1. It’s been three months since Matt and I moved, and I still haven’t found a yoga class on this side of town that’s reminiscent of the kind of class I’m used to. Each one I’ve tried feels a little too slow and too basic. When the teacher tells us to go to child’s pose, I’m resistant. I want to keep going. I’m hardly warmed up, let alone ready to rest.
2. At the same time, I have found a teacher I like, so I keep going to her class even though I leave sometimes without having broken a sweat. One day, I heard this teacher explain to another student who must have been feeling the same, as he continued to do sit-ups throughout savasana—the pose where you essentially just lay on your back and do nothing at the end of class—how doing that is anathema to the practice; that, in fact, savasana is the practice, and how rest and/or knowing when to rest is a discipline itself. Disciplined rest? Isn’t that an oxymoron?
3. During the past few weeks, between puppy rearing, hosting lovely visitors, my day job, revising my book proposal, and having fun with Bon Appé-Tips, I was left feeling a bit frayed at the ends. It’s like I was doing a lot of things, but it didn’t feel like I was accomplishing much.
4. And then Mavis had a big double-vaccination day. The day after, she was sore and I had a migraine headache. When I came home from running errands, instead of jumping into my arms, she exhibited what appeared to be a full-body sulk. Her ears lay flat to her head, her chin sank into her shoulders, and her little tail wrapped tightly and un-waggingly around her body. She didn’t want to be picked up let alone played with. I stood there in the kitchen for a long moment staring at her, feeling achy and tired myself, but going through all of the other things I had left to do on my day off. Then, something clicked.
I (very carefully) picked her up, and the two of us went to bed, at one o’clock in the afternoon. I’d just bought the book Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel, and I took that with me too. And for the rest of the afternoon, Mavis and I lay in bed, respectively reading and snoozing—every once in a while, making eye contact with each other in order to confirm we were still on the same page. (We were.)
5. If you’re familiar with the book Are You My Mother? you’ll understand what I mean by the following crescendo-ing exclamation: talk about an oxymoron! It’s the most cerebral, most meta, most I-barely-understood-that-sentence comic book you’ll ever read.
It’s hard to talk about Are You My Mother? without mentioning Bechdel’s previous book, Fun Home, which is one of my favorites of all time. And while I can’t say this second book topped her first effort, I can say that I still very much enjoyed it. I appreciated her daringness to go there, and by there, I mean a place that’s just about as personal as it gets. But mostly, I appreciated the book being there for me during my lazy afternoon with my recovering puppy.
Sut Nam Bonsai, I’ll quote my journal from that afternoon: “The sun is beating down outside, but we’re [Mavis and I] nice and comfortable in here, relaxing and just being. What’s Winnicott call it? Going–on-being?” See, Bechdel’s book is just as much memoir as it is a study of psychotherapy. She spends a lot of time discussing the work of the famous pediatrician / psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott. Paraphrasing one of his ideas, she writes: “All the infant wants—indeed, all anyone wants—is to go-on-being, without disruption.”
7. Via Winnicott’s Wikipedia page: The 'capacity to "be", to feel alive...the baby's lifeline, what Winnicott calls its "going on being"' was essential if a person was not to be 'caught up in a false self and a compulsive cycle of "doing" to conceal the absence of "being"'.
8. My aforementioned friend Kara has mentioned a few times recently how this summer’s heat has killed her productivity. “Summer crushed me this year,” she wrote to me in a recent letter. But if I know Kara she hasn’t been wasting her time. In fact, one of her recent posts proves that she hasn’t. She writes:
“Last night, I walked down to the Poudre River in town and sat on its noisy banks. The moon will be full on Friday, and it cast its soft, pre-dark light over the cooling prairies and gargantuan trees, reminding me of ancient landscape paintings, the light soft and lush…
I sat listening to the water bubble over the rocks and thought: this is here all the time. When I am at home, bored and overheated, when I am squabbling with my ideas for the future, when I am watching a movie inside on the couch—this water is here burbling over the rocky bottom of its bed, rushing forward, whispering and singing like this.”
10. Last year, I turned 30 in a state of hopeful defeat. I would turn 30, fine, but not because I was ready to. This year, I’m in a better place. This year, everything feels a little less panicked, a little less dire. Do I still want the same things, goals and ambition-wise? Of course. But, I also realize that I can only—physically and mentally—do so much.
It’s been two months since the massage, two months since I’ve gone to a yoga class that pushed me to the brink, and two months since I’ve felt that electric (not the sweet slide variety) pain down my back.
11. What I’m trying to say is: hurray for the doing and the being; for the teachers and friends (and animals) who have pushed me to work harder and for those who have given me permission to slow down; for this space on the Internet where I can go on and on un-food-relatedly and also where I can deliver, in some weird caricature of myself, useless and only mildly-food-related tips, which upon seeing, my mother can declare: “You always did have a sense of humor.” Hurray, in short, for growing up.