When I asked my friend Eli, who studied psychology in school and taught in the classroom adjacent to me when I was a teacher at Bosphorus International Preschool, if she thought I was “too self-absorbed” she replied that the mere fact that I was concerned about being too self-absorbed was proof that I was not.
Whew, what a relief, because I do talk about myself quite a lot.
I love my life and I find it exciting. I want to share it with people, and I want them to love their lives as much as possible, too.
I’m always touched, quite pleased, and, more often than not, surprised when someone tells me that I’ve inspired them to do or try something that enriches their happiness, goals, or well-being. It’s true, though, that I’m a bit of an evangelist for living your best life.
I’ve had five guests (friends and family) come stay with me in Alanya on the beach, for anywhere from a long weekend to a few weeks, and four of them mentioned that their time here felt like a detox. One quit smoking cigarettes during her two week stay! (I can’t take credit for that–that’s amazing!) I was thrilled when my mother joined me in practicing yoga while she was here, and I was really excited to hear which of the postures helped to ease a sore spot on her hip/lower back area.
When it comes to food, I prefer to eat all my meals at home and I find it liberating that with the right ingredients and tools, I can prepare most anything I’d like. I became a conscious (can be interpreted as snobby, odd) eater, far before I became an avid cook, and I’m so glad I finally discovered how enjoyable and satisfying it is to make your own healthy, delicious food. Guest number one, a Japanese belly dancer who lives in Istanbul, was always peeking into my pots and pans and blender with curiosity, and guest number five, another former coworker of mine from my school teaching days in Istanbul, said that staying with me was like “having a free cookery lesson”. My sister, who stayed here only nine days, exercised at the open air community gym across the street and jogged around the neighborhood, dropping seven pounds she’d gained after an injury sustained while completing a marathon earlier this year. Seven pounds in nine days! And it’s not like we weren’t eating a LOT. When I have company, a large portion of my day is spent preparing healthy (and delicious!) food and sharing meals with them. Plus, my mother was preparing us delightful dishes, too. What a treat! When I’m alone, I tend to eat more simply, but no less healthily.
My guests went away saying they felt lighter, healthier, more relaxed, had “the digestion of a two year old”, and were expressing plans to “cook more”, “eat more healthy foods”, try this or that recipe at home, or that they might continue eating a vegan diet after they left me. Another two of them were able to go without coffee and played with the idea of not picking up the habit again once they returned home.
I’m in a unique position to enjoy life easily because I really like my job–I absolutely love performing on stage, and the stage on which I dance, the venue that houses it, and the people who work around it are all mostly wonderful, and the benefits and hours are great. What’s more, I don’t work every day–we’re only open three or four days a week–so I don’t get burned out from “too much of a good thing”. Since I perform in the evenings, I have the chance to spend the days relaxing, trying to achieve a yogic handstand (it’s nearly in sight!), cooking, reading, writing, visiting with my neighbors in the garden or our cafe, or teaching yoga to the kids who follow me around the condominium complex. There’s also always the pool downstairs, or the beach, which is just across the underpass from the garden. Nights that I don’t work are spent doing more of the same.
Still, it’s taken me awhile to reach this level of job satisfaction. I’ve held a lot of occupations, walked out of jobs in high dudgeon more than twice, and even (gasp!) been fired from a position I didn’t want, before getting to this point. With a brother who’s a former investment banker and now owns his own event productions company in Hong Kong, a sister who, after leaving her job as a big-time attorney in favor of being a chic mom, returned to work not as a lawyer, but as a high-end realtor, and second sister who formerly worked for a member of congress and as a middle school math teacher, then went on to found a tutoring company and publish a book on GRE math, it kind of runs in my family to maintain our sanity by doing what we were meant to do.
While I’m enjoying where I am in life right now, I also have big goals for the future. I want to grow as a dancer, one day becoming as good as the dancers I most admire. And while I love performing in Turkey (and Cyprus and Greece and Montenegro, as occasional opportunities have popped up over the past two and a half years), there are many beautiful performance stages in many countries, and I’d like to dip my toes into the sea of them! Another of my longer-term goals is to give workshops internationally, and all over the US. There’s something rewarding about teaching to dedicated dancers that I’ve only rarely had the pleasure of experiencing. This is something you only get better at over time. It takes a lot of performances and a lot of teaching to get to the “master teacher” level. I often think that once I become tired of (and before I become too old for) performing full-time for public audiences, I’d like to travel the world giving specialized workshops at festivals and intensives into my middle age and far beyond. After all, one of the most incredible teachers I’ve had whispered to me that she was “older than pantyhose”, and she continues to sharing her knowledge with dancers on several continents.
But enough about my dance goals. One of my guests (hi, Julia!) came up with the loveliest suggestion during her stay. “Why not host retreats for people to detox and recharge?” My mother chimed in–”You can get them into a healthy lifestyle. They could do yoga and eat vegan food. . .” and “You’d do it in a tropical place, like this, where they could swim in the sea and relax.” And of course, “I’d come every year!”
The more I think about it, the more I like the idea. I like to help people, it feels good. I love traveling to exotic places. I’m quite the hostess–I used to run a guest house, after all. And I know (and love) healthy tasty food and desserts, sharing yoga, and treating oneself and one’s body kindly. So. . . What else do you need for such a retreat? Clients, I guess. Anything else?