#letsbefrank #4

Know your strengths I spent New Year's Day meditating, writing, cleaning and watching the sky. It was a day to set up all days of the coming year, one month in and I feel like I am well on my way to greatness. One morning in early January with my beautiful client and friend @oldfashionguru (you should follow her on Insta!) we were having one of those sessions where we were both getting honest and deep (they are almost all like that) and I said " my greatest gift as a teacher is not helping people get better at yoga, but in letting the very essence of the postures enhance and inform their lives, it is the way I make people feel that provides perspective and a gateway to greatness.

We are all great at something, if you don't know what that is yet, let the journey begin now. You can reach out to me, find another teacher or just begin to search to find something that lights you up. It is easier to know what is wrong with ourselves than what is right, but making the world a better place begins with the best you! We all have something to offer, it is knowing what that something is that matters most.

My personal story has become one of my greatest assets as a writer and teacher. I was recently interviewed by a dear friend on his new podcast called the Invisible Thread, in fact, I think my #letsbefrank writing was part of the inspiration behind it. I've attached the link below, give it a listen, perhaps it will help you to embrace exactly who you are and find your way to greatness.
https://www.buzzsprout.com/237337/905811-vicky-cook-a-renick-podcast-the-invisible-thread-e1

#letsbefrank #3

#Letsbefrank #3 I have been sitting on a post that I began writing two weeks ago and it is good, but frankly it is fluff. I started #letsbefrank with the intention of being frank. So, here goes. In the midst of our current political upheaval and these damn Kavanaugh hearings I can’t help but think about my own past. I have experienced what might be considered an unusual amount of sexual abuse. Raped twice, molested by a trusted adult (all before I was 13) and gang raped as a teenager while I was drunk. This doesn’t include all the times I was just too drunk to say no. I haven’t jumped on the #metoo bandwagon and I don’t share about the assaults with many people. I only share when I can be helpful to someone else and to people close to me so they have information about my past and how it affects the present. Though all of these incidents happened more than thirty years ago, they still impact the present. Every time I read a story about child abuse or a woman being sexually assaulted, it awakens my own pain. The recovery from the external and internal pain of these experiences has been a long and winding road. Fear and insecurity ruined all intimate relationships before my husband (and can still take its toll on our relationship). I couldn’t stop myself from pushing someone away who was only trying to get close to me, I didn't even know I was doing it. Every time I share the amount of abuse I suffered I wonder if people think I am lying, even I sometimes find it incredulous. How could I let it happen over and over again, it is not just the abuse but the amount of it that fed the beast of shame. Before I went to jail, I was given a pre-sentencing interview (an interview done prior to sentencing to determine risk factors to the public and recidivism) by a man who seemed unfazed by the amount of abuse I had experienced, with each answer you could see he either thought I was making it up as a way to get a lighter sentence or he couldn’t bear to hear the truth of it. When they read his recommendation at my sentencing he used the abuse against me, stating that someone with a history like mine will most likely not find recovery and if given too light a prison sentence the courts would risk taxing their resources as I would likely be a repeat offender. Though I still feel the sting of those words, I've found satisfaction in proving him wrong. I cannot recall exact dates and times of the abuse but I sometimes still "smell" the stench of breath or "see" the bloodshot eyes back lit by the streetlight outside the bedroom window from the first man who raped me at 11 or feel the weight of the fat body and hear the rasp of the two-pack-a day-smoker that molested me. The experiences are front and center and though I am not there, I can be transported back as if no time has past at all. I no longer linger in those spaces, I have ways to help me work through the emotions, but the feelings are like scars of deep wounds that still ache years after injury. It would be nice if everyone believed my story, if I didn't worry if people were going to think less of me or question my integrity when I share my story but frankly, I care less and less each day what others think of me. This is for anyone that needs to be heard and hasn't yet found their voice, this is for every person who has ever been a victim of sexual violence, I see you, I believe you, I love you!

#letsbefrank #2

The Legacy of Love

Tomorrow is my 25th sober anniversary, something I don't normally talk about in public spaces, but because it is so deeply connected to Frank, and this writing I've committed to. I wanted to continue, to well, be frank. Over the weekend I was in Rhode Island with my husband. We sat in a little community garden having breakfast on Sunday in the sweet bay town of Wickford when I looked down and noticed that every few rows of the brick walkway had an "In memory of..." brick. How beautiful it was that these people were loved so much, honored so deeply by having their names written in material that could last a lifetime and will be witnessed and walked upon by people not even born yet. I wondered if someone would leave a brick or something like it behind for me. In the sweetness of the moment, I closed my eyes in a little mini-meditation and thought, what if there wasn't a brick or a book or even a tombstone with my name on it? What would my legacy be if it wasn't written down somewhere, how would I be remembered? I immediately thought about my students, the women I mentor, my friends, my family, even strangers I am kind to and realize it is the love, my legacy is wrapped in the love that nourishes others, that lives in their cells, that permeates their very being, that they, too, pass onto to others. It is the love that has freely been given to me that allows me to celebrate today. Frankly, it is this love that allows me to honor a man named Frank, who lives inside of me everyday. I live and love beyond what I thought possible 25 years ago, and that to me, feels like something to celebrate

#letsbefrank #1

Recently during my morning meditation, my mind was riffing on ideas (as it often does) I usually just let it go and enjoy the ride, but the phrase “let’s be frank” kept coming back day after day. I believe because I let the process happen, I know now what to do.

25 years ago, I killed a man named Frank Buda in a drunk driving accident. I am who I am because of the accident, not in spite of it. For those of you that know me, thank you for all the years of support and encouragement, I think I have finally found a way to honor Frank and our connection.

For those of you reading this for the first time, it might come as a surprise; but I hope it doesn’t change how you see me. It has been my fear of what you will think of me if you know, that has held me back from doing this.

I am committing to a weekly writing, perhaps random thoughts, maybe meditation, maybe yoga, maybe just stream of consciousness, I’m not sure exactly what it will be, but it will be frank, it will be the truth and it will be from my heart.

#letsbefrank is a dedication to a shared journey, how I have refused all these years to let his death be in vain. I did not intend to take his life, but everything I have done since that night has been a direct extension of it.

When my dear friend Beth Leas and I began our heart-ful conversations over five years ago at TLC Center, our creation, Heart Stories grew out of frank conversations. Each word we spoke was an invitation to the other to share (not tell) the stories of our lives and how they shaped us. It was our ability to hold space for each other that allowed the other to speak from the heart. She and I,both have the gift of allowing others to share who they are in a safe space and see themselves through the filter of their own love, their own heart. The power of speaking from the heart has been the backbone of my own healing.

This work is dedicated to Frank and all the beautiful people who have helped and loved me along the way. My dedication to being healthy, to healing every little morsel of my broken heart and soul has been my higher education and I'd like to share it with you!

Less-afraid

Whenever I do something I perceive to be wrong, I think “I just have to be better”, this morning I awoke with the dread and shame of my wrong-ness and I thought really I’d just like to be less afraid.  Then my thoughts strung together like pearls and I realized less-afraid is better. 

I too often vacillate between feeling like I am a badass peaceful warrior and just bad.  Almost two decades of self-improvement via traditional talk therapy, Reiki, Meditation, Yoga, self-searching, 12-step recovery, nutritional choices, studying or #anydamnthingthatwillmakemebetter still, sometimes it feels like it’s all for naught.

For two days I have been thinking about being “less-afraid” and it seems to have stuck a chord because the current chorus when running through my sub-conscious seems to be screaming to my inner-ears, don’t be better be “less-afraid”. 

Now I am wondering how to be “less-afraid”.  Fucking fear, that bitch has been around since the beginning of time, at least my time.  I came into the world gasping for breath, but maybe it was fear.  I can barely remember a time growing up where I felt safe.  Safe doesn’t feel peaceful at times because it was so unfamiliar the first 35 years of my life.

This past Sunday I acted poorly, I realize it is out of fear. When I am afraid I become indignant and judge everyone and everything.  I know this was a coping mechanism I created so I could live with my own self-loathing, but it doesn’t allow me to connect to spirit and find connection to my soul, my own true voice.  When I get to this place I feel very small, so my anger becomes big to protect me, I don’t project my anger outward too much anymore but when I do I almost immediately point the trigger of anger back on myself. 

I’ve decided to be accountable by writing it down, by seeing it for what it is and treating myself with understanding and love, the way I would treat someone I love, with compassion and empathy.  As a healer, mentor and teacher I have been able to provide this to so many and there have been times where I provide this for myself through a rigorous practice of self-care and working with other teachers and healers.  But what I really want is to cut through the bullshit and live in the truth of life and who I am, more.

 

So, this is the beginning, I normally wouldn’t post this, I would keep it to myself. But thanks to my dear friend, who shared her truth in a blog post this morning, I’m inspired to share mine and be led to “less-afraid”.    

Smoking Yoga Teacher


More yoga teachers smoke than you know.  My addictive personality couldn't survive soft tissue cancer.  My sister, the matriarch and my pseudo mother through my 20’s and 30’s ended up in a coma after her first chemo treatment.  She found out while I was on a beach in Rhode Island getting engaged.  I came back with my news first, so being who she was, she waited another month before she told me.  “I have Leiomyosarcoma, I have a chance for a clinical trial” and she assured us the doctor told her she wasn't in the “last 2 outs of the final inning” (she loved baseball and he used these baseball analogies the only 2 times I met with him, which made me want to scratch his fucking eyes out).

She didn't make it into the trial; she downplayed this as no big deal and decided to try a very progressive chemo treatment.  It was a beautiful Indian summer day in October, I was in my second weekend of advanced yoga teacher training, exhausted happy and soaking in an ancient wisdom I thought was sure to save my soul.  She was in a coma was all I heard, the rest of the message was white noise, except that she was rushed to the hospital. 

This is when I learned the difference between doctors and surgeons, doctors are like Mother Goose telling fairy tales and assuring us there is still hope and surgeons are autistic idiot savant detectives, just laying out the facts.  It was decided in the infinite wisdom of the doctor while my sister was in what he called a semi-coma to biopsy her cancer once again to see if there was a different treatment approach.  My brother-in-law didn't want to go down for the surgery so I volunteered.  I waited in the pre-op area and held her hand while they prepared her for surgery. 

I went to the waiting room and about an hour later the surgeon came to talk to me, he said they were able to obtain a viable sample easily and he must have seen the look of relief on my face, as he looked perplexed, so I pressed him further.  He said that he could have taken the sample from almost anywhere inside of her body, that the cancer had made its way to all of her organs and the soft tissue of the stomach.  He told me in just a few sentences of facts that my sister was riddled with this cancer and would most likely not survive.  I tried to press him further but he could tell I hadn't been told the true nature of her illness, he excused himself rather abruptly. 

I held it together and made my way back up to her room on the 5th floor.  I was reeling, what I sub-consciously knew was now confirmed. 

I waited until she was brought back up and my brother-in-law arrived back to her room before I made my way calmly down the elevator and outside to the smoking area where another sister was and said “give me a cigarette”, she refused and pleaded not to start, she knew how many times I had started and stopped.  I had begun to live a much healthier lifestyle in these past years and finally had gone a few years without them.  I didn't care; I needed something, anything to take me away from the reality of where I had been the last 3 hours.  I smoked on and off since I was ten years old and they were like a faithful old companion to me.  The ritual, the smell (however terrible after they were put out) became a place of comfort.  I didn't want to deal with how I was feeling and this was my familiar route.  I needed something and I was not ashamed.  I used to be ashamed of my smoking habit when I first started practicing yoga and had come back to it on and off, but this time it was just my old friend to accompany me through the pain, take the edge off and give me something, anything to do. 

I was still teaching yoga and seeing clients privately and hiding the fact that I was smoking, trying to cover it up with showers, hairspray and essential oil, but I know it lingered more than on my clothes, it lingered in my heart and soul. 

My sister died 6 weeks later, she decided to let go shortly after her first bedsore appeared, it was the one thing I knew would be the marker for death to come, I've seen this firsthand before. I kept smoking, I kept teaching and I kept grieving.  I lost hold of my meditation practice and asana was just something I had to do to keep things moving.  All the things that had saved me had not mattered for a time. 

One morning 4 months after my sister died I awoke coughing and crying and I knew I could handle the rush of grief that was about to take hold.  I threw out my cigarettes that day and cried for what seemed like an eternity.


We don’t know what goes on inside other people or what their experiences have been.  Even I tend to offer judgment before understanding.  I offer this story as invitation to offer compassion before judgment because I think most of us are doing the very best we can.   

Morning Practice


As I sat this morning in meditation, I chose to sit in the nook of our dining room that overlooks the English garden. I wanted to watch the snow and be present with the fullness of nature. My breath began to create the rhythm I have come to know as my practice. I observed the thoughts that come and go. They are never the same, but they beckon me in the same way every morning. I acknowledge, recognize, and even welcome their place in this process. 

I’ve come to deeply love my practice. I connect to myself and am led as I place myself in the rhythm of the world around me. There has been much push and pull in the practice of sitting regularly, but I ache when it is missed and those around me also suffer in its absence.

The gentle movement of my chest connects to my heartbeat. My thoughts begin to slow and shape themselves in a subtle nature—not moving too quickly or demanding my attention, but remaining on the fringe and less imposing. I embrace the play of my mind. Only my resistance creates challenge. I surrender to the movement—of mind, body and the vibrations of the living world— and offer to simply be in its presence.

The practice has not once pulled me away from the world, but is, in fact, always ready with an invitation to place myself completely in this moment. The fear, disappointment, joy, struggle, triumph, or tragedy must all be present. This teaches me to move from my heart and soul as well as my mind. For me, this practice is about living a whole and truthful experience.

In the years prior to my daily practice I was trying to be something I thought I should be, not even considering what I might want or connected to who I actually was behind the veil of daily living. Placing myself in the quiet space of my morning time, I began to see, not just with my eyes, but also with the warmth of my heart. I could feel the world respond to me. There began a dance of give and take, of offering and receiving.  

It has taken many years of meditation, sitting quietly (or not so quietly most of the time,) to find this awareness. To place my heart in the palm of the universe, to trust that my purpose is valid—that I am not a mistake. In the beginning my practice, like a timid stranger, felt awkward and hard to get to know, but I was patient and kind so each day I opened to myself a bit more. I started to see that my presence, my opening, is what opened the depth of my practice and has created a truly strong relationship—the strongest relationship in my life.

It seems odd to me now, that I didn't know vulnerability required truth.  I thought I had to become something else to reveal the true nature of who I am. I still laugh at the folly of this, yet it was something embedded in the marrow of my bones.   

The sun will rise each day. It is there doing what it does, not questioning rising, just creating the beginning of the day. The regularity of the sun teaches me that each day, each moment, requires presence. Nature continues to move and my movement with it, my effort to be in sync, brings me closer to myself. My hope, my desire, is to offer this rhythm to the world and begin to create the harmony of truth and bear witness to all those who would like to place themselves deeply in the presence of this world.  

Visiting Room

As I made my way up the hill to the camp portion of the Federal Corrections Institute in Danbury, CT, my heart couldn’t help but ache for Claire on this first Father’s Day without her dad. He died only 10 days ago and she wasn’t able to attend his service.  Her sister won’t visit and the process of coordinating visitors is timely and not a top priority for the administrative staff. So, other than family (which is only her sister now) I am the only one on the visiting list. When I arrive at the camp, I find out she did not get moved and was down in the maximum-security portion of the prison. We haven’t been able to talk because she is only allotted so much phone time and it was used with all the calls last week with the death of her father. 

I make my way down the hill. I walk in, with my closed toe shoes (I made the mistake of wearing sandals the first time, thank god for the mules in need of repair in the trunk of my car) my plastic sandwich bag with her inmate number, singles and some quarters for the vending machine, and my driver’s license for identification. 

The woman CO (correctional officer) is pretty nice. I’ve seen her before and she takes me right away because my paperwork is done already and the wait isn’t too long today. I’m feeling pretty good about today’s visit. I understand the dress code I have some money to buy her the diet coke she so enjoys and a candy bar, all in all I feel some satisfaction for getting it right. Many of the inmates make a feast from vending machine food, Claire is happy with her simple treats. We didn’t have that option in any of the prisons where I had been; visits were only to see relatives and friends. I often wonder if this is the main difference between federal and state prisons. They call her name right away (it is always just the last name, can’t get too personal) and then I am escorted through security, very similar to the airport.  Shoes off, plastic baggie in the plastic bin, and if you have any fake jewelry on it has to go in too because for some reason it sets off the alarm. I wait behind a heavy steel sliding door and they give us an invisible stamp on the inside of my right forearm and back of the hand. We then wait for the other visitors that are getting through security. Once ready, the heavy steel door opens and we step into a small waiting area with a CO behind tinted glass and the black light that shines on our arms to clear us through. The heavy steel door closes behind us, we are all checked through and they open the next door into the visiting center of maximum security.
It is loud and I remember this is what Claire experiences every day. It looks like a bus terminal with bolted seats, a row facing out towards vending machines, and then two rows facing each other. I have to make my way all the way down the rows facing in and disturb visits as they are sitting across from each other to get to the only free seats left.
She doesn’t know I am coming, we haven’t been able to talk and the email isn’t always reliable.  The group I came in with are already visiting their loved ones and still no Claire. I wait at least 25 minutes and I am hoping every time the door open it is her. I realize I am afraid of the COs. It has been many years since I was in prison, but I never lost the fear of the power they wield. I am nervous to go and ask where she is, in case they think I am a troublemaker and cause some retribution for her. It might seem an overreaction, but it is not. I’ve seen this happen and the last person you want to cross is a CO. I excuse myself through the people visiting and make my way up to the desk.  It turns out the CO is pretty nice and he says “let me call again”.  I am kind and grateful, probably overly so.  I sit down again and the noise and nonsense going on is indescribable. Had I not had my own experience, I would think this is an exaggeration. There is a teenage daughter holding her mother’s hand. This is only allowed if children are small and the female CO bringing inmates in and out doesn’t yell, but with a roll of her eyes and a stern voice makes it clear that they should stop and should know better. The nonsense going on to the left of me was beginning to make me uncomfortable. The inmate’s family or friends were grabbing each other’s boobs and generally touching inappropriately; you could see they delighted in the fact that they might be making me and anyone else that might notice uncomfortable. If I want to see Claire this isn’t too much to endure. One of the best lessons I gained from my incarceration is to keep your nose down, but don’t be afraid. I kept this presence about me and they seemed to get bored. It’s never as much fun if you don’t have a captive audience, I chuckle to myself as I realize prison really does give you quite an education.
Another 15 minutes went by and I’m trying not to seem nosy to anyone, but we are all sitting on top of each other. There is nowhere I can casually glance and not be deep into someone’s personal business. I remember this was the thing that was hardest when I was locked up. The fact that I had no privacy whatsoever—nothing was sacred or personal.  Finally a young woman and her toddler son and her older boyfriend came and sat across from me. The little ones always make the visiting fun, they don’t understand where you are and they just think it is an adventure. He was squirmy and flirty and everyone adored him. He smiled at me and I noticed he had a pierced ear. I wasn’t surprised by this, it just became another detail of the whole experience. I’m not sure why you pierce a one year old’s ear, but that is never a question you ask in a place like this.
A kind Indian woman sat next to me with her family. She asked me if I knew where my daughter was. This was funny to me because I am old enough to have a daughter in prison. I smiled and said I am here to visit a friend. I was becoming very anxious and she said to go up again. I mentioned my reluctance and she gave me that knowing smile and told me he was one of the nice ones. He was nice and said he’d call her unit. I went back to my seat and couldn’t help but notice all that was going on—the elaborate snacks taken from the vending machine—one young woman had skittles, starburst, and two chocolate bars in ½ hour. I had nothing else to do with my time, watching vending machine madness was a good way to pass the time. 
Finally I went up again, it had been close to an hour. I was kind and he was kind too, it was a very human moment amongst all the chaos and I remembered those were the moments that got me through. I said I know she works in the kitchen and he said he would try there. I went back to my seat between the nice Indian family and the rambunctious women not following the rules and waited. 
A few minutes later, she finally walked through the door, our eyes were filled with tears. This is my third visit and each time we both cry. We have our “not-too-long-greeting-hug” that is permitted and we get to sit down. The pierced toddler is moving between her and the Indian family—playing, smiling and bringing a lot of warmth to everyone’s visit. 
We talk about our mutual friends, how she is dealing with the loss of her father, and the fact that her sister is on a binge and still hasn’t come to visit. She is blaming Claire’s incarceration as the cause for his death. I am grateful she understands addiction and it is easy to assure she isn’t the reason. I know she is doing her best to cope with the huge losses in her life the past three months—her freedom, her marriage, and now her father.
We go to get her diet coke and today she wants Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I’m happy to get her these small items that bring her a little joy. I get myself sun chips so we can have a little snack while we visit.  This is as “normal” as it gets.
We talk about her decision to tell her son she is not in long term treatment, but in prison. He is in Florida and his father didn’t want him to know about jail. He is 15. We are both sure he has looked it up on the internet and already knows, but is playing the game for the sake of the adults. She has respected her ex and not said anything up to this point.  I am proud that she has learned to be considerate of other people and she and I talk about how it has gotten her through this whole process. 
I realize I am holding my heart in my throat and am holding back tears. We continue to talk about her decisions—the good ones she is now making. She tells me that she plans to stay in the maximum-security part of the prison because she has a job and her bunkmate is cool. There is more freedom in the camp portion but here she can do her time rather than allowing her time to do her. She also has more opportunity for attending grief groups and recovery from trauma. Sitting there with a river of tears in my throat, I realize how proud I am of her. Most would have thought her a hopeless case. I even thought of walking away at times, but am so grateful I did not.
She tells me “you need to leave before the rush”. I am willing to stay and she looks at me with tears in her eyes and says, “It is just too painful, I like the visits, but if they go too long it hurts.” I understand this like no one else can. I am grateful I have this experience. I knew she would settle in, to this new way of life. It is strange and unkind a lot of the times, but there is a way to get through it. I knew it would take time. And right now, that is all she really has.   
We walk to the desk together and hug and lock eyes for a moment, it is in that moment we both know the grace of god has been kind to us and that grace can only be seen through a grateful heart. She is alive and will not have to be in this place for more than another 15 months. My deep gratitude is characterized by a sense of real purpose for my time spent in prison. We recognize the divine in our relationship as we both turn to leave. There is sadness but more than anything there is peace. I leave knowing I have made a difference in someone else’s life and that is truly a great reason to live.

"Untitled"


20 years ago today, I killed a man. It is the reason I went to prison. It is hard to articulate, even with two decades behind me. I recently spoke at Staples High School for alcohol and drug awareness week and was the only one who spoke that wasn’t the victim or family of a victim as the result of a drunk driving accident. I was the drunk driver. I’ve told the story many times and it is always the same—you can hear a pin drop when I utter the statement, it feels as if the world stops; maybe it does. This is one of those experiences that changes the course of life for many and continues to shape me each and every day. 

I was 25 years old and partying heavily for many years. It always seemed like it was my right to party and I hung out with a lot of people who shared my penchant for getting drunk and high. I knew on some level that I had a problem with drugs and alcohol, but I couldn’t imagine a life without them. Substances had always been there for me, until the day it finally turned its back on me for good. The power of addiction is insidious and still, to this day, can baffle me.

I have struggled with many questions over the years. The first was of course, why me?  Then it was why didn’t I die? How am I going to live? Can I make it in prison? Can I make it out of prison? How will I get out of bed today? How will I go on? How will I tell my story? Why should I tell my story? What is my purpose? Why did I drink so much? The questions come; they still do, ad infinitum.

Rarely am I asked how I feel about it after someone finds out. It is one of those things that people either don’t want to know or maybe feel they shouldn’t want to know. I wonder if they assume they know how I feel. I have trouble talking about it, because, it feels like something that just has no opening line. After I had my son, I mentioned it less and less. Partly because I am a mom and partly because I think I have wanted to stop identifying myself with it. I’m always worried what people will think and don’t want it to affect my son’s life adversely if a teacher or parent found out. More than a few people I see do know about it because I live in the town I grew up in. I’ve never had anyone ask about it, even if they know. Do you think they want to know or do they just feel it is inappropriate to ask? Or, maybe they think I shouldn’t have any feelings about it at all. I think it is one of those really big events that might feel to powerful to touch for fear it might explode. Funny thing is, I’m not sure how I feel about it half of the time either. 

I spent the first 10 years after jail on a crusade, telling my story as much as I could to anyone that would listen.—in high schools and in communities where I could help people see the dangers of drinking and driving. Then most of the past 10 years has been my journey to try to identify less and less with the accident as part of my life. This past year has been the most balanced for me. I don’t let it define every fiber of my being with shame and remorse, but use the experience as a way to be of service and to further my spiritual development while I continue to help others. 

 I am grateful my spiritual journey began that fateful night and has been guiding me ever since. I try to live a life that ensures this never happens again and that this man didn’t die in vain. But some days, especially today, it seems like a lot to bear. The cost of a life is immeasurable and there is no real way to make amends. 

There are, of course the stories I tell myself, that which I believe everyone must be thinking: You don’t deserve to be happy. You should be ashamed of yourself.  You are despicable.  You don’t deserve to live.  How dare you think you can have a happily ever after.  You shouldn’t write about it, you should be grateful you are alive. 

The deserving part is the real bitch. It sneaks up like a rat in the dark, creepy and unassuming and then you see it clearly in all its ugliness. I’ve felt this countless times over the years. How dare I have a beautiful son, loving husband and a white picket fence? How dare I find any happiness at all? The struggle just to be normal has been great. I realize to be normal is relative to experience, for everyone.  Still, I’ve prayed many days just to be ordinary.

I’ve read many articles over the years about situations similar to mine. My heart breaks every time, for everyone involved. It isn’t only the man that died or his family that suffers. It is my friends and the affect it had on my family and anyone who cared about me at all. I’ll never forget my sister’s face when she walked into the visiting room at Valhalla prison—the pain in her eyes, the anguish in every crease of her face, the absolute helplessness. I was crazy with fear and shock, my mind, body and soul totally broken. She could see all of it and do nothing. My father, a man who never had many words, had so much fear in his eyes as I was getting ready to go to an unknown, unprotected environment. His daughter, locked up in handcuffs, in jail, took a few years off his life I am sure. My first phone call the night of the accident was to my brother Ray, the only one I could reach. The utter shock and disbelief in his voice was palpable though his words over and over again were trying to assure me, “Don’t worry about it; we’ll take care of you.” I am grateful my mother was already gone; it would have killed her for sure. She had a pretty hard life by the time she had died. Looking back, I realize I do take after my mother in more ways than I ever really knew or wanted to admit. 

I was extradited back to Connecticut from New York (this is for another post) to the state barracks in Westport, CT. When I walked out, my family was there, waiting for me with open arms and unconditional love. As dysfunctional as we can sometimes be, we have always been there for each other. It is truly one of the greatest gifts my mother bestowed upon us, to teach us the value of family and never turning your back on those in need. This is still one of my most vivid and cherished memories.  Seeing my father and siblings standing there I think, deep down, I knew I might have just a mustard seed of courage to go on. I don’t think they know they saved my life that day. It has always been those moments, those slivers of time with the greatest courage along with the greatest love and support that have carried me through. 

There is so much more to say about it and believe me, I have exhausted many hours in philosophical retrospection and conversation. Most importantly, I’ve worked a lot over the past 20 years to help others and share my experience. I don’t know if I’ve directly saved any lives, but that is the irony in this, I don’t get to know if my experience has kept someone alive, because there isn’t a tragedy to brood over.  I often refer to my accident as the best and worst thing that ever happened to me. Without it I would not be who I am today. Because of it a man is not a grandfather, did not walk his daughter down the aisle on her wedding day and missed many beautiful moments in the lives of his loved ones. These are just the facts and I know in depths of my soul I cannot affect any part of the past, but I can, if I choose, shape the future. 

My life is lived in dedication to Frank Buda, the man who gave up his life so that I could live, truly live.  I hope through our experience we have saved many lives together.

The Power of Momentum

I’ve spent time journaling my stream of consciousness this past week. I am happy I am writing, but I am aware that I am avoiding something. I had a great suggestion from a writer friend about how to come up with good blog ideas (of which I thought I had many).  He suggested I have friends ask me questions like, “how I met my husband,” or, “how I met my best friend”. These are interesting stories and I see where he is going with this. I got the sense he wants me to write more about myself instead of me writing about the fear of writing about myself.  So now I am writing but I am writing much about nothing. I have some real substance to write about, yet I’m reluctant to share. I’ve always used writing as an outlet, something that fed my soul and healed my spirit. I keep saying I want to be a writer so I need to stop dancing around the stories and just tell them.

This new online mentor group I’ve signed up for to help keep me accountable to achieving my goals: “Check in, Not Out,” I’m finding is all about building momentum. At the end of the second week I am closer to completing my goal of writing three hours a week and I can see how the momentum builds and really takes on a life of its own. It is the starting that takes the most effort. Showing up is half the battle, right?

So,  (gulp…) I’m going to share a bit more of myself with you. 

I am 45 years old. The other day I couldn’t remember how old I was. I have finally become the age that forgets how old they are. I am a mom, who is married to a man who is not the father of my son. I was never married to my son’s father.  I have two dogs, Jersey and Dakota, who are a bit mischievous.  I like to refer to myself as the bad pet parent. We really let them get away with a lot but they are so full of love. 

My son is 11 years old. I am one of nine children—I am number 5. I never refer to any of my brothers or sisters as only half-siblings, I think that is silly and my mother was the kind of woman who made sure we understood that there isn’t half when it comes to family.

I received my High School Diploma in prison. I now mentor a woman in prison. I went to community college to become a better writer when I got out of prison. I still work for the man that gave me one of my first jobs. He hired me back when I got out of prison and I really love him. As I embark on a new career path, it is hard to move into doing less of my day job and more of this deeply gratifying work. My fear is part financial security, but mostly it is the fear of failure and success. I still have ingrained in me the only way to survive is to have a day job whether you like it or not. The “job”  will always be me more than I am worth. I should be happy with it. I don’t want to keep this belief system, but I know I still have it. 

I spent a season getting certified to jump out of planes. I jumped 14 times by myself. I am still afraid of heights. I spent a winter living in Colorado as a ski bum. I lived in the highest elevated town for two months, Leadville Colorado. I’ve traveled across country twice.

I believe in love at first sight. I also believe it can end. I love purple roses even though they are unnatural. I am on the verge of tears every time I smell Gardenias. My husband planted over 200 hundred tulips as a surprise and didn’t tell me until they bloomed. I have a special affinity for trees. My husband and I got married in front of a tree. One of my favorite books is the giving tree. I guess I am melancholy, by nature.

I wish I could say what was on my mind. I wish I had a different childhood. I am grateful for my childhood, but I like irony. I don’t like the fact that my teeth are changing so rapidly. 

Between the ages of 17 and 25 I lived in over 10 different homes/apartments. I used to write very dark poetry. I turned some of my poetry into punk rock songs. I always wanted to be anyone but me. I now don’t want to be anyone but myself. 

I am sometimes very patient. I am sometimes very impatient. I like coffee. I gave it up for 6 years.  I drink coffee now. I want to stop drinking coffee. The desire is not great enough.

I don’t think about my mother that often. I think of how much I am like my mother. I try to grow the things I love about my mother. It took me a long time to find forgiveness for her. I now can ask for forgiveness from others. I am grateful I now know how to ask. I was with both of my sisters when they died. I have experienced death a lot. I am still afraid of dying. I loved my grandmother very much. I was her second favorite. She had 14 grandchildren. I am of Italian/Irish descent. 

I love Uma Thurman. She is my girl crush. I would really like to handstand in the middle of a room. I wish I had my son’s confidence. The three words my son says to me the most are: I got this. 

I wanted to be a rock star. I am dramatic enough to be an actress. I lived in Santa Monica California for three months. The only time I ever asked my father for money was to get home from Santa Monica, California.  My father died a month after my son was born.

There are friendships I have let go of. I am happy I did. I am sad I did. I have known my best friend since we were 10. She knows everything about me. She loves me. I love her. I am grateful.

My husband is very sentimental. He cries more than most men I have known. That is one of the reasons I married him. I cry a lot too.

I feel deeply. I forgive easily. Sometimes… I want to forgive easily more of the time. I am silly and serious. I can go from silly to serious in a split second. 

I am not sure if my greatest fear is rejection or being hurt. I am sorry if I have hurt you. I have to practice being a more patient driver but I am getting much better.

Purple is my favorite color. I look great in red. I wish I didn’t have cellulite. I don’t love my thighs but I don’t hate them anymore. I have nice eyes. I remember my mother’s hands. I remember her smile. It was big.

More will be revealed.

To Write or Not to Write...

To write or not to write, that is the question...

It certainly isn’t for lack of ideas that I don’t write.  I realize it truly is the discipline to sit down and put pen to paper that is the craft of writing.  I’d like to be a great accomplished writer straight out of the gate, but accomplishment comes from practice.  The only way to get good at anything is to do it over and over again.  There are reminders everywhere in my own life and the lives of those around me that show me this. It is funny how I have those built in forgetters or think I should be "different".  One of the things Ann Lamott posts over and over is that if you want to be a writer you just have to sit down and write.  It doesn’t matter whether it is good or bad, just make the time.  So, again, here I sit and thank Ann for the courage. 

The next questions that nag at me still are, why am I writing, to who am I writing for, why do I feel inspired to write???   I know inspiration is something inherent in each of us.  Each time you breathe, you fill with inspiration, literatlly and figuratively.  The breath is such a simple analogy and one I use quite often as a yoga teacher.  It is the one thing we can always come back to, it simplifies and defines life in that it conspires to not only give us physical life, but inspire us to greatness, to vulnerability, to truth, if we pay attention to it, if we practice paying attention to it.

As I have struggled these last four weeks (when I started this blog it was only two) to write and have come up with tons of ideas for blogs (at least a dozen good ones) I always have something better to do.  It took me years to find a steady meditation practice, not because I didn’t feel great affects from it, but because I couldn’t find the motivation or drive to do it daily.  Sleep seemed more valuable, spending time with my son, doing my asana, walking the dogs, going to work, making homemade meals, helping friends, ad infinitum.  These are all very valid strong life affirming activities, but in my heart I know I needed to meditate daily.  I can still be a moody person, with a tendency to react in anger over the slightest injustice to me or in the world.  Meditation created space and allowed life to come to me, rather than knee jerk react my way through every situation.  After trying for many years and coming back to the practice over and over again, I began to see the value and recognize how it enhanced my life, made all the above activities richer and allowed me to be more “present” within them.  I now have a daily meditation practice.  It was a joy, a struggle and many come to “Jesus” moments, but it found and devoured me. It has its peaks and valleys like any other relationship, but now I am committed to it.

So… with that written and me figuring out while I am writing this what one practice has to do with the other, it seems much clearer.  I have already put myself out there once, you have begun to hear me clear my writing throat and nothing imploded and temples didn’t crumble under the heresy of my voice.  The demons of fear have been quieted a bit, so now what is my excuse?  Still a bit of that fear, but really it is good old fashioned discipline, not a punishment, but literally being a disciple of my desires answering the call of making meaning of my life.   I hired someone to coach me, she suggested I write a couple times a week and that doesn’t seem so hard, right?  Yet, here I am at the end of the two weeks (ahem, four weeks) since our session and I am just taking my first 20 minutes to write this.  I am enjoying it, I will go back and edit and re-read many times (I have now put more than a couple hours into editing/rewrites) but really was that so hard (nope!). 

Everything in life teaches me, when I am willing to learn.  My yoga and meditation practice (one is not really separate from the other, but that is for another blog) have taught me the benefits of taking the time to do what makes me feel good, do what lights the fire of inspiration inside of me.   I literally feel lighter in my physical body and mind and everything seems to come together when I answer to my desire.  The key is to do it, whatever inspires you, it is important to recognize your desires but more importantly answer to them.  The only difference between successful people and ones that feel “stuck” is the ability to just do it (for Pete's sake!).

 I feel free when I write.  With freedom comes vulnerability, and yes, I know, when I expose myself there is the chance to be hurt.  I will end this post with one of my favorite quotes by Anais Nin  “and the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom".   

The answer is clear… To write.

Number One



So, here I am. Putting myself out there. What am I afraid of??? I don't know, is it the boogie man? I laugh at the thought that he actually lives in the dark cavernous space of my nostrils (like all good boogies) and has been saying "boo!" to every blog idea I've had. Now I take out the metaphorical Neti pot cleanse out the "boogie" and begin my journey into writing. Why am I so afraid, what will happen??? Perhaps you won't like my blog, you'll be onto me and recognize me as a fraud right off the bat, maybe you'll just read two sentences and think "she is so full of herself". You'd be right, I am full of myself... FINALLY! THANK GOD!

I realize my fear is not my voice, it is the voice of many people who most likely had my best interest at heart, but never even took the time to invest in their best interest. You know, the kind of people that have rules and boundaries for everything. Don't get me wrong, rules and boundaries can be a very good thing, as someone who has taken the better part of 45 years just figuring out if I had a voice to begin with. I've spent a whole heck of a lot of time not using good old fashion discipline and focus and do understand the value of rules and boundaries. But... I have found that the same rules and boundaries that someone sets up for me, might not be what's right for me. I can't live in dark cavernous nostrils of anyone else's fear any longer, I have to be willing to listen to the sound of my own voice. I have to recognize its sound, cultivate its power and let it be free.

I know this sounds like some hippie, free lovin type of s**t, and maybe it is. One thing I do know, it is mine and though most that know me will probably agree, those that really know me, know what a hard a** I can also be. This isn't the first blog I've posted, I've guest written on LYN (http://www.loveyourselfnaturally.com/) and at the studio's website where I teach yoga www.sarasyogajoint.com,. The difference now; this is mine, for me and for you if you choose to indulge me with your heart and mind as often as I choose to share with you.

My name is Vicky. I'm probably half way through my big beautiful life (I didn't always recognize it this way) and have experienced many triumphs and tragedies. Each by themselves enough for one person's lifetime, but cumulatively have created insight and experience into how to truly live a life worth living. How to feel pain and joy and keep moving on, how to just intuitively know that everything will be OK, even when it is not.

I plan to talk about many things, some may not be for the faint of heart, but all will provide inspiration, because I am here now, I am happy, I live a big beautiful life (in case I haven't mentioned that before) and I finally can share my voice because I believe it is worth sharing. I have a voice, it is here.