Perspectives on The Age of Innocence

I love to read classic books, especially ones written by female authors. I just recently finished reading The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. This book was, not surprisingly, absolutely heart-wrenching like many other classic novels. It seems like none of the great works of literature ever seem to have a happy ending. Yet somehow that makes them all the more poignant and real. It allows you to empathize and relate to the characters in a powerful, emotional way. When you read a good book, it almost feels like you’re making new friends. Which makes it all the more painful when things don’t turn out as you had hoped for them.

This particular book struck me in a way that a book hasn’t in a long time. I was so moved by this great work of literature that I just had to write about my thoughts. So here is your official spoiler alert for anyone who hasn’t read it. While I found this book simply heart-breaking, I understand that not everyone may see it the same way. I found myself swaying back and forth between a couple different perspectives.

To me, this book was a tragedy. I desperately hoped that somehow, against all odds, Newland Archer and Ellen Olenska would be together in the end. At the same time, I found myself feeling sorry for Archer’s wife, May. She was not the wicked woman some books may have written her as. She was a perfectly lovely, respectable woman that certainly didn’t deserve to be abandoned by Archer as I, nevertheless, hoped would happen. And in the end she isn’t. Although it could be argued that his love alone for another woman was a betrayal. Still, he remains faithful to her and their family until the end of May’s life.

Some may think this book did have a happy ending. Instead of cheating or leaving his wife, Archer did the “right” thing. He stayed. He did what society expected of him. He honored his commitments. But at what cost? He really had no good options. Either he abandoned his family and his wife to pursue passionate love, or he sacrificed that love for the sake of others and to live his life as a sham. In the end he chose the latter, and honestly, I’m not sure if that was the right decision or not. I can’t say what I would have chosen, myself. Perhaps his love for Ellen was only so passionate because it was forbidden and out of reach. Maybe if he had thrown everything away for her he would have found only disappointment and resentment rather than true love.

The most upsetting part of the story for me was that I saw my own life within it. It sounds wretched and narcissistic to say it out loud, but I saw myself as Ellen and my ex boyfriend as Archer. (Perhaps in a desperate attempt to console myself for not being the one he chose in the end.) My ex chose to stay with his new girlfriend, as I see it, primarily because they had an accidental child together. Even though he had expressed to me just how much less compatible they are than he and I were. Luckily for me, I’ve found someone else to love and be with. I’m not sure if Ellen ever did. However, my heart broke for Archer as it does now and then for my ex. What a wasted life. What a sad, phony existence, to have sacrificed such a love. I foresee him as an old man some day, filled with regrets and “what ifs.” Then again, who am I to say. Perhaps we are both better off this way.

The Age of Innocence | Book by Edith Wharton, Colm Toibin | Official  Publisher Page | Simon & Schuster

Hesitation & Uncertainty in Love

I’ve been dating someone now for a couple of months. It’s the first time in years that I’ve had a partner and on paper he’s absolutely perfect. He’s handsome, smart, progressive, atheist, and vegan. He reads, dresses well, lives a healthy lifestyle, and is always trying to make me happy. We agree on practically everything. We’ve never had an argument. We’ve recently even started saying, “I love you.” Everything is picture perfect. We make a very handsome couple.

Yet hesitation still lingers in my heart. This always happens. I get excited, then I worry I’ve rushed in too quickly. I start picking at every little thing. Such as the question of whether or not he’s funny. Being able to have that easy, witty banter with someone is very important to me. And while he checks an unbelievable amount of boxes when it comes to what I want in a partner, he has yet to check that one. It still feels like we’re nervous and awkward around one another. I keep waiting for us to become more comfortable, but we never seem to make much progress. I know that’s partially because he lives so far away and we don’t get to spend that much time with one another. Part of me fears that we may never find that easy companionship with one another though. Is he not funny because he’s nervous or holding back? Or will he genuinely never make me laugh? Is it wrong to continue on feeling this hesitancy? With everything else that is so amazing about him, does he also have to be funny?

If love is supposed to feel the same each time, regardless of who you are in love with, then I may be making a mistake. However, not being well versed in the art of love, I wonder if maybe each love has a different flavor and flow to it. That is what I hope for. Because I desperately want to be in love with him. He does bring me great happiness. He makes me want to be a better person. I enjoy talking with him. I miss him when he’s gone. I’m sad when he is too busy to text me all day. Is it okay to be cautious in love? Does love have layers? These and so many others are the questions I don’t have answers for, that I find myself having to face alone, too fearful to share my doubts with my partner.

In my past love, everything came naturally. It always felt easy, passionate, overwhelming, magical. Is it possible to build those aspects of a relationship over time? Or are they things that are either there or not? Is it okay to continue on being unsure? This is one of the reasons I have always been interested in polyamory. Nate may not be perfect for me in every single way, but he is perfect for me in a lot of very important ways. I don’t want to have to pick and choose what I’m willing to live without from my one and only partner. No one is going to be everything I need. But it’s hard for me to tell which of my needs should outweigh others. I always end up focusing on the areas that aren’t right rather than the ones that are.

If I knew I was free to have other partners to fill my other needs, I wouldn’t be having this difficult conversation with myself at all. I would more easily be able to love and admire him for who he is rather than worry about who he’s not. I could have one partner that is hilarity and passion, and another that is tenderness and safety. It seems unfair and unrealistic to expect one person to be absolutely everything you need. I feel so conflicted. I feel so guilty for feeling conflicted. I genuinely don’t know what the right thing to do is.

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I Am Going to Have a Good Day Today

Each morning when I sit down at my desk, laptop in front on me, WordPress open and waiting, I struggle to think of something to write about. I have a list I keep of a few ideas I could expound upon, but a lot of them seem too depressing to dwell on first thing in the morning. I keep losing sight of the reason I started writing again everyday in the first place. This is for me, this is to amp myself up, to get excited, to have fun. I don’t have to find a new fascinating topic to delve into every day. It really doesn’t matter what I write at all. Rather it’s the simple act of creation, of pouring myself into words on a page, with no other goal than to enjoy doing so.

I mentioned before how visualization before bed has helped me to wake up feeling better, more animated in the morning. Today I wanted to try that same visualization but in order to prepare me for the rest of my day. I have taken the next few days off from work because I had some PTO hours I needed to use up before July. Even though I am always excited for a day off, I never seem to let myself enjoy it. I get all in my head about every little moment, feeding my anxiety all throughout the day. I’m hoping that by sitting down, taking some mindful time first thing in the morning to mentally walk through my day, I’ll be able to feel more present and happy as I move through it.

Today is going to be a great day! I got to sleep in so I am feeling nice and rested. What a beautiful gift to be able to dream all through the night and wake up gently of my own volition. It’s a rather chilly day outside so I am going to spend my time warm and cozy indoors. I am going to have a very productive day. It will be a delight to clean up my house and organize things later. It will be an act of self-love. Tending to my nest so that I can feel more at home, more at peace. It will also be a great joy to show off all my hard work to my vegan boy tomorrow when he comes over again. Once my work is all done and the day is winding down, I’ll reward myself with a relaxing evening playing my new favorite video game.

Before I start my cleaning for the day, I have a lot of wonderful self-care to complete. I do most of these things every single day, yet the intention behind them has faded over time. Theses small acts aren’t supposed to be more chores for me to begrudgingly trudge through. These are small gifts to myself, chances to be present, chances to appreciate myself, my life. Today I am going to be mindful of this sweet, loving intention as I move through my to-do list.

I’ve noticed that a lot of the time while I am going about my business, I’m holding my breath! Or I’m breathing very shallow and quick. Today I am going to keep coming back to my breath. How might it feel to breathe mindfully, lovingly for an entire day? Won’t it be fun to try it out and see? Yes, fun. Above all I want to have fun today. I’m going to keep a light heart, a soft eye, a kind energy. I’m going to be curious and playful, grateful for this new day to spend with myself. My yoga practice today is going to be a celebration of this life I’ve been given, a beautiful flowing dance in tribute to my lovely body, my mother Earth. My meditation will be a much deserved rest, a surrender to that sweet mother. As I kindle that inner fire, that prana, with my workout today I will rejoice at all my body is capable of doing for me. The theme for today is passion, fire, playfulness, admiration, devotion. Each a simple word, yet able to bring such powerful emotions bubbling up to the surface.

One last intention to set before I finish up and move into the rest of my day. Today is just one day. I will focus on the time I have, not the foggy future to come. Perhaps I will have time for everything I’ve got swirling around in my busy mind eventually. Perhaps not. Either way, all I am able to do is focus on the day in front of me. There is not enough time for me to do everything. Instead I will concentrate on doing what I can. Doing it well, with deep breaths, and with many sips from the well of my own self-love.

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Writing

I love to write. I love seeing my handwriting slowly consuming a blank page. I love notebooks and pens. I love typing even more perhaps. The sound of rapid clicks on a keyboard, the feeling on my fingertips as I am pressing the keys, is so soothing. I’ve loved writing for as long as I can remember. I have diaries from the time I first learned how to form letters on paper. The massive amount of misspelled words stand as a humorous testament to how young I was at the time. There is just something so beautiful and therapeutic about organizing thoughts and feelings in order to release them into the physical world. Even if what is written was never intended to be read, there is still a sense of connection that is inherently part of language.

Even though I love it and I’ve done it nearly all of my life, writing has become more and more challenging as the years go by. I often get the urge to write something, anything. But when I sit down to begin, I am always gripped by panic and fear. Part of me is feeling that right now. It is a fear that makes me feel like running. An urge to escape, to look away. A fear that reminds me of being a little girl, holding the covers over my head at night, feeling that as long as I don’t look at the dark expanse of my bedroom that I will be safe from any monsters that might be lurking there.

It is terrifying to look this fear in the face, to study it long enough to even recognize what it is I am afraid of. When I really force myself, I can see that I am afraid of introspection. In order to create anything, first we must look within. When I’m drawing it is easier. There is no threat among the shapes and lines inside my head. Just images, with no emotions underneath. Writing is different. So much so that I’ve grown to dislike the phrase “a picture’s worth a thousand words.” A thousand words could reflect much more than a picture ever could. Some things can only exist within language.

When that familiar urge to write strikes me, the question that follows is always, “what should I write about?” This is usually where fear slams the door so to speak. In order to answer that question, I’ve got to go within. I’ve got to look inside of myself, to probe around my heart and mind, feeling for something that sparks my interest, my passion, my emotion. I know that I’ll find inspiration somewhere in there. The problem is what I might stumble across in my search.

The older I get, the more I find that I am keeping my mind on a very short leash. There have become more and more tender places where I dare not tread. I’m no longer even sure what exactly it is I am afraid to find. I don’t have any truly traumatic memories. Perhaps I am afraid of the good ones. That I’ll miss those old joys too much to bear. Maybe part of me is afraid I’ll look inside and find there is nothing left. Then again, maybe I am just analyzing this fear too much. After all, I am a perpetually anxious person. The majority of the time there is no cause for the nervous energy I feel vibrating through my body.

It doesn’t really matter why I feel this fear. I am forever being distracted and misguided by that persistent question, “why?” Even when I was little, I was one of those kids that had to ask why after being told anything. It feels like a phase I never grew out of. Somehow I still haven’t learned that that question often doesn’t have an answer. More importantly, that often it doesn’t really matter anyway. If you spend your life fixated on figuring out why we are here, why we are alive, why we exist at all, you will miss out on actually living. Maybe we get to choose what the answer to that question will be. Maybe it’s simply irrelevant. What matters is that we are here. Wouldn’t a better question be “what am I going to do with this life” or “how can I make this life meaningful, enjoyable, etc.?” Maybe it would have actually served me better if my parents hadn’t always been so patient with me and made me stop asking why all of the time.

Why it scares me isn’t what I want to focus on. I love writing. That is what I want to focus on. I even think I’m pretty good at it. It makes me happy. It lets me express myself better than I am able to any other way. It lets me be creative, silly, curious, focused, anything that I want to be. All I have to do is believe in myself enough to start, then I won’t be afraid anymore.

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The Mirror of Yoga

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A yoga practice is quite often a reflection of the yogi’s inner life. Yoga has the potential to be a window into our personal struggles, fears, strengths, weaknesses, and much more. Even before I knew about the spiritual side of yoga, I could feel it changing the way I thought about and perceived the world as well as my place within it. Those who have a personal yoga practice as simply exercise or stretching like I once did, still can’t avoid the deeper impact and insight it provides.

It is a rare opportunity to go within, to be alone with ourselves, to notice the patterns of our own minds. Are we easily frustrated? Are we critical of ourselves at every turn? Is it hard to let go? Is it hard to be still? To remain focused on what’s in front of us? Can we learn to settle our minds, to use our breath? Yoga provides us with a chance to learn all of these things about ourselves. When we practice yoga, we are not only training the body. We are also training the mind.

I have noticed my own struggles reflected in my practice lately. It has felt like my safe haven recently, a way to escape from my reality. Yet yoga has a way of showing us things, even things we don’t want to see. Having an “escape” inevitably begs the question, why is one needed? Allowing my practice to be a shield from the rest of my life, has caused it to become rather stagnant. I feel stuck. Just as I do overall right now.

Our daily lives feed our practice just as much as our practice feeds into our lives. That vital loop has been severed for me for awhile now. It is hard to feel passionate, inspired, playful, or courageous in your practice when you aren’t able to feel that way day to day. It is hard to practice self-love, self-care, compassion, and ahimsa in a one hour vacuum. It is hard to teach from the heart, when you have been hiding your heart from even yourself.

Lately my practice, while always an enjoyable time of peace, rest, and rejuvenation, has felt like hypocrisy at the same time. I am isolating myself within my yoga, instead of allowing the nutrients of my practice to sate the gnawing pangs of my real life problems.

My yoga mirror has been showing me the reflection of my fear, my avoidance, my inertia. I am afraid to challenge myself. I am afraid that I won’t be able to rise to those challenges. I am afraid to fail, to fall. I have remained in one place for so long, not progressing in life, nor my asanas. Telling myself I can’t do it before I have even given myself the chance to try.

But I should know better. Because yoga has also taught me that there is no reason to be afraid. There is no reason to fear failure. Because even failure is not final. When you are learning to do a headstand, you are going to fall. A lot. If I had taken that first failure as proof I was incapable, my body would not be able to do any of the incredible things I’ve taught it to do. Yoga teaches us that failure is a necessary part of growth. When you fall, you laugh, get up, and try again. And with each fall, you learn something new. I need to engage my core more. I need to place my hands wider apart. I need to focus. I was holding my breath. Failure is not something to avoid, it is a valuable chance to learn vital information.

I want to use these lessons and the many others yoga has given me. I want to move forward in my practice, in life. I want to try new things. To be playful again, curious, excited. To laugh and learn and love myself despite my missteps along the way. No matter what happens, I know I’ll always have a safe place to rest. On the mat, and within. We all do.

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Inspired and Discouraged

Every time I go online I am drowning in a sea of stimulation. I’ll never forget being young and passionate about drawing and discovering DeviantArt.com. There were so many incredible artists strutting their stuff throughout the never ending pages of each search I made. It made my heart beat fast. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the inventive images others had crafted so well. My cells swelled with inspiration, but when I finally pulled away and put my pen to paper, I found that every line I made was no longer good enough.

I have run into this phenomenon many times since. These wonderful mediums for expressing and sharing art and ideas online always had such a paralyzing affect on my perfectionist personality. Every creative idea or urge I experience is muffled by the voice in my subconscious that whispers, “Not good enough.” How can I compare to all that is already out there? All that has already been created? Every idea I have has already been crafted by more adept hands. My perpetual non-competitiveness leaves me forever idle.

Yet, part of me acknowledges that to improve I must be mediocre first. Surely, Salvador Dali’s first painting was not “The Persistence of Memory.” I wonder how many artists would have been silenced by the overwhelming influence of the superiority of others ahead of them. But perhaps their passion was simply to express, to create, no matter if it had been said before or better.

Something inside me sickens at the idea of creating something inevitably irrelevant. Why bother to add my voice to the void of so many other superior songs? Yet, I want to practice., I want to improve, to see what I could be capable of. How I wish I was able to overcome my fear of failure and futile effort. I could never understand why my passions are so easily dissuaded. I keep coming back to them though, the background buzz of florescent lights forever sizzling through my senses. I want to be a writer, so I will write. I want to keep fighting against this illogical loop I am trapped within. It is so hard to hear my own song in this grand cacophony.