From Greg to Greg

Greg, my brother, born August 1, 1960, died July 11, 2004.

Greg, yoga instructor.

Neither Greg knew the other, and couldn’t be more different, but I have experienced a journey that started with my brother’s death and led me to the yogi, and, what I believe is the start of something awesome and life-changing; something I’ve been meant to do, that I would not have found, had I not experienced my brother’s death and all the events following.

My brother died in his sleep, apparently peacefully at the young age of 42.  As far as I and the rest of my family were concerned, it was unexpected and obviously horrific.  His death, I am positive, exacerbated an already existing illness in my mother.  She died sixteen months after Greg, and my father, unable to cope, died two months after my mother.

Having studied counseling in college and graduate school, and understanding its importance, I immersed myself in it, both privately and in group therapy sessions.  I relied on therapists, and strangers experiencing loss, and friends and family.  I grieved passionately and completely.  It was a dark time.

Somehow, in all that darkness, I started doing yoga.  Looking back, I’m not sure what led me to that first class.  I just knew I needed something.  Something new, something to feel like a fresh start.  The first class I took was very gentle, taught by a beautiful, sixty-something woman who admitted to enjoying a glass of wine after a long day.  I immediately liked her.

For several months, I would lie in savasana with tears streaming from my eyes, leaving a small puddle on either side of my head on my mat.  I would come home, puffy-eyed and exhausted but cleansed.  (My husband, worried, would ask, “Why the hell do you keep going to this class?”  To which I would reply, sobbing, “Because this feels good!” I’m not sure he was convinced, but he didn’t argue.  Smart man, my husband.)

The love for yoga didn’t dissipate when the grief did.  I decided to explore and found another teacher, this one the embodiment of yoga both on and off the mat, and my ultimate inspiration.  I learned more about the practice and found myself wanting to continue to learn.  I got a subscription to Yoga Journal.  I tried a home practice.

Then, another tragedy.

While jogging one evening, I was hit by a car.  The impact broke both bones in my lower leg and shattered my ankle joint.  I had surgery the following day and months of recovery and physical therapy.  It was a very hard time, faced with yet another (thankfully temporary) loss, that of my physical body.  But I still had yoga.  I could still breathe, and move my arms, and use my core.  My instructor came to visit me several times during my recovery, helping me to move and teaching me to ultimately “find the lesson.”  Not an easy thing to do when something you love has been taken away (again).  My recovery was quicker than expected and I came from that experience wiser, more compassionate and, more of a spokesperson for yoga than ever.

A couple years later, I decided to leap and signed up to complete the 200-hour training to become a yoga instructor.  My first classes were led by an instructor named Greg.  The net had appeared.

From Greg to Greg.

Had Greg not died, had my parents not died, had I not been hit by a car, this journey would not have happened.  When one door closes another opens…Look for the silver lining…Look for the lesson…Have faith.

This journey from Greg to Greg took nine years.  But it happened.  I never would have thought when I got that dreaded phone call, telling me my brother was found dead in his apartment, that I would be standing on a mat, in a yoga studio, feeling whole, feeling grateful, feeling like my life is beginning again.

We all have loss and lessons.  I guess the key is to let go, feel it, embrace it, and use it.  Use it to begin again.  Because loss doesn’t have to take away from who you are.  Perhaps in time, however long it takes you, it will mean it’s time to redefine how you see yourself.  Perhaps it’s time to change.  The older I get, the more I realize that that is what life is:  change.  Experiencing losses of all kinds, grieving them in your own time, asking for help, never giving up, but always looking for, being open to, and finding the next door.

Walk on, walk on
What you got they can’t deny it
Can’t sell it or buy it
Walk on, walk on

And I know it aches
And your heart it breaks
And you can only take so much
Walk on, walk on

~Lyrics from U2’s “Walk On”

Thanks, Greg.  And you, too, Greg.


When Childhood Beckons

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Last night I had some extra time on my way to a meeting so I decided to grab a tea at our local coffee shop and enjoy the beautiful fall evening.  My meanderings landed me at the elementary school playground, where the swings were completely empty.  There was a football practice on the adjacent field and several kids were playing on the monkey bars and slides, supervised by bored parents.  Almost compelled, I set down my tea, purse and folder and grabbed a swing.

I’m sure I was quite a sight:  a forty-seven year-old woman gleefully swinging on a swing, alone.  But it was just that:  gleeful.  I started slowly, a little apprehensive, but then found myself pumping and trying to get as high as I could, finding that my stomach was not used to the movement and the tickle almost made me giggle.  Giggle.

What an unexpected release it was, to be childlike, if only for a few minutes.  To forget, for a few minutes, about the fight I had just had with my defiant teenager, the bills I paid the day before with not a lot of money.  You know, the overall weight of adult life.  I went to my meeting refreshed and a little lighter. 

I began to wonder:  what can we do to incorporate childhood, and this lightness, into our everyday lives?  Lay in the grass and watch the clouds, eat cookies and milk, jump in the leaves, blow bubbles, take a nap?  Or swing on a random swing that seems to beckon.

Whatever it is, I recommend that when childhood does beckon, listen.  Be silly, be free, feel the tickle in your stomach.  Giggle.  You will totally love it.  Just sayin.’



Concrete Lesson

A few mornings a week, I jog at our high school’s track around the football stadium.  Currently, they are in the process of renovating the school so there is constant activity as the workers tear down and build.  Leading to the track near the end zone of the field is a cement tunnel, which will be used by the players to run onto the field and will be the entrance from the new athletic complex. 

A few days ago, one of the workers was sanding the smooth wall, producing a cloud of dust and dirt (so much for getting outdoors in the “fresh air”).  Today, the sanding complete, the same man was applying a coating of what I assume was sealant on the wall and I thought, as other workers are laying bricks and moving earth, “Who would have thought a cement wall would require so much TLC?”

Jogging in circles on a cool fall morning, sweating but energized, I wondered if other people gave themselves the TLC that they deserve.  Aren’t we so much more valuable than a cement wall?  And much more vulnerable?  Here’s an excerpt from

The design service life of most concrete buildings is often 30 years, although buildings often last 50 to 100 years or longer. Most concrete and masonry buildings are demolished due to obsolescence rather than deterioration.  Concrete, as a structural material and as the building’s exterior skin, has the ability to withstand nature’s normal deteriorating mechanisms as well as natural disasters.

Huh.  Natural disasters.  Doesn’t sound like concrete needs any TLC at all.  I recently re-posted a cartoon on my Facebook wall with the following caption:

Patient:  Doctor, I don’t feel well and I don’t know why.

Doctor:  I want you to meditate, twice a day, for twenty minutes, exercise every day for 30 minutes, avoid processed foods, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, spend more time in nature and less indoors, stop worrying about things you can’t control and ditch your TV.  Come back in three weeks.

It’s really not hard to comprehend.  Pretty simple, really.  But for many of us, we are too entrenched in this fast-paced, immediate-gratification culture and change is hard.  But we can start small.  Recently, my husband and I removed the drawer in our refrigerator meant only for cans in an effort to eliminate diet soda from our diets.  Small move, big change.

You are not a concrete wall, designed to withstand natural disasters.  Anyone who has witnessed the birth of a child recognizes that the human body is a miracle.  Maybe if we remember that, we will give it the TLC it deserves.

Listen to the doctor, and if you need to, just pick one thing to change.  Appreciate the miracle.





Buddy Brainstorm

What a week it was: Visiting a friend in the hospital being treated for leukemia, finding out a family friend, two years younger than I, died after a year-long battle with cancer, not getting the job I was hoping for, and remembering my brother on what would have been his 53rd birthday

The week culminated with a date with my 80-something mother-in-law to see “Buddy,” a musical about the late Buddy Holly: his rise to fame and unfortunate early death.  I couldn’t help but see the parallels between this story and the ones that played out this past week: a life, in its prime, cut short without rhyme or reason.

The last half of the musical was mostly dedicated to Buddy Holly’s  last performance before getting on that fateful plane during a winter storm. With him at this performance was Ritchie Valens (only 17) and “The Big Bopper” J.P. Richardson, who also both perished that night.

I was struck by a strange feeling as I was clapping along with this “concert” and really enjoying the performances:

Everyone in the audience knows how this story ends

but we are still having fun, clapping and singing along.

And I thought, isn’t that a wonderful idea of how we should live our life in general?  Everyone knows how this story ends but we can, and should, have fun.

Wouldn’t it be better if we were able to be more focused on and enjoy “the now” instead of what might be?

My mother-in-law and I did. All because of a very young man who dared to be himself, and fought for what he believed. He, like some other people I have known, died too early, but was very rich.

Here’s to enjoying the now, the show, and the ride.