It seems everything is taking more time than it should. The wheels turning slowly. The system gummed up. If my life has been like this before, I am not sure I noticed it in this way. But I am trying to accept this. At least for now.

I was listening to a Radiolab podcast the other day about how lithium works in the body. How the salt mimics and replaces the normal sodium in the brain. But lithium is less efficient and it slows the connections of the neuropathways. The thing is, I don’t feel like I am going slower. The world is slower – and more stubborn. I am fine.

Really.

I move through downward dog and upward dog easily but feel my hamstring taught and dangerous in a side lunge. Breathe. Count on exhalations. Give in, while extending in all directions. Yoga is all about contradictions, about holding several truths at once while trying to find a comfortable equanimity. In out the stillness in-between all flowing together.

Stay in the present. Yes, but on the other hand, there is a query deadline on Sunday and packing to do for next week. Reviews and newsletters and housework. And everything feels as choked and sticky as my hamstring. And if I can’t rush through it, I just want to hop off. I am struggling to hold both truths, and leaning toward either/or. Or nothing: I want to pour a glass of wine and watch soap operas. I tell myself I deserve it. As though life should be like that: work and rewards in turn. Rewards like those flimsy gold foil stars that teachers would stick on our foreheads in elementary school. Making us feel proud and ridiculous in turns. I wanted one, and I didn’t. At any rate, they’d fall off before we got home to show the grown-ups.

I didn’t have the kind of grown-ups around who would fuss over gold stars, or even say things like “work is its own reward”. I had “that’s nice, but stay in your lane” grown-ups. But part of me has always wanted the gold stars. External rewards only abstractly connect to an actual achievement, because there’s no risk involved that way. Really being seen is dangerous.

A gold star is just a little shot of dopamine. A bit of chocolate. A glass of wine. And then it’s over. No vulnerable hopes, no expectations, no disappointments. Just a bit of pleasure. And back to work. The baseline is familiar and easy.

But I am beginning to think that tiny wins can be like pebbles in a jar. Over time, they can add up, overflow the jar and fill the whole room. Maybe the trick is to get to the point where holding a pebble, running a finger along the pocked surface, measuring its weight cupped in a palm, is as satisfying as chocolate. But more enduring.

These things – foil stars, chocolate, pebbles – mean what we decide they mean. Maybe it is possible that we are continually being rewarded by the world for just being here. If only we’d only take the time to look closely.

And breath in a continous flow.

I’ve switched up the mornings: writing before running – or to be honest, run/walking these days on a difficult achilles. I’m not sure I like the new routine. It’s like the pump is primed and ideas come while I am on the trail that I can’t follow through on, and that I forget.

Nothing is perfect, but things are good. Better. I do have a hard time shaking this feeling that I have missed out on these past few months. Missed spring. Nearly all the ferns have completely unfurled their tight, dark fists and the floor along the edges of the grove are lush with a new green, and fairy bells are already past their prime. I think most of all I am sad that for the past few years the ducks and the swans have been so good at hiding their hatchlings one could easily believe there were none. The only sign of renewal is the brown-tinged swan, last year’s cygnet, that has staked out the area next to the bridge. Alone, but for a few bachelor mallards.

But to be honest, I don’t think that I have actually missed out on things. My expectations have just been too high. I’ve been wanting the spring to overwhelm me in some fairy-tale fashion. I’ve been looking for signs. And that is really quite silly. What I am really waiting for is a shift in my perspective.

After a year of near-social-isolation, two gatherings in three days was a little overwhelming. Something of a deluge in a desert. Now just the thought of going to the hairdresser today is a little stressful. Chit-chat is expected, and I have never been good at that.

Now that I think about it, I have always been something of a deluge or drought kind of person. Never quite getting the balance right. Some many words come to mind: temperate, equipoise, equilibrium, symmetry. Maybe the problem is that, although symmetry is beautiful, it is predictable and so often boring. Unless it is a Wes Anderson kind of symmetry. But then the world is periodically on fire, and not everyone is comfortable with that kind of life.

I am.

In the mornings, I meditate for a few minutes on equanimity. Yellow, “Ri” on the exhale. I doubt that the articulation matters, but the vibration does. Accepting and giving. Or sometimes accepting and letting go. All the perspectives, things, concepts that clutter our lives, that come and go like respiration. That should do so easily. Effortlessly. Can they still be wild with energy? Passionate and fallow in equal turns?

The foliage doesn’t fight the winter. It doesn’t resist whatever kind of death winter brings. And it doesn’t hold back in the spring, trying to smooth the cycle into a flat kind of average life year-round. It relishes everything and then lets go.

In circular breathing, there is a moment of waiting (not holding the breath). Then a complete release, that for me feels a bit frightening in its emptiness. Then a so-longed-for, satisfying inhalation.

In another pranayama exercise there are a passive inhalations and forced, energetic exhalations in rapid succession to stimulate the body and the mind.

Leonard has zoomies. Then sleeps on the couch most of the rest of the day. Is the idea of equanimity as a steady hum of tranquility against nature really? I know I am taking Jesus entirely out of context when I say the advice from that hold is to be hot or cold but never luke warm.

I am wondering if all the advice regarding “balance” is not really aimed at a good life, but at an unobtrusive life. It’s more about social control than personal, or even inter-personal experience.

A seesaw is all about balance, after all.

it’s the almost edge
of ripe – it’s the almost void
of new beginnings

They predicted snow last night, but this morning there’s just a soft rain. Still, Leonard doesn’t want to go out in it. Neither do I really, and I am a bit ashamed of that. What I wouldn’t give now to lie down on a green lawn and stare at a blue sky. To feel the sharp blades of grass on my arms, knowing I will itch for hours afterward.

Maybe I can get to the beach tomorrow. Maybe the wind will have died down but the sea will still be agitated from the storm. But it is a while yet before I can take off my shoes and walk along the edges of the tides.

I guess winter is really a season of sensual deprivation. Or it can feel like that, at any rate. The cold is numbing. The body’s instinct is to withdraw. A hot cup of tea, a hot bath. But the air is so stale inside.

I haven’t used the outdoor yoga room since summer. Sometimes I get in a groove that is difficult to rock myself out of. I guess we all do. Even though I know I would feel better if I could just… get up. The doctor says that just to walk in the evenings is enough. But it’s not. At least that is what I tell myself, and use that as an excuse not to do even that. I set the bar high.

I flip the house so
I’ve a sea-bed perspective –
eyes looking up, but
the thresholds between each room
are ridiculously high

A single sun salutation is a kind of secular prayer this morning. An upward salute, pleading for something to take this weight from my chest. Finding a willingness, the courage to actually let go of it.

What would be left in its place?

Sometimes it is easier to cling to the weight than deal with the hollowness.

Between raindrops, ………………

………………………space, certainly,

but we call it all rain. …………..

Camille T. Dungy, “There are these moments of permission”

A quiet morning. So quiet E. startled himself saying good morning to someone jogging by in the opposite direction. Another kilometer along the trail, an owl swooped in from the trees and flew in front of us and into the dark. Just the sound of our shoes on the gravel.

Until we get back to the park and the grove filled with crows. I haven’t thought about this before – the way the trail breaks in two at the bridge, where most people out with their dogs turn back toward the parking lot. Where most runners turn back to hit the steep hill once again for their morning intervals.

We shouldn’t be surprised to glimpse an owl out there. I held the image in my head while I moved through the morning flow: warrior one, two, retreating… a bridge to open my clenched heart.

Tawny in the lamp-lights, from my perspective her wings spanned the entire width of the path. Then she lifted. And was gone.

I was awake at 1 this morning. Obsessing over something from years ago. Fighting magical thinking. Wondering if self-deception is morally acceptable in the attempt to hold on to sanity. Fears take on their own lives. And they wander in and out of ours as they wish.

I’m filling out a daily mental health questionnaire for a Corona study run by the University in Oslo. Every day it asks if I am disturbed by unexpected events. It is actually revelatory for me to consider that unexpected and disturbing are not near-synonyms.

So I think of the owl now. Unexpected this morning. This bird of prey, this silent flyer, regurgitated tiny, ravaged corpses. So matter-of-fact in its nature. The self-deception is that our lives are anything other than this: matter-of-fact.

I’ve questioned before
whether imagination
is a good thing –
whether our bodies’ fluid
facts aren’t the better shelter

I haven’t been able to write this week.
I’ve been unraveling from the edges that brush against the world.
The softness falls away, and I am a skeleton of splintered glass.
Balancing fractured surfaces upright.

I took a course once on trauma and movement and the instructor said something that shifted my perspective. Drama teachers I’ve had, and have worked with use a standard image during warm-up sequences: “Now roll up: one vertebra at a time. Stacking one on top of the other.”

An upright stack of bones being pulled toward the earth.

But the body doesn’t work that way. You cannot stack a skeleton. Not in death. Not in life.

We are suspension bridges.

I think about this image a lot. I come back to it when I feel heavy in the world. We are animated by opposing tensions. Naturally pulled in varying directions as we go about our days. It opens us. Our ribs open and lift like wings when we breathe.

Life needn’t be
a fight against gravity
a balancing act
precarious brain-on-bone-
on-bone afraid of breathing

We can choose to fly
whisper in each other’s ear
I’m going to lift you
now like a dancer come running
trust I’ve got you even from here