Connection over Perfection

…and right before dinner that night, my child fell and skinned his knees badly, the chicken I was serving for dinner overcooked and dried out, and I forgot to pick up ice cream for dessert.  But lo and behold, we still had a good time.

It happens to all of us right?  We have friends coming over for dinner and we want to put our best foot forward, have the most delicious meal prepared and plan for everything to go smoothly.  Does it happen? Maybe, if it’s a rerun of Leave it to Beaver. But the reality is that life can get in the way in a hot minute, and something throws a wrench in the plan of perfection.  Your child has a meltdown, your dinner catches on fire, you spill a glass of red wine on the newly shampooed carpet. Come on, I know you have been there too.  And for me, while it is So. Damn. Easy. to get shaken on what is going wrong, this gets in the way of the very reason I invited my friends over in the first place. Connection. Human to human, village building, memory making, “remember when,” what-have-you-been-up-to, connection. And while I agree it can be useful to reflect on how to improve in a future situation, admittedly, it is not helpful to spend the next morning’s first cup of coffee recalling the details of what didn’t go right.  Trust me, it ruins the taste of that hot latte.

Where else does this happen? Does the drive for perfection over connection only get in the way of our dinner experience with visiting friends, or can it interfere in the Pilates studio, too?  As instructors are we so set on the repertoire we feel we should teach that it gets in the way of connecting with the human in front of us?  As students do we grimace and grit when we approach an exercise that is difficult for us, waiting for the moment to pass, cursing it (and maybe ourselves) for not getting it just right or again, doing it how it should look? When I hear a student in the studio say, “Well, I always feel better when it’s over,” I cringe a little inside.  (At the risk of being totally dramatic, let’s say I die a little inside.) Heck, maybe it’s just a really tough workout.  But I fear that the constant striving for perfection gets in the way of connecting in that hour, in that moment, to that human in front of us. And most importantly, I question if perfection is getting in the way of connecting to ourselves.

I hope not. I hope that one day the student who acknowledges that she feels better when the session is over also acknowledges that she enjoys the process.  That even though it’s tough, and she may not get the Roll Up today without her feet lifting off the ground, or land the Teaser without using the push through bar, that it’s ok.  It’s ok for her instructor, her fellow Pilates students and that reflection staring back at her in the mirror to see a less than perfect human. Perfection out, Connection in. Connection is showing up, being vulnerable, real and interesting.  Around the dinner table, it’s letting my child sit on my lap until he feels better, offering plenty of salsa and sour cream to dredge the dry chicken, and busting open a bag of semi sweet chocolate chips to pass around for dessert. In the studio, it’s about listening to my students, letting go of an agenda, giving them plenty of exercises that leave them feeling successful and offering a hand through the scary ones. So that both the client and myself as the instructor walk out of the studio not only feeling better, despite our imperfections, but also more grounded, more joyful, and more and connected to ourselves.

Francine

 

Change “The” to “Our” and FEEL the difference.

I have never been a movie buff. Movie quotes go over my head, save for a few from family friendly flicks like “What About Bob?”  “Sleepless in Seattle” and “The Fiddler on the Roof.”  I grew up on “I Love Lucy” and Disney films, always hated scary movies, and never saw any of The Godfather series. Yup, you read that right.  Never. Saw. The Godfather.  Yet, the culture of Francis Ford Coppola‘s movies is so pervasive in our society that I can guess certain quotes are from them movie having never seen any.  So the other day when my client said, “Leave the gun, take the cannoli,” I was certain it was from the cult classic. I was right.

What I lack in movie love I make up for in blogs, podcasts and music.  Just last week I was listening to my favorite  podcast, “On Being” by Krista Tippet. She was interviewing author, wise woman and speaker Brené Brown.  Two close friends have recently suggested I read Brown’s work, so I was thrilled to hear this interview.  This would be a great introduction.

The podcast, entitled “Strong Back, Soft Front, Wild Heart” covered topics from equality to social divide to belonging.  They talked about vulnerabilty and courage and ​how so often one is not present without the other.  They touched on the current political climate, The Now Movement and the idea of loneliness.  But what was really intruguing to me was when Brown shared her experience sitting in focus groups with middle school aged youth and asking them about loneliness and belonging.

​She spoke of how these kids shared how hard it was to feel lonely at school, but even harder when they felt lonely, or like they didn’t belong at home. Examples included being born into a ‘sports family’ and not being good at athletics. Or perhaps their parents and siblings were very social and he or she very shy.  Or living in a family who excelled academically, and they struggled with formal learning. I finished the podcast and stood for a moment. I thought about my own family, my own upbringing, my own sense of belonging.

The next day I saw my mother, who I am extremely close to. She had just come back from a trip seeing some friends.  She had gone with my aunt and they had had a lovely weekend.  “We ate, we shared, and I showed them pictures of the family.  We had a wonderful time!” she beamed.  I paused, I recalled the podcast.  The idea of belonging. “THE family? Your family. Our family,” I said.

At that moment I realized my whole life I had heard my family being referred to as “The Family” instead of “Our” family.  And without ever reflecting on it, it had always sounded odd to me. Now, for the first time I realized that pronoun created feelings of separation, formality and distance.   In fact, when I asked my mom to change to saying “our family” or “my family,” the difference I felt was immediate.  Despite the normal divisions and pains that every family has, the ownership I felt when hearing “our” family was comforting, familiar, and embraceable.  Instead of feeling unfamiliar or separated I felt a sense of belonging.   As I explained my feelings to my mom she got it.  She said, “Ya, you mean like it’s so formal.  Like THE GODFATHER.”   I laughed.  Yes.  Like “The Godfather.”  And still, having never seen the movie I knew that the reference totally made sense.

The next morning, I received a text from my mom.  “Good morning! How’s MY family doing?” It felt good.

The feeling of belonging does not stop only at the family unit.  Most of us have disjointed families and so our desire to belong and be part of a larger community, village, tribe, whatever goes beyond our birth family.  To belong is to connect, and without connection, loneliness sets in and with loneliness we can feel stuck, apethetic and lifeless.  I think a feeling of belonging gives us a secure sense of support, a life force, and a confidence to be ourselves.  To me, it also represents a sense of ownership and willingness to contribute to that very group.

I wonder how you define belonging and where you feel like you belong.  I wonder if it’s something you struggle with or desire more of.  I wonder if you’d like to reflect on it…

Exercise:

Is there something in your life that you use, “the” to describe rather than “our” or “my”? Ex: “the team” or “the church” or “the extended family.”  What if you replaced it with “our” or “my”? Does it change the feeling for you?  Is it a more positive one? Does it give you a sense of belonging that group or community?

In health and curiosity,

-Francine

Giving Back: The Martin Richard Foundation & Team MR8

There are days when I feel like the impact I am making in the world is just beyond my backyard. For a long time, I have desired to be a part of something bigger. Lucky for me, I have inspiring, altruistic friends who live by example. In 2013, my dear friend and long time runner, Vicky Shen, was in the Boston Marathon. She finished the race, only to find out devastating news…that there had been a bomb attack. Later she learned that one of the young athletes who she coached weekly was tragically killed. But out of grief, pain, frustration and sadness Vicky, and many others have kept running. The family of the little boy who died so untimely developed a foundation, The Martin Richard Foundation, whose mission helps young people to learn, grow and lead through volunteerism and community engagement. They advance sportsmanship, inclusion, and peace. They choose kindness, they build bridges. They strive to always do more. ​​

When I went out on my own earlier this year, I decided The MRF would be Your Daily Practice’s charity for 2018, and I am proud to say that 5% of the earnings from first quarter have already been donated to this wonderful nonprofit. Your sessions do you good, me good, and the children of the future a WORLD of good.Together, we #domore. Visit www.martinrichardfoundation.com to learn more about this amazing organization.

Yesterday, when I checked my mail, there was a surprise from Vicky, who is now a board member of MRF. She sent me my very own Boston 2018 Team MR8 shirt. Team MR8 is Boston’s home team for the Boston Marathon. Runners raise money for MRF as they train for the race. Team MR8 describes themselves as a movement, to help youth learn grow and lead. Wearing this shirt and and holding my 2.5 half year old son in my arms makes me feel good about the future, and about being part of something bigger. Boston has always held a special place in my heart, and I look forward to one day taking my son to visit “Martin’s Park” adjacent to the Boston Children’s Museum.

Thank you all for reading. To learn more about MRF and Team MR8 visit www.martinrichardfoundation.com.

In health and hope for the future,

-Francine

Maybe it’s the New Do?

I didn’t really think anyone would notice.  Actually, it took me a while for myself to notice…that I have changed.  Recently, my husband, son and I lived in Europe for nearly four months. Saying that I have a lot to catch up writing about would be an understatement.  Besides a couple dozen or so Instagram posts, I really haven’t made the time to put many of the my thoughts down on paper. In a nutshell we lived in a country house in Italy for a two months, in a town of 2,000 people, then traveled through England a bit, next backpacked for a month to complete the 490 km Road to Santiago in Spain, and then traveled back to Italy to say our farewells (for now) to Europe.  All.With.A.Toddler. And though I would LOVE to travel down those memory lanes right now I have something I want to say. It changed me. It changed me parenting, my marriage, my outlook on my daily life and somewhat surprising to me, my teaching.

I knew I felt different, but I didn’t think people would notice.  It wasn’t until client stopped me in my tracks in the middle of a Pilates session and said, “Can I tell you something?” Of course, he could. He knew he could.  “You’re different.” he said. “But in a good way.” I can imagine that my former self would have giggled slyly, or quickly said, I know, or tried to move the conversation along.  But I didn’t dare skirt this moment. I stopped, smiled, looked at him dead on and asked him to articulate what he meant. And you know, it was pretty cool to hear.

The following week another conversation with a client unfolded in a very similar way.  And again, swallowing pride and allow vulnerability to step in, I asked her to elaborate.  And I’ll admit to you, it was profound for me to hear these trusted clients whom I have worked with for over five years say things like “you are more focused” “our sessions are more intense” “you are pushing us more” and the one that nearly brought me to my knees “you have an aura of confidence.”

Maybe it’s my new European short hair cut.  (Initiated in Italy, but perfected in Spain;-)  Maybe it’s my commitment to communicate, to listen, to be present.  To be mindful.  Yup, I think it’s that.  As my clients finished off saying, “It’s all good! Really good!”  Yes, I have to agree. I have changed. And though the paths of changing were sometimes rough and uncomfortable, the outcome has had a decidedly positive impact.  And as I cling to this feeling I hope there really isn’t any turning back.

-Francine

Reflection

Can you recall a time in your life when a conversation has made a profound impact on you? Maybe it was with a friend, mentor, or client.  Think back on that conversation and ask yourself, “What did I do with that information? Did it encourage me to grow, was it scary? Was it a turning point in my career, relationship, health?  Take moment to free write (journal) for five minutes and see what comes through. Reflect on this for the following week, be open to what conversations, doors, dreams or insights occur from this exercise.

Slow please, pedestrians crossing.

I’ve never done anything very fast. In fact, I recall being in swimming lessons and begging my best friend to kick slower with her paddle board so I wouldn’t be the last one to cross the pool. I think I bribed her with stickers. If I was growing up these days, I would probably have to bribe my Bestie with iTunes gift cards or fidgit spinners. Recently, I was reminded that I’m not the fastest fish in the sea by two different individuals in two very distinct ways.  

The first was an affirmation from a family member when I said that I felt like I was slow at a certain task. They agreed with me, which stung like a bee sting right to my heart!! OUCH!!!. Why was this so hard to admit, and to hear? Most likely because in our society, doing things s.l.o.w doesn’t really get a lot of cheers. Fast paced, multi-tasking, well rounded individuals are often quickly deemed successful. In life everyone is looking for fast – fast food, fast internet, fast delivery, fast friends, fast track…fast, fast, fast. Admittedly this is not how I operate. I don’t like fast. But realizing my ego was hurt, my loved one changed the comment to: “You just like to take your time.”

Yes, yes I do.

The second delivery came about two weeks later, from a private client of mine who, in the middle of her Pilates session with me stopped and said, “I’ve realized what makes you different from other Pilates instructors, and what makes my experience in your Pilates mat class different and more enjoyable for me. You don’t rush us. You allow us to take our time.”

There it was again….taking one’s time.

I acknowledge that there are times in life when one needs to rush. Like, when everyone is hungry and you need to get dinner on the table ASAP.* But I also believe that there has to be a spotlight of time in everyone’s day when there is no hurrying, sort of like a “No Rush Zone.”

This week I encourage you to find that time, to take YOUR time.  Heck, maybe you already do. Then I encourage you to do what I chose to do.  Own it. Yep – own it, share it, and hope more people drink the Kool-Aid. Because slowing down maybe just what we all need.  

Wishes for a slower paced week ahead,

Francine

Pilates for Who?

One of my favorite questions regarding Pilates was posed to me several years ago.  “Who would benefit from practicing Pilates?” In short? Everyone. From its focus on breathing, to its benefits for posture and balance, to its adaptability of the exercises, and the infamous core strengthening, Pilates truly has something for every body.  A Pilates practice can be a simple as rolling out a mat and completing any of the 34 original exercises developed by Joseph Pilates, incorporating more variety with his Pilates ring, or ultimately getting one of the spring based pieces of equipment that push and pull your body in ways that no other exercise machine truly can.  Many will say that Joseph Pilates was ahead of his time, and I wholeheartedly agree. Developing the exercises during WWI, Joseph first worked with injured soldiers, then traveled to New York where his studio saw the likes of famous dancers such as Martha Graham. Pilates is truly adaptable, whether utilised for restorative and therapeutic purposes, or as part of a rigorous athletic routine.  

Over a decade ago, Pilates took me by surprise. Honestly, having been “committed” to yoga for so many years, I didn’t think I would like Pilates.  But as I learned the method, practiced with a mentor, and studied the exercises I felt the benefits in my body.

What about you? Was it love at first “Hundreds?” How have you benefited from Pilates?

-Francine