I just ran across this old blog post from exactly three years ago today… Thought I would re-share. It’s interesting to me to look back on that day three years ago, knowing what was making me feel vulnerable and exposed in my personal life, and feel the lightness on my shoulders when I realize that those issues no longer plague me. But still – some of the thoughts hold very true even today.
On Wednesday morning two weeks ago, I walked out to my car to leave for work. I remember looking at my sunvisor and thinking, “I don’t remember leaving that down.” I walked up to the passenger side and wondered when I had taken everything out of my glove compartment and scattered it all over the seat. Squatting down to try and figure out what was going on, I discovered a broken window.
Someone had straight up broken into my poor little Saturn!
I’d never had a car broken into before, and I wasn’t quite sure how to react. I was shaking, crying, yelling, and annoyed, feeling completely violated and vulnerable. And perhaps to make things even more frustrating, I found myself angry that they hadn’t even taken anything! The back of my car was full of STUFF – a bin of clothes en route to the Goodwill, a box of Bhagavad Gitas and journals, stacks of blankets and yoga mats, a collection of yoga music – and none of those things had been touched.
I cleaned the shards of glass out of the back of my car, had the window replaced, picked up and dusted off my ego, and moved on.
The following Wednesday, I walked out to my car to discover my window had been broken out again. Same window – the little one that costs an arm, a leg, and your faith in the greater good of mankind. I stood in the middle of the road asking a million questions, making a million assumptions, and saying a million nasty words as Lara stood on the sidewalk wrapped in a towel, dripping wet from being mid-shower.
This time, they HAD rifled through the bag of clothes and the stacks of books. They even went through my trunk, pulling out the stack of Mexican Blankets I was transporting as props. But again – nothing was taken.
And now – now it’s Tuesday night. I’m afraid to go to bed. I parked my car around the block, showered it with all the Om Namah Shivaya’s I could muster. I fear Wednesday mornings. Dad offered to sit on my front porch tonight, just to keep an eye out.
I had forgiven the bugger who had broken the window the first time. Probably shouldn’t have kept all my stuff sitting on the backseat, I thought. Probably looks interesting to anyone shining in a quick flashlight. Probably assumed that there was something worth money in there for them to pawn off for quick cash. Well, I’ve learned my lesson, I’d say to myself. If you leave things laying around that look intriguing, someone’s likely to come around and want more.
But then – to have it done again? To have “learned my lesson” but not abided by my own advice quickly enough to remove the piles of things from my car made me feel like a complete fool.
When you leave things out in the open, you make yourself vulnerable to passers-by. You run the risk that someone might find some interest in the things you say, the ideas you share, and they might stick around to see if there’s more. Some folks will inquire lovingly; others will press their way into your life, refusing to take no for an answer.
In the meantime, because you lay things out in the open, anyone has the opportunity to rifle through your knowledge, your beliefs, your hopes, your dreams, your fears… your EVERYTHING. When you put it out there, you give a lot of people the opportunity to pick up on it.
I can’t leave in fear because I worry someone will come break back into my life. I will take the appropriate precautions to protect myself now based upon the lessons I’ve learned (the hard way) but the chance still remains that someone may do it again. And it may mean that someone rushes into my life, rifles through everything I’ve got and decides it’s not interesting enough so they hightail it out of there before they get caught. Or it may mean that someone gets just what they’ve been looking for. Or maybe someone will let me offer to open the door for them, ask if they can have a look around, and give something to share in return.
Living a deep and open life has its risks. And while I don’t recommend putting all of your worldly belongings in your car, what is the importance of keeping your opinions and emotions stored away? The right person comes along, and BAM – everything you thought was locked up safe is out in the middle of the street.
It’s scary. But it’s time to forgive those who have imposed upon you – without them, you would not be reminded of the things that they could never take with them: your own innate knowledge of who you are, who you are not. What is important to you, what is not.
It’s inevitable – someone will find you interesting, come into your life, rifle through your emotions, your strengths, your loves, your advice, values, and support. Some might take what they needed and run with it. Or they may decide they don’t want any of it. Or you may decide you’re happy to share it, regardless of the outcome.
This is your opportunity to decide what it is you want to put out there. Do you want to display that you’re a caring, loving soul, but be bitter and resentful when too many people try to draw from that pool?
For me – my car is cleaned out. There’s hardly a hint left behind in my car of my life. I have retreated a bit from keeping it all out in the open because I fear who will come along next. For the time being, it’s the best thing I can do for myself – those little windows that they keep coming through are expensive to replace. And my poor little Saturn can only take so much.
I was sick with a high fever in a beautiful hotel room in Dublin at the turn of the new year, 2011. My mom emailed me to tell me that my gramma was in the hospital very sick, and they weren’t sure yet what was wrong. I wasn’t worried, though.
See, I happen to be one of the lucky 27-year-olds in the world who has all of her grandparents still alive and kicking it. And of those four, Billie Jean, aka Gramma J, is the youngest and spunkiest. She’s the one who drinks the teas her Chinese medicine doctor prescribes, practices Reiki and does Qi Gong. I’ve always just assumed she was going to live to be 120 and we’d be sitting around eating her infamous sugar cookies until 2050.
Billie Jean at 16
After numerous tests and continued time in the hospital, doctors discovered Gramma J had lymphoma. As soon as I got back to Colorado, my cousin Lo and I drove to Kansas City through the middle of the night (or rather she did most of the driving) to surprise Gramma J with a visit at the hospital.
I wish you could have seen the look on her face when Lo and I came into her hospital room. There was a blank stare for a full second before her eyes flickered with recognition and then immediately filled up with tears. We dropped off flowers and candy bars (dark chocolate Milky Way, her favorite), but more importantly we hung out and shot the shit. Lo and I each made little critters out of blown-up sterile gloves while Gramma J made a couple lewd (and hilarious) sexual references and lamented about how she was so sick of Lucy (the monitoring system she was hooked up to).
Gramma ain't taking no shit from that machine!
It’s scary seeing someone you love sitting in a hospital bed, knowing they’ve been there for a few weeks already. It’s scary when you don’t know what is happening or what will happen, even if your mind hasn’t even completely acknowledged yet what exactly is happening.
I was proud of my lil balloon guy for Gramma
That acknowledgement hit me the next month, when I was in Italy. I sat in beautiful giant churches and lit candles for Gramma J and another friend’s gravely sick father. One afternoon I accidentally stumbled into a really fantastic yarn boutique and decided to pick out some yarn for my mom to crochet a hat for Gramma J. Chemo was the next step in treatment for the lymphoma, and I thought it would be nice if she had a hat made from some Italian yarn.
I searched through all of the colors and started conversing in my own head about which to choose. Purple is a very royal and magical color, I thought, and since my gramma is the most magical person I know, that will be perfect. Then I started testing textures of the yarns. I need something that will be soft on Gramma’s head, I contemplated. Need something that won’t be scratchy on Gramma’s lil’ bald head…
And that was it. That was the moment that everything hit me. The seriousness of the lymphoma, my gramma’s mortality, how far away I was, how I didn’t know what to do to help, that there was nothing I could do to help… except for pick the right kind of yarn for my mom to make her a hat that wouldn’t be itchy on her little bald head. Of all the words that had been used to talk about Gramma J for the last month – “cancer,” “lymphoma,” “hospital,” “chemotherapy” – the words “little bald head” was the one that finally elicited an emotional response for me.
Gramma J's lil bald head (it was so fuzzy!)
At this point, not only was I hiding in what may or may not have been the back storage room of the yarn shop, I was also worried that because I didn’t speak Italian, the beautiful little old ladies in the shop wouldn’t be able to understand why I was desperately trying not to snot on the merino, or why I was walking through the shop holding a skein of purple yarn like it was the most devastatingly precious treasure on the whole planet. And because I had finally started feeling the whole gamut of emotions I had been waiting to feel for so long, I could not stop my eyes from dispensing the borderline-projectile tears of someone in hysterics.
I purchased my skein, bought a huge bowl of gelato and a bottle of wine and went immediately back to the hotel room, where I spent the rest of that rainy day indulging. I had chosen that particular bottle of wine because one of the words in its name was “Bene,” which I knew meant “good.” But by the time I was halfway through that beautiful bottle of red, I recognized the first word – “Tutto.”
It’s all good.
From that moment on, each new glass I poured and each new flavor gelato I began enjoying had the prelude of a toast out my window overlooking the main street in Bologna. “TUTTO BENE!” I would shout from three stories up, lift my glass, send some love to Gramma J, and then sit back and enjoy.
By the time my friend got back to the hotel from work, I don’t think he knew the extent of my emotional day, other than I was sitting, giggling on the bed with an empty wine bottle, a purple-stained mouth, and a tiny little neon orange spoon.
Gramma J and my cousin Steve at the Light the Night Walk
Fast forward to Thanksgiving this last November. Gramma J has been kicking ass with her blood tests and scans, and her hair has grown back (quite beautifully, I must add). We stood in a circle holding hands and remembered those who are no longer with us, each quietly whispering from within our hellos and I love yous to a hushed list of family and friends who have continued on. I stood next to my gramma, my arm wrapped around her shoulder as hers was around my waist, and I held her shoulder tight into my ribs. Then we thought of all we had to be thankful for, and I held Gramma J in a little tighter.
“I’m so strong,” she said, quietly. Then, a little louder, with what may or may not have been a foot stomp. “I am so STRONG!”
I turned in and held her, knowing we’d soon be crying, any minute now. “I wasn’t sure I’d even be here…” I squeezed her a little tighter and realized I had feared the same thing.
In all my life, I can never remember being so thankful for anything on Thanksgiving. Standing there with my beautiful, strong and resilient gramma and feeling how THERE she really was are probably the most profound examples of gratitude I have ever experienced on that day.
It’s now been a year since her diagnosis, and after a visit to the doctor today, her blood tests and scans are all fantastic. Way to kick ass, Gramma J.
Team Jacobson at the Light the Night Walk
I’m proud of my family. I come from heaps of love and support and laughter. And I think one of my most recent favorite realizations as I made fun of my mom for being the spitting image of her mom is that if I’m as much like MY mom as everyone tells me, then that means when I grow up, I’m going to be a lot like Billie Jean. That sounds pretty great to me, and I couldn’t be happier about it.
Happy Winter Solstice, you little pagan monkeys, you.
I’ve spent the past week sorting through nearly a thousand blogs (I am actually NOT exaggerating, honest) of people who write about their fitness goals and found a lot of inspiration/frustration within the majority of them.
Allow me to clarify – these bloggers are the folks who write about how they lost 100 lbs, or how they never played sports and now they run 5ks. They highlight their favorite workouts, their favorite healthy meals and they inspire the pants off of one another – sometimes literally, depending on how much weight they’ve lost.
A typical work day
The inspiring part of these blogs: They make me realize that if these folks can be healthy/active/fit/runners, then so can I.
The frustrating part of these blogs: That I’m not doing this whole “writing” thing more. These people write on a consistent basis – sometimes even daily. Twice daily. Every hour (exaggeration).
All this came to a head on Monday, when I found myself feeling very claustrophobic at my computer, spending too much time reading and sorting for my job. I was spending all this time reading about active people and was the furthest from doing that myself. I couldn’t stand it, so the next morning I woke up at 5am and went to the rec center to just move. I even RAN. RAN! Like, on purpose! And I discovered that now that I am in St. Louis (newsflash; I’m in St. Louis now), there is way more oxygen than in Denver. I can run a quarter mile without even getting winded. It’s incredible.
delicious kale chips
Anyway, the long and the short of it is that today being the shortest day of the year, things can only get brighter from here. If you’re not happy or feeling content doing things the way you’ve been doing them, there is always an opportunity to change your habits. It’s not easy. It’s frustrating. But believe me, it is absolutely do-able. I’m using today as my excuse to make a change. But you can choose whatever day you want.
((12/22 – links have been updated and are now working, I promise!))
I had just gotten home from almost a month on Maui last December when I came to Studio Shakta to teach my special Christmas Eve Restorative Yoga class. I had taught it the year before, but considering I hadn’t been teaching for a few months, I wasn’t expecting a huge turn out.
bluebird christmas tree
I showed up an hour early to begin preparing for what I assumed would be a dozen students. I only had enough props for maybe 15 complete set ups, but figured it would be more than enough.
Students started showing up for class about 20 minutes before. And they kept coming. And coming. And coming. More and more, and mostly people I had never met before, they came through the door until we had thirty-four people signed in for class.
There was simply no more room at the inn, as it were, and a few of my teacher friends gave up their spots on the floor and became my Anjali Elves – my assistants who would help me manage this suddenly huge class.
Because we had no more props (and I refused to turn anyone away), I borrowed people’s jackets to roll up as bolsters, tucked people who knew each other under one shared blanket next to each other, and propped heads up with bunched up scarves. When I would ask someone if they could spare one of their props to share with someone who had just come in to the room, no one once ever said no or even looked upset that they would have to give something up. It was incredibly beautiful, and it took all my control to not become overwhelmed by the heaping amounts of love pouring through that room.
My friend (the incomparable Peggy Dyer) recorded the class on her voice recorder, and just shared the file with me yesterday. And so, I present to you, the full-length Holly Anjali class from 2010. Please enjoy it and forward it along to your friends and family.
Find a nice, quiet space to set yourself up in. Maybe even under your Christmas tree!
The volume of this class is soft, so you might want to use headphones to be able to hear everything.
Lie on your back and cover up with a blanket.
Roll up a big fluffy blanket or pillow and tuck it under your knees.
Put a washcloth or eyepillow over your eyes.
Try to follow along with the instructions given through the class – or just stay there for the duration of the class! Do what feels good and allows you to relax.
Remember: Less is more. Let yourself be still and quiet. Know that all the moving around you hear in the recording is from the 30+ beautiful souls who attended class, and let that love permeate through your being as you enjoy some quiet time.
As is long since become tradition, each Thanksgiving provides a reason for reflection of gratitude through a list. It’s an easy way to remind yourself of how lucky you are; to keep connected with all that there is that is good in your life. This practice does not have to be exclusive to every third Thursday of November. In fact, it is probably much more effective to growing and sustaining your spirit if it is done on a regular basis.
In any case, for the past few years, I wake up on Thanksgiving day, pull out my phone and spend the first few waking moments of my morning texting some of the people I love most with why I am so thankful for them. I used to go through my phone and text almost everyone on there, but now I have so many people in my address book that I have to be content to celebrate my multitude of friends and be thankful for the fact that I have more people to thank than I have time to do it in.
I never send these texts in hopes of getting anything back, but I’m always humbled and touched by the responses I receive. Ultimately, when you tell people you love them and why you love them, you open up this line of communication that is unrivaled in its level of importance in a relationship. To communicate your love and gratitude is to speak to Love itself, and to have someone likewise confide in you of their returned love is to hear Love speak directly back to you. And for that opportunity to speak of Love, to Love, through Love and from Love is one of the things I am most grateful for.
Other things I am thankful for:
That my grampa just came home, turned on the tv to a Charlie Brown movie, and left it there.
Warm farts in a cold car. Or, alternately, seat heaters.
People who know the difference between your and you’re.
Getting to visit my family in Kansas City four times this year. (a new record since 1998!)
Getting to see my best friend three times this year. (also a new record, since 2005!)
That I still have my teddy bear. And that I am totally comfortable with admitting that I tuck Balanca into bed before I leave for each trip.
Each and every one of the 40 flights I have been on in the past year.
My hilarious little sister, who laughs at all of my jokes, even when they’re not that funny.
Every time I see an old couple walking down the street holding hands. It gives me hope in a long-lasting, growing and adaptable love, and faith that I can have the same.
To have learned that I alone can make myself happy through the choices I make. And when I make the choice to live a happy life, it inevitably inspires those around me to take the same step.
A great book.
A hand to hold.
Catching up with friends over a cup of coffee, cider, chai or sushi.
To have started planning for my 30th Birthday Adventure with my closest Sistercousins, which extends to my sisters from other misters.
Being able to say I have played in both the clear waters of the Caribbean and the lively waters of the Pacific in the past year.
A family that loves and supports me.
Being able to touch my toes.
An opportunity to work for a job the prioritizes adventure and lets me work from wherever I am.
Another Thanksgiving with all four of my grandparents, including my gramma, who is kicking lymphoma’s ass.
Long walks with my gramma, talking about the things that are really important in life.
Not having to work retail on Black Friday anymore or wait tables on Christmas Eve.
The most incredible, strong, courageous and inspiring women who are my dearest friends.
A Very Gaga Thanksgiving. Seriously. I’m watching it with my grandparents right now. Grampa thinks she’s a kook, and Gramma is intrigued.
Homemade ILoveYou cards from my cousin, to remind me that she does. Not that I ever doubt it.
I’m incredibly thankful for the fact that my gratitude goes on and on, and I could literally spend hours and pages trying to list them all, and still not feel like I’ve covered it all.
At the airport, immediately after my last day at work.
My heart was suddenly louder than my head. No longer willing to be ignored or brushed aside, my intuition was shouting at me and I was not going to be able to make excuses anymore. Something wasn’t right, and all I knew was it was time to make a change.
I spent the rest of my day at work alternating between hiding in the bathroom and crying, going outside to make phone calls to the various members of my support system, and trying to keep my act together when my boss was around.
I’m a firm believer that we have multiple soulmates in our lives, and one of mine just happened to be right down the street from my work that afternoon. He walked over and sat on the floor of one of the studios with me while I curled up in a ball and cried.
Between hiccups and incomplete sentences, I kept repeating, “I don’t know what to do.” He listened as I tried to sort out everything I was feeling on the inside into complete thoughts on the outside, letting me be borderline hysterical. At one point, he quietly shared the most profound thing I’ve ever heard.
“I know for me, when my heart has already made its decision, the hardest part is saying it out loud.”
I thought I was the luckiest girl in the world. I was teaching yoga and helping run a studio. There were promises of starting a new studio, one I could call partly my own. I was going to lead teacher trainings. I was one of the lucky few that was calling Yoga her full-time career. Was I really going to walk away from something I had wanted? Something others were dying for?
And yet within that same flash of thought, I heard the resounding Yes. Yes, you are. Yes, because you are not happy and something is not right.
So I did. Once I finally understood that although my unhappiness was unexplainable at that moment in time, it was imperative to react for protection of my heart, I couldn’t imagine moving forward in the direction I had been going.
There is a difference between being humble and grateful for what you have when you don’t have much, and suffering quietly through your unhappiness because you think it’s all you have and it’s what you are supposed to do. Stop that. Stop that right now.
I can assure you, I had no plan. I just knew I could not possibly walk back into my job another day and pretend like I was okay. Later that same night, as I cried on the floor of my parents’ house while my mom fed me grilled cheese, I realized that making this decision meant things were going to change. Like, a move-back-in-with-the-parents change. Like, a be-flat-broke-for-an-undetermined-period-of-time change.
But for those of you who know me, you know that life didn’t become miserable. I opened myself up to possibilities. Things ended up better than okay. And I can see now how spot on my intuition was at the time.
I’ve never known anyone in my life that left a relationship, a job, a city, or any situation that was making them unhappy and didn’t eventually become stronger for it. Happier for it. More successful because of it. Turning your life upside down is never easy, but everything will come together if you allow yourself to be vulnerable enough through all the painful patches of change.
How do I know? Shit. I don’t know. I just do. I just really, really do. And above all, I know that being unhappy is not your only option. And you don’t have to tell yourself it is anymore.
Has your heart already made its decision? It’s time to listen. If you do it now, the good stuff will come even sooner than if you wait until later.
I’ve spent the past few days out here in Chicago, enjoying the company of some of my favorite people. The best is when you haven’t seen someone for a year or more and yet you get together and it’s like you never missed a beat.
Last night, my old roommate Bryan and I walked to the lake front and enjoyed some beautiful views of the moon rising over the water. It drug a long shimmery line of moonlight reflecting across the surface of the lake, and I was seriously convinced that if I could only get on a sailboat and follow that sparkly path, I would end up in Neverneverland.
Bryan and I wandered around the city for hours, ending up in a part of town even he had never been to in the three years he’s lived here. We enjoyed some time sitting in a gazebo while a homeless man peacefully slumbered just a few feet away.
The evening wrapped up with us swinging and playing on slides at 1am, enjoying each other’s company, exchanging philosophical nuggets of contemplations about our own lives, and bursting with pride for where we have come from and who we are now.
I’m so blessed to not only have such amazingly inspiring friends in my life, but to watch them succeed and find happiness in where they are.
Flight of the Gypsy Bluebird (as seen on the wall of a cafe in Santa Barbara)
I’m living the good life right now. One day when I have blue hair and lots of cats, I will look back specifically on this past year as the good ol’ days, the start of living every day like an adventure (excluding the days I spend in bed, trying to recover from too much adventure).
It’s been just about a year now since I left what I thought was my dream job, based on a gut-feeling and a heart-wrenching whim to follow the obnoxious yet surprisingly intuitive little voice in my head. It started with a roadtrip from Boston to Denver with my sistercousin and was followed with intense studying of Anusara yoga with Amy Ippoliti, a month on Maui, and a total of visiting three countries (five if you count the ones I had layover in – and I do) and 23 different states (25 if you count layovers – and again, I do).
All in one year!
Someone left their receipt at the ATM one day, so I kept it to inspire me. This is SO not my bank account...
I’m living the life I’ve always wanted – of adventure, of travel and being surrounded by increasing numbers of supportive people who empower my every move, even though I also suffer from delightful bouts of financial insecurity.
Often I hear from people of how much they wish they could do what I’m doing now – to which I can only ever say, “YOU CAN!” It wasn’t easy. It still isn’t easy. But because it’s what I want, and because so many times I have put this life aside for a life I thought I was supposed to have – because of all that, I simply refuse to have it any other way. I take advantage of every opportunity presented to me – and even that hasn’t always ended up the best. My life is about taking chances and making mistakes, and as blissful as I am in my free-spiritedness, I am also a mess.
I can do this because I don’t really have bills to pay – I live with my folks, for cripessake. I am constantly accidentally sabotaging myself by sinking deeper and deeper into flakiness. I have walked away from a handful of friendships and even burned a couple bridges with some because I couldn’t bear to look back, either because of what they had done to me, what I had done to them, or a combination of the both. Either way, this past year has been a serious renovation of my life structure and I’m the one who made the tornado that tore it all apart. I decided to put myself first. I refused to allow myself to continue to be taken advantage of in a number of ways by no longer spreading myself too thin.
Don't look back, except to witness how far you've come.
I’m a fluke of nature in that I am most comfortable when in the midst of violent transition in my life. Letting the dust settle has never been a part of my nature, and there is something that scares me about sticking around long enough to see what comes into view.
Let yourself be a little bit of a mess, if even just on three-day weekends or on mental-health days. If you want to be ecstatically happy in your life, you have to understand that you will have to completely shake things up. Turn things upside-down. And spend a lot of time in tears, wondering what the hell you have done and will it be worth it?
My experience leads me to say Yes, yes it will be worth it. And I still, to this day, spend a lot of uncertain hours and even days, wondering what I’ve screwed up this time, what I’ve missed out on, where I should go and if I really want to spend another year at my parent’s house in exchange for another year of being a distracted gypsy.
All I know is that I am always exactly where I need to be, and luckily, the unwavering belief in that is the only thing that never fails to keep me moving forward.
My sister found this letter while snooping through our grandparents’ guest bedroom in Kansas City last week. It’s from our grandma Janice’s father (Lawrence, AKA PoPo) to grandpa Marvin after he wrote to ask for Gramma’s hand in marriage. Enjoy.
April 4 1953
First: The answer is yes. You have our consent to marry our daughter Janice.
I appreciate you asking us altho I’ve always felt that was up to the individuals being married and I never say no to any of my children. If they were picking someone whom I was rather sure would not be compatible or circumstances were what I thought too hazardous I probably would try to influence them.
For that matter I guess we have trying to influence them since they were born. Teaching them right from wrong, to be fair and honest, to judge those whom they come in contact, and avoid those who might have bad influence on them. And if we have taught them to be fair to themselves and others (which probably covers about everything) I feel we have accomplished our part.
You asked about the good and bad. Marriage is all good, no bad. Man should take a mate, the birds do it. It’s the way of life. The bad is created by the man or wife or both or their inability to avoid it.
Marriage is always more or less hazardous. Falling in love is hazardous. That is why some people avoid it and become bachelors and old maids (no guts).
It’s just a chance a couple in love must take and if they are smart enough they can make go of it under almost any circumstances.
As Frances said – “You have our blessing” and our home will always be Janice’s home and your home as long as you are in good standing with her.
P.S. This PoPo business will not be available to your children until after you are out of service. Savy…
As an afterthought: May the Gods of Mercy be with you. Sucker!
Needless to say, Em and I have both had some good cries after reading PoPo’s “lewis and clark” handwriting (as my sister described it).
Personally – I needed to hear the bit about love being hazardous. To be in love is to take a chance, but I hope that one day I have the guts to really dive in.