An evening run. Because
the morning slipped
between a coffee cup
and God-knows-what.
And I need to run.

I’ve showered now and pulled on a wool bra and cashmere lounge pants. There’s nothing like cashmere lounge pants. I own one pair because I stumbled over them – misplaced in rack in an H&M- marked down to affordable.

Is this what it feels like to be wealthy? Wrapped in cashmere?

I had an angora sweater in high school. I bought it myself with the money I’d earned from my first job – selling hot dogs at the local rally-cross track. I knew it was out-of-place in my life: it shrank in the first wash.

But now. … Why don’t I always dress like hugs? I’m a grown woman and should be in full control of these things. I want to be the woman who empties her wardrobe and dresser drawers of all the fast fashion clothes, and fills them with nothing but quality fabrics in neutral colors that tell the world she definitely has all of her soft, yellow ducks in a row.

When I was a teenager we didn’t have ducks. But we had finches in bamboo cages in our mobile home. Some in the living room, some in the my mother’s bedroom in the back of the house. And they would sing to each other. Pitifully.

They make these small bamboo nests to put in the bamboo cages so finches will lay perfect little eggs. We had one hatch once. Have you ever seen a soft, naked, newly-hatched finch? It burns in your mind when it is dead on the newspaper tray at the bottom of the cage.

My point is… I’ve never had my ducks on a row.

These cashmere pants were marked “sleepwear”. Are there really women who sleep in cashmere? I sleep in cotton exercise pants that are too napped to wear in public anymore.

I feel guilty wearing cashmere around the house. It seems decadent. But they were marked “sleepwear” and I wonder if I wear them out (you know, feeling all elegant-like) people with think I’m an idiot for wearing my pj’s to dinner?

I wear them for yoga now. Kind of like dressing up for church. Not for the Holy Spirit, mind you – but for Buddhist idea that we should enjoy the pleasures of the present moment so long as we do so without clinging. And I have no illusion that these cashmere pants will survive the wash more than a few times.

At any rate. Here I sit in bed. Leonard curled beside me, dreaming of chasing hares – small, inaudible barks puffing his cheeks. I’ll have to wake him to send him to his own bed before I turn in for the night.

E. is offshore for a few more days. He may as well be on the moon. And only half the moon is visible tonight.

It’s been raining all week and the lake has flooded its usual banks. The bench roses weirdly from the water, and I stopped to take a photograph. For a moment I thought I’d stop and sit there for a while, watching the moon. But then a man came walking with his two schnauzers, and I was worried he’d think me insane.

And I was wearing my new shoes.

So… there’s that, at least: new, serious-ugly running shoes.

I’m that kind of woman.

It seems that the one lesson I teach year after year – regardless of the academic subject – is that there is a world of difference between consequences and punishment. There are days when I think I could write a book on the issue – and there are days I need to write one only to remind myself.

I am not sure if it is a fact that there are more articles about Sartre flying around the internet right now, or if they just catch my attention these days.

It doesn’t matter really. What matters is that I make the time to pay attention to why things capture my attention.

I have a group of postcards that I bought years ago when I was working with PEN. Each card pairs an article from The Universal Declaration of Human Rights with an illustration by Octavio Roth.

This morning I glanced over at the shelf and noticed the card on top was about the right to assemble peacefully. I laughed out loud when I noticed that this morning I’d spontaneously interpreted the illustration as people using their arms to measure for appropriate social distancing.

I still find that the hardest part of being an adult is accepting responsibility for my choices. Which, to a very large degree, does boil down to nothing more than understanding the difference between consequences and punishment. It’s so much easier to blame an authority figure for the “injustices” we have to suffer. And speaking for myself, I reach for these powerful authorities in direct, inverse proportion to the pettiness of the inconvenience. If I didn’t make my bed this morning, I can wind my way around to the result of an oppression from my workplace: I was awake all night brooding about a student, and the school administration expects too much from me in my 43 hour work-week. I’m being punished for caring too much. I should find another job so that I can get my life together.

If anything, I’m a creative person.

I’m genuinely surprised by how often I catch myself manifesting scapegoats for what I choose to do – when the consequences don’t align with my idealized life. And what really concerns me is that there are so many times I don’t catch myself.

Last night I forgot social distancing while taking part in a performance workshop. I immediately starting thinking about how difficult it all is: one set of rules for the home, one for the classroom, one for the spa, one for performing workshops. It surely must be the fault of some committee somewhere spitting out complex guidelines too difficult for the average person to store and retrieve while going through their day.

No.

The second article on this particular postcard states that, “No one may be compelled to belong to an association.”

I’m going to let myself off the hook for some associations until I learn some techniques to keep these guidelines in place. No one is making me do anything.

Or not do anything.

I’ve been uneasy running alone in the mornings lately. It’s odd how this fear pops up now and then. I haven’t kept track of when this happens, and think it may well be that it always happens this time of year when it seems the world is suddenly dark at 6 am. Maybe it’s instinctive, and fine, and not paranoid at all to be uncomfortable as the earth so obviously shifts on its axis in relation to the light source.

I remind myself that the trees aren’t dying. They’re making way for new growth.

Odd that we talk about “spring cleaning” – when Autumn seems to be the season when nature sorts through what to keep and what to let go of.

I stopped to take a photograph and the bushes rustled behind me. Wind, or blackbirds, or even a squirrel.

I passed two people at the lake this morning. An older man walking, who diffused my fear with a “God morgen”. Which gave me the momentum to say, “God morgen” to the woman I later ran past farther along the trail. I realized how rare it is for us to greet each other here – it seems we only do this on these dark mornings, maybe an instinctive gesture of comfort?

There have been two murders here in the last half-year. One, still a mystery. I thought about that when I laced my shoes this morning, having finally settled on the trail shoes over the street shoes. I wondered if it mattered if I ran through subdivisions or along the trail. Then I tried to sweep the discussion out of my mind, reminding myself that I’m more like to slip and die in the shower than run into a monster at the lake.

Then I remind myself that is not exactly a productive train of thought either.

I put on my headlamp and a reflector vest, and I gave Leonard a consolation treat as I headed out the door without him. The hound is more interested in dust bunnies than hare, and I’m safer on the run without him skittering between my legs and potentially tripping me every time someone passes us.

Or every time there’s a rustling in the bushes.

There’s a somewhat steep hill about 2 kilometres into my run. Steep enough to force my pulse up when I ascend, and steep enough to challenge me on the way back: trust your body to run down hill. Let go of a false sense of control – trust your instincts, trust your practice, trust the knowledge in your limbs.

Breaking with each step is murder in the knees.

It’s been a little over three years now since I returned to a daily yoga practice. And I’ve only recently realized how radically my practice has changed. 26 minutes on the mat, 6 minutes on the cushion. 32 minutes a day, imperfectly in the moments.

While the (almost) daily effort has been intentional, this change hasn’t been. I wouldn’t have been able to direct myself toward this experience. Nor would it have been possible for anyone else to direct me. It’s the result of a synthesis of all that is changing, in all that I experience. It is deeply personal, and oddly impersonal.

Yesterday someone wrote on an Instagram post that she’d been criticized for not taking yoga seriously enough. She didn’t elaborate, and I’ve been trying to figure out what it means to not take something “seriously enough” – because I am beginning to think that is the whole point: to fall into the habit of taking everything lightly.


I inhale like the tide pulling away
from the small pebbles on the shore,
and I exhale
like the flow of the tide
teaming with new constellations
of all that has been
and all that will be.

The stars appear
to be fixed in the darkness –
an illusion of distance
and tempo.

The world is a master
of the sleight of hand:

every moment a misdirection
every moment a seduction, and
the deliciousness of our oh-so-willing
dance – the suspension of doubt.


“Drama Queen” has taken on a new meaning for me lately. Like so many other judgments I’ve made about myself and about others – the tight, little frame is losing its integrity. I’m wondering it if isn’t in part due to the inundation of social media’s ridiculous stockade. We are the public at the zoo of our own design: gawking and pointing at human behavior, buttoning up our coats, clutching the frame of the baby stroller, peering into the glass enclosures, and offering up serious lessons in self-preservation.


http://nothingbutmetta4.com

Today I realized that I haven’t bothered with my appearance since the pandemic began. Not that I think that vanity is a virtue, nor have I ever been someone who checks my lipstick at lunchtime during the workday, but I have had a healthy baseline of care and pride when I’ve been well.

I’m aware that slacking in terms of grooming and hygiene are markers for depression. I once was shocked to get copies of a year’s-worth of my psychiatrist’s notes to see that he recorded little more than whether I’d combed my hair. I remember thinking it was the 90s. Did we comb our hair that decade? I forget.

Friday morning I showered, did an easy yoga flow, meditated, wrote for an hour, drank a kale smoothie – then ran out the door to work. No bra. I am not sure I’ve left a house without a bra since I was 10. I’ve been thinking about what this might mean – so many possibilities after all: dementia, stress, depression, laziness, age.

Bras have always felt like a kind of armor really. It wasn’t that I should wear them to be modest, but rather to be safe. An extra layer of psychological protection from the world. So maybe my thoughtlessly leaving the house without that kind of protection is not such a bad thing. And maybe it does have to do with age – and still not such a bad thing.

At lunch I went to the bathroom. No lipstick. Not that unusual. But I had bits of kale in my teeth. So, yeah, maybe there is more to this just being a newfound sense of the safety invisibility provides. Maybe I am sliding into a depression.

Many years ago I read an article in National Geographic about how women in care homes who had their hair done every week lived longer. No one knows for certain why. It could be just a matter of the physical contact with another human. But they also thought that it has been an aspect of human nature from the beginning: the impulse to adorn ourselves. And that bothering to adorn ourselves was a sign of health, both individual and communal.

When I was small we would go to church on Sundays and Wednesdays. Our church had a vaulted ceiling and I thought it was so high to make room for the Holy Spirit to look down on us. On Sunday mornings, I’d sometimes watch my grandmother get dressed. She’d stand in her pointy bra and silk half-slip. She had a small, round mirror on a wire arm that wrapped around her neck so she could see the back of her head in the big mirror while she used both hands to slide the bobby pins into the waves in her hair. She’d put on lipstick – only on Sundays. Then nylons, and a polyester dress that belted at her trim waist. I am guessing she was probably the age I am now.

I don’t remember what I wore. But I know we dressed up for the Holy Spirit.

When I was a bit older, the youth groups in the church became more visible among the general congregation and they would sometimes wear jeans to church. Neither of my grandparents approved. If you’re not going to bother to get dressed up for God, who will you bother for?

Vanity is complicated: finding that fine line between caring too much and not caring enough. My grandmother would criticize her daughters for being overweight (ie lazy and undisciplined). But she would also criticized the women her own age who would wear blue eye-shadow and kohl: who do they think they are?

I once had a boyfriend tell me he was ashamed of me because I didn’t iron my blouse. I once had an aunt tell me not to worry about a run in my pantyhose because if people were looking that closely at me “they deserve to find something wrong to gossip about”. (I now count the latter as true words of wisdom, but at the time thought: well, that’s fine for you to think – you’re old.)

I have overdressed and I have under-dressed when attending social functions. A hemline just too short to be”appropriate” sexy, just too long to be trendy. Social anxiety isn’t high on my list of mental health challenges, but this can still be a numbing experience.

I have simply never properly deciphered these fashion codes. Or even cared to for stretches of time.

It is always easier to stay home than it is to choose the clothes by which you want to be judged.

“Is this too much cleavage?” “Do I look like I’m trying to be 18?” “Do I look like I’m trying too hard?”

Once a colleague glanced down at my harem pants and said, “Oh, you’re one of those people who likes spiritual things”. What is the proper response to that? Another day, another colleague said, “My, those are a lot of pearls today.”

And?

Apparently on Friday I was one of those people who has completely given up.

It is easier to stay home.

And if I didn’t have bills to pay, I would… which maybe means I should make an appointment to get my hair done? Maybe try again to schedule an hour with my therapist?