The [not-so memorable] College Years

Monday, July 28, 2014:

I just got back from a trip back home to New York. And when I say just, we didn’t get home until 3:30am after delays and taxiing on the tarmac for what seemed like an eternity.

Greg and I spent some time with our families on Long Island and in upstate New York with his college wrestling buddies and their families. Our time with our families was hurried (as usual) as the purpose and focus of this trip was the venture to Lake George. Oddly enough, growing up in NY I had never visited Lake George. It’s a sleepy little tourist town on a sizeable lake with typical tourist traps like scooter rentals, fishing trips, boat rides, and junk stores that all sell the same crap. The views are breathtaking though. The mountains flank the lake with puffy white clouds that dance atop the greenery hugging the sky. The rolling landscape of upstate New York with its gentle hills and delicate trees will always hold a special place in my heart for the two fondest periods of my childhood/early adult life played out in the Berkshires and Oneonta.

As a young teen into my early twenties, I spent my summers attending and working at Berkshire Hills Emmanuel Camps. I recall the crisp evening air settling upon the lake while the fish jumped playfully as the peace of the evening bid the daytime sky farewell. The air smelled different at this time of day. Time seemed to slow and life was sweeter. To this day, dusk is still my favorite part of each and every day. It never, ever ceases to amaze me as every time I am outside at dusk, without fail I look to the sky, breathe it in, and hold it dear to my heart.

Those same feelings of fondness transferred over during my college years at Oneonta State. Not so much while school was in session, but more so during the summer. See, Oneonta is a college town. It’s very small and located between the state’s capital, Albany and a larger city called Binghamton (where Greg went to college). When school is out for the summer, winter break, holidays, and other assorted college breaks, there is a mass exodus of thousands of people. As the throngs of underage Long Islanders waiting eagerly in line outside the bars with their fake ID’s fade from memory, the pulse of the city changes. No longer are the bars packed wall to wall. Gone are the days of waiting 20 people deep to shout your order to the bartender. Now, one can saddle up next to the bar comfortably sipping a microbrew while chatting with the bartender about how wonderful it would be if ‘things were always like this’.

Oneonta lets out a giant sigh during summer as she can breathe freely now. As someone who spent my college summers in Oneonta working, I too could feel it. Oneonta was alive with energy in the summer. It’s funny, how one would assume that the city would seem to feel more full with all those college kids occupying its every corner but bodies don’t necessary equate to making a place feel more alive or meaningful. For me, summer in Oneonta was a time to reclaim myself.

Though I played lacrosse and had housemates, I was in a weird place in college. As I have mentioned before, I was angry and that spilled over into how I formed and maintained relationships with my teammates and others. Most of my college friends were ‘townies’ or locals that I had met while working at Christopher’s Steak House. As required, we all worked holidays at the restaurant, then went out to celebrate as one another’s stand-in families. We went to each other’s houses and ate and drank. We all stood in the hostess station at the front bitching about the kitchen and life. Christopler’s as we called it (as a result of a misspelling on the key tags for the lodge portion of the restaurant that read Christopler’s instead of Christopher’s), was not just a job for me in college: It was part of my identity and my family. I loved working there and for a long time it was certainly a very happy place for me.

So, when I met Greg and we discovered we were both college athletes at state colleges an hour away from one another, it was very exciting. Naturally, we’d have tons of awesome team stories to swap, friends to meet, and alumni weekends to attend, right?

No.

Well, not for me at least.

It’s hard not to envy Greg’s relationship with his former teammates and life-long friends. They get together once every year and take a vacation with their budding families. They stay in touch and attend each other’s weddings. They share silly tales of college and post-college from when they lived together beyond Binghamton’s borders in Jersey. They embody what I hoped would come from my college team life and experience.

Currently, I am out of college almost 10 years. Aside from Facebook or the random text, I never speak to my college teammates. I have not seen any of them since graduation—so forget about being invited to any of their weddings. I can’t help but admit to feeling a type of sadness in the pit of my stomach when making my guest list. Not one friend from college—not one. What does this say about me? Really.

What does this say about me?

Most, if not all of my friends in attendance at my wedding will be friends I have made and collected in the last 10 years here in Los Angeles. With the exception of a handful of other friends like my high school best friend Elvira, and some others—everyone at my wedding didn’t know me in college. They didn’t know me at my worst, my fattest, and my ugliest both inside and out. And I suppose it’s a good thing they didn’t because then I wouldn’t have anyone to invite to this wedding!

There will be no one to talk about the goal I scored (or didn’t because I mostly rode the bench in college), or about that time in The City, or how awesome our reunion was because no one can speak to these things, as they never happened. And though like I mentioned earlier there is a part of my heart that is greatly saddened by this, there is that part of me that is not. I never felt like I fit in while living in New York, in college, or on my lacrosse team. Something in my veins was burning and I always felt like an outcast, wrong, or unaccepted. Immediately after college I fled New York and came running to Los Angeles.

Like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon, for the first time in my adult life I could breathe again. Those summer dusk nights from my childhood and college summers happen every night for me here in LA. Every single day, I walk out my door and give thanks for this sun, this city, and how she embraces ME—all of me, purple hair and all. Every day I am in awe of the sheer beauty that engulfs this city and it swallows me up. What’s more is over the past 10 years since college, I have met those life-long friends. Some have since moved from the city or are moving like Mali and Breanne, but just because they are no longer physically here doesn’t mean we still do not share something beautiful.

Los Angeles makes me feel whole. With Greg in my life it’s a complete happiness explosion. So at our wedding, no one will be able to speak of the Arielle that once was, but there will be a room filled with the greatest yogi’s, friends, bosses, students, former students, and family who could speak to the Arielle that is here with us today.

Kindness Echoes in Eternity

Days 22 & 23: Monday, June 30, 2014 and Tuesday, July 1, 2014

They say “you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family.” For years, I retreated to my left coast 3,000 miles away from my immediate and extended family and maintained little to no contact with many of my relatives. I can’t really say what happened or what changed that prompted such silence on both ends but I believe it had to do with the distance, miscommunication, and purely a lack of effort on both party’s ends.

With that, despite being raised closely with a handful of my first cousins and having quality relationships with my uncles and aunts, as I entered adulthood I retreated from my family.

I went to college then immediately after I moved to LA. As far as I was concerned, my life on the east coast was so foreign to me I didn’t even know how to be a New Yorker if my existence depended on it.

Let’s rewind a little and let me give you some family background and back-story to bring us all up to speed.

My father has three siblings: His oldest bother Ira, younger sister Stacey, then the youngest of all, Seth. My father is the second born in case you were wondering.

My uncles are both very wealthy and successful businessmen in the accounting and finance worlds. My aunt lives in Florida and has led a life filled with pain and struggle with not much to show for years of working her ass off. That’s not necessarily a bad thing per say, but my Aunt Stacey has a rough go of it and let’s leave it at that. And then there is my family, my father Eric or as my sister and I call him Abba, Abbz, or THE ABBZ (Hebrew for father and no, we are not religious in any capacity–don’t ask). We are as blue collar as it gets. My mother works in New York City for Con Edison at the same employer since she was in her late teens doing the same work every single day of every single year.

My father on the other hand has had a myriad of jobs, businesses, partners, stores, and grand plans. I guess you could say, that he’s had to find his way of sorts. In many ways I resemble my father with respects to our desires to have many different interests and the need to cultivate them all simultaneously. However, despite my father’s initially abrasive nature, he is a passionate and heart governed man. He is a voracious reader, watches documentaries (and the Lifetime Channel, he LOVES rom-coms), gardens, takes care of all the pets with patience, and is the essence of a life-long learner.

My father was the best teacher while my sister Kassi and I were growing up. We were what I would classify as ‘pretend middle class’. Meaning we had a nice enough house, cars, and zip code but we were barely getting by and bought our shoes at Payless. I didn’t get my first pair of Nike sneakers until I was almost 13 years old and they weren’t even the Nike Air model because we couldn’t afford them. But not having quite as much as my peers didn’t really phase my sister and I much, as my parents worked tirelessly to make sure our family unit thrived and that my sister and I never knew of their financial woes. We took winter walks on the beach, had family picnics, went to the nature preserve, watched movies, went to museums, and my favorite memory of all from my childhood: bedtime, when my father would read aloud to my sister and I. Now, this seemingly idyllic childhood definitely didn’t come without a price.

In my youth, I experienced something that I shouldn’t have.

At the risk of sharing too much with the world, I am only going to talk about how events in my childhood affected me and those in my life. Specifically my family. So if I appear vague, it’s not that I do not want to share: I am ready to share my story with the world. I am holding back out of respect for the people I love. Wow. I think they call that maturity and growing up. It sure feels good to be an adult!

For as long as I could remember, I was angry. I was filled with a rage and fire that when unleashed transformed me into a demon. I was violent and biting with my words. I said terrible things to the people closest to me and never apologized. As a teenager with all those hormones coursing through my veins alongside my anger, I was impossible to wrangle. I retreated into art and writing for solace. During my adolescence, I was in and out of therapy–on and off various medications for depression and I also developed an eating disorder. I was an internal mess but to the outside world with my boyfriend, sports, decent grades, positive relationships with my teachers, and great wardrobe, I had it all. In hindsight, I was not asking for help, I was screaming in a room full of people and no one could hear my cries.

I went off to college and got into some trouble with a credit card. Knowing my parents would murder me for being so irresponsible, I called my Uncle Seth to ask him for help. Sure enough, not only did he bail me out but he wouldn’t tell my father either. PHEW!

As the years unfolded and social media exploded, so did my desire to express myself publicly (I guess something’s will never change, huh?). My Uncle Seth, much more conservative than I, home-schooled my cousins, and then sent them to private schools. We didn’t really have much in common as I grew into adulthood other than I was a public school teacher and felt strongly about not home-schooling children AND the private sector. Anyway, one day I posted something on Facebook about lesbians. I mean it was a stupid post but my reaction was even more ridiculous. I deleted and blocked my Uncle Seth and then basically refused to speak to him. Yes, the same man who GAVE me money when I needed it—I just turned my back on him, my cousins, and most of my family. I mean c’mon? They were soooooo difficult and didn’t understand me anyway. I’m an Angeleno and you’re New Yorkers. What do you all know about living life anyway?!

Ugh. Writing this disgusts me. I am ashamed and embarrassed for how I have behaved. So why am I sharing all of this?

I am now 32. It has probably been a little over 10 years since my Uncle Seth and I have really sat down to reconnect—I mean really connect as people. Two years ago we saw each other at my cousin Michael’s wedding, and even though we buried the hatchet and I re-friended him on FB there wasn’t any real resolution.

Prior to my yoga practice and some serious self-discovery, for the greater portion of my life I allowed my rage and anger to define me. I permitted this pollutant to seep into my pores, into my being and unleash a monster. I lacked compassion and the ability to be introspective. The world was out to get me and that was that. Frankly, I let my anger shield my emotions and heart like a mask and I hid behind it–afraid of ever really feeling anything or at the risk of getting hurt.

I never did thank my Uncle Seth for helping me all those years ago. I imagine I said it or maybe called, but he deserves so much more than that. Because right now, my Uncle Seth is trying to re-unifiy us, reconnect us, and mend the holes in all of our hearts. My Uncle Seth is trying to pick up the shattered pieces of our family and put them back together. It just goes to show you that you don’t have to be the oldest or patriarch to fix something —we all have the power to promote healing.

My Uncle and I have spoken on the phone twice in the last week. The first time was to FaceTime so he could show Greg and I his home in Florida as a possible place to have our wedding. My Aunt Amy eagerly and excitedly showed us the features of their beautiful home and made suggestions of how we could set up the reception. Finally, we got down to the nitty gritty family business. As I opened up to my Aunt and Uncle they shared how saddened and hurt they were to learn about some of the things I have endured over years and told me I would never have to suffer like that again. They told me they loved me and that were so proud of all the professional, personal, and emotional successes I have had in my life. My Aunt and Uncle cleared way in their hearts to let me back in and I am so very grateful. I am glad to have them back in my life to learn from, to grow from, and to just be my family.

When you forgive, you in no way change the past – but you sure do change the future.

Bernard Meltzer

Ladies and Gentleman, I am sharing my story with you all to encourage you to reach out to that person in your life. You know that person you’ve been holding hostage for something they did to you. It is time to let them go. Free yourself. Moreover, give them the permission to forgive themselves. For all you know, people sometimes act out of pain, survival mode, or anger. Perhaps that person whom you view as having hurt you or slighted you was really crying for help? More importantly, make space in your heart for love to reside again. Look, I am not going to say that’s going to be easy. What I am saying though, is it will be worth it.

Over the years, as I started to relinquish the iron grip that my anger had over me, great things started to come into my life. I acted better and I felt better too.

The power in healing is when a wound heals, scar tissue is fibrous and dense. It’s tough and hard to break. I am stronger now than I ever was because I let love and light into my heart and I am starting to get my family back.

Thank you Uncle Seth for your unwavering love and kindness.

And oh, thank you for your help all those years back—I never forgot about that and never will.

 

Gratitude Attitude

Day 16: Tuesday, June 24, 2014:

I decided I would share what I call a Personal Inventory, or more commonly known as a Gratitude List. In recent years and definitely more customary with the appearance of such happiness in my life, I have taken the time to remember how I got to the here and now. I like to take my Personal Inventory as a way to hold myself accountable to my own happiness—as a reminder that even while it’s darkest before dawn, there is always light. But more importantly, I find it’s useful in thwarting some of the negative self-talk with respects to my body or other issues. Notice I said some. Hey, it’s a start.

Now, as many of you know I surely have had my fair share of walking in darkness. We all have [or maybe you are in the thick of it at this very moment]. But once we emerge from this darkness, inevitably we will have to face this formidable foe again. It’s just the way it is. So for me, in an effort to remain a proactive participant in my life, I take a Personal Inventory of my life [and until now] I posted it on my Facebook—shouting out how great my BF Greg is, or how awesome my students were, or the killer class I took. My tendency is to use my social media as a trumpet heralding people, places, experiences, break-throughs—whatever, as a place to celebrate happiness and express gratitude publicly. To me, that is what it means to have a Gratitude Attitude: share thanks and love for those around you for the world to see.

Rather than continue to clog your newsfeed with more of the internal dialogue I have with myself, the world, and my place it in it, I am going to share with you my most recent Personal Inventory list from today:

1. FAMILY: Today, it’s especially focused on my little sister Kassondra.

2. BOYFRIEND: Greg

3. MY PERSONAL JOURNEY IN FITNESS: Hiking and Yoga

4. MY BODY: Yes, you read that correctly. My body. It houses power, grace, and my heart. It contains my physical, emotional, and mental-self. I am blessed to be able to have a body that allowed me to hike with my BFF Rachel and her dog, take a yoga class (after teaching one), THEN carry a large bag of groceries about ¼ mile back to my house—thank you Crossfit.

5. MY NEW YOGA MAT: I got to practice tonight on lululemon’s The Mat which was gifted to me and 59 others on Saturday while at an event at One Down Dog. The gorgeous pink mat with its new-mat smell tickled my heart and senses in delight. I was ecstatic to be able to use it and was exploding with excitement while even carrying it to the studio!

Look, it’s not the big things that define our lives or us. Yes, events like trauma, birth, death, weddings, natural disasters and so on can alter the course of our lives. But it’s the little daily smiles and small victories that accrue over a lifetime that ultimately contribute to our overall happiness. So trite as it may seem that on my Personal Inventory list was my free new yoga mat,  but it made me smile and brought me happiness. And despite what anyone thinks, I shouldn’t have to downplay that happiness, period. I practiced on my mat today and I was grateful for lululemon’s generosity and my community. I was happy. My new mat made my practice seem extra special today and I liked that feeling. And that feeling continued to make me happy and full of gratitude. Again, YES. It absolutely is the little things.

Life is comprised of lots and lots of little things that add up to big things.

Now, it’s your turn.

Take YOUR Personal Inventory for today…AND if you’re feeling brave, post it below in the comments section :-)

Eye of the Tiger

Day 14: Sunday, June 22, 2014:

Often times people ask me how do get through the tough times or rather, how have I gotten through the tough times. My answer is usually something along the lines of “The same way anyone gets through them—through.” It’s that simple. I don’t believe in surrendering when life hits me hard. I never have and I never will.

My best friend Rachel put it best during a time in my life when it seemed like all hope was lost and I hit an all-time low. She said to me:

“You are a survivor.”

And she was right; I am a survivor.

No matter what life tossed at me I never gave up. I’m not going to claim that I didn’t give up because I’m not the quitting kind. No. I didn’t give up because I didn’t have a choice. However as life would have it and I evolved, I stopped defaulting to survivor mode. I surrounded myself with like-minded, passionate people. By bringing such positive forces into my life, it made space for the right people to surface with the right opportunities. Gone were the days of damage control and fight or flight. Now I was in control of my life.

I wasn’t a victim of my life any longer. Actually, no one is a victim of his/her life. I believe that victimization is a choice. Sure, terrible things happen to good people everyday and trust me, I am not stranger to such things but I made a choice. I chose not to be defined by my circumstances and I rose above it. Rather than being a victim of my life, I became a victor.

Today I stand before you a confident and powerful woman with a past that has made me strong. By taking the steps to remove the pollution in my life, it allowed for a healthy and thriving ecosystem.

Stop surviving.

Stop being a victim and a bystander to your own life.

CHOOSE TO BE VICTORIOUS.

You will be glad you did.

Giddy for Gains

Day 11: Thursday, June 19, 2014:

Today was a cleanse day, so like last Thursday no food. However, today was also Day 11 and that meant it was time to take some measurements. Interestingly enough, I am losing from my mid-section, chest, and bust areas first. Hey, I’m not going to complain but normally I lose weight everywhere else first THEN release from the trunk region. All the same, I am excited to report I have lost the following:

  • Chest:            -2 inches
  • Diaphragm:  -2 inches
  • Waist:            -.5 inches
  • Abdomen:     – 1 inch

I would also like to add that I saw an overall loss in other areas too but I felt it wasn’t worth reporting here, as the loss was what I would quantify as negligible.

At this point, I feel fantastic. People are starting to notice the changes in my body saying things like, “You look really good” and “You’re looking really lean.” NOTE when you say these sorts of things to someone who is TRYING really hard to make changes in their life, they feel really, really, really good when they hear these sorts of things so don’t stop doling out praise. Additionally, I am feeling much better overall. I am not napping anymore and haven’t napped since I started the cleanse. As a matter of fact, I am incredibly energized and feeling very rested upon waking in the mornings. What’s also so awesome is I am starting to actually feel more fit, stronger, and leaner. I can feel it and it feels so good.

It is too early to tell whether my results are due to my 30-Day Super Foods Nutritional Cleanse or my increased fitness level. Since starting this cleanse, I used it as an opportunity to reset my life and myself. I used the cleanse to kick-start a healthier me and that meant re-committing myself to MY own fitness for me. So for the past 11 days (and maybe even about a week or so prior), my fitness level has sky rocketed with Crossfit and yoga. So in truth [and it’s still way too early to tell] my gains or shall I say loses, could be a combination of factors. Let’s se how the rest of my time on the cleanse pans out.

Today Can’t Always Change Your Life

Day 8: Monday, June 16, 2014:

 I picked up a new yoga class that’s Monday mornings at 6:30am. And though I have a strong aversion to teaching fitness classes [or doing anything really at that hour aside from sleep] in the morning, I agreed to take it on and see where it goes. What do I have to lose? After class, I came home and napped. I had a solid 1.5 hours to sleep before 10am Crossfit.

9:30am arrives and 9:30 leaves.

I convinced myself that I needed to sleep and opted to skip Crossfit (a decision I regretted all day). I rationalized this extra sleep a few ways but the strongest excuse I devised were that my inflamed traps (trapezious muscles) needed a break. I don’t know, but perhaps there was actually some merit to that.

On Saturday while doing kettlebell swings at Crossfit, when my arms were extended over my head there was an excruciating shooting pain at the base of my neck. It happened immediately during my very first swing too. This was definitely something unusual and foreign to me. Kettlebell swings are my jam—I light them up and take off. What was going on?! Before panic set in, I called the coach over to check my form. Nope, form was on point (this I already knew but it never hurts to have someone check out how you’re moving through an exercise that’s bringing you discomfort). We decided to move forward with the exercise but keeping the kettlebell at eye-level. This brought me some mild relief from the pain but it seems that I am experiencing some sort of spasm in my traps (now I am a doctor, well WebMD makes me feel like I am). Ever since Saturday, my traps have been supremely tender and essentially screaming at me even when not engaged and I am resting, walking, or breathing. I have been using my Yoga Tune Up balls to help release some of the tension but they’re still pretty raw. Fingers crossed tomorrow’s WOD isn’t too heavy on the upper back.

I went for a run today.

I guess you could say I like running. I run races. And from time-to-time run outside but that’s really it. I am not a great runner but I wouldn’t say I am a bad runner either. It’s just one of those things that I do because I have to and it’s fitness related but I don’t really care either way if I considered ‘good’. I will leave the running to the runners and I will stick to what I am good at: yoga, cycling, and lifting heavy things. With that, it was hot outside so I wore shorts. I normally prefer to workout in pants but figured why not?

Two steps into my run: my shorts are riding up.

My thunder thighs are slamming together for the world to see as I try to find a comfortable pace and not trip over myself as I fight a losing battle to pull my shorts down.

My music wasn’t doing it either. I mean, c’mon. I JUST uploaded all of my new favorite songs.

I glance down at my tracker and note that it has only been half a mile. REALLY?!

Now, I’m hungry too. Shit. I knew I shouldn’t have slept and gone to Crossfit. Shit. Shit. Shit.

1 mile in and I decide to head back home.

2 miles later I am home, run the stairs in my complex 10x, do some squats, and call it a day.

Not everyday is going to be a life-changing day in the gym, on the mat, in the box, on the pavement, or wherever you get your workout on–it just can’t be. For me, today was that day. And you know what? I am just fine with that. I am not going to berate myself for surrendering to whatever distractions I had going on today because tomorrow is a new day and I get to start over. And tomorrow starts with Crossfit at 10am no matter what. PLUS, at 8 days in I start tomorrow with 2 inches less on my waist, and down 1 inch across my bust AND diaphragm. So was today a success? I think it’s safe to resoundingly state: YES, YES!

Trust the Process

Day Four: Thursday, June 12, 2014: Cleanse Day, that is all I have to say

Remember that movie, Kids? That terribly gross and graphic look at young teens having unprotected sex passing along the AIDS virus? Yes, that one. Well, there is a scene where a man on a skateboard is toting himself around panhandling singing “I have no legs, I have no legs.” Yesterday morning I woke and I literally could only feel my torso. By no means do I mean to mock this poor soul in the film (which I am assuming is a real person) but I am merely trying to draw a comparison. I could barely roll over, let alone lift an arm. I panicked, and exclaimed to my boyfriend, “How am I going to be able to teach yoga today?!?!” I didn’t have a choice, that’s how. Boom.

Sure enough, I was able to teach. As with any muscle soreness once the body gets warm and the blood flowing, the muscles become limber and lubricated and alas, we have movement! However, I will admit my triceps were substantially fatigued, but I felt good enough to take a Pilates class late in the evening.

Today was a cleanse day. That meant no food, zero. As in nothing I could chew–green juices/drinks included. I sipped my prescribed beverages for the day and took my supplements. After class one I was ravenous enough to eat a small child. I checked in with a friend to keep me accountable, stuck to the plan, and pushed on! Sometimes, you just need to let go and embrace the process.

Like so many of us, much of my work with food and fitness is mental. So in recognizing this, I vowed to myself that I would trust the process fully. I must let go and fully relinquish myself to my program, keep an open mind, and house lightness in my heart. For me, that is what it will take to achieve success this time.

What was odd was I didn’t feel tired. I laid down to nap and couldn’t. Hmmmm. I could ALWAYS nap. So I cleaned my house, well sorta.

I taught class two, then took a Pilates class. Came home, downloaded music and made a playlist for my cycling class and it was 10pm and still wasn’t tired. Not only wasn’t I tired but I wasn’t hungry either. Where on Earth did this energy come from?! All I know is I felt alive and invigorated. And folks, I liked it.

Cleanse Day 1 closed and I patted myself on my back for making it. But let’s be real, I knew I could and I knew I would do it because I refuse to let myself fail–not this time.