Sunday, April 30, 2017

Marriage: About Face and Getting in Line

For months I have been struggling with a skin condition on my face that is dry, rashy, itchy and painful. It is unsightly and impossible to conceal. The medication I'm using for this unidentifiable condition is dangerous and uncomfortable, but necessary to keep it at bay. Often, I wake up in the middle of the night feeling like someone doused my face in kerosene and lit me on fire.

Knowing what I know of a holistic approach to illness and disease, I am aware that there is an underlying current of emotional and spiritual release that needs to happen before I can escape the burden of this illness (forgive my dramatic language, I've been reading too many romantic Tudor era novels). Anyway, I have not yet been able to identify the root of this underlying emotional suppression...until today, I think.

My skin condition began in December. I have been racking my brain for weeks trying to figure out what changed in my diet or routine that could have triggered this thing. And then today, I pulled a book off my shelf by Louise Hay called "You can Heal Your Life". In this book, Hay lists hundreds of illnesses and conditions and their possible underlying emotional and/or spiritual roots. I turned to the section under "skin" and read:

"Our skin represents our individuality. Skin problems usually mean we fear our individuality is being threatened somehow. We feel that others have power over us. We are thin-skinned. Things get under our skin, we feel skinned alive, our nerves are right under our skin."

I need look no further. We set our wedding date in December.

Marriage must be the single, greatest threat to our spirit of individuality and independence...qualities that have always been such a strong part of who I am. I have been an independent soul since before I can establish or remember; I was always this way and became a very strong and fiercely independent woman over the course of my single life.

Going into my marriage in September of this year, I find that I am struggling between maintaining my strong sense of self and merging it with the established person I am in my relationship with my fiancé. I'm also negotiating into the mix the example of my mother that I saw in relationship with my father (however dysfunctional that was, it's the most prominent example of marriage any of us has). It is all so new to me and so foreign and I'm realizing only now, only today just how BIG this transition of self truly is. It's no wonder my body is reacting and my emotions are in a constant state of flux! It's no wonder that for the last few months I've felt off-center and out of balance. After all, I've spent 35 years becoming my own woman and only two years becoming someone else's....

But all of this is ok...I trust it. I have been calling in this change and preparing for this relationship for a long time. He is the right person and we are building beautiful things together...a beautiful life together.

Leading up to our wedding, I just need to make sure I am paying attention and being fully present with my feelings and emotions. I need to recognize and acknowledge them and enjoy the change and transition. After all, this is truly an evolution and growth into a relationship that is bigger and better than the individual me. It is a relationship that expands my source for happiness, opportunity and vibrancy in life. There is no question I welcome that expanded state of love and being and am so excited to be moving toward it. And now that I have identified that sentiment...maybe my skin will get in line? Stay tuned!

Friday, October 2, 2015

My Eulogy for My Father

My father died on August 10th, just less than two months ago. Nothing about losing him has been easy and somehow, it becomes more tragic with the passing weeks. I cry less, I think about his death less, but I realized today that the pain runs very deep and is still very present in my subconscious body and mind. 

Lately, I've been having fluttering sensations in my stomach and heart. It's uncharacteristic of me to experience nerves or anxiety, but that is how my emotions are manifesting. I've been spending far too much time avoiding those emotions by watching TV, playing games on my phone and surfing the internet. I haven't been spending near enough time connecting within and acknowledging these calls for attention from my body. 

Tonight I turned off the late night TV and wrote. I closed my eyes and I tuned in with that core center in my body that is in distress. The tears came. The grief resurfaced. 

I keep the program from my father's burial service, along with the eulogy I wrote and read for his memorial, in my journal. I try to pretend they aren't there, but they fall out when I write and I am very conscious of their existence. Tonight I unfolded them...opened them and looked and read. 

My dad is gone. I can't ignore the fact that the stability and foundation of my world are rocked. The anxiety is the presentation of my need to regain balance and solid ground in an emotional state of chaos and panic. Looking at the pictures and reading the words I wrote to memorialize him help me to grasp the new reality. 

9/10/15: Eulogy for Bruno F. Tschannen III
Written and read by Kristin Tschannen

Something I've been told again and again by friends and family in consolement over the loss of my father, is that there is not great grief where there was not great love. 

This last month, I have witnessed the shared grief by so many over his death and I have relished it; because, it reflects the love you all had for him. 

Many of you loved him as a friend, some of you loved him as a coach. We all loved Bruno the entertainer, the host and life of the party. He was loved deeply as a son, brother, husband and father.

What we all have in common, is that through him, we were able to witness his love for life. And it was because Bruno's love for and experience of life differed so dramatically from most, that he brought such a light of mischief and pleasure to us all. He sought out the (often inappropriate) humor in the mundane and gave us cause to laugh...loud, long and often.

He sang to us, he told us dirty jokes. He took us camping and fishing and taught us to fly. He taught us that good sportsmanship was more important than winning (especially among adults). He pulled pranks and got into trouble. He was very careful to cross the line so he could charm his way back into good graces.

My father was by no means a saint...but didn't he make devilish look fun? I kid of course, my dad was a deeply spiritual man. His faith pulled him through some low, hard times. His faith lifted him up. I rest easy knowing that, wherever he is, he is held; cradled in peace and love.

There is so much of my father here in you, his family and friends. You hold his love, his stories, his confidences. You knew his sadness and his delight. I ask that you continue to hold them. Keep those memories vital so his young grandchildren can bask in his vibrance for all of their years to come. 

I often think my dad lived his life to become a legend. I think about the way he sang his songs and told his stories and, looking back, realize he never met a stranger and he always left an impact. Of course, as a teenage girl, you don't necessarily want your parents leaving an impact; but there was no holding him back.

As a woman, I feel that one of my greatest strengths, one encouraged by my father, is my ability to push the line and not hold back...most often gracefully, I hope; but like my father, not always without repercussion. Fortunately, I inherited his easy way of charming my way back to good graces. I know, though, that I am still learning, as his daughter, to balance my legacy of vibrance.

After reading this eulogy, I asked my dad's friends and family to close their eyes. I asked them to think of Bruno's sparkling eyes and laughing face. I asked them to think about the times he left an impact on them, told them a joke or sang them a song. I asked them, in that moment, to be with him in spirit.

And then I asked them to be present in 'this' moment, with the ones he loved so much and held so dear.

And then I read them this poem, one that touched me deeply after his death:

Death is Nothing at All
by Henry Scott Holland

Death is nothing at all.
It does not count. 
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Nothing has happened.

Everything remains exactly as it was.
I am I, and you are you,
and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.

Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.

Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it.

Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was.
There is absolute and unbroken continuity.

Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval,
somewhere very near,
just round the corner.

All is well.
Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Triad of Truth

I felt the pull of the ocean today when I awoke. I could tell from behind the curtain that it was a balmy morning, just like the ones on my first mornings in this place two years ago. Back then, I walked to the beach every morning with a cup of tea to bask in the beauty of my new home and let the salty air cleanse my head and sinuses. That's what I did this morning. I swore when I moved here I would never take my proximity to the ocean for granted...that I would visit her every day. Of course, one only makes promises like that when they know how easy it is to slip away from the novelty of a thing.

But this morning it was novel again and that familiar scent of the sea and the balmy air took me back to a sense of gratitude and awe. And now, this place is truly my home. In fact, it is the true home I began my search for when I awoke in 2011. In these two years, I have begun a journey toward my true purpose and even found true love. This triad of truth is the outline of an intention I set back in 2011 when I began this journey...this journey to truth and authenticity.

I sat on a large piece of driftwood this morning, drinking my tea and breathing deeply the ocean air. I thought back to the beginning of my time here. I worked hard; my body was so tired from acclimating to standing occupations. But I was creative and liberated and living in that space of full appreciation for all that it took to get me to this place.

I have come so far and built so much since then. Two years have gone by in the blink of an eye. It is scary when everything you've been working and wishing for begins to become your reality. It certainly hasn't been easy and, it's sort of unbelievable sometimes. I have moments of fear, wondering when the bottom is going to drop out of this dream come truth. But when you build a house with a strong foundation, the bones of your home will be strong...I should rest easy, knowing that what I have built here has the most solid foundation and that the bones of my existence hold the strength of my truth.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

On Surfing and Falling Hard

I very recently took up surfing. It's hard to call what I do now surfing exactly, but I'm learning and working up to a legitimate ride. Anyway, I'm hooked, and yesterday I was thinking a lot about why I've fallen for it so hard.

Having an intimate relationship with the ocean makes me feel powerful. And it's not just about being in the water, but being a part of the culture. It's as much about carrying my board and my gear through the forest path to a cold ocean with massive rocks lining the shore as it is sitting on the outside, straddling my board and riding over the waves, watching as they roll up underneath me. But the other reason I love it, is because it plays with my hold on control. Once I turn around to position myself to take a wave, I get to release that control. Sure, I can learn to balance and position myself on the board, but when that wave comes crashing down on me, knocking me off, all I can do is squeeze my eyes shut, hold my breath, cover my head and roll around in the white water until the wave is done with me and spits me out. That moment under water, in the swirl and chaos of the wave, is scary, but beautifully and completely out of my control. When I come up, I am tired and breathless, but not from fighting the wave...from the adrenaline rush of my surrender.

I make my way back through that chaos over and over again to experience the power and the release. I walk onto the beach, feeling breathless and exhausted, proud and strong like I won a battle, maybe lost it even. And it's not the battle against the waves I'm talking about, it's a battle against surrender and my ego mind. In that moment when I'm in the fetal position, rolling through the crashing wave, I'm not thinking about power or control or even survival. I'm just there, completely and utterly present in a moment, alone and alive. And when I come up for air, nothing around me has changed. The other surfers are still in the line-up, their backs to me watching for formed waves and waiting for their own ride to whatever it is they feel compelled by out there. I imagine it will be different at each stage of the game as my skills develop. Maybe one day I'll love the ride on top more than I crave the loss of control at the bottom. In the meantime, I'll keep increasing my strength, gifted to me by the sea with a wink and a nod, a lover playing hard to get and impossible to tame. Who, like me, fights aggressively and passionately to come into the full presence of its power. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Car Alarms, Chaos and Meditation

Tonight a car alarm started going off as I attempted to sit in meditation at my studio. Surprisingly, it wasn't the alarm, but the silence in the aftermath of the alarm that was deafening. It seems my mind is in chaos with alarm after alarm going off these days. Alert! There's not enough money! Alert! There's not enough time! Alert! That man is wrong for you! Alert! Don't let that one go!

I've been in survival mode for so long that it feels like there will never be peace. Like there will never be ease or enough. My brain seems to weigh 200 lbs and my poor heart is weightless and neglected.

I have recently strayed from my personal yoga practice and gone to great lengths to stop the noise in my mind; replacing it with the meaningless drone and numbed out distraction of TV, which I'm watching on my little computer for the first time in 3 years. I'm exhausted and all of my endeavors seem increasingly difficult; sometimes even futile.

And yet, oddly, people keep thanking me. My students keep coming to my classes and one of them on his way out the other day, thanked me over and over and then asked me if there was anything he could do for me. My students say things like, "thank you for everything you do" and "I'm so thankful that you chose to come here." Community leaders and officials have noticed my enthusiasm to make a difference and make it a point to encourage me, asking that I please continue my efforts.

Even though I am in personal chaos, what I'm doing, what I'm trying to accomplish... is working. It's grown in that gradual and slow way that only something you're so close to can without your noticing it. But it's building and growing and the spiritual community I set out to create has a little baby backbone where there was once thin air. And somehow, in between making sure there were money and plans and paint on the walls and the right schedule of classes....I became a teacher. I became their teacher and they became mine. If all was lost tomorrow, I would be left here, miles ahead of where I started with more knowledge in the last six months that I would have imagined possible in a lifetime.

Yesterday I read this Deepak Chopra quote to my students:

     "Happiness is much more than an aspiration. Happiness is our true nature, our very source of being. When we expand our awareness within, we discover that there is no limit to our happiness. And as we grow in happiness, we can't help but share that happiness with those around us."

I explained to my class after I read the quote, what it meant to me. That we always carry our happiness within us, wherever we go, no matter what we encounter along the journey. Sometimes people or experiences come along to cloud that happiness, but they can never take it away because it is a part of our being, it is our source. It is up to us to remember, that when it gets cloudy, our happiness is still there. Even that there are endless opportunities to un-cloud that happiness if we can learn to take the responsibility of reaching out and grabbing them.

I'm happier in this challenging and meaningful chaos that I have been in my entire adult life. I've been carrying that happiness with me all along and it's been cloudy lately, but it's there and it's bright. As hard as it is, I need to make the effort to reach out for the opportunities to expand that happiness and reject any that detract from it.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Becoming the Heroine of a New Story

Tonight I went down to the sea. Night waves are so moving and standing before them, I can bring up every past experience I've had in their presence. When something is truly moving, you keep it with you. When you emotionally connect with something, you retain the memory as a vivid picture. I stood there in the sand tonight watching movies of kisses and fires on the beach, long walks and deep discussions. It's a somewhat rare thing to find yourself on the beach at night and maybe that's why it feels so powerful. But tonight, I was alone just pulling up pictures of the past and walking slowly in shoes not conducive to a spontaneous shuffle through the sand. But it was ok. Everything was ok. Even the stuff that isn't ok, was ok. I found an abandoned beach fire and sat on the warm ring of rocks surrounding it. I breathed in the scent of burning wood as it mixed with the fresh air and attempted to empty my mind of the relentless plans and logic going on up there. I tuned into the sounds of the waves, the crackling fire and I could hear the light wind through the tunnel of my down hood. I realized sitting there by the fire on the beach, that I needed a new story. In that rare state of nature-induced neutrality, I realized I have become a strong and compelling character in a past and irrelevant story. That was a scary thought, but more than scary, it was liberating. Guess what you get to do when you find out you're a heroine in the wrong story? You get to write a new one. You get to start from scratch and begin with chapter one.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Travels to India to Become a Yoga Instructor

Every year my mom puts together this really adorable, captioned photo montage to send to everyone in the phone book with her Christmas cards. She does a really nice job with it and includes pictures of all the kids, grandkids and disgustingly happy pictures of her and her husband. I know I'm not the only one who loves getting them.

I received mine in the mail today and started at the top with photos of all five grandkids belonging to my brother and step brothers. They’re all so smiley and sweet, it hurts I miss them so much. There are great snaps of their growing families and new houses, family members visiting mom out in Utah and of her husband's softball team. There are captions with all the photos: 

“Martin and family hiking the Provo River.”

“Jan's dad visits in Utah.”

“Mike still playing softball.”

“Bruno and Beth's new home.”

I get to my own year in review which takes up the real estate at the bottom left corner with a photo of Cape Kiwanda in Oregon and a caption that says:

“Seaside, OR.”

There’s also a stunning (if I do say so) photo of me taken by my photographer friend Camilla and a picture of me meditating by an ocean in India. My caption reads: 

“Kristin moves to Seaside, Oregon and travels to India to become a yoga instructor." 

Aside from the photo of Cape Kiwanda, a very accurate caption.

"Moves to Seaside, Oregon and travels to India to become a yoga instructor."

I posted the montage on the refrigerator and kept catching myself sneaking glances at my corner while I made dinner.

“Moves to Seaside, Oregon and travels to India to become a yoga instructor."

Grandpa will be so proud. Although completely true, in my mind, the caption is going a little more like this,

“Gives up a successful, lucrative, decade long career in LA, sells her car, her home and most of her worldly possessions, moves to a small town in the middle of nowhere, bartends at the beach, works at Rite Aid, quits Rite Aid, takes an assistant job at a (very) local magazine and spends more time on the bar stool at the local pub than on her couch. Oh, and went to India for a few weeks to learn to be a yoga teacher.” 

I guess my mom would have made a great editor. This is also why I don't send Christmas card letters.

So I stood there in the kitchen contemplating my caption as I stirred and stirred my cream of wild rice and mushroom soup. I’d had a wonderful morning yoga class full of inspiring students, a fantastic few days at the magazine, was making an awesome dinner, listening to my favorite music and feeling all-around content and happy with my life. Meanwhile, I kept repeating the caption over and over again in my head. Not in a judgmental way, just listening to how it sounded, this description of my new life; the way all my mom's friends and our family will see it on the bottom left corner.

“Kristin moves to Seaside, Oregon and travels to India to become a yoga instructor."

And actually, I'm quite proud. I'm satisfied that's the way I'll come off to them this year. Because I worked damn hard to get here; it's been the hardest and most rewarding thing I've ever done to be here on the Oregon coast, passing my days and making my meager living as a writer and yoga teacher. In fact, maybe I'll hire my mom as my editor....