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Category: introspection

To the Presidents, three hours of yoga and one hell of a bird

The holiday weekend was filled with pure, unadulterated laziness. With Himself out of town, I thought that I might find the three days off rather oppressive, but I mostly found that even with three days basically to myself, there still  wasn’t enough time to do half of what I wanted to.  Clearly the problem is not external.

I started out the weekend with an early morning yoga class, which I followed up on Sunday with a two hour yoga inversions workshop.  Basically I learned that I am not very good at being upside down.  I also learned that three hours of yoga in two days when your practice has not been particularly dedicated over the last year will turn your thighs into rock. It will take an actual volcanic explosion to make them molten enough to want to move again.  But I’m sure it was good for me; you’ve just gotta’ see my one-legged crow.  Maybe some day I’ll take the leap of faith and get that second leg off of the ground.

Yogic inversions are suppposed to be good for the soul because they make you face your fears (and the strength limitations of your biceps).  I must concur.  It is scary to stand on your head with only a thin yoga mat between you and the floor.  And the floor hurts.  There are a couple of ways to work through this.  One, you acknnowledge the fear and then let it go.  Headstand.  Two, you learn how to position your body in a sensible way so that you master the physics.  This creates a body awareness.  The hip bone is connected to the leg bone.  Arms are easier to rest on if they’re positioned vertically enough that they turn into gravity supported shelves.  Crow.  Or, three, my method; find a wall, put your head on the mat, hop around a bit a la Gollum and pray.

You can be the judge of which method is the most spiritual.  I can tell you from experience that the last will eventually yield results, though it helps if you mix the first two in as well.  I find that yoga provides a lot of metaphors for dealing with life in general. Learning to acknowledge and bypass fear is only one of them.

The most valuable thing that I have learned in yoga is that success is rarely the correct object by which to measure achievement. It’s actually a rather shallow measurement, because it misses all the detail of the journey.  And if I’m worried about success, even when my yoga neighbor does a perfect unassisted middle of the room headstand (again), I’m never going to get that second foot off the ground.  And isn’t it the fact that I keep trying to fly despite failure really the important truth?

In an unrelated adventure, I also met Cheeks the Quaker parrot this weekend.  (He does not actually wear a Quaker broadcloth suit.  I was disappointed.) Cheeks is approximately one pound, with semi-clipped wings, which he still waves around a lot.  And Cheeks crossed the entire living room to climb up my pants leg, using beak and claw, to sit on my knee and try to pick up the three pound ball of yarn I was knitting with.  He must have tried at least a dozen times, with each attempt winning him a few more inches before he’d have to put it back down and rest.  But he kept trying, which kind of makes that heart-filled creature my yoga hero.

At least untill he shows up in my yoga class and does a perfect unassisted middle of the room headstand.  Then the bastard is on his own

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Weddings for Feminists

I am clearly not a stereotypical bride. In the three weeks in which I have been engaged, I’ve started doing some research in wedding planning that is driving me nuts. This began with signing up for theknot.com so that I could access their checklists. The Knot presents you with a nearly 200 item checklist that is largely presumed to be my responsibility. Because I’m the bride, which means that apparently I’m meant to have been dreaming about my wedding day for my entire life. (Hint: never once thought about it.) I’m meant to have a vision and colors and some dream about a dress style, all of which makes me want to have no wedding at all, because it sounds like a lot of expensive work that I can pretty easily screw up by picking the wrong napkins, etc. It all makes me pretty grumpy, but I am a fan of ceremonies and rituals to mark the important events in your life and I love seeing my family, so we’re going to have one anyway.

Weddings, in their default traditional state, are pretty creepy. It’s probably no surprise that the heavily orchestrated gender roles of the process are giving me trouble. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on how to make my wedding awesome instead. I refuse to degrade my friends with the whole bouquet/garter toss and I would prefer both of my parents to walk me down the aisle, if only that were possible. I’d like a drum circle and dancing until the wee hours. I don’t want a groom’s side and a bride’s side – I just want our friends and family together, for a day filled with love and joy. It is a day for two families to come together, a day where I will not just make my fiancé my family, but also his family. It’s the day where he officially becomes part of mine. And that’s where I want the focus to be, not on the price tag of my dress or the rings.

We want something that’s authentic to us, which doesn’t sync very well at all with the traditional ceremony. Above all, I don’t want it to be boring. People will be paying a lot of money to come to our wedding, since most of our relations and childhood friends are far away, and I want to make sure they have a good time and talk about it for years.

No pressure there. None at all.

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The dreambrain

Last night I dreamed of knitting as a type of personal hell; the stitch was stockinette, which references a project I’ve been working on that makes me dislike knitting.  Stockinette, stockinette, rows and rows of endless, never changing stockinette.

But stockinette is the perfect stitch for dreams.  In dreams, your brain often goes over the same thing repeatedly to help you process and solve problems.  Most dreams are actually quite boring, which is part of why you don’t remember having them — just like stockinette!

I’ve picked up another knitting project to keep me sane that is lace knitting, which is the polar opposite of stockinette.  It makes me like knitting a lot more.  I’m a challenge knitter, which is to say that if the project isn’t frustratingly difficult, I really can’t be bothered.  Some people like rows and rows of stockinette, but it’s purgatory to me.  It makes me feel like I’m running and running and getting nowhere, which is kind of what dreams are about.  Except that it actually does get you somewhere, because you wake up with the answers to things you were thinking about the night before.

Isn’t the human brain neat?

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Womyns’ Communities

An article on lesbian separatist communities that I found interesting.

I’ve been thinking a lot about communities of women (of all sexual orientations) because of the novel I’m reading, The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett. It is really, really good. It’s about a home for unwed mothers run by the Catholic church (and therefore nuns). There are, so far, two male characters and dozens of female characters. There are not a lot of books like that.

Working in a practically all-male field as I do, I’ve found my need for companionship with other women has increased over the years. Women socialize very differently from men, which is really refreshing. We talk deeper, in a lot of ways, with more depth on a subject, but we discuss fewer subjects. However, finding women who want to talk about something other than the men in our lives has been challenging. I am as guilty of this as anyone – I find that I frequently am lost finding something else to talk about (and not having children does not help). To be fair, those relationships require a lot of time and effort and thought cycles. They require discussion and processing. But here we are, women together in a room – surely our life experiences have more to offer than just our romantic relationships? But how do you get past an entire culture that tells you otherwise – how do you bridge the gap for something more meaningful?

I don’t know, but I try all the time. Perhaps these all female communities are on to something – I don’t know that I’d want to live in one all the time, but I would love to be able to visit.

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Tai Lam

A very sad thing happened on Saturday. Tai Lam, a 14 year old boy and a student of the school for the gifted in math and sciences Montgomery Blair, was shot down by a gunman who appears to have just been looking for a fight.

This story affected me pretty profoundly – I actually burst into tears when I read it. I didn’t know Tai Lam, but he lived and died right around the corner from where I grew up. The neighborhood I grew up in was a rough one. It was mainly populated by Central and South American immigrants and African-Americans. Being one of the few white-skinned kids wasn’t always easy. But the thing that united us all was our poverty and the problems it caused. And one of the first things that happens in the face of systemic poverty is violence. We had gangs. We had drugs. We had parents that were never home because they had to work long hours (mine included).

I was lucky because I was white-skinned. I didn’t fit in anywhere, except in the world outside of our neighborhood. I remember the year when my friends became color conscious (it happens around ages 11 or 12). Skin color was the defining factor, the definition of my neighborhood. You could only live on one side of the street if you were African-American. If you were Latino, you could only live on the other. Violence was frequent because posturing was everything. When you have nothing, all that’s left is your honor and reputation.

I had hoped that it had changed. It obviously has not. I think that’s why I found myself crying for Tai Lam and his family tonight.

Dear Tai Lam, I am so so sorry that you didn’t get a chance to escape the cycle. You were a Blair student – you probably would have had a bright future in front of you. It is the saddest of worlds in which poverty is created and allowed to oppress people in this way. You will undoubtedly be in my thoughts for a long time to come.

Edited To Add: Reading the comments on this post about Tai Lam also make me sad, since half of them are blaming “the Mexicans”, while complaining that “Mexicans” think that all Asians are the same. This is the damage of bigotry, folks. When does the cycle end?

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Six Months Ago

My mother died six months and two days ago. She’s been on my mind a lot, obviously, because round numbers are the sort of thing that stick out.

Whenever the 9th rolls around, I find myself thinking back to those awful days in the hospital. Watching her breathe through the respirator, the colonoscopy bag, her swollen limbs blistering and changing color as I listened to the awful suck-in/suck-out of the machines that were keeping her alive. Almost fainting when I spoke to the first doctor, when I realized that I would not be going home in a day or two, because she was sicker than anyone I’d ever known before. Feeling the responsibility settle in because I was the only one around to make decisions.

The room had a smell to it, half Lysol and half sweetness from her illness, the kind of smell that lingers in your nostrils long after you’ve left the room. I remember staring at the toilet in the room when I first got there and sat on the chair waiting for the nurse. “Your awesome daughter is here,” I wrote on the white board in a red Dry Erase marker, “and I love you.”

Not that I spent a lot of time in the room, because seeing her bloated form was very difficult. She didn’t look at all like my mom, who was a vivacious and often frustratingly silly woman. My mom was petite and curvy. The sick body on the bed was all of the opposite. Her body in the coffin looked nothing like her at all, because her body was so beat up by the illness. I never got to talk to her, never got to find out how she felt about what was happening to her. I didn’t hold her hand when she died, because I was scared to touch her, but I was there. I witnessed it, although I didn’t think that I could. I watched her turn blue, the thin lips that I’ve inherited changing color in a matter of seconds.

I really don’t know how I would have gotten through those days without the kindness of the people around me. Old family friends, her church, my “family” of friend in Virginia all flocked around me and provided support when I needed it. It was an awful time, but also an incredible time, and I have walked away knowing that I’m very loved, which is something that I’m not sure I really understood before she got sick.

I am such a different person now from who I was then – so much in my life has changed. I find myself longing for her, even though we were never as close as I wanted to be, and as time passes, her death just becomes more unreal. I know she’s dead, it’s deep in my consciousness, yet sometimes I nearly pick up my phone to call her. We had gotten into the habit of it in the months before she died, because I finally got over the grudge I had against her for never keeping my contact information. She was so organized in some ways and I had resented her for not loving me enough to keep my phone number around.

But as one gets older, the small hurts just go away – what matters is grabbing the people you care about and loving them unconditionally. No one is perfect, but one of the things that unites us all is that our time together is very short.

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