Monday, May 13, 2013

Further down this new road, coming to a place . . .

Boulder Cafe, Courtesy Google Street View.
14th St and Pearl, Courtesy Google Street View. 
. . .I never thought I'd be, or could dream of as a possibility.

We're going to go back now, twenty years ago, to the Pearl Street Mall in what was then jokingly refered to as the People's Republic Of Boulder [PRB].  I was newish to Colorado, having moved there recently because I knew in '89 when there on a business trip that I had to move there.

Colorado was as different from the East as Boulder was from Denver in many ways, and it was a bit of culture shock.

I'd left a successful career in the east searching for someone I knew in '89 I felt I would meet in Colorado, the woman I'd spend the rest of my life with. Crossing into Colorado in the truck with all my stuff, singing "Rocky Mountain High" at the top of my lungs never once dreaming I'd be where I am right now.

So Pearl Street Mall in the PRB, that was a big adjustment for me. People laid back, mellow, healthy, going about their lives in one big blur of Zen.  For those who've not been there, Pearl Street Mall is a big outdoor party kind of mall.  Places to eat, read, drink whatever pleased you from coffee to smoothies with wheat grass, to shop, to sit in the sun.  There were, are, more healthy places to shop, to play, to be in that short strip of laid back in that small part of Boulder than was to be believed.  REI, Yoga places, cyclists everywhere, and this almost over powering laid back feeling of what I can only describe now as Zen.  People right out in public, sitting on yoga mats, meditating and no one paying them any mind. Except for me. I was amazed, mesmerized even.

I was fresh off Wall Street, no color in my life, clothing, being.  I was one of those plastic people that New York City turns out in massive quantities.  Standing there in my "uniform" labeled me as not just from outside the PRB, but an alien.  And it's that alieness that so didn't fit in this space of artists, hikers, climbers, cyclists, yogis, Buddhists, HEALTHY people everywhere.  People buzzing about, coming down off the flatirons on bikes, gathering at a cafe.  A woman in active wear, with a yoga mat and bag, flying by on a bike, heading to yoga class with a healthy smoothie in her bottle holder.  The calm, meditative, pure zen was as alien to me as I to it.  Yes, years of meditation practice was mine, still a place I retreated to, but not where, or how I lived. I was still doing then, while once in a while retreating to being.

A dear friend and sister who isn't speaking to me now for reasons her own described the differences between us this way at one point: "She practices the art of movement, I the art of stillness."  It was a pretty apt description at the time.  And it really highlighted why I didn't fit in the PRB.  I was, when I wasn't meditating, constantly DOING something.  And that was why I didn't fit in Boulder, and I think upon reflection why most of the world, let alone the Denver Metro Area, didn't really understand Boulder.  It was, is, a center of BEING, not doing.  It was like my sister, stillness in a world of movement.  I no more belonged there than most of the people who jokingly call it the People's Republic Of Boulder.

The problem was even then it spoke to my heart.  I could feel, if I allowed myself to, the deep longing to BE.  That woman on her way to yoga with her smoothie?  I could feel the calm, still, center of peace even as she was moving.  She was everything I wasn't but deep inside wanted to be.  Deep, deep somewhere inside I knew I needed to be.  At that point in my life I was certain that wasn't ever going to be possible.

Now 20 some years later, I find myself stunned and grateful.  Two years ago I got back on a bike after having been off one for decades. With diagnosis and proper treatment of an annoying and problematic birth defect I'm getting more sleep than I ever have, and I'm finding out what I'd chalked up to "getting old" for the last 20 years years or more wasn't. It was that my body has never really worked correctly. So I'm doing more, exploring more, pushing myself a little more.  Healing, growing, getting to know me.

It started with being able to get off the floor without help.  Something I'd not been able to do for years.  Then I noticed I could go up and down stairs without holding onto anything.  Yeah, I know now, pathetic.  Then by accident, I found Tara Stiles on You Tube and one of her simple, basic easy beginner's yoga routines.  So of course since I could once again get onto and off the floor with out help, what did I do?  I dug out the yoga mat I've had for years that I use for meditation. And I started trying these routines.  Why? Because Tara Stiles reminds me of Nat Sullivan from Debora Geary's Modern Witch series of books.

So let's see if we got that straight. She can get off the floor, go up and down stairs, and found a video that reminds her of a fictional character in a book?  Right.  A bit crazy? Maybe not.  My doctor joked "Oh sure, it makes perfect sense, now that you can get off the floor without help you start yoga? Most people would fall in love with their coach and not get back on the floor again."

I'm still riding, and I've working now on running too. On September 1st I ran in my first official chip timed 5k race and finished in under an hour.  Not quiet running per say, but it depends on who you ask.  I'm working on getting my times down, but that's not really what I'm here to talk about.

So I'm doing Yoga these days, walking, jogging, and my meditation practice has grown.  In January I got my first tattoo, which I talked about then, but recently it came to me, that that woman in Boulder all those years ago?  I am her. Now.  Where once my closet held only white button downs, black, blue, and grey business slacks and the uptight black shoes to go with those outfits, I think I own maybe two button down blouses now.  My closet looks like a rainbow exploded now on the best of days, and having lost 78 pounds since Janurary, I've been buying bits of new clothing, off the rack, in places like Target.  And you know, where once I'd have had a nearly identical white button down blouse for every day of the week, I have an explosion of active wear, for cycling, running, yoga and just being. Where in that day so long ago in Boulder I'd not have thought of having my legs exposed, even in the summer, now skirts, shorts, and skorts above the knee show off the results of exercise and genetics.  I'm my mother's daughter, and I have her legs.

And that woman I could only dream of being all those years ago in Boulder?  Well she's the woman I see in the mirror these days.  This new road has led me to a place that deep in my heart I've always wanted to be, but never dreamed could be real.  I am truly blessed, coming to a place I never should have left in the first place.