Winter’s Wonder

Winter’s Wonder

Written: 2004 and published in Wellesley Weston Magazine

by Beth Nast

 

At the age of 45 I learned to love winter. I began to see the sun as the closest star, shining brighter than all of summer. The ice glistening more radiantly than all the world’s sandy beaches. The cold, something not to avoid, but embrace– to dress for and then warm up in. As I watched my son create snow angels in the backyard I woke up to how closely the snow is to the look of our summer beaches. My sunglasses become a necessity. My lips are in need of moisture. My neighbor, also a doctor, explained it to me this way, “When we reach our menopausal age, we long for cold, not warmth. Our bodies produce enough warmth on their own.”

My love for winter began when we got our dog, for the children supposedly. But really it was for me. I figured how could I ever experience depression if there was always someone to care for, someone waiting to be loved. Surprisingly, the first 6 months of owning a dog are full of stress and self doubt – more work than a newborn but without that instinctive love.. The dog taught me how to appreciate the need to be walked every day. How to see the sticks on the ground as playful objects, not broken limbs. A daily walk in the outdoors, it turns out, is a necessity for humans as well as dogs.

There are always two voices within us. The voice, which I mostly listened to in my 20s and 30s, telling me whatever I did… it was not enough. It was less than I could do, less than my parents would hope I should do, less than someone famous I’d read about would do.

Then there is this other voice, more sweet and gentle than the other. It’s the voice I’m hearing now more clearly than ever before. It basically says, “Cut yourself some slack. Don’t demand more of yourself than that which feels good and comfortable, and forgive yourself all your “non successes”.  In Yoga my instructor says, “We approach yoga as we approach life.” And nothing could be closer to the truth. The days I’m angry and quitting in yoga are the days I am angry at myself and quitting at everything I begin. But the days I work to master a position, I know that will be a successful day.

The new inner voice says, “Stop thinking of what you could do, and learn to enjoy what you do, even if it seems uninspired. This is a big part of who you are. And the other part will struggle alongside like a shadow waiting to peek its creative head out every once in a while. The same Yoga teacher councils, “Don’t nibble through life. Decide what is important and take big bites. With that advice I finally saw with clarity that my children and husband, they are my big bite, and that will be my legacy.

 

Clothes for Every Occasion 

clothing I have clothes for every occasion… but not the occasions for all my clothes.

I have outfits for a country club cocktail party, a beach party, a walk in Paris down the Champs-Elysees,  a hike up Mt. Etna, a cocktail cruise on Lake Como, an IBM Board Meeting, a NYC art opening, a Rocky Mountain bluegrass festival, and yet: I don’t go to any of these.

These days I need a Summer wardrobe of yoga, golf and dining out and then Ski clothes in the winter. In between my sporting life a casual wardrobe that consists of jeans, leggings, and countless and redundant tops.

My dream of a walk- in closet seems absurd now,  I no longer dress for a discerning professional audience in Boston or NYC as I used to in the career parts of my life. And that was 25 years ago. So why do I keep buying clothes for a life I don’t have? Old habits die hard at Bloomies and Bergdorf’s.

My clothes tell a story.  Each outfit with accompanying shoes, bags and jewelry required creative energy.  Since we are all basically the same underneath, our clothes express who we are at any given time. My mother and I shop in NYC every year and while I buy clothes for now, I can’t help but buy clothes for my former life. Then I go home and  photograph them, inventory them, and organize them by color and content to my heart’s content.

I won’t part with any of them, they are hardly worn, and I love them all, but maybe I should stop buying clothes I’ll never wear.

 

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Why Girlfriends Have to Break Up with Each Other

Yes, we all know that women have deeper more substantive friendships than men! But sometimes what I wouldn’t give to enjoy a superficial non-emotionally-charged man-to-man friendship!

It’s not a new theme, in fact I’ve even read an entire book on this subject — but it’s uncanny how girlfriends often feel the need to “break up” a friendship that’s not filling their requirements, causing pain, while guy friends never do.

It can go like this:

My childhood “friend” of 45 years who I’m content keeping at arms length as a phone and Facebook friend finally realizes I don’t actually go out of my way to see her. It’s particularly obvious when she sees I’m in her hometown NYC on Facebook and don’t include her. Damn Facebook. Rather than acting like a guy and “going with the flow”, or keeping her hurt feelings to herself, the disappointment causes her to lash out in a text, “I get it, you don’t want to have more than a Facebook or texting friendship — so I decided I won’t be contacting you again. Good luck and have a good trip home.” Ouch, it stings, even if I’m fully in agreement with her assessment.  The truth does hurt, even when it sets you free. My husband says, “sounds like she’s off her meds” when I read it to him. I just feel, well, hurt.

So, I remove her from my Facebook “follows” and wait for time to pass. I know from past experiences that over time the hurt will dissipate, in full awareness that this friendship has outlived it’s course. The sting may take a few weeks or months, but I will get over it and move on. Sorrow comes from knowing you caused someone in your past emotional pain and frankly it’s a little bit embarrassing. Whereas a guy might explain the same scene in this way: “We just haven’t been in touch for ages,” you, as a female, are made to endure an ending that is overt.

Girlfriends have dumped me as often as I’ve dumped them. I couldn’t take the hint from a former friend who had enough of me and when I push to get an answer as to why the cold shoulder, I force her cards and she declares, “We are breaking up. Thanks for all you’ve done, for me, for my family, the trips to Lake George, but it’s not working any more.” Ouch, once again.

The truth is men never get burned by their guy friends, or do the burning. They don’t have to. They can talk sometimes, never talk, hardly ever talk, but always pick up where they left off or not pick up at all. No big deal. Never having expectations they freely ride the “whatever”.  It’s all good.

So, I ask, wouldn’t you rather a fist pump than a hard slap in the face, painted nails and all?

 

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Why Girlfriends Have To Break Up With Each Other was last modified: b

My SWEEET Life

I have an extra sweeet life. It seems my intensely introspective life has finally come together to form a more perfect union of balance. All this at the ripe age of 60.


Today I thought of an anagram that works, more or less, to convey the balance required for ME to live a sweeet life. Maybe you can define your own anagram, or use this one as a start.
Being an A-/B+ type personality, I’ve even taken to adding on my calendar each day what I did to achieve these mini milestones in each bucket, causing me to “lay off myself” and loosen the grip I usually strong arm myself with. My NYC therapists in the ’80s always told me, “YOU’RE SO HARD ON YOURSELF”, and yes, they were right. But the student learns only when they are ready, and then all those teachers can appear.
S is for Social. I have to have social interchange each day, beyond my 24/7 conversations with my husband who works from home. Though I have numerous friends and family members around me to meet up with for lunch, walks, coffees, dinners, that’s hardly required as I talk to everyone I meet. I can’t resist people.
Sometimes the most delightful conversations are with neighbors, workmen, my mailman, as I take my daily walks in the hood.
W is for WORTHWHILE. This is the sticky one. I used to define worthwhile as a “job” or “career”, but I’ve loosened that grip as well, which has made all the difference in how I feel about myself. It’s whatever I decide is worthwhile that day. Some days it’s just doing laundry and tidying the house. Some days it’s teaching yoga, visiting a museum, donating to a charity, or reaching out to someone in need.
E is for Exercise. I can’t live a day without it. My mood suffers greatly. But exercise can be a 10 minute yoga session with a great U-TUBE video, or a walk. It doesn’t have to get my heart rate up, and rarely does.
E is for Educational. My Dad used to ask me after school each day, “What did you learn in school today?” I dreaded that question, but now I would love to be asked that daily. From studying anatomy and investing to bird songs and creative cookery, my day is happiest when I learn — and I do from NPR, books, magazines, on-line info., and probing conversations with intelligent people.
E is for Entertainment. I am a media junkie, in the form of TV and Movies. Always have been. It satisfies me at the end of the day to melt into my coach with my husband for hours soaking in a good story, great acting, and be entertained. Period.
T is for Talent Flexing. We all have talents or can develop some in the form of hobbies, activities we enjoy. I’ve recently started to bird watch and photograph birds to flex my talent in photography. I consider golf a talent that I’m working on, along with cooking and blogging. I enjoy board volunteer work to raise money for a good cause and short stints working with someone I admire to develop their business idea using my talents in marketing communications.
Somedays I am only living a SWEE life or an EET life, but I strive for a SWEEET life.

On Facelifts

So, here’s four things I have to say about facelifts, botox, fillers, and the like.

Go for it if it really does something to make you feel happier, but consider this if you are on the fence or getting fed up with the maintenance involved:

l. Your plastic surgeon looks amazing: When someone says YOU LOOK TERRIFIC, what they really mean is “your plastic surgeon or botox nurse made you look terrific”. 

On the other hand when someone says YOU LOOK TERRIFIC with your marionette marks, jowls, bags and sags, you should take this as a major compliment to your living a healthy and happy life– alongside good genes.

2. It’s a zero sum game. You never win, you just postpone another trip to the Botox nurse or Plastic Surgeon for nothing lasts. If you put a bandaid on it this time, you will only need to patch it up again … and again.  Instead think about the best haircut to frame your aging face and stay in good shape.

3. Embrace aging: see it, feel it and accept it like a yogini. It takes the same amount of energy as fighting it, but less money and trips to the doctor/nurse. Besides it prepares you for the inevitable (getting older) with the accordant life skills you will need to adopt.

4. Aging with grace and dignity is an honor and a privilege. In Europe an older woman who dresses well is admired.  Your length of experience as a woman makes you sexier than a woman half your age.
p.s. I’ve had botox and fillers half a dozen times, and recently I’ve just decided to “say no” until I  change my mind.

When were you Born?

I developed a theory today while jogging in the long-awaited, warm New England sunshine. It’s possible that the day you were born may actually have a direct impact on your favorite time of year.

I was born on June 6th and my Dad would tell me, over and over, “You were born on D-Day”. Well, that explains why I tend to be a mental disaster most of the time (except for the times I am manically happy).  Enter early June – the time of year that says good-bye to rain and hello to sun, budding trees and flowers in full bloom. I can now bid my Seasonal Affect Disorder farewell and embrace my June birth. The closer I get to sporting flip flops and sundresses, the happier I am.

Our eldest son was born April 22nd. It makes perfect sense that he lives for the Red Sox, the chance of a play-off and the pursuit of a World Series pennant. He dusts off the golf clubs on the heels of the Masters tournament. Add in the Celtics and Bruins post-season play, and you understand how well defined he is by Boston sports.

My husband was born Oct. 20th. The love of leaf season, crisp air and the landscape of autumnal colors on the shores of Lake George in the Adirondacks at his family’s summer home. His joy escalates as he bikes, golfs and escapes the oppressive summer heat and humidity.

But what about those born in winter?  Do they become indoor folks versus outdoor people?  Do they find what they need to thrive?  Do they snap on their crampons and take to the ice, learn to ski or do they just hibernate?

Wondering about that makes me manic again … so I digress.  But I do know one thing – I am infinitely happier in June than January.  How about you?yoga on the dock at lg 2012

Stand Up for Depression

STAND UP FOR DEPRESSION: A stand up comedy routine defending our right to be depressed

In Science they teach you how to conduct an experiment. Variables, Constants, stuff like that.

Here’s how you know Depression is ALL IN YOUR HEAD.
A perfectly sunny day emerges and you are finally happy. Happy, happy, happy.
Then, a week of cloudy days follows, you’re depressed all week. The variable you think must be THE SUN.
But then the sun comes back and shit, you are still depressed.
So what happened to the sun variable?  The variable must be your mind.
Experiment concluded.

Some therapists believe depression is anger turned inwards. No way. I think anger is depression turned outwards. Fuck you, former friend.

Speaking of friends, Who  wants to be friends with someone who is depressed? Put another way, who  seeks out their friends when they are truly depressed. It’s a no win. Bottom line: Depression time is time spent alone.

I get why comedians turn tragedy in to comedy. Who better to understand what is funny in life than someone who suffers? The legitimate defense mechanism for constant depressive thought patterns IS comedy. If you are  clever enough to figure that out– comedy is the cure all for depression. Besides it’s  legal and non habit forming.

I admit I’m a bit of a manic depressive, though I hate the sound of that as much as being called “neurotic”. You know no one ever compliments someone with “She’s awesome, and so neurotic”. As for my manic depressive tendencies, it could be a good thing, if my highs were high enough, but they are only mediocre. My lows, however, they hit pay dirt.

 

If you can be good at skiing and golf, why can’t you brag about being good at depression.

I AM good at depression, and I’ve recently figured out how this can be a good thing.

How’s that you ask?

Well, if you can get depressed over nothing but day to day living , think how prepared you will be when something really crappy hits you.

Unlike those unfamiliar with this mood disorder, you will hit depression  as if you’re spending time with an old friend. “This is so familiar”, you’ll think,  like we never were apart, because you never were apart.

Hey if depression were a sport, I’d be an elite athlete.

I’m pretty sure you can learn to live with depressive episodes if you know they come and go, especially if you have an arsenal of tools that work for you. My tool box includes: yoga, taking walks, forcing smiles, healthy foods, and of course an ounce of hashish brownies every day. Just kidding about the brownies.

The Hungry Ghost

I wanted a new pair of boots.
I looked at everyone else’s boots in Breckenridge, Colorado and dreamed of replacing my worn out, out of style, super comfortable, black suede snow boots with something newer, more fabulous, more hip.

Unlike the boots I saw everyone wearing, the Sorel’s, Ugs,  I wanted something unique, eye catching, some fur on top, treads on the bottom to prevent slipping, not to heavy, not to light: Goldilocks boots with WOW factor.

I looked and looked, recruiting my friends, my husband, until finally I threw down the cash and splurged. The boots were perfect, albeit deep brown leather vs. the black I desired, fake fur top, outer stitching, truly unique, and since they were not sold in New England, where I lived, I’d have that star power.

My buyers remorse crept in the moment I purchased them.
BOOM. I was right. They were too heavy and the half size too big was a problem as my heels and toes rubbed as I walked, causing friction and pain. Too loose and too tight. My walk in the Denver Airport to our gate in my new boots caused my face to grimace as I counted down each gate number to #33, wishing I were in my sneakers.

Thoughts of remorse plagued me over the next 24 hours, as if I had made a million dollar mistake, whereas the boots were only $200.  What is wrong with me, I kept asking.

My boot quest was purely symbolic — I knew this all along. They were a symbol of all that we buy to fill a need, not a want. The need to have something new, shiny and different. The need to feel differently, satisfy the “hungry ghost”. I tried to resist the urge, but when I employed friends to help, the pressure mounted.

My dreams of owning a new home or buying that new outfit, they are all just an extension of this false desire.

The truth is,  if you don’t catch the beast within and cut off its head, you’ll keep trying to fill an emptiness. Buy a new coat, get a face life, it will never stop.

Instead, be thankful for what you’ve got. This and only this will quell that painful desire once and for all.

My Sweet Spot

In my own little corner in my own little chair
I can be whatever I want to be.
On the wings of my fancy I can fly anywhere
And the world will open it’s arms to me. — Rogers and Hammerstein, Cinderella

 

My career/life coach told me that I can do anything, as long as it fits my sweet spot, or my comfort zone. And that’s ok. I don’t have to be anyone else, just me.

After meeting with my astute life coach I wrote myself a short illustrated children’s book to and for myself. The words go like this:

I used to feel bad about myself, but now I tell the voices in my head, “don’t trash talk, I’m not listening to your put downs”. “You’re not good enough” is detrimental to my mental health.

She taught me to talk to myself like I talk to my kids: loving, respectful, building confidence.

I have a “sweet spot”. It’s when I’m comfortable, feel safe, secure, not put upon, not stressed, not too much, too little, too cold, too dark…Slow and steady, like my yoga practice. Honor and respect that space. Don’t judge it. It’s there for a reason.

I’m more a gnat than a tiger! I flutter in and out, up and down, this way and that. A gnat is as good as a tiger, just different. Honor the gnat.

About some things I’m a ferocious tiger! I stick with my yoga cuz it makes me happy, healthy, grounded and strong. I stick with those I love with ALL my heart, very tiger like.

My goal is simple. Make this day my best day. Start out right, build on that.

 

 

 

The Right Kind of Yoga Teacher



If your yoga teacher gazes off into space while teaching, barks orders (cues) to you in a shrill voice, or neglects to mention anything about what’s happening inside your mind, roll up your mat and run, don’t walk, out of the studio.

Sadly many yoga teachers grew up with a physical education background vs. a philosophical bent. But yoga is ALL about the mind, body, spirit connection. It’s why you go and why you come back. Otherwise you could just have grabbed some kicks and taken a zumba class. No disparaging intent to zumba. 

Here’s what I know, from the perspective of being a yoga teacher for more than 10 years as well as from being a  yoga student for more than 20 years:

The road to becoming what I believe to be a “good yoga teacher” is long and winding, like the Beatles song. The teacher must gain experience, which takes many years. And alas,  the juice of the nectar comes later on when that soothing and confident sound of the teacher’s voice matches up to the intelligence gained from studying not just yoga poses and transitions but from life through all perspectives. 

Find a teacher who teaches kindness to oneself alongside movement. By this I mean, my students want to hear kindness in my voice, feel kindness in my thoughts.  They want me to care about how they are experiencing the class.  I know from being a student that when I hear from my teacher “great effort” or “beautiful” I feel on top of the world. Yoga is about compassion, not competition. As a student you should comes to yoga to be enveloped in loving kindness, like a long, slow, soft hug. Only then can you lose what is holding you back and gain courage to keep on going. Yoga has the dual purpose of marrying body work with mind work, and the “great” yoga teacher knows that their words matter to fill this intention. It’s an awesome responsibility. 

Many teachers can learn to cue the pose, string them together in a flow, and keep your body safe from injury. But teaching compassion towards yourself through yoga is the most beneficial aspect of Yoga. It is this alone that is the heart of Yoga.