Archive | October, 2010

Guest Post: The Gift of Giving Up

26 Oct

Abby Sher

I am so thrilled and honored to have a guest post this week from one of my favorite authors, Abby Sher.  Her beautiful memoir, Amen, Amen, Amen: Memoir of a Girl Who Couldn’t Stop Praying (Among Other Things), is one of my all-time favorite books, and is so moving that it made me cry…in Starbucks….twice!  It recently came out in paperback, and I highly recommend it!  In the meantime, please check out her guest blog about The Gift of Giving Up…

“The Gift of Giving Up” by Abby Sher

It’s noon, and here is a list of what I will not be getting done any time soon:

*finishing the first draft of my next book. Last Friday, I handed in four chapters and an outline that makes me tremble with fear and possibility. I don’t know if I love it or hate it. Either way, it’s out of my hands for the time being.

*signing up for that study to help epileptics. Also volunteering to write and do yoga in prisons. And the thousand other promises I’ve made to cook and decorate and be there for someone beside myself.

*did I mention the non-fiction proposal that I was sure I’d sell before the end of the summer? The movie I was writing and the cabaret that I was set to host? The pen-pal program and the pitches for new talks on mental illness that I swore would be refined and spellchecked by July? Those are going to sit in the pickle jar for the next few months too.

*reading the rest of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. Yes, I love it and it’s a classic and I am learning so much from this young Mick as she discovers Beethoven and bigotry in the same innocent breath, but I promised to read two other manuscripts and am tearing through a hypnobirthing book as zenically and efficiently as possible. While I’m at it, I’m crossing off From Beirut to Lebanon, which is on my must-read list every year, especially after the Jewish holidays.

*understanding the Middle East crisis. Or Afghanistan, Iraq, Darfur, Sudan, did someone say Sinn Fein is still working for a new Ireland? I am just catching up to Rutgers University, and this is definitely something I need to work on. I will commit to reading a piece of the newspaper at least four times a week, but grasping what I’m ingesting is an entirely different command.

I love making lists. They are flat, concrete itemizations of the gazillion coulds woulds shoulds flurrying inside my brain. I make them each day, each week, each month, the intentions getting bigger and more unrealistic as I stream down the page. Every task has to have a specific and undeniable goal. A hungry mouth or brain to be fed. Or so I thought…

For the Jewish New Year, I had a dear friend over. Instead of the traditional apples and honey we had some leftover couscous and lit sage to snuff out each other’s fears and regrets. Then we sat on the couch and dictated to each other our ten New Year’s Resolutions. Halfway through mine, I could smell my own hot breath, hear the click of my jaw as I bit off new must-do’s for my career and ego.

“They’re pretty…work-related, huh?” I asked as we both stared at my notebook.

“Well…yeah.” My friend had listed true personal aspirations for herself. Taking the time to express love fully. Keeping in touch with her family better. Being true to her word. Meanwhile, I was focusing on that unfinished novel, a bestseller list and a mandatory epiphany. Towards the bottom of the page I’d added “enjoy birth.”

Yes, I am due to give birth to my second child in a week and a half. A fact that clearly didn’t fit on my goal list and yet is the motivation and meaning behind it all. I love being a mother so much that I’ve rarely if ever been able to write about it. And I know selfishly that in many ways I jumped on the chance to get pregnant again while my daughter is still in diapers because her birth and the ensuing months were the most peaceful, chaotic, indefinable moments of my life. There is no room on a split-up rag to write an award-winning sonnet nor do I have the brain space to find out what I have to do next besides eatpoopsleepeatpoopsleep, repeat.

Maybe this is an unfair burden to put on my children. Why don’t you hold on to Mama’s self-image for a few years while she wipes your butt and tries to invest fully in this moment? I certainly don’t want to hold them responsible for my actions as a writer, performer, yogi, or human being. What I hope is that by letting go of who or what I am supposed to be, I can honestly spend more time as me.

A few weeks ago, while my husband and I were sorting through those rubber tubs of onesies in the basement, I pulled out my milk crate full of old journals. Ideas and stories and shows that I’ve yet to write in full but they are brilliant and will change the fate of the world and bring peace to Nepal or at least Brooklyn. Lists and plans for what I need to do next to be provocative and raw and worthwhile as a creative human being.

I looked at each cover, dusted off each spine, and one by one, I threw those journals away.

Please post a comment if this entry resonates with you. What are your thoughts on discarding old goals? Is giving up necessarily bad? If you had just today left, what would you need to get done?

FREE Yoga & Writing Workshop at lululemon athletica Brooklyn on Oct. 19th!

5 Oct

lululemon’s manifesto

I am so excited to be co-teaching a yoga & writing workshop with one of my favorite yoga teachers, Kate Reil, at one of my favorite places, lululemon athletica Brooklyn!  Replenish, Revitalize, & Realign will take place on Tuesday, October 19th from 6:30-8:30pm at the lululemon athletica Brooklyn Showroom in Park Slope and it is FREE!  For more information, visit this website and to RSVP email

Trying To Be Selfish. Kind Of.

3 Oct

“I want you to be really really selfish…The more selfish and nurturing you can be for yourself, the by-product for those that you love or work that you do is greatly enhanced.”  -Greg Gumucio, Yoga to the People

People ask me for things, and because I’m codependent (recovering, though), I often say “Yes,” even if it means that doing this thing whatever it may be, will make me feel depleted and resentful and pissed off and did I mention depleted?  But every-so-often, or OK, maybe with some frequency, I will go through periods in my life, when I maybe wake-up one day and am like, “Huh.  I’m so not where I want to be or thought I’d be.”  Which sounds like a calm self-reflection, but is usually accompanied by some form of pain and sadness.  Or I’ll realize that I’m exhausted and depleted and as I look around to assess my circumstances, I see that they are in some degree of let’s say, shambles.  But people are still asking me for things.  So I have to start saying, across the board, “No.”  And I have to enter into a phase of total and complete selfishness where I must 100% focus on myself and my life and getting everything back together and on track.

This, initially, makes me feel bad.  It makes me feel selfish, and everyone knows that being selfish is bad.  We probably learned that sometime around age two when we were playing in the sandbox and didn’t want to share our shovel and pail, and then it continued and continues to be reinforced.  Selfish = Bad.  Don’t be that.

I have this strong, visceral, total body reaction to saying No to people’s requests, to disappointing people, to letting them down.  To seeming, in any way, the least teeny tiny bit selfish, to not being thought of as The Nicest Person In The World Who Is Always There To Help Others.  And when I have to do this, and let somebody down in some way in order to take care of myself, I will often feel shaky and sick to my stomach.

But, luckily, there are times when I have no choice.  When myself and my life desperately need to be attended to, and to do this I just have to be selfish, no matter what.  And I have to sit with these awful, uncomfortable feelings about how no one is ever going to like me ever again if I am not always helpful and giving.

It usually goes like this:  first, in crisis management mode, I just have to say No to everyone and everything indiscriminately.  Then I start to feel like maybe I’m getting back on track and beginning to have more energy, so I can start to be giving again.  But I can’t then just indiscriminately say Yes to everything, or I will quickly get thrown back into the same rut I’ve been trying to dig myself out of.  I have to sit with requests.  So someone will ask me for something, and I have to slow down the process.  Instead of bursting out with an immediate, compulsive Yes, I check-in with myself and see if I really want to give this thing and if doing so will make me feel good and happy and fulfilled, or if I want to say Yes just to please someone or be The Nicest Person In The World, but I really don’t have the reserves for it, and doing it will make me feel depleted and resentful and pissed off and did I mention depleted?  I have to kind of play it out in my mind and tap into what I ‘ll feel like after I’ve given in this way.

And slowly, over time, I can start to give more and more, but only as much as I can without depleting myself.  This means that sometimes I have to experience the discomfort of being selfish and letting people down and not living up to their or even my own expectations of myself.  But the alternative is much worse.  Have you ever tried giving generously, selflessly to others while your life is crumbling around you?  Yeah, it doesn’t feel so good.

And the point of the S-word is not to be selfish as the ultimate destination, and never give anything to anyone ever again.  It is a nurturing resting place, where you stop to get filled up when you are depleted.  Where you can put up walls, or as they say in codependency, boundaries, to protect all your energy from leaking out in service to others while you stumble further into exhaustion.  Where you can declare big ‘ol Time Out to just stop automatically indiscriminately responding to what everyone asks of you without giving yourself what you need let alone even knowing what that might be.  Where you are selfish to get yourself and your life back on track.  And then from that rejuvenated place, you will have the reserves that you need to contribute to the people you love and the work that you do and the world in meaningful ways that leave you feeling energized and excited and inspired instead of depleted.

What connotations do you associate with the word selfish?  How do you feel when you have to say No to someone’s request?  How do you decide how much you can give without depleting yourself?  And what helps make this process easier for you?