Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sleeping on Sandwiches - Day 1

It's June 20, the first day of summer and that's no joke!  After a bit of a cool spell, a blast of mid-nineties temperatures and heavy, humid air hit New York City, which smells amazing.   
What better occasion than to roll out the Posture Police summer series that I decided to write a few weeks ago.  The Posture Police Blotter has been on hiatus for awhile and I'm bringing it back with a daily blog that will run from June 20 through September 22.  This daily edition will have a different focus to it and the gem in all of this is that what I'm going to be writing and what I've written about posture and the Alexander Technique are all related.  Follow along and learn how! 

Sleeping on Sandwiches - Day 1 (first day of summer)

Yup, that's the title, "Sleeping on Sandwiches", and yes, it's pretty literal, though I'd love to find some cool metaphors in there as well.  About a week and a half ago my domestic partner/father of my two children/sometimes called "husband", though we're not actually married, was sleeping on a Saturday afternoon.  I was feeding our two daughters peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  The two kids (ages 5 and 3) and me took a cue from Papa and drifted off to sleep ourselves after eating most of the sandwiches.  It's important to note that we were eating in our bedroom, a common practice in our home, the "why" of which will become clearer throughout the course of this blog.  So, I as my eyelids were getting heavy, I set the sandwiches down on our king-size family bed and took a snooze.  Upon waking, the plate with the remaining sandwich pieces piled on it appeared to be missing, but was soon revealed to have become lodged between my partner's back and the bed.  He was none too happy, though took it remarkably in stride given his tendency to panic about food getting on stuff or people.  There was a degree of amusement in the situation and it seemed to perfectly encapsulate our lives at this time for better or for worse.  I had been talking about my plan to write this daily blog series and after having been thinking for days about a title, I said, "How about 'Sleeping on Sandwiches"?  My lists of blog title brainstorms ground to a halt as that title stuck like peanut butter to a sweater.

The reason why I am writing this blog series is to fill in a gap of sorts.  It's more personal than my other entries and provides me with a forum to publicly explore gaps in my thinking and and to hold myself more accountable for those gaps.  Having been practicing the Alexander Technique for 13 years and teaching for five, my ability to be present, focus, and learn effectively have improved by a huge margin.  If you've been reading The Posture Police Blotter, you've learned that the Alexander Technique isn't about having "good posture".  It's about redefining your perspective on posture or as F.M. Alexander, founder of the technique put it, the "use" of yourself.  How a person uses themselves as a whole thinking, feeling, moving, reacting person is very different from simply looking at what position they sit in and how they can fix it.  It has to do with how your thinking affects your muscles, how your muscular habits (the way you hold yourself) affect how you feel, and how you feel affects how you think and react to the world.  It's all tied together and there is an optimal way that we can be coordinated for optimal functioning.  People who take Alexander Technique lessons find reduction in strain-related pain as well as a sense of calm, focus, and renewed energy.  What I find most fascinating about all of this is how practicing AT can affect how people learn.  We learn in all sorts of ways.  We're constantly learning and making choices, but our habits (ie. the way we hold ourselves in all respects) affect our ability to learn.  

I started taking Alexander Technique lessons as a drama student in college.  I felt stuck in my habits.  I understood that I was holding myself in ways that were problematic, but in was unconscious and I didn't know how to feel it or change it until I had Alexander Technique lessons.  I used to be spacey, stressed out, lack confidence, get confused and frustrated when learning new things, and in general lacked resilience (I'd get run down and catch a cold if I worked out).  Now I feel focused, much more confident, and quite resilient.  People often describe me as diplomatic,level-headed, and a good listener.  What I find most exciting is that I love to learn new things and I feel that I learn quickly.  Even if my task is difficult or I haven't done it before, I crave the challenge.  Learning new skills has become something I do and want to do more of all the time.

But  . . . I have a constant feeling that I'm failing because when I'm with my family all of these massive improvements seem to disappear.  I easily become spacey/checked out.  My tolerance for stress drops.  I don't feel confident.  I become confused and frustrated and find myself not even really understanding what the heck is going on or how I can respond effectively.  I am triggered easily and react in ways that make difficult situations more difficult.  My partner and kids describe me as reactive, easily angered, lacking in diplomacy, and worst of all "the witch of the west"!  My family life feels like four atoms in an apartment bouncing around with no direction.  All four of us contribute and my partner and I are the supposed captains of the ship and are often metaphorically bouncing around as much as the kids.  It's dizzying.  I actually feel physically dizzy most of the time that I'm with my family.  It's like being carsick.  This may or may not be a common feeling, but I think we've made an art of it and taken it to an extreme.  How can I feel so focused and purposeful outside of my home and so totally lost at home?  I have this urge to learn all of this new stuff with my new confidence and ability, but I'm having do much difficulty becoming unified team with my family - an effective unit who can enjoy time together and solve problems together.  We sometimes do, but we often don't. My partner and I feel that we're falling quite short of our goals as parents.   A term that my five year old likes to use to describe falling short of goals is "flipping, spinning, and jumping".  Example:  "Instead of going to the playground as we'd planned, we stayed home and flipped, and spun, and jumped."  It's sad, but I think quite accurate and I love the visual that it evokes.  Atoms bouncing around.  My goal is to improve my contribution to the whole.  I may not always succeed, but my intention is to only make positive contributions to my family that are supportive and bring us together.  Learning any other skill seems like a piece of cake compared to this one. 

A fun and healing aspect of writing this blog is also that it's a way to bring my family in to what I do outside of home more.  Some Alexander Technique teachers work from home.  I don't and so my work is another world from my family.  My partner is a full-time dad and I'm the "breadwinner", so there's a bit of a divide between them and me.  We're working on making some big changes in terms of how we interrelate, how we organize our home, and how we support one another and I'm diving in and going for it amidst the chaos.  "Sleeping On Sandwiches" is a perfect title for this blog series.  Other similarly ideal titles would be "Babysitting the Bathroom" or "Shoes in the Kitchen Cabinet".  More on all that in future posts and if you feel so moved, share your thoughts in the comments section below.

I hope you are having a lovely, sticky first day of summer and if you are in the Northeast part of the U.S., stay cool, drink plenty of water, and carry your winter coat in your bag to stay warm on the subway.

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