Moving through J.’s vinyasa sequences again. The post-Covid restrictions class is full but it’s also permitted to use the space at full capacity, so it isn’t a race to get a spot anymore. I have this odd sense that things are falling into place again. I recognize this moving body. This tight-tight hamstring. This good balance and grounding on the right leg.

Getting some self-confidence back. Headstands and bridges. Running. Though everything requires a push now. Every run or class or yoga session is still prefaced by an argument with myself. A frantic little search for good excuses not to.

Extended side angle and J. comes behind me and gently adjusts my ribcage, fingers, head. Somehow even in the hot room, sweating, her touch is like being nudged softly through pillows. A touch that is barely a touch, but full of connection. I think that is what makes us all fall in love with her. We love her like we love Mary Poppins. If Mary Poppins escaped from her sharp exoskeleton.

I do a half-bridge, and she sits behind my head, feet on my shoulders, and guides my ribcage upward.

I miss my morning flows. Alone. And have no good reason to not be doing them. These mornings, though, I am so aware of time. The time I have – and don’t have – all to myself. From four to seven. Yet every day I find it’s not enough.

R.’s best friend died last night. The man he has called his brother, whose parents will bury their child. Young is relative. But he was young in the “natural order” of things. I look at the calendar and am surprised to see we are halfway into March. More than halfway. And I think about B. The week of chemo she’s been through. The next one she has coming. Not that there is hope for a cure, only hope for more time. Weeks. Months. Days.

It’s never going to be enough.

I feel both greedy and wasteful. And maybe this is all the more reason to get on my mat every morning. J. asks us what we dedicate each practice session to. At the beginning and then again just before heart-openers. Is it narcissistic to dedicated it to doing the best I can? To yoking all of the aspects of the physical reality of my being in this world, to make it work somehow for the best I can do in the world, for the world?

All those platitudes: fill your cup so you can fill another’s cup. I am self-conscious of the triteness. But I keep asking my students: are we done with the irony, the sardonic attitude of post-modernism now? Can we finally be earnest again?

Maybe we need to be?

Pirandello said life is so painful we have only to laugh at it. Maybe he was wrong. Maybe life reaches a level of pain where we break through the l’umorismo and stop laughing. Where we take off the exoskeletons and are soft with one another.

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.