Sunday, 5 June 2011

Day 36 - gratitude

For good friends, food and sharing passions and vulnerabilities
For sunshine and lakes
For beautiful queers, dancing and grinding
For vodka-cranberry drinks, moonlit art on stone arch bridges, and vegan bars
For quiet hand holding with husbands before dawn breaks
For amazing children who sing incessantly
For reconnecting, and soy latte in peaceful coffee shops
For work done, suitcases packed without stress, and dinners on rooftops
For hugging friends, well-written TV shows, and safe hearths
For abundant blessings, and another day.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Day 35 - "some things will always stay the same..."

Feeling all a little raw and vulnerable today. Some of it is probably related to a slight flare up, and much of it to imminent travel plans. I love traveling, but I also get nervous about all the transitional moments it entails, about leaving my hearth, especially when traveling alone. I am also jittery about seeing my mom for the first time since top surgery. I have a lot to get done, and I want to fully enjoy being present to this full weekend of events, friends, catching up with work and preparing for the journey ahead. Both/and, my favorite, challenging and most comfortable place to be! I don't feel very coherent in my thoughts today, so I am just going to stop here and share my soundtrack for the day.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Day 34 - small adjustments

 Photo by Michael S. Wright

There are lessons I know, yet when I experience them in my body they sink deeper. When we were practicing balancing poses in yoga class this afternoon, I realized that my spine was sinking forward somewhat. I lengthened my upper body, remembered to engage my stomach and opened my chest from the sternum. They were all tiny movements, imperceptible from the outside, but the pose suddenly felt completely different. Five minutes later, I found myself feeling a little smug and proud about my balancing poses. Immediately, I lost my balance, which nearly caused me to laugh at myself out loud.

I learn again, and again that all I have is the practice, this moment. If I am present, I might be able to know what tiny adjustments are needed for completely new possibilities to emerge.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Day 33 - sharing space

Photo by Michael S. Wright

Tonight my Zumba sanctuary opened me up to all kinds of interesting vulnerability, in ways I did not like or expect. But let me start from the beginning. As some of you know, I love Zumba. It has become a part of my practice. I am far less irritable since going to Zumba classes regularly. It was these classes that brought me back to the gym, as soon as my body could safely face it, after top surgery. There are very few things that can come between me and Zumba on a Thursday night or a Saturday morning. Ok, you get the picture, now let me share the unexpected turn of events.

I was so excited to make it to the 7.30 class, despite the busy day of work, looking after a sick daughter, a pounding headache, and getting ready to travel soon. I smiled at my Zumba buddies, took my space, made peace with the fact that it was a new substitute teacher tonight, and then realized that a large group of what I assumed to be straight white men in their 20s and 30s, accompanied by a couple of women, had entered the studio. They were joining the class for tonight. I noticed my body tighten, and acknowledged the flight response. Nothing was going to spoil my refuge. I tried to tell myself that I was making assumptions, that I did not know who these people where, or whether they were a 'problem' in any way. The music started, and I focused on the steps, as a new teacher is always a bit of a challenge to established habits.

Wherever you go, there you are, as Jon Kabat-Zinn would say. And there I was, challenging not just my body to trace new steps to familiar tunes, but also my heart to stay open when it wanted to shut down. I wish I could say that the men shattered my assumptions by joining in the fun. They didn't. Whatever their pain, they chose to manifest it by taking up space rudely, somewhat loudly, and generally fitting into my experience of 'large group of straight, white dudes'. Yes, I wish I was enlightened enough not to have such lump categories. I am not, and I do. They lived up to my stereotype, and I kept breathing, dancing, trying to ignore their behavior, without shutting down to them, or myself. There I went, and there I was, so I decided that I might as well watch what was going on.

I checked in with a couple of regulars after the class, on the way out. I wanted to know whether I was being over-sensitive. They thought the behavior was not the best, but that they were "just being a bunch of guys",  and that "they are not likely to come back". On the way home, I realized I felt shaky still. Parts of it were body memories, parts were about familiar rage at the carelessness of many men in taking up space in a way that violates other people's. I don't do well when spaces that I perceived as somewhat safer are disrupted. I don't like it when women, and usually straight women, dismiss men's behavior with a what-can-you-expect-of-them attitude. I get both angry and sad that this is a world in which there are such low expectations of most men, that they are not asked to step up, most of the time. I get mad that sometimes those low expectations might mask fear, and a perceived lack of agency in the face of what seems to be part of the 'normal' order of things. Boys will be boys, and women will justify them more often than not.

Most of all, I notice how much emotion the silly situation tonight gave rise to, how fragile I felt despite the fact that nothing actually happened. Nobody threatened, or mocked me to my face. Yet, there I was, carrying all the stories, the years, the encounters, the frustration, the fear. What was different was that there I was. Not somewhere else, not shut down, not frozen. I learnt the new steps, smiled at the teacher, breathed and smiled at myself. I shared space with people I usually choose to keep out of my life, by avoiding places they might frequent. There I actually was. If they come back, I might even try to have a conversation with them about what they think of Zumba. After all, we share a planet, surely I can share my sanctuary more generously, and gracefully, than I was able to for tonight.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Day 32 - parenting

Photo by Michael S. Wright

This was going to be a post about the New Moon, desire and self-care. However, I have just come home from the Children's Hospital, where I spent the whole evening. They thought my kid might have appendicitis, when I called the health helpline. Luckily it turned out to be just strep throat. I am observing the emotions of the past four hours, and I feel so grateful for the practice, and the ability to stay centered. Going to a bodyflow class, before I realized that the stomach pain was serious, also helped. The openness I feel after class stayed with me through this flow of events too.

Tonight, there has been some fear, gratitude for the privilege of insurance (and the sadness that this is a privilege, and not a right in the US), and for living a few blocks from one of the best children's hospitals in the country. There has been anxiety, shame from the notion that I 'should' have known what was wrong because I am a 'mom', managing being 'mommed' non-consensually by staff, more gratitude for the competence of said staff when dealing with my daughter, awareness of our white privilege, irritation, and exhaustion at having to rally every last bit of energy to be the caring rock for a little person, at the end of a long day, after a bad night's sleep.

Now there is just a large smile on my face, because my child is fine and just needs some antibiotics, which I can easily access. I feel blessed, tired and sad that this is not as easy for many parents, because some people decided that health was not a human right for everyone in this 'first-world' nation. I am babbling, and I need to go back to center. Because tomorrow it starts all over again, this deep joy of parenting, this privilege to look after a precious human life, this exhausting endeavor that I would not give up for anything in the world. In fact, it goes on through the night, as we breathe and hope that all is calm, that her body can rest, while sending up a prayer with every breath: "may every child be healthy, may every child be safe".