25

  1. You can’t take anyone with you, anyway, I quietly remind myself as the world shifts rapidly around me.
  2. Trying to hold on to someone is like grasping at a fistful of sand, I decide, people popping in and out of my life like faint stars in a cloudy night sky that is still somehow beautiful.
  3. Aparigraha, I whisper, watching friends fall away like flower petals, returning to whence they came.
  4. And so the lesson returns, I realize, these humans cannot be constants.
  5. How nourishing! How good for you, darling, I coo at my youngest selves as I feed them kale to put them to sleep, to fill a belly with green, come closer to wholeness.
  6. Who is this woman, I wonder, who sits and reads with a cup of warm lemon water at the kitchen table?
  7. If it’s attached to a person, it’s a strategy, not a need, I proclaim clearly, because I might need to feel safe but you’re only one road to get there.
  8. That is so painful, I assure the broken-hearted third grader who had to sit through a brutal day of online law school.
  9. The universe provides, I remember, as abundance and opportunity flows to me with enthusiasm.
  10. It’s okay to feel it all, I promise a terrified girl whose brain has just burst open.
  11. Your purpose is not to ensure others understand you, I counsel the teenager still invested in the perceptions of others.
  12. I love you, because the entire universe conspired to help me find you, I evoke him gently.
  13. Long inhale, slow exhale, I instruct my nervous mouth, trepidatious lungs.
  14. Remember the shallow can drown you, I prod the one willing to settle.
  15. I can love you, without you, I ascertain quietly, harrowed but fierce.
  16. The suffering to come can and should be avoided, I reflect with Libby on my lips.
  17. She wasn’t for you anyway, I swear with confidence.
  18. This little existence is boundless in its sweet contraction, I vow to the girl who loves this little house.
  19. Maybe numb isn’t safe after all, I ponder as my eyes remember how to produce tears.
  20. I always have enough to meet my needs, I assure the baby terrified of scarcity.
  21. You don’t have to punish yourself, I tell my bloated belly after a whole day of not eating.
  22. I can take care of us, I swear to the eight-year-old I’m driving to the thrift store for books.
  23. Just because you believe it, doesn’t mean it’s true, I advise the thoughts bouncing around an abundant brain.
  24. I trust you to trust them, I encourage the wounded parts, reticent to all connection.
  25. You don’t always have to be happy, I reveal the truth to my depression.

daily rituals for 2021

I will give this year a chance to be a great one by indulging in the parts of life I enjoy most. I’m finding happiness amidst this chaos. Here are the new rituals I’m incorporating into my daily life to get this decade off to a positive start.

  1. Use the sun to help wake up. I set an alarm for about half an hour before I need to get up, slide out of bed and open my curtain, and let the light gradually ease me from sleep.
  2. Start with a stretch. I like to stretch in my bed as I wake up. A great one to begin the day with is tedaka mudra, or pencil stretch. I intertwine my thumbs and stretch my arms and legs long, then relax into the covers.
  3. Do a quick body scan. I notice my feet, toes, ankles, shins, calves, knees, thighs, butt, pelvis, hips, belly, breasts, arm pits, back, arms, elbows, wrists, neck, face, head.
  4. Pet a friend. If you have a human in your house, you can pet them with their consent. But I don’t, so I start my morning by giving love to my kitties and pup. Ahhhh, oxytocin.
  5. Do something productive. Make the first thing you do when you get out of bed something that makes you feel productive and capable. I make my bed and clean the litter box.
  6. Open to the day. I draw back the curtains to fill the house with light, light a candle or some incense, and perhaps play some music that makes me enjoy life just a little bit more.
  7. Meditate and pray. Each day, I make time to sit quietly, at least for a few minutes.
  8. Prepare a warm beverage. My favorite morning beverages are black coffee, peppermint tea, and hot lemon water. Whatever I drink, I try to make preparation an enjoyable ritual instead of an annoying task.
  9. Journal. I like to enjoy my warm beverage while I journal about my feelings, dreams, or whatever comes up.
  10. Brush teeth thoroughly. I like Trader Joe’s toothpaste and enjoy the feeling of the spinning bristles on my teeth and gums.
  11. Hot/cold shower. I invigorate my body with a shower that’s very hot and very cold.
  12. Read from core. This year, I’m developing a group of books that form the core of my personal ideology and taking the time to study them more deeply.
  13. Practice yoga. Before I read new material, I use asana practice to prepare my body for stillness and concentration.
  14. Read new books. I take time each day to read books I haven’t read before.
  15. Avoid phone. My smartphone won’t be the first thing I touch in the morning.
  16. Drink kombucha. My gut thanks me, profoundly.
  17. Nightly restorative yoga. My dreams and sleep thank me, profoundly.
  18. Make the room a little more wonderful. I look around whatever room I’m in and try to think of a quick way to improve it. Little changes add up.
  19. Let go. Only objects that serve me may remain, the rest will be thanked and sent along.

What are you doing differently in 2021?

love always,

amanda

an embarrassingly personal reflection on fourteen years of taylor swift

Look, I get it, people have lots of opinions about on this blonde superstar. Save your two cents worth about Taylor Swift, I don’t need to hear it. I’m not here to discuss musical prowess or political ideology, or to analyze the ups, downs, and in betweens of this woman’s eventful career.

I am, however, here to reflect on the ways that she has impacted my life. I have realized over the years that Taylor and I have grown up together. Since her self-titled debut, I’ve been listening to her life unfold and she has been the soundtrack to mine. I can listen to Taylor Swift’s discography and replay the last fourteen years of my life, and that’s something really magical. So, if you’re interested in venturing down memory lane with me, read on.

2006: Taylor Swift

I remember listening to this CD on my walkman and wondering: is this what falling in love feels like? I remember seeing that curly haired blonde girl on CMT for the first time playing guitar. I was endlessly impressed that Taylor wrote all of her own songs. I pored over those liner notes for hours, alone in my bedroom. I miss liner notes.

“A Place in this World,” “Tied Together With a Smile,” and “Cold As You” were the first songs I ever used to revel in (read: process) my depression. You cry, but you don’t tell anyone that you might not be the golden one. And you’re tied together with a smile, but you’re coming undone. Man, those words still feel personal.

I also have a special place in my heart for “Stay Beautiful.” My littlest sister loved Taylor Swift when she was a little girl, and then one day she decided she didn’t anymore, and I’m pretty sure she will deny her early childhood obsession til the day she dies. But before she got too cool for my millennial bullshit, my other little sister and I would sing her the song “Stay Beautiful” all the time. In the car, in my bedroom, on the trampoline, at grandma’s house. It was our song for her, and it was so fucking special I’m tearing up a little. You’re beautiful, every little piece love, and don’t you know, you’re really gonna be someone (ask anyone).

2008: Fearless

The day that “Love Story” hit number one on iTunes, I felt like I was dreaming. Taylor Swift, my Taylor Swift, was famous beyond my wildest dreams, seemingly overnight. In the landing where our family desktop computer sat, I am sure my eyes nearly doubled in size.

I don’t think I will ever forget the tragedy of “Fifteen,” of Taylor’s best friend Abigail losing her virginity to a boy who didn’t understand how important she was. This entire album was deeply sad and poignant and resonated with my black little heart so well. Stupid girl, I shoulda known, I shoulda known, that I’m not a princess, this ain’t a fairytale.

And those platinum edition bonus tracks, man. I was sitting on an ugly reversible comforter in a tiny bedroom where there was no room to stand between my bed and my dresser, listening to my parents argue and have sex through our thin shared wall, but at least I had the melancholy of “Untouchable” for company. Also, my transmission went out while I was screaming “The Other Side of the Door” in my car. True story.

Fun fact: Fearless is the only Taylor Swift concert I ever went to, and also my first concert, ever.

I was so disappointed in every concert I went to after the Fearless tour, because Taylor changed her outfit almost every single song. My expectations for concerts were set very high.

2010: Speak Now

Who could forget Taylor Swift breaking Taylor Lautner’s heart? It was like two very important teenage worlds colliding when the “Back to December” music video came out.

This entire album was a rebellious growth spurt for Taylor, and kinda gave her her infamous reputation for brutal breakup songs.

John Mayer got the nearly seven minute heartbreaker “Dear John”which included devastating late adolescent lyrics such as long were the nights when my days once revolved around you, counting my footsteps praying the floor won’t fall through again, don’t you think I was too young to be messed with? the girl in the dress cried the whole way home, and i’ll look back and regret how i ignored when they said run as fast as you can.

I won’t go into the slut shaming of she’s better known for the things that she does on the mattress, but I will not lie, as a teenage girl, I fucking loved that line. And, there’s a special little queer love story behind “Enchanted” for me. insert *heart eyes*

2012: Red

This album helped me cope with breaking up with multiple abusive, toxic men. Instead of texting the man who groomed me before I was even eighteen, I would listen to “I Almost Do” and cry. “All Too Well” has gotten me through more sad endings than I can even remember, and is still one of my favorite songs to be depressed with. You call me up again, just to break me like a promise. So casually cruel in the name of being honest.

“We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” is a song I screamed in my car for like two months when the man I had dumped couldn’t take no for an answer. Like EVER. And my younger self was pretty much convinced that “Stay Stay Stay” described the perfect love story. That’s so fun!

2014: 1989

My first year of college! The first Taylor album that came out after I moved out into an apartment alone. How many times did I drive home singing this album with my sunroof open at 3:30 am? Probably way too many. This, in my opinion, is the first solidly pop album Taylor produced. And I loved it. You got that James Dean, daydream look in your eyes, I got that red lip, classic thing that you like.

Also, “Bad Blood” is like, the ideal breakup song for a guy who’s just a jerk. (We’ve all dated at least one of those, right?) It’s perfect for angry screaming and long drives. Did you have to hit me where I’m weak, baby, I couldn’t breathe? And rub it in so deep, salt in the wound, like you’re laughing right at me.

2017: Reputation

This album felt like a gift from the universe. I was so homesick when it dropped, and it got me through the last weeks before going home from France for Christmas. I listened to this walking the streets of Cognac over and over, looking at all the old buildings and tiny shops, watching construction workers do things I’d never seen done in my life, and sitting alone at the café while I worked. Reputation was on repeat.

I think this was the first album to definitively prove that Taylor’s fans will follow her anywhere. Dark, angry, snake filled era? Yep, we’re still here, and loving the angst.

Some favorite angsty lyrics:

Is it cool that I said all that? Is it chill that you’re in my head? Cause I know that it’s delicate / Lord save me, my drug is my baby, I’ll be using for the rest of my life / You’ve ruined my life by not being mine / I stay when you’re lost and I’m scared and you’re turning away

Early 20s depression, there you are again…

2019: Lover

The happiest album Taylor ever wrote, probably. First single: a very dramatic, playful, poppy debut alongside Panic! At The Disco’s lead singer. Cause one of these things is not like the others, living in winter I am your summer, baby doll, when it comes to a lover, I promise that you’ll never find another like me.

Ironically, the cheery, upbeat tunes of Lover got me through my divorce. I adore the color and aesthetic of this Taylor era with its blushy pinks and duskiness. Losing my ex definitely felt like “Death by a Thousand Cuts.”

And just to waste my time, I take the long way home

I ask the traffic lights if it’ll be alright

They say I don’t know

It was a bit too raw at first, but “I Forgot That You Existed” also started to hit home after awhile. Then one magical night, I forgot that you existed. And I thought that it would kill me, but it didn’t. And it was so nice…so peaceful and quiet.

And for a sassy mood, you can’t beat I forgot that you sent me a clear message, taught me some hard lessons…I just forget what they were…It’s all just a blur.

Finally, “Afterglow.” Damn, a really good song. Maybe in my top 10 for TS ever. And a key divorce song. There’s nothing one dimensional about leaving the person you planned to spend forever with, even after you’ve made the decision to leave.

I’m the one who burned us down, but it’s not what I meant. I’m sorry that I hurt you.

and…

tell me that you’re still mine, tell me it’ll be just fine, even when i lose my mind

tell me that it’s not my fault tell me that I’m all you want, even when I break your heart.

2020: folklore

Ah, folklore. The album none of us expected, but all of us needed. I hated it the first time I listened to it, and now it’s probably my favorite album of all. I think that the vaguely alternative sad girlness of folklore reconnected me with Taylor and reminded me of our long love affair. A perfect memoir of quarantine.

This is where Taylor really comes into her own as a lyricist, and the entire album feels like poetry. I could talk about folklore for a long time, so I’ll just give you a brief overview of my favorite bits of the album.

“cardigan” and “august” remind me overwhelmingly of my current romance. “cardigan” takes me back to the first real “in love” feelings I had after leaving my husband. And when I felt like I was an old cardigan under someone’s bed, you put me on and said I was your favorite.

So, for the first time, I had the true rumored sweetness of a summer love. For me it was enough to live for the hope of it all, cancel plans just in case you’d call. “august” captures that summer romance feeling perfectly. I can see us twisted in bed sheets, august sipped away like a bottle of wine.

“exile” is another song that I love to revel in the sadness of. I can see you staring honey, like he’s just your understudy, like you’d get your knuckles bloody for me / Second, third, and hundredth chances, balancing on breaking branches, those eyes add insult to injury.

And I’ve been meaning to tell you, I think your house is haunted. Your dad is always mad, and that must be why... I’d say for something eerie and out of the ordinary, “seven” really hits the spot. Pack your dolls and a sweater, we’ll move to India forever.

Taylor says “betty” isn’t a queer song, but I don’t care. It’s queer when I listen to it, and it’s a blast to bang out on my keyboard.

Betty, one time I was riding on my skateboard when I passed your house, it was like I couldn’t breathe.

The worst thing that I ever did was what I did to you…but if I just showed up at your party, would you have me, would you want me? Would you tell me to go fuck myself, or lead me to the garden? In the garden would you trust me if I told you it was just a summer thing? I’m only seventeen, I don’t know anything, but I know I miss you.

Betty, right now is the last time I can dream about what happens when I see your face again. The only thing I wanna do is make it up to you…

Finally, I feel blessed to not have actually listened to “the lakes” until the long pond sessions came out because now it’s my favorite, and I also want to run away to the lakes. Some lyrical candy for your sampling:

Is it romantic how all my elegies eulogize me? I’m not cut out for all these cynical clones, these hunters with cell phones. Take me to the lakes where all the poets went to die, I don’t belong, and my beloved, neither do you.

I want auroras and sad prose, I want to watch wisteria grow right over my bare feet, ’cause I haven’t moved in years, and I want you right here. A red rose grew up out of ice frozen ground, with no one around to tweet it, while I bathe in cliffside pools with my calamitous love and insurmountable grief.

2020: evermore

The only thing less expected than folklore is its little sister evermore, which Taylor dropped as a delightful December surprise to congratulate us all on living through 2020. That’s a lot of songs to write in one year, girl! I’m impressed. Also, fuck, I loved this album the first time I listened to it (which was the night before my last exam of the semester, unfortunately for my grade in that class.) I love the aesthetic of evermore and the softness of it.

“tis the damn season” is my new favorite Christmas song (displacing the classic “Christmases When You Were Mine to #2). This one hits right in the feels:

So we could call it even, you could call me babe for the weekend. ‘Tis the damn season, write this down. I’m staying at my parents’ house, and the road not taken looks real good now.

To be totally honest, “no body, no crime” reminds me of the Dixie Chicks song “Goodbye Earl,” and I love that about it. The most country song Taylor has come out with in a long while, with lyrical story telling such as:

She says, “That ain’t my merlot on his mouth. That ain’t my jewelry on our joint account.”

and

Good thing my daddy made me get a boating license when I was fifteen. And I’ve cleaned enough houses to know how to cover up a scene.

“long story short” has the bouncy, fun quality of “stay stay stay” but with grown up, literary lyrics, and I love it. It’s sassy and real and playful. I dance in my seat when I hear it and it’s uncontrollable.

Actually, I always felt I must look better in the rear view. Missing me, at the golden gates they once held the keys to. When I dropped my sword, I threw it in the bushes and knocked on your door. And we live in peace, but if someone comes at us, this time I’m ready cause I fell from the pedestal, right down the rabbit hole, long story short, it was a bad time. Pushed from the precipice, clung to the nearest lips, long story short, it was the wrong guy.

and last but certainly not least, I’ll conclude this longwinded reflection with “champagne problems,” which sounds heartbreakingly like my marriage to me. Your heart was glass, I dropped it. This is a song I listened to on loop for more than an hour, and a song I am learning to play on piano for the catharsis of singing it. Man, I drank a lot of champagne in 2017 and it was a problem…

We’ll end with some beautiful, harrowing lyrics about the boy I met on a cold November day.

Your Midas touch on the Chevy door, November flush and your flannel cure.

“This dorm was once a madhouse,”

I made a joke “well, it’s made for me,”

how evergreen our group of friends, don’t think we’ll say that word again,

and soon they’ll have the nerve to deck the halls that we once walked through

one for the money, two for the show, I never was ready, so I watch you go

sometimes you just don’t know the answer ’til someone’s on their knees and asks you.

“she would’ve made such a lovely bride, what a shame she’s fucked in the head,” they said

but you’ll find the real thing instead, she’ll patch up your tapestry that I shred and

hold your hand while dancing, never leave you standing crestfallen on the landing

with champagne problems

your mom’s ring in your pocket, her picture in your wallet; you won’t remember all my champagne problems.

If you read this far I’m truly impressed, let’s have a conversation and discuss Taylor Swift or your unwavering interest in my inner world.

love,

amanda

xx

practicing yoga for PTSD recovery

Have you ever surprised yourself by how much change you were capable of? For me, practicing yoga didn’t come easily. In fact, when I tried my first yoga class at age 16, I remember being entirely miserable the entire time. My body was not meant to take these shapes, I remember thinking. How can she possibly be breathing this slowly and doing these motions? When will this be over? The next day, I experienced a soreness unlike anything I had ever felt.

IMG_0249
Self portrait

I want to tell you my yoga story because it is testimony to the fact that yoga is not for the flexible, but the willing. And yes, I totally stole that from a studio’s sign board. But it’s true. If you are willing to keep trying yoga, it will mold you and shift your life in unexpected ways. Let’s be clear, yoga is more than just the athletic component or twisting into a pretzel. It’s not the exercise class you might imagine. In fact, it is a multi limb practice filled with rich teachings and attention to control of the breath, body, and mind.

Although it was frustrating, yoga was somehow intriguing. Interesting enough to keep coming back to, I decided. And for several years, I practiced yoga about once a month, learning vinyasa flow sequences and then finding a “half and half” class that began with a steady flow and ended with restorative yoga. (I loved that class and Arielle as a teacher. RIP Mudra.) When I moved to Salem the next year, I found an amazing kundalini teacher in the yoga desert (Salem has one yoga studio, and is the same size as Eugene, which has…30?) and delved deeper into my practice, then met a hatha instructor whose exuberant joy felt contagious. But still, I was only practicing in group settings, and only once or twice every month.

B9C303C8-9CB5-49F3-8054-D68607CAEA30
Practicing hatha yoga in Salem

My relationship to yoga changed drastically when I became a law student. My first year of law school was an extraordinary challenge due to my unstable and quickly deteriorating mental health. I was suffering from severe, complex PTSD, and it was inducing depression, dissociation, anxiety, panic attacks, and even psychosis. I was actively suicidal for months on end. It felt like I couldn’t escape my trauma, my sadness, myself, despite the fact that I was taking medication and receiving professional help.

One day after seeing my psychiatrist in Portland, I found myself in a TJ Maxx parking lot. I have no idea why, but I suddenly wanted nothing more than to take a yoga class. So, I booted up Mindbody on my phone and searched for classes nearby. There was a hot yoga class in half an hour. I’d always been curious about hot yoga, but had never been brave enough to try it. Luckily, that day I felt courageous. I went into that TJ Maxx and bought a hot yoga towel and a sports bra, bought a 30-day unlimited pass for $40, and took my anxious, depressed self to Pure 8.

The studio wasn’t much different than a regular yoga studio. I’ve never been one to love the heat and I had never been flexible, but I am not exaggerating when I tell you that my first hot yoga class changed my life. The heat and the asana (postures) and the pranayama (breath) as a trio really forced me to be present and engage with the challenge in front of me.

IMG_8403

Practicing standing splits not long after starting hot yoga

After only one class, I was hooked. I drove to Beaverton from Salem just to take hot yoga classes because it felt like the only reprieve I had. At that point, I’d found neither a good med regime nor a therapist whose style served me, and I was in an enormous amount of pain. PTSD is often seen as just a psychological disorder, but it takes an enormous toll on your body. The body stores trauma and it can manifest as all sorts of health problems, and night terrors and flashbacks brutalize the body and prevent it from getting the rest it needs to heal. It’s a double whammy that feels like getting knocked on your ass, and it’s hard to recover from.

When my unlimited month at Pure 8 was up, I decided to find a studio in Eugene, because I was planning to move back home. I showed up to Balanced Hot Yoga on a Monday afternoon in the spring and met Libby. I don’t even know how to explain Libby to you, so let me tell you how being in her presence feels: like suddenly you are a little more sparkly, like pop rocks exploding on your tongue, like you let the butterflies in your stomach out to fill the room with color and joy. I was enchanted by her energy, and then she opened her mouth and French came out and I was entirely enamored. During class, she focused more on the internal aspects of the practice and didn’t worry about her body looking like a Yoga Journal cover. It felt like I was at the most amazing church service I could imagine. I loved to hear Libby chant and watch her adjust her students lovingly. In her class, I felt a connection to my body I had never known before. In that tiny little studio with its charming, quirky touches, I knew I had found some kind of home.

IMG_0267
A drawing I made of the wall at Balanced

Frankly, Balanced and its wonderful instructors got me through my divorce. There’s a mural on the wall that reads “what you feed grows,” and I did my best to feed my yoga practice. I went nearly every day that summer, sometimes twice a day. Hot yoga consumed my worry, helped me process my feelings. Sometimes I’d go to Wild Light too, but Balanced really felt like home. Even though I didn’t know most people by name, being with them in such an intimate space gave me the community I desperately needed. The solidity of that community enabled me to begin a home practice as well. Eventually, I decided to become a yoga teacher at Balanced’s sister business, Two Birds Yoga Training. (I’m going to write another post later about becoming a yoga teacher and its effect on my practice. Stay tuned!)

When I stopped seeing yoga as exercise and started embracing it as a healing practice, as a guide by which to live my life, everything changed. As excited as I was to become more flexible and bend myself into postures I never imagined I could practice, the inner change was so much grander. To be clear, you cannot yoga everything away, and there are many other components to healing from mental health struggles and trauma. But yoga permeates those components, and saturates my life with a richness I never imagined possible.

I want to share that with you, too, and that’s why I would love for you to attend my hatha basics class. It is my belief that yoga is for everybody, regardless of their body type, ability, or experience. I hope that my class will provide an opportunity for you to experience yoga as something more significant than exercise. If you feel uncomfortable in a group, I am happy to offer affordable, sliding scale private lessons to help you start establishing a yoga practice in your life. The change you will observe in yourself if you commit to a regular practice will be undeniable.

Love always,

amanda

poems about law school

Lately I have a penchant to write poetry instead of prose. Breaking out of narrative writing and saying au revoir to formal rules feels empowering and refreshing, given my current situation.

So, after a long evening of constitutional law reading, I wanted to share a few of my words with you. These are poems I wrote a few months ago—I’m doing my best to build up a collection for myself.

These are tangentially related to law school, but maybe they’ll make you feel something, too, even if you’re not a law student. For me, poetry is really about emotion. And I’ve got a whole lot of feelings to get out.


fancy


you and me


squish, squash


xo, Amanda