From my desk, I face a huge window that looks out on the third-floor void between my corridor and the theater pavilion. Light comes in from the glass ceiling. It’s not a view of the outside, but I got that before work when the world was normal. There are far worse workspaces. Some of the offices have windows to the hallways only. It’s a big building with hundreds of teachers.

Depending on what I teach each day, I might be spending most of my time in a black room, with black floors and black curtains. 6 hours maybe. But it’s not as bad as it sounds. On those days, we’re moving around. Literally lifting each other into the air. Or were, when the world was normal.

Yesterday I unplugged my little reading lamp and emptied the bookshelves. Shredded the student’s diaries and doctor’s notes, etc. The whole time unconciously praying that when I come back in August everything will be normal.

If you had told me two years ago we’d be living in a culture where I could be reprimanded for touching a student’s shoulder, it would have sounded like a dystopian novel. I’ve written a lot over this last year about the lack of touch and what I was concerned it would do to me. I’m not at all sure what role this physical isolation has played in my relapse of bipolar symptoms, and I’m not sure knowing is possible or even meaningful in terms of cause and effect. It is interesting though to consider a connection between the two as a metaphor.

I normally teach contact improvisation. We lean on each other – learn to trust each other to hold our weight. We work together as a group to lift one person at a time and “fly” them around the space. We touch in turn, responding to the quality of touch. Not necessarily mimicking: but registering and choosing how to respond.

We breathe together.

Of course, there is a basic trust required in terms of appropriate touch. Our “private” body parts. But there are other layers of trust required, the most significant being care. Does the person I am leaning on care for my well-being in this moment? It’s not an intellectual exercise but a physical communication without a rubric. You can’t measure presence and support by pounds-per-square-inch. Hands tremble, sometimes almost imperceptibly. And often we can “sense” the reason for the trembling. Our mind doesn’t form an explanation, but our body understands first.

A touch on the shoulder can be invasive, a touch on the breast neutral.

Is the heel of the hand pushing hard into the center of the thigh muscle, or is the palm cupping the leg in a lift? Is the person observing the breath for signs of distress?

Do they care: here and now? Are we present together?

For a year and a half, I have been teaching online or focusing on theory in a large auditorium, everyone sitting a meter apart. Even movement class has been all about observation and external expressions. I have had moments with individual students. Individual counseling both in terms of personal lives and academic development. But I am not sure I was present often enough. Am I am not thinking, “for their sakes”, but for mine.

When a student begins crying one feels helpless enough, covering their hand with yours, squeezing their shoulder, offering them a tissue. But to sit there with little but facial expressions and words – so inappropriate in the moment – that is real helplessness. I’m not claiming to have a magic touch to help students feel better. I’m only speaking to my own experience: no one likes to feel helpless.

Being in the present moment is key for me. Probably because I have so many difficulties with my memory. As pathetic as it sounds, I think that teaching is what keeps me tethered to a community in a way that I am comfortable with.

I make few long-term relationships with the students, but in my day-to-day present tense, I experience meaningful connections.

I don’t need to be teaching contact improvisation to do this, but I do need to be in the same room. Less than a meter apart.

Today the number of local cases of Corona19 jumped again. And the vaccines are delayed… again. I have no idea what kind of classroom I’ll be returning to in August. And the uncertainty isn’t easy to sit with.

I am fine with solitude. But feeling lonely in a building where nearly a thousand people wander in and out of doors, is hard.

Breathe…

We change.

At least that has been my experience of the world. Everything in it changes – even if our conceptions don’t change accordingly.

We cling to our understandings. Even when they are destructive. We know it of others, railing at our parents for not seeing who we have become when they see us as a six-year-old child, when we are sixteen, or 26. Or 50.

Every seven years I am a new constellation
wearing a hand-me-down
story that so easily slips off
in sleep – in the moment
of perfect attention
to the naked truth

But I find it difficult to question my own filing and labeling system that helps me orientate myself in the wild. I find it difficult to let go of the illusion of control that it gives me. Security.

When I know that I’m often wrong about my own motivations – how I can catch myself by surprise but rationalize a “meaningful” reason for a behavior – it’s ludicrous that I can for a moment believe I know what is motivating someone else. I think we each create our own mental matrix. Not in regard to events and phenomenological cause and effect in the physical world, but in terms of our understanding the how and why of it all. The wills.

This is how I am coming to understand the illusion of self, of illusion in general: within a great paradox of consciousness. The ouroboros of logic destroying itself.

I’ve been thinking about swimming lately. The water here is so cold I never wade past my knees. So it’s been years since I’ve allowed myself to lie on my back and float. It’s a thrill that I miss: the simultaneous terror and relief of relinquishing control. Or the illusion of control. I miss that brief moment of quiet, feeling the warmth of the sun on my face. This for me is an example of being in the moment. But for me, these fearless, fractions-of-seconds interspersed through the years are as rare as astatine is on this earth.

You don’t have to work so hard, I tell myself. But not working so hard takes a ridiculous amount of effort.

How long can you lie on your back will the swells rising and falling under your body before the stories creep in? The toothy creatures rising from the deep – as though seeing it coming and bracing for the bite would make any favorable difference to the experience of being eaten alive.

Can you let go for a second? Two?

I find it fascinating that these moments for me have probably never lasted a full second, yet are so significant to my life experience. I don’t think of them as moments of “trust”. I’m not trusting in a supernatural being to protect me, not trusting in the earth’s compassion or the ocean’s goodness. I am just… being in the world.

When I think about this I think about those moments of being newly-in-love. The high that falling in love gives us and makes us utterly and deliciously reckless.

Is wanting more of these moments a grasping? Another paradox. Another lesson in coming at the truth at a slant?

It’s funny that trusting someone is always a matter of trusting one’s own judgment of that person. Trust is a narrative. A fiction. And how helpful is it? When I say that someone betrayed my trust, I’m assigning motives that are very likely non-existent. I’m trying to shift the blame. Trying to assign blame. Then I’d have the power to forgive. To feel righteous. To feel a sense of control.

I was listening to a podcast yesterday about a sociologist who studied a culture that he claimed had no practice for trusting one another. Conflicts arose and then fell away. Relationships continued.

I was thinking that this was possible because by not needing to trust each other, they didn’t need to cling to preconceived identities for one another: prescribed rules of conduct that – when not followed – would be interpreted as personal betrayals requiring some kind of moral compensation – some kind of ethical capitalism.

It seems to me that a society without trust may well be a society will more room for loving compassion.

I wonder what it is like to truly be in love with the world instead of coming at it speaking softly but carrying a big stick.

Some injuries don’t show up on MRIs. Those deep wounds that sever psychological/emotional muscles – like torn tendons. And the only thing to do is leave it alone. Give it time. Get on with life, but move with more caution for a while.

Sometimes I think working so closely with teenagers creates a kind of repetitive injury. All the hurt that your heart tries to absorb causes an inflammatory response that never quite has time to heal.

It’s like dancing under a window ledge with a mattress, worried that you are encouraging the worst possible scenario, but afraid to walk away from something acute and so very, very real.

I know that is a lot of metaphor.

We go on. I don’t know how sometimes.

For a living, I listen eight hours a day to the voices

of the anxious and the sad. I watch their beautiful faces

for some sign that life is more than disaster–

it is always there, the spirit behind the suffering,

the small light that gathers the soul and holds it

beyond the sacrifices of the body. Necessary light.

I bend toward it and blow gently.

– Patricia Fargnoli. From “The Roofmen”.

From her book Necessary Light.

After so many years, this remains one of my favorite poems. And Patricia, one of the people I most admire. Oh, all the hurt in the world. They are special people who can spend their entire days tending to it without breaking or solidifying under the weight of it.


I ran alone this morning, my knee complaining just a little – just enough for me to wrap it for yoga practice afterward. I am learning to pay attention to the warning signals before it turns into full-blown runner’s knee again. That is a kind of progress in regard to the inevitable wearing of my body.

It is all about listening, and adjusting … and continuing.

Last night I had a cramp in the same leg. Alarm bells went off and I wondered if I should go get a d-dimer test. E. laughed, and hugged me. And apologized for laughing. I googled “stress and leg cramps”, and “stress and blood clots”.

I took an aspirin and went to bed.

Trust is such a difficult thing. Losing trust in someone is one thing – maybe worse is knowing someone has lost trust in you.

And it is just weird meta-sh*t when the person you lose trust in is yourself.