Aura and Energy

This past weekend was my last weekend in the city till September. September! I suppose that’s not too far away now, but last Friday it felt like a big deal and a long time. I wanted to soak in the energy of a summer weekend in the city in every possible way for those two days, knowing it’s the last precious few days where I can do exactly that; I had Friday night with A and friends, and all day Saturday with A and friends, but I took Sunday to be with my friends. I met a beautiful yogi friend from my training days for what turned out to be an intense free class at the Lululemon in the Meatpacking, followed by coffee, a fruit cup and then yoga in the park with strangers who are friends. I made it home around 5 that night, feeling completely invigorated, until I sat down on the couch and realized, amusingly, I was too sore to get back up.

Sunday was, in total, about six hours of yoga. Not a restorative or slow practice, not the calming hippie yoga stereotype; I spent six hours on my hands and my forearms, in splits and backbends, going upside down, trying new things like acroyoga, meeting new people for high fives and hugs. It was exhausting and amazing and I truly didn’t even notice how sore I was even then I didn’t care. It had been the perfect Sunday in Central Park, a perfect New York City Sunday to hold me over till September, and I went to bed on Sunday thinking I had never felt better, spiritually, emotionally, mentally.

And then I woke up the next morning at 5am to watch my Monday rapidly crumble to the worst migraine I’ve had in months.

Yoga philosophy says that there are thousands of energy channels throughout the body, kept healthy through self-care like asana practice and avoiding vices, but when these channels are blocked, all sorts of problems can happen. Fear stays near the chest above the heart, negativity and self-criticism settles into the hips, anxiety takes root in the shoulders and neck; it’s why sometimes yogis cry in savasana, because all this blocked energy has finally been released and now it has to get out somehow. Some yogis joke that a good sweaty practice can fix just about anything, but I would counter-suggest that it can open you up to a backlash of suppressing all those emotions and feelings for so long.

Last week I had to take four days off from any serious practice because of a back injury, and by the end of day 2 I noticed a serious difference in my demeanor. I was irritable, my attention span was even more out of control than usual; I wrote a whole post about it because I was just… off. My anxiety was back, I was getting upset about my physical body and those ten pounds that have crept on in 2016, and really nothing made me feel even a semblance of okay until I went to that Lulu class on Sunday. Had I stopped there, had I not spent the entire afternoon in the park continuing with the intense movement, who knows if the migraine would have happened. While I was in the worst of it on Monday though, I couldn’t help but wonder.

The migraine hit peak for me about 2pm on Monday, despite my retaliatory efforts of Excedrin and many essential oils. I laid in my bed and I tried to push through it but then my face was burning and my nose was burning and my eyes were trying to push out of my skull with every pound, pound, pound of the hammer of my heartbeat. The symptoms were getting worse and worse, and I could feel everything getting bigger. I took a deep breath trying to calm down, but instead it made everything so painful that I completely let go of whatever fight I had against the pounding in my skull and within a second I started to cry.

When I finally stopped crying and I could take that deep, if raggedy, breath, I started to calm down. I could feel the calm rush up from the base of my spine, into my chest, across my collarbone, up my neck and finally, finally, finally, a flush of relief through my brain. Over the next few hours I slowly made my way out of bed, put on my glasses and took a long shower, breathing deeply the whole time. I slept for 10 hours that night and woke up for work feeling like a new person; my focus was better, my mood was better, and when I saw A last night for the first time this week I practically leapt into his arms, flush with the good energy of being in love. I’m still physically sore from six hours of yoga this weekend, and this week is not without its challenges. But after a week of feeling like something was off, it only took a serious migraine and a good cry to turn my particular breed of sunshine back on, full throttle.

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Ten Pounds

Something interesting I’ve learned on this little break from real life is that in 2016 I’ve gained 10 pounds. That’s not terribly interesting, I know, but when you’ve spent most of your adolescent and adult life freaking out about your weight, then finally making it to a point where you’re comfortable, seeing a number creep up like that puts you in an interesting mindset.

Funemployment this week has been more needed than I realized. It’s so rare to have time where I can completely power down and do nothing. I’m not worried about work emergencies or emails because I don’t have any; I’m not worried about making it somewhere on time because I don’t have a place to be. I had every intention last week of being so productive, blogging ahead of schedule, cleaning my apartment, doing all of the yoga, prepping for the classes I’m teaching in the next few months, but most of my free time I spent sitting. Relaxing. Meditating. Lots and lots of Netflix. I needed to power down completely from the past six years of steady working and just enjoy a few days to myself. I found out as a pleasant surprise last week that my time off between jobs has now been extended for another week, which means I’ll be more productive this week, since I can’t keep doing nothing. But the week of nothing was something I desperately, desperately needed to get the ten pounds of baggage off of my back that I’ve been carrying around for so long.

When you have nothing but time on your hands, you have nothing to stop a wave of thoughts, memories, emotions, everything that’s easy to suppress when there are emails to send and meetings to attend and other responsibilities to cater to, from surfacing. Think back to a time where an embarrassing memory from years ago popped into your head out of nowhere and you find yourself overwhelmed with the same shame as if it had happened again in that moment. I had a lot of moments like that this week, mostly because I had nothing else to think about. I had moments where I berated myself for not doing “more,” and I had lots of “holy shit what am I doing” moments about the job and about my life in general. I also had a lot of time to reflect on 2016, now that it’s halfway over, and my word it’s crazy how much has happened and how many things have changed. I wanted to dwell on all of those for a while but then I went back to Connecticut for a few days and learned that I put on ten pounds and for a little while that’s all I could think about.

At first those ten pounds were really negative. It’s weight on me I don’t want or need, it’s a reminder that I haven’t been as active in my  yoga practice as I should be and physical proof I’ve been neglecting the healthy foods that I love. It’s a reminder that my birthday is coming up soon and I’m getting older, and the days of endless beers and chicken wings may already be behind me. Ten pounds seems and feels and maybe even looks like a lot, especially when you’re someone who puts a lot of stock into some silly numbers on a crude metal square.

And then I started thinking about where those ten pounds came from. Those ten pounds are muscles in my arms that allow me to hold myself upside down with a semblance of ease. They’re trips to Austin to eat too many tacos with G, and they’re beers after a long Memorial Day hike with T and our persons. The ten pounds are handfuls of chocolate to survive a meeting with some of the best coworkers and enjoying the last few free lunches with them even if the food isn’t “Whole30 approved.” The ten pounds are new memories making their way into me as I let old ones that dragged me down go, replacing the illusion of a “perfect” body with real memories, like laughing with new friends that are some of the best people I’ve ever met. And those ten pounds are maybe skipping a yoga class or a healthy meal for date nights with someone who’s changed my whole life since he’s been in it.

So next week I’m starting a new job ten pounds heavier. New responsibilities, people, emails, meetings to weigh me down even more, especially after this much-needed mental vacation. Reflecting back though, I can take a little extra weight on me now and again. I may be ten pounds heavier, but for all the good, bad and in-between changes in 2016, ten pounds is a small price to pay.

What if it’s not perfect?

Last night I was stretching a bit when I decided to film my warm-up for an Instagram post. I use Instagram as a way to connect with other yogis, to help promote classes, and yes, to show off if I’ve learned something new, but honestly it has a tendency to cause me more stress than happiness. Instagram posts have to be PERFECT, you need a million and one likes, everyone is judging. I judge the videos I put up there more any anyone, watching my form, critiquing myself as a student and a teacher. Last night when I decided to take a video, I had to break from warming up to set up the shot: decide what angle to shoot, which mat to use, I had to put on a bra… the more I put the “set” together, the most anxiety I started to feel. What if this angle looks bad? What if it’s not right? What if it’s not perfect?

For a minute I thought about calling the “shoot” off, because let’s be real, if you’re stressed out about yoga you’re doing it wrong. But then I realized that the only thing that was going to calm me down was yoga. It’s ironic, almost, that I was creating anxiety by setting up to practice, but as I laid on the mat and started to stretch, I forgot that the camera was on. It’s like yoga was setting me up to remind me that everything is always okay at the end of the day. Even when you’re stressed, or sad, or confused, or all of the above rolled into a weird pit of anxiety that stays in your stomach, at the end of the day, things have a way of working themselves out, and everything is going to be okay. That was a great way to end a Thursday night, as I woke up this morning knowing I’ll have to say some really tough goodbyes.

Change is wonderful but it’s scary. Sometimes I start chasing change, but in other aspects of my life change isn’t necessary. Change, though, can come at any time, when you expect it or when you don’t, and sometimes change chases you when you least expect or need it. Sometimes the stars align and the next two weeks, six months, one year, three years all start to form in this beautiful plan, that makes everything seem so obvious and clear and yet at the same time it makes everything in this moment really freaking sad.

I gave notice at a job I loved on Tuesday. It’s the kind of job I’ve spent my whole career looking for: great clients, great culture, great location, great everything. But more than all of those parts it was great people. It was people that, without realizing, helped me become a stronger, smarter and more driven person. That’s the kicker, really – their pushing me to become better is the reason I gave notice on Tuesday, because pushing me to do better is pushing me somewhere else as a result. Today I’m leaving this job and I’m leaving in tears. I  know it’s the right decision, but oh man right now it sucks.

I’m really nervous. Nervous about leaving today and starting somewhere new in a few weeks. What if I don’t like the new job? What if it’s not right? What if it’s not perfect? But it’s just like yoga fixing anxiety caused by yoga – the only thing that’s going to calm me down is to walk in the new office doors and start working. It’s going to be different and scary. But things have a way of working themselves out, in the end. They always do.

A Series of Nows

I have so many things rolling around in my head I want to write about and talk about. The whole month of May has been so frantic that I feel as though I’m never anywhere for long, a state of constant travel and never, never spending enough time at home.

There’s the camping weekend that wasn’t from a few weekends back, where Friday the 13th ruined a planned trip with rain but rewarded us with the most perfect day drinking Saturday, where margaritas at brunch turned into rooftop beers turned into midnight pizza with friends. I remember a moment from that day, on the rooftop gossiping with a wonderful new friend like we’d known each other for years; we were all making fun of each other and laughing with each other and I felt like I had a group again. And before the end of the night, snuggled into A on a chair that turned and laughing with the friends who technically introduced us, I took a look around me and for that moment in time everything felt like home.

There’s the Boston weekend, the annual girl’s trip last week, finally joined by D, who has been part of the family for years but hasn’t made it up for the trip yet. It was easily the best year ever: laughing together as we had to pee desperately in traffic on the drive up, getting a noise complaint less than five minutes after getting into our hotel room, drinking hot toddys because we’re “sick.” D’s face when she watched the ballet described all of our faces at the B ladies, past, present and future, spending a weekend of no drama all together. Sometimes I’m sad that my Twinster lives so far away and sometimes I feel guilty that I get so much time with D and she doesn’t, but this weekend I remembered we’re family, and no matter where we are or how long it’s been, when we’re together it will always feel like home.

And then there are the tough moments. There’s realizing I haven’t had a solid yoga practice for a few months because life won’t stop moving and any free time I have is spent doing fun things like laundry and repacking the same duffel bag over and over because I haven’t had a weekend at home in longer than I care to count. There are late nights in the office where I just want to cry and sometimes I say terrible things like “what do you want from me” and “this wouldn’t have happened if I were still moving.” There are bad days where someone’s car gets towed and I know it’s not my fault but it feels like it, and there are the terrible moments where I think I’m finally going to hear those eight letters in response but instead it’s “sleep well” and I can’t sleep at all. Soemtimes all I want is some time at home to myself like the old days and I wonder if I’ll ever feel that security of home again in this new life that’s happening so quickly I can’t catch up.

But then there’s moments like last night. The first night I’d seen C since March. A night on a rooftop with wine and duck pizza and even though I completely forgot her birthday present (AGAIN), I caught up on her life and I couldn’t believe how much I’d missed her. She laughed while I fumbled with my 17 bags and a glass of wine, trying to hold popcorn and a mini champagne bottle without spilling any of them, and I laughed while we took Snapchat selfies and reclined in the cool night air, waiting for a few hours of 90s glory to entertain our Tuesdays. We caught up on people that we both know and we caught up on new people that only we know and walking back late after the movie ended I stupidly led her to a subway entrance with no card machines and we rushed through a goodbye so she could get home at a decent hour, but it was okay. It was perfect actually. A rooftop movie in midtown on a beautiful New York City evening, watching Clueless with one of my favorite people felt like home as much as everything else above did too.

Stuck.

The scene: New York City, May 2016. In an office overlooking the High Line and the Hudson on a sunny Thursday, late morning. Surrounded by the click, click, click of keyboards, someone else coughing, the occasional ping of a new email or a new chat. I’m sitting at my desk getting through work and trying to plan the next few weeks and months of travel and classes while firing off emails to clients and team members to move everything along so we can get out of the office on time tonight and grab a drink together. A blank draft of this post has been staring at me for days and I can’t figure out how to fill the lines: another edition of Friendly Conversations after a few doozies from A and T this week? Another draft entry to thin the 30+ piling up in that folder, half-thoughts and quotes from Instagram trying to ignite inspiration? Something else where I come to the conclusion that life is beautiful and change is good? The blank pages stare at me like a toddler in a candy store for the first time and I’m only inspired to write down one word: STUCK.

If there’s a theme for my life since March, that theme is “STUCK.” Life going into the end of 2015 made a lot of sense: I was about to start yoga training, after which obviously I’d immediately become the best-ever yoga teacher and land all of the jobs for extra money to put towards the move out of NYC, where I would of course immediately find a studio job and all of the firms back home would fall all over themselves to hire me as a consultant. I had many months of solitude and “finding myself” before the move because who wants to date when you’re trying to uproot everything? I had direction and I had a plan and it was a plan I couldn’t wait to follow. And then before training even started, the plan had started to crumble. Now that I’m passed everything I “expected” to happen this year – certified yoga teacher, auntie to two perfect little babes – and adjusted to the things I didn’t expect, I’m starting to feel like the things I’d planned and prepared for are no longer. All of a sudden I’m in this spot where nearly everything around me has changed, but nearly everything feels exactly the same.

Same apartment, same job. New(ish) boyfriend, new tattoos. Same friends, new friends. The balance of same and different in my life seems to cancel itself out, and I’m just here trying to figure out where everything is going next. Will I stay working as I’m working because I have to? Can I shape my life around the plan I had when moving was on the table? In the past five weeks I’ve gotten two more tattoos and changed my hair color, all in what is probably my adult way of “rebelling” against feeling stuck; I’m inciting change because I feel like that’s what this year was going to be about, and maybe it still is, but it doesn’t feel like it. It feels the same. But it’s not the same at all.

I just feel stuck. I’m missing pieces of a previous lifetime so much lately that I wonder if I willed an email into existence; I’m overjoyed at every ping of my phone or my gchat because my new normal is better than I could have imagined. I haven’t been practicing the same way that I normally do, and really I’ve been out of my routine with yoga for most of the year; I still practice every single day for at least 10 minutes and I don’t know where I’d be without it. Everything is changing. Nothing has changed. Life is moving forward; life hasn’t moved an inch. There are changes happening every way, day, minute, moment around me, I ran into some of them and away from others.

I’m in the middle of everything that’s static and shaking and I. Feel. Stuck.

Ahim-suh craving a hamburger

Last week I had my first general health physical in probably three years. I don’t have a great excuse for not going to the doctor for that long, aside from generally being healthy and disliking the facial responses to my wine and coffee consumption in a typical week. I’ve been dealing with a minor knee injury for a few months now that kicked into high gear over the previous weekend, though, so despite my dislike of doctors in general, I made the appointment to my tired body in for a check-up. I couldn’t say nicer things about the office or staff if I tried – they were all wonderful and I felt at ease in a situation I dislike – save for one moment. In the initial health assessment with my doctor, the topic of yoga came up (e.g. for the first time ever I had an answer to “Do you exercise?” that wasn’t “Do subway stairs count?”); he seemed impressed that I was a yoga instructor until we reached the next set of questions. “So what’s your typical diet? You’re vegan or vegetarian, I assume?” he asked. I laughed as I normally do to that query and told him no, I’m one of those yogis that eats meat. Rather than moving on he looked me up and down for a minute with what can be described as a smirk, turned back to his computer and said “You’re not a real yogi then, are you.”

The first of the eight limbs of yoga (because yes, it’s actually more than just cool poses) is called the yamas – basically five rules of how to treat others. One of those concepts, arguably the most well-known, is ahimsa. Ahimsa translates to non-harming, or non-violence, depending on who you talk to, and on a top surface level, it’s pretty simple: don’t harm. Many yogis choose to interpret this particular yama as “Don’t Kill,” which is why so many yogis are vegetarians or vegans. This post isn’t to bash those people at all. If you choose to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet for whatever reason, I commend you! I firmly believe that physical and mental health starts with what we put into our bodies, and if you feel best by abstaining from animal meat or other products, consider this my support and encouragement. This post is not meant to bash those lifestyle choices, just because that isn’t my own. This post isn’t even really about food choices, though on the surface that’s what triggered the conversation. This post is about respect.

So often people demand respect without knowing what they’re demanding or why. Frankly, if your methods for earning respect begin with demanding it, you’re already doing something wrong. I’m not demanding respect in writing all this down, just to clarify. Going back to the story above though, not only was the doctor judgmental to my life choices, he was disrespectful to how I choose to care for my body. I mean come on. I don’t eat dairy or grains, I eat enough vegetables to send Cookie Monster into a coma and my worst indulgences are a few pieces of dark chocolate at the office (*to be fair that is daily) and a glass or two of wine after work (*that’s not daily but let’s just say I wouldn’t be shocked if he’d told me to cut it back). I source my food responsibly and have no problem spending more money for grass-fed or local cuts of meats than cutting corners and supporting factory farms. I’m not asking him to praise my diet. I’m asking him to respect my choices for how to care for my body, and to respect that I know what’s best for my health and well-being.

Some yogis I talk to agree with my doctor. Doesn’t matter if they’re certified to teach or not, doesn’t matter if they practice daily or once every few weeks, there are some people that have felt compelled, especially on social media, to comment on my choice to keep meat and animal products in my diet.  They cite ahimsa, telling me there is “no possible way” you can understand ahimsa and follow a yogic lifestyle and think that it’s acceptable to contribute to animal “torture.” I respect that some people interpret ahimsa that way – truly, I see where they’re coming from. I just understand and live ahimsa differently. The last time I tried to go vegetarian I felt so tired and weak I could barely function. My yoga suffered, my moods suffered, anyone who had to deal with me suffered through my pinballing blood sugar and subsequent outbursts. I was doing more harm to myself by changing my diet that way. More HARM – and ahimsa is non-harming. If I can’t start with the basest level of the yama – don’t harm yourself – how am I living that value?

I’ll probably keep seeing that doctor. The office is right next to my own, their lobby has good music and cucumber water, and other than the moment that inspired this post, I really liked the doctor and his whole staff. But let it all above be a lesson in respect. Respect each other. Respect our choices. Unless you can see someone actually harming themselves or someone else, let them continue living their lives as you go about yours. I’m a yogi because I live and breathe and love yoga in everything that I do. I’m not a yogi because of the diet choices I make. Respect that I’m a yogi who eats meat, and I’ll respect your choices too.

Oler

They say smell is the sense with the strongest ties to memory, and there’s nowhere I’ve been with more distinct smells than New York. People associate the city smells with the bad ones, a long line of smoke from one of the people ahead of you, trailing tobacco and marijuana, and the occasional pipe smoke too; the garbage that piles up in the summer has an acrid yellow tinge to the smells and the memory, a toxic haze to the long, hot days we dream about all winter long. There’s the unmistakeable smell of unwashed flesh that permeates an empty subway car and so many corners of the city, the smell you learn to run from, the memory tinged with compassion and pity for how many people have to watch others run from them because they don’t have a $1,500 a month closet to shower in. I have so many memories of this city in my approaching-six years here and I would be lying if many of them weren’t tinged with one of the smells above or the myriad other terrible ones I’ve encountered. It says a lot about a memory, when the best you can associate it with is a bad smell.

Sometimes when I look back on bad weeks, I remember a terrible smell from somewhere in that time, and then I wonder if it’s a smell from that time at all, or if the sensory overload we experience daily here just demands a smell attach itself to every memory made. I don’t even think they’re all my bad memories or bad smells really. Like the week a few months back where everyone else I knew was having a miserable go at life and all I could do was offer my near-limitless optimism; looking back on that week I can remember the ashy, cool smell of black snow leftover on the sidewalk, but it barely snowed this year after the big storm in January, and I don’t think the week I’m remembering was snowy at all. But the memory of everyone around me getting dealt blow after blow, and me fighting to find a little sunshine for them, that memory to me feels and smells like that: cool, ashy, dirty, leftover and waiting to melt away. And the week after that one, where my life started exploding, that week is connected with the smell of forgotten raw turkey burgers left on top of the fridge instead of inside it, a pleasant surprise to come home to after two days of work and one night in Queens; I don’t remember when I did that but I do remember almost crying when I came home to that smell after a long week, and then just before a tear fell I started to laugh hysterically, because in reality…. it was a pretty hilarious and stupid thing to do.

Yesterday I was walking to the subway the long way after work, taking a few extra minutes to go to Penn Station instead of 14th Street. It’s been a really odd week again, the high of watching a full studio of friends in savasana tinged with the grief of two people  I love experiencing unexpected and unimaginable losses. The past few days have also made something really, really apparent: I miss my best friend. People keep telling me it’ll get easier adjusting to life without M and N around the corner, and I suppose in some ways it has. But it will never be easier having my best friend in a different country. It’s just a new normal that I have to adjust to, and this new normal lately is tinged with that acrid yellow, that ashy cold gray like winter and the faint burning of someone else’s smoke, the smells of bad memories in NYC. Walking through midtown to Penn Station yesterday I felt sad somehow, dejected. Things are changing in ways I couldn’t plan for and sometimes I wonder if everything will be okay.

And then I passed one of those roasted nut vendors, the famous ones dotting the city with that intoxicating aroma of roasted sugar and cashews, and as I lifted my nose to inhale I found myself staring at the top of the Empire State Building. Little memories started popping back into my mind, the citrus and mint essential oil from the first vinyasa class I ever taught on my own, the charred, smoky smell from a perfect burger on a first date in December, and the way the city smells alive, constantly changing, constantly moving. Sometimes I wonder if I made the right choice, staying in this expensive, smelly, loud, exhausting city, especially when my best friend is gone. But part of me knows I would never really leave it all behind. The good and bad memories, the good and bad smells. This is my New York, and I love every piece of it, starting with every distinct smell.

[Draft Series] YTT Diaries

Original draft: February 6, 2016

Week 3, Day 4

I think the fact that we had to trust that the teacher was there and would take us out when it was time, we had to trust each other to stay focused, eyes closed, and we had to trust an open door at our back; all of these things were on our minds and yet we had to focus our sole attention of a single thought or breath or image or sound . We spent the next 90 minutes after that working on opening our hearts and our hips, more gestures of trust and love, and we laughed that whole practice with our instructor, hence running over by a quarter of an hour. 

Something powerful happened today and when MH talked us into savasana I let the tears roll down my cheeks as her words ran through me so powerfully: “We just kicked each other’s asses, and we get to spend this whole weekend together, and that’s all awesome.” Her words hit me somewhere powerful and deep, because they were so perfectly true in that moment for me, where the walls outside YTT were really confusing and cranky, so it’s wood floors and conversations were the only place I could lose myself in something I love. 

Getting Tattooed with Food Poisoning and Other Tales from Austin

Greetings from my home sweet home here in New York City, after a week that can only be described as “eventful.” I’m referring to my grand Austin adventure, originally planned as a way to start sowing seeds for a new life and instead becoming a grand ol’ vacation in Texas with my lovely G; and I’m referring to what it’s like to say goodbye to people that irrevocably changed your life just by being in it. I talk a lot about how crazy it is to realize how things change over the course of a year, or two years, or five, but this week I learned it’s crazy how things can change in just an hour – or five. But in the spirit of keeping this under 12 pages, let’s start with Austin Adventures:

We start our weekend last Friday at 4am, as I leave A’s place for a 5:45 flight from LaGuardia, stopping in Houston to switch planes before ATX, baby. The plan was to take the earliest flight out so I’d have the whole afternoon to bask in the Texas sun, go to a yoga studio, and generally enjoy my time in my second-favorite US city. Things felt *slightly* weird after boarding the plane and then not moving or hearing anything from the flight attendants for over an hour, but you know, flights can be weird. By the second hour that passed on the plane, I was getting pretty cranky. I should mention I avoid coffee before long flights and was not super thrilled with anything at that point, especially as I’d already missed my connecting flight. By 8:15 we finally had an update: everyone off the plane and maybe we’ll leave this morning. After a HUGE coffee and some airport yoga, I had a smile on my face – I wasn’t going to let a delay ruin my Austin weekend – but starting the weekend with a 5-hour delay should have been a clue that I may love Texas, but it was not about to love me back.

Friday and Saturday went off without a hitch, a perfect two days singing in the car and hanging out with G, those rare moments where we can pretend we do this all the time instead of barely once a year. I sang her Happy Birthday and we ate some of the best desserts (“manna cotta… panne cotti? Just put more in my mouth.”). G’s roommates joined us for Saturday night and we danced on Dirty Sixth among cowboys and bachelorette parties, and in the midst of getting our hair done earlier that afternoon, we hatched a plan to continue a now-tradition the next day during our Austin adventures: somewhat-spontaneous tattoos.

I woke up on Sunday morning feeling a little foggy but overall fine – I’d stuck to beer the night before and made a point to drink water so I’d be comfortable while needles pierced my skin that day. I’m an early riser and the girls were still sleeping, so I ventured down to the hotel lobby for a small breakfast of yogurt (<– that’s important) and cereal while watching an old episode of Ink Master on my computer (*how am I so cool). Eventually G and I went out for breakfast tacos, and I noticed my stomach felt…. not right. I should mention I’m not a hungover puker. Like, ever. I mean okay there have been occasions, but for the most part after heavy drinking, I get headaches and migraines, I don’t vomit. So when I started to feel my stomach churning in the middle of a delicious breakfast taco salad, I thought it was odd, but brushed it off – it had to be a hangover, right?

We went back to the hotel to lay down for a quick nap to stave off G’s hangover before heading out for spontaneous tattoo adventures. I didn’t sleep so much as toss and turn, telling myself I wasn’t about to vomit because that’s not what I do. Turns out that was what I ended up doing for the next hour – stupid hangover! Luckily, after a particularly spirited outburst of the final remnants of my breakfast in the streets of Austin while walking around to kill time before the shop opened, I miraculously felt wonderful. We spent the next few hours in the tattoo shop where we’d been two years before, chatting with the artist, reviewing the design, the familiar buzz of the machine and then just a hint of pain as I reminded myself why, in fact, I’d sworn off any more rib tattoos after the first one. As mine is larger, I was the first victim of the machine, and I watch G get two perfect arrows on her forearm with a mix of awe and excitement. And then my stomach did the familiar churn of the morning, and while her arm was saran-wrapped and instructions for healing were offered, I projectile-lost-everything-in-my-body in the shop bathroom and a nightmare night began.

I have to say, having never had food poisoning before (*and not realizing that’s what it was for a while since I was only vomiting), there really is no introduction quite like a night by yourself in a strange AirBNB in a semi-strange city, alternately wincing as you brush a fresh wound on your ribs and throwing up so violently you can’t breathe. Sadly said violent-vomiting meant my very last day in Austin, the only bright and sunny day, the one where I had two yoga studios picked out to attend and the whole city at my beck and call, was instead spent huddled on a strange bed under the air conditioning, sipping Walgreens-brand Pedialyte and watching Netflix.

I was more than grateful to get home early on Tuesday afternoon, except I knew that meant a terrible goodbye was on its way. It wasn’t the vacation I’d had planned at all – not even a little bit. But that’s exactly how my last Austin adventure went too. And really, nothing that I ever plan for Austin turns out the way I think it will. Maybe that’s the beauty of my relationship with that city: the constant reminders that life is full of little surprises, and forever is composed of nows.

I didn’t plan to post today.

Really though. I originally had ambitions of posting something thoughtful today, and then I couldn’t pull myself together in time to write the draft (it’ll go on Monday PROMISE). I thought today would be a good day to hold on posting in favor of waiting until I had something really interesting to write about, like what I’ll hopefully be posting on Monday. And then I started reading this article while browsing the interwebz at lunch, and a line gave me so much pause that I did something unthinkable. In this article on xoJane, the writer mentions a one-sided romance she had before meeting her fiancé, and says this: “The cliff-hanger ending of that story rattled me deep.” Almost immediately after reading that, I had this ridiculous impulse to click over to Facebook, take a deep breath, and type The Child’s name into the search bar.

What was I thinking? Why am I doing this? All questions that were running through my brain as I lightly pressed the keys, finding a small bit of amusement in how I couldn’t recall exactly how to spell his last name. I wasn’t expecting or wanting to see anything. I wasn’t looking at him because I missed him or because I wanted to know about his life. I literally had no reason to be clicking on his profile and yet even in my small hesitation as I went to click through, I couldn’t stop myself. And then all of a sudden there I was, looking at the same face that broke up with me over a text message and then strung me along for a few months before he left Manhattan for good. I felt nothing as I looked at him. Pity, maybe, that he has to keep living with himself, and his self is not a good person. A flicker of nostalgia for a time where my weekends were late nights with R&H, where I had three tattoos and long hair, where I was thinking maybe this yoga thing was something to explore. But mostly? I felt nothing.

Why are we compelled to check-in with people that break our hearts? In the two years since he came crashing into my life on that cold subway platform, I’ve moved jobs, cut off all my hair, gotten three tattoos (nearly four), received my yoga teacher certification and found someone who could really be someone. Nearly everything about me has changed, save for my apartment and morning commute; and yet even with all of this, a single line in an article can bring me back to 2014 LB who was curious about a cute stranger on a train. I’ve long since stopped being angry; I haven’t cared about him in years, and I knew that looking at his face from behind a social media profile wouldn’t change any of that, and I didn’t want it to! So why the fuck did I feel the need to do it.

What is it about exes that keep such an odd hold on us? I suppose it’s not all exes: the big Ex and I have maintained a friendly relationship since we fell apart, a testament to his maturity and how much we really did love each other while we were together; when he pops up on social media I feel that little pinch in my heart that calls to the piece that will always love him. But I don’t “check in” with him ever, really, because if I really wanted to check-in with him I’d text him to make plans for coffee. Frankly, I don’t know that I’ve been compelled to “check-in” on any ex, whether we’re officially ‘exes’ or not, and yet despite having not thought about him in months, reading that one sentence today brought my thoughts immediately back to that person. Both people, I suppose: who he is and who I was when he knew me.

Is there a conclusion to this post? Not really. The whole story is no more than “I thought about a stupid fuck of an ex for the first time in months today and figured I’d see if he changed his profile picture and he didn’t.” Barely an interesting sentence, let alone a full post. Perhaps there’s something about being in a not-so new-anymore relationship, where you’re still learning about each other but you’ve settled into a comfortably boring and perfect routine, where you’re making plans for the immediate and distant future like they’re one in the same; perhaps there’s something about that which calls to mind what it took to find that person and that point of happiness. I kissed a lot of toads and one whopper of a snake before I met a prince. Maybe that’s the lesson learned in all of this: people shape our lives for specific reasons. The surest mark of growth is looking at a face that once made you swoon and sob at the same time and feel absolutely not a damn thing.