for 40), putting in a solid chunk of my paycheck back into my class. I would stock up my room with plastic bugs for bug week, essentially hand my paycheck over to Kinkos to make cookbooks, and even start doing things like buying my own duct tape because the projects we were doing required more than the director wanted to give me.

But that eventually changed. Whether it was because I felt I was in a no-win situation, where I'd give my all for and to my classroom, only to be met with criticism, or it was just part and parcel of burnout in general, but I grew to resent this notion that a teacher needs to invest her own time and money. It got to the point that I couldn't even go to the Dollar Store, because I would see the super-cheap toys for sale and I would instantly be reminded of when I would buy these items by the metric ton for the classroom. I would hear a school director encourage her teachers to stay at school after hours to decorate their classroom for whatever event coming up -- perhaps even coming in on the weekends to decorate a little more -- and I would bite the insides of my cheeks. Every uncompensated minute, every dime from my meager paycheck going back into my job, was just another load of straw to be placed on the camel's back.

You can start seeing why it took me months before I was okay with doing any type of emotional or financial investing in any job ever again. I drained what I had, I drained my reserves, and still kept going, kicking myself for not having it figured out like some of the other teachers did. Like a NAEYC advisor once warned, if you boil all the water out of a pot and still keep the pot on the stove, you just burn the bottom of the pot, making it unusable in the future.

I've been chatting with the owner of the yoga studio I've been teaching tai chi at since the beginning of this year. It's been an interesting transition since the previous studio went out of business. I went from a solid 5 or 6 regulars to two. It's been a rollercoaster ride over the past few months. I've had influxes of people interested, only to drop completely from the radar. I send out countless emails to interested parties, only to have them go no where. Some days I have a whole group of people come in for class; other days I have no one. This Saturday is World Tai Chi Day, and the yoga studio owner suggested doing a free demo class to help drum up interest. I helped set up the listing on the website and scheduled a time in between three other things (because apparently this Saturday is a busy Saturday for me).

I've learned that investment -- of time, money, emotional bandwidth, etc -- only burns you out when you feel that there is no return on that investment. If you put in way more than you are compensated for, only to receive nothing in return -- if you invest and invest and are met with, "Yeah, and what else?" -- then you are essentially that pot of water, the water being boiled away without ever filling back up. It makes every single penny, every single second, excruciating, the same way every single second on that stove becomes torture for the pot.

It's the same reason I drive an hour to Boston just for a go-see, or spend so much free time writing things that might never result in any financial payout. That feeling of investing changes when you have faith on the return.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Day 261 of 365: Non-judgment

One of the biggest values in yoga is the concept of non-judgment: taking in everything that is happening during your yoga practice, be it physically, mentally, or emotionally, with a certain distance to it. This is not to say you become apathetic to your feelings, but you take it in without letting them consume you. This includes recognizing when you need to take a break during your practice, or when you need to modify, even if you could do the fullest expression of the pose just the day before.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the biggest adherent to non-judgment. It really doesn't matter what I tell myself before going into class; inevitably, I'm going for the hardest variation of the pose, which I'm sure I could get if I just keep on trying.

I wanted to run my 13.1 miles for the first time in 2014 on Marathon Monday. I went out with the best of intentions, but found myself looping back and staggering onto my front porch with only 7 miles under my belt. My pace was slow but my heartbeat was racing. I admitted defeated and collapsed inside.

I have been holding out for a potential under-2-hour half-marathon for the Boston Run to Remember. It seems reasonable enough: if my last half-marathon was somewhere between 2:07 and 2:11, then I'd just have to shave 30 - 45 seconds off of each mile. That's barely half a mile an hour faster. And, given that I was knocking 6.55-mile runs in 55 minutes or less, I was feeling confident that I could soar past that goal.

I ran 8.3 miles today, at one of my worst paces in a long while. I found myself downright jogging at times. I would attempt to speed up, assuming I was back on track, only to hear the running app on my phone tell me otherwise. I trudged through the run and made my way back home. I trudged up the stairs, downright fell into my post-run stretching, and dealt with feeling like all of the energy had been sucked right out of me (as well as the understanding that, if I ran like that at the half-marathon, I'd easily be in the last wave of runners to finish).

This is where non-judgment becomes crucial: I could get frustrated and decide that my next run is going to be faster. I could potentially injure myself as I essentially do sprint intervals in order to get my running tracker to get me a split-pace of 8 minutes per mile. Or I could recognize that, right now, this is just where my body is at. Maybe it'll improve in a few weeks. Maybe it won't. Maybe being more conscientious of my diet will help (let's face it: between my family reunion and Easter, I haven't been eating so well). Maybe it won't. But it's not worth comparing what I could do to what I am now doing and berating myself, wondering how I could ever have an off day.

I've heard fitness as something akin to Chinese finger traps: you actually get more accomplished if you don't immediately strain yourself to get what you want. And, as I say in tai chi: there are no points for injury. Take each run -- take each day -- for exactly what it is, and not waste time comparing it to what it could be.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Day 260 of 365: Too Sexy to Love

A friend of mine was recently told, "You're too sexy to love." Which, first off, I couldn't help but chuckle at; I was instantly reminded of that time when I was 16, reeling from my first actual heartbreak, and trying to make sense of things in front of a bunch of well-meaning but completely clueless friends. The guys in the group told me on multiple occasions that I was "cute" but not "sexy" -- and that's why the guy in question dropped his interest in me out of no where to get with other girls. So I couldn't help but laugh: here is my friend, being told she's too sexy to love, when, ten years ago, I was told I wasn't sexy enough to love.

But, in all seriousness, it got me thinking: do people actually have that type of mindset? Do people actually think that, if you exude a certain level of sexuality -- if you carry yourself the same way Angelina Jolie or Megan Fox once did -- then you can never expect anyone to ever actually fall in love with you. As if whoever you are with will be too filled with lust to ever really take a moment to get to know you as a person.

To be honest, I call bullshit. Angelina Jolie and Megan Fox are both married, and were with their respective SOs during the height of their "sexy" period (Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Smith/Transformers). Being on that end of the spectrum will probably attract more people to you in general, which will obviously result in attract more "winners" who will say shit like, "You're too sexy to love." But the idea of sensuality being exclusive from love is some level of Puritan bullshit that I cannot even begin to comprehend.

We're not even talking about people who conduct themselves in a manner that says, "I'm just looking for something casual," and then are left scratching their heads, wondering why they can't find something serious. We're talking about that woman in the red dress and the big boobs and the pouty lips, who is magically "too sexy" to love. It's right up there with this attitude that a woman has to act in a super demure, chaste manner in order to "catch" a husband (and don't even get me started on "catching" a husband...) Like a woman has to be this special present, all wrapped up and unseen to the world onto Mr (or Mrs) Right comes along to unwrap it.

I call so much bullshit, you'd think I was at a cow pasture. You can be intimidated by someone's looks. You could possibly keep your distance because you think you are not at the same level of someone deemed "sexy" by our society. But that doesn't mean the woman is somehow unloveable because guys would like to have sex with her more so than the average-looking female. To me, that's a feeble excuse, given by a low-level douchebag as to why he won't commit, why he won't do A or B or C. That's a comment given by a scumbag as a way to put the onus of maintaining the relationship completely on the woman -- and on the woman's looks, no less. It's a way to put down the woman, because it's easier than admitting that he doesn't want to man up and admit certain things. Suddenly, it's not about compatibility, or personal motivations; it's about her and those pesky big boobs and cute outfits.

I could go on forever about this go-to response our society has, but I think I'll stop there. I just can't with this attitude. There is no such thing as "too sexy to love". But there is such thing as "being too weak-spirited to not be intimidated by someone attractive".

Monday, April 21, 2014

Day 259 of 365: And We Run On

My old high school friend is running for the second time, alongside her fiancé -- a man who had waited just feet from the first bomb, but decided to grab something to eat since his fiancée was going a lot slower than expected. She was at Heartbreak Hill when the blasts went off. Had she not been addling by a recent knee injury, she probably would've crossed the finish line around the time the bombs went off.

My friend from ice hockey is also running for the second time. He was a quarter of a mile away from the finish line when the bombs went off. He was just rounding out onto Mass Ave when the runners were stopped.

After the shock of everything wore down, I signed up for the Ashland Half Marathon. I chose that half marathon specifically because it took place where the original Boston Marathon started (before it was moved a few miles back to Hopkinton). There was a knee-jerk response in all of us to take in what happened and downright stubbornly decide to keep running.

There's an article floating around talking about how flawed Boston Strong is. And they do have a point: too many people use it as a xenophobic type of chant. And yet more people have turned the saying -- and in turn, the event itself -- into a commodity, something you can buy and sell just as easily as a Red Sox cap. The writer says that we narrow in on this chant to the expense of everything else that happens in this city: as if the problems that plague any metropolitan area is enough to invalidate the saying.

At the end of the day, people will fall into two categories: those who get it, and those who don't. And those who don't will never be able to comprehend just what such a little saying means. The same way we all clamoured around Never Forget -- not because we genuinely needed a reminder to remember the events, not because we wanted our politicians to use it as a trump card when they wanted certain legislation or decisions made, but because words give our pain, our frustrations, our confusions a voice. The same way clinging to lyrics in a love song, or reciting a quote from a movie or book, or simply writing down what is bothering us changes the way we experience the event. It becomes a little more tangible and a little easier to process. In two words, we reminded ourselves that we have a sense of unity, that we are resilient, and, quite frankly, there are others who get it, too. There are other people who comprehend the absurdly complex array of emotions that come with something like this.

And yes, there'll be people hawking Boston Strong t-shirts for pure profit. There'll be people using Boston Strong as a way to further their sports agenda. There'll be people who toss the saying around like any million other platitudes as some type of trump card. The same way there will always be people who abuse charity, take advantage of the genuine, and exploit tragedies to their benefit. To me, that's not a good enough excuse to dismiss Boston Strong. That's not a good enough of an excuse to turn to those who were affected in a way they could never have predicted and go, "This is nothing more than an insipid hashtag for Twitter and Instagram."

Because it's not. And for many, it never will be.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Day 258 of 365: Your Brain on Yoga

This week has been a confluence of events, in terms of yoga and the mind. One of the books I have to read this month for my teacher training is on yoga for emotional balance. It's the first book written by an actual doctor about brain patterns and yoga/meditation's influences on them. On top of that, I'm about neck deep in my Buddhism & Evolutionary Psychology class through Princeton, which discusses how the human mind works (through the angle of evolutionary psychology) and how "secular Buddhism" (aka the philosophy but not the mysticism) fits in.

Just on those two alone, I've been finding so many overlaps and parallels that my mind is in full geek-out mode. From the Discourse on the Not-Self (and oddly corresponding yoga sutras) to operant conditioning and rewiring. For the first time since I enrolled in the course, I finished all of the week's lectures on time and even contributed a bit to the discussion forums. As for the book, I haven't been able to put it down and will most likely finish it by the end of this week.

Last Saturday, I took part in a workshop called "Your Brain on Yoga", which was essentially the icing on this nerdtastic cake. Rather than delving into the more mystical parts of yoga (which, even as a teacher-in-training, I don't exactly adhere to), the presenter talked about the specific parts of the brain that get activated during breathing and mindful yoga.

I'm just in love, with all of this. The scientific approach to yoga. As much as I love the concept of what is essentially the collective unconscious, I appreciate those pragmatic, empirical roots. It's something to turn to if a student starts rolling their eyes about meditation.

This isn't the prettiest entry, but I just got back from hanging out at my sister's. So sue me.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Day 257 of 365: 6:30 in the &$*@ing Morning

With the exception of a few mornings where I was able to fall back asleep, I have been waking up at 6:30 in the morning -- without fail, without an alarm clock -- for the last month.

And when I do fall back asleep, I get to sleep in to an absurdly late hour, like 7:30. Even if I fall asleep at a late hour -- especially on UFC nights, when I don't even get home until 1 and am not in bed until at least 2 -- I'm up at 6:30. Maybe I'll nod back to sleep. Maybe not.

It's a weird feeling, going from dragging my ass out of bed for the alarm at 7 to waking up long before my husband's alarm even goes off. But I've really grown to like it. I'm up before everyone else, I can accomplish whatever it is that I want to accomplish, and I can ease into my day instead of bustling around hoping everything is ready in time.

Plus, there is nothing better than getting a whole bunch of stuff accomplished before 9 in the morning. I can see why my mom intentionally woke up as early as she did.

I'm chalking it up to a shift in my internal clock. The same one that once made staying up all night until the sun rises a doable concept. The same one that started making even staying out until 2 (aka when Rocky Horror would get out) a complete to-do. Apparently, even my biology agrees that I'm becoming an old person.

And hey, I'm down with it. There are few things as calming as a sunrise anyway. Just so long as I don't start having dinner at 4, I'll be good.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Day 256 of 365: Godwin's Law

I talk from time to time about invoking "Godwin's Law". In layman's terms, Godwin's Law states that an argument, giving enough time, will eventually result in someone comparing the other party to the Nazis or Hitler. In the internet world, if you make said comparison, you automatically lose the argument. It is seen as a sign that you've run out of strong arguments to make your case.

And, 9.9 times out of 10, it's necessary. No, Obama is not Hitler. No, Bush is not Hitler. No, the Republican Party is not the Nazi Party. They have their flaws (and when we're talking about the state of the now-ultra-conservative Republican party, they have a lot of flaws), but they're not committing genocide. Say what you want about Obamacare/ACA, but to put it on the same level as concentration camps is asinine and incorrect.

And, sometimes, you stumble across that .1 time out of 10, when the comparisons actually make sense. Usually, this involves comparing leaders of genocide. Stalin? Mao Zedong? Pol Pot? Kim Jong-Il? Momcilo Krajišnik? Alright, now we're getting somewhere.

But, more recently, I can't help but draw comparisons between what Russia has been doing and, well, Nazi Germany. Everything, right down to creating laws to direct hate towards a specific marginalized group in order to draw attention away from whatever the political leaders are doing (c'mon, are you really going to believe that the sudden anti-gay legislation was created because Putin woke up one morning and said, "Fuck those gays!"?).

And now Russia has two feet planted firmly in the Ukraine. And what new piece of law has just gone into effect in the Ukraine?

All Jewish residents now have to "register" themselves, lest they lose their citizenship, have their assets seized, and be deported.

Let me repeat: all Jewish people have to register who they are and where they live with the government.


I can't be eloquent in the face of this. This is some scary shit, people. This is some scary shit.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Day 255 of 365: Removing The Artist from the Art

A preview of Chris Brown's new song came out -- "Don't Be Gone Too Long" with Ariana Grande. The listener is essentially given the chorus, the bridge, and what the background music will sound like during the verses. Even sans verses, the song is absurdly catchy. I've probably played it about 10 or so times yesterday, constantly hitting refresh on YouTube. I play it, dance along with it, sing along with the chorus, and immediately finish the song thinking, "Wow, I kind of hate myself for liking this Chris Brown song."

We don't need a pop culture lesson to understand that Chris Brown isn't exactly the most stand-up citizen. To be frank, he's a violent, angry, egotistical man who has no problems beating a woman to a bloody pulp. He's not exactly someone you'd want to be affiliated with, nor would you want anyone you know to affiliate with him.

And yet, he makes catchy music.

This is something I've been thinking about, especially in light of Woody Allen's sexual abuse allegations. So many people are quick to shrug off the shitty things that people in the spotlight do. Roman Polanski is still regarded by many, even though he was convicted of drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl (and then fleeing the country to avoid prison time). People still work with Terry Richardson, even when countless models have come forward about Terry's salacious behavior. Look at all the athletes who were charged with rape and assault (both sexual and otherwise). Look at how many of them were cleared by the court of public opinion.

I think the biggest problem here (aside from a culture that is apathetic -- if not downright permissive -- of physical and sexual assault) is that people cannot disconnect the artist from the art. Surely, the man who created this masterpiece of film would never do something like that. Surely, the guy who can score winning touchdowns for his team would never commit such a crime. Surely, the person who displays such talent and entertainment would never be a horrific human being in his real life.

We cannot disconnect the art from the artist. We cannot go, "Well, he is a great photographer, but a sexual deviant, and I can shun him on a personal level while still recognizing that I enjoy the aesthetics of his photography." Which makes sense: if we still go to those movies, if we still cheer for a certain team, we are still supporting them, albeit indirectly. But we've already seen what happens when people try to actively turn their back on all of it: their brains decide that there's no way someone who produces that beauty can be so ugly in their spirit.

So I might be generating YouTube hits for Chris Brown's channel, providing advertising revenue for YouTube, his label, his management team, and, to a degree, Chris Brown himself. But it beats trying to pretend like I have to hate a catchy song because of the crimes committed and potentially excusing his behavior -- be it consciously or unconsciously -- in light of his art.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Day 254 of 365: You Had ONE JOB, Spring

It snowed last night.

No, let me be more specific: it sleeted last night, and at such a high intensity that it left a half inch of ice on the ground.

You had ONE JOB, Spring.

I'm reacting to it with a downright stubborn attitude. I turned off my heat already and I refuse to turn it back on. It is spring, dammit. It's mid-April. This is supposed to be the time when we can finally stop worrying about blizzards (even in New England) and start wistfully preparing for springtime activities.

Easter is this Sunday, for crying out loud.

The weather this week has been absolutely killing me. From hurricane-like winds to torrential downpours to - gee - ice-snow on the ground, I haven't been able to get a proper run in since Saturday. Which doesn't seem like that long ago, except for the fact that I'm bringing myself back to up to snuff for the Boston Run to Remember Half-Marathon, which I want to complete in under 2 hours (I completed the Ashland Half Marathon with a time of ~2:07). So that means I want to get up to 13 miles long before the race, and focus on upping my average pace.

I really just need to move to San Diego, where it's nice and sunny and dry all the time. My ancestors were out of their mind, traveling as far up north as they did. This is insane. I don't care how innovative humans are. There's a reason why we sweat, but don't have any fur. This type of body was meant for the warm, dry climates. And that's where I want to be.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Day 253 of 365: A Year for Boston

I want to say that, in light of the one-year anniversary, I've been thinking about the marathon bombings. But the fact of the matter is, I think about that regardless of the day of the year. I doubt there has been a single day that has gone by where I didn't think about it in some form. When I run, there's at least one moment in every run where I think about running for Boston, running that marathon to show what this city is made of. There are days when I watch MMA and I remember that Suspect #1 was a Golden Gloves boxer at one of Boston's martial art gyms. There are days when I just wonder what would've happened if things had gone just a little bit differently.

But I noticed a change when the one-year anniversary grew nearer: while I was thinking about things with the same frequency, the intensity would heighten with each day -- to the point that I was in tears writing my "You Are Boston" essay.

You just can't explain it. You can't explain the array of complex emotions that such a situation creates for you. We all think we know what it's like to live through a terrorist attack. Most of us were old enough to remember how vulnerable and scared we felt during 9/11. But it's an entirely different matter when it's in your city, and on a street that you used to down countless times a day. The bombs went off on Boylston and they might as well had gone off at my childhood home.

And you forget how deeply it affects you until it is time to pause and reflect. You forget that it changed everything, from a city to an entire running community. And suddenly you remember that week in April, you remember vacillating between numbness and despair, you remember bursting into tears the first time you heard "Dirty Water" after the lockdown. You remember that you look at your city just a little differently now. That there's a clear line between life before the bombings and life after the bombings.

Next Monday is the 2014 Boston Marathon. There will be 5,000 more runners than last year, with twice as many bystanders and volunteers. And if that isn't a reminder of why we're "Boston strong", then I don't know what is.

And I know people get on that saying. They'll say it's clichéd and overused. They'll use it as fodder for their own sports rivalry agendas. But, really, there's nothing that can better describe this city. We're our own breed of strong. You can hurt us -- you can attack us and kick us when we're down -- but we'll come back. And we'll come back better, stronger -- and we will overcome. And we'll celebrate exactly as hard as we have suffered.

That attack took something very important away from us, and that's the sense of security when we go out and come together to run. And we'll keep running until we get it back.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Day 252 of 365: The Joys of Scrapbooking

So, nearly a year after the trip, I have finally scrapbooked my husband's and my road trip across America. I got it done in about four or five installments and, to be frank, I forgot how to adult during those days (since I was using the time usually used for cleaning or homework or training to put tape on paper products). But, save for two or three pictures that I forgot to print out, the project is finally done. The big binder of souvenirs is finally empty and I finally have an album documenting our time driving to San Francisco and back.

Scrapbooking is basically the answer to those who tend to be too sentimental for their own good. Now, instead of hoarding every ticket stub, we can now put it on a piece of 12 x 12 cardstock and spontaneously flip through it if the mood fits you. Yes, one of your room becomes a mess of scissors and tape and paper scraps for a solid week, but, hey, the memories!

I'm huge on documenting memories, on documenting my life. I remember when an old junior high friend's mom once said, "I actually have no memories of being a teenager. I completely forget what it's like." I thought to myself, "I cannot let that happen to me. I cannot become that out-of-touch adult who doesn't get her teenaged kids because she forgets what it was like to be a teenager herself."

That eventually morphed into wanting to note everything down, even long after I was a teenager. I wanted to be able to have that reference, to remember exactly how I felt during a specific time.

You don't realize how much that is needed until you are going through some old journal entries, or flipping through an old scrapbook, and you're reminded that your memories have started to shift over time. I went over my old 2013 journal entries as I was copying them into Word and thinking to myself, "Wow, I forgot just how miserable I was as a preschool teacher." Sometimes to look back on whenever time dulls the edges and I find myself opining for the days when I ran circle time and scribbled down curriculum at a fevered pace during nap time.

But, on a much more positive note, it was wonderful going through the old photos and maps from our road trip and remembering the type of adventure we had. We were both so desperate to just drive around and chill out after the stressors of work and closing on the house and dealing with mortgage people (which we got to deal with while on our vacation, but *sigh* at least we don't have to directly deal with them again for a long, long, long time).

I intentionally ended my scrapbook on pictures from New Hampshire, pictures of our house and my favorite yoga studio -- almost as a way to show that the vacation ending was the start of something else. And those next 4 or 5 months were eventful, to say the least. Maybe I should've scrapbooked that transition to this brand new chapter in my life.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Day 251 of 365: If You "Aspire to Write", You're Doing It Wrong

Throw a stone in the streets of Hollywood and you'll most likely hit an "aspiring actress". In New York? "Aspiring model". And if that stone doesn't hit those members of the Aspirations Club, then it'll hit the aspiring singer, the aspiring rapper, or the aspiring dancer.

Actually, if you throw that stone and it hits someone, you'll most likely get arrested for assault with a deadly weapon. So ixnay on the owingthray.

But if you get off the streets and poke your head in the nearest coffee shop, bookstore, or library, you'll probably find a quieter member of this Aspirations Club: the "aspiring writer".

We're so used to this type of labeling. But I'm here to say that it's time to drop that label. Because if you're "aspiring", you're doing it wrong.

An "aspiring" dancer doesn't sit around all day at the studio, whimsically looking at the ballerinas in practice and hoping that, someday, she'll get off her ass. An "aspiring" singer isn't walking around, lips sealed, as the music blares in her house or in her car, wondering if some day she'll hum a note or two. The "aspiring" actress isn't hiding the scripts under her bed, hoping that one day she could say a line or two in front of the mirror, let alone a casting director.

No. The concept of aspiring anything is asinine because you're not aspiring to do it. You don't dream to achieve it. You already do it.

What do you dream of achieving then? You aspire for success, for recognition, for a chance to make a living off of what you love so much. You aspire to push your boundaries, hone your craft, and get better with each passing day. You aspire to have someone turn around and say, "Wow, what you just did really affected me."

But what you are not aspiring for is the thing you already do. We have just gotten complacent with this label, because society has told us that if we have not achieved a certain level of success, then we must as "aspiring" across the board.

As writers, we aspire to get published, to have our voices heard, to perhaps even pay a bill or two with a passion that we devote so much time to. We aspire to affect and cause effects. We aspire to finish a certain novel or screenplay or poem. We aspire to flesh out a story idea that has been playing around in the back of our minds for years now. But I have to take a moment and jab a finger at the proverbial chest of many an "aspiring writer". Because while the dancer goes to practice and the model goes to castings and the rapper goes to the pad and pen, some writers go no where. They are that dancer, sitting in the corner, whimsically dreaming of a day when, they, too, can practice. They are that singer, lips sealed, wondering when they, too, can hum a note or two. They are that actress, hiding the scripts under her bed, hoping that someday they, too, can utter a line or two to the bathroom mirror.

If you are truly "aspiring to write", you are doing it wrong.

Aspiring writers: get the fuck up. Lace up those proverbial dance shoes and just do it. Stop telling everyone that you have the idea for the next Great American Novel in your head and take the steps to get there. Pick up the pen -- start up the computer -- and write down what's going on in your head. Dictate. Describe. Expound and extrapolate. Do those asinine writing exercises the same way the musician does those asinine scales. Learn a new word -- learn a new rule about grammar -- the same way an actor learns a new style of acting. Dive headfirst into this crazy concept called language and bask in its cadence and melody and tune.

Do not be an "aspiring writer". Be a writer who aspires for greatness. Or simply be a writer who aspires to let the art of writing affect them, personally and privately, as a human being. Aspire to change the world or simply change how you interact with the world.

But, for the love of God, do not "aspire to write". You have an entire language at your feet: a 20,000+ army that is ready to be shaped exactly how you want them to be shaped -- ready to be arranged, rearranged, killed off, and brought back to life at your slightest command. Act like the captain that you are and lead them.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Day 250 of 365: Comfort Zone

Last Monday, I ran 10 miles for the first time in 2014. I devoured the Gatorade chews I brought along with me, guzzled the water that my left hand was downright cramping to carry, and somehow made it to double digits for the first time in nearly 5 months.

And then I spent the rest of the day dead to the world.

My energy levels were not the same for days. No matter what I did, no matter what I ate, I always felt like I was in a state of ketosis, and my limbs were moving through molasses. I've been here before: up the mileage and your body has no clue how to respond.

Cut to this week. As part of my training schedule, I do a mild jog and a somewhat-easy run. Today, I was scheduled to run at least 8 miles.

To say I didn't want to do it is an understatement. I looked at my running shoes and immediately felt exhausted. It really had me reevaluate everything. Why am I even doing this in the first place? Just half-marathon (re)training takes up so much of my time. Even on "short" days, when you factor in getting ready, warming up, running, cooling down, and showering, you're talking at least two hours cut from your daylight hours. On longer days? More like four.

But I was reminded of something an MMA fighter posted on his Twitter: success happens outside of your comfort zone. Resting on your laurels is all good and fine, but you won't get anywhere. You take no risks, you make no sacrifices, you get no where. Instead, you do things, even when it is purely out of obligation, because you have blind faith that this will help you get you where you need to be. You talk to people you might not feel comfortable talking to. You present projects that make you lose sleep at night. All because you have this incredible set of goals and nothing is going to stop you.

I remember saying a while back that I don't think I'm particularly good at self-motivating. I just think I'm good at telling myself that it's not a choice. And, when it comes to getting what you desire, stepping out of your comfort zone is not a choice. Sometimes you have to put yourself in those situations that make you uncomfortable, that make you doubt yourself and your abilities, in order to take just one more step closer.

So I laced up my shoes, went on my run, and came back with a solid 8.5 miles under my belt. I cooled down, stretched, cleaned up, and had lunch, but without the "dead to the world" feeling like I had with the 10-miler. And, not even 8 or 9 months ago, a 6-mile run would've sent me into a semi-coma. I remember downright wanting to cry when I hit 9 miles for the first time. Likewise, I remember nearly choking on my own spit when I queried my first agent. Or when I submitted my first essay. Or when I agreed to read a collection of essays about my time as a model and realized that I had absolutely no idea how to start such an endeavor.

It's not just success that happens outside of your comfort zone. Life happens outside of your comfort zone. Plain and simple.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Day 249 of 365: What Makes a Person Boston

What makes a person a Bostonian? What is needed to say that you are a part of this city?

Not too long ago, there was a prevailing school of thought that, unless you were born, raised, went to school, and settled down in Boston proper, you were not really a "Bostonian". Being a true Bostonian was a very exclusive club, and if you skimped on any of the aforementioned four attributes, you were, at best, a wannabe -- or a townie. If you crossed the border into any number of the neighboring towns -- Watertown, Somerville, Everett, Newton, Quincy -- then you revoked your pure Boston identity. If you moved here from outside of Boston, if you moved out of Boston -- yup, not really Boston anymore.

As Marathon Monday approaches -- as we get closer to the one-year anniversary of the Marathon Bombing -- I only have one thing to say: everything has changed, including what makes a person a part of Boston.

To all the people in all the surrounding towns, you are Boston. If the skyline puts a smile on your face and your heart skips a beat when you hear the first three seconds of the Standell's "Dirty Water", you are Boston. If you prefer "Sweet Caroline" over "Dirty Water" -- or if you don't equate any song with the city -- you are Boston. If you feel a bit of pride every time they film another movie in the area -- even if it's another crappy Kevin James movie -- you are Boston. If you roll your eyes every time they film another movie in the area because it might be another crappy Kevin James movie (and no movie will ever really do the city justice), you are Boston.

If you moved here from anywhere else on the globe to get one of the best educations in the world, you are Boston. It doesn't matter if your college is in the heart of Boston, the outskirts of Boston, or Cambridge (which, yes, is its own municipality). It doesn't matter if you came here on scholarship, for sports, or for graduate school. It doesn't matter if you move out immediately after or set down your stakes and set up shop. You are Boston.

If you tuned in to the news on April 15, 2013, and found out that two bombs had gone off by the finish line of the Boston Marathon. If you felt a pit forming in your stomach or your heart rising to your throat when President Obama came on the airwaves and talked about the resiliency of this beautiful little city. If you prayed for those who were hurt, for those who had passed and the family & friends who mourned them. If you gave to the One Fund or wore a "We Run for Boston" shirt or simply kept Boston in your heart when it was your turn at the starting line. If you signed up for a race, went for a jog, hugged people just a little tighter, in honor of those affected during that fateful day. You are Boston.

If you were there when those blasts went off -- if you ran to the source of the explosion to desperately see where you could help. If you provided shelter and support to displaced runners. If you ran to the Red Cross to donate time and money and blood. If you sang the National Anthem with all of your heart and soul during the Bruins game that Thursday. If you helped the police officers in any way during that following Friday, even if it was just by agreeing to stay inside and not interfere. If you cheered in the streets or if you cheered at home, if only because you knew that the residents of Boston felt such a tremendous wave of relief...

You are Boston. You are truly Boston in ways that I'll never be able to articulate in words.

And to the runners who are coming in from the four corners of the world. To the volunteers and the bystanders from all walks of life who are traveling to or within Boston to support those who are running this year: you are Boston. It doesn't matter if this is your first time in the city, if you don't speak the language, if you get frustrated at the confusing street signs and jaywalking pedestrians. You are Boston, tried and true.

Lastly, if you are reading this and feel anything for this quirky, flawed city, perfect in its imperfections. If you are able to take a moment and realize just how much this city means to its residents and how deeply last year's event affected us. If you can take a moment for Martin William Richard, Krystle Campbell, Lingzi Lu, and Sean Collier. If you can take a moment for those who lost their life -- not roll your eyes and compare it to other world events or say, "your city wasn't leveled by Godzilla," but genuinely and solemnly take a moment for everyone who was affected, you are Boston.

And we're so happy to have you on board. Welcome to Boston.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Day 248 of 365: Hardcore

So, you know that one person in your yoga or pilates class, who just gets you annoyed? The one who instantly gravitates towards the hardest variation with an ease that makes you want to kick them in the stomach? That student who is obviously spending way too much time on physical fitness and making you look bad?

Yeah, sorry about that. My B.

I think there must nothing as obnoxious as a teacher-in-training at an actual yoga class. Even from the teacher's perspective. You tell your class to only do what serves you, only to watch your class potentially injure themselves because they naturally try to mimic what that bitch in the corner is doing.

I'll be the first to admit that I was way too competitive for my own good when I started yoga. If the person next to me could put their heels all the way down in downward-facing dog, best believe I was going to potentially snap my Achilles tendon to do the same. I was constantly looking around, assessing who was better than me, who was worse than me, and who was on par with me.

Of course, this is as far from the yogic mindset as possible. It's why I cringe at "Yoga Competitions", because I'm hard-pressed to think of a bigger oxymoron (except for "Government Intelligence", nyuck, nyuck, nyuck...). But that didn't stop me from constantly comparing -- constantly being in competition, constantly figuring out how I "rank" in the grand scheme of things.

This part is going to sound super self-involved (well, shit this whole post is self-involved -- this whole blog is self-involved -- so oh well), but it took mastering the poses before I could let that go. In a perfect world, I would've had a great yogic realization and stopped comparing so much, but, hey, I'm only human. When I was in constant competition, I imagined how awesome it would feel to be that student, who ~floats~ to the top of her mat and goes into full boat pose and wheel pose and can master a headstand like no other. But the fact of the matter is that the only thing that feels awesome is how that individual pose feels to me. Do I feel like I'm stretching the right muscles? Do I feel like I'm challenging myself without forcing my breathing to become erratic? Is this the pose variation I need to shut this overactive brain up and get into a meditative state?

A crazy thing happens when you let go of that competition: you stop potentially injuring yourself. Suddenly, I wasn't afraid to modify, to back out of poses when necessary, or go to child's pose. I (temporarily) let go of the ego and recognize that sometimes some muscles will be more flexible or less fatigued -- that the pose variation that I "master" on Tuesday will not be as easy on Friday.

The fact of the matter is, I was constantly comparing, constantly in competition, constantly assessing and re-assessing, because I was superbly insecure about my abilities. The same can be said with anything in life: the amount we compare ourselves to others is directly relational to how insecure we are. It took upping my physical abilities before I could finally take that step back and let things be.

But it shouldn't take that. Because there was no guarantee that, when I got to that physical level, I'd suddenly be secure in my abilities. Because there is so much stuff that I still cannot do (Google "Ashtanga Third Series" for a brief overview on the insane shit some yogis can do). I'm almost always in a class with people with more strength or more flexibility than me. The last thing that should ever be on my mind is, "Well, when I get to this level, I will feel secure."

So maybe, just maybe, it wasn't because I got to a certain physical level. Maybe I just stopped worrying so much, and it just so happened to be around the time that I could do arm balances and headstands. Maybe, through all the various avenues in my life, yoga included, I just learned to be secure in what I can and cannot do. That it's not worth it to constant compare and be in competition, because, really, at the end of the day, the only person you are fighting is yourself.

The yogalates instructor yesterday joked that she uses me as her litmus test, because, "if Abby starts showing fatigue, then I know it's time for me to back off, because she's hardcore. She'll do anything." I blushed and shrugged my shoulders and went about my day, knowing that the only truly hardcore thing I got going on is the comfort of knowing that I go to my limit and my limit only.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Day 247 of 365: Keep Your Trap Open

There's this ~scandal~ that has been going around involving Robin Thicke. Apparently he was all over this chick at the VMAs (y'know, sometime after he finished grinding up on Miley's twerking). Which hey, that's all good and fun -- make out with whatever chick wants to get on that. Have at it. Unless you're, gee, married with a kid.

There was an article out recently about this particular girl. And while it was obvious that she was going to the various media outlets purely for attention, the article said that the girl needed to, "keep her trap shut," because he's married and has a kid.

Now, here's the thing: this type of attitude is stupidly common. Everyone cheats, so why call people out when they do? You're just disrupting the life that they built! Yes, it's a life built on a lie, but, hey, we're not perfect! Keep your trap shut (even if you just spent the last hour with it open ifyaknowwhatImean).

I cannot stomach this attitude. I feel like it is some part of the reason why cheating is so prevalent. Who wants to be that guy or that girl to come forward? Look what happens when friends find out that their close compadre's significant other is messing around. Who is that friend say something. How not their business this was.

Now, here's another "here's the thing": if you cheat, you deserve to have that public humiliation. End of story. I don't care if you were drunk, or if "you were going through some things" with your SO. Do. Not. Care. You cheat, you -- bare minimum -- deserve to get called out. You deserve to have that life you built crumble apart. If you don't care enough about it to stay true to your vows, your promises, your word, then you don't deserve whatever it is that you're taking advantage of.

"Oh, but what about the wife, the husband, the kids?" Don't get me wrong. It sucks. It sucks for everyone involved. It's not fair that innocent people get hurt when cheating comes to light. But they deserve to know. They deserve to know exactly who they got involved with. They deserve to have the opportunity to see the cheater for who they really are and have that option to move on.

Honestly, enough with this attitude that these little lies are "necessary", that it's better for that "other woman" to "keep her trap shut". Because it's not. It just perpetuates this idea that cheating is part and parcel of a relationship. Imagine if sports commissions stopped drug testing, if all enforcement of the rules were dropped because, "well, everyone is going to cheat anyway." People would be calling out that defeatist attitude so fast, even the mascots' heads would spin. Why? Because cheating isn't okay. It doesn't matter if "everybody does it" (spoiler alert: everybody doesn't); it's not, not, 100% not okay.

This is a whole lot of opinion for a celebrity scandal that I'm just getting wind of, involving a singer with a few moderate hits (and one stupidly big hit). But it touches upon something that I have a boatload of opinions on. And this is me unloading that boat onto the viewers at home.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Day 246 of 365: Release Day

In case you are not friends with me on Facebook or Twitter, I'll let you in on a little secret:

Today is the release day for my model memoir.

You know, that project that I vaguely hinted at for months and then started talking about a little more in depth? The one that I was petrified of ever talking about at any particular length because, "man makes plans and God laughs"?

Well, that project is finally seeing the light of day. I'm just going to go ahead and link you to my shameless promo page on my crafts blog, which will then link you to all the places you can buy this stuff.

Today has been...surreal. It's only noon and I feel like a lifetime has passed. I'm full of so much nervous energy that I can barely type properly (which is an issue, because I have been trying to promote this book across all avenues). My nose, toes, and fingers are ice cold, because apparently my circulation cuts out when I'm this pumped.

It just feels good. Yeah, it's an ebook, but it's my ebook. An ebook that was published through a company, not just be desperately taking a stab at self-publishing. I have a website and a team of editors, producers, and so on who have my back. It's a step in the right direction. Fuck that: it's a leap in the right direction. While I'm not allowed to query agents for my first manuscript until I finish my third (which is agony right now because I'm at the chapter where all the shit goes down and I feel like Virgil, agonizing for days over two or three words. Which, if you average it out, is about how much I've been writing for this manuscript since NaNoWriMo), I can't wait to start off my publication credits with, "Author of..."

Granted, only time will tell. Maybe I never get above selling a few copies to people who know me personally. Maybe will take one look at it and go, "Yeah, whatever. Ebook." But maybe not. All I know is: is this is an absolutely incredible day, and hopefully the start of something new.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Day 245 of 365: Without Feeling Guilt

Once upon a time, I was a preschool teacher. And then I wasn't.

I can blame everything under the sun: large classrooms, low pay, mean parents, difficult children, unsupportive administration. At the end of the day, my dream job became a nightmare. I started crying before I went to work, crying after I got home from work -- sometimes even during work. I tried everything I could to keep on "fighting the good fight": teacher workshops, tai chi, yoga, long vacations... but, truly, nothing was going to change the fact that I had burned out and that this job wasn't for me anymore. I finished out my last year, said goodbye to everything, and retreated back home.

I didn't realize just how bad the burnout was until a week later, when I tried to go on the job search sites and found myself repeatedly having visceral reactions. At best, I would get repulsed and immediately stop the search. At worst, I would get sick to my stomach and spend the rest of the day numbly watching TV. The after effects were so intense that, even a month later, when my own tai chi instructor emailed me about an opportunity to teach tai chi at a yoga studio, I had to prepare myself as if I were about to go skydiving or base jumping. I had to quell the part of me that never wanted to get invested in any type of career field ever again and talk with the owner and go to the interview and have my demo class.

Within weeks, I knew I had made the right decision. Preschool teaching was out, but teaching adults the very same calming techniques that I had so desperately clung to was definitely in. This eventually evolved into enrolling in a yoga teacher training, so I could become a registered yoga teacher and give back just a little bit of what yoga had given to me.

I would tell people about my background in education, and how I was transitioning into tai chi and yoga teaching, and I would get met with the same response:

"You could totally teach tai chi/yoga to children!"

Everyone, from friends, to family, to the studio and dojo owners I would talk with in regards to setting up a class, has offered that bit of advice. And, each time, I had to swallow down that visceral, nauseous feeling in my stomach.

I would smile and nod and maybe reply back with a, "We'll see." Because -- how could I explain to them how I felt? How could I even explain to myself how I felt. Up until last year, I swore that working with groups of children was tailor made for me. I had been babysitting since I was 12, volunteering in the nursery room at my hometown's church since I was 14. I had my student-teaching at an incredible preschool in Boston and even noted to one of my supervising teachers that it didn't even feel like I was going to work, the job was that natural to me. I would tell people I taught preschool and get met with a, "You totally look like a preschool teacher!" That was me, that was how I defined me, and now that was gone. Gone to the point that I had to suppress a grimace when the mention of even being in the same room as a large group children came up.

The topic of training to teach children's yoga came up during my last RYT training session. Everyone talked about that particular training and the yoga instructor who runs it and how excited they were to potentially sign up for it. I sat with my knees to my chest and smiled, thinking, "Pay no attention to the monster over here who would rather jump out a window than teach children again." The instructor facilitating the training mentioned how she had done the training as well and how, after she did her practicum, realized that teaching yoga to young children was just not for her. It took every ounce of my self-control not to immediately shout out, "Oh thank God," in some weird form of relief. The instructor then went on to talk about potential life changes and offered everyone a chance to talk about the changes they wanted to see this year. I kept silent, because I knew I ran the risk of crying if I had even attempted to put in my two cents.

Technically, my big life change was last year. But the change for this year includes not feeling guilt over burning out. Yoga is all about accepting who you are without judgment, letting go of those expectations of what you or other people think you should or shouldn't be doing. And that means accepting that the part of me that got a thrill from singing out the alphabet song to a group of 3-year-olds has been affected by the realities of life. It means understanding that the energy of a room changes when you shift from a group of adults to a group of kids, and that it's okay to gravitate to one while avoiding the other. You do exactly what you need to do in order to live out your life properly and you follow exactly what you need to follow in order to properly give back to the world. You have to do what feels right, what feels authentic, and what feels healthy. And there's nothing healthy about trying to lead a group of children when your knee jerk response is to run off and dry heave.

In short: I'm a former preschool teacher turning tai chi and (soon to be) yoga instructor -- and I won't feel guilty about not teaching children's tai chi or yoga.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Day 244 of 365: A Few Thoughts, Post-Practicum

I technically taught my first yoga class on Saturday.

I say, "technically" because:
1) I've been technically teaching yoga to my husband and to my cats (although, let's be real: to myself. Little bastards never get out of corpse pose).
2) It was part of a group practicum where the students were fellow trainees.

Regardless, it was a trip, walking around the room and giving adjustments when it wasn't my turn to run the sequence. It was equally a trip to go to the front of the studio and run the last bits of the sequence. I slipped into that "tai chi me" I discussed a million years back, ignoring the fact that my heart was in my throat and my face was flushed like you wouldn't believe, and started leading the class.

Apparently our sequence was a hit. As one of my classmates joked, "Your voice is so soothing, we were ready to do whatever you said. 'Now, just follow the lemmings off of the cliff...'" Which, for me, is a huge, huge compliment. My favorite yoga teachers -- both in person and on YouTube -- have one thing in common: a calm, soothing voice that lulls you just as much as the sequence does.

Of course, we're far from out of the woods: we are only halfway through the training, and there's a much larger practicum waiting for us. And there certainly is a difference between joking through a sequence with your smart-aleck husband/a room full of sleeping cats and actually leading a class with students who are relying on you to provide them with a great physical and mental experience. But the feedback from my first stab at it really has been great. And needed. Even though I've been making huge strides in terms of my career with writing, even though my tai chi class (classes - holy shit, we're getting back into the plural again), I'm still a little shaky with this post-preschool-teaching life. We're closing in on a year since I left and there's still some things I got to sort out. Hopefully leaving the ECE world behind is the closest I ever get to a divorce, because, damn, it certainly felt like one.

As I see it, yoga was there for me when early education was getting the better of me. When I walked into our brand new house with a vibrant blue hallway and beige den, I walked right back out and into my favorite yoga studio (after, y'know, crying and handing my phone over to my husband so he could email the painters). Yoga was there for me when I recognized some unhealthy thoughts patterns -- some obvious, some not so obvious -- that I had picked up along the way, especially while growing up. If I can provide some of that to even one person, then I know I'm on the right path.

Our yoga class's theme was "letting go of expectations". I paraphrased something I use in my tai chi classes ("there is always something to learn in tai chi. So where you are on that path is irrelevant, so long as you're moving forward") after demonstrating a fairly difficult apex pose. The classmates appreciated the reminder that we don't have to do the craziest poses in its fullest expression, that we just have to do what's right for us. And it's a reminder I need from time to time as well. I don't have to already be at the finish line. So long as I am on the path, I'm doing a-okay.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Day 243 of 365: Girls, It's Time To Stop Saying You're "Not Like Other Girls"

And since I'm all about the opinions these day:

Lady, women, young female adults: it's time to stop saying you're "not like other girls".

It's tempting, I know. Look at the stereotype we are presented with: this hysterical, irrational, pink-loving shopaholic who gossips about her friends and gets super jealous and nitpicks every move of her boyfriends and doesn't get that whole "sport" thing (lol!). Unless you're fulfilling that very stereotype, you'd want as far away from it as possible.

I've been there. Trust me, I've been there. I took pride when I was younger about "not like being other girls". I ran track and loved college & professional hockey and preferred climbing trees & disappearing into nature over retail therapy. I rarely wore pink and I could hold my own in a chat about mixed martial arts. I hated romantic comedies and cheered when things blew up in movies. I never got jealous if I were in a room with a woman who was prettier or skinnier than me. My circle of friends was equally populated by both boys and girls. Man, how not like other girls was I!

But let's be 100% clear, here: there were few things as self-involved as me proclaiming I wasn't like other girls. Self-involved, incorrect, and downright harmful to the female gender as a whole.

It's downright instinctual to want to elevate our status as the expense of others. But what are we saying when we say, "I'm not like other girls."? We're confirming that nasty stereotype: that personality trait that is true for maybe 5% of the population, we confirm as 95%. We indirectly state that most women are undesirable messes, and thank God we're not one of them.

But that can't be further from the truth. The same way women make up 40% of the sports fandom world, the same way women come in all shapes and sizes and reactions. It's time we own this "girl"ness, recognizing fully that it can fall anywhere on the spectrum. That there's nothing wrong with loving pink, or with loving anything but the color pink. That we're so much more than our stereotypes.

To be frank, it's about time we got over ourselves. Because, statistically speaking, we are like other girls. And we're like no one else at the same time, too.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Day 242 of 365: Dear People Who Correct Those Who Say, "I'm Good": You're Wrong.

Okay, this seriously needs to stop.

To the people who ask how someone is doing, only to immediate attack their, "I'm good," statement -- to the people who dust off their pseudo-grammarian caps and go, "Don't you mean I'm well?": Cut it the fuck out. Because you're wrong.

Let's break it down: "good" is an adjective. "Good" is not an adverb. Which is why saying, "We want to do good on the exam," is grammatically incorrect. Instead, we use "well", because "well" can be used as an adverb, as in, "We want to do well on the exam so we can get a good grade in the class."

Now, let's get back to that, "I'm good," statement. You asked how that person is today. Since you were so busy patting yourself on the back about correcting your friend's grammar, you probably didn't notice that, by asking, "How are you today?", you were asking about their state of being. And when said person said, "I'm good," they are letting you know that their state of being is good. And "state of being", while a fun, abstract concept that can send any philosopher and psychologist alike into a lifetime of research and debate, is, for all intents and purposes, a noun.

And what do we use to describe nouns? Adjectives.

Crazy idea, I know! "Good" is not an adverb, and yet we can still use it as an adjective. Someone alert the presses, because this news is going to rock modern society as we know it.

Think of it this way: "goodly", while a horribly outdated word, is still grammatically correct. It can also be used as an adjective, but that's a convoluted tale for another time. Imagine how ridiculous you would sound if you corrected a friend's "grammar" by saying, "Don't you mean, 'I'm goodly'???"

You could say, "I'm doing goodly" and be grammatically correct, although you'll definitely get a few looks from the people listening to you. By the same token, "I'm doing good," is grammatically incorrect, unless they're trying to tell you they are doing good deeds and got lazy by the end of the sentence.

However, this is not to say that "I'm well," is incorrect. It just means, "I'm the opposite of sick," in this instance. And hey, sometimes people really want to let you know that you won't die of the plague by being around them. That's good info to know.

But, all joking aside, let's really get at the meat of why you are correcting your friend's grammar -- and correcting it incorrectly: you are taking a usually-innocuous set of pleasantries as a chance to prove how "intelligent" you are. You're not hoping to educate them on an important matter. You're not hoping to help them sound "smarter"; you're hoping to show them that you know something that they don't know. And the part that really gets under my skin is that you didn't even take the time to go on Google for 10 seconds to make sure you were correct. You were too busy congratulating yourself for being smart to actually look into the matter in the first place.

And regardless: unless you're part of the Totalitarian Grammar Society and your club is having a cocktail party, there's no reason to be correcting anyone's grammar in day-to-day conversations. Who cares if your friend or family member responded with, "I'm good," or "I'm doing good," or "I'm a goodly-good-good-doer with good on the goodly mind!"

Okay, that last one might be a sign that they're due for an evaluation. But aside from that, there is genuinely no reason to nitpick. It's the same reason why I bite my tongue (and silently hope that they'll eventually pay attention to that red dotted line under the word) when people spell ridiculous with an "e". Unless you're proofreading a paper or helping someone write a cover letter, it's mean-spirited to interrupt the flow of a conversation to "correct" someone. I don't care how good (or well/not sick) your intentions were; if you're willing to do that to someone you know -- or worse, someone you just met -- then, at least on some level, you consider yourself superior to them (or you wish you were superior to them in some way). The fact that you are incorrect in your correction makes it just that much worse.

So try it: next time you ask someone how they are, just listen. Even if, "I'm good," is just another insipid line in an arbitrary script that lets other people know just how social we are. Listen to them say, "I'm good," respond back if they ask how you are doing, and -- crazy concept, I know -- enjoy their conversation and company.

Because, seriously, the next person who tries to "correct" my grammar is getting the boot. Or, since the weather is finally warming up, the flip-flop.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Day 241 of 365: We're Better When We Admit We're Not

Do you think you're a good person?

I don't. Well, not about you, anyway. I don't really know you (unless you're someone I know personally, in which case, wow, what a douchebag). But I know me. And I don't think I'm a good person.

In this paragraph, part of me is tempted to list all the reasons why I'm obviously not a not-good person. Do you know why that's the case? Because part of me is a narcissist who doesn't like being told that I'm anything other than a gem of generosity and friendship and kindness.

But notice that I use the term "not-good". I know I'm playing a semantics game by using it over "bad". But there's a huge distinction between "not being a good person" and "being a bad person". I don't think I'm some raging monster who has no right to live. But I recognize that I have those traits in me; traits that could easily come out in the right (or wrong) circumstances. Traits that we all have.

I've talked ad nauseum on this blog about human behavior and why all these great traits that helped our ancestors survive are what will be our undoing eventually. I've been taking this course through Princeton about evolutionary psychology that has all but confirmed all that babble, but that's for another time. The simple fact of the matter is that humans weren't designed to be good; we were designed to survive. And in a world that is "eat or be eat/beat or be beaten", saving our own skin can be at the cost of someone else's. For our ancestors, that was literal: kill that guy or he'll kill you. Wound and drive off that guy or he'll steal your resources. For us, that could mean screwing someone over for a promotion, cutting in line, swerving in and out of traffic, or sending a text message with words we have no right saying to any person in the first place.

That self-absorbed, narcissistic side of me would love to now veer this piece as far away from talking about me as possible, resting comfortably in the abstract "all of humanity/human condition". Yes, let's talk about how every human being is this way in some form and get the onus to talk about shitty human beings off of me. And that makes perfect sense: the early homosapiens who were quick to self-flagelate and admit their flaws were probably pretty low on the social ladder, if not excommunicated from their respective tribes altogether.

But, really, let's talk about me.

Because I genuinely don't think I'm a "good person". I have a volatile and irrational temper. I'm vain as all getout: I check myself in the mirror basically every time I walk past a reflective surface. I'm impatient and easily distractible and egocentric and I can hold onto a grudge in a way that would make my Irish ancestors proud. I can find myself in conversations and immediately wonder when I can jump in with my two cents. I get frustrated and flustered and my go-to response is to shut down when I can't sort it out.

So, what, does this mean I absolutely hate myself? God, no. Like I said: part of me is a narcissist. I could be the worst human being on the planet and still hold myself in high regard. But, in all seriousness, admitting all these things -- admitting that I'm not necessarily a "good person" -- does not mean I'm throwing myself on the train tracks out of despair. It just means that I recognize that thousands of thousands of years of evolution has brought me to this particular chemical makeup, this particular set of personality traits and responses and triggers. My brain -- my emotions, my thoughts and feelings -- are set up for survival the same way my skeletal structure and internal organs are set up for survival. And survival does not really care about "good"ness.

I'm not inherently a good person; the same way everyone isn't inherently a good person. But there's the crazy part: (almost) everyone has the inherent drive to be good. We might have the capability resting dormant in us to, say, punch out an old lady for the last package of Dasani, or say something we know will make someone else cry, but we also have this relentless drive to at least try to be a good person. Granted, it's pretty easy to see from an evolutionary perspective why such a drive is useful: those who had no desire to be good were quickly branded sociopaths (or whatever term they would use back then) and casted out. And every single "good" action we do can eventually be tied back to a selfish, egocentric reason ("I do this good thing because it feels good to do it." "I don't do this bad thing because it feels bad to do it."). But the drive is still there.

I have absolutely no evidence to back this up (other than my own firsthand accounts), but I contend that something changes when we let go of this attitude that "I am a good person" and embrace the fact that it's a lot more complicated than that. I've watched people do things they shouldn't do, say things they shouldn't say, and then downright flail as they try to maintain that they are, at the heart of it all, "good people". What would happen if we just admitted that, yes, we sometimes do shitty things. We're selfish and aggressive and irrational. We'll do things we end up regretting. And why? Because we're not good people, but we have the drive to be.

There is something incredibly freeing in admitting it. I know people will disagree with my sentiment, and that's okay: it's human nature to disagree, sometimes to the point of indignation. And sometimes people are better off holding onto the concept that they're good people, regardless as to how true that statement is. And sometimes we're better people by admitting that we're not as good as we think we are.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Day 240 of 365: A Boost

To say the finale of How I Met Your Mother affected me would be an understatement. I probably played those last scenes in my head a million times that night. I mean, this show has been on the air since before Isaac and I met; watching HIMYM has essentially been a part of our relationship since day one. It was enough for me to write yesterday's blog post at 6 in the morning (because if there is anything that ever gets put on the chopping block for whatever reason, it's my sleep). I polished it up, fixed a few grammatical errors, and sent it to Medium (which, let's be honest here, is Tumblr for intellectuals) and Thought Catalog.

To backtrack, I got spoiled rotten with my Motherhood and Teacher essays on TC. Have a few essays go viral and suddenly everything needs to be a hit. Never mind the type of traffic TC gets. Never mind that even articles on Buzzfeed or Huffington Post are lucky to get a thousand or two shares. It was irking me that my essays would getting a handful of shares and maybe a comment or two.

Of course, it helps that I was writing about pop culture events (emotional essay about dealing with the meaning of life after a friend's mother's passing? Whatever. Essay about a show's finale? ALL the love). But I woke up to one of my most popular essays since, well, the Motherhood essay.

All writers have a bit of narcissism in them. While they write "with the door closed" as Stephen King would say, at the end of the day, we're looking for people to pay attention to our writing. And when we get a sudden influx of attention (for crying out loud, Clutch Magazine ran a piece about my Motherhood essay), only to have it drop off with our other work, it's discouraging.

So, for me, this boost is huge, in so many ways. Yes, it's nice to get a bit of recognition from complete strangers. But it's a reminder that I'm not a complete doofus for devoting so much time to this particular craft. My writing is why I haven't gone on and picked up the first administrative assistant position I can find. I can shrug my shoulders and say it's because of my tai chi teaching, my yoga classes, my sporadic go-sees and occasional modeling jobs. But the reality is, is that I'm not focusing on getting that ~big break~ in modeling before I have kids. I'm not focusing on opening my own studio before I have kids. But I am focusing on maybe -- just maybe -- getting a book deal before I have kids. Finishing that third manuscript (which I just get such a good feeling about) before I have kids. I know that having children doesn't necessarily mean, "THE END OF ALL THE GOOD THINGS FOR YOU AS AN ADULT." But it's a goal. The same way running this year's Chicago Marathon is a goal.

So I plan on riding this bit of extra attention as I continue to plow through Manuscript #3 (which is so stupidly close to the end, but I'm at all the parts I can't rush through -- something I can talk about on a later post) and feel just a little bit better about the fact that I'm essentially the New Hampshire version of NYC Trust Fund Babies trying to "make it as a writer".

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Day 239 of 365: Five Things From the HIMYM Finale That Were Actually True to Life

I remember when How I Met Your Mother first came out. To say I wasn't an instant fan is an understatement. In fact, I spent half of the first season avoiding it because I saw the synopses of the first handful of episodes ("Man realizes he needs to get serious about dating"/"Best friend proposes to his fiancée/"Financée has doubts about her life") and all I could think was, "Man, yet another show that falls into the clichéd trope of man falls for his best friend's fiancée."

Man, I couldn't have been more wrong.

One of the things I loved about How I Met Your Mother (at least, at first) was the fact that it portrayed the adult world without super-glamorizing it. It held no punches as relationships floundered, as career aspirations floundered, as each character dealt with disappointment (because, let's face it, "disappointment" and "the real world" go hand in hand sometimes). My heart broke when Marshall came to terms with the fact that he didn't meet the goals he set for himself as a freshman in college. I felt for Robin when she struggled to make it as a journalist, only to get assigned mediocre tasks that got her no where. I wanted to cry when I listened to Lily admit that sometimes she didn't want to be a mom, that sometimes it was too much to be a teacher and come home to take care of yet more children. You understood just a little too well when Ted and Robin broke up because it was clear that their relationship had an expiration date.

Now, do not get me wrong: this show got silly in its last few seasons. All shows do. I'm hard-pressed to think of any show over 7 seasons that didn't jump the shark in some way. But the finale, while garnering mixed reviews, reminded us that this show can provide that mirror to the way the world works. Maybe it's because the ending was written in Season One (with Ted very obviously acting against very old footage), but there was a lot to this episode that is very much true to real life:

1. People get divorced. Barney and Robin were not meant to be together. We knew this from the first time they tried to do a relationship. They have the chemistry, but not that extra little something to make it work. And, even though an entire farking season was devoted to their wedding, three years later, they realize that it's no longer working. And they get divorced.

There's no plate-throwing or name-calling. Just a mutual realization that they're dragging each other down and an understanding that, while they love each other, they're at the end of the road. Because divorce happens. It takes a very specific type of relationship dynamic to make it work over a lifetime. The world is filled with more "Barney/Robin"s then they are of "Marshal/Lily"s.

2. Tight-knit groups drift apart. It's a hard truth about adulthood. The real world has a funny way of isolating you from even the closest groups of friends. You can declare as loud as you want that you'll "totally be friends forever!" At the end of the day, life happens. People move away. People raise kids. Suddenly, that group of friends you had -- the ones you met with nearly every day for a drink -- becomes the smattering of people you "catch up with" from time to time.

3. Life isn't always super-orthodox. Ted meets the Mother, Ted proposes to the Mother, Ted plans this incredible wedding in a 17th century castle. The wedding is then canceled. Why? Because the Mother finds out she is pregnant. Seven years and two kids later, they finally tie the knot -- a wedding that was perpetually put off because of work, kids, and -- oh hey -- life.

We're so used to the main character, when he or she finally finds the Love of Their Life, to do everything in the "correct" order: marriage, house, kids, and so on, and so forth. But sometimes you don't go down that orthodox path. And that's okay. It's no longer 1954; we recognize that there are other ways to live your life outside of the Cleaver Lifestyle.

4. People get sick. Now, do not get me wrong: how this storyline was handled was incredibly problematic. From the fact that we just find out "she's sick" and nothing else, to the fact that we have this bit of information thrown on us just minutes before another bombshell... I mean, for crying out loud, we spent an entire farking season on the week before a wedding, with more time-wasters than you could shake a stick at, and they give us thirty seconds to digest this bit of information? Nah, kid. Nah. That ain't fahkin' okay.

But it's the sad truth: being someone's The One -- being the entire reason this show is on in the first place -- is not enough to stop things like cancer. It's not enough to be diagnosed with a degenerative disease. Lymphoma doesn't care if you're a mother of two. Breast Cancer is indifferent to who you are as a person. And the really heartbreaking truth is that people don't always get better. Sometimes people get diagnosed, fight the good fight, and succumb. No amount of prayers or hope or "good energy" will stop it. And it sucks. The hardest realization about life is that it ends. For everyone. And sometimes a loved one's number is called up a lot sooner than you expected.

5. Life goes on after death. Again, do not get me wrong: how this storyline was handled was incredibly problematic. We spent nine flippin' seasons being told why Robin and Ted wouldn't actually work out. We listen to this incredibly intricate story about Ted's life, only to find out that he's only telling it as an subconscious way to get his children's permission to date Robin (and what 14-year-old girl is so flippant about her dad's sex life? "Yeah, my mom died, but that was, like, totally six years ago. Having that happen when I was eight totally didn't shape my entire schema about life and parenting. You totes want to bang your friend.") To say it left a gnarly taste in a lot of fan's mouths is a bit of an understatement.

But, really, that's how life is. It goes on. And, yeah, the sad truth is, is that Ted and Robin probably still won't work out. And that this relationship is basically both party's second choice. But this dating story is very similar to so many other dating stories of divorcés/widows/widowers in their 50s. This recognition that life is not a fairy tale, and sometimes True Love isn't Forever Love -- at least not while on Earth -- and a downright blind stab at companionship again. I'm sure some fangirls want this to be proof that "yes they were truly meant to be together!" But the reality of the situation is that it's a man just trying to find love again.

This show wasn't perfect. The finale was far from perfect (and we never found out what happened with that goat!) But there's a reason why this show had such a loyal following. There are a million shows out there with enough "one true love" storylines to make even Hallmark want to vomit. I contend that what made this show so special was because, at the end of the day, it was just five friends trying to figure it all out, only to realize that you never have it all figured out. Maybe you'll end up like Lily/Marshall. Maybe you'll end up like Barney. Maybe you'll be like Ted/Traci. I don't see anyone stealing a blue horn for the third time in real life (and, really, are we seriously supposed to believe that the restaurant stayed in business that long? In this economy?), but the finale reminded us that real life provides us with some of the most dynamic storylines of all.