Remember the Pushmi-Pullyu? It came to my mind this morning when I was reflecting on something I have been thinking about the last few days, which means it also comes up in conversation (with Nancy, yesterday) and in the way I think about various things I see. When the same kind of thought arises from such a wide and varying range of things, I notice.
- My friend Cindy posted something on Facebook, a reminder to lower your shoulders, relax your jaw, breathe in and out — and this is a reminder I make to myself dozens of times each and every day. Dozens, literally. Every single day, without fail. Why don’t my bodily habits ever get it?
- I keep finding myself drawn into an eddy of big worry about one thing or another . . . my lack of work, different details and concerns in my kids’ lives . . . and have to stop myself. Again and again and again.
- Beautifully arranged sketchbooks like this fly past in my Instagram feed and I want to stop everything and just draw . . . but I remember that I don’t have this specific kind of talent, even as I have learned how to draw.
What pulls these things together? It’s an underlying pull toward finality, toward stasis, toward a sense that the fact that I have to revisit the same thing over and over means I haven’t “got it” yet. (And I’m not missing the humor in my frustration over not “getting it” that I don’t “get it.”)
This IS getting it. You learn things as many times as you need to learn them, and I think an essential part of human experience is this pushing-pulling experience. It’s like the lesson I learn every time I practice tree pose: Balance is not a static state. OH what an incredible lesson. When I’m in tree pose, my standing foot and my body are negotiating tiny shifts to stay in balance. This does not mean I’m doing it wrong, this is the nature of balance.
And so I resist my still-there impulse toward little concrete boxes:
- “What’s wrong with me that I still raise my shoulders and clench my jaw all the time? STOP IT!”
- My shoulders rise and my jaw clenches and I notice and make a shift.
- Must fix these problems so I quit worrying about them! Or else just quit worrying!
- It’s OK. Breathe, and open my hands. Do what’s possible.
- I’ll never be a ‘real’ artist so don’t waste any time on it!
- I don’t have to be. If I make myself happy that’s enough.
Perhaps this isn’t human nature so much as it’s just my nature, a built-in tendency toward, and expectation of, finality and certainty. It does seem central to my nature, to my temperament, or maybe it isn’t but struggling against it doesn’t help. Opening my hands, accepting, letting it be, and not running off into stories about it does help. It’s OK, Lori. Breathe, lower your shoulders, relax your jaw. Draw, if you want to draw; knit, if you want to knit; bake, if that’s what you want to do. Seek solutions to the worries that keep returning, and remember that a problem-solving stance usually helps. Welcome those little muscle shifts in foot and body, they are the thing itself.
And remember this, too: it’s not all lost. It’s never all lost, as long as your heart beats. Over the last few months I’ve once again lost the thread of my happiest way of living my life. Through the stress of the end of Katie’s pregnancy and Lucy’s arrival, through the terror of the political cycle we’re in, and through my ongoing efforts to find a way to hold onto consistency in my TX-NY life, I’ve lost my daily commitment to yoga, to meditation, to my kind of eating (especially that), to daily walking, to openness. It’s not just that my body is heavier, that my clothes are too tight, though those things are true; it’s that I’ve lost my connection to being present in the moment. So? I’ve fallen out of tree pose. OK.
Today I recommit myself to my mindfulness practice. To silence around me, to doing one thing at a time, to my beautiful food, to my nightly walk, to my yoga practice. Shoulders down, honey. Turn up the corners of your mouth, sweetheart. Open those hands, with the long, beautiful fingers. And take a deep, deep breath.