Thursday, January 29, 2015

Vacuuming! or How to be Fulfilled


I have to vacuum today. Not an exciting way to begin. It is a tedious job to lead into what could very well be a tedious post. But I have a lot to say about vacuuming. I have a personal history with vacuuming. A WRITING history with vacuuming. Every thing can be tied together by the simple act of vacuuming.

During my grad school years I wrote about vacuuming quite a lot. I wrote about the feeling I would get sometimes while pushing the thing to and fro, surrounded by the noise,  the whirring and sucking air, the lifting/removing/spiraling of dust and debris. I was actually the vacuum, taking on all the detritus of the carpet and beyond, filling myself up with all the things around me, my family, the whole world. Full with everything and growing larger, so large that I would no longer be able to fit in the living room, so large that I was far away and alone. These moments were both exhilarating and scary. I wrote about my adulthood chores as well, the messy, tedious realities that created a home life worth living, for our toddler and for Josh and I. Somehow my subjects were never good enough for me. These domestic experiences of mine while my cohort were making connections, finding time to write and drink and cavort. I was feeling sorry for myself, and hooking into an old story told by my high school fiction teacher, I had technical skill but a propensity for the mundane.

At the end of grad school we were to perform a reading as our final graduation requirement. After much fretting, nothing I had written seemed good enough, complete enough with a beginning, a middle, and an end. After much confusion and struggle, I chose a cutting from several of my essays, and read the parts about vacuuming. I was thrilled to find this connective tissue running through everything I had written. And it was funny and sweet and real and barely manageable, the way my life had been those years of grad school and raising my first baby, the years of rushing to teach and rushing to pick up Henry. Breastfeeding and cloth diapers. I did it all. And held to my principals. But it was not pretty and hard as hell. When I wasn't writing. I'd dip into the corners of our tiny little dollhouse with the wand of my canister vac while 9-month-old Henry scooted along behind it. It was a moment of extreme effort, my joyful-faced-boy, the dog hair flying around us like confetti, paws skittering across the wood floor around us, my heart racing with exhilaration and fear. It was as if we were in a snow globe and this was it, all there was and ever would be.

I have regrets that I thought having the MFA degree would make me a writer. I now know, it was the vacuuming that made me the writer. The vacuuming, the kid, the teaching, the savoring of each moment good and bad that made me a writer. Every moment deserves my attention. Even vacuuming.




Friday, January 23, 2015

this is what it looks like to win at yoga

Physically, I can get into a headstand relatively easy. My approach is from wide-legged forward fold and I have been able to do this for the last five years. It was a challenge for myself, that by the time I turned 40, I would be able to do it. I nailed it a few weeks prior and headstand has been in my practice ever since. Yet I have not progressed from headstand to other hand balances, and although my crow practice is strong at this point, I can't get from crow to headstand, even though I can get up from a wide-legged stance. Is it a geometry problem? Or is it that the muscles that tip my pelvis back in order to stack it above my shoulders don't quite have the oomph to do so? What I need to do is stay there, rear in the air and breathe and my intuition will tell me what to do next, as Baron Baptiste suggests in “Journey into Power.” But that is a hard place for me to be, ass in the air, head to the mat. The breathing I have down, but remaining right where everyone can best see my weakness - hard. The thing I want to do in that position is to give up, turn myself over and pretend it never happened. But I have been practicing, staying and breathing right there, where everyone can see.

So that is my current physical edge. But there is something else. When I am poised to lift my legs, there is a slight hesitation in my mind, a quick blip of thought that happens so fast that I can't really even hear what it tells me. I only feel it as a blank void. All I know is all my energy is zapped and I come down before I even get up.

I am beginning to see this moment as opportunity. My emotional edge. My practice is to stay there and listen, even as I want to run away. And practicing at this edge in yoga has opened up an awareness of the other places that I have only gotten as far as ass up and then quit and come back down again. Like right here, at this blog, whose title itself asks people to watch as I contort myself into vulnerable positions, or make mistakes, or tell you too much or nothing at all.

It's funny, I get to this point in posting, in finishing something and I have doubts about what I have to say. I feel confused and a void opens up inside of me. When I am writing it seems to be in my head. When I am going into handstand, it is right around the root chakra. And I have had these blanknesses in the past at different parts of my body during other parts of the process. During yoga teacher training, it was at my heart. While I practice taught I had panic attacks and again all I wanted was to run away. But I stuck with it because yoga teaching touches me on a visceral level. I feel as if I am coming late in life to something I was always meant to do. But it is also the thing that brings all my varied interests together. Something that brings the room together and makes students and me alike willing to try something that otherwise we wouldn't.

Here is where the spiritual work of yoga takes place: poise yourself ass over teacup and hold that feeling of emptiness. Breathe into that blip of space and time where a personal history of fear crosses with your current understanding of your abilities. Do this just good enough to learn from it for next time.

Last time I tried this in tri-pod, instinct told me to reach forward with my head, lengthen before I bring my head down, and I found a new geometry for lifting up. That is my plan for the blog too. I will let you know when it gets easier.

*This post was originally titled: Bringing it all together, or as Baron Baptiste says: “Yoga challenges your physical, emotional, spiritual edge." With blogging, as in yoga, I am always refining the posture.