May 31, 2014

Inquire Within: On Relationships, 20-Something Angst & How to Start a Yoga Practice. {Weekly Column}

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*Disclaimer: Elephant Journal articles represent the personal opinion, view or experience of the authors, and can not reflect Elephant Journal as a whole. Disagree with an Op-Ed or opinion? We’re happy to share your experience here. 

Inquire Within: Advice to Live a Mindful Life is my weekly advice column.

It is a space devoted to answering reader’s questions large and small, with an emphasis on mindful living. It is intended to inspire, uplift and guide my fellow elephants on this glorious and sometimes unfathomable journey we call life.


Dear Erica,

I would like to hear your opinion about a certain perspective in a friend’s situation. She is 20 and dating a man in his early 40s. He has never been married and has no children. What do you think of a young girl with the world ahead of her dating an older man who has lived as a bachelor for 20 years?

Ana R.

Dear Ana,

I don’t think there is anything fundamentally wrong with this arrangement—except perhaps the “ew” factor. As a mom of four daughters in their 20s, I can’t say I’d be thrilled with them dating a man 20 years their senior, but that detail wouldn’t be the determining factor in how I assessed the relationship.

Much more important to me would be this man’s character, his treatment of my daughter, his personal mental and emotional health, and if their goals for the relationship aligned. His not having been married before is neither here nor there.

One thing I would be concerned about regardless of how great a guy this man may be, is, if this couple ended up being together long term she may very well spend her middle age caring for him in his old age. That can be an unfathomable burden and prevent her from realizing other personal goals. On the other hand, he may be a vibrant 80 to her staid 60—you just never know.

The bottom line is, no match is perfect, but if the good parts generously outweigh the bad, even odd or awkward twosomes can love and enjoy each other and deserve to be embraced by friends and family.


Dear Erica,

What can you do to rekindle the (sexual) spark in an otherwise wonderful, fulfilling long term relationship? What can  you specifically do to get your mojo back?

People really don’t want to talk about this, I’ve found.

B. P.

Dear B. P.,

People don’t want to talk about it because it’s frightening to admit there may not be an answer!

We humans want a lifetime of sparks, but the fact is that if you’re in a long term relationship—while there can still be fireworks—they are generally few and far between. That’s why affairs are so ubiquitous, and why married couples (even those in healthy relationships) are more vulnerable than they’d like to admit (another reason to sweep the subject under the rug.)

That said, do not despair! As a woman in a long term healthy relationship that is still relatively sparkly, I’ve learned a thing or two.

Thing one: remember your spouse as they were when you first knew them.

Sometimes at a party, or at my son’s baseball game, I will look at my husband as if he were a stranger. I can see him as I did before we were together, and it’s always surprising. “Who is that handsome man?” I will inevitably think to myself. I try and actively recall the things he did and said that made my heart race, and it isn’t really hard—he did and said a lot along those lines.

I also verbally reminisce with him about pitter patter moments from the past; “I remember how you looked at me that first time in the sushi restaurant…” and then reach out and touch his hand. By doing so, I’m affirming that I still see him as that guy (as opposed to the guy I nag to close his mouth while eating sandwiches) and that feels good to both of us.

Thing two: celebrate yourself.

A lot of the time we wait for someone else to fire up our mojo when really the whole thing is in our own hands. Moving your body joyfully, being outside in nature, and caring for yourself in whatever physical way feels good (I’m addicted to Trader Joe’s lavender salt body scrub) are all great methods to stay connected to your sensual side.

When you are connected to your own sensuality, it is easier to stay connected to your mate’s.


Dear Erica,

In an earlier post in elephant journal you mentioned you wouldn’t want to be in your twenties again “for all the tea in China”. That stuck with me, because I am 25 now and feel like I am in that tough season of life where I constantly compare myself to others and feel consumed by worry about the future at times. I suspect this is completely normal, but my question for you is, what advice do you have for us twenty-somethings trying to find our way? Does it truly get easier with time? Thank you!


Dear L.A.P.,

When I said I wouldn’t want to be 24 again, I meant it! At 24 I felt so lost. The only thing I knew was that I wanted to be a writer, but other than that I was clueless. It seemed like everyone else was getting “real” jobs while I was still waitressing, and I had no idea how to move from semi-adulthood to actual adulthood.

I wish I had discovered some magic formula to tell you how I managed to get though the weirdest—and most frightening—decade of my life, but I don’t. I’ve come to believe that our 20s were made for us to flail around like the semi-lunatics we are, to ask questions and not necessarily expect to find answers, to have adventures and make mistakes and gather knowledge about ourselves, which one day slips into a pattern that begins to make sense.

Once you build a substantial library of self knowledge by doing all of these things, the stuff that seems so hard does get easier–to be replaced by other stuff which is hard in a different ways (sorry!) But I’m willing to bet you’ll never feel so lost again.

I do think one of the most valuable things you can do during this chapter in your life is reach out for and accept help— from parents, friends, lovers, mentors—anyone and everyone. Too often, at your age, we close ourselves off for fear we will be judged, and maybe we will be, but going it alone is infinitely harder.

If all else fails, rely on the mantra “One foot in front of the other.” Eventually you will get where you need to go, one scary step at a time.


Dear Erica,

How does an old, fat inflexible man start yoga? Everything looks so daunting and hard to do.


Dear R.C.,

An old, fat inflexible man starts the way everyone else does—by starting! But I will try to be a little more helpful than that.

First of all, I get it. Yoga can seem, and actually be, intimidating—even to those of us who have practiced for years. Honestly, sometimes I look around a class and get very discouraged because even though I’m a teacher, I still have so many shortcomings.

But there is good news!

It may be hard to believe, but there is yoga that is appropriate for everyone. Truly.

For beginners or people with limited mobility I recommend anything with the word “gentle” in it, restorative yoga, yin yoga, a beginning yoga series or, if you can afford them, a few private lessons to get you going. All of these options are a wonderful, valid, non-threatening way to ease into your practice.

If you eventually move beyond this type of low key class, fine. If you don’t, fine! The physical and mental benefits will still be huge.

Another good approach if your budget is limited or you just prefer to practice by yourself is trying out a few different yoga videos—you can rent them from any local library—or Google live streaming yoga classes which generally cost from $2 to $5 per view. (This is fun because you can virtually join in on classes from all over the world with some of the best teachers out there, with zero fuss or bother.)

The important thing is just to swallow your initial fear and get out there and do it. It won’t take long to understand what all the hoopla is about.

Good luck and let me know how it goes!



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Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Aurelian N. at Pixoto

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