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“You look so cute,” the after-school teacher said, smiling at my growing belly.

She’s a caring woman, so warm and friendly, and great with all the kids. I know she didn’t mean anything negative by it—she was trying to compliment me, and even gave me a hug.

It’s not like people haven’t called me cute before, but I never much liked it. “Cute” feels patronizing somehow, like I’m a kitten or a child.

Meanwhile, I think I should be called a Fucking Goddess.

I explained this dilemma with my doctor last week at a check-up. I told her I couldn’t believe the impact pregnancy hormones had on my body and mind. After a year of yoga and meditation, I had felt clean and connected to my body, so in tune with the way my mind works. I felt like I had the tools to handle challenges as they came up, and felt like I knew myself more than ever.

And then, before I even took the test to show me I was pregnant, I woke up with what felt like an animal inside me, an edge. It was a presence, and I knew something had taken over.

Feminists don’t talk about this much. We’ve heard too many jokes and snide remarks about how if women ran the country, they’d unleash a nuclear bomb or something the week before their periods. (We all know is bullshit.) But I don’t think we can deny the fierce impact hormones have on our bodies and our minds. It’s not that I can’t function—it’s just that my functioning is different, and sometimes I am swept away by a cloud of emotion, or a down mood, that despite all my trying, is not easy to break. I am myself and not myself at the same time.

So when I told my doctor women should be worshipped, she agreed. With monthly periods to deal with, miscarriages, growing a human in your body, birthing a baby (do you realize how elastic a vagina is?), dealing with post-partum hormones, providing the sole nutrients for a baby from your own breasts, and later in life, undergoing menopause, all while trying to keep up with the other challenges of life—family, business, relationships, career, exercise—women deserve a little more respect and awe.

I don’t know about you, but the messages I’ve received in our culture are that a pregnant woman is a receiver to what a man has done, rather than an amazing creature able to grow and birth new life. Instead of consistently acknowledging that a woman’s body is miraculous, that women are endowed with instincts and capabilities that surpass scientific rationality, we overdose on the advice and the dangers and the warnings and the fear, the woman as object, as property.

Instead of calling pregnant women cute, we should be calling them powerful. Instead of thinking of women’s concerns and issues as secondary to men’s, we should be elevating their capacities for the survival of our future.

Every time I hear God referred to as a “he” lately, I cringe. Nope. Not fair.

I need the Great Mother, who can envelop me the way she’s enveloped my ancestors as I continue on this miraculous yet difficult journey. I need the ancient goddesses to assure me that I am part of something great and divine, at one with the gentleness, forcefulness, and resilience of nature.

I need—okay, maybe don’t need, but would really like—a cadre of men, white-haired or balding in their suits and ties, to bow down and appreciate what all women have done, and what they continue to do. It can just happen once a day. Maybe in the morning, as the sun comes up. It would be a lot more lovely to wake up to than an alarm clock.

And perhaps they can fetch us things, too.

A pregnant insomniac can dream, right?

 

 

Image: “Model Severine Pregnant Photo 4 B&W” by Mestreetch City via Flickr.

 

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Seasons of Life

January 21, 2014

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Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?

Can I handle the seasons of my life?

–Stevie Nicks

For a couple of years, I walked nearly every morning. I got up early, when the house was still quiet, put on my sneakers and headed out for the same two-mile trek through my neighborhood. Even in winter, I managed to walk on the coldest days, bundling up and finding the dry patches of sidewalk, feeling my body warm up the further I went. It became a special routine, a chance to welcome the day, to work through all of the wanderings of my mind and get energy to tackle the challenges.

When I started doing yoga every day last year, I pretty much gave up my walks. I still went out sometimes, maybe at lunch or in the afternoon, when I was feeling tired and needed a boost. But most often, I got up in the morning and went up to the attic, put on some music, and started my yoga practice. It helped me do the same thing—get some quiet time in the morning to sort through my emotions and welcome the day, though obviously the details were different. Instead of feeling energized and excited after a yoga practice, I felt relaxed and more in tune with something greater. Instead of spending the morning looking around at neighborhood houses and nature, observing all the nuances of change, I became a symbol of nature and change itself, as I positioned my body into tree pose, pyramid, triangle, pigeon.

In June, when I got a virus that impacted my vestibular system, I couldn’t walk quickly at all. I missed my walks, but I was glad to still have yoga postures, which didn’t make me dizzy. Of course, at a certain point, I began to miss feeling connected to the nature outside, and I wondered if I should try to find a way to walk daily and do yoga postures. (See, even if you don’t have a full time job and the kids are in school, you find a way to try to busy your days with to-do lists and chores.)  A quiet voice inside me said, Don’t worry. There are different times for different things. And it comforted me. And I believed it.

Last fall, I saw the writer Elizabeth Gilbert speak at the Free Library of Philadelphia. She talked about how much fun she had writing her latest novel, The Signature of All Things. When she answered a question about writing, she said she doesn’t force herself to do it every day. She believes there are different seasons to our lives. Maybe at one point, we focus on fiction, at another poetry. Another time, yoga. In my life, I’ve had a few seasons of working arduously outside the house, and then others of new motherhood.

It really comforts me to think of life in terms of seasons, instead of a linear flow, a race that has to be won.

Now that I’m pregnant with our third child, I’ve started to walk again. The dizziness has subsided, and I can’t practice yoga postures with the intensity I used to (although a gentler, shorter practice of yoga still definitely helps). My body is different, and it wants different things, and I have to accept that, get in line with it and flow rather than try to resist the changes. For a while I felt like I was failing, because I couldn’t do the same things I did months ago. I couldn’t find the same calm, be as in touch with a deep inner voice of nurturing. But over time, through many quiet (and too-cold) winter days, I’ve come to realize that the most important thing I can do is be kind and gentle and honor myself wherever I am. This is the one of the biggest messages of yoga philosophy, and I don’t even have to be on a mat or have an hour alone to practice it.

These days, I’m trying to see my life in seasons, rather than looking at it as a list of accomplishments. The thing that’s beautiful about nature—a flower, a tree, a river, a cloud—is that it doesn’t try to be anything different than what it already is. It is perfect because of its imperfections. It allows itself simply to be, without the mind getting in the way. This is what I’m trying to do, too.

 

Image: “DSC_0425″ by Susannah via Flickr.

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The Year of Joy

January 3, 2014

Maybe it was the cold weather or the new year, or being stuck inside with my kids for days and days, but driving on the highway New Year’s Day, I became viscerally aware of all of my flaws. Here’s the shortlist, in case you’re curious: I am not always good at loving people the way […]

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My Christmas Song (Which Doesn’t Rhyme)

December 24, 2013

When I was in college, I mentioned at the cafeteria dinner table that I just didn’t feel that Christmas spirit anymore. Maybe it had to do with writing ten-page papers and studying for finals (ya think?), but I didn’t feel the same zest, the same joy as I remembered from being a kid. My friends […]

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Thanksgiving Poem

November 28, 2013

I’m no Sharon Olds or Lucille Clifton, but today’s a day to be grateful, not judgmental. I’m learning to let my guard down and let all the imperfections slide…. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.     Before Thanksgiving I am thankful for the moon last night A flash of crescent that lit up the […]

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SuperWoman Makes Progress

November 1, 2013

Here is one sure sign that SuperWoman is progressing as a yogi. She went to her regular 9 a.m. yoga class this morning. Nothing unusual. She left feeling wonderful, refreshed, free from tension. She knew she would need a snack when she got home, and her favorite snack lately is Ritz crackers and peanut butter. […]

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Me and Thich Nhat Hanh

October 30, 2013

Apparently, a person who practices yoga is supposed to have a guru. At least that’s what I heard from Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love. She had (or has) one, but she doesn’t reveal who it is in the book. All we know is that it’s a woman, which is cool enough. There are so many highly […]

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Practicing

October 11, 2013

I’ve feel like I’ve been neglecting my little blog. I hear her calling to me, saying Remember me? We used to be best friends. Why don’t you visit anymore?  The truth is, I’ve wanted to visit, but I’ve been trying to stay on top of all the other endeavors I’ve been pursuing in recent months. Not […]

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Ode to Coffee (and a perk)

September 15, 2013

  I miss you. Your long hair swirling in the atmosphere Your musk reaching from a tall cup.   We had a love affair for many years Quick rendezvous in the kitchen, between breaths and babies’ cries Or dates in a dark-wooded shop, your warmth tucked between my palms.   Since I left you, I […]

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The Ultimate Pose

August 31, 2013

When I first started training to be a yoga teacher a few months ago, pursuing difficult questions about existence, it made me nervous. Who am I? Why am I here? What causes my anxiety, my fear? What are the darkest parts of me? I said to my  husband, almost earnestly, “What if I figure everything […]

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