“Uncle” Days

Today, I cried ‘Uncle.’

Well, I texted Uncle, actually. (It is the modern age after all.)

I’ve always gotten a kick out of that expression, which, according to the language authority that is Wikipedia, is defined as follows:

In the United States and Canada, the idiomatic expression “Say ‘uncle’!” may be used as an imperative command to demand submission of one’s opponent, such as during an informal wrestling match. Similarly, the exclamation “Uncle!” is an indication of submission – analogous to “I give up” – or it may be a cry for mercy, in such a game or match.

Although it is often regarded as an Americanism, there are at least two differing theories as to the true origin of the phrase: ancient Rome and 19th century England.

The Roman Empire theory says, Roman children, when beset by a bully, would be forced to say the Latin phrase, “Patrue, mi Patruissimo,” or, “Uncle, my best Uncle,” in order to surrender and be freed.  […] The 19th century England theory says it comes from an English joke about a bullied parrot being coaxed to address his owner’s uncle.

Yes, my friends, snow days can provide ample opportunities for language lessons too!

And yes, I did say “snow day.”

Our fair city has been hit with a giant batch of the white stuff, far too early than any of us would care to have to deal with. Within a 24 hour period, we went from tank tops and flip flops to down-filled parkas, mitts… the whole kit’n’caboodle. Social media has been plastered with images of fallen trees, kids building snowmen, vegetables salvaged in the nick of time, flower beds draped with towels and tarps, and hands clasping coffee mugs perfectly positioned in front of a roaring fire…on a Wednesday…in Summer.

Upon rising (late) this morning, we found our power was out (the absence of the alarm tipped us off), the tree in front of our house torn out of the earth and cozied up to the hood of our van, and snow softly piling onto the solid base that had been falling for the last couple of days.

I had plans, items/to do’s to knock off the list, places to be at certain times… But there’s nothing like a power outage to remind us how much we rely on our technology (none of which was working; texting/calling from our cell phones was all we had), and boy, does a city filled with fallen trees, backed up and blocked off roadways, and out-of-commission traffic lights show us how, instead of pushing against every obstacle you face,  it’s not a bad idea to say “Uncle!” and throw in the towel.

I wish I could pinpoint the exact moment when I realized that to micromanage, or to over-plan, or to over-expect, or to continuously push uphill, was fighting a futile fight. My life has proven, with each coming year, that letting go of the plan, and acknowledging the truth of a situation, leaves much more room for the Universe (for lack of a better term at the moment) to just do what it needs to. If we’re talking about this current meteorological dilemma, here’s a truth:

Complaining about the weather is not going to change it. Period.

A delightful side effect of relinquishing some control of your ‘plan’ is shedding unnecessary stress — stress that we create both internally (our brains are good at that!), and externally through trying to navigate circumstances we have zero control over. We’ve all enjoyed telling a story about how stressful/challenging/frustrating it was to get from Point A to Point B. But what if we simply removed the need to tell it? We are no longer trying to make something work that, on a normal day (whatever that is!?), would flow just fine, but on this one day in time is just not worth the headache.

Whether letting go (or crying Uncle!) is to provide space for beautiful surprises or just necessary changes, releasing my grasp on what is no longer working or no longer serving me, or whatever is starting to feel like a constant uphill battle, has been both challenging and freeing. Whether it was calling in sick to work when I needed a day to hole up in bed, nap and not talk to anyone, or canceling a commitment I had excitedly made in earlier times, or even in January of this year, when I came down with the flu the VERY week I was to do a Yoga teacher training to work with Cancer patients/survivors (yup, I definitely had to cry Uncle on that one, and it was heartbreaking)… there is always that part of me that feels like I am doing something wrong, or letting someone down, for having to choose what I need.

(Isn’t that crazy!? It feels wild to actually see that written down — that choosing what I need for my own well-being, whether physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, etc. was/is considered a guilt-point. Seriously!? Where do we GET this stuff!?)

For years and years, I feel as though I tried to fit into the mould or expectation of what would create the most harmonious result for all involved, oftentimes sacrificing what I truly yearned for to keep myself feeling whole. I remember one New Year’s in particular when my recently wounded heart, along with my “compensating-introvert” tank, unexpectedly ran dry, and all I could think of doing was getting out in the woods (we were in the mountains), being alone, having a quiet word with the stars in the night sky, and going to bed. In the end, I stuck around 30 minutes longer than I wanted to, and the feeling of inner struggle in those extra 30 minutes was SO not worth it.  I have swallowed my reluctance, I have ignored my intuition, or let my boundaries be broken down, all for the sake of what might make someone else happy (or at the very least, content); that no one will perceive me to be a party pooper, or a letdown.

Some days (well, most days, but some days more so than others), you have to let go of the plan (and I mean ANY plan — big or small), and surrender. You may even have to let go of some guilt attached. (Seriously, let it go.) I can’t guarantee that the day you have after the fact will be better or worse for having made the decision (that’s all up to you!) but you will have followed your gut, your heart, your inner compass. You will have made a commitment to yourself to quit being the salmon swimming up stream, and to ride the current, wherever it flows.

Calgarians are impeccably talented at both praising and trashing the weather. When the devastating floods hit our city last year, I can’t think of a single person who wasn’t reminded of how powerful Mother Nature really is, and how no matter how hard we may resist her actions, we are still at her mercy. These are the forces that are more vast, that have far bigger intentions than any of the myriad of expectations or parameters we may try to impose upon them.

Patrue, mi Patruissimo.” (“Uncle, my best Uncle.“)

I surrender, and I am freed.

Harness the clouds


Slow/Fast Balance


It was in University when I somehow subscribed to the idea of moving quickly. I had to move fast. It was what took me from the Fine Arts buildings over to my English classes across campus. It got me moving, my heart pumping, my legs working, even if for only a few minutes, in between long periods of sitting, listening, reading and learning.

Walking fast mattered. Keeping aside completely the fact that there is probably a bit of a tendency in my family to walk swiftly, when I walk, I don’t just saunter. Oh no.

I dash.

For those with long strides and quick gaits, it is like finding a soulmate. I am always surprised at how joyful it is for fast-walkers to discover the pace with which I approach a walk and hear them say, “YES! Can we walk together EVERYDAY!?”

For those with shorter legs, or with naturally stroll-y ways, or even worse, my poor pregnant friends (you know I love you and will walk slowly for you anytime!), it must be, well…annoying? Disappointing? Frustrating? A challenge? When my fast-walking-ness came up in my father-in-law’s ‘welcome to the family’ speech, it really gave me pause. It was no secret to me that he enjoys picking on this endearing habit of mine — he is 6-foot-4 and has legs for days, and still, I could really get his head shaking by walking 30 paces ahead of him, then doubling back, and walking another 30 paces forward… Now THAT would be annoying.

WowWalking swiftly has become one of my identifying traits. We live in a culture of speed, of efficiency. We are, in fact, so fast that we don’t feel fast enough. We are so efficient, that we don’t feel we can get everything done. In fact, we are so adept at multi-tasking that we don’t even realize that we are eating lunch, answering e-mails, responding to an incoming text, and thinking about all the things that we need to do today, tomorrow, this year…all at the SAME TIME.

One of my Yoga teachers shared this piece of wisdom and I haven’t forgotten it: ‘You teach what you need to learn.’

I never anticipated becoming a teacher. I resisted it. I still, on occasion, hesitate to call myself a ‘teacher,’ unless I am talking to someone who really just needs some sort of identifier to know with a bit more clarity what exactly I do, goshdarnit, and then I can say, ‘Well, I teach Yoga…currently, twice a week.’ I have designated those two classes as the classes that people can come to when they want to move slowly and mindfully, to breathe deeply and more fully than they do all day (or perhaps all week), to be still, to get inside their own experience and not worry about anything else if they can help it.

There is no coincidence that I teach a practice (Yoga Nidra) that involves lying as stalk still as possible for a substantial period of time; a practice that encourages breath, quiet, relaxation, visualization, creativity, imagination, and cultivating clarity by working with a single, solitary intention.

The truth? I teach this because it is one of my greatest lessons. The ‘speed-walker’ needs stillness and quiet. Craves it, in fact. And the speed-walker, when faced with having to move more slowly due to illness or injury, well, it disappoints me just as much as it does anyone being stopped in their tracks. Even more so, it is the idea of achieving that balance that appeals — of moving quickly and efficiently when we need to and enjoying the ride…then, just as fully, allowing ourselves to really slow it all down when we can, and tap into to the heart of who we are.

No clutter, no noise. Just US, at our core.

I am inspired when I hear students tell me that they have come to class as their first class back after rehab-ing from a head injury, or post-pregnancy, or because their doctor has prescribed yoga and meditation to them for anxiety. I could tell you a good handful of stories, but from where I sit, let’s just say that I have seen both personally and with those near and dear to me, that our desire for speed and to ‘do it all’ — whether physically, or through intense periods of stress, or both — can often lead us to some hard knocks and falls, especially when this is sustained and pushed through over long periods of time with little-to-no respite. The little cosmic joke in all this, of course, is that what is needed to get us back on our feet…is — you guessed it — to move slowly, or sometimes, not at all. To take care of ourselves. To listen to ourselves. To rest.

In the early morning hours of New Year’s Day, I took a walk with a dear friend of mine out in the countryside. It was bitterly cold out, but stunning with the snow all around, the ink-black sky filled with stars. As the cold nipped at our skin (and at the feet of his very patient puppy), I felt it…that need — let’s face it, that habit! — to move quicker…But then I realized what I had to gain from this moment, and the answer was ‘EVERYTHING.’ 2 AM, spending the first hours of a brand new year bonding with a great friend under the vast night sky, chatting about where life was taking us, how big the universe is, and how small we are in it… Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some great conversations while speed-walking, but this was one of those moments where all I could do was stop, take the moment in, and realize how lucky I was to be standing still just where I was.

Ferris Bueller really did say it best, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”