Single with Silver Linings

Trite by true, counting your blessings and searching for silver linings may be the answer to your prayers.

Silver Linings, Caitlin Marcoux, Robert Sturman

What focuses your attention?

Top ten lists are extremely popular these days. From Vanity Fair to Vogue, from Forbes to Fortune. The “5 most powerful what-have-yous” and “ten ways-it-can-be-done-better” are everywhere. Editors of these tag lines and sound bites are dialed into something that has become culturally pandemic: our short attention span. But in a wold full of mobile apps and split screens, sometimes getting our attention with a list, is better than not getting our attention at all.

So on days when I feel like my own attention is fragmented, I start my practice, whether it’s meditation or yoga, or my morning routine, by making a gratitude list of several silver linings.

When the clock is running out on a class I am teaching, with little time left for planting seeds, I often ask my yoga students to think of the Top Five Things They’re Most Grateful For. This easy practice is successful for many in need of refocusing when feeling overwhelmed.

Not only do lists help us take stock of what feels right and good, they shine a light on what’s really going on in the present, that which we hope to cultivate in the future and what we can let go of. Lists can be created in a brilliant flash of obviousness, or they may take several weeks, months or years to curate, becoming something of a daily devotion.

I have journals full of lists. Lists on my phone. Lists on my computer. I send list to others on postcards and in letters. There are lists on my refrigerator. Lists on my son’s bedroom chalkboard, and lists on Post-Its, dangling precariously on the dashboard of my truck. Some of these lists are passionate but pragmatic bullet points, some more soothing sonnets, inked out with sensual sophistication in sacred space.

Time takes time…

About a year ago, my partner of six years and I decided to part ways. At least, that’s the simplest way to put it. It’s a waste of time to describe all the gray areas we navigated between late November and his eventual move at the end of June, suffice to say that the path he ultimately chose, to move to L.A. was not the straightest. Some where along the way, I lost my focus and my ability to write.

she said ‘my life hurts.’ i held her hands. and replied ‘sometimes. this is what it means to be alive.

– nayyirah waheed

Bereft and stewing in my own shortcomings, it was challenging enough simply to survive. The transition from domestic partner to single mother was excruciating. My energy drained, my ability to prioritize my attention was virtually nonexistent. I could do only what was right in front of me, and my gratitude lists were replaced with lists of basic, mundane things to remember.

dog.

floss.

therapy.

homework.

toilet paper.

Time and space; the only patch kit that could mend my broken heart, eventually did their job.  Weeks turned into months, and somehow a year passed on the wings of our daily doings. There are now 3,000 miles between myself and my best friend, and with that milage has come the big scope perspective I needed to see clearly, not us, as I thought I would, but myself.

What are your silver linings?Listen to your Heart. Single with Silver Linings. Caitlin Marcoux

With this distance, my lists have, once again, become poetic expressions of purpose and presence. I now wake early before my six year old, to sit and journal, and in the spaciousness of the 5am dark, I see my soul. I allow my gaze to dive down the back of my throat, into the cave of my heart. My inner ears deepen, and my soul calls out that which it needs to be fed. I find myself intent on listening, absorbed in dialogue with my highest self.

When a friend recently shared with me, a book of poetry, I found new affirmation in this practice. “Salt” by Nayyirah Waheed is probably the most beautiful compilation of simple yet thought provoking poems I have perhaps ever read. Inside the compendium are a beautiful collage of moments, prayers, tiny devotions on spacious white pages. And yes, some of the more avant guard entries are lists; simple in presentation, complex in thoughtfulness.

This one for example:

  1. rub honey into the night’s back.
  2. make sure the mood is fed.
  3. bathe the ocean.
  4. warm sing the trees.

-tend

What a meditation! What a practice. What beautiful silver slivers of presence. A poetic list which celebrates the delicate and important art of tending to one’s own heart. These thoughts, these intentions, these simple prayers, these are the silver linings of being single.

Whereas perviously I lacked the incentive and focus to head the importance of my soul’s longings, now in this space, pregnant with stillness, I have become witness to her expansiveness.

Where are you going?

My soul, like your soul, is on a journey. We each have a path, some with more detours than others, which will take us home. My home, like your home, is not somewhere out there waiting to be created, waiting to be designed by architects and contractors. It already exists, waiting patiently for our return, just beneath our scaffolding, inside our very own hearts.

We can walk together, for a time, but eventually every pilgrim walks alone.

the hurt by nayyurah waheed

 

Take a moment to write down your silver linings.

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Blogs from my Cancer Diaries:

How to Talk to Someone with Cancer

Making the Breast Decision

ChemoAsana

10 Practical Tips for Cancer

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Let’s be Friends. Connect with me on FaceBook and Instagram

Electrifying Nantucket: one yoga pose at a time

On September 18th 2012, I taught my first yoga class at the newly reopened Dreamland Theater. Accompanied by the internationally acclaimed yoga spin master, DJ HyFi and buoyed up by the visionary production stylings of my partner, Burr Tupper, we put together a great night. 44 Nantucket yogis and yoginis packed the Harbor View Room and I think we all felt a little high. It was a chance to come together in a new space, over looking the harbor we all love, and try something new. By the time the evening was over our hearts were deeply entrained and smiles had spread like wildfire across our faces.

I knew we had to do it again.

I’ve always thought fondly of my fellow NHS alum, and music aficionado, Pete Ahern. So after watching his career as a DJ build steadily, especially in the last few years with steady gigs at Pazzo and the formation of Audio Architects, the production team he and Billy Desmond spearhead, he seemed like an obvious choice to collaborate with. I especially liked the idea of working with someone else local, someone who had roots here as well, someone I knew I could build an ongoing partnership with.

Pete was game, and on December 4th, 2012 Electric Flow was born. Once again, I rented the Harbor View Room at the Dreamland – and 39 yogis showed up for a challenging 90 minute practice. And again, my always supportive and artistically inclined partner came up with a few visual surprises. Burr enlisted the help of local filmmaker Kristen Kellogg, and they put together a black and white montage of vintage yoga footage and an animated beating anatomical heart. The footage played on a makeshift screen, Tupper had created seemingly out of thin air, at the beginning of the practice, and as the beat of the heart faded into the distance, Pete’s electronic grooves steadily built. It was magical.

Electric Flow: December 4th, 2012

I knew right away Pete and I had a great chemistry together. Even though it was our first time collaborating, I felt we got each other. Clearly in tune with bodies in motion from years of spinning at parties and in clubs, Pete had an immediate knack for supporting the yogis during their vinyasa practice. We came up with ways to communicate to each other silently (hand gestures for take the tempo down, take it up, cool us off, heat us up, etc.) but mostly the evening flow took care of itself. I took queues from Pete, he took queues from me and the crowd was buzzing.

Due to overwhelming demand, two months later we decided to try it again – this time with a little help from our friend Floyd Kellogg.

Maybe you know Floyd from You Scream, I Scream, the band he heads up with his partner Audrey Sterk. Or maybe you know Floyd from the Brewery, where he plays in the crazy punk rock/rockabilly/alterna comical music  duo Lance Mountain Dance Party. OR maybe you know Floyd because his new project, Violent Mae is awesome, and now available on iTunes. In any event, Pete and I met up with Floyd, who had collaborated with Pete a few times at Pete’s regular Pazzo gig, and asked him to play percussion. The resulting three-way was killer. The guys played off each other and the yoga nearly took care of itself. with 40 beating hearts in the room and the thumping pulsation of the music I thought the roof might blow off the theater. And just to be clear, I’m not talking about volume, I’m talking about vibration. It was epic.

Students lining up for Electric Flow: February 6th, 2013

 

Electric Flow: February 6th, 2013

It was so much fun working with Floyd and Pete together we almost immediately booked the next gig. Then I got cancer

I thought at first that I should cancel our April 25th reunion; after all I was getting chemotherapy ever week, my hair was falling out, I felt sick as a dog, and part of me wanted to hole up in my house and hide. But then I realized that if I was going to survive, I had to keep teaching. Cancer takes so much away from you – it is one big practicing in non-attachment – that teaching more than ever helped me to stay present with myself. So after much debate about how’d I’d hold up, we decided to go for it.

On April 25th, 2013 nearly the entire Nantucket yoga community showed up at the Dreamland and turned our Electric Flow into a fairly spontaneous fundraiser. With the Dreamland’s generous support, we were able to cross the hallway from the Harbor View room and occupy the Studio Theater, filling it to the brim with over 90 students. Pete and I were join by both Floyd, and his partner Audrey on stage. Floyd played upright base, Audrey joined him on percussion, and Pete spun the sexiest electronica and ambient grooves. To make an incredible evening even better, Burr and Kristen Kellogg collaborated on a video installation, which was projected on the screen behind me.

Electric Flow: April 25th, 2013

It was one of the most powerful, magical and profound moments of my life, and I will cherish it forever.

Electric Love: March 27th, 2014 6-8pm

This week, Pete and Burr and I are collaborating once again. This time we’ve enlisted help from local yoga teacher and mindfulness meditation instructor, Clay Twombly as well as Brooklyn-based artist Craig Anthony Miller. And like last time, this event is a fundraiser. Only this time, it’s not for me. I am 12 months into my cancer treatment, and officially CANCER FREE. With 7 more infusions to go (the last scheduled for July 17th) I am all but out of the woods and well on my way to recovery. Healing would not have been possible though, had it not been for the support of local non-for-profit, Palliative & Supportive Care of Nantucket. So this time around, we’re giving all the money to them.

In 2014, there will be an estimated 1,665,540 new cancer cases diagnosed and 585,720 cancer deaths in the US. Cancer remains the second most common cause of death in the US, accounting for nearly 1 of every 4 deaths.

Clay, Craig, Pete and I have all been personally affected by cancer – and all of us would like to do whatever we can to abate it’s tide of trauma. Through music, art, meditation and yoga we  believe we can heal the world, and we’re starting here, on the tiny island of Nantucket.

Please help us support PASCON, an organization who’s services have helped hundreds of Nantucketeers in times of need. Whether it’s navigating  long term-illness or the death of a loved one, PASCON exists solely to help people transition through life’s more challenging times.

Spreading the Love at 97.7ACK FM

Want to know more about this Thursday evenings Lovefest? Listen to Pete and Clay and I being interviewed on 97.7ACK FM this morning.

[jwplayer mediaid=”3982″]

Electric Love: poster by Craig Anthony Miller

 

A great day to have cancer

Nantucket, MA.
April 8th, 2013
The campaign continues…
 

Dearest Friends,

So much love to all of you whom have continued to offer your support. I am continually humbled by the generosity of you all; near and far. I can honestly attest that only other time I have felt this level of deep primordial human connection and love was the day my son Griffin was born. It has been and continues to be  AWEsome.

Since my diagnosis on March 15th, I have had all kinds of tests and procedures, and am now comfortably navigating my treatment plan. To those of you who have sweetly offered up alternatives to the traditional Western medical approach, please know that your suggestions are appreciated, but that my family and I are fully committed to our current path. Please respect that our decision to seek treatment at Mass General Hospital is final (I say this with the utmost love and respect).

I have this amazing portal into my heart now, and I fully intend to use it.

portocath

Although it may surprise some of  you that I have embraced chemotherapy, I have complete faith that it is the right choice for me at this time. With the support of the Caitlin Marcoux Charitable Fund and donated services, I am thrilled to be able to  supplement my infusions with weekly Acupuncture  with Tammy Belanger,  bodywork with Casey Boukus and regular chiropractic care at Nantucket Family Chiropractic, with Dr. Mindy Levin. I have also begun practicing yoga with Sheri Perelman.

Most of you know I am an avid juicer already, and Jenny Bence has begun force feeding me a steady diet of wheat grass (read here to hear all about the benefits of this power-packed little plant). I am also pursuing colonic therapy, jin shin jyutsu, and Reiki.

So as you can see I am keeping myself tuned up and as in balance as I can be under the circumstances.

It is also my goal to begin each day with a big glass of alkalizing lemon water, 15 minutes of meditation,  a gratitude practice of some kind (journaling, thank-you note writing, and intention setting) and 20-60 minutes of gentle yoga. So far I’ve successfully done this the past three days in a row and hope to hold myself accountable for each remaining day of my treatment.

As I said in my Rebelle Society post last week, no man is an island, and neither am I. I don’t think so highly of myself that I cannot accept help. For me individual counseling has been an ongoing part of my emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Now that I have cancer, I think it’s even more important. I’m also a big fan of couples’ therapy. So if I could write that piece again, I would add #11: Get a Therapist.

(incidentally, there will be a follow up to that Rebelle piece that will probably included several more tips, so if you have one you’d like to share please feel free to comment on this blog below).

In any event, the chemotherapy is going well. I already feel like my tumor shrinking, and I have less pain in my right breast. There have been side-effect of course, but so far I feel lucky that I’ve been able to work a little and there, and it has had less of an impact than I had anticipated.

I preemptively cut off all my hair at Darya’s Salon last Monday night, so don’t be too shocked when you see me all punked out and Billie Idol-like. I want to send out a HUGE shout-out to Darya Afshari for being an amazing source of support and sexy inspiration, and to my Cancer Ninjas:  Julie, Heather, Alison, Ariel, Emily, Megan, Patti, Tracy, Elisa, Kristen, Melissa and Siobhain for being there with me every cut of the way.

Haircutting Angles

 

I have good days and bad. I’m exhausted from the day I get my infusion (Day One) through day 3 or 4. On a good day, like today, I feel almost normal. On a bad day I have headaches, bone pain, joint pain, anxiety and lots and lots of bloody noses… but this I can take in stride, and it feels like little to sacrifice for the chance of living a long and beautiful life.

 

Until the next update…

Love & Light,

Caitlin