Life as Amber knows it

"An adventure in the making…"

No Reasons Given

I’ve had my body judged my whole life.

“You’re so short.”

“You’re too thin.”

“Isn’t it time you lost the baby weight?”

“You’ve really put on a lot of weight.”

“I see you’ve been enjoying your groceries.”

“If you gain any more weight is that ring still going to fit?”

“Fat bitch.”

“Skinny bitch.”

Every time I’d hear a negative comment about my body, the same thing would happen: my face would flush with shame that I didn’t measure up to whoever was making the comment’s yard stick of how I should look, my shoulders would slump, I’d avoid eye contact, my heart would hurt, I’d be fighting tears, and I’d apologize or explain why my body was. On the rare occasion I was feeling brave, I’d cut the other person down with my words.

Three years ago, I had apologized to a new friend about how my body looked, even though they had actually just complimented me on how great my legs looked. They looked me up and down, tilted my chin up so I would meet their eyes and they said something to me that hit me very hard: “There is nothing wrong with your body and how you look. You’re a beautiful woman, inside and out. But there is something very wrong with how you see yourself.”

It says something about how my life was that those kind words were the exception, not the rule.

Flash to now, at a time in my life where I am at my healthiest spiritually, emotionally and physically. I’ve shed a lot of weight, not just physical, but I’ve walked away from toxic friendships and toxic situations, choosing to immerse myself in a world in which it is okay to just be who you are and how you are, with no explanations needed or given. You just simply be yourself and you are accepted and loved unconditionally.

The past three years have been a journey in self discovery, self love, and most importantly, healing.

Last week, during a photo shoot, someone made comments about my body yet again, in the whole ball-busting style of passive aggression I loathe and have an almost physically ill to my stomach response to when I see or hear happen. This person has not seen me for a good year and a half, and I could see the surprise on their face when they saw me in person and saw how very  much I’ve changed since the last time we saw one another in person.

“Don’t exhale near Amber, she’ll fall over she’s so tiny now.”

“You don’t need to get Amber lunch, clearly she no longer eats.”

“Don’t drink that water, you might get fat again.”

I made it through three comments. Three comments and I hit my limit. I stepped out of the shot, walked directly over to the person who made the comments, my head held high, my shoulders back. If my face flushed, it was in anger, not shame. I looked that person in the eyes, and forty two years of being teased and made fun of bubbled up to the surface.

I didn’t apologize for my body, I did not make a hateful comment in response.

What I did was look them directly in their eyes and said, “There is no reason or call for you to make comments on my body. Stop it now.”

“Don’t be so sensitive,” they responded, barely meeting my eyes.

“You’re lucky I’m so sensitive; if I weren’t, I can promise you would be ugly crying with what I’d say to you.”

The photo shoot went on with zero comments from the peanut gallery regarding how my body looks.

I cried on the drive home, cried my way through my shower, cried on the way to the studio to take practice before teaching, cried while I was talking with a friend via text while waiting for my class to start, and cried on the shoulder of a friend I ran into when I dropped into a restaurant for dinner after I taught.

I don’t care if the person who made those comments reads this and knows they hurt me. I’m past the point in my life where I put up a front, hiding behind a brave face, not being honest about how I feel or how I’m doing.

And I am done apologizing or explaining away who I am, how I look, the people I choose to spend time with, how I spend my free time.

I’ve been on both sides of different issues or ideals or philosophies. The whole stay at home mom versus working mom debate. The whole breastfeeding versus bottle feeding debate. Being painfully underweight because my first husband would not accept a fat wife and I starved myself to please him. Being overweight because life and my health and bad choices led me there. Being fit because I made life changes.

People tend to get defensive or offended if we have a different mindset or philosophy. If we choose a different path than they themselves are on. It almost seems as if our choices make them feel judged.

Is it any wonder I’m happiest in a yoga studio, where the only rules seem to be “just show up and breathe”, “take care of yourself,” and “you be you and I’ll be me, and we’ll love one another for the beauty of our differences and the beauty of our similarities”?

I’ve been called both “fat bitch” and “skinny bitch”. Both hurt equally as bad, for the simple reason that hearing either of those phrases from the lips of another person, it gives the impression that that is all they are seeing of you: the wrapping. It discredits and makes expendable all the other parts of who I am as a person when a I’m described by what’s on the outside.

Fat, skinny, curvy, fit: how ever my body has been, whatever my size and shape, I am still Amber, a woman who is a mother, friend, aunt, author, yoga instructor, artist, and so many other things. No matter what my body looks like, I’ll still be the person who will offer a hug to someone who’s hurting, or just because hugs are amazing. I’ll still be the person who is going to run full on for a damn good Italian meal, who does a happy dance when she gets good news, who will never say no to a Malbec wine. I’ll still be the person who says “I love you” for no reason other than I love you, who screams like a maniac while watching baseball, who’s prone to do somersaults just because, who throws her phone to friends so they can take a photo of her popping up into a handstand.

A friend I told about the photo shoot asked what they could do to cheer me up. “Never use “fat/skinny bitch” again, please,” was my response, not that they ever have or ever would use a phrase that cruel. Another friend suggested a comeback that would hit below the belt; and while I might have at one time in my life used an acid tongue to make my point, I no longer have it within me. To respond with unkindness in no way would undo the unkindness that was directed at me.

At age forty-two, I no longer measure my worth, my value on the number I see on the scale, on the size tags on my clothing. I measure it in how I move through my day, how I treat people I have no reason to be nice to, how I react to other people’s actions, how much peace I feel when I’m on my mat, either as a student or a teacher. It’s been quite some time since what I eat and how often I exercise is related to self care and self love versus looking good in a bikini.

I only wish my friend last week could hold my true weight and worth in the same way. Because I no longer hold space for those who are unkind, even if they think it’s all in good fun and a joke. Because it’s neither a good fun or a joke when it hurts a person’s heart.

Love each other and yourselves,

Amber Jerome~Norrgard

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Ishvara Pranidhana

It’s a Saturday night, and I’m not out with friends. I’m at home, mixing paint with water, a flow medium, and acrylic oil. Once the colors have all been mixed, I’ll layer them in a beginningcup, then upend the cup I’ve poured the different colors in. A few minutes to allow it to settle against the canvas, then I’ll pull the cup, and spend several minutes tilting the canvas back and forth.

People who have known me for more than two years were shocked when I told them I had been taught pour painting by a friend and that I was absolutely smitten with the process.

middle 1There’s no real control in pour painting, past the point in the process when you layer the paint in a cup. You can create striations in the paint by shifting the canvas back and forth in a certain way, but the process takes a certain amount of letting go and letting what will be, be.

For myself, learning  the process of pour painting was an exercise in the yogic practices of the yamas and niyamas. There was the lesson of Ahimsa, non-harming, on the afternoon I crouched in a squat for ten minutes, slowly adding paint to a canvas through a strainer while a friend of mine spun the canvas beneath it, and realizing the next day I had over extended my hip flexors to the point I had to take a few days off from my yoga practice. Satya, truthfulness, in learning to be honest that sometimes my work was amazing; other times, it was “meh.”  Santosha, contentment, in accepting my paintings as they were. Svadhyaya, self-study, in how I always cleaned between pours at the beginning of a pouring session, and would tend to worry about the clean up later on in the process. Ishvara Pranidhana, surrender, more so than any other yama or niyama, because ultimately, my paintings would turn out how they would turn out.

I never intended to become an artist. Raised by a CPA and a hard-core, old-school, traditional Catholic, I was told from a young age that my goal in life needed to be motherhood. College was for the purpose of finding a husband to support me and become the father of my children.

I walked away from a scholarship at St. Gregory’s College in Shawnee, Oklahoma at age eighteen, one month before I would have begun my freshman year of college, the thought in my head that if I continued following the path my parents had planned for me, I’d be lost. My first marriage happened at age nineteen, my second at twenty-seven, motherhood for the first time one month shy of my twenty-eighth birthday.

I’d set out with various plans in place, ideas and ideals about how my life would be, yet things never would pan out as they had on paper. There is a belief held quite strongly by people that if you stray from the path you’re intended to be on, the Universe will shift you back onto that path; sometimes gently, sometimes with great force.

Looking back, so much of my life was spent in the pursuit of fulfilling other people’s ideas of who I should be, how I should look, how I should behave. Yet there would be moments where I’d get a realization of not being my true self, and would feel a tightening around my chest of fear of losing who I was.

Yet I had no idea who that woman was. I had no idea how to figure it out. I had other people’s versions of me they had been describing to me, yet I didn’t have my own idea of who I was.

At age thirty-nine, I had a wake up call. Laying in my bed at 6 a.m., watching diamond shapes of stained glass cast by the light coming through my bedroom window slowly shift across my bedspread I realized that the crisis I had been struggling through the last few years was my fault and my fault alone; certainly other people had taken part in it. Yet I owned the responsibility as the one who allowed it to take place.

I stopped listening to other people’s stories of me. I stopped listening to what they thought I should do, who they thought I was, and only listened to that interior voice, letting it be my guide. I began taking part in things I had told myself I had no interest in, just to see how they fit. I stopped thinking of what could go wrong, stopped being concerned what my friends thought of what I was doing, and put myself first for the first time in my life.

Painting was just that: I had been told for years I had no talent for art. And maybe I did not have a talent for it. But that belief came from people telling me I couldn’t, similar to someone telling a ten year old they can’t drive. They have no experience with it, of course they can’t do it. They haven’t been taught how to do it.

I hadn’t been taught how to paint. I had no background in it. Yet I still signed up for a local paint nite class. My first painting wasn’t perfect, but even now I can still look at it hanging on the wall by my desk in my home office and be proud of the effort and the end result.

One class led to many, and a friendship with the instructor. A part of me I did not know existed came to life.

Two years later, post yoga instructor certification, my friendship with my instructor Jessi yielded an invitation to come to her house and try pour painting. It was like heroin: I tried it once and became addicted. I’d ask friends for color combinations, pour out a painting, and when it dried, hand it over to the friend who had made the suggestions. Or I’d put together different combinations, wanting to continue that rush of seeing what happened when I pulled the cup from the canvas. Handing an orange pour painting to my friend Iris inspired Iris and her husband to hire me to do a larger canvas for their home. Relaying the story to my boss at the gym I work for, he and his wife commissioned me to do a large canvas.

Yet, despite how far I came from that morning in 2016 watching those diamond shapes of colors float across my bedspread, I still couldn’t completely let go. Letting go has never been my strong suit, with good reason: I’ve had to fight for my mental and physical health for years, for motherhood, for jobs, to be remembered by so called friends who always seemed to forget my birthday or that they were supposed to meet me for dinner.

Every time I’ve layered paint in a cup, it’s been an exercise in Ishvara Pranidhana, in letting go, in surrendering to the idea that what will be, will be. Even the commissions middle 2.jpgI’m hired to do, I warn my clients to not get too attached to the outcome of the test pour, because the final pour will be much different. No two pours are the same, even those that are done with the same set of paints, the same amount of each color, the same order of paint colors. I pull that cup, and chaos reigns.

And in doing so, I began to truly learn to surrender, to have faith, to let go. That even if it wasn’t what I had planned, even if it is not what I imagined things would turn out as, it is in no way less beautiful, no way less needed, no way less important.

In retrospect, those times in my life in which I did let go and not worry about the end result, no longer trying to control the outcome, the Universe gave me the most beautiful and striking experiences of my life.

I’ve named every painting I’ve poured, whether poured for my own experience, my own wall decoration, or a client’s painting. I may have asked for suggestions on names, especially with those pieces commissioned by a client, but each piece stands out, each has been a piece of moving forward, a lesson learned, a gift of healing.

EndSaturday night, I mixed paint with water, flow medium, acrylic oil. I layered it in a cup, flipped the cup over on top of a canvas, tapped on the top of the cup to help it settle, then pulled the cup from the canvas. I tilted the canvas back and forth, not concerned with the end result, yet attached to the end, wanting to see how exactly this particular painting would turn out. I watched off and on for a few hours after I placed it back on the cups I was using to prop the painting up to dry, seeing the cells of acrylic oil shift and move.

About twelve hours after the pour, the canvas begins to dry, the cells of oil stop shifting, things begin to lock into place. And the end is there. There’s nothing left to let go of, there is only the opportunity to be grateful to have the chance to let go, and surrender to faith that the universe will give us what we need when we’re ready to receive it.

 

Love yourself and love each other,

 

Amber Jerome~Norrgard

Forty-Two Things I’ve Learned in Forty-Two Years of Living

Okay, so I totally slacked on doing this last year. I fully intended to write out forty-one things I had learned. Then I got busy with HIIT training, a gift from a dear friend I made in Yoga Instructor Certification Training. And then another friend of mine made it a goal to do one hundred yoga practices in January of last year. And I was kinda watching it to get inspired and to support him, but also because that’s a really awesome goal, which ended with him getting one hundred and TWELVE practices in January, which is beyond impressive. There was the passing of a dear friend the week before my birthday. I fully intended to write the list “next week”. But then next week became the week after that, and when it comes to my own writing, occasionally, it gets placed on the back burner because three kids and paid work tend to take the lead in my life.

So here you are, Dear Reader: what I’ve learned in my life that stands out as I’m coming up on age forty-two. Or “Forty-Two’d” as my friend Geoff says, referencing my ability to stand strong with fortitude, no matter the circumstances.

1.) Stop apologizing for your joy. Whether it’s food, hobbies, music, people you spend time with, or movies you like to watch.

2.) Remember the little things. All those little things, those small moments of grace, those small moments of joy, of peace, of beauty, those add up to an amazing life.

3.) Walk away from people who try to change you to fit the definition of what they want you to be. You are who you are. Embrace it. Love it. Never apologize for it.

4.) You can walk away from situations and people that are painful to you or just no longer working for you without anger and hatred. You simply say “this is no longer working for me,” and exit with kindness.

5.) Don’t waste your energy on people who treat you like you’re expendable. Simply walk away. There are better people waiting for you, who will love you and treat you as you deserve to be treated.

6.) Treat people as they need and want to be treated.

7.) Love fully and without reservation and without condition.

8.) Never wait to say “I love you” out of fear.

9.) The people I love, admire, and respect most in the world are the people who treat all people with kindness and compassion.

10.) You have every right to feel whatever you feel in any given moment. It’s what you do with how you’re feeling that is what matters.

11.) We don’t only live once. We die once. We live every day if we do it right.

12.) Anything you want in this world, a healthier body, a job you love, good friends, and a healthy relationship to name a few, are worth the hard work it takes to gain it, and even more worth the hard work it takes to maintain it.

13.) Stop making excuses, and start doing.

14.) Stop telling the world how amazing you are and simply show how amazing you are.

15.) “K” in response to any message still pisses me off. Give me the half second it takes to hit “O” before you type in “K”.

16.) “Skinny bitch” is just as hurtful to hear as “Fat bitch”. I’ve heard both far too often in my journey to a healthy body.

17.) Ask yourself if you’re doing something because it serves a purpose in your life, or are you doing it out of habit.

18.) Be the type of friend you would like to have in your life.

19.) Sometimes, it’s more than enough to get up, inhale and exhale, repeat, then go back to bed at the end of the day.

20.) Never measure yourself by someone else’s yardstick.

21.) Try anything at least once.

22.) Sometimes, you just gotta flip a coin to make your decision.

23.) Take people at their word. If they tell you they’re happy in their line of work, have no interest in getting married, aren’t ready for a relationship, or don’t want a child, don’t attempt to change their mind set, or be offended when they turned out to be exactly who they said they were.

24.) If you present yourself as one way to the world, don’t be offended when you’re treated as such.

25.) I don’t care what you look like. I don’t care what your job is, where you came from, how large your bank account is, or what type of car you own. I don’t care about the labels on your clothing. What I care about is how you’ll treat the waiter or the person who empties the trash.

26.) Stop making excuses. Just do the damn thing you’ve wanted to do.

27.) You are under no obligation to apologize for your feelings. Feel what you feel when you feel it. You are however under the obligation to handle those feelings responsibly and not take them out on anyone else.

28.) You are not your past. What you did before, what you have survived to come out on the other side of, these are things that you did or went through, THEY ARE NOT YOU. You are who you choose to become.

29.) Be yourself. Always. The right kind of people will love you as you are.

30.) Listen to that little voice inside yourself that tells you when things aren’t right.

31.) Listen to that little voice inside yourself that tells you to take a leap of faith.

32.) If you woke up and are breathing, you’ve got good news, baby!

33.) Never allow those who are unkind to tell you your self worth and value.

34.) You can have as many plastic surgeries as you want, but nothing will change the date you were born.

35.) There is nothing as healing as unconditional love.

36.) If you’ve hurt someone, tell them you’re sorry.

37.) Give back to your community.

38.) I love those people who aren’t afraid to show their flaws. It makes them human, and therefore, possible to love.

39.) There are no mistakes. Only learning experiences.

40.) Eat the damn cupcake.

41.) No matter what the relationship is, abuse of any type is unacceptable.

42.) I finally know what I want to be when I grow up: Content.

Your experience is not my experience

Several months ago, a friend of mine met someone I was acquainted with. I listened to them go on and on about how amazing this person was, all the while biting my tongue.

The person in question was a huge factor in a dear friend’s divorce.

I’m not saying my friend’s now ex-husband was guilt-free; quite the contrary, he held just as much responsibility in the affair as the person in question did.

Yet, to my friend, this person in question is amazing. They’re funny, they’re carefree, have interesting stories, and are entertaining. He views her in a positive light. Me? My mind can’t seem to get past my dear friend calling me, crying hysterically to confirm her husband and the father of her children had been having an affair for several months with a woman young enough to be their daughter. My mind can’t seem to get past the hurt someone I know and love dearly experienced at someone’s choice to engage in an extramarital affair.

As yogis, we tend to try and live non-judgemental lives. We try and approach things with open hearts and minds, try to veer away from hard, angry words and actions. We try to find unconditional love and acceptance of scenarios, things, people, places.

Yet, I still struggle. Especially when it comes to those I love, especially when you watch the pain and hurt, not only with a dear friend, but that of her children who are missing their father. Of seeing a marriage and a life shatter into a million pieces when one of the people wielding the sledgehammer to destroy that marriage and life walks away after taunting and being cruel to one of the people in your life you love deeply.

I recently had a discussion with a friend regarding red meat, something I don’t indulge in due to how it affects me physically. “I can’t imagine not being able to have a steak. How the hell do you not eat steak?” he’d asked me, and I’d responded simply, “Your experience is not my experience.” For me, eating a steak would be doing to my body what that affair did to my friend’s marriage: I’d be a mess after, and it would be weeks before I’d feel like rejoining the world at large.

Another recent conversation with a work colleague involved them telling me that yoga just didn’t do anything for them. I was beyond confused momentarily, until I asked them what their experience was with it: 105 degree studios, instructors who barked orders at students like it was basic training, other students who had surly attitudes. And while I’ve had similar experiences to my work colleague, I had the good fortune of landing in a studio that is a love based community, where the instructors guide you, where the temperature is the optimal level to promote detox and relaxation. His experience was not my experience.

I bring all these examples up because I’ve been seeing way too much of “You’re wrong” and “I can’t believe you believe that” of late. And we need to try as a world to gain a bit more understanding, a bit more kindness, a bit more compassion. We need to channel our inner Phoebe Buffay and let people believe how they believe and feel how they feel, unless  it’s going to hurt us or others.

It’s not my place to tell my friend that his new friend isn’t how she appears to him, any more than it’s my friends’ place to force red meat down my throat in an effort to show me what I’m missing out on.

Be kind. Be understanding. Be compassionate. Be loving. Make this year the one you stop, take a moment, and try and see things from a different point of view.

Much love,

 

Amber Jerome~Norrgard.

Aparigraha

A few weeks ago, I had the honor of babysitting my friends’ two year old twins, Penelope and Phillipe. As toddlers, those two are nothing but bundles of love, joy, laughter, passion, and grabby need. In the six hours they were over, I cut up about ten thousand pounds of fruit and vegetables, changed seven diapers (Penelope is taking after her dear Auntie Amber in how often she uses the facilities), watched my thirteen year old reconfirm their decision to not have children, and broke up several small spats over various items the twins deemed theirs.

In all honesty, I had a blast: my youngest child turned eight (!!!) last month, and having the twins over for an afternoon and evening gave me a lovely nostalgia trip to the time in my life where I had two under two, both in diapers.

aparigraha3I somehow forgot about the “MINE!!!!” shrieks. If you have children, or are around small children, you’re well acquainted with the “MINE!!!!” shrieks. If not, I’ll briefly enlighten you. “MINE!!!!” shrieks are often heard in the company of small children, primarily toddlers who are learning boundaries and what’s up in the world. Pretty much, if a toddler sees something, it becomes their’s. If they put it down to go investigate something else, and you pick it up, even if it’s the squeaky moose plushie your one eyed rescue dog Pekoe loves to sleep with, said toddler is going to shriek, much like a banshee, “MINE!!!!” It doesn’t matter if it really is theirs or not; if they see it, you can just go ahead and accept that they’re going to want it, and if they can’t have it, they’re going to make sure that people in the next state over hear about it.

Which is a lovely segue into this week’s spiritual sadhana: Aparigraha, non-possessiveness.

Like most people, I’ve accumulated a great deal of crap in my life. When my father passed four years ago, like most children of a parent who dies, I was left with the job of cleaning out my father’s house. Which had about fifty years worth of my father’s belongings in it. I’m fairly certain he kept every single card he was sent or given in the years he lived as an adult. There was a large quantity of paperwork, photos, momentoes, school records and awards my brother and I had accumulated, a stack of thirty copies of the newspaper my first piece of published writing appeared in (which brought me to tears), more books than I could begin to count, National Geographic magazines, Reader’s Digest, and about one hundred and fifty (I shit you not) bars of soap from various hotels.

At the end of the process of cleaning out his house, a bulk of what my father accumulated, things he never used, was taken away by a 1-800-GOT-JUNK. He wasn’t a hoarder, because everything was neatly contained (with exception to his recipe box, but hey, you need that sucker totally filled and haphazard). Yet, for all those material things he had accumulated, none of them went with him when he passed away.

It inspired me to take the time every six months to go through everything I own and either donate it, give it to a friend who can use it, throw it away if it’s no longer functioning, set it aside to be decided on later, or sell it. Back in my early twenties, everything I owned could be put into 4 large Rubbermaid bins and two suitcases. With the purchase of a home and three kids though, you start collecting stuff. With a larger income, you stop really weighing if you truly need something, or if it’s an impulse buy.

aparigraha2But going through my items every six months or so has kept me honest about if I truly need something, or if it’s something that’s useful, or something I’m holding onto because I can’t bear to part with it. What I learned from cleaning out my father’s house was that much as I wanted to hold onto him, he was gone and the items in his house? They were just items. Holding onto them when they served no purpose in my life was harmful. Holding onto something because it did serve a purpose was beneficial (ie: the gorgeous wooden console record player I kept has a radio, and I’m one of those who still purchases records to play; that item served a purpose).

In life, how often do we hold onto that which no longer serves us, whether it’s a broken mug, a job that brings us nothing but grief, a relationship that’s long overdue to end. How often do we hold onto clothing that not only does not fit us size wise, but is no longer a representation of who we are as an individual?

Everything we have in this life is borrowed; we have to give it back at the end, even our breath. At the end of our lives, we take nothing with us. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

On our mats, we’re instructed to exhale, releasing that which doesn’t serve us. We’re asked to let go of what might be weighing on us before we begin our practice. One of myaparigraha4 favorite instructors at my primary studio often reminds us that one day, we have to give back all the postures we learn. They do not belong to us, we just experience them until it’s time to let them go.

In the practice of aparigraha this week, I’ll be starting my household purge a few months early. That which no longer serves me will go onto a place where it can serves others. On my mat, I’ll accept the postures as them come, whether it’s the most basic version or the most advanced version, let go of any expectations I have coming to my mat each practice and let go of any negative thoughts that come with the postures.

Much love Dear Reader,

 

Amber Jerome~Norrgard

Grief

Ever see the movie Fatal Attraction? Michael Douglas’ character Dan has an affair with Glenn Close’s character Alex Forrest. She goes bat-shit, stalking him, wrecking his car, picking his daughter up from school, boiling the poor kid’s bunny. The movie is a good example of why it’s best to stick to your vows and not cheat on your spouse. During a heated confrontation between the two, Alex shouts at Dan, “I won’t be ignored, Dan!”

Grief is like that.

It’s a bit of a stalker. What we don’t face, what we don’t resolve, and let go of, we’re going to be facing it, one way or another.

Back in 2009, I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and anxiety after my heart rate shot up to 160 beats per minute and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Talking with the admitting nurse, she asked me if I had any past experience with abuse. Already floating on a high dose of Xanax (it had been determined my heart was fine and I was just experiencing a major panic attack), I’d opened up and talked about my mother.

“There are many studies showing that psychiatric patients who haven’t dealt with childhood abuse suffer from anxiety; if it’s not dealt with, the trauma from the experience can manifest as an anxiety disorder in adults.”

Long story short: I entered therapy not long after. But there were moments, sitting on that big couch in my therapists office where I’d get slammed with a panic attack when revisiting those bad experiences from my youth, not just those related to my mother. On more than one occasion, I’d hit my limit and say, “I don’t want to do this!” The therapist, bless her, would step back from it, and we’d resume talking it out the next week.

I still never lost my tendency to run from emotions. I’d joke my way out of them, I’d push people away if they got to close, I’d wall up and shut down in an effort to shield myself from hurt. It was how I knew how to process things. “Yeah, we’re not going there,” was a common response I’d have to anything related to anything emotional.

My father dying though, that was impossible to run from. It was right there, front and center, and when you’re the child of a person who has passed on who is single, you’re the one dealing the estate, the funeral arrangements, getting rid of what they left behind. All while you’re heart is breaking. Then you have everyone who knew your parent needing to talk about it, talk about their loss. A friend of mine tells the story that when his wife’s father passed, everyone kept telling her to take care of her mother, until she got overwhelmed enough to say, “And who’s taking care of me? I just lost my father.”

That’s the thing though: I didn’t mind hearing people’s stories when my father passed, because it kept him alive. What I did mind was people making it about them without regard for how I was doing. Today, I still bristle when someone talks about how much they miss my father without honoring how much I miss him. Selfish? Maybe it is, and maybe I am in that.

But around the two month mark after my father passed, I hit my limit. Rather than lash out at anyone else, I just shut down. I closed down the doors of my heart, and unless it was my children, no one got it. My children still had the full me; the rest of the world, not so much.

There were moments what I was running from would crack through: attending the MLB All Star Game in 2015 on my father’s birthday found me with tears streaking down my face when Sandy Koufax threw out the first pitch. Walking into Wrigley Field in April 2016, I might have cried, except it was about thirty-two degrees outside, and the tears would have frozen. But two weeks later, reaching the terminus sign of Route 66, I stared up at it, and tears ran down my cheeks thinking I wouldn’t be able to tell my father I had finally achieved driving Route 66 from start to finish.

For the most part, I was on emotional lock down. I’d view experiences from a distance. But I never fully let myself open up and experience them.

Entering yoga instructor certification training in September 2017, one of the first things we did was go around the room and talk about ourselves. I stood up, talked about being a mother, author, and publisher, and said I was looking for more meaningful work. A few classmates later, a woman talked about her many pregnancy losses. Another woman told her story of her own pregnancy losses, and I felt something moving down my cheek. Putting my hand to my face, I realized I was crying.

I pretty much cried every day I was in the studio from that point on. See, we were forced to be honest and upfront, all the while being told repeatedly we were loved and it was okay to be flawed and imperfect. It was okay to not take postures correctly so long as we weren’t hurting one another. And then I had the owner and one of our primary instructors in the program up in my face every single time she saw me (and multiple times on the weekends when certification training was going on) saying to me over and over again: “I love you. You are worthy. I am so happy you’re here.”

Here’s the problem with all that: I began to heal. I began to trust in the process once I let go of my own personal bullshit and embrace being loved and loving in return. But in order to trust in the process, in order to move forward and heal, I had to open up.

And there was Grief, doing it’s best Alex Forrest impersonation, except it wasn’t going after Dan, it was going after me, “I’m not going to be ignored, Amber.”

Up until this last year of my life, there’s been this knee jerk response of “Hey how can we just put this off until later?” in regards to my hurt. Dealing with my past of abuse, not just as a child but in my first marriage? Let’s just take a pill to ease the anxiety and put a bandaid on it, because really, do we want to look too closely, do we really want to revisit a time when I was treated as worthless and beaten? Men ending things? Let’s just move onto the next man and drown ourselves in sex rather than face someone not loving me. Father dies? Hey, let’s just get drunk and take a lot of trips and not face something you can’t place blame on.

So now, now I’m having to face things head on. Because I refused to do the hard work and face it when it went on. Which is not surprising: if you see a cactus, you know it’ll hurt if you touch one of it’s needles, so you just don’t touch the needles. That’s been my mindset for forty years of my life: let’s not touch it. Let’s just know it happened and not face it head on. Let’s just ignore it, much like an ex of mine ignored the leak in his ceiling. Yet me ignoring past hurts, me not facing them, me not learning to process and heal on my own, that worked out just as well as my ex ignoring that leak, but instead of a water heater crashing down into my kitchen, my previous hurts, my previous heartaches, those are coming to the surface.

Except I’m not ignoring them now. I’m not at my doctor’s office or my psychiatrist’s office requesting an anti-depressant or anti-anxiety pill. I’m not using sex as anything other than what the one of two reasons you do it are: enjoyment. I’m not getting myself good and drunk to quiet my thoughts, I’m simply enjoying a drink with a friend over dinner, or enjoying my weekend tradition of brunch while getting miscellaneous work done since the place I frequent for brunch has free WiFi and I like talking to the staff.

Yet, putting it off, I’m still struggling. I’ve spent this last week owning up to how I feel, however that is in any given moment. If I need to cry, I cry, no matter where I’m at, although I do apologize to the poor twenty-something guy who was sitting next to me earlier this week at a bar when I started crying while watching the All Star Game. Said gentleman will one day make an excellent significant other because he asked me to tell him about my dad. I’ve given heads up to all my yoga instructors before class that I might cry, and they don’t need to make a big deal out of it. I’m being honest with how I feel when I feel it, and unlike the last three years, the grief has been less.

But the grief is there. As it should be, because I had a damn good father. And I miss him, as I should, because he was one of the most important people in my life.

Love,

 

Amber Jerome~Norrgard

Repost: A Good-bye to My Father

I’ve been mulling something over these last few weeks. There’s been an internal debate as to whether or not to write a new post on the anniversary of my father’s death. It would certainly be understandable if I did: my father was an amazing person with a huge heart, and the world lost an angel when he passed away.

I’ve sat down, multiple times, with the intention of writing something to celebrate the man who raised me as his own. I’d start with the words, “My father,” then stall out. Or a work project would come in. Or I’d get asked to sub in teaching yoga. Or one of my kids would be busy annoying another one of my kids by breathing within 100 miles of the second kid, with me shouting, “I don’t care how annoying it is, I’m not going to ask your sister to stop breathing. I know you’re annoyed, but sheesh, she’s got to breathe to live.” Or the dog would decide to sprawl out over my keyboard, because he’s well aware he has the security of being the cutest puff of fur ever. Or I’d be attempting to work outside of the house at a local bar with free WiFi, but I’d get in a philosophical conversation with one of the bartenders.

Often, we put off things we should do. Or we think we should do them.

Four years ago, two days before my father’s funeral, I sent an email to my editor and dear friend with the words, “I don’t know how to write my father’s eulogy.” His response was this: “Amber, you write it, you write it from the heart, something you’re gifted at. You tell the world what you loved about your father, and that will be enough.”

I somehow found it within myself to write the eulogy. I certainly could have handed it off to someone else, you know, someone who hadn’t just lost their father. Yet, I couldn’t give up writing it, couldn’t hand it over, because I was his daughter. He had raised me to do what needed to be done, even if it was something that was hard to do. So I sat down and wrote, and when it was finished, I sent it to my editor. For the first time in all the years we had worked together, he responded with these words, “There are no edits needed. Keep it as is.”

I could write something flowy and beautiful about my father, the man who raised me, taught me how to work my ass off, that I could accomplish anything I set my mind to. I could talk about his years of hard work, retiring at age 55. I could tell you when he was born, and when he died, how long he was married for, what age he became a father at, what age he lost the ability to walk without assistance. But nothing I could write today would in any way do the job of telling you about the man who was my father as well as the eulogy I wrote for his funeral four years ago will. And sometimes, the best words are already written. So you quote them. Because you can’t say it any better than you said it four years before.

It’s been four years since my father passed away. Some days, I’m fine. There’s this sweet nostalgia when I remember the man who raised me, who became one of my closest friends in my adult years. Other days, especially this week in between his birthday and the anniversary of his death, are days where the tears are always close at hand. Where I’m needy with my friends, and they are so very thankfully more than willing to hold my hand and hug me harder and longer than usual, and they listen to me talk about my dad, sometimes patiently hearing the same stories I’ve told them before. And for that I’m grateful.

“On July 21, 2014, just one week after his seventy-second birthday, my father, Donald E. Jerome, “Paw-Paw”, “Uncle Gene” passed away peacefully in his sleep.

My brother and I spent the last few days of our father’s life with him, hoping he’d bounce back as he so easily did in the past. But after many years of physical pain, many years of his body struggling, he went home to heaven.

I met with a friend this week to talk about my father’s death. And while dad and I have had our share of arguments and disagreements over the years, still, at the end, everything was at peace between us. Any words needing to be said were said. And Dad, despite being so weak he could hardly speak, true to his nature of making sure his loved ones were taken care of, ordered me to make sure I ate something. And I, his daughter in every way and true to my nature told him I’d eat when he’d finally rest and get much needed sleep. Naturally, Dad countered that he’d sleep when I’d go get myself something to eat.

And so, like we’d done so many times in my adult life, my final conversation with my father was a spirited debate with a twinkle in his eyes and his lips curved into that gentle smile I’ll miss terribly.

He passed away peacefully in his sleep eight hours later.

In the coming months, I’m sure I’ll recount stories of my father. For now, I’m writing this the day before his funeral, in a rare quiet moment after having put the final touches on his Eulogy. This post is being scheduled to release an hour after his funeral tomorrow. I don’t know how you write an Eulogy, all I know is how I felt about my father and what he taught me about life, and I wanted to honor him as best as I could. It’s near impossible to truly sum up such a generous and compassionate individual with mere words.

I love you Dad. Thank you for all you taught me about life, either with your words or your actions. Thank you for all the times you put what was best for me above your feelings. Thank you for teaching me how to be a parent, for teaching me how to work for what I want, for teaching me that there is no greater gift than that of unconditional love, and that what truly matters in this world has no monetary value. I was blessed on the day God saw fit to place me in your family as your daughter when I was given up for adoption.

I found myself struggling to write this. And that’s comical considering what I do for a living. At one point this week, it made sense to my grief stricken mind that maybe there’s someone more qualified than I to write my father’s eulogy; maybe there’s someone who can find the right words to define a man who has meant so much to so many people. So I thought of not writing the eulogy. I thought of asking someone else to do it for me. And certainly, no one would blame me, because I’ve just lost my father. I wanted to just not do it, to just give up.

And then my mind drifted to when I was a child, particularly to Saturday mornings. I’d get up, get a bowl of cereal, and if Dad was going to his office, he’d ask me if I wanted to go with him. And of course I did. They had a break room with cookies in it, and I could always sneak down and get a few. And Dad’s office had this photo cube that was a radio as well. And even better, devoid of people as it was on Saturday mornings, it echoed. To a child, making noise, especially echoey noise, was almost as awesome as being told breakfast was going to be cake and lunch was going to be ice cream.

And in my father’s office there was a plaque. And on that plaque there was a very famous quote: “Never, never, never give up” by Sir Winston Churchill, a distant relative.

Dad lived his life by those words. Dad taught his daughter the very meaning of those words by his every action in his life. And so, I sent an email to my editor whining about  not being able to do it, took a deep breath, and began to just write.

I could stand here today and tell you when Dad was born and when he died. I can tell you where he went to college, and what he did as a career. But those few little facts? They in no way encompass who he was as a person. They in no way tell the story of a man who defined himself not by the amount of his bank account but by the wealth of his soul.

Dad always helped those in need: he was a big supporter of several charities, he gave his time as a Eucharistic minister visiting those unable to receive the Eucharist as well as helping those less fortunate through his work through Love Truck and the Samaritan Inn, or the gift of his kind and thoughtful words for those who needed them.

Dad was also stubborn, and while that word sometimes comes with a negative association, for Donald Eugene Jerome, his headstrong and determined personality is what led him to achieve more than most people. He always believed you could achieve whatever it was you wanted to achieve, and what mattered was not where you came from or what you have done before, but where you would go and what you would do. And he never gave up. Rather than let obstacles in his way stop him from what he wanted, he simply found a way to work through them. He grew up in poverty, yet put himself through college to receive his degree. Rather than let infertility rob him of fatherhood, he adopted two children. He refused to allow health issues and physical disabilities prevent him from living a full life. By my age, he had lived in South America, all throughout the United States, and traveled to Mexico and Canada. In his retirement years, he fulfilled a long lived dream of seeing Rome and the Vatican.

Dad was happiest when he was with his family, and his greatest joys in his life were his seven grandchildren: Amethyst, Luke, Tyler, Autumn, Cody, Benjamin and Sawyer.

But if I had to choose one word to define my father, it would be faith. Not once, despite losing siblings and both his parents, despite having physical handicaps and declining health, did my father ever ask God “why?”  He simply would take a deep breath and ask God for the strength to make it through whatever he was faced with. When I would face my own struggles, Dad would remind me of the Serenity Prayer and tell me that if God brings us to it, He’ll bring us through it.

People often say how they wish they’ll pass on. Dad got his wish: his two children with him during his final days. He was right with God. He had said the words he’d wished to say to those he loved. And as he’d wished for, he went home to heaven peacefully in his sleep.

My father achieved much in his time on earth: A successful career, a family, service to those less unfortunate. But above everything else, he died a man wealthy in what was the most important gift and blessing he’d ever wanted: The love of his family.”

 

Amber Jerome~Norrgard

Brahmacharya

“All things in moderation.”

As a child, teenager, and even a young woman in my twenties, my dad drove me insane with his pearls of wisdom. Most likely because the man knew what he was talking about.

Around the time I was twenty-four, fresh out of an abusive marriage and living in my father’s house until I found my feet again, I stopped rolling my eyes and listened to him. At age forty-one with a teenager in the house (the “King of THE Eye-Roll”, as my first born has named himself), more and more, I’ve been taking those pearls my father dropped on me throughout my life and stringing them into a necklace to wear. More often than not, my father’s wisdom comes into play  in my adult life.

Christians follow the Ten Commandments; Yogis follow the Yamas and Niyamas. Which brings us to this week’s spiritual Sadhana, Brahmacharaya: moderation.

Brahmacharaya used to be defined as celibacy.

Whoa! Remove your mouse from that “X” that’s going to close out this webpage, relax, and give me a second. Before you assume I’m going to tell you to go without sex, keep reading, and chill for a moment.

Brahmacharaya used to be defined as celibacy.  Used to, kiddos, not currently. Years and years ago, those who took the yogic path figured their energy could be put to better use if they weren’t reproducing. In today’s yogic world, Brahmacharaya is defined asbrahmacharya moderation in all things. Perhaps you’ll take it easy on plans out with friends, and instead option to take a peaceful night at home. Maybe if you do go out with friends, you’re going to keep it at one glass of wine instead of two (or four, not that I know anyone with pink hair and tattoos who teaches creative writing at the local community college who does that when she’s out with friends and has the guarantee of someone else driving her home at the end of the evening). Maybe you take a few minutes to consider if you really need that new pair of heels that you can only wear with one outfit. Or you only eat half the hummingbird cake and take the other half home to enjoy the next day (again, it’s not like I know anyone who can inhale a piece of hummingbird cake after eating grilled cheese and tomato soup with tortellini, making Joey from Friends look like an amateur in food consumption when she gets within a mile of that cake).

In my life outside the mat, I’ve over done it, more often than not, in all things. White chocolate is a huge weakness of mine, along with winter white cosmos, Gaja Sito Moresco wine, black forest cake, lasagna, bread, cigars while playing poker, and this fantastic fifty year port my friend’s father gave me as a gift for officiating his daughter’s wedding.

But with age comes a certain type of wisdom. I still enjoy the wine, the deserts, the unbelievable port, yet I’ve found that there’s a beauty in missing those people I love, foods I love, drinks I love, experiences I enjoy. As much as I enjoy the experience of all of the above, there’s this incredible feeling of returning to the experiences I deeply love after time away from it, whether it’s that first bite of black forest cake, or hugging a dear friend after not having had the chance to see them for quite some time. I’ve found more joy in those experiences when they aren’t fully present and accessible.

On my mat, I’ve learned the hard way that while finally getting a posture I’ve struggled with brings a rush of joy, going at it time after time is only going to harm my next practice. If I’ve over done it on working on handstands, the next practice I take is going to be impacted by my sore shoulders and legs. “When you feel sensation, stop,” is a phrase I hear Laura Beth, one of my favorite instructors, say when guiding us through practice. That means when my shoulders start announcing their fatigue when I’m practicing my handstands, I stop. If I plan on taking more than one practice, and my right knee, the one that’s had more sports related injuries than any other part of my body, starts hurting, I ask myself if I can honestly say I’ll go gentle with the next practice. If the answer is no, then I call it a day and hit the showers. Then I check in with my body the next day, and how my body feels determines what type of practice I’ll take the next day.

To celebrate Brahmacharya this week, I’ll be taking things in moderation, seeing how I feel in each moment, and enjoying things in small measure. We exercise Brahmacharya in an effort to better serve ourselves and others, to reserve our energy for more meaningful things.

Much love,

 

Amber Jerome~Norrgard

The Pantry

My father grew up poor. The second youngest of fifteen children, they made due, learning how to hunt at a young age, and how to plant and harvest their own vegetables and what it was like to be cold in the winter and hot in the summer.

My father attended college on a baseball scholarship, and in order to save money, my grandmother would make my father a meatloaf that he would eat during the week. Sometime on Thursday, he would have finished the meatloaf, and wouldn’t eat until he returned to my grandmother’s house on Friday evening to do his laundry and help around her house.

I’d often hear my father lecture on the necessity of cleaning your plate. He’d remind us of how every bite was necessary, that food cost money (to this day I can still look at the price point of an item in the supermarket and factor in my head which size of the product is the better deal, down to the penny), and to “Waste not, want not”.

As an adult, I’d often go to his refrigerator, open the door, and razz on him about how many items were expired. Nothing was every thrown away; it either went in your mouth, or was saved until it could be consummed.

In 2009, my father had a very bad fall that broke his femur. After I secured childcare for my kids, I rushed to the hospital to be with my father. In a morphine haze, my father asked me if I would mind making sure his refrigerator was cleaned out, so that nothing in there would go past it’s expiration date, and then Dad fell asleep. Looking up, I caught the eye of my cousin, who said to me, completely dead pan: “So that’s how you get Uncle Gene to throw anything away: Morphine. Noted.”

Five years later, after he had passed, we began cleaning out my father’s house. Family would come over and help, or friends would lend a hand, taking donations to various organizations or books to be donated, or documents to be shredded.

Somehow, The Pantry was ignored.

I’ll admit: I was avoiding it. Cleaning out his spice rack had me sitting on the floor in my father’s kitchen, crying. Cleaning out the kitchen island where the cereal was stored was an adventure in laugh-crying: I had found a box of Grape Nuts that had expired in 1987. We had moved to Plano, Texas in 1989, which means my father packed up a box of cereal that had expired two years before and moved it four hours south, rather than lose the two dollars he had paid for the box of cereal in the first place. I had seen the expiration date on the box, and started laughing. And then I sat down and sobbed into my hands, missing the man who couldn’t let go of that box of expired cereal.

For weeks, my brother and I avoided The Pantry, like it was filled with the monsters of our childhood, hanging out in our own closests or under our beds, ready to grab our ankles and consume us as a snack. It became an in-joke: “I’ll clean out The Pantry” (and by that point, it was deserving of capital letters, because it had earned a title as a bad ass, scary mo-fo in our minds) was code for “Ain’t gonna happen, dude.” Friends and family members offered, but for some reason, neither one of us seemed willing to let go of the task. We were like those really bad boyfriends or girlfriends about The Pantry: We didn’t exactly want to do it ourselves, but we didn’t want anyone else doing it either.

In all honesty, I’d be making my to-do list every night before bed, and cleaning out The Pantry would always be the number one item on the list. Yet, I just couldn’t do it. Everything else in the kitchen had been handled. Refrigerator? Yes, only bottled water, the soda my younger brother drank, creamer for my coffee, and juice for our seven kids was in there. Kitchen island? Yep, cereal had been tossed in the bin, appliances had been given away or labeled with a post-it note with the new owner’s name on it. Spice rack? I had taken care of that one, an experience that ended when my friends Lauren and Tyler came in, found me crying hysterically on the kitchen floor with Lauren saying, “You’re getting out of this house, now. Time for dinner,” and pulling me out the door.

But The Pantry. Home of expired products, a testament to a life lived frugal, and stock pilled with way too much processed canned foods, ramen noodles, and South American Beer from the 1960’s (not joking about that last one).

The Pantry waited. I’d open the door to it (probably in the hopes that someone else had broken in, cleared it for me and left with the food neatly contained in a trash bag), look it over, grab a can of soup, check the date, then sigh, put the can of soup back, and go do something else that didn’t make me feel like crying hysterically.

A friend had joined me at my Dad’s house to pick up a few tools he could use. Walking him through the house, I had opened the pantry door and shown him all the cans of food lined up, the jars of sauce, ramen noodles.

“I keep  meaning to do this. I can’t seem to bring myself to do it, and my brother can’t seem to do it either.”

“Want me to do it for you?” my friend had asked, and I realized in that moment, I did.

Because I was emotionally and mentally tired from being the daughter of a man who had died. No one ever warns you about all the decisions you need to make after your parents die. Or if they tell you, you tend to roll your eyes and think they don’t know what they’re talking about. Even if they’re small decisions, those decisions add up, and it gets to be too much. You hit a point, not just when you lose someone you love, but when life is going rough, where you want someone else to make the decisions for you.

So, my friend cleaned out The Pantry. There were six large trash bags that were filled with expired products. There were actually eight beers my father had bought when he lived in South America in the late 1960’s that he had brought back to America, one of which had given up the ghost and had slowly leaked from the bottom of the can, causing a stain on the shelf in the pantry in which it had resided since September 1989. There was one jar of Ragu, a bag of pasta, and a four pack of fruit cocktail that weren’t expired.

When I told my brother that my friend had cleaned out The Pantry, he had said, “Thank God. Because I just couldn’t do it.”

I couldn’t do it either. It was just stuff. Just food. Same as in everyone else’s pantry, although I’m guessing you probably don’t have as many expired food items in such large quantity as my father did. But The Pantry was such a perfect example of who my father was, that to clean it out would be to admit he was really gone. As long as those expired items sat in that closet in the kitchen in the house that my brother and I hated because of how our mother’s anger clung, even years after she moved out, our father was still with us.

But post-clean out, post-sale of my father’s house, when everything that was my father’s had been donated, thrown away, or taken to a storage unit, I realized he wasn’t in those things. He was just as much with me as he had been when I was sorting through his items. Holding onto items he had bought or been given and had cherished didn’t keep him alive; he was still dead. But the memory of him, the memory of teasing him about how old the milk in the refrigerator was, that kept him alive long after he went peacefully to his death.

A funny thing happened when The Pantry was finally cleared out: I stopped crying openly. Maybe I had shed too many tears in the lead up to my father’s death and the two months following. Maybe the part of myself that handles protecting my emotions shut me down in order to avoid more hurt. Maybe I had effectively dried up and locked down. Or maybe I was tired of being the person who needed her hand held, the person who needed someone else to handle things for me, to tell me when to take a break. Whatever the reason, it would be another three years before I cried in front of other people, but that’s a story for another day, one in which I’m not missing my father so terribly that it’s like he just passed.

And one for a day in which I wouldn’t give anything to walk into his kitchen, check the expiration date on my father’s eggs, and ask him if he was looking forward to getting salmonella. To which he would respond, “I survived you as a teenager, I can survive a little bit of food poisoning, Maria.”

 

~Amber Jerome~Norrgard

Asteya

Years ago, a popular literary series came to a close. After the second to last book was released, the author announced they were working on what would be a final book in the series. For a year, myself, my friends who had read the series, and other readers waited to read the final installment.

The author got lazy as hell with the final book. The actual creative content related to wrapping up the storylines within the series could have been done in about ten thousand words. The rest of the book was fluff, nothing more than filler.

After I had read it, talking with another author friend of mine, we both said the same thing: selling at $7.99 for the e-book version, we both wanted our money and our time back.

asteya-logo3I often tell my students at the college and my publishing clients to be honest in their work. You write your first draft, then your second. Then you have your book editted. You make the editing changes your editor suggests, and maybe you send it back to the editor for a second look. You either format your book yourself, or you hire someone to do it for you. You have your covers created, you have beta readers weigh in on your book. You take those steps and do all that work, because when you release a book in the world and someone reads it, they’re not only giving you their money, they’re giving you the precious gift of their time.

That author from years ago stole from not just from myself by not putting in the work, by not giving us a full story, but from those in my life who I took the time from in order to read her book.

Which brings us to the third of the yamas: Asteya, non-stealing.

There’s the obvious, literal translation of “If it ain’t yours, don’t take it, dude.” You don’t shoplift, you don’t dine and dash, you don’t take money out of another person’s wallet. But what about the less literal interpretation? What about stealing another person’s time, either by being late, causing them to do more work (an adorable gentleman in my certification program used the example of leaving his dishes in the sink for his roommate to wash), or canceling plans last minute because something better came up?

On our mat, how often do we steal from outselves the joy of the moment (whether present or future moments) by not being fully present? I’ve often lost out on the joy of learning postures or furthering my path to the full extension of postures by focusing on what my neighbor on the mat is doing, what I did in a previous practice, or whether or not I’m going to get the posture in that moment. Handstands are the posture I’ve had a love/hate relationship with my whole life; in the process of working on them, I think ahead, stealing from the present moment, in the attempt to obtain the posture itself. It’s a yogic catch-22: I want it so badly, I miss out on the journey to get to my destination.

To celebrate Asteya this week, I’m not looking past each moment as they’re given to me, whether that’s dinner with a friend, time with my kids, work, or taking yoga practice. I invite you to do the same.

Much love,

Amber Jerome~Norrgard

 

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