Wednesday, March 20, 2019

'& (Then)'... Change

I went to yoga tonight for the first time in, oh, many moons. Fellow yogis or former brides might infer that I stopped avoiding the good hurt because of where I am in the wedding count down (one-day-post-final-dress-fitting) and the fact that nothing melts your mind or belly fat like Bikram would all but confirm that. But alas. I had a Groupon for the studio around the corner that expires tomorrow and tomorrow’s class is 90 minutes and tonight’s was 60, so there you go. 

And there I went, to a sunny twig of a girl named Jenny’s class, 26 poses and 2 AP-level breathing exercises punctuated by Jenny’s sweet encouragement. You know you’re done with each of the 26 brutal poses when Jenny cheerfully exclaims, “and change!” and there is something magic about that phrase, the repetition of it, the renewal. Acknowledging every threshold, every milestone.

So anyway I went to yoga tonight and it occurred to me that it’s right and proper that I would come home to myself on the vernal equinox, the very first day of spring. Yoga is appropriate for any season, sure, but I hibernate and avoid it. It is my way. Then something breaks (or a Groupon looms) and I scamper in, cranky and stiff, and I gobble up Jenny’s positivity like a kid on Easter morning. (Jenny was the perfect teacher BTW. Ellen and Rachel, none of this archetypal shit. She is the ideal. And god Rach, I miss you and our complementary masochism. Full download: my Padangusthasana was shoddy, my tree had two trunks, I skipped camel because I am not a martyr, and my standing bow was freaking on point.) 

So, yeah, Easter, renewal, spring, right on time. 

So, I ended up here, my old stomping grounds, and as per ushe, I feel the need to tell you that my life is changing. Seemingly rapidly, but then this is also years in the making, isn’t it? My hair is naturally curly! Like, all of it! I am an actual fundraiser! John Mayer songs no longer resonate! 1460 Erie is still my north star, but now 43 South takes me home. We’re adding two new people to our little Nease foursome! And, well, MY NAME IS GOING TO BE BOBBI BANKS. 

A pair of 20-somethings were chatting pre-yoga about online dating, and I did not relate. There were three guys in my class and I did not eye up a single one. It’s not even because my fiance (fiance!) will read this (hey babe!) but because I am not lonely. I'm not lonely, not only because I found my sushi- and dog-loving blue-eyed plaidie but because I found myself along the way. Because I am right with myself, and strong. Because life has come full circle and because I have exactly the tools I need to proceed, no matter what my name is. 

Because I have learned that every winter has a spring, and that every threshold, every milestone deserves to be honored. 

Full circle. I see what you did there, Equinox. Happy spring, all. ‘Tis my New Year’s Day. To all the late bloomers, to all my soulfriends who agree that Q1 is for the birds and the real new-year-new-you begins today, namaste. We are blooming. Right on time. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018


A few weeks ago, I rear-ended someone on the freeway.

I was drowsy, dragging, having jumped in the car 10 minutes after waking, after performing the bare requirements to get the dog squared away and get myself on the road, en route to the grind.

The traffic was annoyingly--ingratiatingly--stop-and-go, and it took me a second too long to realize it was more stop than go. My commuter sneaker slipped slightly on the brake, and I knew I was in for it. My seat belt triggered, compressing my chest, forcing my cringing face forward as I crashed into the tail end of a Honda Odyssey.

Time elapsed as I stared down my red front hood, colliding, colliding, colliding into the white wall of a hinged van door. Protracted smashing, and then it was over.

Fucking fuck. A voice I didn't recognize from my own driver's seat.

I pulled over, foggily rummaging through my glove compartment, stunned, shamed, despondent. Resigned.

"Are you okay?" I asked the visibly irritated blonde women whose day, week, maybe month I'd just soured. I'm sorry, I wanted to say, I'm acquainted with ruined days. It was only a matter of time before I transgressed a perfect stranger.

We stood on the shoulder as the cars whizzed by. Clearly the bottleneck had resolved itself. We examined the damage, exchanged information, and coldly laid out next steps.


Is this what falling out of love feels like, I wonder? Operating in a haze, going through the motions of maintenance, and then the abrupt stun of impact and the paralyzing recognition of your culpability? The weight of anxiety as your reflexes kick in a moment too late. Surveying the wreckage with the only person in the world who knows just how egregious your offense.

Never mind the environment, never mind the stress. You didn't stop in time. At fault, the record will say. Would you like to document more details about the incident?

Maybe this is why we don't have insurance for our romantic lives. We could never afford the premiums.

Friday, May 5, 2017

A eulogy for doubt

"I'm not perfect," he said on our sixth date, on our second do-over.

"You don't have to be perfect," I said. "You just have to be trying."

What if we stop having a ball?
What if the paint chips from the wall?
What if there's always cups in the sink?
What if I'm not what you think I am?

"Don't give up on me," he said, after pushing me away didn't work. 

"Where there is love, there is no question," says the Yogi Tea tag taped to my desk.

What if I fall further than you?
What if you dream of somebody new?
What if I never let you win, chase you with a rolling pin?
Well, what if I do?


"Is he worth it?" she asked, after a weekend of wondering.

"All I know," I whispered, "is it's not time to give up yet."
I am giving up on making passes and
I am giving up on half empty glasses and
I am giving up on greener grasses
I am giving up

"Why would I jeopardize everything we've built?" he asked, after my mind played tricks.  

An answer, as quick as it was stunning: "You wouldn't." 

What if our baby comes home after nine?
What it your eyes close before mine?
What if you lose yourself sometimes?
Then I'll be the one to find you
Safe in my heart

"Am I cut out for this?" I asked myself, after one of the hard conversations.

"We will get through this," he said, after pushing him away didn't work. "Together."

'Cause I am giving up
on greener grasses 
I am giving up for you, oh
I am giving up for you, oh
I am giving up

--Ingrid Michaelson, Giving Up

Friday, January 13, 2017

Be Water, My Friend

New Year's Eve has always seemed to me to fall during the wrong part of the year.

Sure, I usually feel a deep need to repent and renew at the end of the calendar year, but I never quite feel ready to resolve to do better. I always feel a bit frozen, like I'm still making amends with the year before. If there is anything true of me, it is that I require time to process.

In fact, for my first three years in Chicago, I spent the evening in the bathtub.

Auld Lang Syne has been used as the equivalent for "once upon on time" in Scottish fairytales. 
 Perhaps I'm not so alone in my slowness to move on to the next.

I turned down invitations, turned off my phone, turned up the music, and sat, stewing in my feelings. Later, in the spring, when things were greener, I inevitably defrosted and felt that uptick of inspiration and renewal. In college, my girlfriends and I called this 'the spring thaw,' a celebration involving a fifth of vodka at the first sign of sunshine. In yoga, we call this 'flow'.

This year is not much different. Thirteen days in, and I'm still somewhat frozen in my tracks. 2016 was an uphill year. I am weary after 12 months climbing the steps, like I was digging myself out of a hole but not ever completely sure how deep it was. I guess while others suffer their traditional hangovers, I require a recovery of the emotional kind.


For the past four winters, I have taken a bus to work that lets me off along the Chicago River. Sometimes it smells like chocolate, sometimes it smells like garbage.

Each morning, I glance over the railing at the river and over time I have noticed that I can, with impressive accuracy, take an emotional inventory based on the physical state of the river. The colder and harsher the weather, the more janky the ice, the more ragged my heart. During the worst of it, the polar vortex of 2014, I felt near paralyzed. This is when the infamous #ormyfuckingsoul was born. It's become an inside joke with myself.

Throughout the season, the river freezes and refreezes, and it took me a few years to realize that the result is actually quite beautiful.


Some time during the expanse of time between Christmas and New Year's, I was doing some research on meditation, and came across, of all things, a Bruce Lee quote that has stuck with me.
“Empty your mind! Be formless, shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. Put it into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put into a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend!
I aspire to be that nimble, that flexible, that accepting. But the truth is, water is also at the mercy of its environment. Sorry, Mr. Lee. You put it in heat, it boils and steams. You leave it out in the cold, it freezes and cracks.


One of the greatest lessons about writing is that good communication has context. What I've learned in 2016 is that good living has context too. You can need other people. A good life requires vulnerability and the best people help you grow in unexpected ways. And, to depart for a second from the water metaphor and into more familiar territory, the struggle out of the cocoon strengthens the butterfly's wings.

Context: (n) the environment or setting in which something (whether words or events) exists.
Synonyms: background, situation, connection
You know how they say you ask for patience and what you get is a line at the bank? I have been looking for proof this year that the vulnerability will pay off, and I've received the same lesson over and over again: you never have a guarantee, at least not externally. The only thing you can control is that you are right within yourself. The panic of that realization was sobering. It burnt a little going down and felt uncomfortably warm in my belly.

That's the thing about context. You can consider it; it helps tell the story. But you must be able to distill down to the heart of the matter. Or there is no story at all.


I've been thinking a lot about distillation lately. Scientifically, it's the process by which you purify a liquid by applying heat and cold. Essentially, you find out what the liquid is made of--it results either in a complete separation of the parts or a partial separation that increases the concentration of the individual parts of the mixture.

When making alcohol, for instance, you distill out the impurities and what's left is your proof, which is how we measure strength. A 100 proof spirit is 50% alcohol. Two parts of a whole, each in its purest form, each doing its part.

Hello, 2017. I'm ready for you. It wasn't a perfect transition, but then none of the important ones are. I resolve to hang in there until I feel the flow. Until the spring thaw, striving to be water in whatever form I take.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Summer 2016 Bucket List

It's that time again! You know, the time where I make an exhaustive list of what's in my calendar this summer so I can look back when I am in the depths of winter and remember that all of life is not darkness and hibernation.

So far my summer bucket list includes:
  • A Cubs game Ferris Bueller Day     X

  • Wanderlust 108, a mindful triathlon      X
  • A Chicago bike ride scavenger hunt with the Marquette crew     X

  • Yoga in the Sky at the Navy Pier Rooftop Terrace #yogainweirdplaces     X

   So instagrammable.

And a bonus horseback ride to boot!
  • Dave Matthews cover band at a street fest
  • Ferris Bueller's Day Off in Millennium Park
  • Citizen Cope at House of Blues
  • Brett Dennen at Thalia Hall    X    (Received Casey's nod of approval: XX)

  • Camping in the U.P.
  • Kayaking in the U.P.
  • Watching Henley swim in the U.P.       X
  • Making S'mores with my mom on the back deck around the fire pit       X
  • The Roots at Taste of Chicago     X
  • An amazing Seattle and Portland road trip with not one but TWO of my soul sisters!      X
  • Yoga at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre and other Denver adventures!     X
  • Seeing my bestie get married to an awesome Yooper transplant     X
  • Dixie Chicks at the Resch Center with my family      X
  • Watching grandipants dance like a moron to this song every chance we get      X

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Dear You

Every time I've sat down to write over the past four months, nothing...came. That's the best way I can describe what happens when writing goes well: If I am ready, the words come. They arrive, and they march out in order and then I do a once-over with a comb in hand and say, hey you, you're the tallest, you belong in the back row, break a leg out there, guys and then we're ready to hit the stage.

Not so much when I'm not ready. When I'm still sorting it out or fumbling around in the dark back stage. When I'm still learning. And so it is right now, and so it has been for four months. Right now I have a giant stew (I cannot even be bothered to align my mixed metaphors) of feelings, and feelings about feelings, and the real Easter miracle: the second coming of hope. But at least my stew is regret-free. And everyone knows that regret is the gluten of feelings.

I'm still running over the events and the lessons of the last few months in my mind, memorizing my lines so that when I'm in the spotlight, they come like second nature. I am rehearsing, for who--I don't know, but I have stage fright. There is just so much that is new to me.

Sometimes I trick myself into writing by asking: what would you write to your former self to talk yourself through what you went through? Apparently I am a writing diva, all very meta and high-maintenance, but in the spirit of Mary Louise Parker and getting back to regularly scheduled programming, I present to you:

Dear You,

You can't carry someone else's pain, and you can't force someone to face themselves. You can turn yourself inside out trying to avoid the truth, but at a certain point, unraveling fabric becomes a really long thread.

You really do have instincts, just like your mom said. Anxiety is born when your thoughts about what is going on do not match your instincts. Trust your instincts and not the thoughts. Also: you should Google Jean Paul Sartre and really meditate on his assertion that hell is other people. Your strength has always come from within. Do not underestimate that.

You are a fucking resilient human. We are all so remarkable and awful, all of us, every single one. All we have is the good that we give to each other, and you will be pleasantly surprised--blown away, really--at how much good you can give, at how much good you have packed away in your closet, at how you will always know where that door is, even when it feels like someone turned the lights off and spun you around five times before letting you go.

But you could have a symphony of good to give and it will fall on deaf ears if the person isn't ready to receive it (Dude, what is with your metaphors today). I hope you can look back and realize just how many emotionally deaf men you have loved in your life; it was their handicap--and not some imagined one of yours--that was the problem. You were not too needy, or too emotional, or too complicated. You weren't asking too much (if you were even asking at all). You still aren't, and you never will be.

What they say about letting go instead of being dragged is true, and this will be the time you finally loosen your grasp. (Your hands were never really that strong anyways.) Cheryl Strayed's belief that what might have been is just a ghost ship that didn't carry us will become your belief, too. Wave from the shore, yes, but do not answer the SOS call, especially when they don't even make one.

And finally: the earth is crawling with good humans, who are flawed and loveable and willing to go there with you. And by go there, I mean to yoga, to your core, to what worries you, to the place where in order to see and experience you, they need to see and share themselves. There is no reason you can't make a life with one of those humans. There is every reason you should hold out for one of those humans and smother them with kisses when they make you happy.

But don't take my word for it. Listen to Tom Petty when you forget:

You belong among the wildflowers
You belong in a boat out at sea
You belong with your love on your arm
You belong somewhere you feel free


Bobbi Marie

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Shortest Day

Today is the shortest day of the year, yet it stretched on like it had one hundred shadows.  

A shadow is an area of darkness where light is obstructed. A shadow is a silhouette or a reverse projection of the object blocking the light.

Maybe it's because I spent today brain-deep in cancer biology, but that sounds like poetry to me. A shadow is just an obstruction, a blockage. A shadow is a mere outline of whatever is blocking the light. And really, a shadow is the opposite of whatever appears in front of you, the opposite of whatever is between you and the light. 

It sounds a lot like fear.

Today, I did 108 sun salutations to celebrate the winter solstice. Fitting, because I am thinking about balance and centeredness in a completely different way than I have before.

I am wondering how long my heart will have shadows, how long it takes to see yourself clearly again when circumstances have changed so drastically. I already know the answer, but I can't recall it easily in the midst of change, so it waits for me, lurking.

Did you know that on the winter solstice, the sun does not rise at the North Pole—so you would have no shadow? And at the South Pole, the sun is up all day on December 21—so you would cast a shadow all day. So the size and very existence of your shadow depends on where you are, and when, and, presumably, with whom.

But tonight I was reminded that it depends quite a bit on the source of your light, too.

The number 108 has many symbolic meanings. Tonight's teacher shared one: the Buddhist belief that humans suffer and move through 108 human delusions in their lives. Buddhists believe that if you bow (or, in Chicago CorePower style, salute the sun) 108 times, you purify these delusions and as a result, find infinite capability and vitality of mind.

Delusions, I have many.

I am hoping my shadow might be one of them.