Are We Talking About My Mother Again?

My mother is eccentric but old-fashioned, kind-hearted but not warm, crunchy but Catholic.

I was the last of three rather difficult children, and we haven’t ever related particularly well.

Here we are about to attempt an embrace after my (very ’90s) wedding ceremony. Look how excited she is for me, right?!


(Let’s pause to look at that again and laugh, with just a tiny bitter edge.)

Enigmatic and dichotomous, she was a rebel in the strangest of ways. . . Her family’s secular humanism felt lacking and so she found the Catholic Church at fifteen. She adopted three older children as a single woman in her thirties (back in the ’70’s when they apparently allowed that kind of thing), and never married. She preferred classical music to the Beatles in the ’60s in college. She taught in some of the roughest neighborhoods in Chicago, New York, and Phoenix in her twenties, each time moving alone. There is a great deal I admire about her, but you wouldn’t exactly say that we have a close relationship. She has difficulty appreciating my musical taste; parenting; spirituality; tattoos (they actually make her physically ill, I believe: she’s said she has “a hard time looking at them”); and general lifestyle. She’s a teetotaler and I named my blog Drinking Wine in Yoga Pants, for example.

I spent many years “in therapy” — I prefer “seeing a counselor,” myself– and with disturbing regularity I would find myself halting mid-sentence to vocalize my horror that “I’m talking about my mother again, aren’t I?!”

My undergraduate major was psychology. I do believe that talking about our past helps us to process it and overcome the difficult times while learning to appreciate the good. I wonder if I had pursued clinical work how often I would smile to myself that my clients, too, kept exclaiming to themselves “are we talking about my parents again?!”

We don’t seem to be able to avoid becoming our parents, either. No matter how different she and I may be, I catch myself imitating my mother’s habits. They’re so deeply ingrained that I often don’t notice, until I get an “easy, Sally” from the peanut gallery as I start freaking out about how there’s still a drop of sauce left in this jar, you know; just use a rubber spatula!

I pull recyclables out of the trash and chastize the misguided toss-er. I wash out plastic bags and re-use them. Despite my youthful conviction that as an adult I would keep my apartment balmy as a Bahamian breeze, I pinch the heating pennies and tell my son to put on a dang hoodie. I present gifts in re-purposed, often entirely inappropriate wrapping that I’ve saved from previous holidays. My years of haughty pre-teen disgust at the idea of secondhand clothing have long passed. My refusal to learn to knit and sew properly (“you’re sexist, ma!”) haunts me as I wish for little as much as her seamstress and sweater-creating talents. . . but I make earrings, now, and would scarcely be caught dead without a pair: another subconscious acquisition of habit. Although she rarely wears makeup and cares little for fashion, she used to say she felt naked without them. Me, too.

“I Am My Mother’s Daughter: Making Peace With Mom Before It’s Too Late” was a helpful read for me and may be if you, too, feel like your mother just never understood you (even as we’re more like them than they suspect) and you don’t have that “best friends” kind of relationship with her. The author charges you with remembering that your mother was affected by her own parents’ failings. And that you are the one with the flexibility and capacity to forgive her her crazy ways rather than trying to change them at this point.

If I have to turn into my mother, I suppose that having my heart in the right place, caring deeply about the state of this world, possessing an independence of spirit, and finding utmost pleasure in music and giving to others aren’t awful traits to carry on. Thanks, Mom.


Grace Me Guide

Several years ago, after a weak moment in Barnes & Noble, I read Eat, Pray, Love. It was obviously a time of great soul-searching, as I then checked out The Artist’s Way and Wild Mind and that one about “morning pages” (?), and started a new journal dedicated to my new principles of self-actualization.

Like most writers, I am sure (and most Virgos, I suspect), there is little I adore more than a fresh, clean, beautiful, unsullied blank book. (Lined, please, because as artistic as I may hope to be, I shall never master the art of writing a straight line across a plain page.) I wonder how many others too, like me, leave the first leaf virgin, always.

This book, I decided (purple leather, made in India, with hot pink edging), would house a journal of the principles I hope to live by, summed up by the phrase on my family crest:

Forbes_aGrace Me Guide.

To me Grace is not a religious concept so much as a way of conducting oneself in the world. To be guided by Grace is to live mindfully and with kindness, and being impelled to fulfill one’s potential. In order to work toward living a life guided by Grace, I set some slightly-less-vague action principles:

Live mindfully: Be present in the moment; eat whole foods and remember to savor; spend time in nature and move the body

Show love: Be a more appreciative partner; keep up with correspondence; make time for friends

Organize: Keep physical clutter to a minimum, which keeps psychic clutter down, too


. . .And there were three more. Three more, because I would have chosen seven, of course. But I can’t remember them, and when I  later came upon the scarcely-started book, I was so embarrassed to be so far behind on progressing toward the goals that I ripped the section out of the book without looking.

For many years I was headed down a path where fulfilment seemed out of reach, though I longed for a change. A crisis both financial and psychological– losing my job and with it my identity as a hard worker — sent me through two years of self-searching and brainstorming and desperate reading and crippling anxiety and the hopes-dashed rollercoaster, to a point where I believe I am ready to have Grace guide me where I need to be. I need to make music, and write, and make the world a better place even in some small way by giving love, and keep a smaller number of possessions: those that bring me joy. I want to live more simply, with more purpose, and with appreciation for every moment on this beautiful planet with its wonderful creatures.

On Drinking Wine in Yoga Pants

I rather rudely plagiarized this blog title from a T-shirt I saw advertised recently. I am not the sort of person who wears a T-shirt with a funny saying across the chest. I am the sort of person who enjoys an outlet for yammering on a bit, though, and so here we are. With thanks and apologies to the clever person whose joke I am so ungracefully pilfering:

“I do yoga to relax.

…Just kidding.

I drink wine in yoga pants.”

I actually do practice yoga, with a frequency somewhere in between flossing and dusting the television. Which is to say, vacillating between ‘frenzied obsession’ and ‘utter lack of concern for the days and weeks zooming by.’ The drinking of wine in the yoga pants is an equally reliable, and much more frequently employed, method of relaxation.

Fashion digression: Never having shopped at Lululemon, I can’t say whether spending $120 to have your rear end cupped in high-end, magically-engineered Lycra is worthwhile. I can tell you that on one occasion I tried on no fewer than fifteen pairs of black yoga pants in Marshalls, and every one of them was see-through in the arse parts. Once, my brother was absolutely mortified when his young daughter was on stage and another parent locked eyes with him and mouthed “oops!”: You could see through her leggings completely. Beware the frumious sheerness, ladies and parents of girls! (Also, in a related discussion, tightsarenotpants.)

For fifteen years I’ve contorted my (actually-relatively-flexible-but-not-fit) body through yoga classes. Hatha yoga, yin yoga, power yoga, vinyasa flow, and the highly masochistic hot “bro-ga” as I call it (think military-style with man-meat grunting and sweating profusely in a room blowing such hot air you are convinced you’ll have a heart attack or die of heatstroke or both).

. . . And I still practice the same way after all of those years. I still can’t do an arm balance. I still can’t get my hip to open up on the one side for a decent pigeon. I still can’t even get my foot in tree any higher than my other calf. I did get my plow toes-to-the-floor thanks to amazing Dharma yoga instructor Larisa Forman. So. . . I have improved, but I doubt I’ll ever practice with the regularity (or cross-train with the intensity) I’d need to become a master. And that’s OK.

I can always drink wine in my yoga pants instead. . .

A nice Oregon Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley or a Washington State red blend from the Columbia Valley perhaps? Or an Argentinian Malbec? What is your favorite?

Welcome to the new blog. I hope you’ll get into your comfy pants, pour a glass of wine, and stay for a read.