Rain is Relaxing

Good morning, buenos dias.

The fall chill is starting to blow over the top of Mt Eden, but this year, I'm not fighting it. Gulp. Gasp. Shock. But seriously, for maybe the first time, I'm welcoming the arrival of crisp mornings and jacketed evenings. It probably has something to do with the summer that has been: full of shrimp tacos, and overnights in the Hauraki Gulf, and laughs and new friends.

But I think, in a way, I'm also laying down my arms. It's coming, whether I like it or not, so what would it look like to just, well, like it? 

Winter has always been a symbolic death to so many of the things I love, and letting that chatter fill the brainspace has stopped me from welcoming the new life it brings. Like the hot room feeling cozy, the refreshed desire to whip up savory stews, and patterned socks. 

In Auckland, winter also brings rain. A slow, sneaky drizzle that usually isn't enough to soak you, but never relents. So it seems appropriate that my new job is working for an umbrella designer: BLUNT. Blunt has reminded me that we always have a choice -- to spin things toward joy or disaster -- and it's way better to go for the joy. Rather than fight winter, what if I could engage it, with the right tools (hello umbrella) and a light heart?

This year, I'm determined to #loveweather. To get cozy, and become a regular at Time Out Books, and remember my kid-self saying to Mom, "the rain is relaxing." 

 

This land is your/MY land

Figuring out life in a new country can (seriously!) be a full time job. It feels like all the lucky leprechauns have been sprinkling gold dust down on me, because my figuring-out has been wildly fast tracked due to the fact that, for the past seven months, it actually HAS been my full time job. 

When I first moved to Auckland, a friend from D.C. challenged me to throw down a few anchors, places/people/things that would help me to grow balance and help me find my feet. The criteria for anchoring was simple: I would simply begin to drop mental pins when I felt like myself -- my real, normal, Hanna-est self. Armed with the luxury of time (this was my full time job!!) in one hand and the determination to crack the quirks of this new city in the other, I searched out and returned to my anchors like a convert to church. 

Somewhere along the way, my questions (where do I buy almond milk? do ANY cafés have wifi? why does everything close at 4pm?*) started getting answered, and in the process I have uncovered some serious gems. Unsurprisingly, many of them involve espresso, good design, beautiful things (books! GF cupcakes! bright pedicures!) and laughing people. And now, after seven months on the job, I have a good map of my Auckland essentials. No, it's not comprehensive (only seven months, remember!) and thus it will grow (a new café is built literally every week here), but I'd love to tell you the part I know.

It's a weird, beautiful, magic land, and thanks to these good spots, it's becoming my land too.

 

It's a good day to be living in the country of NEW ZEALAND.

Author's Note: 3 months passed between the start and finish of this thought. The middle was filled with high highs and low lows and laughs and tears and everything that life brings. But today, 3 months later, it's still a good day to be living in the country of New Zealand...

Yes, there are circumstantial reasons, i.e. the sky's out (and it's blue!) and so are the thighs (and they're tan!).

Yes, I wore the magic unicorn empowerment pants in the hot room this morning.

Yes, RAD cafe is (finally) open again after a much-deserved (but loooooooong) Christmas break.

Yes, yes, yes. But I've noticed something lately -- I'm noticing a lot lately, because when you're new, things just seem more obvious -- and it's this: the broken, sad, hard, strange, new, uncomfortable parts of life make for good conversation starters (NOTE: conversations are often had with oneself when one is new in one's city) if you're interested in commiserating. It's probably true for a lot of reasons, and it is also probably more true for some than others. 

And so it's easy to make the hard he focus, and can be tough to remember that the good always holds hands with the hard. That pain, when digested, becomes beauty. That walking through is always better than walking around, and that muscle is built through tear and repair. I think it's more than positivity (although God knows a little old fashioned Pollyanna spirit goes a long way on a dark day), it's hope. It's acknowledging that the boundary between what is and what's coming is a lot grayer than we'd like to admit, and that every day, reality is micro-shifting into something else.

This is the reason that the well-meant small talk questions just go nowhere. I mean, "So, how is New Zealand?!" I want to answer, "how long do you have?" Because it's not simple. It's beautiful, it's filled with world-class baristas, and it's where my adventure of marriage (with the best guy ever!) is beginning. On the other hand, it doesn't have an Apple store (let that sink in for a moment) and it takes sarcasm to a whole new level. Mostly, it's new, and new is unknown, and unknown is hard.

Hope is a discipline: to believe and keep on believing that we're always moving -- and that even when the forward motion feels minute and the falls seem massive, we are always becoming new. 

And so, yes. Today is a great day to be living in the country of New Zealand...

 

Back to Bikram

Listen, people: not all yoga is created equal. I say this with the caveat that not all good things have to be equal, they just have to be what they ARE, and with the other caveat that what's best for one might be blah for another. But for me, today, God bless Bikram.

My mat hasn't (necessarily) been getting rusty lately. My new studio in Auckland came with a twist: hot-ish vinyasa flow and yin (i.e. a group nap!) alongside the classic 90 + 60 Bikram sets. It's been fun to explore the new types of practice -- remembering muscles that I'd forgotten about, and just learning to relax.

But it's gotten waaaaay too easy to trade a good old fashioned sweat torture session for a nice, civilized flow. My mascara doesn't run and (!!!) people don't react so viscerally when you ask them to join. It feels kind and beautiful.

Today, I marched myself back to the hot room, and I remembered why it captured me 4 years ago. Brave, courageous, strong and balanced, those 90 minutes invite me to be my favorite self. I remembered too, the dark moments that were walked through, 90 minutes by 90 minutes, and caught a glint of my inner bulldog. 

Not for everyone, but definitely for me. And for now. Bring on the backbends!