Trying too Hard

I was doing a seated twist in yoga the other night.  I’m really not good at these.  I like the laying down twists so much better – and not just because I’m laying down (although that’s a bonus) but because gravity does so much of the work for you.  This is helpful when you have not only a terribly inflexible spine, but also boobs that have a tendency to get in the way.  Anyway, I was pushing myself into the twist, trying to keep my left hip on the ground (really, this pose is so much harder than it looks) when I heard a little voice say:

“Stop. Trying. So. Hard.”

No, it wasn’t God.  And I don’t think it was my right kidney, although it was probably screaming something similar at this point.  It was that little part of me (ok BIG part of me) that is just tired.  Tired of me pushing so hard for everything ALL THE TIME.

I read all kinds of yoga blogs where the people writing them say how they learn all kinds things about themselves during yoga or because of yoga or whatever.  I never thought I’d be one of those people.  I love yoga, I love what it does for all of me, but I’m not one of those people who has revelations during yoga either.

I wouldn’t really call this a revelation.  My body was just tired.  I’m not one of those who goes crazy pushing myself in fitness, but I had been hitting the power yoga pretty hard lately.  And I was trying really hard to keep up with the people next to me who did inversions in between vinyasas.  (Nope, I didn’t get that far.)  I had to pull back, to let my body do the work.

I’ve been thinking about that ever since.  Stop trying so hard.  Where else do I push to hard in my life?  Right.  Everywhere.  I pretty much go all or nothing on most things I do.  Sometimes this makes me really good at things – like my diet right now.  It also makes me a hard worker, a dedicated student, and a good friend.  It also means that I burn out.  Fast.

I’ve dealt with a lot of burn out in my life.  When I was in my early twenties, after working one too many 60 hour work weeks, I quit my job and moved back to Sacramento.  I was burnt out.  I was so burnt out that before I quit, I got strep throat so badly that I was out for nearly 2 weeks.  Back then I didn’t believe that my health was a reflection of what was going on in inside.

Now I know that it’s true, and as I deal with a different layer of burn out – not necessarily job related (although that’s part of it) – but health and life related I think about this a lot.  Stop trying so hard, Carmen.  Your body knows what’s best.

Try this – it’s really good with pork chops.  And while you peel the layers of artichoke you can take your mind off trying so hard.  These are pretty hard to screw up.

Sauteed Baby Artichokes with Garlic

1 lb. of baby artichokes (the fresh kind from the farmer’s market)

1 garlic clove, thinly sliced

Pinch of red pepper flakes

1 swig of olive oil

1 swig of chicken stock

Lemon (optional)


Have you ever prepared baby artichokes?  They’re really easy.  Peel off the bottom couple of layers of leaves until you get to a light green color.  Trip the bottom a bit, and chop off the top 1/2 inch or so with a sharp knife.  Cut in half.  Put cut artichoke halves in a bowl with water and a bit of lemon juice or vinegar.  This sounds labor intensive but really goes pretty fast.

Heat up a heavy bottom frying pan and add a swig of olive oil.  When the oil heats up add the garlic and pepper flake, and fry until it starts to smell good.  Add the artichoke halves and try to get them all cut side down.  Let them hang out for about 5 minutes or so, stirring a few times.  Add a swig of chicken stock (or white wine), stir a few times, and put on a lid.  Let them steam for a few minutes.  They’re ready when you can poke the bottom easily with a knife.  Serve with a squeeze of lemon, if you want, or a really big glass of white wine.  Or both.



Русский: Картина Николая Рериха "Агни Йог...

Image via Wikipedia

I’m having a hard time writing.

That’s part of the reason why I haven’t been here.  But it’s really not writer’s block.  I have LOTS to write about.  It’s just a matter of wanting to say it, to admit it out loud.

That’s the problem with blogs, especially personal ones.  You have to open up, to admit things, to put things down on paper (or computer) that you would otherwise not want to share.  Sure, you could avoid it, but then who would read?  Why would they read?

I just couldn’t do it.  Didn’t want to do it.

But when you’re a writer, even if pen to paper or fingers to keys never actually happens is that you always think like a writer.   Your thoughts run through your brain like words on a page.

I haven’t been writing.  I’ve been resisting.  I’m frustrated and a little angry and upset and I didn’t want to talk about it.  I’m still not sure I want to talk about it.

But, the other things about a blog is that it keeps you accountable.  For some masochistic reason I want people to know what I’m thinking.  Why?  Good question.  I’m going to tell myself that it’s because someone out there might be thinking the same thing.  But really, it’s to quell this feeling inside myself.

I’m getting over a really gnarly cold.  I’ve been down since Monday.  Had to take several days off work because I just couldn’t move.  I’m still coughing and stuffy which is just lovely (even more so when I’m off to San Francisco for a concert this evening) but feel a lot better.  I feel alive again.  What’s frustrating about this is that I was feeling pretty good.  I felt like my life was coming back.  I was going to yoga again – and power yoga at that – and it felt good.  I felt good.  This happens rarely.  And then – BAM!  I’m sick.  I still can’t go to yoga.  Hanging your head upside down in down dog is no fun when you’re stuffy.  Nor is coughing.

So I’m frustrated.  I’m pissed that even though I’ve been really good on this crazy diet I’m still not losing any weight.  I’m annoyed that the crazy skin issue that I have on my hand is back.  I’m irritated that I can’t really breathe through my nose.  And I’m really ticked off at this cold because that’s what I’m going to blame this all on.

Is it the cold’s fault?  Maybe, maybe not.  Who knows when your immune system is totally screwed up.  I am happy that it’s the first cold I’ve had all year.  This is AMAZING when you work with germy teenagers.  But really, down for a week?  A cough for going on 10 days?  Enough already.

I’m trying to think about yoga, and what it teaches us about resistance.  You can’t push too hard, you can’t force yourself into perfection.  That pose may injure you if you force yourself into, say, camel.  You have to learn to ease back, to find the spot where you’re just pushing enough to grow, but not so much to injure.

It’s hard.  Especially for a impatient perfectionist like myself.  I want it now and I want it right.

I’m trying to see the good in this journey.  As I work myself back to health I’m discovering what is good for me and what is bad.  What makes me feel healthy and alive, and what makes me feel gross and sad.  This means that I have to find resistance, I have to find that spot where I just push myself enough to grow, but not so much that I scare myself off and want to retreat to my living room and hang out with my cat and eat Paleo cookies.

It’s not easy.  But I really believe that I can do this, that I am worth it.

In the meantime, you should make these cookies.  I swear they will make you feel better:

A few recommended readings on struggle and resistance for the week:

“Why being broken on your bathroom floor is a good idea” – from elephant journal

“The Value of Struggle” – I love Rumi, it’s a flashback to grad school and this quote is why – “You must set fire to have light”  – from Michelle Marlahan’s blog “Love Wasting Time”

Diets, rules, and other things that drive me crazy

Olive oil from Imperia in Liguria, Italy.

Image via Wikipedia

In my search for new and interesting things to eat, I am looking at more and more Paleo and Primal food blogs, posts on Pinterest, etc. to find ideas.  I’ve learned about GAPS and there was another one but I don’t remember the name.

I’m having a flashback to 7 years ago or so when my mom and I went low-carb.  Yes, I’m going to say it.  This all sounds remarkably like Atkins.

Now, before you Paleo people get all primal on me, hear me out.  Your diet consists largely of non-starchy veggies, meat, and fat.  I just pinned a sandwich that was guacamole between two pieces of bacon for Pete’s sake.  (And if you’re wondering, yes, I will make it, and yes, I will report back.)

Last night I spent at least two hours reading about how to go primal and paleo and GAPS, etc.  It kind of made my head hurt.  There are just so many RULES.  For those of you who know me well you know that the thing I hate most in this world (other than pigeons) are rules.  Not laws or things like that, but someone saying “you can eat this, you can eat that” etc.  This is probably why it took me at least a year to finally come to terms with the fact that gluten makes me sick.  This is why any old diet will not work for me.  I march to the beat of my own drummer.  Or my own fork.

I decided today that I will continue to read the food blogs because they have really great ideas.  But the “how to start eating Paleo” links are going to stop.  After a week of thinking about it, I’m not convinced I need to go strictly Paleo.  I might cry if I never see sushi or pasta (even if it’s made with rice pasta) again.  I can be done with the corn, but rice?  Please, please let me keep my rice, even if its only once in awhile.  And every once in a while, I think I should be able to eat a piece of chocolate, damn it.  And you want to know why?  Because it’s really f&*%$ing good with red wine.  And a good bourbon.  (Yes, yes, I know, GLUTEN.)

Because the truth of it is that I love food.  All kinds of foods.  And I think there are ways to incorporate lots of different foods without labeling anything as “bad”.  Do I operate better on a high protein/low carb/no processed food diet?  Of course, and I will continue to eat that way 99% of the time.  But I’m not going to let someone label me based on what I eat.  And I’m sure as hell not going to be one of those people who annoy servers at restaurants.  I’m bad enough with my no gluten/dairy issues.

And you want to know what else?  I’m freaking cooking with my olive oil.  I’m Italian. My grandmother will roll over in her grave if she ever heard that I wouldn’t cook with olive oil.

I’m going to go eat a kiwi fruit now and pretend that it’s a piece of dark chocolate.  Maybe chocolate will be my second thing added back in my diet before eggs (in case you were wondering, wine is first.)