Tag Archives: yoga

Everything is perfect (or, everything can be improved)

6 Sep

Full disclosure: I am pretty tipsy right now. Please proceed with caution as the following may not make grammatical/syntactical/any kind of sense.

NaBloPoMo Day 3


Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Bob Marley asked: “Open your eyes, look within. Are you satisfied with the life you’re living?”  How would you answer him?

I woke up yesterday to an overcast sky. I should have checked the weather, but it was Theo’s first day of daycare, and we were in a rush to get out the door. I knew that it had rained overnight, and my foolish, optimistic self assumed that the sky would clear sometime during the morning.

It didn’t.

By the time I arrived at the daycare to pick him up, the rain was pelting down. Even with an umbrella, I was soaked up to my waist. As soon as he saw me, Theo pointed at me and said, Mama, water!

It was pretty bad, and it was about to get worse.

See, the thing is, it’s basically impossible to hold an umbrella and push a stroller. I’ve been talking about buying a good raincoat with a hood (or a sou’wester!) since last summer, but I haven’t actually done it yet, because I am the queen of procrastinators. So I ended up having to walk home, in the rain, without any kind of protection.

There’s a funny thing that happens when you walk in the rain. At first you hunch your shoulders up and keep your head down, as if that will stop you from getting wet. Then you realize, shit, I’m already as wet as I’m going to get. You start loosen up, you relax your muscles, and look up. And, maybe, you start to enjoy it.

Yesterday, the water on the sidewalks of Forest Hill was ankle-deep in places. I was wearing ballet flats, which quickly became totally saturated, squelching uncomfortably with every step. It didn’t take me long to realize that I would be happier without any shoes on. Which is how I ended up walking barefoot in the rain through the mean streets of Toronto, my white tank top rendered nearly transparent, hair plastered to my scalp and dripping in my eyes. And you know what? It was great. Realizing that I had no control over how wet I got, and giving myself permission to get soaked made a world of difference in how I viewed the rain.

Now, how does this relate to the prompt?

Asking me if I’m satisfied with the life I’m living is a loaded question.

Is this where I thought I would be at 30? No, probably not. I had so many things that were supposed to have happened by now that haven’t, for one reason or another. Do I have regrets for the things that have led me here, to this place in my life? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. I am the master of regrets. Give me any scenario that I’ve been involved in, and I’ll find something to regret about it.

But I also think that the happiest moments in my life have been those that I’ve thought about the least. Walking barefoot through the rain, for example. Running, not because I have a bus to catch or I’m training for a marathon, but because I like to feel the wind in my hair and my feet pounding the pavement. Kissing someone because I want them and need my body to be close to theirs in that moment, without thinking of what might come after.

I like to plan. I like to think ahead. Not only do I like to have all of my ducks in a row, I also like to arrange them by size and shade of yellow. Sometimes that works out really well for me; often it leaves me frustrated and angry when things don’t go my way. Yes, I want to have agency over my own life and control my own destiny, but sometimes it’s exhausting and demoralizing. Sometimes I just want to let go and see where that takes me. Sometimes I would really like to be able to switch my brain off and stop thinking. Sometimes I just want to do something because it feels good, and not wonder what it will mean for me in the bigger picture.

I feel like I spend a lot of time fighting myself, and fighting my desires, because I don’t think they’re beneficial to me.

What I want is to realize that no matter how hard I try to stay dry, I’m going to get wet. I want to accept that I am getting wet and maybe even enjoy it.

So what am I supposed to answer?

Yes, I am satisfied with my life? Does that mean I’m stagnant and boring?

No, I’m not satisfied with my life and I want to continue to try to work harder to improve my lot? Does that mean that I’m impossible to please and will never be happy?

Let’s leave it at this: I am satisfied that I am here, on this earth, in this particular time in history. I am satisfied to have this particular man in my life and have given birth to this particular child. But I think there is a lot of room for change and forward movement.

Or, as one of my yoga teachers said:

“Everything is perfect. Everything can be improved.”

I hope that’s enough of an answer.

If This Isn’t Nice, I Don’t Know What Is

3 Sep

I teach a yoga class for my friends on Sunday afternoons. Usually I get three or four people, but today almost no one was able to make it. One friend was working, another was out of town, and a third was eating deep-friend bacon-wrapped Mars Bars at the Ex. You know, the usual Labour Day weekend stuff.

My friend Susan, however, did show up, but both of us were having a hard time getting up off the couches in the lobby and going into the actual studio. We stalled ourselves by talking about Richard III and Anne Boleyn. We promised ourselves that in five minutes we would get up. We even tried bribing ourselves with a short practice and a long savasana.

None of this worked. We just couldn’t be tricked into practicing.

Instead we hung out, discussed about my favourite vacation idea (The Dead Author Tour of New England – it is going to be amazing), critiqued the trailer for the new Anna Karenina movie (you guys, I can’t even), and talked about how difficult it is for both of us to take time off  – we both feel like we need to relax but then get stressed out over how much not-relaxing we end up doing.

Finally, Susan asked if I maybe wanted to go get a pedicure. I wasn’t super stoked on the idea, because I’d just painted my toenails a few days earlier, but agreed that we should do something. Something other than lolling around on couches, I mean. So we left and started walking north along Yonge street.

Trudging uphill in the humid, late-summer air, I suddenly realized what I wanted to do: I wanted to sit in the park, drink grownup drinks and read magazines.

Let’s do it, said Susan.

We sat in the park, we drank, we read excerpts of articles out loud to each other. We talked the way pre-adolescents do, about everything and nothing, mixing big, smart-sounding ideas with meaningless trivia.

At one point, embarrassed about confusing A Room With a View and A Room of One’s Own (don’t judge), I flopped back onto the grass and stared up into the leaves of the tree we were sitting under.

Whoa, I said, you have to see this tree.

Why, asked Susan, lying down beside me, have we been reading magazines like chumps when we could have been looking at this tree all along?

That was a fair question.

It was one of those moments where everything is absolutely perfect; a moment where you wouldn’t change a thing, not the colour of the sky, or the temperature of the air, or even the tiny ant crawling up your leg. It was a moment so good that I was already experiencing nostalgia for it, even while it was still happening.

It made Susan think of a quote from Vonnegut’s A Man Without A Country:

If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

It made me think of the part in the Stand By Me when Older Gordie Lachance, who’s narrating the movie, reflects back on Vern (played by an itty bitty Jerry O’Connell) saying, this is a really good time:

Vern didn’t just mean being off limits inside the junkyard, or fudging on our folks, or going on a hike up the railroad tracks to Harlow. He meant those things, but it seems to me now it was more and that we all knew it. Everything was there and around us. We knew exactly who we were and exactly where we were going. It was grand.”

Although I’m not sure that either Susan or I could say with any conviction that we know exactly who we are or exactly where we’re going, it did seem that the whole of what we were experiencing was greater than the sum of its parts. It was more than magazines and booze and the hazy, golden early September air around us – yes, it was all of those things, but it was also how easy happiness was in that moment.

I often feel as if I’m constantly chasing happiness, whatever happiness means, only to have doubt or fear or anxiety push it just out of reach. And yet, here I’d achieved it effortlessly. How did that happen?

Later (actually, a fair bit later than I’d originally intended), I walked home to my family. I opened our front door to find Matt and his brother Adam feeding Theo grapes. I mumbled an apology for my lateness, and Matt said, that’s okay.

He didn’t say it in a way that sounded angry or begrudging, even though I’d delayed everyone’s dinner by at least an hour. He said it in a way that meant, I don’t mind and I hope you had a good time.

After supper, as I did the dishes, I could hear Theo shrieking with laughter as he played with my brother-in-law in the other room. I thought, This is good. I am lucky.

And then, more than anything, I wanted to write this out. When things get hard again, as they inevitably will, I want to have this memory preserved somewhere outside of my head. I want it to be able to exist perfectly in and of itself without my mind distorting it. I want to have this here to remind myself that happiness is not only possible, but even, sometimes, easy.

I want to remember that I am lucky.

And if that’s not nice, I don’t know what is.

Oh, and also I found this amazing shirt at Book City. See? Lucky!

Daycare (or, what the hell am I doing here?)

29 Aug

One of my (many and abundant) gifts is that I have a really, really great sense of direction. When we were in Paris a few years ago, I was able to navigate all the twisty-turny alleyways armed with only a small book of street maps and my wits. Although I couldn’t have told you which direction was north, I somehow always had an innate sense of where the Seine was, and would direct us accordingly.

The flip side of this is that feeling lost or disoriented is incredibly terrifying for me. This includes feeling lost and disoriented in a whoa what street am I on and how did I get here? way and also in a larger, more general whoa what the hell is happening in my life right now? sense.

Change is very disorienting for me. I am the kind of person who loves routine, who thrives on knowing what will happen next. I eat the same thing for breakfast every morning. I am not the kind of person you want to take with you on a spontaneous backpacking trip to the Amazon. I find it difficult and painful to break out of any routine, even one that is seriously not working for me. Letting go of a routine makes me feel unmoored, as if I’m sitting in an oarless, rudderless boat, watching the shoreline shrink as I drift out to sea. I usually experience a brief moment of breathless euphoria at my newfound freedom before total panic sets in.

All of this has been a very verbose way of leading up the fact that this morning, I registered Theo for daycare. Next week I am going back to work full time.

Let’s get a few things out of the way: I think that daycare is awesome. I went to daycare and loved it. I think that it will be hugely beneficial to Theo, in part because of the socialization it will offer him, and also because of the structure he will have there. Although this particular daycare costs a little more than we were hoping to pay, it came highly recommended by a friend, and everyone I’ve mentioned it to has something positive to say. I am really, really happy we got a spot there.

But I still feel panicked.

Partly it’s because I’m worried about how the change will impact Theo. Will he understand that I’m coming back at the end of the day? Will he think that I’ve abandoned him? Will he miss me unbearably?

Another thing that freaks me out is the fact that no one there will know Theo as well as I do. How will they be able to interpret his needs properly? How will they understand what he’s saying? Will they be able to learn to speak Theo?

I was talking about this last night with Scott, a super lovely, laid back philosopher/yogi who teaches at our studio. He had some really smart things to say, but when I tried to repeat them to Matt, I couldn’t get the words right. So I emailed Scott and asked him to remind me of what he’d said, and this is what he sent back to me:

What you said to me was that you were worried people would fail to be as a good a mother to Theo as you are.  That they would not be able to read his subtle gestures and give him what he needs when he needs it.

I said that that was exactly what he needs.

“The good-enough mother…starts off with an almost complete adaptation to her infant’s needs, and as time proceeds she adapts less and less completely, gradually, according to the infant’s growing ability to deal with her failure” (Winnicott, 1953)

Having all of his needs met in a relationship were no one is failing to provide for him as he demands actually turns out to be disadvantage, as Theo is coming to know who he is precisely through those failures.  These are not grand or abusive failures where he becomes scared to develop into his own self, but just the right kind of misattunement that will occur at a daycare where someone doesn’t know him as well as you. And when misattunement happens those caretakers will be able to support him and help make reparations with him.  This is what is actually so important: that his caregivers fail to meet his needs and yet in an environment of love they support him through that failure and help him realize that he is a unique person in relationship with others who can survive these failures of connection.

It is what used to happen in extended family care all the time and now must happen in daycare scenarios. It’s an important part of child development that Theo needs at this time. Sounds weird but you send your child off to an other who you expect will not do as a good job as you so that Theo can grow into the independent and capable person he needs to be.

Which was exactly what I needed to hear.

The third facet of my panic is all about me:

What if I don’t like working?

I will be managing a yoga studio (which I already do, but I will be putting in more hours), and trying to pick up some classes to teach to supplement our income. I’ve never done this as a full-time job before. Scratch that, I’ve never taught an actual class, for real money before – everything I’ve done so far has mostly been volunteer work or freebies for my friends. What if I hate teaching yoga as an actual job? What if I can’t find any classes to teach?

What if I fail?

Looking at it one way, I will paying twice the cost of the average university tuition in order to put Theo into daycare so that I can go work at a job that I’m not sure I will love, a decision that might leave both of us miserable. In this scenario, both of us are in the oarless, rudderless rowboat, heading slowly but surely for open water.

Looking at it in another way, maybe this is the only way (or, at least, the best way) for us to grow. We’ve spent a year and a half living in an almost totally symbiotic relationship; maybe now it’s time for us to break free of each other and begin to discover (or rediscover, in my case) who we are as unique individuals.

Maybe we will both love this new arrangement. Maybe he will flourish in daycare, and I will realize that I am finally doing work that I love and feel passionate about.

Perhaps this will give us the chance to develop the skills we need to make or find our own oars, or discover a way to get back to shore under our own power.

Or maybe we will learn to love living at sea and, instead of turning back to what is familiar to us, we will take our homemade oars and chart a course for adventure.


The Secret to Happiness

13 Aug


Practice random acts of yoga.

Then make your husband* photograph you using the hipstamatic app.

*please note that you can substitute anyone in place of “husband”, including but not limited to: your boyfriend/girlfriend, best friend, life partner, girl you met once at a party, boy you met once at a party, person you met at a party who doesn’t want to be defined or limited by gender, your coworker, a mutant cat who was born with opposable thumbs and enough smarts to work an iPhone, Wes Anderson, that dude who gave you the side-eye because you wanted to use exact change at the corner store, your mortal enemy (I don’t recommend this one, though – they would probably take a blurry picture ON PURPOSE), your great aunt, your great aunt’s mortal enemy, Rob Ford, Rob Ford’s mortal enemy, a dude walking by on the street, the bartender from your favourite local watering hole, punk rock teenagers, punk rock adults, punk rock Margaret Atwood, etc.