Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Triangle Then. Triangle Now.

Circa 2006
I started practicing yoga almost twenty-five years ago. I was twenty-four years old, ten years older than my daughter is now. I cannot remember what my body felt like that many years ago. I can't imagine not feeling a little something in my shoulder or a tiny kink in my hip, the chicken bone snaps in my knees.

During practice recently I've been modifying triangle pose. Sometimes I skip it altogether. Triangle pose is not the only yoga posture that's changed for me, but it's definitely the pose that's changed the most significantly-- I really notice how my body is a different body.

When my daughter was born almost fourteen years ago, my labor was long, 42 hours. I had multiple midwives during the course of my labor. The last one, Kelly, had to really push me. If I didn't progress, a C-section would be in my future. During hour 36, after putting some kind of gel on my cervix and walking the stairs of Group Health Cooperative for 90 minutes straight, Kelly told me to do triangle pose. And I did. Nine months pregnant, awake for almost two days, laboring for most of it, I dropped into triangle like it was no big thing.

The other day in class that image popped into my mind as I struggled to get my left leg into position. In days past, my left hip would just slide into place, but now it behaves like a rusty car door in a junk yard. It's not an injury. I'm just getting older and my body is the messenger. Sometimes my left hip feels more lubricated and cooperative and I catch a glimpse of my triangle from days past.

At the end of summer, my friend Kate and I are hosting a Yoga and Menopause Retreat. We're calling it Put Some Claws in Your Pause. Our goal is to find the power in this next phase, to step into menopause with fierce grace. To prepare for the retreat, I've been doing a lot of reading about menopause and peri-menopause. There's a lot of negative bullshit written about menopause but there are also realities about how our bodies change. It got me thinking about the comparison of my triangle pose during my young, fertile phase, literally when I was giving birth, and my triangle pose during this time in my life where I am recalibrating, physically slowing down a little. I've earned this time to put on the brakes and take some breaks. My body needs it and my soul needs it.

I'm not convinced that my triangle will stay as it is, but it is like this right now and I think I can learn from it. This incarnation of triangle, the more limited, creaky version is not worse than the badass hips down and open version of the triangle of my thirties. It's a reminder, an affirmation, that I'm entering a new phase. 

I'm excited about what's next. It's a reality that I as I get older, I will experience more limited hip mobility and likely other physical changes, but it's okay because I also get the wisdom that comes with age. In my thirties I would have fought hard against a sticky hip, but these days I have the wisdom to see these physical changes for what they can teach me, to embrace them as medals of honor for living a half-century. My triangle might look a little different, but I'm still doing triangle.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Counting days is not the answer.

Most mornings when I wake up Nancy and I talk about something that's happening either in our city, in our country or our world. Yesterday it was the 114  families in Ohio who were rounded up by ICE and separated from each other, the new American standard. When driving home from Fremont on Tuesday, coming off of my exit onto Rainier, I drove by a man with a sign that said, "My name is Brandon. I need your help." Before class yesterday, one of my students almost started crying when we talked about the current state of the American South. Two weeks ago a 17-year old getting ready to graduate from Franklin High School was shot and killed in one of my favorite parks a mile from my house. There is a mini-billboard hanging on a porch a few miles from my house that the homeowners hung after the 2016 elections. They change it every day to show how many days we have left.

We talk a lot about just getting through this. Waiting until this terrible darkness is over. We can see what's happening. It's happening in plain sight, before our eyes. We are no longer in denial. We can't be. There is too much and it is too big. We find ways to talk about it, to make ourselves feel better. I walk the Seward Park loop and smile at the different faces, taking pleasure in connecting with strangers. I cherish my time at the studio. I often say, "We're so lucky to have this community." I try to give what I can by contributing to my little circle, by making a kinder, more gentler world for people in my orbit, but when I look from the outside in, my influence is tiny. It's not enough.

My sister Katherine has dedicated her life to social justice. She works relentlessly, constantly for her cause, which is truly all of our cause. I used to feel sad, rejected because she never had time for me, but now I see that she's compelled. She's driven because her eyes are wide open. Our limited time connecting is not about me. It's about creating a better world. I've gone from being resentful to being grateful.

It's not that I do nothing. I volunteer. I contribute money. I hold fundraisers. I promote specific issues through the studio to raise awareness. I am raising a feminist daughter with extreme left-leaning tendencies. But it's not enough. I woke up today feeling stressed about my little work problems--personnel disagreements, retreat enrollment, summer class attrition. But when I sat down to my computer to write, a luxury I give myself in the early morning hours whenever I can, all I could think about was that I'm not doing enough.

What's stopping me? Is it the hours in the day? The fear of seeing more? Seeing too much? Knowing more about the bad in the world makes my breath catch. I am afraid. When Nancy was sharing the details from the article she read about the Ohio ICE raid, I said, "Honey, we have to make our home available to harbor people." We have to do more. I texted my friend Michelle who does pro bono immigration counseling at El Centro de La Raza and said, "Tell me what to do!"

It's not okay, the world right now. It's not enough to just be grateful for what I have, for the freedoms I experience. Right now my chest is tight. I can feel the fear that I will fail, that I'll never be able to make a difference. And then I think about these families who are being separated and deported. I imagine the fear they must experience. It must be beyond fear-- terror, trauma.  It's true--"No one is free when others are oppressed." I might feel the freedom because I am financially secure and an American citizen, but I'm not free. This tightness in my chest tells me as much. I don't have the perfect answer for what I should do. I don't really have any answers right now,  but I know that counting the days is not it.

What am I worth?

For the first time in my adult life I am in the position of not having a "real job." I am on a chosen hiatus from being fully d...